So, you're thinking about starting a small business? Or you're bored and curious? Either way, let's start off with a little disclaimer: Reality is, there's no step by step process that guarantees you 100% success in the small business world. I feel like if there was, everyone would be doing it. And if there was, very few would be sitting here writing out all of the steps, haha.
We've had this business of ours for a year and a half now. Which in no way makes us experts. But I do feel like we're far enough along to be able to sit down and share what we've learned, what works, what has helped, and what we're still currently learning... because the learning is NEVER over. You are constantly evolving as a brand, as a human fucking being which takes your business in many different directions as you grow. A journey, if you will. How profound. How deep.
A little back story. I've always dreamt of working for myself. My dad has had his own construction company my whole entire life so I grew up surrounded by it. I'm sure that's where I get the drive. Thank you dad.
Now, me. I personally never found happiness in working for other companies or other people. I'm just gonna be honest and blunt, as always. It never made sense to me to put so much time and effort into something that I wasn't getting the full benefit from. Not just talking about profit. I know that may sound ridiculous and somewhat selfish to some people... but for some reason that's how I'm wired. I know tons of people that LOVE working a 9-5 job and being able to come home and shut off and relax and that's okay too. I want to make that clear. I'm just talking about me personally, I never found fulfillment in it. I like to be pushed and challenged. I've had "normal" jobs my whole life. I've worked at Forever 21, Jamba Juice, a custom interior door company, a wholesale cosmetology company, a photo editing software company, etc etc. I've done my fair share of "working for the man" since I was 15 years old, and while I don't regret ANY of those experiences because they've taught me so much... I've always longed to work for myself and be my own boss. I find that in that environment I work harder and I care more because the harder you work, the more opportunity you create. Everything is in your hands and you have the power to make as much or as little as you want. It's daunting as fuck, yes, and there's ZERO stability, yes, but I love it. It's not for everybody, that's OKAY, because again - I'm just telling my story.
October 2015. Originally, this started off as something fun we could create and sell and make some extra cash. The beginning. The Face Shit™ Makeup Bag. Our baby.
For those of you who are curious... this became a thing when I saw a makeup bag on Youtube that said "War Paint" on it and I hunted it down on the internet to purchase. It was like $60 and I couldn't swing that... so I decided to make my own, but obviously not copy the same words, I came up with "Face Shit." Because well, that's what it fucking is, am I right? Long story short, I hand painted one on a plain bag, posted a harmless photo of it and immediately had multiple requests to make and sell them. I brushed it off but Spencer convinced me to try it. Boom. I'm glad he did.
And here we are today... creating tons of different products, it's my full time job, Spencer just recently quit his full time job to devote more time to the business and our freelance work. Yes, we both still do freelance photography. I don't think either of us will ever stop taking photos no matter what our financial situation is. But regardless, it's crazy we've made it to where we are today.
The first thing you need. A business name + purchase a domain. This is usually the hardest part, like choosing the perfect AIM screen name. Unfortunately I can't really help you with this process other than offer this piece of advice: Stay simple, pick something that's unique, easily remembered and easily pronounceable.
Second step. Pick a platform. There are tons to choose from and it does seem a bit daunting.. but depending on your goal for your business, it's easy to narrow it down. Currently, you're on a Squarespace driven site. Super user friendly and easy to set up if you have NO idea how to do html or any type of coding. However, if you're looking to be 100% commerce without a blog involved - you might wanna check out Shopify. A bit more of a setup, but more commerce options to choose from. Just my two cents.
Third step. Get your legal ducks in a row. What do I mean? Documents. Business license. FBN. EIN. Tax paperwork. Trust me when I say you want all of these things filed and live before you start selling. If you're looking to purchase wholesale - a resale license is also required. Every city and every state is different - so I would research this information wherever you're located and find out what you need to do to set these things up.
Fourth step. Create a home on social media. Set up an Instagram account, or use your personal one like I do. Facebook, twitter, whatever you want. You don't NEED to have all of these accounts, but if you have the time to keep up with updating them all - why not? When it comes to Instagram though, setting up a username: treat it the same way as you did when you created your domain. Keep it simple and easily rememberable.
Fifth step. Start coming up with ideas for your products (if you haven't already). Start putting things into action. Figure out if you want to print from home or you want to outsource your printing and production. Again, there's no right or wrong way for this either. Both are completely respectable ways of doing business so don't feel pressured any which way. Us personally, we outsource our production, mainly because we don't have the space or room to print items ourselves at the moment. Do whatever is best for you! There are of course pros and cons to either choice so it's strictly a personal decision and what best fits for you. I would also suggest starting off with a small number of products in the beginning. You should give yourself time to assess your customer base and learn what works and what doesn't before you start growing. (You know, saving money doesn't hurt)
Sixth step. Start promoting. Get your stuff out there. Whether it be out on the internet, on human beings, in the hands of influencers, local pop-up markets, etc etc. There's no need to go overboard and do all of them at once, these are just suggestions. Make your own strategy. :)
Advice. When you're starting out, don't go into it expecting to make tons of money immediately. You're not going to. And that's okay. We all didn't. It is also not necessary to pour tons of money INTO the business when you're just starting out. Granted, it is correct that you have to spend money to make money, but what I mean is - don't go overboard with details. Don't be extra. There are so many ways to be frugal and creative in the beginning. When we first started, I was hand writing shipping addresses with a sharpie on every single package because we didn't have money for a label maker. We slowly upgrade our materials and systems as we go, as we see growth and as we can afford to. Slowly but surely. And to be honest, it feels that much more amazing when you do - because you know you've earned it.
One more piece of advice. Make sure you stay true to yourself throughout this entire process. Don't get caught up in what other people are wanting and lose focus on what's important to you. Your brand. Your message. Be authentic, be honest. I always say, I would never put out a product that I wouldn't personally use or wear myself. That's a good way to stay grounded. Also, if you think of any idea for ANYTHING, please do research before you put anything into production. As someone who's dealt with her fair share of copy cats, nothing is quite as discouraging as people ripping off your creative ideas and hard work. Don't be that guy.
Like I said in the beginning, we're still learning as we go. You will too. Especially as we continually create new products and try new things. As long as you stay true to yourself in this entire process, you're golden. It isn't easy but I can assure you 100% that the pay off is worth it if you work hard and don't give up. I almost said 'it's no cake walk'... do you remember those things? What the hell was that? Why did I not question the randomness of that game as a child? Anyways, yes, it's going to be difficult because it's all up to you and there isn't someone giving you deadlines and paychecks every 2 weeks but that's what's so fucking great about it. The possibilities are endless.
One more thing. Please don't take this post as me nudging you to quit your day job either. Everyone moves at their own pace. I had a full time office job in the beginning of this and so did Spencer up until just a month ago - so please do not rush yourself if you're not ready. I want to make that very clear.
I will humbly repeat myself and remind you: I am no business expert nor do I claim to have the answers to everything. This is just what we've learned and what has worked for us. I truly believe I've found a huge part of myself since starting this business and I've never been this driven or passionate about anything in a really fucking long time. Why not share it with all of you?
If you currently own a small business and you're reading this, I'm high-fiving you. Keep kicking ass and I urge you to comment your website below as I'd love to check out what you do! And if you're reading this wanting to start a small business, I say hell yeah. There are SO many creative and inspiring individuals in the world and I want nothing more than to see people succeed and be happy and support them in any way possible. I hope this helps anyone who's been looking for direction or a friendly nudge to start something. Thank you to everyone who's ever supported us or any small business because you are who make this all possible. The real MVP's. I love you guys, thank you for making our dreams come true.