When you’re starting out in business, there’s just so much to learn -- including all the things you don’t yet know you don’t know! We believe a great way to save time, reduce stress, make smart decisions and avoid costly mistakes is by learning from others who have been there, done that. So here are some valuable insights from entrepreneurs in your QB Community who have already experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of starting a small business -- and who are happy to share what they would have done differently when they first started up their business.
Michael Koral, co-founder of Needls, a social media ad company: “Looking back, we should have made a long-term strategy. We didn’t necessarily plan a full road map for the next five years when we started. We worked month-to-month. All of us had experience building businesses before, so we figured we’d be able to roll with the punches. We’re a growing company that has customers and investors, but it would’ve been helpful to have a more detailed outline of what our long-term goals are.”
Jillian Maddocks, founder of 323 clothing company: “To be totally honest, I may have done better to wait a little longer before diving in. It would have helped to have just a little more money saved up. Between the price of fabric and making sure the bills got paid, it was really hard for me to start up by myself in that first year. I had to learn a lot of things the difficult way, like trademarking my symbol and figuring out the licensing process. For those of us who are on our own, having a little extra buffer in terms of financing can be a real boon.”
Lena Schlabach, founder of Farmhouse Frocks: “It’s tricky to pick just one thing because I feel that every lesson learned was needed! One thing I would have done is implemented a better training system for store staff and created a more rigorous interview process when vetting potential employees. I have a good accountant and secretary now, but at the beginning I didn't have these and they're so key for me as a creative person. I need help with numbers and delegation!”
Emily Mallory, founder of Emily’s Paper Crafts: “I went to grad school and got my PhD in a subject I thought would have plenty of job opportunities for me once I was ready to join the workforce, but thinking back on it now it would have been great to have known that starting my own business was an option. I would have taken some classes in business management and marketing, just to round out my skills and prepare myself for the different options.”
Anthony Becker, co-founder of Wake the Tree Furniture Co.: “In the beginning, we thought we could photograph all of our products on our own, but we realized that our photographs weren’t doing our furniture justice. As an online business, our imagery and branding are all that our customers have to judge us by. The way we present ourselves is incredibly important, so we now use a professional photographer.”
Marie Jensen, owner of Relax Event Studio: “I feel like the event planning part of my business has grown so organically that I’m happy with how it’s turned out. I rented a studio space in December 2015, but if I could go back I might have waited a while longer because it’s a big expense. Still, I was getting cabin fever working from home."
"On the product side, I spent a lot of money on Pinterest advertising and wish I hadn’t. People re-pinned and liked my items, but I didn’t earn enough to cover the ad costs. Admittedly, I think I need to spend more time researching online advertising.”
Kristina Montayne, owner of Stamp Couture: “I lost a lot of money in the beginning just because I was so excited to launch that I made errors like undercharging on my first several orders and not doing enough research to find the most cost-effective supplies. That's my biggest weakness with any project that gets me excited: I'm not patient and I don't make a budget!”
Vana Chupp, founder of Le Papier Studio jewelry: “I used to think that the clients knew best and I gave them anything they asked for in the hope that it would grow my business. As it turns out, customers don’t always know best! Some of the most successful lines we’ve launched have come as a result of requests, but many others haven’t sold well and I’ve wasted too much time bringing unsuccessful lines into production. If I started again now, I’d have more confidence in my own line and be more hesitant to change it. This said, I’m thankful for all the lessons I’ve learned along the way.”
QB Community members, what about you? What would you do differently if you could go back in time and start your business again?
Want to weigh in but not yet a QB Community member? Click HERE to sign up in a flash!