10 Lessons I've Learned in the First Year of Business
My first year running Pink Liberty was absolutely amazing. As a small business, I continually want to grow, learn where I’ve fallen and what can be done better. Celebrating our one year anniversary brings self-reflection, and I’m taking you behind the scenes of what really went down in the first year.
For those of you that don’t know me, entrepreneurship isn’t new to me. I spent the earlier part of my career working with small and medium sized businesses in Alberta as a coach/consultant helping companies start, run and grow their businesses locally and internationally. I did this for many years and worked with all sorts of companies with their business plans, market research, doggy daycares, restaurants—every kind of nut and bolt you could imagine that goes into running a small business. I have seen people cry, put their fears out there, have crazy expectations—you name it, I’ve heard it.
So that makes me an expert right? WRONG. When I finally decided to venture out on my own, having all the knowledge in the world didn’t mean diddly-squat. Entrepreneurship can be a big ‘ol mind-f$&$k, with a capital F.
Read on for all the adventures and business lessons I learned in the first year of Pink Liberty.
Lesson #1: The ups and downs are real
Like ‘fo real! I went through every emotion last year. Fear, not feeling worthy, not doing enough, doing too much, wanting to give up, feeling like a superstar, mom guilt when I was forever working—I felt it all. And it wasn’t just mental, there was also the labour! I forgot how physically demanding retail is. Hauling clothing, setting up for pop-ups, merchandising and lifting really heavy things in the dead of winter. Carrying a luggage full of clothing up several flights of stairs, and changing outfits just for one photo LOL. Fashion is 90% grunt work and 10% glamour.
Lesson #2: Try everything
I really did try everything last year. Everything. I said yes more often than no. Because how do you know if something is going to work if you don’t at least try? I had no shame. I tried different pop-ups (my first one in the basement of a daycare), different venues (an outdoor pop-up where I survived a windstorm with my tent and racks flying all over the place), a fashion show, buying different styles for customers, modelling my clothes (barf!). Every discomfort was felt and I sat right in it, but that’s how we grow right?
Lesson #3: Learn everything
The first year was my sponge year—everything was a lesson. I taught myself photography and took some pretty bad photos. There were a couple of decent ones, but mostly bad. The fact that I know what an ISO, shutter speed and aperture are, truly boggles my mind. I know now that if I have to, I can take my own photos, but there are also some amazing photographers around that can help. Lesson here is—know what you’re good at, what you’re not good at and what’s worth your time.
Lesson #4: People are nicer than you think
You guys blew me away during this first year. Over the moon, beyond expectations—I didn’t really expect the positive reaction that we’ve had. Coming from retail (and also being a pretty demanding customer myself), I’ve seen every type of customer. I’ve even had shoes thrown at me! But none of that here—just all love!
Lesson #5: FOMO
Sacrifice. In 2018, I didn’t take any big vacations, stayed home most Friday nights to work and missed gatherings with friends. Boring I know, but when you have a business, one that you are passionate about, it comes with sacrifice. I felt the FOMO more often than not, but when you want to build something special—you sacrifice. If you have something you want to achieve, what are you willing to exchange for the life you want?
Lesson #6: Knowledge is not power, action is
One day I will tell the story of how I waited 15 years to start Pink Liberty. There, I said it. I hummed and hawed, everything had to be perfect, or I didn’t know enough, or I just had a baby, or I’m tired from work, or I don’t have money, or I’m scared of what people will think, or I’m too old. Excuses are endless and figuring things out in your head will not make your dreams happen. So what are you waiting for? Just go for it!
Lesson #7: Have zero expectations and just do the work
I think because I was trained to expect failure in business, I started Pink Liberty with absolutely no expectations. Weird right? It would have been easy to set all sorts of sales goals, and revenue projections and map out exactly how many pop-ups I was going to do, etc. But in your first year of business - you just don’t know. I put in A+ effort, and let everything else fall into place. This was one thing I did right last year.
Lesson #8: Habits for solopreneurs
Working alone has its challenges. Motivating myself to get up every single day, remain focused and accountable, meant that I had to develop good habits in order to be as productive as possible. When you throw kids into the mix, those routines can get thrown out the window. And you know what? That’s ok. What worked for me is doing the same exact thing every morning. I’d start by making my bed, light exercise/stretching, journalling and reading a business/motivational book (even if it was only a paragraph). Add in showering in the A.M. to wake up, put on makeup, getting dressed and then getting the kids ready and off to school. By doing the same routine and writing my random thoughts and intentions for the day, I felt like I had already accomplished something. It worked for me and it may work for you!
Lesson #9: Keep it simple and just get it out there
I like things complicated or at least complicated find me. When I do something, I like to go all out and agonize over every painstaking detail. Waiting for perfection as they say is the enemy of good. After pouring my heart, soul and dollars into Pink Liberty, I learned that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Waiting for perfection costs both time and money. Just put it out there and see what happens! You might be pleasantly surprised.
Lesson #10: Business is expensive
I used to tell my clients to avoid starting a retail business. HA! So what do I do? Start a retail business. Failure rates are high in retail and most businesses don’t make it past the 5 year mark. Why? Because it’s hard and expensive. Regardless of the stats, I went for it anyway. I saved and invested my own money to start Pink Liberty and it didn’t happen overnight. It’s pretty crazy when you think about it, but the heart knows what it wants. If you think you don’t have enough money to start your biz, crunch the numbers to figure out how much you need. Then scrounge and figure out how to get it. It might take a couple months, maybe a year or a few years. If you want it bad enough and stay focused - the money will come.
Grow, fall and get back up again
One of my goals with Pink Liberty (beyond selling amazing fashion) is to have all of you along for the journey as I grow, fall and get back again. It’s still a work in progress and I’m sure there will be many, many more lessons to learn. I hope this inspires someone to go for their own dreams.
Thank you for reading this far! Let me know in the comments what you think and if you’re struggling with starting something of your own. I would love to hear about any personal growth you’ve learned from!
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Pink Liberty is officially open for business in the lovely town of Okotoks!