Any entrepreneur will tell you that running a business isn’t easy. It is a lot of work and when you just start out you are chief operating officer and marketing director, purchaser, accountant, product developer, webmaster, web content writer and chief bottle washer.
Running your own business while you work another full time job is probably on par with a mental disorder of some kind, like something called buisness hyper focus disorder or BHFD. Something where there must be a pill called "chilloutezone" for over stressed/over worked entreprenuers. You know those who can already see themselves not sleeping three days from now, because they can't remember if they paid their buisness taxes for the month and keep going online to check but the site is down for maintenance at 3 am on a Wednesday.
But if you aren’t rich, and you don’t want to go into some really heavy debt, then working full time while trying to run a business on the side, is about the only way you’ll end up getting your business started. You just have to take the plunge and do it.
That is what I did with South of Memphis. I'd tried other things over the years and had ran a successful web design agency in the middle of the web boom of the 90s. But my heart wasn't really in designing websites for people selling radios, biotech journals, car services, Pokemon games, DVDs and Beanie Babies. Yes, I designed sites for all those things and much more. But they were someone else's dreams, not mine. It was fun learning about all these projects and was certainly never boring but...that wasn't what I really loved.
So, when the web bubble burst and business slowed I went back to work for someone else. The best thing about that was the guaranteed pay check on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and knowing what it would be. Instead of selling $5,000 in services one month and only a $350 logo the next. Hard to budget for a family.
So now that I've taken the plunge and started South of Memphis as a web only store it is great. I'm making or buying things I love to sell. Unfortunately, with a website, until the site is indexed by search engines (this can take months) and starts getting some SEO backlinks, and more than just LIKES on Social Media, well…things are woefully slow and sales are pretty stagnant. But the holidays are coming...hopefully we'll be indexed just enough to get some Christmas sales.
The silver lining of this slow growth period is that it gives me time to do more work on the website, test products and continue to add products and product lines.
I wish there were more hours in a day sometimes because there is still so much I’d like to get done. Each time I see something cool that I know people would like, I get excited but time is always against a one-person deal.
One person? But I thought your husband was involved?
He is. My husband, Scott helps but this is my baby and he doesn’t do websites or graphics, though he helps a lot with choosing products. I ask his advice on the things I know he knows well, video games, comic books and anything in the horror genre for film and TV.
His work expertise is in shipping and inventory control and he’s too tired after a day of doing that at his regular job (for more money than I’ll ever make, even with my degrees and experience in Arkansas) so I do the bulk of the work on South of Memphis. He does however lift heavy boxes of shirts and inventory and helps me when I ask. And he builds things like work tables, shelves and storage for materials and shipping supplies. He also made custom slide out and rolling step stools perfect for me, because I apparently have a T-rex in my family tree and incredibly short arms for my height of 5 ft. 5 inches.
Anyway, my best advice for anyone trying to start a business, plan yes. Plan everything out, but don’t take so long on your plan that you end up never doing anything at all. Don’t procrastinate too long, because it is hard to plan for everything that may come up in life. So work your plan and work smart and try not to spread yourself too thin.
They say “You’ll never have a child if you wait until you can afford one.” I think the same applies to your own business and according to my boss who has owned her business for 41 years now, “My business was my first child.”
My boss, Kerry McCoy has a pretty awesome story. It is the American Dream people talk about. She started her business out of desperation shortly after graduating with a degree in fashion merchandising in 1974. The country was in the middle of a recession and no one was hiring. So, she used $400 she got from a settlement on a car wreck and bought some products she had already had some experience selling in another state. (The American flag and why I don't carry military or patriotic t-shirts because I signed a non-compete agreement with her, at my own suggestion.You can check out the company I work for full time at FlagandBanner.com if you need a flag or anything patriiotic, and I do mean anything... even flip flops!)
She got some business cards made, put an ad in the local phone book and started selling door-to-door. Eventually she obtained regular jobs, telephone operator, yep…back when they were still switchboards with the cords and plugs and “how may I direct your call?” She was a cocktail waitress, worked in restaurants and retail and just kept working on her business. She was savvy about newspaper and used it to her advantage during the 70s and 80s. Didn’t hurt that she’s very photogenic and she got comfortable going on local TV news programs and doing commercials.
She slowly grew her business from door-to-door sales, to mail order catalog, to telephone sales…she was able to hire people to work for her. Before the age of digital printing for flags she had 5 seamstresses plus herself making her product. She got married, had a child. Got divorced. Got married again. Had 3 more children, all the while, growing her business and raising some really amazing kids. They are all young adults now and I've had the pleasure of working with all of them in some capacity in my job and they are great young people!
She was finally able to quit any other jobs and work just on her business about 10 years into it. Now, she has a staff of roughly 20 to 25 employees and the company which is still small but flourishing, bringing in over $4 million a year with 1.5 million dollars coming from online sales alone. It took 20 years on the internet to get to that number.
So this is realistic, this isn't Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs kind of success levels, this is the rest of us. The ones who will never be rich, but might get to enjoy life more because we sell what we love or enjoy, rather than sell someone elses dream.
A successful business did not happen overnight for her and I know it won’t for me either and nor will it for you. Unless you are just stupid lucky or hit at the right time with the right thing like Bezos and Jobs. If so you don’t need business advice, just play the lottery and do your thing. This is for the rest of us poor schmucks who want more than just to punch a time card or work at a desk for 40 years. Or in my case have a plan for retirement.