Growing up in Nigeria, it was normal to work in a bank or oil company and sell jewellery or clothes as a sideline. Each time your boss got on your nerves, you would dream of the day you would no longer have a boss.
I had always toyed with the idea of having my own business and that day became a reality for me 4 months ago when I became the owner of Pink Spaghetti (Loughton and Surrounds) and I thought I would share a few things I have learned in the relatively short time.
Your first client
That feeling when you get your first client is amazing. You tell yourself this actually works! Someone is willing to pay you for this service or product. Your mother, sister, brother and bestie do not count. You have made a difference in someones life or business. This is a total stranger that you pitched to and got their business. It is what validates why you are doing what you are doing and you continue to get that feeling with each client but the first one is special.
Networking and Support
Who knew there were so many networking events, groups and conferences? Well I definitely didn’t. Some you pay for but all are aiming to help you promote your business to other businesses. Banks even give you free banking for a year or 18 months depending on the bank.
When you work in the corporate world, networking is slightly different. You are probably already known for your skill or expertise, or you are at a conference with other subject matter experts. You talk about your common issues or collaborate on projects. Your company is paying for your time and theirs.
Networking as a small business is different. Most people are genuinely helpful and there are bodies like the Chamber of Commerce and Federation of Small Businesses that offer resources to small businesses. Most banks will give you free banking for 12 to 18 months and there are many groups on social media like LinkedIn and Facebook that offer free advice and webinars. There is no shortage of help and support if you need it and go looking.
You use multiple methods to tell people about your business. If you don’t know anything about social media, 4 months in, you should as it is the most cost effective means of advertising.
Back to my opening paragraph. You are the boss. If you decide you don’t want to go to that network event, you want to work in your pyjamas (depends on your business, not advisable if you need to see members of the public) or even you do not want to do business with an obnoxious person, you decide. It is a liberating and exhilarating feeling.
Back to my opening paragraph. You are the boss. That means it is all your fault. So when you did not read that flyer properly, ordered 5,000 copies instead of 500 and sent it to print with a spelling mistake, it is your fault. Everything is your decision and there is no-one else to blame when you get it wrong and you will. The gravity of what you get wrong will vary.
No-one cares about that brilliant career you had. What matters now is getting your business out there. Most people had respect conferred on them by virtue of their position or reputation but you forget it took time to build that reputation.
You are it!
Typically when you are starting out in a new business, you are the HR, payroll, maintenance, legal and customer services departments rolled into one. If you combine this with running a home, looking after elderly relatives or children, having a partner and having any kind of social life, you have to become a jedi at time management and prioritisation.
I am enjoying my journey so far with its highs and lows. My husband always says to me…
‘It is a marathon not a sprint’.
and I have to keep remembering that…
I would love to hear comments from other people in similar positions or veterans and look forward to sharing another 4 months in the life of a new business owner.
Watch this space!