You have your idea, you've done your research, you've told yourself 87 times that tomorrow is going to be the day you take action.
Chances are you've already secured a trademark, filed for an LLC and even opened up a business banking account.
But what else do you need to know before you get started? The answer is a lot. And the sooner you get to work the sooner you'll have the answer to that question. But it's one I've gotten many times and I wanted to take the time to share some of my not so secret tips for those of you looking to start your own business.
Disclaimer: The things I've learned cannot be googled. The things I couldn't do without cannot be bought. These tips were created by me through firsthand experience. They would not exist in my mind without my practice, trial and error.
Spoiler Alert: The most valuable "tips" I have are actually not tips at all. They are people.
bfudiskslddhfiuhdfdk!!!!! OMG OMG OMG!!!!
You need someone to bounce ideas off of. Not just anyone. Someone who thinks like you and who gets excited by the same things you do when it comes to business. You need someone who is going to answer your 3 AM... "bfudiskslddhfiuhdfdk!!!!! OMG OMG OMG!!!! Listen to this idea I just had" ... texts.
For me, these two people are my dear friends Bianca and Bridget. The first is a real estate broker and the latter is a dentist, so clearly they do not have to be in the same space in order to be a sounding board and to inspire you. They are both incredibly smart and savvy business women who are fierce, unapologetic hustlers. I admire them. Surround yourself with as many of those people as you can. Ask them their opinion. Share your ideas. Trade your thoughts. Text them at 3 AM and wait for a reply. They'll be awake thinking of new ideas, too.
Strength on the sidelines
What are sports without fans? What are champions without cheerleaders?
Business is a game, a competitive sport. If you're playing to win, you need support. The people closest to you need to root for you. Not necessarily agree with what you are doing but they need to be there for you. They actually don't even need to understand what you're doing but they need to be in your corner.
I have the world's most supportive parents ever but I am not going to lie, I think they had absolutely no idea what I was trying to do when I started. Regardless, my mom learned how to use Instagram (properly). She has not one post of her own and I'm pretty sure it took like six months for her to understand what a DM was. But, she comments on every photo, story, and even watches lives. She obviously wants one of everything we post and she gives her honest feedback on our marketing and products. Oh, does she give feedback...LOL.
I'm sure some of my friends had their doubts too. But they stood by me. Some of them even worked for me. Lauren, thank g-d for you and your mother. And your husband. And your dad. And your newborn daughter. Who allowed me to occupy your house and your time once a week to ship orders when it got to be too much for our small apartment. If this is not the definition of a friend who is family and the best support system ever, I am not sure what is.
My fiancé John is the only person who never once questioned what I was doing, why I was doing it, or how I was going to get it done. He has helped fulfill orders after his own 10 hour work day, hauled bundles of packages to the post office, and allowed me to run a business out of our barely 700 square foot apartment for 18 months. Entrepreneurs, get yourself a Johnny C. He has his own ITES email address if you would like to speak to him yourself.
For his, and many others, unconditional support I am forever thankful. If you want to achieve strength in the sales numbers, look to the strength on the sidelines first.
Establish a core
You can't be good at everything. For example, I am really bad at driving. Everything else I am pretty excellent at. Just kidding.
Your business should be known for something. You need your one thing. Your niche. The building blocks for a successful start up is having a solid foundation. Establish a core, then level up. But please...
Walk, don't run
Catch me on a brisk jog, never. Yet, this is the section where I admit I need to practice what I preach. As a creative and a visionary, we tend to get over excited about our big ideas to a fault.
I am not saying to put all your eggs in one basket, but too many irons in the fire - especially for a start up business - can be very problematic. Test a new product before you roll it out. Take a new program for a trial. Limit the SKUs (hi Grillo). Do not over assort. Not only will doing these things proactively protect your financial investments, but it will help protect your biggest asset as an entrepreneur, your time.
While I think a lot of these concepts can apply to any size business, I feel like small businesses should pay close attention to this one. It's easier said than done and I will be the first to admit it. Walk, don't run wild with new ideas. Unless it's a really f&*king good idea and your Bridgets and Biancas approve, then run wild.
You have nothing if you don't have trust
Do not enter into business relationships with people you cannot trust. There is no contract or NDA that is going to protect you from someone who is intrinsically shady.
Do not hire people that you cannot trust. Remember, this is a competitive sport and if you can't trust your teammates you lost the game before it even started.
This is simple, short and sweet. Sh*t could go sour if you don't remember, you have nothing if you don't have trust.
They say don't mix business and pleasure, and I say why the hell not?
I think the real point here is know who you can and cannot work with. If it's a friend or family member, so be it. If it's the right person for the job, I personally see it as a huge benefit. They say if you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life, so why not work with the people you love, too.
Bottom line is only you know who you jive with and who will be an asset to you versus an issue. So disregard the cliches and make your own rules. Take it from the queen of bending them.They say don't mix business with pleasure, and I say why the hell not? If this business already wasn't one large family affair, my dad just retired and he is trying to get us to hire him. I'll let you know what we decide. Or rather, what Gab decides because let's face it...
Every boss has a boss
It's no secret that the youngest Carmona girl works for ITES. We like to joke and say that Gabrielle is my boss, but this joke has more truth to it than most. She reigns me in when I wander. She keeps us on track when I drift. She runs a tight ship while I probably couldn't run more than a daycare. I love her for it and I value her for it. I wouldn't be where I am without her.
Remember the e card memes from a few years back? There was one of a girl throwing up the papers in the air because it was Friday and then it showed the same girl picking them up on Monday because she actually needed them. When I get a new idea and get excited, I am like the Friday girl. Tossing last week's work over my shoulder. Behind me is Gab. Not even picking up the papers I threw, because she already had them Xeroxed, saved, and filed in our dropbox.
I make the to do lists and she checks stuff off. I might create the concept for the art, but she's the glue that holds us together. One could say I've been given the "gift of gab", but boy does that have double meaning. This chick is the real boss, el jefe, the HBIC. She knows it, too. And she's reading this right now saying it's about time the truth comes out... every boss has a boss!
Know what you're good at and get help on the rest
The same boss I spoke about in my last blog post used to tell me my number one weakness was that I didn't know how to ask for help with anything. Of course I did not like that. My fiancé tells me the same thing everyday and naturally I don't like that either. But I have to admit, I started to believe they both have a point.
I used to believe that asking for help was a sign of weakness. I thought it showed that I couldn't handle everything that came across my plate. Until I realized, I can't handle everything that comes across my plate nor should I have to. Now I know that asking for help is a show of confidence and security. It also means that you know how to delegate and pull yourself out of the weeds. Know what you're good atand focus all your time on that. Get help on the rest so you can.
Perfection is the enemy of profit
I will never forget the day I heard this one for the first time. I cringed. I think I still have PTSD from it. My friend Mickey was helping launch an improved version of our website and I was naturally panicking over some small obscure detail that clearly didn't matter, because I can't even remember what it was. I still remember where I was standing when he uttered these six words, "perfection is the enemy of profit". I was literally angry. Was he insane? Actually he was not insane, he couldn't have been more right. Wasn't the only thing he was right about in terms of my business either. He has been pushing (or more like annoying) me to put myself out there and be the face of the business. I didn't want to do that because I never felt "perfect" enough to do it. But, after deciding to embrace his once dreaded words, here I am writing to you and showing my face more. Because, perfection is the enemy of profit, and YOLO.
Follow your gut
The last lesson/rule/story/mantra.
The most important.
And the shortest.
If you have a strong intuition about something. DO NOT IGNORE IT.
Period. End of story.
If you get nothing else out of this, just remember you have to follow your gut.
I definitely do not have all the answers and I definitely do my share of google searches every day, but I hope this advice gets you inspired and motivated.
It is important to remember that we all have to start somewhere. If the only thing holding you back from starting is starting, you just have to fearlessly blaze your own trail.
If this seems overwhelming, especially at first, that's because it is. It is also ridiculously fun and exciting to learn new lessons and it's even more empowering when you have the opportunity to share them with others. I hope you enjoyed reading and know that I am here if you have questions. You can even DM me in the middle of the night. Chances are I'm awake and you can bet I'd love to hear from you.