We’re getting to the end of 2018 - where has the year gone?! It’s been one of the hardest years of my life, and not just because this was the year I started my small business, Lavaná. My personal life has been a series of major ups and downs, all the while showing up for my day job, paying the mortgage and keeping my small business afloat and growing. But you know what the say - what doesn’t kill you helps to make you stronger!
Lavaná has been my rock this year. When everything else has been going tits-up, I always knew I could rely on my business to grow, keep me busy and creative. I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learnt this year, both from starting my business but also things I’ve come to learn in my personal life. I hope it’s helpful for whoever reads and inspires you to think about some of the important lessons you may have learnt this year, and give you vision for 2019 <3
Learn to manage the ups and downs
Owning a small business is extremely trying - especially if you have kids to look after, bills to pay, or a full time job taking up your time as well. Some other small biz owners I’ve spoken to over this year have said to me “sometimes I feel like I’m bipolar with this business!” - and it really can feel that way (no offence intended to anyone who suffers with bipolar). The feelings of accomplishment and failure are intensified when it’s your own business, and they can be experienced within a minute of each other making it all the more confusing and scary. I’m learning to manage these ups and downs, but just recognising that it’s normal and I’m not alone in experiencing this is enough for not to reassure me when I’m feeling my downs.
Invest in storage
Starting up - and until quite recently, really - I didn’t want to invest in storage. Every penny I was making was going towards paying off my initial startup costs, and then after that any profit I made I wanted to use for other things in my life that seemed more important, like Christmas presents for my family, paying off credit card debt and a much needed holiday. Nowhere in my plans did it have “buy big ugly storage container”. But, as I looked around at my messy house and the disorganised mess on the table, I realised storage was necessary. Now, I’m in love with buying storage. It helps to keep me organised and helps to keep my home and work life a little bit more separate.
Make genuine connections
There’s nothing I hate more than fakery. You can always tell when someone’s fake laughing or fake smiling or fake asking you how you are… I just don’t do it if I can help it (note: there’s a difference between being polite/courtesy and being ‘fake’). As Lavaná has been my baby, I’ve been able to run it exactly how I’ve wanted to, and to me this meant genuine connections - in real life as well as social media. I’ve met so many businesses and customers and bloggers and one of my favourite things about this journey is the genuine connections I feel I’ve made. People can always recognise fake, so my lesson for life is to just always be yourself and be genuine with everyone.
Be proud of your achievements
Going back to ‘learn to manage the ups and downs’, when you have those ‘ups’ it’s so crucial to really cherish and savour them. Whenever I’ve received lovely feedback, I screenshot it/share it on my Instagram story and save it down on my 'Reviews' highlight so that I can always go back and remind myself of the good if I’m having a down day. Also, making a list of your achievements is another way to make sure you’re recognising them and not just focussing on the negative (which us humans are good at!). Above all, be unapologetically proud of your achievements. Your family/friends may not be able to fully understand your achievements (maybe they don’t use Instagram or go to your shows) or you may come up against people feeling jealous or threatened by your success - don’t let it get you down or feel bad. You’re allowed to feel good about your hard work.
Get an accountant
Even if you’re only just starting out I’d highly recommend meeting with an accountant to get advice. It took me about 9 months to get round to meeting with an accountant and I really wish I’d met up with her sooner. Thankfully I had good advice from my parents so I had some knowledge around tax and income vs outgoings, so I haven’t lost any money and don’t have a lot of backdating to do. But, my accountant gave me valuable advice and an idea of how much I can expect to pay in tax and when, and also an idea of when I’ll enter the next tax bracket, which means I can be a bit more strategic in future. Knowing you’re taking care of your finances and following the laws is invaluable.
Know, and follow, the law
It’s really hard finding out what laws there are for certain crafty activities - and sometimes it can be really difficult to get help or advice from other small businesses in the same industry. There’s not exactly a book about it and the lingo can be so confusing as well. I had to dig deep on the Internet and government websites to find out exactly what I needed to make and sell my bath bombs legally, and it’s been similar for my wax melts as well. I’m lucky to have had help from some really kind businesses. Two of my biggest fears with my business are a) breaking the law and b) someone having an allergic reaction to one of my products, so by following the laws and procedures I know that I’m doing my very best to ensure neither of these things happen! Which hopefully reassures you all, as well :)
Don’t neglect the people you love
I know that I’m guilty of this, definitely, and it’s something I want to change for 2019. I’ve been so caught up in the wholesale orders, the events, the campaigns and sales - everything! - that I’ve not been seeing or talking to my friends and family as much as I used to. Bath bombs is messy business as well, so you don’t often have your hands free to text! Lavaná keeps me very busy and this has definitely changed my relationships with friends and family a bit - which is natural - but it’s important to recognise the difference between natural changes and neglect. I’m making a conscious effort for 2019 to be more present during family gatherings, being more patient and making more of an effort to put time aside to spend with my friends.
Offer realistic shipping times
This is up there as probably one of the most important lessons I've learnt! With big businesses like Amazon offering SUPER fast shipping times like next day delivery, my biggest fear was that people would expect this from me as well. So when I started out I offered 1-2 day shipping times. As I grew, keeping up with these leads time was basically impossible, but for some reason it never clicked that the solution was increasing my shipping times. Eventually I took the plunge and increased my shipping times to 1-2 weeks and, to much surprise, the world didn't end! People still ordered! And people were even so kind about it saying "don't worry, I know you're not Amazon, you're a small business and that's why I'm supporting you." Even though my shipping times is 1-2 weeks, it often takes me much less to complete orders, but just giving myself that buffer time was such an important lesson. You're NOT a big corporation and that is your superpower!
What people do/say is often about them, not you
I'm so incredibly lucky not to have received a single negative review on my Etsy page - and, any small problems customers have faced I've been able to work with them to find a solutions. There have only been a couple slightly more difficult situations, but they were also resolved. But, that's not to say I haven't faced any negativity at all - and I’m sure there will be more coming in the future, it’s inevitable! However, it’s important to remember that whenever someone says something about you, accuses you of something or makes you feel a certain way, it's more than likely about them than it is about you. I'm a big believer that, for example, if someone accuses you of copying them (which is so common on Instagram!) it's because they're insecure about their customers and perhaps feel threatened by you. Or perhaps they've just had a string of horrible events happen to them, even in their personal life, that's made them unhappy. People who are confident and happy don't often go looking for faults in others; they focus on themselves and focus on being positive. Before getting upset about why someone's said something about you or your business, first analyse what might be going on in their minds or their hearts to make them feel this way - then, disengage. (this isn't of course applicable to customer reviews!! they are often about you, not them ;) )
Keep looking after yourself
Just like it’s easy to neglect your friends and family by getting caught up in orders, ideas, campaigns… it’s also easy to forget about looking after yourself. Both physically and mentally. Before my business, I had the time to cook myself healthy meals - now, I’m lucky if I grab a microwave meal for a quick dinner (thankfully I haven’t put on any weight because I’m always running around)! So I know that I’m not looking after myself physically the best I can, and time is just an excuse; I need to make the time. Similarly, keeping busy with Lavaná has helped completely put my anxiety aside and for the last year I’ve felt so incredibly anxiety-free. But, slowing down for Christmas and giving myself a much-needed break, my anxieties have been creeping back and I realise that Lavaná isn’t necessarily the answer to my anxiety I thought it was. So, I’ll be putting time aside every day to meditate and look after my mental health, addressing those anxieties front on. You can’t pour from an empty cup <3
One final note from me, which may be ever so slightly pessimistic, but it’s a rule I live by: HAVE YOUR OWN BACK. Don’t expect anyone in your life to take care of you emotionally or physically - if they do, of course that is incredible, but expectation is always a danger. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself and love yourself - it’s necessary. It’s true what they say - the more you love and trust yourself, the more you can love and trust others. Because at the end of the day, if you have your own back then everything else seems a little less scary. I wish you all a beautiful and strong 2019.