5 Things I Wish I Knew When Starting My Creative Business
Yesterday I was asked to speak at the Chamber of Commerce to the entrepreneurs in their accelerator program, and it got me thinking about what I wish people had told me when I started my creative business.
Entrepreneurship is in my blood, my Dad started a telecommunications business when I was young, and in addition to being a retail sales manager, my mom always had a creative side hustle. She made gift baskets, painted furniture and did faux finishing. Being from a family of entrepreneurs made me know that I wanted to start my business.
When I was just 15, I started making notebooks and cigar box purses (I promise I will find a picture) that a local shop owner was kind enough to let me sell in her store. I fell in love with being creative and started my first official business at the age of 19 with my best friend at the time. I thought I knew everything as teenagers often do, but needless to say I did not, and eventually closed down. Fast forward a few years and at 26 I started my current brand, The House of Perna which thankfully has been going strong for 6 years!
Here are some tips that I wished I had known before I started.
NUMBER ONE- DON’T BE SCARED TO ASK FOR HELP
I have always been very determined to figure things out on my own, and I also don’t like to inconvenience people so I never would ask anyone for help. I realized that a lot of people are just like me and truly LOVE helping others and have no problem answering a question or two. I will say, do not expect someone to sit down and give you their whole business model that it took them years to figure out to you for free. You need to be thoughtful and respectful of their time and knowledge.
NUMBER TWO- A CREATIVE BUSINESS IS NEVER AS EASY AS IT LOOKS ON INSTAGRAM
If I am being honest, I am STILL occasionally guilty of this. You look at someone else’s IG and you start hating on yourself because it seems so much easier for them. Friends, how depressing would the platform be if all people did was complain on instagram ( besides, I think thats what twitter is for lol). EVERY entrepreneur hits the highest highs and the lowest lows. Celebrate each others successes and remember they too struggle at some point or another.
NUMBER THREE- SLOW AND STEADY GROWTH IS BEST
Sure, you are thinking, ”I want to be an overnight success story. I want to make 1 million dollars year one”, right? But are you REALLY prepared? I almost had to close down my business years ago because our sales grew really quickly, and I hired a ton of people. I thought if I added more people, then I would be able to make even more money! Wrong, I didn’t realize how much more we would have to pay in payroll taxes, general overhead, and unfortunately not everyone was the right fit so some of our team wound up costing me money instead of making me money.
I also didn’t realize how tricky it can be to work with the big box stores. That they can do chargebacks, or that we would have to pay for their shipping, tags etc!!
Constant, slow growth can help you add team members as you need them but not feel like you have to add a million people, products or overhead so soon.
NUMBER FOUR- PROTECT WHAT YOU CAN, BUT BE PREPARED TO BE KNOCKED OFF
This is a reeeeeaaaalllllyyyy sensitive subject for me. We got our first large order at Nordstrom, and shortly after EVERYONE was selling my bag! yay right?! Well not exactly, it was my bag, just not made by us. :(. We contacted a lawyer who essentially told us that it isn’t worth it to chase down all of these people, and we just needed to design a new bag.
Of course, if you have patents, or copyrights it is different, but unfortunately fashion is in the murky grey area and you cant copy write it. So just remember, once it is out there, people with bad intensions are able to see it. But you know what, at the end of the day, you created one fabulous piece, you can certainly create a newer, better version!
NUMBER FIVE- ENJOY THE SMALL SUCCESSES
Business is not easy or for the faint of heart, it’s why so many people close down before they get to see the pay off from all of their hard work. I believe that you HAVE to celebrate all of the small successes in order to keep yourself sane, and moving forward. It is a rollercoaster, but if you love what you do, it is all worth it in the end.
Owning a creative business surely isn’t for the faint of heart, but for a lot of us, its the only way to feel alive! Just remember friends, you can do anything you dream of with a bit of hard work and determination.