Things are far from where I’d like them to be, but nothing comes easy and great things take time to build, right? I remember someone telling me that right when you get sick of your logo and tagline, that’s when it starts to catch on. Well… I’m a bit sick of my logo!!
Here a few things I’ve learned since launching:
1. There’s no such thing as work-life balance in the first few years of launching a business.
When you start your own business, there’s no clocking in and out. You can’t mentally check-out of work on Friday as if you were an employee. I wake up thinking about my business and go to bed thinking about it. I work on the weekend. There’s always something to do, whether it’s a blog post, photographing the rugs, hiring a freelancer, communicating with the weavers, designing a new rug, paying an invoice, tweaking the website, writing copy, etc. This constant overwhelm naturally affects my relationships. My girlfriend has become my therapist and my family doesn’t know if they are going to see the confident and optimistic Chris or the dreadful Chris, screaming “The sky is falling! Everything is f***ed!”. Burnout is a real thing. I realize if I truly want to see Stitch & Loom’s mission come to fruition, I need to intentionally unplug from work and at least make some time for family, friends, health, spirituality, basketball, movies, reading fiction novels. I know the first few years will be tough and I just need to remind myself of the quote: Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”
2. Working with indigenous artisans has been extremely rewarding, but also very challenging.
I love partnering with the indigenous weavers in Oaxaca. They are gracious, humble and virtuous people and I am amazed at how well they have honed their craft of weaving rugs. At the same time, the indigenous communities in Southern Mexico are extremely impoverished. They aren’t equipped with the technology that enables effective communication, which is crucial when fulfilling customer orders. Another aspect they struggle with – unlike an established manufacturing center like China or Italy – is knowing basic production principles like time management, meeting deadlines, delegating tasks, replicating size specs, etc. They are intelligent people and we are finding ways to implement these processes, but I naively thought they understood these concepts at the onset. Our hope is that by instilling these business practices, they will be able to scale production and have consistent work for generations to come, ensuring the preservation of this amazing craft.
3. Enter into a partnership with caution.
If you decide to launch a business with a friend or family member, make sure your team vocalizes where they see the business in 5-10 years down the road. If the visions don’t align, it might make sense not to partner with that person. Also, find a partner that complements you. For example, if you are creative and love marketing and branding, find a partner who loves operations and numbers. A great way to see if you and your partner have complimentary skillsets, is to do the Meyers-Briggs personality test. If you both share the same profile, it might not be the best fit.
4. If you sell products, use an e-commerce site like Shopify. If you sell a service, use Squarespace.
We initially launched our site on Squarespace then migrated over to Shopify. Squarespace is great for service based businesses, like wedding photographers, interior designers, real-estate agents, graphic designers, etc. It’s not great for product-based businesses. Shopify is designed specifically for e-commerce companies that sell products. Granted, there are some design limitations and don’t allow for customization, but you can literally set up a shop in a day. If you want full customization capabilities with no limitations, you can use Wordpress. But a good website on Wordpress will require a web developer, web designer, and a minimum $5k budget. If you already have sufficient revenue coming in, this is a great option, but if you are like most startups, you don’t have the revenue yet and want to test out your product in the marketplace before dropping $10k on a website.
5. Don’t compare your first to someone else’s last.
Although it’s crucial to assess the competition at the onset, it can be extremely discouraging. When I looked at our competitors’ websites, instagram following, quality of photography or branding materials and compared it to mine, I got really discouraged. “My website sucks compared with theirs” or “God, their photography is so much better than mine!”. Well guess what, they’ve been in business for four years longer than me. I’m sure their first website was terrible and if it wasn’t, they didn’t launch soon enough. Remember the iPhone 3? It’s laughable compared with the new iPhone 7. But Apple made gradual iterations along the way, and that’s what we need to do. Making small, measured changes is the only way to get from A to Z. Nike almost went bankrupt several times and Phil Knight didn’t pay himself for 10 years! I love the saying, “It takes 10 years to become an overnight success.”
With that, saludos amigas y amigos!