As some of your may already know, Bold & Pop is the third company I have started (and my first with a biz partner! YAY!). While neither of the other two are still in operation, I wouldn’t exactly call them failures. It may be cliche but the idea that your mistakes are actually lessons is probably never more accurate than when it comes to business! So today I’m sharing those lessons with you in the form of the common misconceptions that many people follow when starting a business because I don't want you falling down the bunny hole like I did! Learn from my mistakes!
Misconception #1: You need a business plan.
Disclaimer: If you’re looking for investors or a loan from a bank… move onto my next point. BUT if you don’t need investors or a loan, this one’s for you!
I went to a traditional business school and one of the first things we were taught was how to create a business plan. (So naturally if any of my professors are reading this they are probably dying a little inside! #sorrynotsorry) I always kind of found this to be useless even before I started my first business. Want to know why? Your business plan is constantly going to evolve with your business. Are you going to stop what you’re doing to update it? No. You’re going to keep kicking butt and adapting based off what you find to be working and what isn’t working.
This does NOT mean you should wing it though! All I’m saying is you don’t need to go crazy creating a full-blown, formal biz plan (seriously, I knew someone that spent years developing their business plan without putting it into action 😳), but it’s still seriously important to have a plan! How are you going to structure your company? What is your unique selling proposition? How are you going to market your brand? You need to have answers to these but you also need to keep in mind that this may change very quickly while you begin so be willing and able to adapt!
Misconception #2: It’s all about timing.
There is no perfect time to start. Let me repeat that again. There is no perfect time to start! Sometimes you just need to take that leap of faith! If you wait for the perfect moment to get started, you might never begin. It’s pretty much as simple as that.
Anna and I were basically thrust into self-employment when our department was closed at the agency we worked at. We had a few months to get it together but was that enough time to form a business to sustain us both financially? No. Was it the way we would have imagined becoming self-employed? Heck no. But nonetheless, that’s where we found ourselves and it’s been quite the journey! Things don’t always happen the way we want, the way we plan, or the way we hope they will. So forget about the timing of things and just go for it!
Misconception #3: You have to spend money to make money.
This might have been one of the hardest lessons I learned. I wasted a TON of my personal money on things that I really didn’t need to… all because I just didn’t know better.
So what did I spend money on? My first business I had no idea how to form an LLC and I thought I needed a trademark on the name. Soooo I spent a ton of money doing it through LegalZoom when I could have easily filled for the LLC directly through the Secretary of State on my own and I could have skipped the trademark too... both would have saved me a ton of money. (I actually filled that Trademark and then received a cease and desist letter from a large corporation because my company name was too similar to one of their brand names in a similar industry… because LegalZoom does not check these things for you! So long story short, I had about 1-2 weeks to change my business name so I wouldn’t get sued. YIKES! Also meaning, I had to spend more money on marketing materials, etc.)
With that same business (a shoe company), I needed inventory which required me to import from overseas. I didn’t know a thing about importing and was required to order a certain quantity to fit their manufacturing requirements. I did not need nearly that many shoes and when I shut that business down, there were literally boxes upon boxes upon boxes of shoes in my parents basement. I tried to sell them to a company like TJX but since they weren’t brand name, they wouldn’t take them so I eventually donated them. Nice tax write-off and they went to an amazing cause I care very much about but all that money was virtually down the drain.
Moral of the story: Before you spend large sums of money, do your research. There very well may be another, more cost-effective way to do it!
Misconception #4: Always listen to your mentor(s).
As a start-up, you likely either have a mentor or are looking for one. What better way to navigate this new world than have someone that has been in your shoes to help you along the way! Mentors are amazing. Speaking with them often helps you see things in a new perspective which allows you to come up with new ideas to market your company or new products/services to introduce to your target market. But with all that said, they don’t know your business the way you do… meaning their advice might not actually be applicable to you and your company!
I had an amazing mentor that really helped me along the way with my first company. (She saved me during that previously mentioned cease and desist letter among other issues!) However, looking back there were times that I did things solely because she suggested them.. Not because I thought they were right for my company. This was my own fault. I really should have taken her advice/suggestions and really evaluated whether or not I thought they were right for my business. I often just took it at face value because she had more experience than I did. But trust me, that means jack! You know your business inside and out and the chances your mentor does too are very slim. So listen and evaluate their advice and only proceed with it if you truly believe it is what is right for your business!
Misconception #5: You have to work 24/7.
Admittedly this is still something I’m working on but I’m not nearly as bad as I used to be. I had this idea that I constantly needed to be working… especially as I was trying to really get each business going. If I wasn’t working, I wasn’t being productive.
Here’s the thing, you need balance or you will 100% burnout. This doesn’t mean as entrepreneurs we’re not working well over 40 hours/week (seriously, I’m writing this at 10pm). What I mean is, don’t feel guilty when you’re not working. Find a hobby that doesn’t necessarily have to do with your business to help you unplug. Enjoy the moment you are in! I’ve recently started rock climbing and now every Monday and Wednesday I go climb with friends. And I try very hard to not cancel those plans even if there is more work to do. This allows my mind to take a break which as a business owner we all seriously need! (You may also learn something new about yourself in the process so double bonus!)
So there you have it… throw these babies right out the window because you don’t need them to be successful! Have your own misconceptions you’ve learned along the way? Leave them in the comments for others to learn from!