Six tips learnt from the first six months
In November 2016, Anna Jones launched a human-grade dog meal delivery business called Suburban Pup. Why? Because humans are busy and dogs are awesome. She works an early morning in our kitchens, when the mind can be wobbly and self doubt often does a double shift. But Anna’s brave! and it’s been six months! It’s time for her to share what’s kept her heading forward on the always interesting path of business beginnings.
1. Know your why
There’s a saying in my previous gig as a grant writer (aka asking politely for money): why you, why this, why now? Know the answers to these questions about your business because you’ll ask yourself these questions a lot, and because you’re going to need to be passionate about helping other people (your potential customers) embrace these reasons, too.
As soon as you can, do it. Until my online store went live, I was just one crazy dog lady with a good idea, which felt way more like loneliness than trailblazing. As soon as I launched, I was part of something much larger than me – a community of other micro businesses. This group of makers understood my most minute concerns, became complementary collaborators (even ‘co-op-etitors’), recognised that we’re stronger together, and sometimes just said ‘I think what you’re doing is really cool’. (They don’t know half the uncoolness!)
3. Expect advice
I’ve had much bigger roles where everyone just assumed I knew what I was doing. In this role, I’ve received generous small business advice and tips from just about everybody. Even so, consider taking on this rule: don’t change anything for the first 2-3 months. You probably spent 6-9 months writing a business plan, so at least give yourself a chance to test all those well-researched assumptions. Then, be genuinely open to the suggestions that keep bubbling to the top, and just as genuinely let go of the others – you don’t have time for other people’s doubt (particularly if they’re not people in your target market).
4. Don’t expect the worst
Because you can’t even imagine it yet. Sure I had risk management strategies for the big things, but the bits and pieces that went wrong along the way were nowhere near my consciousness til they happened. So learn fast. And the flipside is you get to create the great solutions.
5. Hustle (nicely)
The responsibility of selling your product is all yours. You will never work so hard. Tell all the rich and wonderful stories of your products and clients to your chosen piece of the world… and then tell them again. Have a rest when you get tired, and then get back to it.
6. Own it
When the pressure’s on, breathe it in a little. As adults, we tend to spend most days doing what we know well, but there’s great untapped power in the things that are slightly out of our control simply because we’ve never done them before. Plus, there’s only ever one first time.
And what then?
Definitely draw some new lines in the sand for the next six months.
And maybe take an intrepid new business owner out for a coffee.