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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The reality of starting your own business - 18 months on

Starting my own business is always something that I wanted to do, but never thought I could. I tried for eight years to work my way up into a position that would be fulfilling, but I just couldn't seem to find it. I won't go into the boring details, but let's just say there comes a point in your life where if you have to start forcing yourself to be sick in order to not go into work - that's when you realise it's time for a serious change! This is when I decided to give it a go and start my own business. I did the research, spoke to some people - got quite a lot of interest, and off I went. That was 18 months ago...

I received a lot of mixed reactions when telling people what I was planning on doing. I got the "that's great!" and "good for you!" responses, and then I got the looks. You know the looks you get from people who think you're crazy and who just can't believe what they've heard...those looks. When you start a new business, you have almost everyone telling you that they can't wait to order and that they're going to support you..but in reality, only about 10% of these people order. I had assumed that most, if not all of my friends would support me in the beginning - I'm not talking about buying really, more like helping me in the beginning by spreading the word, suggesting me to other friends or entering my competitions to get more exposure. I don't see the harm, and I would gladly do that without being asked twice for any friend of mine just getting their new business off the ground. I actually had a friend tell me that she couldn't be bothered to enter a competition of mine because it took too much time (it took 3 minutes). Another contacted me offering to take photo's of my products, and then just never came back to me - even after I tried contacting her a few times. These are friends I'd respected and valued, but it just goes to show you that when in times of need they're not such true friends after all.

But, this time also made me realise just what a true friend is, and what it means to have someone support you through thick and thin. My husband, Geoff - never once complained that we'd be losing a second income and that we'd really be struggling to get this thing going. He developed my website for me, and has been amazing with all the changes I've asked for. Without his love and support, I honestly don't think I would have gotten this far. Thank you to Amanda and Justin, who were struggling last year but ordered Mother's Day gifts for R50 just to support me - truly amazing friends! I met Catherine (a photographer) earlier this year I am constantly amazed at her generosity and kindness. Not only did she spread the word about what I do, but she also took out some of her own busy time to come through and take photographs of various favour and invitation products. We simply did an 'exposure trade' - and her images are on my website and fanpage. My family have also been 100% behind me every step of the way. They generally care and show interest when I show them new products I've made or come up with - the look in my granny's eyes is just something that can't be described.

I'm proud of how far I've come in the last year and a half. For a shy girl from little old Namibia I think I've done pretty well. I've been forced to attempt or conquer a few of my own fears, like driving on the N1 (highway) for the first time last year to see a client, cold calling, taking part in a social media course, sourcing reliable suppliers and just giving 110% to each and every single order, even when I know some of them are just competition, or hunting for the cheapest option. I've learnt that there are people out there that are too lazy to do something themselves, who will try and steal your ideas. I've come to realise that certain people are just too selfish and self centered to see the bigger picture and want to do it all. This is a give and take industry, everyone needs to help one another at some point - thanks to Drikus for all your inspiration!

I don't know what the next 18 months are going to hold, let alone the next 5. Working for yourself, from home and doing what you love is NOT easy. It's hard, it's even harder when you're doing it on your own without a partner, without hundreds of thousands of rands in capital, or starting from scratch with no leads. I'm learning every day, and yes - this might not be a huge success, it might take years to get off the ground or it might not even last past December, but I'm positive and I'm going to give it my all. They say Rome wasn't built in a day, well I guess the saying reads along similar lines for a new business - they're just not built in a year.

2 comments:

  1. Your passion for what you do, shines through. The service, quality and everything is amazing. Will continue to support and spread the word :)

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