Things I have learnt about starting a business

I started my business over 5 years ago and I have learnt a lot. I have done a little bit of mentoring to start-ups and really enjoy this. There are a few things that I always tell my mentee’s in the beginning and I thought I would share them with you.

1. Do your pricing as a customer and not as a designer. As a designer you are taught to be critical of your own work. To stand back and review your work with critical eyes. This is of course valuable but it can also be demeaning because you almost never think that your own work is “amazing”. In the beginning my products cost a third of what they cost today and that is because 1) I did not do a proper costing and 2) I did not see the value in them at the time. It is always a good idea to get objective and unbiased feedback on new products. Do your pricing carefully.

2. Do not underestimate wholesale. When I started my business I could not believe the various mark-up’s that shops insisted on. I refused to conform and wanted shops to work with my set allowable mark-up. This did not work and I lost out on that business. Over time I restructured my pricing and allowed for the various markups and now wholesale counts for a large portion of my business. Wholesale is also consistent and keeps my business liquid. Do not underestimate wholesale.

3. You do not have to have it all worked out in the beginning. Your idea and business will evolve! That is okay and good! You can make it up as you go along.

4. There are self employed people and employees. Don’t assume that everybody would rather be self employed. Some people also do not have what it takes and that is okay. The world if wonderful because there are different types of people in it. Do not try and push your dream onto anybody else. Your island might only be big enough for one person.

5. Work is work. Giving jobs to factories is still creating work and no less honourable than supporting small businesses or individuals.

6. Just because you like a product does not mean it will sell. What a pity. Some products will surprise you and other will be a dismal failure. That is part of the journey.

7. The business is not going to be an online success instantly just because you have built a nice website. You need to be involved:- visit and interact with online communities, tweet, instagram….

8. Do not loose your invincibility! Often I meet a student and I catch myself questioning the viability of their idea and I want to shout at myself. As you get older and wiser you tend to gravitate to the reasons why something will not work instead of saying “I will find a way!”. That is terrible! Never loose your belief that anything is possible!

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