What I've learnt so far: Setting up a business in 4 months
Right, so I am not professing to be a business guru. I haven't got a motivational book. I do not have a Ted Talk or even a TedX talk. I am just an ordinary girl (well I am not that ordinary to be fair but you know what I mean, I am like you; unless you are a boy, then I am the female you).
I left my job last year with an intention, an intention that I wanted my own business. That I wanted to put my passions and beliefs into something that was truly mine. That I could steer the big old ship of my business into the choppy waters and know as Captain Shah all my decisions were my own. It's liberating, petrifying, exhausting, exciting, exhausting (this will come up a lot) and it will test your resilience to the bitter end. BUT if you are truly connected to the purpose of why you are doing your business then you will be okay.
So here are 10 things that I have learnt (so far)
1. If you are thinking about setting up a business JUST DO IT!
What is the worse that can happen? You will fail but you would have failed trying. I read a brilliant book by Fraser Doherty (jam boy come millionaire come uber-entrepreneur) it is called 48hr Start Up. It basically tells you that you CAN set up a business in 48 hrs. There are ways that you can work on your business. Most people have to do it alongside their "normal" jobs. What does this mean? It means you are knackered and you feel like the week is one long year but it will allow you to just get out there and do it.
2. Prepared to be tested. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally.
Over the past 4 month's I have been on my knees (literally). I have been so tired that I have sunk to the floor and cried my heart out (always the dramatic one, can't find a nice chair, nope straight to the kitchen floor). There will be times that you'll wonder why on earth you are doing what you are doing, I have and do. When you are trying to juggle a million things, support yourself financially and create enough space to feel like you are pushing your business forward you will want to run away as fast a possible. It's okay. You will wake up the next day and you will have a renewed sense of purpose. It's another day after all.
3. Have a support network.
I am doing Kitchen & Soul on my own. I don't have a business partner. It's just the way it's worked out. But what I do have is an amazing support network. I have a partner who has been there and done it and although it drives me insane when he tells me he understands (I don't care, I just want to stay on that floor) it does help to know that the dark times are okay and they are just part of the journey. My first online customers have been my dear friends and family who want to support me. Don't be upset that they may not be perceived "real" customers they are your customers and they will be your strongest ambassadors because what I have learnt is that people want you to be a success.
4. Work with people who you know.
I've been very lucky that I have worked with some pretty amazing people throughout my career. I have also been good to them (I hope) I have intentionally built relationships with people and have established trust. And do you know what? That makes a difference when you start building your brand and you need support. This is when I want to say and big bouncing thank you to: Matt @ Hex Digital who has been a sounding board and recommended that I work with the ever patient and helpful Mike Dre on my website and Matt @ 2Fold Design who has been kind enough to work with me building an awesome brand identity for Kitchen & Soul and then there's Joe Conway who trotted out to Amersham to take photos of my natural energy balls and did it with style and grace. So the moral of the story of point No. 4 is treat people kindly and build a family of people who only want to do awesome things with awesome people.
5. Do not have a rigid path
I didn't think that I would start my business with a range of natural energy balls but there is where the opportunity and path took me. The destination remains the same; to open a space that brings people together that nourishes your soul, literally and metaphorically. My balls are the product of my ethos. They make sense but they definitely weren't in my plan. Be open to possibility and opportunity.
6. Never underestimate the power of sleep
There isn't much to say here other than sleep is your saviour, it is the bridge between insanity and sanity. Sometimes you will need to is sleep. Do it you will be a better person for it.
7. Know how you are going to support yourself
If you don't have a bit pot of money, I don't. Then before you take a leap into the world of entrepreneurship do know how you are going to support yourself financially and also those ideas. This has been my biggest battle. Not only have I decided to set up a business but I have also changed the direction of my life and the means to earn money. It's been one of my great challenges. So have a plan. If it means asking for a different work pattern in your current job (if you don't ask you don't get) then so be it. If it means consulting, do it. Basically, do whatever you can to do what you love, f*ck it (and I quote the brilliant John Parkin here). Don't be a martyr. Having a steady flow of income in the precious early days will take away (some) of the stress.
8. Research is important but nothing proves your business will work more than just doing it
Market research scares me. I think it is because I didn't go to university and I have some weird inferior complex around the word research because I haven't really had to do any in-depth research and when I went to school Google was still in the womb (I think that has just aged me by about 10 years but whatever you know what I mean). I am beginning to learn the importance of being able to articulate why your idea is the most brilliant idea. It is effective to pull out a few stats and demonstrate that you are entering into a market that is upwardly mobile (see I do sound like I know what I am talking about). HOWEVER. I didn't even know I was doing a focus group, secondary market research, testing my product because I was just DOING IT. In the most basic form, if you offer something and people like it, they buy it, they buy it again and more people want to buy it then chances are you on to a good thing.
9. Don't be afraid to share
As I mentioned before (point 4. I believe) people WANT you to succeed. Don't go around keeping your idea close to your chest with the fear that someone is going to steal it, laugh at it or tell you are crazy. With every conversation I have had I've learnt something new, whether it be how I talk about Kitchen & Soul or someone wanting to introduce me to someone else who might help or learning from people who have been there and done it. Sharing is the magic that will keep you moving forward.
10. Find someone to do the stuff that you don't like doing
I am good at creating a brand world. I am good at creating the culture and ethos of a brand. I can without a hint of feeling bad about it can say that I run for the hills at doing the day to day finances and bookkeeping. If you are bad at something then do whatever you can to make it easier. Pay someone, subscribe to platforms that do all the fancy work for you (Xero, Zapier, Stripe). In my case work with a lovely patient lady called Lydia who holds my hands through most things to do with HMRC. If you are faffing about spending time on the stuff that you aren't good at you aren't doing the stuff that is going to make your business great. HOWEVER **disclaimer all things are important to your business you can't ignore them just make sure you are honest with yourself and don't be afraid to admit what you can't do.
Lastly have try and have FUN. If nothing else try and enjoy it.