19.2.10

small business, small steps

Mentors
Below are a few of the designers and bloggers who I admire...

design mentors
1. Jenna Park | whimsy & spice
2. Grace Bonney | design*sponge
3. Joy Deangdeelert Cho | Oh Joy!
4. Erin Loechner | Design For Mankind


I have a few very special mentors in the design world. I've never met any of them, but through the internet I feel like I sort of "know" them. They blog, they tweet, they do interviews and formspring Q&A's, they offer advice and share their stories, and through all those things I have been able to discover that we have similar goals, ideas and inspiration. They are huge successes in my eyes, but at their cores I've come to realize - we really are not that different. I hope one day to be on their radar, but that is not really the point. The point is to learn from them, to soak up what they are putting out into the world like a sponge (some might say like a design sponge! ha ha, blogger joke), and apply that knowledge to my own business and work. I see them as my teachers in a classroom where I am surrounded by students and peers who I find endlessly inspiring.

Personal Style
When I think of the biggest lesson I have learned from my mentors, the first thing that comes to mind is personal style. Their work is distinguished and distinguishable. Their voices are clear and their messages constant. I know when I see their work that it is uniquely theirs, not that it is repetitive or does not grow and evolve, but that it is imprinted with the ideas and qualities that make up the person behind the work. Trends come and go, and sure, we all want to stay current and not miss out on an opportunity to get our work noticed, but at the core if we're only in it for the 15 minutes of mustache (one of the trends from this past year that comes to mind) fame, then what's the point? If we move from trend to trend and never define who we are as artists, then I can't believe that sustained success can be achievable.

Dream big, then dream bigger - Oh Joy
Another important lesson is one that I need to remember everyday; no one is going to do the work for you, it's up to you to set your goals, meet your standards, achieve your dreams and then do it all again. Oddly enough, the work it takes to deconstruct something seems so much easier than the work it takes to build it in the first place. Why laying a brick takes more energy than knocking one down I don't know but, I do know that the hard work and belief in one's self begins and ends with you. I really love Oh Joy's Dream big, then dream bigger tip because it is full of hope and inspiration. It reminds me that I am the only one who places limits on myself, and the only one who can exceed them.

Patience My Sweet
No one, not even Martha became a success overnight. Although, when it doesn't happen immediately, it can be a little disconcerting. I learned my patience lesson within the first month of opening my shop. I had printed off the first batch of Animal Alphabet Posters, my website was online, I had emailed everyone I know to announce the big news. Big Chuck had brought home a bottle of champagne and some yummy cheeses to celebrate, and then.... nothing. Nada, zip, zilch, not a peep. All that excitement at having started my own venture and nowhere to put it. Looking back, I realize that this was perfectly normal, expected really. It takes time for people to see your work, especially on the internet where it is alongside the work of so many other talented artists. It takes time to find customers who love what you do and will tell their friends about it. It takes time to develop a conversation with your audience and find out what it is they are looking for. Perhaps I could have done some of these things before I opened English Muffin, but to be honest trial by fire has always been a pretty effective way for me to learn. Patience is at the heart of any venture. If you begin at a gallop you may loose hold of the reins, and if you can't guide the horse, who knows how far from home you'll end up?!

Having mentors has always been an important part of my own personal learning experience. Especially now, when I'm not in a structured classroom environment, I find it helpful to have a few beacons of light to help me find my way. It is also immensely comforting to know that the struggles I am currently dealing with have all been experience before, that they are a normal part of growing a business.

As always, I'd love to hear your own experiences and thoughts.
Thanks for reading!
Bess

65 comments:

  1. Inspiring as always! Thank you for taking the time to write this. Makes me feel I'm not alone :)

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  2. @Charles: thanks ;)

    @Leanda: that makes me so happy to hear :) I'm no expert on the subject, but I think it's a really valuable subject to discuss among ourselves. so, thanks for reading :)

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  3. Hi Bess,

    I thank you for your observations, they are some of the same ones I've had the last couple months. Patience is particularly *hard* for me....hehe....but knowing other people, talented ones (!) have gone through it/are going through it makes it way less frustrating!

    Great blog. :)

    Heidi

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  4. I agree, you definitely need patience.... lot's of it, and not only that, but also perseverance and commitment. It really does take a lot of energy, so it's good to stop once in a while and ask yourself if this is really what you want to do. If the answer is YES, then more power to ya!

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  5. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this a bit too... I have trouble being patient sometimes with my business since I have so many big big goals! I have to remind myself that I have my whole life in front of me and that I've already made great strides for someone my age (I'm 26). I'll get there in the end, and I'm sure you will too!

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  6. Great ideas. The most important thing is to have goals when setting up shop. Thank you for the tips!

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  7. I'm so glad I found your blog!! you're very inspiring! :)

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  8. I am just starting to blog and I am feeling a little lost in this world, still trying to figure out what rss feed means! (oh, embarrassing) Putting my humble artwork out there is scary and I put it off daily. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about patience and reminding us that making dreams blossom happens with our own two hands.

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  9. thank you that was very inspiring!

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  10. I love this post. Trial by fire is the way I learn and operate too. Thanks for reminding us about the patience part!

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  11. Well, I don't have problem with the dreaming bit. I do dream big... and bigger.
    I don´t have problem with the hard work bit either.
    But when it comes to be patient.... well, that IS difficult. :D

    Thank you!

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  12. so interesting. thanks for sharing. awesome blog, I am now following you . I preinted it to keep it in mind :)

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  13. Thank you all so much for your comments. I am so happy that you found useful and inspiring ideas in my post, and I'm so glad to know that there are lots of us out there who are going through the same thing. We gotta stick together :) Best of luck!

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  14. Thank you for these great tips, I am thinking the same only that you have the great gift to put them in words. My struggle with my jewelry venture is not with the patience...I could handle it, but finding mentors and people to help me to break the ice is very hard. And this is all I need now...I have patience, I have talent...

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  15. Thank you so much for this post, Bess. I've struggled and struggled with the patience for my business, but I am forever rushing in without thinking.... and then scrambling to cover the costs incurred for six months. I'm so glad I'm not alone with my struggles. Trial by fire may very well be my new motto this week. :) It should go very well with my forging schedule!

    This is a very nice blog- and I love your writing style!

    Kaelin

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  16. It's good to hear from you and others that it takes time. Like you, I expected immediate results, I guess it's the American way to think everything should be instant. Thanks.

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  17. Of course we all want "overnight success" but in reality that is not the way it happens. I opened my Esty store www.brushesend.etsy.com a few months ago and listed some of my decoratived painting plaques it did not seem to go over that well or maybe i just did not give it enough time so I changed it to Hand Painted Jewelry. I have lots of looks on it but not to many buyers. My family and friends do get orders from me and that lets me know what they like so that i can incorporate that in my etsy store. I know it will be a success I just have to wait on it...Thanks for your post ....heres to success to all...
    Marilyn/Texas "where the paint begins at the brushes END"

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  18. So reassuring! I couldn't agree with you more about the "Patience My Sweet" section... It is SO hard to be patient, while all you want to do is tell the entire world about your shop...

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  19. Great reading all of the comments here. I agree totally, my business started small with not many products. I had to learn patience, trial and error. It has taken me 2 years on Etsy and some other online market places and I now employ 8 ladies, the business has grown tenfold in last 6 months. I love it being my own boss, this is my baby, I shape it, I dream it and I live it. My advice to anyone wanting to turn a hobby into a business is know your value, do not undersell your product and hang in there, use all the free advertising you can. I wish you all success and believe in yourself.

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  20. This is a wonderful blog. Honestly its something I've never thought too much about on a business level, but I probably should. Okay I'm off to find some mentors! :-)

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  21. This is great! Thank you for sharing your story. :D Have an enchanting day!

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  22. Thanks for the encouragement
    Tracy

    PoplarRidgePottery.com

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  23. This sounds familiar to my story! Thanks for sharing.

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  24. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am currently experiencing this and it's frustrating. I just have to remember that I enjoy crafting enough to endure the waiting.

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  25. Wow, this could not have come at a better time for me! So much of my growing my indie biz has been intuitive, which is wonderful and, at the same time, terrifying. I do find that during times of stress and self doubt, touching base with a mentor who's been there and knows exactly what you're feeling, is priceless. Gratitude for the reminder...

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  26. How true ! And how encouraging to know that someone walked on the road I've been through recently. Someone told me that there are 400 millions of websites on the Internet. How to make my own to stand out became a real challenge. But patience is the key as you said. One day at a time. Thank you for the encouragement.

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  27. A wonderfully inspiring post! Thanks for sharing the wisdom you have learned.. I agree that learning by trial and error seems to work best for me as well! But seeing all the comments you've recieved is a helpful reminder that I'm not the only one struggling with the same issues! :D Thanks so much!

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  28. Thoroughly inspiring. I also struggle with remembering, "things won't happen over night", "keep going", "do what you love!"

    Thanks for the push. :)

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  29. Thank you for your inspiring post. I am all set to launch a new venture - custom horse posters - and I have been worrying about an opening response just as you describe - nothing, nada, zip, zilch, not a peep. It somehow feels better to know that it happens to everyone! I especially appreciated your horse/gallop/reins metaphor! Thanks!

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  30. Thank you for the encouragement and the advice! :)
    Ps. Nice blog!!
    http://sofisticata.etsy.com

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  31. love your blog and especially this article!!
    these are all things i need to remember...especially on those frustrating days!
    my favorite is to develop your own style...though i probably need to remember the "patience" advice most!
    thank you very much!
    p.s. love your work!

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  32. Bess,
    Love the blog, the advice, the clear headed approach to starting one's own business. It was a relief to not be loaded down with all the technical, tax related responibilities of being a new business owner!! You spoke clearly, directly to me! I felt a huge weight lift! What I NEED to do is be creative, talk and mingle with like-minded folks, keep learning. . . and relax! Thank you!

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  33. Bess,
    What a very well crafted and relevant sharing of advice. I especially agree with the part about being distinguished, distinguishable and unique. I think this is really at the heart of what makes one successful. Cheers and lovely blog :) Angela

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  34. Hey there, I just found your blog and find it, along with your work very inspiring. I'm now following you, looking forward to checking back often.

    http://charlenesdailyinspirations.blogspot.com

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  35. Thank you for the guidance, it's so refreshing to hear others having the same struggles and thank you for encouraging me in my own unique creativity, sometimes I think copying others is the way to go and that's just not true

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  36. Thank you very much for reminding me about patience. :)

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  37. Thank you for your inspiration. I am just starting out, and things are slow. I always forget that this is the way it must be for most of us new starters. I think I am alone.

    Your blog has reminded me again that I am not alone in this experience. I will stay positive.

    Thanks,
    taira

    http://www.tairavora.etsy.com

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  38. I'm beginning to think "why bother" no one is EVER going to buy an egg of mine on etsy (or ebay) and perhaps I should just close the door and keep on creating them for my own enjoyment. Oh well, its cheap enough to list an item and I guess I really don't care if they sell or not. I'm not much of a marketer and would rather be make things than sell them. Such a dilemma, oh well, maybe someday.

    I did sell six eggs last year, four in person and two at a retail shop location where I rent shelf space. Maybe someday the web connections will get results.

    In the meantime I have other less fragile ideas in mind such as note cards and directions for those who long to try out egging for themselves.

    I wonder what the stats are on the number of shops on etsy and how many are getting sales. Seems like clothes & jewelry get the most action but that's just a guess.

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  39. Excellent article Bess. Thanks so much. I totally relate with what you were saying about the excitement of starting this new venture and then the disappointment that goes with the long wait on that first inquiry or sale. I think that often we get into the mindset that by placing our work on the internet we will have instant access to so many people and lookers that something is destined to sell immediately. Like a statistical ratio thing but that is obviously not the case. Thanks again for the inspirational words. Best wishes for continued success and growth.

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  40. One long night tossing and turning and worrying, and then a bright morning and some wise advice from a stranger far away: thank you for returning my positivity to me! Here's to a wonderful March for all of us!!!

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  41. Ahh...patience, I felt like you were describing me! Definitely struck a cord...! *phew* It's normal, I can breathe now ...

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  42. Thanks a lot! very interesting!

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  43. Thank you for this very positive and encouraging article, just have to try and work on the patience thing!

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  44. That is lovely Bess, thank you.

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  45. Awesome article. At my previous job I had someone there who I looked up to as a mentor. Now, starting my own business, I've never felt so alone and really want a mentor - the support you get is an incredible feeling, and a lot less fear.
    Hope to find some inspiration through here. Thank you.

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  46. Bess, I found your blog via the Etsy Success newsletter and I'm so happy and thankful I did. This article was just what I needed to hear, for so many reasons. Sometimes it helps to know I'm not alone in having these "growing pains" of starting a business. Can't wait to follow you!

    Thanks again for a great post :)

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  47. This is very good post, I was so happy to know that I am not the only one who is waiting for the fist sale. I have made my Etsy account in September last year, however it took me about 3 months to really start what I wanted to do with it. I am always very happy when someone is looking my works and telling that they are nice and beautiful. I always read success stories they give me motion not to stop what I have started. I do it for myself because I like it and really want to know that things what I have done with my own hands and with my fantasy can be useful or color someone's life :-) Thank you for such good and positive article.

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  48. I agree with you that mentors are very important to doing anything new in life. I have been blessed to have found someone that will mentor and guide me as best that she can. I have also found the Etsy forums are an amazing place to get info and feedback. The best part is that it is almost instant!! I have little time or patience, so I love this aspect of the Etsy forums. I just ask the question and moments later I have at least a few different perspectives. I love this!! Any little question can be asked or you can search the archives.
    I just celebrated my one year anniversary of opening my shop on Etsy and leaving my day job!!

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  49. It has been quite an experience for me to begin down this road of starting a small business and getting established on Etsy. I had no idea about the amazing realms of Etsy! Not to mention, I didn't know anything about blogging at all! It has been an absolute experience for me! And I'm the only person I know who blogs, so I am working on trying to get connected with other bloggers! Thank you for such an inspiring article about patience and perseverance!

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  50. This is encouraging! I am at the point of considering leaving my part-time counselor position finally! Its been a long time coming!
    colbyjune.etsy.com

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  51. Thank you for sharing your wonderful insights. Patience is hard to come by these days, but necessary for success in everything we do. I am new to all of this and it helps to know others are experiencing the same issues. Etsy is a great community of many talented people and I am so happy to be a part of it. I look forward to great success.... all in time!

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  52. thank you for your encouragement.... as all the others its good to know i don't stand alone ..

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  53. Pam@PamperedPursesMarch 3, 2010 at 6:31 PM

    Thanks very much for sharing. I too am new to Etsy and get discouraged by seeing other shops that are selling hundreds of items. But, we just have to be patient...good things come to those who wait:)

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  54. Very inspiring, thanks for sharing your thoughts and advice.

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  55. Good to know that this experience is completely normal! I had my first sale within a week of putting my jewelry in my store, and then....nothing. For weeks. It's hard to get noticed but I will keep plugging at it. Thanks for the advice!

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  56. You offer some beneficial insights into the task of getting things off the ground. My own experiences have taught me that I am never too old to learn and some of my best tips have come from just exchanging ideas with other handcrafted jewelry shops. Thanks

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  57. Great advice! Thank you for sharing :)

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  58. Wow. I really love this post! It's very inspiration and helpful. Thank you for sharing. =)

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  59. Great post! Thank you for sharing this with all of us!!!

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  60. The experience of spending months designing my website and preparing product for sale was met with a similiar 'nadda' experience for me this week. I did get several people asking if I could do custom work so I think I'm on the right track. I see the website is just a kernel of a business waiting to grow.

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  61. So inspiring! Thank you so much for writing this. I will try to remember to be patient. And keep on, even if I'm hearing crickets...

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  62. Wow, this could not have come at a better time for me! So much of my growing my indie biz has been intuitive, which is wonderful and, at the same time, terrifying. Thanks for inspiring.

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  63. Hi there! great stuff here, I'm glad that I drop by your page and found this very interesting. Thanks for sharing your thougths about small business mentoring. Hoping to read something like this in the future!
    Women are starting more businesses than ever before, and for good reason: There's never been a better time to take control of your income, leverage low-cost technology, and create the freedom and life you've always wanted. The new economy is best suited for women who are ready to claim their success.

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