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I remember it like it was yesterday, I eagerly cracked open Martha Stewart’s book The Martha Rules and read it cover to cover. I knew that I wanted to start my own business, but wasn’t sure when, how, or what that would look like. What I did know, however, that I wanted to stay home with my kids. In trying to keep busy and make money, I sold on eBay, made food to sell, but neither felt like the “thing.” When my son was in 2nd grade, I started making rosaries and jewelry to help with the fundraising event that the school had. It was then that I decided that this would be the business I would launch. I enjoyed making custom rosaries and it was just as rewarding to make jewelry that the 2nd-grade girls would wear at their First Communion. I did a lot of planning in terms of what I would need in my business. In reading Martha’s book all those years ago, I remembered that she recommended to never go into debt to run your business. I’ll tell you what, it has been the most boring piece of advice ever, but she was absolutely right!
A new office
A few years after starting my business Willow and Bee, I outgrew my old office space. It wasn’t the space itself as much as it was the layout. I had been doing this jewelry thing for five years, but I still had every craft machine known to mankind in that space. I needed to make a few changes to make the space more functional, and since I had saved some money from my sales, I decided it was time to invest in a space that would serve me better. Here’s a scary before picture, and a more serene after picture. When it comes down to why I decided to upgrade my space, I am convinced that I work better, more efficiently, and with more passion, in a space that inspires me. It was becoming less and less attractive for me to dig through all of the cabinets, bags, boxes, to find the things that I needed and the clutter was overwhelming. I needed my space to function like an office dedicated to my business, not a craft room, a personal office, etc. Although my new space is perfect, I think I appreciate it so much because I worked in the wrong space for over 5 years. Knowing that I paid for it from my sales makes it all the better!
A label maker
Haha…silly right? I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself, “should I buy a label maker?.” I was convinced that if I did that, I would be obligated to buy expensive labels and find myself trapped. I’m not sure where all the drama came from really. I was shipping around 30 packages a day, printing them on regular paper, trimming them with a paper slicer, and then taping them. It may not seem like a lot, but it took a ton of time to do that every single day. I finally decided that I was spending more time cutting the labels and taping them then it would cost me if I just printed them onto a label. I purchased my label maker earlier this year and I can honestly say that I should have done this from year three. My business is seasonal, but when it kicks in, there is no room to cut and tape. If you consider that for each sheet of paper I was only able to print on half a sheet, I was using toner for each label, I needed to use tape, and it took me an average of 2-3 minutes per package, I was not only losing time but wasting money too! Here are the labels that I purchased and the label maker. I couldn’t be happier with this purchase!
The H word
Tied in first place between getting a label maker and spending money to upgrade my space is hiring help. I may even give this one the gold ribbon! At first, it was a difficult decision, but just like that label maker, I soon realized that I should have done this a lot sooner. A lot of times we tend to think that it makes more sense to take care of everything that you can in order to save on paying someone a portion of your profits. I completely understand that. I also believe that it might make sense in the beginning. Once you have made enough money to save up and start getting help, you should absolutely do it! For 7 years or so I did everything all by myself. I created all of my jewelry pieces, I photographed, listed, promoted, packaged, and shipped each and every item. While on a trip, my watch started buzzing, I had a sale on Etsy, then seconds later another sale on Amazon. This continued the entire time that I was away. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got home. Luckily my daughter and mom joined forces and they helped me string all of the pieces that were ordered. It was clear that if I had this type of help on a regular basis, I would be able to live life and not be stuck at my desk working on orders around the clock. If you’re the only person doing your job, although others could easily do it, then it’s time to consider taking a bit off of your plate. Being able to hire help is not only a huge benefit to you, since you’re able to do other things while your “busy” work is getting done, but it is also rewarding to the person that you hire.
Prepare yourself for growth
The best way to prepare yourself for growth is to start planning for it from the beginning. It is tempting to put all of your money into paying off debt, treating yourself for a job well done, or even buying pieces that you don’t need just yet. I promise it will be better if you’re able to take your time with your spending. There are a ton of ways to budget, but I’ll share with you what has worked best for me. I take 30% of everything that I make and I save it. A portion goes into long term investing, another bit goes into short term savings, and the rest stays in a savings account that I can easily access if I need to buy or hire someone. The rest goes to pay bills or for a special event or project. There will always be bills to be paid, emergencies that come up, but if you look at your income savings portion as non-negotiable, you will build up your savings in no time. Remember that growing your savings will not only help you expand and grow when needed, but it is also a good way to show to yourself that you’re able and capable of seeing this small business grow. Here’s a free printable to get you started, select scale to fit to print this 8.5×11.