Last year the idea for The Calming Room was conceived. And much like childbirth, all the bits in the run up to the actual birth, and which I thought were hard, were in fact the easy bits. I knew it wouldn't be easy but some of the hurdles I have faced have either been underestimated in terms of size and time, or just totally unexpected. I have been very fortunate to have had the ear and advice of someone who has already tread the boards of new business - and who incidentally warned me in advance how time-heavy the process would be - but there was still so much I didn't know, some of which was a real surprise.
1. You will spend HOURS sitting at a laptop. Browsing for stock, emailing, dealing with IT issues (I could create a whole, very lengthy blog post on the building and maintenance of the website alone), uploading photographs of products, drafting and typing copy for products. I suspect COVID-19 has made the laptop usage even more time-heavy as it means that everything that would have been done previously in person is now done online, but which presents its own unique challenges. I have already discarded 3 different products I purchased as they just didn't look and feel the same in person as I had hoped when viewing online.
2. People don't move at the pace you want/need them to do so. So many of my emails to potential suppliers went unanswered fordays or even weeks - I am in fact waiting for some responses sent to potential suppliers in December last year. If they can't respond to emails, I can hardly rely upon them to provide stock to me in good time. Having come from a service industry where I was expected to be very responsive, this has been an eye opener. I now know that my timeframes are relevant only to me and if I have a specific timeframe in mind then I need to factor in delays and just far more general waiting time that I had anticipated at the outset. Thankfully I now have a brilliant group of fabulous and responsive suppliers, upon whom I can rely completely.
3. People do want to do business with you. I had assumed at the outset that being a small business and totally brand new that suppliers would be sniffy about dealing with me. In fact the opposite is true. Apart from the few 'no shows', everyone I have approached has been happy to do business with me - and have been really pleasant to deal with into the bargain. Having spent the last 25 years working in the legal sphere, I cannot tell you how much it brightens my day to receive an invoice which has beautiful butterflies on it and where I don't have to take a breath before opening my emails for fear of what vitriol from the opposition may be lurking within them.
4. This business - and its success - is important only to me. Well, and probably also my husband who will otherwise be the one to suffer my bad moods if things aren’t going to plan! But don’t be mistaken into expecting that the setting up of your business is as important to anyone else as it is to you or that they will be as interested; people lead busy lives.
5. People will support you in your journey. And it will come from the most unlikely places. I have had a friend with whom I used to work but haven’t seen really for years give me a shout on her mega-followers Instagram page, another small business owner give up his time to answer my most pressing questions, orders from friends (even repeat orders), shares of my posts and products on social media and also supportive chat and advice when I was feeling down about things.
Would I still do it if I had the chance to go back in time? Yes, without a doubt. Setting up a new business is undoubtedly hard work, will cause stress and pressure. But those things are part of life in general and can never be avoided completely - after all this is one of the reasons The Calming Room was conceived in the first place. So I am taking my own advice in dealing with the daily pressures; taking time to chill, getting out for a walk every day and embracing the garden more. Just need some more of that glorious sunshine we had this weekend.