What I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Business by Jackie Burke of #tiniluxjewelry

by Jackie Burke | Featured Contributor 

When I started my business in 2017 I didn’t know anything about running a business.  I did as much research as I could before I launched, but that is no substitute for real-life experience.

My business is Tini Lux, a digitally native, direct to consumer jewelry brand that specializes in jewelry that is compatible with the human body.  Before launching my business, I studied engineering and worked as an engineer.  I had never launched a business, worked at a startup, or studied jewelry design or the jewelry industry.  Additionally, I went to a college where the majority of the students studied in a STEM field, so most of my friends and my network also work in engineering and tech.

Since my experience and my network is so concentrated in STEM fields, I did not know or have any connections in the field that I started my business in. I also didn’t know anyone that had recently started an e-commerce or fashion business. For all these reasons, I really did not know what I was getting into when I launched my business and I did not have anyone to lean on for advice.

Looking back now, it is easy to see what would have been useful to know when I first started down this path.  Just to scratch the surface, I wish I had a better understanding of marketing, advertising, SEO, SEM, inventory management, and taxes.  All of those subject areas are tangible and mostly well defined though.  Once I recognized that I needed to understand those business areas, I was able to find a plethora of information about them.

What I want to talk about here is not the tangible subject areas that can be easily researched online. What I want to talk about are the intangible things that I wish I had known before starting a business. I want to talk about the feelings and stresses and anxieties that I didn’t know I would have to deal with everyday. Here they are:

Uncertainty Is A Constant…

Uncertainty is constant as an entrepreneur.  When I started my business I believed in my idea so much and had no doubt that it would be successful. I thought that belief in the product and the idea would be enough to carry me through the day to day of running a business. What I did not realize, is that there are hundreds of other things that make me uncertain on a day-to-day basis. I have constant uncertainty about things like where and how to invest my advertising dollars, which product categories to focus on, which influencers and media outlets to work with, whether to hire outside help or do things in house. There is no right answer for any of these things, so the uncertainty can be crippling.

…So Is Anxiety

If you are already prone to anxiety, entrepreneurship may not be for you.  I have constant anxiety that a customer may be unhappy, or that sales will dry up, or that my business will fail.  In my years working as an engineer I have never had anxiety like I do as a business owner. When you are in charge, you can’t make excuses and you can’t push the blame on some outside force. It is your sole responsibility to make things happen, and that pressure is intense.  Anxiety can really take a toll on a founder and a business. I try to acknowledge my anxiety as it comes and recognize what caused it.  From there I try to understand what it is I am worrying about and come up with a plan in case it happens. It makes me feel better to know that I can face any challenges that pop up.

Patience Is A Virtue

About a year into my entrepreneurial journey I was feeling like my business wasn’t growing as fast as it should be. One day I met a woman who recently sold her successful e-commerce business that she founded and ran for 10 years. I explained to her that my SEO and marketing efforts seemed like they were growing too slowly. She said “Keep going, it takes a long time to show up on the internet.” Her response made me feel much better about my slow growth and realize that my experience was normal. I now am seeing the fruits of my labor show up in terms of organic traffic and conversions, I just wish I had known when I started how long it would take to see results.

Budget? What’s that?

When I founded my company I had a budget in mind.  I knew that I wanted to self fund my business and certainly did not have unlimited funds to work with. I knew how much my initial inventory and packaging would cost, and I though those would be my main expenses. It’s almost laughable now that I thought I wouldn’t need to spend any more money after my startup costs. From the first month expenses popped up constantly. First, there was the monthly advertising spend, then I decided to work with influencers, attend a trade show, get professional photography,  and improve my website.  All of these things cost wayyy more money than I initially thought I would spend. Many businesses fail because they don’t anticipate these types of costs and run out of money. I continued to work as I grew my business so that I would still have money to put into my business. If I had known in the beginning all the costs that would come with starting a business I may have reconsidered.

IRL Networking Is Important

As I mentioned above, my business is digitally native (meaning it was born online and the majority of my sales are done online). Despite the fact that it was, and is, meant to be an internet-based company, IRL networking is still extremely important.  There are SO many brands and people on the internet, but when you meet someone face-to-face they will have a personal connection with you and your business. That experience cannot be replaced by interacting with someone on Instagram or Facebook.  If you want to be an entrepreneur you need to meet as many people as possible and tell EVERYONE about your business. You never know who is a potential customer or who can help you with your business or career.

I know as my business progresses I will learn even more things that haven’t even occurred to me yet.  Let me know in the comments if there is anything you have learned on your journey that you wish you had known when you started!

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