The 15 things we learnt launching our own business
Before starting our new venture Recollections Candles, a brand of personalised, vegan scented candles; creating a business had always been a dream – but a daunting one. I would Google endlessly tips from female entrepreneurs, research the female CEOs that inspired me most, or dive diligently into my reading notes kept over the years. Where to start, how to secure finances? How to write a business plan steps by steps?
For us it really all happened as a team, it couldn’t have any other way. So we wanted to share our personal takeaways in a candid way, having been through it to really encourage you to follow your dreams too, if starting your own business is in the cards for you.
So through the ups and downs, the long months of working and hustling and laughing and dreaming - here are our 15 candid tips.
1. You have to really, really want it
Trust me, this has to be a real passion, and something deep. Get intimate with your reasons. Write down your whys. It cannot just be about ‘doing it’ or money, your why has to drive you, to help you commit through the highs and lows. I had days of doubts, of exhaustion, of fear but at the foundation of it all, we had our whys; and a pact with Christopher, that we would only do this if we had fun, and as a team.
2. Write a cohesive business plan
This helped us so much. We divided to conquer, leaving the finance part and sales projections to Christopher, and the creative, marketing rest to me. I loved doing it – not just because it felt like a creative process, but because it anchored us. We had this one shared Google doc with our extensive research, our pricing models, articles, marketplace, marketing messaging, plans for the future. All these were our decisions, our truth. And we kept referring back and back to it – validating our ideas and decisions.
3. Get help
This process was so humbling for me. Where I thought I could do it all, manage it all – I couldn’t. I soon realized my limitations and the need to expend my circles. I asked for PR help, for design help, for feedback, for favours when needed. It really takes a village to build something.
4. Get humble about your skills and delegate
The sooner the better. Trust me.
5. Connect, connect, connect
Learn from others, be a sponge for advices. I connected with fellow female founders, with friends who had launched a business, with networking groups and learn from their experiences. I absorbed like a sponge.
6. Stay focus on your mission, and your roadmap
and don’t get distracted by conflicted or unsolicited advices - there will be plenty of it. But try to keep your mission and gut feeling intacs, ask for help knowing where your line in the sand lies.
7. Find mentors to keep you accountable and honest.
People in the tick of it, and people who will have the patience and time to teach you, nurture you and be interested in a reciprocal relationship
8. Be a team
In my case, I really had to learn to delegate, to trust, to wait as a team. It just is in my nature to control things, to lead and push and dictate sometimes. But when i leaned in the feeling of being a team and truly trusted that we were better and stronger and more efficient as a team - there was no turning back. You need an ally, a check and balance, a sanity board and a partner in fun!
9. Have a granular tasks masterlist
We created a master spreadsheet with dates and dividing actions per ‘department’ (logistics, finance, marketing, web), and assigned them to us. We were pretty flexible and fluid, and would often message each other during the day, and catch up over dinner and kept our weekly partner Skype meetings a priority.. A word of advice, get clear and granular, and work yourself through the list.
10. Set yourself SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals)
Christopher helped me massively with this: how many candles do we need to sell each month, at which number would we break even, when could we invest further. It is primordial to get familiar with these realities and see them as motivation rather than getting scared. I see that the same way when I started receiving a paycheck, and I’d be scared at the end of the month to look at my account balance and hope for the best. Don’t do that. Be in control, be strategic. Cashflow will keep you in or out of any business.
11. Start with the big picture
Go big, build a vision board. And then rank essential or just nice to have. What is wasted money? What is a smart investment?. Be clear, and try to have a non-emotional eye when doing so. Christopher helped me removed myself emotionally from decisions. Similarly, I learnt a lot from the lean methodology, after years of project management and product management: launching is better than perfect. Launch something, an MVP, learn from the feedback and iterate. Perfect mail packaging is great – but superflux now.
12. Obsess about the customer experience
This is everything!
13. Research the hell out of your marketplace and define your customer audience
I researched candles, competitors, concepts,of course but also beauty, interior, fashion. I deep dived into the aspirations of the audience we had in mind - the need to be sustainable, and clean and vegan, and keep in mind the desires for personalisations. So get to know your future customers: What would your customers buy, from whom, when, for how much? What do they Instagram, what colour palette do they like? Who do they follow?
14. Keep an honest state of your finances
and know extra costs will always come
15. Forget the hours
I had friends asking me how I managed a full time job, whilst maintaining the blog and launching a business. Well I wont lie: there are a lot of long days, weekends, sleepless nights going into. It lives with you, for the better and worse and no one else but you will get the work done. I would often finish work, head to the gym, we would cook together and eat, and then another day would start: the recollections day.
This is only the start for us, and everyday is a school day! Check-out our babies on www.recollectionscandles.com