How to build a viable business from the ground up. (HINT* it's not about luck.)
Posted on June 24, 2015
Small biz life: we’re living it daily, and we want to share what we’re learning. This post is part of our small businesses advice series for creative entrepreneurs (or any kind of entrepreneur) intended to help anyone who’s just starting to think about taking the next step in their business- even if that step is the very first one.
I'd like to start by saying this loudly and clearly: it is possible to make a comfortable life for oneself by making things (like jewelry) and slowly, smartly building a business from nothing to something. We are prime examples of this. We don't have all the answers, but we are more than happy to share our experiences and points of view with the hope that you'll gain something useful from it–something you could apply to your own business journey.
First step: take a huge leap. Just do it. And then be ready to leap over and over again as your business continues to grow.
When I started betsy & iya as a solo project in 2008, I really didn't know where I was going, where the business would go, or how far it would take me. I just knew that at the time that there was absolutely nothing else for me. I was standing in a dark room and there was nothing but this bright box that said "open me." So I did. I kept pulling things out and digging and discovering until others wanted to know what was inside, too, and we started digging together. I didn't look back. And then I stood up and the room had turned into a landscape with miles and miles of possibility. So I ran. We ran. We're still running.
In 2011 just after we opened the betsy & iya store, I remember very clearly this older gentleman walking into the shop, looking around briefly and mumbling as he walked out of the store, "No one has ever made it in this spot. Good luck!" His words, "good luck," tumbled over and over in my brain like our jewelry does when it's in the tumbler, each turn making the edges softer and softer.
The tone of his voice and the implications were not positive–he didn't really mean what he said. He actually meant, "I'll be shocked if you're still here in one year's time," and "Good luck...because you're going to need it." Will and I would always share stories of those "good luck" well wishers in the early shop days when it was either him or me or Matt working the shop floor. They were never giving, only taking away.
I have not seen that man in the shop again, but if I ever did, I would tell him that it isn't luck that has made us thrive in this tucked away space on a quiet neighborhood street. It is far from luck. It is loyalty, faith, and hard work that has made us thrive. It is failure, immediately dusting ourselves off and trying something else until we find it that has made us thrive. It is plans, plans, brainstorms, and more plans that have made us thrive. It is sleepless nights, weekend-less weeks, and very tough decisions that have made us thrive. Really, it is everything that you can imagine but luck.
So I will lead off the whole series by hammering this home: if you want to build a viable business by making jewelry for a living (or manufacturing anything), creating a wholesale business, working craft shows, or opening a retail and/or online shop successfully, you better be ready to WORK.
Know this: when you do work, those victories you experience - and you will experience them - are a million times more impactful than any "luck" you may gain along the way. Sprinkle the luck in, sure, it can't hurt; but my first advice to you is plan to work your ever-living buns off. Like, plan to char those things in the hottest/fastest grill you've ever seen and then scrape the blackened burnt bits off until they're ready to eat again. And you better make that the best tasting bun anyone has ever had. Then make it over and over again and even if it's the best you've ever made, you need to make it even better next time.
Good luck! :)
I can't wait to keep sharing with you!