[originally posted April, 7th 2009]
Since I got such great responses from the business pieces I have posted, I will continue with this question from last week.
What are the biggest leaps you have taken in starting your own business?
This is a great question and the answer varies for each business owner. When I speak with someone who is thinking about starting a small business, 50% of the time I am a huge cheerleader. If she says “it’s too hard to start a business” I respond with, “It’s not any more difficult than a lemonade stand.” Then, once she is excited to start, I find myself bring up all the difficult aspects of small business.
I might be bi-polar when it comes to entrepreneurship, but I think from the dozens of small-business owners that I know, this is a reality. On the one hand it is exhilarating and rewarding to create something tangible from a vision. One the other hand, it requires a tremendous amount of faith in oneself and _______ (insert spiritual provider here: God, The One, Great Spirit, or Consumer Confidence). Below were the puddles that I found the most challenging to leap when I launched Jess LC full-time.
Business plan or not, there was no real way to know what my income would be. I calculated what my weekly revenue needed to be to cover my monthly expenses like rent, health care, and food after paying for supplies. It was a simple technique which kept me motivated and out of debt. Some weeks I reached the goal easily, others took a bit longer. And a few weeks I even experienced anxiety and chest pains from the agony of not knowing whether I would be able to pay my credit card in full. Budgeting was an interesting idea, but not quite feasible considering cash flow varied from week to week so drastically.
The silver lining within the worry and stress was the realization that I had not considered applying for another job because Jess LC was my job, this was what I was meant to do. This revelation then gave me confidence to get through hard times, knowing that I would succeed. There was no other option.
“So What Do You Do?”
The second murky puddle after graduation was creating a new identity. If someone asked if I had a job, it would have been easy to say “I am a financial analyst for JP Morgan” like the other 345 business students in my graduating class (okay not all 345 students…). But when I responded, “I have a jewelry business” most of the time I just got funny looks. “What kind of jewelry?”Â “Who do you sell to?” “Do you have a store?” Owning my own company required a conversation where people tried to estimate how “big” I was. Over the years this has gotten easier to handle, but I will never forget the day a store buyer, while placing a jewelry order (aka: the way I make a living), looked up and asked me, “So what do you do?”
At that point I questioned whether starting a company at 22 years-old was feasible. If customers don’t believe it, who will? Fortunately, this phase wore off, and almost two years later, not being self-employed is unimaginable.
Being my own boss requires me to create tasks to guide my day and grow the business. Friends would claim they could not handle self-employment because the lure of 24 hours of TV in their pajamas would be too tempting. I always found the opposite was true. Bills come in four week intervals, and if I did not have the money to pay them, there was a big problem. I suppose after bills have been paid, motivation could fizzle, but growing the business beyond utility and rent checks is the exciting (and less stressful) part.
During my first six months, I questioned what my actions should be each day. What should I work on first? When should I stop working? Over time these answers became instinctual, and now I revel in the flexibility the business allows me. Yesterday for example, I took a few hours off in the afternoon to get fitted for new running shoes, and later worked on the couch watching the NCAA championship.
As I read this post aloud, I notice even amidst the most difficult parts of the business, I found the up side to each obstacle. This wasn’t my intention when writing the piece, but it does prove my split view of entrepreneurship continues. The positive and negative aspects of entrepreneurship are so inter-woven it is impossible to give a honest, complete account any other way.