Happy 1 year anniversary to Bon Vivant! What a year it has been and at the same time, how has it been an entire year?! There are certain moments when time really gets put in to perspective for us and this is certainly one of them for me. This past year has been so amazing for so many reasons, but most importantly because it's been the first year of my life that I've felt like I've found my true purpose (I don't have kids yet and I know that's an entirely different sense of purpose, so I can say this with honesty). Starting a business by yourself is so liberating and exciting, but also terrifying because you know that you own every single ounce of it. All of the right decisions are yours, but the wrong ones are, too. And trust me, there will be wrong ones. It's such a learning experience that I feel like I've grown so much from in just one year and while I don't even pretend to have it all figured out (do we ever, really??), I did feel it was important to note some significant lessons I've learned over the past twelve months and I've narrowed it down to my top six. Enjoy!
- LET GO OF THE IDEA OF PERFECTION. I am a Virgo and true to my nature, I am super critical of myself and in many ways, a perfectionist. I don't mean this in the sense that I am extremely organized and meticulous, but from a creative perspective, I hone in on details. This is something I pride myself on and I don't plan to ever change that, but I have learned to loosen up a little. Making decisions is VERY HARD when you're too caught up in trying to be perfect. I used to get upset if I ran out of the right kind of ribbon I wanted to use, or the picture I posted ended up not looking as good as I wanted it to, the list goes on. The truth is that often times we are our own worst critics and no one else cares. Imperfection is what makes us unique and relatable and I think as long as you're passionate and staying true to your mission and values, people will feel that and your business will thrive.
- PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE. I still struggle with this one a bit, but I've come a long way. I am not comfortable being the center of attention and making big decisions. Scary thing to say as a business owner, but it's true. I am somewhat introverted and am always over-analyzing my every move, so having other people exposed to this has been pretty terrifying. I knew that if I wanted to actually enjoy that part of my job, I needed to make sure that I was/am as authentic as possible. When it's not natural for you to hear your own voice or see your face on a screen or speak to a group of people about what you do, being authentic is a huge challenge. I think many of us struggle with this, especially given that social media is such a huge way to influence and engage with our customers. My advice is to take baby steps and ease your way in to putting yourself out there. Whether it's commenting on someone's post (something I wouldn't do in the past for fear that they wouldn't respond), or adding a video/story of yourself talking to your followers, just take your time so that it doesn't feel forced. I think people love genuine engagement and at the end of the day, if you don't enjoy it somewhat, don't do it.
- STEP AWAY & ALLOW SPACE. This one is so cliche and also so important. I hear this a lot and I've always understood why it's a good thing, but I didn't realize until I started this business that it's actually really, really hard to do sometimes. When you love what you do and you're passionate about it, it doesn't always feel like work. You don't want to shut it off and even when you attempt to, you're probably still thinking about it. When I've surrounded myself with close friends and family and completely been engulfed in that, I've realized that I wasn't thinking about work and I didn't feel the pressure to post something and when I did get back in to work mode, I felt so much more clarity. We are surrounded by countless distractions simultaneously every minute of every day (I just had a notification on my laptop go off as I was typing that). I turned off all notifications on my phone - ALL OF THEM - so that when I decide to put it away I tend to not think about it at all until I am ready. I also try to meditate once a day, though I am not always consistent. As easy as meditation seems, it's actually really hard for me to make time. I love silence and stillness, but once I jump in to my day it's hard for me to stop. I find that doing this first thing in the morning before emails or coffee or anything else works best for me.
- ASK FOR HELP. Plain and simple, you will not be good at everything and you have to know when to ask for help. I went in to this assuming I would do my own bookkeeping and although I could manage it, I absolutely never do. My Accountant can attest to this! Working as a commission-based Recruiter for 8 years prior to starting Bon Vivant, we constantly had goals to meet and they would always go up, which was challenging but also stressful. My old boss encouraged me to hire an Assistant that I would split commissions with and when I finally did, I started making more money than I ever had before. It's hard to justify paying someone else at times if you aren't seeing a profit, but you may never see a profit if you are spending all of your time and energy on tasks that you don't enjoy and aren't good at. Let someone else do that to free you up to do the things you are really good at, and then kick ass at them.
- CONSISTENTLY EDUCATE YOURSELF. For me, retail is an industry I was not experienced in and knew very little about. Flowers were also something I had zero experience in, but I knew that I wanted to offer fresh flower arrangements in our boxes. In general, there a lot of aspects to this business that I wanted/still want to get better at, so I buy books and research articles, blogs, anything I find interesting. I also take workshops and attend events where I think I will get to network with like-minded people. This is something that I factor in to my weekly schedule and monthly budget. Don't be afraid to invest in yourself so that you can be a better entrepreneur. You might not see immediate returns on this, but I promise you it all gets absorbed and benefits you and your business - sometimes when you least expect it. It's also extremely helpful and inspiring to meet other business owners and creatives!
- KNOW YOUR VALUE. I am a people-pleaser and hate to say no. I know I'm not alone in this boat, but I've realized that being confident in what value you're adding and what it's worth is probably the single most important thing you can do for your business. Learning to say no to opportunities that just don't make sense for your business allows you to focus more on the ones that do. This is why it's crucial to sit down and think about what your mission is, and what your business stands for. Any time I am on the fence about making a decision, I think about that and it becomes much more clear what I should do. And if I'm being honest, I still have a long way to go on this one but having one year under my belt really has taught me a lot and I feel myself getting more and more confident in this area every day. I could easily say that my target customer is anyone, because we all need gifts at some point or another. But I now know that in order to be effective, you have to truly know who your target customer is and narrow it down as specifically as you can. Then just be really consistent and good at engaging them and marketing to that audience. Know your value, know your standards, know what problem you're solving and know your target customer. If you're spending most of your efforts there you should find that people will see the value in what you're offering and are happy to pay for it.
Thank you so much for following along on this journey! I sincerely mean it when I say, please don't ever hesitate to reach out to me if you ever have feedback, questions, suggestions, or anything else you'd like to share. Your input is very important to me and I take it all in to consideration. I LOVE being able to help others in any way that I can so if you're a new business owner or an aspiring one, I'm always happy to chat and would love to hear from you. XOXO, Steely