Lessons I've Learned After 10 Years of Entrepreneurship
This year is officially my tenth anniversary since I left my corporate paycheque behind in search of my independence and dreams. As a mom of three small girls and a business woman with lots of creative dreams, I had felt stifled by the bureaucracy of corporate politics and had the passion brewing inside me that I had to pursue or else I would never get the satisfaction of trying my hand as an entrepreneur. I didn't want to be left always wondering.
Taking that leap into self employment and cashing in all of your life savings, RRSP's and investments in order to fund your new venture is not for the faint of heart. In our case we had to ask the bank for a government secured bank loan that we also had to sign personally for meaning if it went south then we would lose our home and everything. Ugh. And as for a paycheque?! What paycheque? Basically knowing that you may not actually get a paycheque for 12-24 months (or longer in the case of many start up entrepreneurs). Be faint my heart. Being an entrepreneur is not an easy thing.
I am happy to share that we are about to celebrate our Tenth Anniversary of that business, high quality franchised licensed child care centres, that I took the leap for a decade ago. It has certainly had many sleepless nights and tears, but to be celebrating ten years is a huge accomplishment that makes me very proud. I have sixty wonderful teaching staff, many of whom have had a significant impact on my life and care deeply for the children in our care every day. I feel very rewarded every day with what we have created.
But I've also had other ventures that didn't go as well as I had hoped. I wrote a book, Your Family Health Organizer in 2006, that certainly makes me incredibly proud to know that I self-published from a whimsical seed of an idea while on maternity leave to actually being published and sold in Chapters, Costco, Barnes & Noble to name a few big retailers across Canada and the US. But again I made a few BIG mistakes with that one too and could have been far more successful if I had made different choices. Namely, I was courted by a publisher who wanted to buy the rights to the book and I was so enamoured by the thought that they actually wanted my book that I signed a deal that financially and creatively caused me to give up a lot of opportunities. Live and learn!
I had to bankrupt a company once that I started. In 2010, I opened a children's after school activity centre that sounded like a super cool idea, but poorly executed on my part. The concept wasn't right and neither was the market. I didn't do enough homework or market research. It was a costly mistake. After eighteen months of extreme stress and personal financial hardship while we poured what little we had left of our life savings into trying to make it work, I woke up one morning and said today I am done. Raising the red flag was the best decision I could have made for my own mental health and also our financial state.
And then this amazing this happened to me about three years ago. All of my passion and entrepreneurial training had finally shown me a pathway to my true passion, natural and organic skincare products. It all started with my own personal issues with body odour. Yep I said it and it's not pretty. I tried every deodorant on the market - from prescription strength 20% aluminum chloride to natural crystals, and everything on the market in between. None of them worked! I was always self conscious and worried about odour but I was equally worried about all the chemicals I was putting ON my body. I carried deodorant with me everywhere I went. Then I made my own natural deodorant one day, and I made it again better, and changed it and made it again even better, and the rest of history. Clean Kiss Organics was founded and we now boast an artisan handcrafted natural line for body, face, hair and home that started with natural deodorant but has grown to over forty different sku's with simple and clean ingredients. Everyday I learn a new lesson about my customers needs, retailers, and the rapidly expanding natural beauty market. It is so exciting! I feel like I've come home to where I was meant to be.
Here are my lessons learned:
1. Have support. My husband made it all possible. No doubt about it. People often ask me "How do you do it all?". Well I am not super woman. I did marry superman however. He is the best dad and husband ever who drives the kids to their activities, makes their school lunches, and is my super awesome delivery man when I am in a pinch. Find your own superman or superwoman to help you. Good people love to support and be a part of something really good.
2. Seek out advice from experts. Such as an accountant and lawyer for starters. If you are not one, then you need one! Don't be cheap. Talk to other entrepreneurs. Call them up, message them on Facebook or IG, introduce yourself at networking events. I have been very fortunate to have coffee and phone conversations with some very successful female entrepreneurs who are honoured to help me out. Don't think you know better. It will cost you later!!!
3. Try hard. Work your ass off. But know when you need to pull the plug and end the pain and suffering. Ideas fail. Businesses fail. Don't keep investing emotionally into an idea that JUST. ISN'T. WORKING. Learn from it and move on. It doesn't mean you are failure but you will be if you are too proud to admit that some ideas just suck.
4. People will judge and make comments such as "Must be nice to just work your own hours and go on lots of vacations." Or my personal fave "You must be rich to own this place." I am still bothered ten years later by these ignorant comments because what I really want to say is, "If you put your house and family's life savings on the line, and literally blood, sweat and tears into a business maybe you too can take a vacation guilt free!!!". Not everyone can or will be an entrepreneur. In fact research shows that 86% of millionaires work fifty hours a week or more and 70% own their own business. It takes a lot of grit.
5. Teach your children your business lessons. Our dinner conversations are often about things that have happened throughout our workdays for both my husband and I. Mine are often more colourful given all the variety of people I deal with on any given day. Our girls learn and listen and ask questions. Sometimes I even pose the tough scenarios to them and get them to help me decide what to do when I'm really stuck. They will know how to problem solve, lead, communicate, make decisions, collaborate, and even to fire people when they have to. This is called an at-home MBA my friends!
Am I planning on starting any more businesses? You bet I am. Not sure yet what they may be and whether they will be a branch off of one I've already got. That's what is amazing about being an entrepreneur. You always have your eyes and ears open to possibilities. You are confident and take risks and are ok with that. But you're also smarter about it. You know what you will and won't do. Mistakes made are lessons learned.
Now that you've read this blog, want to know more about Clean Kiss Organics?
We create 100% Natural and Organic, Canadian artisan handcrafted products that are simple and pure for your body, face, hair and home. Our specialty is anti-aging premium skincare, all natural deodorant, and products for curly hair.
We are 100% Vegan, GMO free, Gluten Free (and free of all unnecessary garbage!) and Leaping Bunny Certified (meaning we never test on animals and neither do our suppliers). We also proudly give a portion of our sales to help homeless women and their children to get back on track with housing, education, and financial support.
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