Blog Post

My highs and lows of running a business

There are many mums out there successfully running their own businesses around their families.  For those I know, the summer holidays are always a particularly challenging time.

We’ve often set up our businesses so we can spend time with our families in the holidays – this was certainly a key factor for me when setting up Messy Me.  At the same time, most small businesses simply can’t survive 6-8 weeks with some of the key staff not around – so the summer holidays become a great juggling act to keep things afloat whilst spending time with our little, or not so little, ones.

I have found the whole entrepreneurial journey hugely challenging over the years.

Here are some of my highs and lows

The Highs

Flexibility

The key reason for setting up my own business.   I wanted to be around to watch my children grow up, to enjoy time with them before they started school and be around as they worked their way through their school years and all the challenges and excitement it offers.   It means I often get up very early or work very late – but it means I can be there to pick children up from school, go to assemblies, be around when they’re poorly and spend more time with them during the holidays.

My products

I absolutely love my products – I love designing products which I know will help mums with their messy little ones.  I love sourcing fabrics which I think mums will love and will look great in their homes.  I love the lovely comments which come back from happy customers who love my products. I still appreciate each and every order.

I’m not sure of the source of this quote, but I completely agree “When you buy from a small business – an actual person does a happy dance”

Opportunities

There are always things to learn when running your own business – I’m not overly technical but have had to learn so much to run a website.  I still have a tech team on hand to help with the really technical side of things, but I’ve learnt so much from online courses and communities about how to run a business effectively as well as tips or tricks to make things work better.

Friendships

Running your own business and working from home can be a very lonely journey.  Being part of networking groups and online communities makes it all so much easier – having people to bounce ideas off, people who know what you’re going through, can understand when it all feels too much and celebrate with you when things go well.

Being able to work in my pyjamas

I don’t think I’ve ever done this beyond 9am – but I could if I wanted to!

 

The Lows

business lows

There’s never enough time

My business is basically just me, with occasional help from a few lovely people.  I have no extra full time support so there is always so much which could be done.  Each day is a juggling act – how much can I fit in during school hours – and pick up time always seems to come round very quickly.  I’m getting better at planning and prioritising, but am often worried about whether I’m focussing on the right things to grow the business

Distractions 

Working from home is generally great – I love not having to commute and get dressed up every day.  I can sit working in my gym kit or wear my slippers or flipflops at my desk – depending on the weather!  However, working from home does come with a pile of distractions every day – with 3 school age children and a rather loopy dog – there’s always stuff which needs doing – dog walking, washing, tidying, preparing meals, buying a last minute birthday present, organising pick ups, dropping off forgotten games kit – the list is endless.  It’s so much easier to switch off from all this when you’re away from it in an office.  All these distractions are great when I feel like procrastinating, but won’t help me move forward and get the things which need to be done, done.

Taking things personally 

I really struggled with this in the early days – and still do occasionally.  It is my business, my ideas, my products – and because of this, when things don’t go right, when people don’t like what you’re doing, when sales aren’t as good as you hope, it’s hard not to take these things personally and feel rubbish about yourself.   Trying to detach myself from my business is something I am constantly working on…

Difficulty switching off

When you run your own business, it’s so hard to switch off.  I sometimes envy friends with part time jobs who can switch off – they work 3-4 days a week and then have the rest of the week away from work.  They can book lunches with friends / days out on those days without a niggling guilt that there’s stuff they could or should be doing on their business.   Running a small ecommerce business with no full time support means even on holiday, I have to check in regularly to see if there are any issues with orders or customer queries which need to be answered.  I love my business so don’t mind doing this at all – and it doesn’t really feel like work, but can get stressful when I’m away and internet connection isn’t great.

Shiny object syndrome 

There are so many people and companies out there trying to sell their services to help you improve and grow your business.   I could cry if I thought too hard about the amount of money I’ve spent working with agencies who haven’t delivered as promised or courses I’ve signed up for which haven’t proved as useful as I’d hoped.  I try to look on them all as learning experiences… and I’m certainly much more savvy now about what I buy and who I work with.  I’ve come to realise there is no holy grail to running a successful business beyond hard work, consistency and finding people you can trust, who are willing to spend time learning about your business so you can delegate without worrying.

I think of this quote from Thomas Edison when things don’t work out as planned, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”

Unpredictability

Sales are certainly more predictable now than they were in the early days of Messy Me.  However, I still have good months and bad months and it’s often difficult to work out why this is – which can be so frustrating.  Without doing anything differently, I can have one bumper month and really feel things are growing well and then the next month could be super quiet.  Trying to look at the bigger picture, rather than focussing too short term really helps bring a sense of perspective on this.

Losing momentum

When you run a business around school hours and school holidays, it’s so easy to lose momentum.  For me, momentum really builds during term time – I get on with things, am very focussed on getting things done and get so involved in the business.  Then… the holidays arrive – other things take over and lots of my plans are put on hold.  This can be so frustrating and regaining that momentum after the holidays does take time.  I have to remind myself – having time off in the holidays is precisely why I set up my business…

So, those are my thoughts on running my business.  Despite all the lows, I really do love it,  I wake up wanting to get on with things, wanting to share our gorgeous products with mummies around the world,  wanting to help them with their messy little ones.

I can’t imagine doing anything else…

Please let me know if you run your own business and any other highs and lows you feel – I’d love to hear from you.

Helen x

 

 

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