We’re coming up on Josephine’s Chocolate’s two year anniversary in July, and there are so many things we've learned about starting a small business!
Here are a few insights from a newbie small business owner.
It's so important to identify and always work towards your branding goals. Your brand should be clear and consistent, but know that the brand can, and will, evolve with your company. When we started planning the business, we had one product related to Jane Austen, our Lizzy Cameo Brooch, and we knew that it was a luxury good. We didn’t know how to condense our business ideas into a brand image. The first step was to commission a custom logo, which helped clarify our brand identity. We looked at a huge selection of colours (getting your head around colour matching, meanings and psychology is a little daunting if you're unfamiliar with design!) before deciding on vintage blue - it was the colour of the background of our first cameo, evoking vintage charm and Jane Austen elegance - with a gold accent of luxury.
Our brand is always evolving as we develop more products, identify additional customer bases and define and refine our image. I keep in mind that many global companies periodically re-brand.
I'd highly recommend reading Alina Wheeler's Designing Brand Identity for insights and inspiration.
There are some great examples of before and after re-designs and case studies of well established brands, showing their progression and detailing their branding choices.
Always double the budget - marketing is expensive! We've been marketing on a shoe string budget since we started (yay for free email campaigning!), carefully choosing select publications to advertise in or events to go to. Mostly, we were testing the viability of different marketing avenues to see how much revenue can be generated from each source. Some don't
return as much as we had hoped, others show instant sales and others are slow burners. For example, booths at wedding fairs have a high upfront cost but, although you may see some revenue in the following months, we've had sales 18 months down the line from doing a wedding fair. You just never know when someone will contact you through a marketing source.
Budget for rainy days
Cash flow should always be key. You never know when you might have to unexpectedly pay for bulk ingredients or products for an order, before the order has been paid for. Having a clear and detailed budget, with a little extra for emergencies, helps minimise the panic of last minute, necessary purchases.
The Loneliness of going solo
It is such an amazing feeling to start a business on your own. You are the Boss. But as well as being in charge, you are also the product maker, seller, marketer, finance officer, administrator, innovator and packer. All jobs are rolled into one.
Josephine's is run daily by me, Jo, and my sister Sarah does copy for our website, some blogs, social media and helps with making and packaging as and when she can.
Therefore, most of the time it is just me. Just me in the kitchen making products, just me packaging products (with help from family when it's a busy time), just me answering emails, just me updating social media and just me and my brain constantly thinking up ways to advance the business. It gets lonely sometimes. Don't get me wrong, the feeling of accomplishing something by yourself is wonderful, but it also can be overwhelming when you are the sole decision maker. If you, like me, come from an office environment, then you'll miss the daily chit chat about that GOT episode or what everyone did at the weekend. I get through it by having great people around me who understand that sometimes I'll call at random hours just for a chat.
The community you can find on social media of fellow small business owners is also invaluable! Join some groups and meet up with friends as much as you can. (Although, being a new small business owner, your purse strings are probably tight, so invite people round for dinner and movies!)
Mistakes are lessons
This one is told time and time again, and that's because it's true!
Some things just don't work out. You may try and try to get a product right, but it just doesn't. You'll think to yourself, what a waste of money and time. But it isn't. That time and money you spent, you were learning lessons.
Whether it was trying out new techniques,
figuring out the world of packaging suppliers or maybe tinkering with a product, every failure is a lesson learned, and next time you'll get it right!
Embrace those mistakes: you never know when the things you've learned will come in handy.
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