Good Small Business Practices
Who am I to tell you how to run your business? All I can do is tell you what I have done and how I have overcome them in hopes that you do not do the same. Or better yet, you go “I’m glad i’m not the only one like this”
I did not start my business straight out of high school. That would have been nice though, right? Besides the fact that my business is named after my children which I had 10 years after I graduated high school. And the fact that I went and got a business degree which I used every day in my business. But no, I did not graduate high school and decided the next day to start my business. Like many other business owners, I had other jobs and those skills I learned at those jobs I took with me when starting my own business. But one thing about all business owners, we are human, and we make mistakes. What stands most businesses out from the rest is not how bad of a mistake they have made, but how they bounced back and learned from those mistakes!
If you are anything like me, you are a visual learner and me telling you what not to do will not help you in your business. So, I figured I would tell you what I did that I see now was wrong and how I have corrected it, so I do not make the same mistake in the future. Ok, let's get started.
1- I talk too much
I am a talker, and sometimes I get an idea and want to tell the world. So the first thing I do is post about it on social media…”I'M STARTING A CHILDREN'S CLOTHING WEBSITE” or my favorite “I'M STARTING A PODCAST”. Both posts got hundreds of likes. Then the questions came in “where can I buy your items” “where can I listen to your podcast” “what types of clothing will you be selling” “can I listen to your podcast on spotify”. The answer to all those questions were the same, “I’ll let you know when I’m ready to launch…stay tuned”. Why? Why do we do this to ourselves? You know it took me 2 years to finally start my podcast??? Two years! Guess who forgot I was starting a podcast…. EVERYONE. We get so excited and want to tell everyone of our next big thing but what we fail to realize is that they will forget. I told friends and family about my clothing business before I even had a website up. If I were smart (like I am now) I would have had a website up or created a landing page to capture emails so when my website was live, I could email them and offer them a discount. Do not be quick to tell people about your business unless you have something to show for it. Also, what if I didn’t want to go the small business route? But I already told people I was don’t it, so I put this sense of pressure on myself to do it. You don’t need any extra pressure than you already have. Move in silence and do things behind the scenes. You don’t have to rush if no one knows what you are doing. Then when you are ready, you tell the world and all your friends and family members can share with their friends.
Recap: #1- Don’t be quick to tell the world about your business goals unless you create a landing page to capture emails so when your website is live, you can email them and offer them a discount or first listen.
2- Bought too much inventory
So I start my website and have 16 of the same rompers…one in black and one in gray. And that is all I had. Just rompers. Heavyweight rompers. Oh wait, I ordered dresses too. Plain, black dresses. 16 of them to be exact. Do you know how long it took me to sell all of those items? I’ll tell you. I sold my last romper in 2020. I launched my website in September 2017. No one knew who I was, why was I buying so much inventory? Oh yeah, that’s right! I thought I was going to open up my website and everyone was going to know who I was because I told them back in Late July / early August I was opening up a children’s online boutique. [insert eye roll] One thing I have learned about starting a product based business that I tell everyone: START SMALL. You don’t want to have too much inventory sitting on your shelves because that is just wasted money. Instead of me buying 4 of each size romper, I should have started off with 1. Why one you ask? Easy, no one knew who I was. I had no presence on social media. No website traffic. No in person pop up shops to go to. So I only needed 4 of each romper, because the rest of the money could have gone to marketing my company on social media, or paying a fee to do an in-person pop up shop. But because I had that money tied up in those rompers, I could not do any of those things. Start small, build brand awareness, build hype behind your brand. And when you are at the point where people are asking for more, then get two in each size…then 3. When you are starting out, you don’t want to have all your money tied into inventory, you still want to have some funds available for behind the scenes.
Recap: #2- START SMALL. Inventory sitting on shelves is just wasted money.
3- Research, what research?
Yeah, I didn’t research my target market. I know, I’m an idiot. I really am. Like how can I expect people to buy from me when I don’t even know who I am selling to? When I first started my business I just bought what I thought was cute. Had no regard for my target market, what they might want, what their price point is. Nada. And I had no brand story. When people would ask “tell me about your company?” I would say “ It's named after my two kids…want to see a pic”? Thankfully my kids are cute and that helps but not everyone is naming their company after their kids. What is your brand story? Why should I buy from you? Who is your ideal customer? These are all questions that I never thought to ask myself until a year well into my business. Do you want to know the total sales I made in the first calendar year of my business? I’ll tell you, in 2017 I made $47.27. And the person who purchased that was my friend so it doesn’t even count as a sale in my book. Now that I have been in business for almost 4 years I can tell you that she’s not my target audience. If I would have done more research, my sales would have been bigger. And as do my research and fine tune my target market and my brand story, my sales increase. When you walk up to me now and ask “tell me about your company” I proudly say “Jamison & Bexley is an affordable children’s clothing store providing adventurous clothes for adventurous kids.” Boom! Mic drop. And yes, I still show pictures of my kids after that intro but not from my phone, I have a marketing card with my children in merchandise on it that also has my website on the back and all my social media handles. This is what a little research and time gets you. And I am hitting 5 figure sales goals!
Recap #3: Ask yourself these questions before starting your business: What is your brand story? Why should I buy from you? Who is your ideal customer? And once you have those answered, then target your ads and merchandise to those people. Not your friends.
4- Price to make a profit
When you are running a product-based company, you want your pricing to be competitive. But you also want to make some money. Like this is not a hobby for you. You hope that one day this is paying you a salary and buying you that yacht down in Miami. But you don’t want to come off too expensive and no one purchases from you. When I started out, I priced my items DIRT CHEAP. Because in my mind, if it's cheap they will come back for more. WRONG. You know what they thought when it was cheap? “Why is it so cheap, is it going to fall apart when I put it in the wash? “oh this is cute…” then they proceed to walk away. And I can't blame them. I would be thinking the same thing. If I were to go to a store and see a pair of jeans priced at $10 and that is their regular price. I would be like “what is wrong with this? Why is it so cheap? Did someone return this?” Like how many times have you seen a pair of Hollister jeans that low? I don’t believe I have…EVER! Because in our society, we believe the more expensive something is, the better quality it is. But you don’t want to be too expensive because then you have those people that are like “Oh I can find this exact thing on Etsy for half this price”. So you are probably wondering, “what is the best price”? That is a hard question to answer. It varies from industry to industry. You have to do research and see what your competitors are offering for similar products. And at the same time you have to make sure you make your money back for what it cost. If something costs you $5.50 to purchase and you price it at $7, you are only making $1.50. And what is that going to get you?? A jr. frosty at Wendys? We have to be realistic and price our items so that we can make a profit.
Recap: #4- This is not a hobby for you. We have to be realistic and price our items so that we can make a profit so that one day this is paying you a salary so you can support your family and yourself. Cause you deserve it.
5- Communicate with your customers
Communication is key in every relationship that you have. With your spouse, children, parents, boss and even your customers. It’s the best way to keep them in the loop of what is happening in your business at all times. When I first started my company, I didn’t even send out a newsletter. In my defense I was really “young” and very eager to have a website, lol. Customers didn’t know what was going on with my company and they didn’t know how to reach me. It just seemed like I wanted to take their money and run. That was not the case. In my defense, I didn’t want to be a bother. I didn’t want to blow up their inbox every day with pointless emails. It was my own insecurities that held me back from communicating with my customers. I realize now that all that anxiety I felt in the beginning, I put on myself. If I don’t want to blow up their inbox every day, then don’t send the email every day. But also don’t send it every 3 months either. You want to keep your customers focused and attention. Not every email you send them is relevant to them at that moment. But how else are you going to communicate with them? What are we going to do if Facebook shuts down and Instagram goes away. All we’ll have left is newsletters. This is the best way to update your customers on what's happening behind the scenes. I send out a weekly newsletter. Some of it is relevant and some of it is just behind the scenes of what we are working on and what new merch is arriving. Newsletters are also a great way to update your customers if there is a delay with orders due to USPS being short staffed. You have to be proactive with your customers and sending out a weekly newsletter is the best way to do so.
Recap #5- Communication is key in every relationship that you have. Newsletters are a great way to update your customers on what is happening with your business, share a new blog post or let them know what you’re like outside of work. Consider it like a “dear john” letter to your customers. They want to hear from you, if they didn’t, they would not have subscribed!
Ok that is just 5 of the things I have “failed at” and learned from:
1- I talk way too much
2- Buy less, not more
3- Research, research & research
4- Price to make a profit
5- Communicate with your customers
What are some things that you “failed at” as a business owner that you are now a professional at? Share your failures below and how you have overcome them so that others may learn from you as well!
Just saw the Drew Barrymore show with Barbara Corcoran and Grace Eleyae, I love Drew. Anyway, I am a grandmother and try to support small businesses, I love your site and all that you do for your kiddos. I have made purchases with Grace’s items when she started out on Etsy. I wish you all the luck in the world on the decisions you make in the days to come with your business. I will be following your clothing line and social media. Thank you and Congrats. #OHIOLIVEINCOLUMBUSASWELL
Sharon L Hull on