Ten Things We Wish We Knew Before Starting a Business
It’s a Wednesday night and the toll of Monday and Tuesday are already wearing down on you. You walk in through your front door after a hard day of work, kick your shoes off, sit down to relax for a moment and think “only 2 more days left until the weekend.” The screen of your phone lights up with a notification and you grasp it, open your social media app and are spiraled into an alternate universe. One of infinite possibilities and ideas! Scrolling down the timeline you see money, wealth, beauty, cars, mansions, and are bombarded with advertisements. “If only I could live like that” you say. “If only I knew where to start.”
It’s no surprise people are choosing to give up their 9-5 jobs to work for themselves! Why work every day building someone else’s dreams when you could build your own? That’s precisely the idea we had! We gave up that sense of security to chase a passion we hope could inspire and bring joy to all who come across it. We just wish we had known some things beforehand! Read on and learn from some of our stumbling blocks.
Invest Money in Marketing Before Opening the Business
You know how we always get a little sneak peak of that new iPhone model? Ever get excited about a new album coming out or a new pair of shoes? This is the power of marketing! You absolutely have to create a hype about your product before you actually bring it to the public. Create a sense of allure, exclusivity, and curiosity about whatever your business is. Once you actually debut it, people will have already become accustomed to the idea of your product! If a customer repeats your business name in their mind 3 times it automatically gets stored in their brain. Marketing and psychology go hand in hand and we cannot stress enough how absolutely important marketing is to your brand! The goal is to get others to be just as excited about your business as you are! Opening a brick and mortar? People are still walking by the door while you are under construction. Don’t waste those precious hours! Place a “Coming Soon” sign in the windows! Advertise with flyers and ads in the local magazines. Drop off a sample of your products to local employees in the area! When we first opened Kaffeology we had never been in the business of a brick and mortar. Frankly, we didn’t really know much about marketing in the beginning at all! We had spent so much focus on the location of the shop that we blindly opened without any prior marketing! What was the result you might ask? Very long, slow, empty first couple of months. It was discouraging but boy was it a lesson. Soon after we started heavily marketing and we got the chance to share what we love to do with thousands of people.
Some great ideas to pre-open market are:
Mail. Choose a location and print out flyers with a coupon. Specify the opening date and make sure the flyer clearly exemplifies what you want the customer to know about your business. Make it interesting! You don’t want it to end up in the trash with everything else!
Make small trial samples/goodie bags and distribute them to local businesses surrounding your shop/or market you’re trying to reach. Attach a small business card or coupon to the front of the bag so that they have a reason to come to your business.
Social media marketing is huge! Open a brand new Instagram/FB business account. A business account within these social platforms will give you insight into the analytics of your business. You will know what products your customers are more interested in, what time is the best time to post to reach your target audience, and allows you to interact with locals all from the comfort of your computer!
Reach out to local television/radio stations. This is an amazing way to reach the community because its not just reading an ad! You are giving them a chance to see the face of the company. Make a connection with your clients! Form a friendship by being your best self! They will fall in love with you and with your company!
2. Hire a Design Team
As entrepreneurs we tend to have this notion that we can do it all. If we don’t know how to do something it’s not a problem because we will learn! However, wouldn’t it save you time and money doing things right the first time around? We learned this lesson the hard way. Really hard! If you’re building a brick and mortar for goodness sake please look into hiring a design team. They are experienced in building businesses according to traffic flow, and the psychology of the buy. This is not something you can learn in a quick hour on Youtube…trust us! After opening our shop, and changing the layout 2 times, we realized we are going to have to completely redo the entire layout of our coffee bar. Had we hired a design team, this would have been long figured out! Don’t skimp on the small details. When running a business absolutely every little thing counts! Think about this. If a client walks into your store but can’t accurately see a product they will never buy it. If they walk past your store look inside but can’t figure out what you sell? You guessed it; they won’t even walk inside! Not opening a brick and mortar? You’re not off the hook just yet! Designing a website is just as important! Your website needs to be easy to maneuver. Does your homepage draw your customer in? Is contacting you as simple as clicking a button and being directed immediately to a phone or gps? Are you missing out on sales by not implementing a chat system on your website? These are all things you must take into account. Every single person looking for your business matters. You want to make your business easily accessible.
Here are some amazing websites/apps to help you get started:
Square Space is an amazing place to get your website started! But, adding certain other aspects and coding them into your website will make things even better! Make sure to watch YouTube tutorials and how to’s for this website as there are many little aspects to building a website on here that could massively affect your customer reach.
Drift - The drift app is a lifesaver! It will take a small bit of figuring out how to integrate it into your new website but it can help you so much! It creates a small chat box in the corner of your homepage that allows customers to reach you with questions immediately. You get a notification and its as simple as texting! This is a great app since your clients will now be able to easily ask you questions and reach you personally immediately. Don’t let a customer leave your website because of a technical frustration!
Upwork and Fiverr - These are great website for hiring freelancers! Here you can hire anyone from a marketing specialist, business consultant, to someone to design a business logo for you for as little as $5. Hire someone to make a business plan for you! The possibilities are endless.
3. Stalk The Competition
Yeah, you read that right. We’re telling you to become a stalker and it’s for your own good! They say if you want to become successful look at the business plans of the great and replicate. We agree with this but we urge you to figure out a way to be even better!
What makes the competition great? Why do people love them?
How do their prices compare to yours?
What are their business hours?
What sets you apart from them and makes you stand out?
Look at the feel of their shop/website. What message does it send?
What kind of people are they reaching and what market of people aren’t they hitting that you could capitalize on?
Stalking your competition is all about learning! It’s important to remember however that most times your competition has been around for far longer than you have. Cut yourself some slack! You will also be as consistent and organized as the other business but it always takes time, planning, and loads of hard work!
4. Hold an Interview Process to Find The Best Accountant
So you’re a creative entrepreneur with a passion for business. You want to share this amazing idea you have with the world but you just might not be a mathematician. Maybe you are a math wiz, but did you spend 4 years in college majoring in accounting? Our guess is probably not. This is absolutely something you simply cannot and should not do on your own. You want to save money on decor? Okay! But we don’t recommend pinching pennies and doing accounting on your own via a web product. Taxes can be very complicated and it’s best to leave it to the professionals. Accountants can be darn expensive and they all offer different services! While one accountant may only offer to do your taxes at the end of the year, other accounting firms do much more! For the first year play it safe and hire someone who can at least steer you in the right direction. A firm that can offer payroll services, advice on expenses, guidance to a bookkeeper, and pay your taxes quarterly will save you tons of headache so you can focus on the product itself! Accountants all have a different charging rate so please don’t be afraid to shop around! What might work for your friend’s business might not necessarily work for yours!
One great website you can start with?
5. Read! Read! Read! ( and take some notes)
In an era where books are at our fingertips there is no excuse to be to be uneducated in your field! There are books written on practically everything you can think of. This is a simple, cheap, and effective way to learn about the business! Is it important enough to you? As we have stated before…learn from those that have already been there! Why make the mistakes when someone has already made them, fixed them, and written how to avoid them? (uhm, hence our current post) Always stay a step ahead of the game! Don’t like to read? We totally get it! These books are also available on audio. We wish we would have done more of this when we started! Put your book on audio, grab a notebook, and take down information that could impact your business! Owning a business is a learning process that never stops! Welcome to the college of life!
Amazing books we WISH we would have read before opening our store:
The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons In Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero
Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries
The Daily Grind: How to Open and Run a Coffee Shop that Makes Money by Andrew & Claire Bowen
6. Don’t Quit Your Day Job (sort of)
One great thing we wish we would have learned? Keep a part time job! It might sound counterproductive but ever heard the expression don’t put all of your eggs in one basket? Allocate your time precisely towards your business but always have a Plan B. Starting a new business is uncertain. It is a risk. Most businesses are not guaranteed to make any money within the first 3 years with most failing completely within the first year! Unless you plan on living on a bench at your favorite park, keep a side job. “ But I can save money by being there instead of paying an employee.” Wrong. Imagine you’re bartending on the side as a weekend gig. You just made $300 in one night. You’re employee worked 8 hours and you pay them minimum wage $10/hr. you just made enough to pay 3 employees 8 hour shifts as opposed to working yourself and saving yourself only $80. Make sense? Plus, lets say your business does generate enough to cover the cost of your employees. Why wouldn’t you want more money you can use to grow your business? Just an all around smart money move!
7. Running a Business is Different Than Chasing Your Passion
You’ll often hear people say “Do what you love. Follow your passion.” While this is the driving factor to starting your own business it is just the tip of the iceberg. It is important to understand that chasing your passion and running your business are two vastly different subjects. Let’s look at an example of a painter. A painter might have a passion for creating art and using his creative vision to bring blank canvases to life but what if he opened an art business? From the moment he opens his business he has to learn how to differentiate between the two. He now has to keep track of sales, paint supplies, client records, learn how to market, create a website, connect with networking groups, keep track of expenses, figure out overhead expenses associated with the paintings, and much more! He would even have to break down the cost of supply vs his time spent creating the painting to correctly price his art for sale. Chasing your passion and being a business are not the same. Your passion fuels the business but without the precise calculations your business cannot thrive on passion alone.
8. Hire a Business Consultant and Book Keeper
Entrepreneurs tend to spread themselves very thin. We have this amazing drive and energy about us that makes us want to accomplish it all! While extremely admirable, we often run the risk of burning ourselves out. Focus on running the show and hire someone to help you keep track of everything. A business consultant is a smart investment. They have implemented proven tactics to grow businesses. They have seen businesses fail. They know the ins and outs of what works vs what doesn’t. A business consultant can track your monthly sales, implement new strategies to maximize your profits, and can work one on one with you to create a business plan geared for success! Where do you find such a person? Look on Upwork, Fiverr, or google local business consultants and have them send you proof of their consulting skills. Compare prices and become close friends. This is your new business best friend! Friendship bracelets anyone?
9. Social Media Marketing is Life
Do us a quick favor. If you have an iPhone enable your screen time in your settings. Do you even realize how much time you spend on social media? 64% of online shoppers say that a video on social media helped them decide on a product to buy. Our lives consist of 2 worlds. The physical world in which we interact with one another and the infinite world wide web. The greatest aspect of social media marketing is that now, instead of showing your business to a couple thousand people, you are exposing it to millions of media users! Social media is like running a free advertisement 24 hours a day 7 days a week and well, why wouldn’t you? The most important aspect of marketing on social media is content! You absolutely have to ensure that your content is crisp, clear, and professional looking. People will gravitate to a well put together post. They gravitate to an organized post because it instills a sense of trust in the customer. Invest your time in learning these methods and you will not be disappointed in the results!
10. Be Prepared to Give Up Parts of Your Life
“It’s lonely at the top.” Oh, is it ever! Be prepared to give up many social aspects of your life. In the first 3 years of your business you have to be 100% focused! One miscalculation and all of your hard work, and hard earned money, could go straight down the drain! Party on Friday night but have to be up at 6am on Saturday? You can kiss your social life goodbye! Not to mention not many people quite grasp what life is like as an entrepreneur. When you first start out it quite literally can feel like the whole world is resting on your shoulders. You’re trying to figure it all out. You’re expenses have doubled, or even tripled, almost overnight. You are striving to achieve a dream and make everyone else fall in love with it too. It is extremely difficult, but nothing worth having comes easy! We recommend building a network of people that can not only help increase profits but knows exactly where you are coming from too. Someone on the same playing field so to say. Join your local networking events. Better yet, join your local chamber of commerce and connect with other local owners. You will be able to gain insight into the business world, be able to communicate with others who understand what you are going through, and form partnering relationships that could help you both. Yes, we know it sounds dreary but it won’t be this way forever! If you stay committed and driven towards your goals your sacrifices will have a huge pay out. Work hard now and you’ll be able to play harder and longer than anyone else in the future!
Make time for yourself! Make sure to keep one day free just for YOU! Take a bike ride, or don’t leave the house at all! Do whatever makes you relax that one day. Find time to reconnect with your true self and remind yourself the reason why you do what you do every day. You are your greatest asset!