In 2008 I started a business from home with the sole intention of being able to send our eldest to a bougie preschool. The seed for the business had already been planted before he started there, but once we got the first tuition bill…I started watering that seed with a vengeance. Fast forward three years. It’s 2am in my basement workshop, the hubs has finally given up and gone to bed, I hear the soft snores of sleeping children on the monitor, and I’m crying my eyes out.
Before this grand adventure started, I read a book for women entrepreneurs. “Just do it!” they proclaim. “Who needs a business plan?” they shout. “You are not a man, don’t do business like one!” they cajole. All of this assumes, of course, that you have some common sense. The book was full of quizzes. Guess there should have been one to check for that. But no, a license to do business and collect sales tax asks nothing of the sort, so off I go to recklessly endanger our personal financial security and my sleep requirements. Out of business and a few grand behind with a near-perfect product languishing on the basement shelves, I now know why having at least a shadow of a business plan and possibly taking my husband’s advice now and then could have saved my sweet little business from it’s untimely demise.
Lest you try this yourself unprepared, here are a few of my errors for your edification and amusement:
- Not taking on a partner or an assistant when my working hours began to encroach upon my cookie-decorating and play-doh creation time with E. By the time I took on an assistant, I was drowning in orders and personal drama.
- Not taking maternity leave. I actually took an order on the website from the hospital the day after having the baby. Why I had to make myself feel like a superhero, I don’t know, but it wasn’t worth it and probably contributed to a little undiagnosed but very real PPD.
- Thinking that paper business records and receipts mingled with grocery lists and school forms would eventually just make their way chronologically into labeled binders. Paper doesn’t file itself, people.
- Refusing to use my iphone for scheduling, note taking or anything other than texting or TMZ, really. Although this wouldn’t have solved most of my real problems, it would have kept me more organized which is half the battle for me.
- Using 10+ supply vendors at a time.
- Devoting myself to a product with 17 separate components that was completely non-mobile and had to be done entirely in my basement. (Why didn’t I take up knitting or embroidery or something else with fewer parts that I could do in the car or in line somewhere?!)
- Being so excited to add new stores (the total got up to 11, plus a few one-offs here and there) that I would fulfill ridiculous requests and accept unfavorable terms to keep them happy and stay on their shelves.
- Doing it all by myself, all the time. I didn’t let SB in on the technique for wrapping a paper label around a candle jar until way too late. He was always willing but I held those trade secrets too close to the vest for too long.
- Trying too hard to keep the price low. My goal from the outset was to sell a product that I would buy. Well, I would buy it all right, and so would the thousands of people who actually did. Problem was, by not pricing it right and being unwilling to raise it as necessary, I dug my own waxy grave.
This is/was the story of my home business, may it rest in peace. It will resurrect when the guys are both in school and I have more time to devote to its success, but with a structured approach and a seasoned businesswoman at the helm. Wonder where I’ll find her?