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Business Lessons - Growing Organically

fail jewelry business lessons - growing organically

5 years ago, I jumped into this thing called small business ownership!  I did not start this venture with a degree in business or marketing {as much as I wish I had} but did have a little real world experience.  I had the fortune to work for two fine jewelry designers here in Austin, and most of the knowledge that I had about business came from my on the job experiences, seeing what had been done in the past and planned for the future, and most importantly, learning from their mistakes and growing pains.  At the time, the handmade movement was still relatively small, and the resources for small business such as mine were few and far between.  Honestly, a lot of luck went in to getting this baby off the ground, and there are definitely a few things that I did not plan, but ultimately helped set me up for success.  I want to start sharing a few of these with you!

At every step of my business, I started small, perfected the model, and then layered in new goals or steps to move me towards achieving my ultimate goal.  Originally, my goal was to own a jewelry focused shop and represent local and national artisans.  I started toward this goal by setting up a small version of my eventual shop at a local weekend artisan market.  I was able to start building a local clientele, invest a small amount in inventory, all with virtually zero overhead.  I treated my little table seriously, like I would my eventual store.  I had custom displays and artist cards telling the story of each designer, and I tried to set my booth stylistically apart from the other vendors.  Once the market was moving smoothly and I had a few weekends under my belt, I started to take my show on the road.  I asked friends to host private trunk shows in their homes (think Tupperware parties of our parents generation).  The hosts would introduce me to a new group of ladies, and in turn would get a % of sales toward some jewelry for themselves as a thank you.  I had about 4 months of this under my belt when I located my eventual retail location.  I spent 3 months renovating the structure and 8 months after I was laid off, I opened the doors to my very own store!

By the time I opened the doors to my store, I had a small but steady income, I had built a local audience, and had tested my ability to buy and sell products, along with gaining experience of the ins and outs of managing a small business (bookkeeping, purchase orders, etc).  Also, because of this organic approach, I was able to self finance the entire business on 2 credit cards.  That small but steady income at the beginning made that all possible!

If you are thinking about taking the plunge and starting a business, consider this type of approach to growth.  Start with writing a business plan and define what your future business is going to look like and how it will function.  Next, back up from that eventual goal and then set small goals along the way.  If you achieve each small goal, one by one, eventually you will look around and realize that you built the business you dreamed and planned for.  Or maybe you realize that along the way you were pulled in another direction, something you didn't plan, and may not have been able to plan without going through these stages.  Being responsive while you build your business is also important to having a successful business.  Sometimes you just don't know something until you try it!

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