Starting your own company is a lot like raising a child: you’ve got to endure late nights, pick up lots of bills along the way and make at least a dozen decisions each day that you can only hope are the right ones. It’s exhausting and expensive. It is also one of the most fulfilling journeys you could embark on.
Mine begun in 2012 but without quite realizing what I was getting myself into. I started my blog, www.thisisess.com, on a whim and quite quickly found that I had a passion and a talent for it. The focus was on fashion and beauty and by the end of the year, I had quit my job and decided to do it full time.
Here’s where everything started to go wrong.
I only knew two things when I decided to quit my job: 1) I enjoyed blogging; and 2) I seemed to be good at it and had grown my audience from 750 in the first month to just shy of 100,000 by the end of the year. I was going with my gut at this point (an important element when it comes to decision making) but there was no business plan, no market research and no idea where or when I was going to get my next cheque.
This was my first lesson in business: it doesn’t matter how great your intentions are or how deep your passions run, starting your own company requires that you have structures and resources in place to help you successfully navigate this new world.
You see, these structures act as the foundation of your business; what you will often use as guide posts when it comes to decision making. Starting your own business requires a dance between following your heart and passions, and embracing the routines and systems that need to be in place in order for business to successfully operate.
What do your monthly costs look like and how much would you need to make in a year in order to meet those costs? Which brands/clients should you approach and are they aligned with your positioning? Are there partnerships you could pursue that would help carry your vision forward? It’s important to seek out these answers and take the time to create the processes, policies and structures that form your company’s core.
The next big lesson during my journey was the importance of professional decorum. If I wanted to be seen as a professional, I needed to act like one. That meant being on time, communicating professionally, dressing the part and presenting my rates in a global and professional manner. Given the fact that blogging in Kenya was at it’s infancy at the time, many didn’t quite understand the role of an influencer but by presenting myself as an industry professional, I got their attention. My mission was to present myself with the utmost propriety, and it worked. I found myself in boardrooms with the decision-makers of global brands and I carried my professionalism through these meetings.
I also quickly realized that I needed to seek out advise from those who’d walked this walk before me. They say that you are the average of the five people you associate most with and I found this to be especially true when I was at the helm of a burgeoning business. I formed relationships with other influencers and businessmen and women from various fields. I asked about their experiences, their successes and failures. There was no question that was too small to ask and if I was met with a challenge, they were there to help me see it as a learning opportunity. These relationships helped form my business acumen and have seen me through the past six years.
Another constant when it comes to running a business, as difficult as this may be to swallow, is rejection. I remember in my second year of this journey spending about a week drafting what I thought was an award-winning proposal. I knew I needed to put my business hat on and reach out to as many brands as I could to inform them of my services, so I set out to create a clean and concise document. I shared this proposal with roughly 50 different brands and eventually only heard back from 20 of them. Of those 20, more than half were polite rejections of my proposal. The stats here should have been enough to bring me to my knees but even then, it was clear that there was a lesson in waiting. For starters, I now had about seven new clients to add to my portfolio and I was focusing on that more than the 43 rejections. Second, it helped me learn early on in my career that I cannot meet everyone’s needs. And that’s ok.
I believe starting and running your own business is about answering a calling that serves your needs while being at the service of others. It demands both vulnerability and tenacity and requires the patience to learn to crawl before you walk.
It’s not just enough to birth an idea, it takes blood, sweat and tears to see your vision through because at the end of the day, if this was an easy task, everyone would be doing it.