This year has been the year of trying new things and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. While I’d love to be the kind of person who cuddles up on their sofa while crafting and whose art sells like hot cakes as soon as I make something new, that’s not how the world works or how to grow a business. Growing a small business is full of hard work and requires personal and professional growth.
In the past 12 months, my side-business has grown from a passion project into a serious side hustle. Throughout all the trial and error, I’ve learned quite a few things about myself and my business. As 2018 draws to close, I'm reflecting on things that helped me grow my side business.
Don’t be afraid to dive right in. I am the kind of person who doesn’t like risk and often weighs the pros and cons of something long and hard before I’m ready to make a decision. While this is helpful in some situations, I’ve learned that in growing a small business, this can get in the way of progress. Inaction often leads to missed opportunities.
The motto, ‘you don’t know until you try it’ often applies here. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m diving in blindly. Instead I’ve taken small risks and used my network to help me make decisions.
Over the summer I applied to be a vendor at a bunch of craft shows, art walks, and events, thinking I’d be accepted to a few. Instead, I was accepted to all of them. This scared me! Not only were these events a lot of money in booth fees, but I’d also never participated in so many shows before and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make enough embroidery to cover my booth fees, let alone make any money.
I thought about declining some of the events, but in the end, I went for them all! And I’m so glad I did. It was stressful and exhilarating. Each event was a learning opportunity that prepared me for the next.
Don’t Let Setbacks Set You Back
Throughout all these events, I also learned not to let disappointments turn into setbacks and to keep pushing forward. Not everything I’ve done this year has been a win.
Some of the events I vended at didn’t live up to the promised hype. I had multiple events and even an entire month (I’m looking at you March) where I felt like a failure because things went so poorly. Thankfully, I’ve learned to look at those as learning opportunities instead of letting them get to me and make me feel like my art or my business isn’t worthwhile. These setbacks have helped me learn to believe in myself even more and be thankful for the people I have around me. Being able to share my experiences with a group of fellow makers has helped me feel like I’m not alone and that growing a small business on your own requires hard work.
This year has also been full of new opportunities. Things such as teaching workshops, collaborating on a kit design, or selling my work to stores, all of which I wouldn’t have thought to try. I’ve learned that growing a business means expanding your offerings in ways you might not expect.
And most of these things happened, because I connected with people at events and followed up with these new contacts to see what could happen. While not all these new connections were the right fit for me and my business right now, many of them gave me a new opportunity to expand. I wouldn’t have taught classes this fall or collaborated on a kit design with a local craft company if I hadn’t put myself out there and made new connections.
Looking back, this year has been a high speed roller coaster packed with eventful, stressful, and exciting ups and downs—and I'm extremely grateful for it all. Jumping in before I've been entirely ready to do something has shown me that I can do all this and more. I can't wait to see where 2019 takes me.