Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Go For It!

So I had a chat with a good friend yesterday and our conversation got me thinking. Now, Friend, you know who you are, and this post is not directed at you in the least, it truly just came out of our discussion.

Lately, I have heard the same thing from several different sources. Many people have said the following things to me:
I wish I owned my own business.
I admire small-business owners.
You are just braver than I am.
Someday I hope to open my own...XYZ
I get other variations of this frequently, and until yesterday, I hadn't given it much thought. What makes me so reflective, you ask? Well, a girl that I went to school with as a child just got some devastating news. Her mom who was only 54 years old, died of a heart attack on Sunday. The found her after church. Needless to say this was a complete shock. Another friend of mine had the identical experience, except it was his Dad who died suddenly of a heart attack at age 55 a few days before Christmas. Now, the older I get, the younger 55 seems to me. I guess we can all relate to that. So these deaths made me think about my parents. It made me think about mortality in general and my own in specific. Now, I don't think that my running my own store is some kind of great calling, but I do know that I am right where I belong right now. It wasn't convenient to start a new business with 1-year-old triplets, but not much worth doing is easy or convenient. I realized that going back to my old job just wasn't going to work for us as a family. Financially we would have been MUCH better off, but emotionally I would have been a wreck. I was not ready to be away from my babies.
So, we made a change. It required major sacrifices for us, and still does, but the rewards are worth it. When my kids are sick, I either close my store, or I take them with me to work. When school closes for snow, my kids can go with me to work. I choose which days I work and which hours. When my kids moved schools, I moved my store to be near them. I have job security...I'm not going to fire myself. I wear jeans to work EVERY DAY! That is one of the best perks! I help new moms with normal new mom questions regarding breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and just general baby stuff. I enjoy being able to help other people while feeling like I am also making a difference in my corner of the world.
There is a downside, and I would be untruthful if I did not tell you the whole of it. Owning your own business is stressful. It's like walking a tightrope without a net. You simply have to get it right, so YOU DO. While I do choose my own hours, that often means that I work longer than I want to because I have to get everything finished. Or yesterday for example, I had 2 people call me asking if I was open. I had closed for snow, but they needed merchandise, so I went in. My cell phone is listed on my site, so I am on-call all of the time. I got a call at 9pm on Christmas Eve from a customer. Sometimes you can be too available, and that comes with running a small business. If you want to compete with the big guys, you have to be different and better than them in ways that they simply can not compete. Personal attention is a HUGE way to get the edge. So, I do it. I hate filing sales and use taxes. I have resigned myself to paying them. Payment is not the problem, it's those dang tax forms. I get a late penalty every quarter because I so loathe filling out the forms that I put if off. When mistakes are made, the buck stops with me. There is no going up the food chain to blame someone else. Just me. When I leave at 5pm, I don't really leave work. I am always thinking about which products to order; which newsletter needs to go out, which special order needs to ship, who needs to be paid, etc. My brain is a hamster on a wheel. Constantly in motion.
When I got into this, I certainly did not know how hard it would be. I have a college degree and have watched my parents run a successful small business for years. I even worked for my dad for 3 years, but nothing can truly prepare you for owning your own business like taking the plunge and doing it yourself. I knew nothing about webdesign, HTML, online carts, sales and use taxes, marketing, advertising, inventory control and tracking, figuring profit margins, etc. I have learned ALOT over the last 2 years. Some of it I learned the hard way. Thankfully, a good part of my mistakes were small ones, and fixable. More mistakes lie in my future, but they do teach solid lessons.
Other things to know: largely financial.
When you start your own business, you need to plan not to pay yourself for at least 2 years, and then at that point, your pay will still be small if you want to continue growing your business. It is important to reinvest your profits in the business so that you keep moving forward with growth. I know that some of you just checked out because you think you can't live without your paycheck. Yes, you can. You just have to make different choices.
For us, that meant that we sold my super cool van with leather seats, a DVD player, and 2 automatic doors, and now I drive my mom's old minivan. I still miss my van, but I don't miss the payment. And my mom's van is great. It is only a 2002 and in good shape. And most important it is safe and reliable. I will get a sparkly van later. My kids' clothes come from consignment sales and family and friends, ALWAYS. The only exceptions are for portraits, clearance items, or when Grammy or Cindy and Pops buy them new clothes. My clothes come from Goodwill. Yes, you read that right. I buy my clothes from Goodwill or KARM. I think I look ok, so it's not a big deal. I get lots of expensive clothes there for a fraction of the cost. My new clothes come for portraits or when I have Christmas/Birthday money and it comes from Kohl's, so still not a big spender. We don't eat out a lot. We don't have a DVR. We have the smallest house of all of my friends. None of this is intended to sound pity-partyish. We MAKE CHOICES. I happen to be really happy with the ones we've made. You just make different choices, and you adjust your spending. Eventually though, the business will (hopefully) take off, and the financial part won't be so taxing. That is a time game. You can't beat time. You just have to get through it.
So why blog about all of this? I want to say to those of you who are out there who do not feel that you are in your right place. To those of you who have dreams of doing something different, YOU CAN DO THIS. After much prayer and a bit of courage, go for it. Whatever your dream is, maybe it will keep, but maybe, just maybe it won't. Life is short. Too short for many of us. I believe God has a calling on all of our lives. He gives us talents and interests for a reason. Use them. Money isn't all it's cracked up to be. It is necessary, and stressful when in short supply, but we make it. Think about it. The longer you climb the corporate ladder, the harder it will be to walk away from that paycheck. So many people say 'someday'. But my question is, why not today? Why do we think tomorrow will be any easier than today? The truth is, tomorrow will have it's own problems. There will never be a perfect time to make a change. You just do it.

My advice is this: Pray about it. Talk to your spouse. Then research, research, research. See if your idea is unique. Check out your competition. Make sure whatever you are doing, you are an EXPERT at it. If you are not, you won't be able to compete. If you are selling something, make sure you use it!! If you don't, you won't be able to sell it. Study your product and know it inside and out. Get books on marketing. Did I mention research? Now is actually a great time to go into business for yourself. The market is AWESOME for getting a nice rental space at a LOW price. My store lease is a fraction of what it would have been here just 6 months ago. Desperate times, desperate measures. Landlords are realizing that some money is better than no money, and almost all of them are willing to deal. Also, our President promises to make the banks release funding for small business owners. Loans should be more easily attainable. And yes, you do need to invest some of your money into your business. Otherwise, it is just a hobby, and probably a waste of time. If you don't believe in yourself enough to invest in you, why would anyone else? So, that is a risk, but if you do your homework, and choose the right business, it is a calculated risk. Credit cards are dangerous for running a business. I have a friend who has over $80,000 in business credit card debt. YOU DO NOT WANT TO GO THAT ROUTE. I'm not sure she will ever pay that off. Doesn't a home equity loan sound better than that?

All of this is to say that making a change is doable. Believe in yourself and your God-given ability to make good decisions for yourself and your family.

I want to leave you with a quote that is on my refrigerator. Every time I see it, it causes me to take pause and really think about it.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

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