By Belinda Cendron, Sourceress
Let me start by saying I never suffered from the wide-eyed optimism many entrepreneurs feel when entering the world of soloing.
I knew it was going to be hard work - but not as hard as endless days staring at grey walls inside a marble clad high-rise, slowly baking my eyeballs under the fluorescent tube lighting and tending to my frost-bitten extremities from the gale-force air conditioning.
These tough times in corporate (okay, they weren't that tough - but slightly soul destroying) and my corresponding career in finance/strategy/management left me in good stead. It also meant I was pretty handy with an Excel spreadsheet, not to mention a whiz at PowerPoint.
After working in the corporate world, I got my "Masters in Small Business" working in a couple of small businesses that ultimately taught me "what not to do." The culmination of my experience prior to starting my own business was that I learned, very clearly, the importance of cash flow.
I started my interior design and sourcing business, Sourceress, on the smell of an oily rag (an Aussie expression meaning very little) and a vibrant display of confidence. I had a good appetite for risk and I backed myself. So after five years of what I call incredible success, having landed some of the best clients in the business, my biggest obstacles are happening right now.
It's been said that running out of money is a common part of this kind of journey. I thought I was one of the lucky ones that skipped that step. Then I experienced a very sudden and prolonged halt in cash flow. I realized that I had taken my eye off the cash-flow ball. It took me about three months to believe it wasn't turning itself around and that I had to pull my finger out and turn things around myself.
That's the one thing I wish I knew before starting my business: Never assume that once cash flow begins coming in that it will keep coming in.
I had already recognized the need to expand my offering and to have a "passive income" business. I came up with the idea to be THE go-to source for giant clamshells, and bought the domain www.giantclamshells.com.
For some reason, giant clamshells are an enormous obsession of mine. The behemoth bivalves live in the warm waters around Australia's Great Barrier Reef. They're protected, and can't be sold outside of Australia. But I know a way to get great fakes. I picture them filled with ice and champagne and showing up parties worldwide.
For all of $29, I was able to set up the entire store on Shopify. Almost all of my graphics and logo I did in PowerPoint. Don't judge me. I've since parted with as little as $85 for my merchant facility/payment gateway to be set up. Other than that, it's a low investment, high-touch strategy that I'm pretty excited about.
And now I'm already thinking about my next online store...Here are 10 additional lessons I've learned in business:
- Fake it til you make it - but be confident and diligent in the process. Do your homework. The only one who thinks you're an imposter is you.
- Starting a business does not make you an entrepreneur. Creating a scalable, sellable asset-rich business does.
- You are not the business. You are an input. Separate the business from the instrument that is you.
- Know the power of verbalization. I recently said, "I want to own the market in giant clamshells." As soon as these words came out of my mouth, I felt intense urgency. Later that night, I registered my domain www.giantclamshells.com and started my first Shopify free trial.
- Teach your customers (and friends and colleagues) how to 'sell' your services. Make it easy for people to understand what you do. Learn the three-part elevator pitch. "Hi I'm Belinda. I'm an interior stylist. I specialise in hospitality interiors and have a passion for giant clamshells." STOP. The questions then follow.... "WHAT kind of clamshells?" "Giant WHAT?" "WHERE do you get them?"
- Don't strive for perfection, just ACTION. Every day.
- Never assume the so-called experts in your field know more than you. If you're doing it right, they all think you're the expert.
- Turn problems into solutions for your clients. See those problems as an opportunity to be of service. After 5 years of working together on multiple projects, one client said to me in all seriousness, "We need some help. I'm looking for someone like you, but younger. Do you know anyone?" After a few days of salty-eyed confusion, I deducted that what they actually needed was more help than I was currently giving them. They like what I do ("someone like me"), but they thought they couldn't afford me ("younger = cheaper"). I proposed three solutions that resulted in a large consulting project working across 15 hospitality venues including three new builds.
- Surround yourself with a community of like-minded individuals - in business and in life.
- Trust your gut and never give up.
- Break the rules.
Belinda Cendron is an Australia-based Sourceress. She's the kind of girl who knows a guy, who knows a girl, who has a contact that can get you one of those - whatever "those" is. If you've been to any of Sydney's best bars, you've likely sat amongst her finds. Her newest project, Giant Clamshells, is soon to open up on Shopify.
This year, Shopify's Build A Business Competition is bigger than ever. Shopify is giving away more than $500,000 in cash, prizes and mentorship in its fourth annual competition. Contestants create a store and try to sell the most in their category for a chance to win $50,000 and a VIP trip to NYC to meet their mentor.
Follow Harley Finkelstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@Shopify