The 9 Things I Learned From Starting A Business

photo credit:  @kaylawray

photo credit: @kaylawray

Becca and I started Drifting Gypsies the same way everyone else does; with a dream. Our dream was to create a brand that anyone with wanderlust could relate too. We want to inspire people to follow their hearts and see all of the beauty this world has to offer.

I will admit wholeheartedly now that I had and still most of the time have no idea what it meant to run my own business. Like all great ideas and creatives, it was all exciting to start talking about the t-shirts and the blog ideas. The same with coming up with the name and designing the logo to accurately represented what we were trying to achieve. It was thrilling, exhilarating and at times completely consuming. 

We dived in head first and decided we would figure everything out on the way. That’s when everything started to get a bit hectic. Here’s a few of the lessons I’ve learned and are still learning about since starting a business.

Number one: Startup capital.
Man I wish I had listened to the financial gurus in my family when they said this. Startup capital is the most important things you need because starting a business, any business, requires paying a lot of startup costs. Startup capital is the amount of money you have in the beginning that you are willing to put into the business. If you’re lucky to have investors, you are able to use their initial investments on all of these foundation costs. But if you’re like Becca and I, A LOT comes out of your own pocket.

Websites cost money. LLC’s and incorporating costs money. Initial purchases of stock (if you’re like me and selling goods). Design of a logo cost money. Money, money, money.

If there’s one thing I can encourage you to do at the beginning is set out a list of every single startup cost you can potentially think of. There will always be hidden expenses and things that cost a little less than what you originally thought, but you need to have an idea right away how much money will be coming out of your own pocket.

Number two: Track everything!
Seriously. Track freaking everything. Every single time you sell something. Every single time you land a new client. Every single minute you spend on a project. Track it!

For us, it’s inventory. We have to make sure we are constantly on top of our inventory when it’s selling. We need to know how many shirts we have left and how many have been sent out. We need to know how much we’ve ordered and the baseline costs of how much each item was individually. We have to ensure that we know how much we’ve marked up each item and how many discounts we’ve given out. Phew. It’s a lot.

Without our spreadsheets, I will admit, I’d be a little lost. And the spreadsheets we have now verses the spreadsheets we had in the beginning are different. I’m extremely sure if you ask us in six months from now or a year, they’ll evolve even more. That’s what happens as you grow with your business.

Number three: Partner with someone you respect and have aligned values.
I am extremely lucky to have met Becca. Oddly enough, we met on Twitter. We didn’t start as two old friends who met in college and realized a similar dream. We weren’t coworkers who were talking over the water cooler and magically decided we should go into business together.

We met on Twitter and bonded over a mutual obsession for travel and this world. I had admired her writing for a while and when I finally reached out to tell her such, we found out there were a million other things we had in common.

Despite our geographical differences (she’s in the USA and I’m in Canada), we have still managed to co-run something pretty incredible together. The reason is because we have similar views. We have similar ideas on what we want from this company and we’re dedicated to achieving them. Not only that, she is my rock when my mind starts to panic if we’re doing enough. I know that I’m there for her too when parallel thoughts happen to her. We are comfortable to admit we’re scared, nervous and everything else when it comes to our business.

The other great thing is that we have different strengths. She’s amazingly visual. The pictures she takes, the products she envisions and the way she’s a major boss of social media make her the ying to my yang. I will never claim to be the best at everything and her strengths are my weaknesses. I bring my own unique skills to our table as well. It’s this balance that allows us to move forward. And I really couldn’t have done any of this without her.

Number four: Get a really good accountant.
This is so incredibly important I don’t really know how to stress that more. An accountant is the most important thing you will need. They will teach you about individual State taxes you need to charge. They know about LLC’s. They will know how much you need to put on your own personal taxes at the end of the year. They are going to be your lifesaver and keep you from doing something accidentally illegal.

Do your research. Know who in your area has a reputation for small businesses and find someone who will be able to help you get all of that annoying paperwork filed correctly.

Number five: Do your research!
Research. Research until your eyes bleed and then when they do, research some more. I cannot stress enough how much you should research. Research trends. Research price points. Research what people want.

I didn’t really research much before I got into the t-shirt business. I spent most of my time just excited to get the prospective of our business up and running. A part of me wishes I had researched more but it was a lesson I very much value learning.

Number six: Don’t get discouraged.
This is a big thing. One day you’re going to have so many sales or so many clients accept your proposals that you’re going to feel like you’re on cloud nine. But the thing is that you are going to have weeks where you’re doing so amazing and then you’re going to have weeks that are just not that great. Unfortunately, that’s just how business works.

Don’t get discouraged by the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. You will be stronger because of it.

Number seven: Mentors!
I was so lucky that one of my best friends started her own skincare line around the time Becca and I were looking at launching Drifting Gypsies. My friend was a few months ahead in the process and without her I don’t know if I would have been able to get over the nerves.

That’s the thing about mentors. They don’t know everything but they can definitely help you out with managing your fears. They’ve been through exactly what you’re going through and have a wealth of knowledge about the experience. Find someone who’s in the same business as you and pick their brains! People are more often than not willing to give guidance.

Number eight: Realistic expectations.
I’m sorry but there is no way that you’re going to set up a business and make millions right off the bat. You’re going to have months where you hit your quotas and everything feels great. But after the initial build up and in between campaigns there are going to be lulls. You are going to struggle. You are going to have times where you feel defeated because you’re not making loads of cash.

The thing is though if you set realistic goals that are achievable in a specific time frame then you’re going to be happier. Small steps get you to where you’re going even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. Just remember to keep reasonable expectations. Many companies don’t make money in their first five years of being open. It really is a grind.

Number nine: Sometimes you have to jump in!
Sometimes you just have to go for it. You have to take all the courage that you can muster and just jump. You can plan and plan but at the end of the day if you don’t take any action then you might not ever get anywhere.

It’s scary as hell to try to start something new. It’s hard when all the expectations fall on you and you have to work a full time job while you’re trying to get something off the ground. The thing is though, if you never try then you’ll never know. So just try. Fail. Try again. Success isn’t a linear path and whatever happens you’ll be better for it.

I am extremely lucky to have a partner to go on this journey with. While our dream is still taking shape, I know that with hard work and dedication we’re going to get there. Just like you will too if you set your mind to it. Your dreams are worth going for. So just close your eyes and take the plunge.