I'm so thankful for the years I worked with organizations, helping them maneuver over business obstacles like conflict resolution, change initiatives, and priority management because the many lessons I learned have come in handy in our baking business.
It's true that operating your own business has challenges, but I've noticed 5 hurdles that have been the biggest challenges to starting your own business.
1. Risk Criticism: Huge hurdle--but this is the necessary first step to start and grow your own business. Intellectually, we may know that we can't please everyone, but it's the emotional side that gets hurt when it happens.
Four years ago, after getting the required permits and certifications necessary for a Residential Bakery, it was scary to roll out our Facebook Page and let the public know that we were open for business. We risked criticism.
And everything we do--cake, cupcakes, etc--is to p-l-e-a-s-e the customer. That doubles down on the pain of criticism.
Of course, most of our customers are beyond nice. We truly think we're blessed with the best! But there were a few criticisms and the interesting thing is that you don't forget them.
a. If it's fair, it's a great opportunity to learn and improve.
b. If it's unfair, dismiss it as quickly as you can and move on.
One night a customer called to tell us she had purchased a vanilla cupcake and she just didn't like it - it wasn't dry, it wasn't too sweet/unsweet - she simply didn't like it and wanted her money back. Not going to lie...it hurts. We gave her money back and a free box of flavored cupcakes (not vanilla ones, lol).
Fair Criticism? (Not sure any other bakery would give money back simply because a customer didn't like their pastry).
Social Media makes a business even more vulnerable to criticism--both fair and unfair. So if you want to start a business, you have to gird your loins for the long haul. Criticism will happen, but it can never defeat you.
2. Have a Small Support Team: Yes, you are the owner, but you can never do it alone. You have to develop a personal board of directors whose opinions you respect, whose ideas and advice you trust and each of whom has useful skills. They are your goto team to help you make important decisions, determine direction for the business, etc. These also include individuals with whom you can rely on when others may let you down.
I feel fortunate to have a small--very small--impeccable board of directors. My husband, Ed, has had experiences in his career that have helped immensely in our journey. Not only does he take care of our logistics--permits, taxes, insurances, clearances--but also gives great advice and comfort when needed.
A couple years ago, we had a BIG IDEA--a cupcake vending machine. We knew Sprinkles had something similar, but we wanted something different. Our vending machine had to have a robotic arm for 'soft landing' with our delicate cupcakes, WIFI, refrigerated, portable, and beautiful LCD screen. After the Engineers at the University of Pittsburgh told us they couldn't build it, we literally searched the world.
All hands on deck! It took our (small) team of advisors to forge through obstacles--Skyping to different companies in different countries, researching possibilities, getting logistics to do business with a foreign country, and giving moral support to an impossible dream.
**Note: You canNOT have negativists around you. CANNOT. You will need to rely on your self-esteem to get you through downtimes in your business and to maintain your creative edge, so don't have someone around who continually tells you why it won't work.
3. Maintain Joy: Passion and joy are fundamentally necessary to start--and keep doing--in business. Overused, "Passion" sounds cliche, but this is the deep 'belief' that what you do is worthwhile.
If you can answer a resounding yes to three questions, you have it!
Do I like it?
Am I good at it?
Does the world need it?
Most days we like what we do. Most days we believe we are good at it. And we believe the world needs it...because while some may think we're 'simply baking', we make cakes and cupcakes envisioning the happiness on faces, the endearing moments of celebrating life, and intertwining relationships. Yes, we do!
You will need your passion to continue in business and a great test is your resilience--your bounce back ability. On the days when you are have no energy, feeling defeated, frustrated, a new day brings a renewed spirit and sense of hope. Creativity comes back, energy and excitement is restored.
**Your resilience gives you all you need to know about whether to start--and continue--in business.
4. Be practical: While you