I was stuck, stuck in my routine of working in nightlife and daydreaming about the life I really wanted.
Coat check wasn't easy, in fact, it was hard and emotionally draining, but I could count on making money and so I stayed. Then one night, after a particularly hard day at work, I called a family meeting with my mother and sister and said it was time we took control of our lives.
Get creative about what you do have and break your idea down into smaller pieces until you have a reasonable place to start.
We realized we were all at the same place and ready to take the risk of starting our own company. As we sat there in our homemade face masks and pajamas, the lightbulb went off! We were wearing our greatest idea of all, and it was something we all felt very passionate about; empowering women through healthy beauty products. All-natural skin and haircare was something passed down through generations in our family, and we wanted to make it as easy as possible to share DIY beauty with everyone else. Belle Bar was born and shocked us all by turning a profit in a few short months. What started as a company of three is now 12 and counting.
These are the lessons I learned along the way that not only helped us get to where we are now, but continue to take us to the next level.
1. Get Super Comfortable With Failure
I am a recovering perfectionist. Failing used to give me massive anxiety. Failing in front of other people was almost inconceivable. Then I started a business, and now I fail everyday. There is always something that goes wrong, that has to be adjusted; a customer isn't happy, the website isn't working, we ran out of a product, etc. Funny enough not only do you get used to it, but you also start to expect it, and then the feeling of failure loses its power over you. It's never going to be perfect. So what? Do it anyway! And while you are at it, stop with the excuses!! Excuses are the heart of failure. Start with where you are and what you have. There will always be a reason not to start. Get creative about what you do have and break your idea down into smaller pieces until you have a reasonable place to start.
2. Pivot, Pivot, Pivot
Once you get used to the idea that you are going to fail the next thing you have to get used to is pivoting quickly. Don't wallow in mistakes or how you wished things would have happened. There is no point and will only make it worse. View your goal as a destination and just as a GPS reroutes when you take a wrong turn, so should you. Do not get caught up in the feelings of failure and frustration when things go array, just pivot and get back on track.
3. Forget About The Business Cards
In the very beginning forget about the business cards, the logos, the LLC's, the fancy expensive website. Yes, it makes you “feel" like you have a real business, but in actuality, you do not have a business if you do not have sales. Your focus at the start should be on creating your product to the best of your ability and testing your product for feedback. Make some sales, see if anyone is even interested in what you are trying to sell. So much money is wasted on setting up for a business that may not even be viable or that may have such a dramatic pivot that none of those marketing materials are even usable.
4. Build A Team
When I say build a team I do not necessarily mean only hiring people. What I mean is build your go-to people for everything you are going to need. Find your suppliers online and offline. Pick out your go-to freelancers, hire an intern, find fellow entrepreneurs that you can bounce ideas off of and that can also be a support system for you. Keep your eyes open for a mentor or two. Find those “mentors" that you may never meet in real life and watch their interviews and read their books. Entrepreneurship is hard, you can't do it alone. Build your team.
5. Read, Watch And Listen
There is so much knowledge available than ever before, and much of it is free. There are fellow entrepreneurs literally giving you step by step tutorials on how to build a business on websites to every social platform. You do not have to make every mistake yourself, learn from those who went before you. Read books, blogs, watch interviews and YouTube (Personally love Gary Vaynerchuk and Seth Godin), view tutorials, take skillshare classes and listen to podcasts. You need to be in the habit of continually learning, especially in a time where industries are constantly being disrupted, and the rules of the digital landscape are changing every day, you want to be early to the party, not late.
Find influencers and work with them. When you do not have a lot of money, you can not spend your money like you are in the big leagues. Get creative and get what you need by finding out how to give others what they want. You want to leave each situation with the other person feeling good about you and your business. Relationships can save you and grow your business. Collaborate, don't compete. Make new friends.
7. But Don't Keep All Your Eggs In One Basket
Another quote I love says, “Do not let what someone else brings to the table be all you have to eat". Never allow your all revenue to come from one place. That makes you extremely vulnerable. One faulty move and your whole business can collapse. Find new avenues to create revenue streams and test them.
This is the name of the game. When they say, it takes “blood, sweat and tears" that is not an exaggeration. You will lose sleep; you will lose people, you will lose money, you will miss out on events and moments, you will lose your old life. It's called paying your dues, and it is apart of the process. It is not always fun, but I promise you that it is worth it. Once you start tasting success and can really see what you are made of, what you created, that you have taken charge of your own destiny, nothing can match that feeling. I have never respected myself as a person or as a woman more than I do now.
9. Self Care
Burnout is real and it can destroy your motivation and your hard work. You cannot think when you feel overwhelmed, and you will start to lose focus and most likely make a mistake. It is important to take a break; go outside, chill on the couch, do yoga, go have a drink with a friend. Whatever it takes to calm your mind so you can come back with fresh eyes. Great work cannot be created from an anxious, overwhelmed state. You have to practice balance so you can be the best entrepreneur and person you can be.
10. Listen To The Doer's Not The Watchers
Not everyone has your entrepreneurial spirit, your vision or the level of risk tolerance it takes to start your own business, and that's okay. Most of them actually mean well and are trying to protect you. However, when you are starting a business, your confidence has to be guarded with the utmost care. Protect it and guard it from the devil advocates, the realists, the “It hasn't been done like that so it can't be done." Doubt from others can creep into your mind and actually start to corrode your idea and stop your execution and motivation. You have to be able to distinguish between constructive feedback and the projected fear from others. One of the best pieces of advice I heard was, “Do not take advice from those that are not in the arena with you."
I have never respected myself as a person or as a woman more than I do now.
I never thought I would be 32 years old and hanging coats for a living, but I also never thought I would be 33 and CEO of my own profitable and growing business. Starting Belle Bar was the hardest things I have ever done, but it has also been the most rewarding.
This article was originally published July 7, 2019.
WRITTEN BYTianna Bell