I often think of all that's happened in the 12 years I've been running my own business. How much I've changed, what I've learned, all the people I've met, and what I may have done differently. I'll tell the story of how it all started another time :)
It's been a pretty amazing ride so far with many highs and lows along the way, as all business owners will experience I'm sure. The highs are epic! Bagging 3/4 page in Elle Decoration a few weeks after I launched the business is a day I'll never forget (I cried and bought every copy in Bath). Going on Dragon's Den was another (terrifying, but one of the best decisions we ever made). Meeting an investor from his helicopter, then turning down investment was another, of many. Employing large teams can be stressful, but can also be one of the most rewarding sides of running your own business: Helping wonderful individuals flourish, and seeing them develop their potential.
(Here's the Elle Deco piece from 2010)
Last year I was forced to end my original business - ultimately it was down to Coronavirus - a story for another day. At the time, I was hit so hard and for a short period I lost my direction and motivation. But if we try, we can find opportunities and positivity in any situation. It was time for a change, and I soon found the strength move on with a new directions, new hopes and a renewed sense of purpose.
This is me and Rufus outside our first shop on Bath's Walcot Street
So, here are some of the lessons I've learned along the way. If you're considering starting your own business, or you're already on that journey, I hope you find them useful.
1. PLAN. Take time to write a detailed business plan before you start. Think about your brand values, your customers, your mission etc. As you grow, your decisions will become bigger and more overwhelming. Having a clear set of brand values from the start, will enable you to assess opportunities more easily. I recall being approached by a brand early-on, but it not feeling quite right. It didn't fit with my values, and because I'd laid them out so clearly, the decision became far easier to make.
2. ASK FOR HELP. Soon after our appearance on Dragon's Den, it became clear to me I wasn't looking outwards for help and advice from people who had more experience than me. We quickly took on a mentor, who we met monthly. I went on more courses, attended more networking events and met so many contacts who have proved to be invaluable over the years.
3. JUST DO IT. Be bold. Put yourself out there. That first 3/4 page in Elle Decoration remains one of the most exciting days I can recall. I was on a mission and I just went for it: I listed the top 3 magazines I dreamed of featuring in. (It was 2009, well before the days of influencers etc!) Elle Decoration was number one on my wish-list. So I wrote my first 'press release' (it was just an email), took some pictures on my phone, found the Editor's email address from the inside cover of the magazine and fired it off. It paid off, and taught me such a lesson in just getting on with it.
4. CHAMPION YOUR SUCCESSES. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for the small and the large achievements. When there's no-one else around to acknowledge a win, it can be a little lonely! So whether it's playing a certain song, giving yourself a certificate, opening a bottle of bubbles or just taking a moment to sit back and congratulate yourself, just make sure you do.
5. TRUST YOUR GUT. Every single time a decision hasn't felt quite right, I've regretted it. Without fail. Nobody knows your business like you do, so if something doesn't feel quite right for you, listen to yourself.
An extra tip...Do the 10KSB programme! I completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business programme in 2016 and to this day it was one of the most incredible experiences I've had as a small business owner. I can't recommend it enough: It taught me so much, gave me so much confidence, enabled me to meet the most helpful, knowledgeable, experienced and wonderful people.