Second phase of business
The second stage of running your own business
Your small business isn’t a fluke! Say hello to happy accidents…
Upon reflection, my second phase whilst working on my kitchen table business was more of a happy accident than planning (psst....that happens a lot when running a small business but more on that later).
About 18 months in to running my sewing workshops, and it was still me doing all of the teaching as I hadn't thought much more about other opportunities, I was contacted by a local lady who had seen one of my advertisements about creative workshops. Her name was Beryl and she was a recently retired head teacher who had a life long passion for textiles and had recently, while entering retirement, had completed her CIty and Guilds in feltmaking, which was her real passion. Her goal was to combine her considerable experience as a teacher with feltmaking - would I consider adding a feltmaking workshop to the classes that I currently had on offer?
By saying yes to something new, a whole new world opened up for my business.
At first, I have to admit I wasn't really sure. Part of the reason I had left my previous employment was to have the freedom to do what I wanted with my business and when you commit to having people work with you, you can't just shut up shop when you feel like it. But there was a part of me that liked the idea of being able to offer a wider variety of workshops so I asked her over for a cup of coffee and the next phase of growing my business was beginning.
Having made that one decision to be open to something new and different had a fundamental change on both the structure and the trajectory of the business. Within 12 months, I suddenly had 17 different workshops that I could offer to those wanting to be creative. I started to seek out possible courses and course instructors where I could see interest in a new market. This in turn created a lot more admin as I had to work with this growing armory of tutors in putting together a schedule many months in advance. As I had more people registering, there was more admin to ensure that this ran smoothly… from ensuring you had all the necessary equipment for the workshops, to making the snacks (all our food is homemade), to making sure the instructions were rock solid.
I soon realised that the systems I had in place for when I started my business a little over two years ago were quickly outgrown. This would be the first of three times that I had to revamp various systems in order to ensure that I was able to handle the workload as it increased. Even my marketing literature went through several phases to reflect the changes!
Be prepared to embrace change and the potential that it could bring.
Change is such an integral part of small businesses. As I said above, I have had to look at my internal systems and change them when they no longer were working for me - but were starting to get in the way of change. So learn to embrace it. Yes - I said embrace it!
As a small business, I strongly believe that your success will lie heavily on how you work and using appropriate software to help your business grow when it is in a period where change is necessary. The last five years have seen a tremendous growth in cloud driven software that is specifically targeted towards small businesses. From Evernote (which I am using right now as I use it to organise all the Studio stuff) to Wordpress (my website is built on this platform) to Canva (which I use for graphics), to IZettle (which I use to take credit card payments with my iPad). These have the potential to change so much about your business - even make it run more smoothly! But you have to be open to learning how to use them and applying them where appropriate.
If you are in it for yourself, you will miss a world of opportunities.
The next thing is to be open to new opportunities and don't automatically assume that the way that you are doing business now is that way that it should be. By saying yes to Beryl (and "no" to my need to be in control of every aspect of my business) I have opened myself up to being able offer a variety of workshops which has been a great experience all around.
How you handle the voices in your head...
When I started writing this article, I alluded to the fact that happy accidents are part of the mix of your small business. I believe that without being open to the opportunities that the potential of a new experience could offer, your business could be missing something that could help create a new income stream, successful business collaboration or the opening of a new market.
I love happy accidents.
But being open to new things also involves a shift in your mind set or at least it did for me. A bit of self-doubt can creep in - we women are famous for that! - As well as the comparison devil. Self-doubt means that sometimes, we can miss an opportunity to be open to a new experience and you and your business stand still.
I have spent hours with 100's of women, listening to their conversations, whilst they craft. They come for a variety of reasons and the most common one is that there were told "they would never learn how to sew" and that they were "useless" and they want one last try before they close the door on trying. The power that one throw away comment from a partner, teacher, parent - even a friend who had good intentions - can cause so much harm.
And this is the case with women who think they want to start their own businesses - they have let small, well intentioned (or sometimes not!) comments chip away at their business dream.
We all have something to offer and need to understand very clearly what that is and that letting your own voice be louder than the ones in your head.
So what would I have done differently in stage 2 of the development of my small business?
- I still suffered from "having-to-do-it-all”- itis which has serious consequences (more about this in the final section of the posting on about stage 3 of your business growth). I would have started earlier with finding someone to help me wade through the various elements bits of admin that the Studio needs to keep on growing (not to spoil it but I got someone in the end!)
- I would have given myself permission to not work quite so hard. At this stage in my business, it would not have been uncommon to have had an email from me at 4:30 in the morning. Yes - 4:30! And I don’t even have a newborn that needs feeding at that time! But I mistakenly thought that working all hours was what was needed in order to move forward. As you will find out in my next post, I got this very wrong....
- I would have looked at certain sides of the business and let them go. When you start out your business, there are things that you say yes to which, as your business matures, you should let go.
- I would have networked more! I don't actually mind speaking to people or presenting to groups so the idea of networking doesn't send me in to a corner a sniveling wreck. But I really didn’t embrace the idea until the next phase of my business and I should have done it earlier. It has been so beneficial in many ways.
Read the other parts in Maeri's series.
Maeri Howard is the founder and owner of the Make and Do Studio, which was started in 2009 as Cheshire’s first boutique crafting studio. Since then, the Studio has helped 100's of women and men learn to make their Pinterest boards a reality with their unique brand of creative workshops. When not busy helping people make time to be creative, she loves to figure out what all the buttons on her DSLR camera are for as well as walk the newest member of the family Janie Dawg, whilst talking to herself with wild abandonment (it keeps her sane!).