You learn a ton in the process of starting a business. In fact, starting it is the easy part — it’s building a repeat customer base and sustaining/growing it that’s the more difficult part. But we’re part of an amazing Brookings community, chamber and downtown group, so we have faith Hitch Design Studio will keep growing!
We’ve been asked to speak to a few groups in the last month, so Carrie and I put together this list of things we’ve learned since Hitch has been open for six months now. It’s been retweeted and shared, Facebooked and handed out. So here it is in all it’s humble glory on our blog for you to see also!
21 Things We’ve Learned in the First Six Months of Business:
Put your hand up. Volunteer. Join organizations. It’s the best free marketing/networking you’ll do because you are the face of the company. Become a chamber member or join other industry organizations.
Save your pennies. Be resourceful. Don’t spend too much on advertising right away, because you’ll get asked by everybody — from the out-of-town highschool yearbook committee to local news station to spend your money on advertising or charities.
Hand it off. Be prepared to wear many hats, but don’t be afraid to outsource what you’re not good at.
Choose a good location. Wait for the right fit and location for your business. Can you afford the rent? Good foot traffic?
Keep working hard and the money will follow you. Start a business with passion, not to make instant money.
Jam pack that piggy bank. Have 6-12 months of living expenses saved personally before you start a business and quit your job, 401K, health insurance, dental insurance, etc.
Interns = more hours in the day. You might be the captain of the ship, but when you hire a great intern who’s rowing in the same direction as you and your company, they can keep you sane. They get projects done that would have taken your valuable time — and interns might be the only “employee” you can afford right away. (We love you, Bridgette. You can row our boat any day.)
Build a BRAND. Everything from your storefront, the lighting, the colors, the smells, the way you answer the phone, the look of your invoices, the advertising you run, the cleanliness of your entryway, the timeliness of project completion = the appeal of your entire brand. Your brand should carry over to everything — from website to packaging to your logo and inside the store.
Be the Oprah of talk shows. Be the Bob Ross of painting. Whatever you do, be the best at it.
Strategize even if it’s free to market yourself. If you’re on social media, have a strategy for each platform.
You will fire clients and clients will fire you. You’ll have to stand up for your work and your prices. “If you never say no, you’re not focused enough. And if you always say no, you’re not customer-focused enough.”
Hire a good accountant, get a good lawyer and have a business mentor. These people can give invaluable advice.
S.O.S. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — or references. You can’t do it ALL by yourself or you’ll get burnt out.
Budget the charities. Decide an amount of money right away for how much you’re willing to donate each year and stick to it.
Show those pearly whites. Smile. Provide good customer service no matter what. “Life is not about focusing on the obstacles. It’s about how you handle them, and whether you get enlightenment or levity from the way you do it.”
Drink beer. Take a break. Turn off your phone. It’s okay to want a life outside your business. You will naturally put in a ton of hours starting this venture, but it’s okay to take a vacation. Time away recharges your batteries and gives you fresh perspective.
Listen to your gut. “You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever — because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.” — Steve Jobs
Get good at PR. Consider sending a news release when you open and have a grand opening. When sending a news release, ask yourself: How many people will this affect? Is it news-worthy? Does it have a tie to the bigger community? Include a quote and a photo and don’t write over 500 words.
Hello, my name is. Your name might evolve. You can always have a dba name. (example: We were co-branding ourselves as Hitch Design House AND Hitch Wedding Studio. People thought we did interior design, so we simplified: Hitch Design Studio.)
Bring on the free info. Sign up for email newsletters like “SmartBrief on Entrepreneurs” and read blogs. Knowledge is power.
Don’t be a copy cat. Keep an eye on your competition, but don’t all-out copy them. Take a good idea, and change it, evolve it, switch it to fit your demographic. Do something different and BETTER.
Quoting the Best
1. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
— Benjamin Franklin
2. “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” — Aristotle
3. “You want to be extra rigorous about making the best possible thing you can. Find everything that’s wrong with it and fix it.” — Elon Musk
4. “The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake — you can’t learn anything from being perfect.” — Adam Osborne
5. “If you have anything really valuable to contribute to the world, it will come through the expression of your own personality, that single spark of divinity that sets you off and makes you different from every other living creature.” — Bruce Barton
6. “You are not your resume, you are your work.” Seth Godin
7. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” — Steve Jobs
8. “Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.” — Tony Hsieh
20 Reasons to Start Your Own Business by Mike Templeman
1. Spare time. This one can take some time. Initially you’ll work longer hours for less pay. But if you do it right, you could start to master your schedule and the freedom that being an entrepreneur provides is awesome.
2. A story to tell. Whenever I tell someone I run my own business, they always want to know what I do, how I do it and how it’s going. I always am able to provide a tale or two, and the best part is that I get to determine the story’s chapters.
3. Tax benefits. For entrepreneurs (freelancers included), they have the opportunity to take advantage of some nice tax perks. Many can write off expenses like travel, food, phone bills, portions of car payments, and the list goes on. Make sure to ask your accountant about what tax benefits you may be eligible for.
4. Pride. When you build something successful, it’s a great feeling. You had a vision, were able to execute it and not can reap the benefits of saying “I did this.”
5. Your posterity. If you’re a doctor or bus driver it’s hard to imagine you passing your career on to your loved ones. But if you own your own business, that’s something you can pass on to the next generation.
6. Job security. Have you ever been laid off, downsized, or fired? If you have, you get this. With entrepreneurship the security lies in the fact you are your own boss.
7. Networking. Entrepreneurs are communal creatures. We love to meet each other, swap stories, and learn from each other’s experiences.
8. Doing good. While this isn’t exclusive to entrepreneurs, it’s definitely a perk. You can sponsor a charity, a non-profit or just personally give back to the community.
9. Novelty. Starting your own business will ensure you’ll always be facing new challenge and experiencing something new.
10. Mentorship. Learning from the masters and getting to help those less experienced than you gives you such a sense of satisfaction.
11. Becoming an expert. This point goes along with mentorship. Regardless of what you do as an entrepreneur, if you stick with it, you’ll probably become very good at it. And this gives you a sort of soapbox, so use it. You’ll have the chance to be interviewed for your expertise, write about it and get to spread your message.
12. Skills. You are forced to learn how to build a spreadsheet, how to balance a budget, how to negotiate leases, marketing, PR and countless other skills because I was the only resource I had.
13. Determination. Being an entrepreneur for over a decade has forced me to become dedicated and determined to causes.
14. Recognition. There are literally thousands of local, regional and national awards that recognize entrepreneurs in every field and industry. This shouldn’t be your only reason to start your business, but it certainly is a great feeling when you receive this recognition.
15. Financial independence. Let’s be honest, this is probably the biggest reason people get into business for themselves. And that’s a good thing! But it takes a while.
16. Reinvention. I’ve started and sold several companies over my career. And every time I sell a company, I’m presented with an opportunity to reinvent myself all over again. On the flip side, if I had received my law degree, I’d be a lawyer (not a lot of room to recreate myself). But as an entrepreneur, I get to be whatever I want to be.
17. Change the world. Everyone jokes that every entrepreneur says they’re going to change the world. But many really have changed the world in some small (or major) way.
18. Create jobs. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you’re responsible for the success of your employees. Your ideas provided them the opportunity to earn a living, provide for their family and fulfill their own dreams.
19. Your brand. Being known for something is awfully enjoyable. People may start referring to you as the marketing guy, or the retail maven or the software guru. Whatever it is you’re recognized as, it’s fun to build that brand and earn that recognition.
20. Your reason. I’ve given you a list of why I think you should get into business. But all that really matters is your reason to start your own business. So, what is it?
“Carrie Kuhl and Renee Halgerson ‘got hitched’ when they merged their already successful wedding businesses together to create Hitch Design Studio, the wedding store in downtown Brookings. They love designing wedding invitations — the paper, the typography, and bringing out the meaning of a marriage over a wedding.
In addition to designing invitations, save-the-dates, programs and menu cards, Hitch can decorate for your wedding reception (the head table decor, centerpieces, coordinating rentals, and details. All the details.) We are more than wedding planners — we are stress relievers, schedule coordinators and trend-spotters. Wedding styling at it’s finest.
Let us know what piece we can design for your wedding. We travel outside of Brookings and we’re excited to hear about your big day! We also specialize in logo design, website design and marketing collateral design for small businesses. Oh, and we sell beautiful retail items in our store!
Let’s get Hitched. Visit www.hitchstudio.com.”