It is hard to pause and look back on what life has taught you. We keep running around like headless chickens and then wonder where the time has gone. I made myself a cup of tea and, whilst waiting for the leaves to brew, I reflected on what I learnt starting my business. I hope you find these points useful.
1.Your values will carry you through the hard times
What is a value? Your compass that guides you along the way. For instance, one of my values is to only create products of the utmost quality that I would love to use myself. Having values gives you something to stay strong to when the inevitable tough times come. Sometimes it would seem easier to relax our standards or produce lots of different types of products but, I believe, this would fundamentally change Rama Publishing for the worse.
2. The people closest to you might not be the most supportive of your business
In fact, complete strangers might offer you tremendous support so keep your mind open and try not to take it personally when a loved one is less than supportive.
3. You absolutely need cash to start a business
People want to be inspirational when they are invited to panel discussions, so they try to sugar coat the reality of starting a business and tell you that you don’t need a lot of money. I am here to tell you that you absolutely do have to save before your start your business. You might not need millions but if you want to give your business a chance to generate profits you will have to invest a lot upfront (even before launch) and for several months or even years before the business becomes profitable. You either need to have the money yourself, have a way of borrowing it (at reasonable interest rates!), or a plan to attract investment (if you don’t mind giving up shares). For example, even before launching Rama Publishing we needed to pay up front for stock, invest in photography, build a website etc. the list goes on and on. After launch you will most likely need to pay for ads to get your products seen by potential customers, the cost of which can add up as you trial what works best. You need to be prepared to lose money during these initial stages in the hopes of reaping the rewards later.
4. Ignore brand strategists that tell you to “study your competitors”
Let me caveat this statement by saying that it is of course useful to know who your competitors are, their pricing, products etc. but I can tell you that I barely know who my competitors are. This isn’t because I don’t care, it is because I don’t see other stationery brands as competitors in the traditional sense. For me, every stationery brand is different and I think that if you look too closely at other brands you will end up creating products that are not matching your own. You lose clarity of thought when you obsess over your competitors so instead focus your energy on your business and you will always be unique.
5. Surround yourself with people who are not here to just take from you
There are a lot of energy vampires out there.
6. Your business will not give you a glass of water if you are ill
Make sure your business doesn’t take over your life. I know it is easier said than done but as an obsessive person I know how hard it is to stop. The first two years of Rama Publishing were non-stop but now I make sure I reply to friends on WhatsApp (admittedly this still needs improvement) and go out for date nights with my husband. Your relationships are what recharge your soul so do not neglect them.