I never thought I would be writing and talking about my one year in a store front. It is truly surreal and I am so grateful for the opportunities life has given me. It seems just like yesterday when I was on my way to happy hour when I saw the, "For Lease" sign as the manager was hanging it up in the BSU store. Immediately, I marched in and told them I wanted this space. I was not really planning on renting a store front just kind of kicking the idea around, but when I saw the space I had the best feeling about it and I knew it was time to jump in. I contemplated my impulse buy over a beer at one of my favorite happy hours at Solid Bar and Grill and just stared at the store.
This last year has been wild. I wasn't fully prepared for opening a store front and had to play a lot of catch up. I was signing the lease as I was finishing up a college class in a new city with no network or family. Was it exciting? Yes. Was it crazy? Yes. It wasn't easy to say the least, but I met very amazing people along the way. We rallied up a small team that had the same passion, hard work and vision and we all started building together. I'm forever grateful.
I have learned much more then I did the four years I was in college. For anyone who is looking to take that leap into their own business, just do it. Seriously. You are always going to run into people who don't like you or your ideas and it will, "never be the right time." But. WHO CARES? If you are smart, disciplined and ready for more, do it. Here's some advice to start:
The Top 5 Things I learned in My First Year in Business
1) Find a Mentor.
If you go into a business hot headed thinking you know everything, you will be humbled down real quick. Developing a business is very complex and requires expertise from various industries. If you need help, ask. It will only save you time in the long run. You will learn quickly that a lot of other retailers are not your friends or don't have a lot of time, but there are mentors out there that will be happy to give you guidance. I find that mentors who have been through the ranks already are a great resource.
2) You WILL work more hours then you want.
I mean this in all sincerity. I work 80 hour weeks and that doesn't include the extra half hour to an hour I stay unplanned finishing up projects or finding a good stopping point. You will work nights; you will work weekends. My advice is to be in a field you are truly passionate about because it eases the discomfort this can cause. When you love what you do and you truly care about helping people, it makes working this much fun.
3) Work while they party. Grind while they sleep.
See point 2. In addition, I love to go out with friends and have a great time on the weekends, but you learn very, very quick that you need to be getting up earlier and working later. Also see point 2. If you do what you love, it's awesome.
4) You will have to choose.
Before I owned a business I spent a decent amount of money on makeup, hair and dining. Bye. I also spent a lot of time working out. Bye. I made more time to travel home to see my friends and family. Also, bye. You can't have it all. You will have to choose and prioritize. It won't always be like this, but your early years in a start up are the most critical. Find the best balance you can and stay healthy. You are your best asset.
5) Have Fun!
These years of your life don't have to be miserable, they are the most enduring and rewarding years of your life. Be grateful that you are able to have these types of stresses because of your capabilities and what opportunities life has offered you. You get to help problem solve. It's amazing. Have fun and know that you are making a difference.
As always, thanks for reading.
Author: Erica Becker, Creative Director.