Here’s something that took me awhile to learn. It takes a little bit of love and lots of time to start your business. A business is not built in a day. Or a week. Or even a year.
I read posts all the time promising efficiency to starting a business or launching a blog. I love speed too, but the truth is that starting a successful business is a journey just like everything else in life. My stationery studio has been in business for over six years and we are still working on “building” it every day.
A business is an ever evolving process. This is what makes running one so much fun to me. I love all of the learning, applying and tweaking that goes on daily to figure out how to build it better.
But to start your business with a family at home is tough stuff. Especially when it comes to free time to get things done. Raising your family can be a full time job alone. And then you try to add on all of the business tasks and things get chaotic.
I read a lot about when successful business owners start their businesses. Many of them don’t have kids. Or they have really good nannies. That might be the case once you are successful, but when you first start your business, juggling is the game.
It isn’t that you can’t build a business and grow your family at the same time. (We lovingly joke sometimes that my business is a child on its own). It’s just that you have to approach the process a bit differently. You might need more patience and accept that your business journey will take more time than someone who has tons of free hours in the day.
I call this approach the little bit at a time strategy. Where a person without daily family commitments might make more progress faster, a mom has better success taking on a small piece every day. With this approach, all of those small pieces add up. They form the bigger picture and – Ta Da! – you have started your business.
For example, if you wanted to open an Etsy shop, there are a lot of different things to do to get your shop ready for business. From figuring out the business name to listing products and setting up the graphics, opening an Etsy shop can be quite an undertaking. Then add in the distraction of the littles at home and you will easily feel overwhelmed.
After speaking with many other business moms, I find it’s that overwhelming feeling that makes you want to quit. Stop everything. And never consider being an entrepreneur again.
How are you supposed to cook, clean, watch the kids and start a business all in one day? (I know I have this conversation at least a few times a month when life takes over.)
Turns out that the place you are stuck is a forest. It is a dense thicket of to dos, have tos and must haves. Sadly, this forest can be a dark and scary place that stops you in your tracks. Many time, it does not make you want to keep moving forward.
Remember the phrase “see the forest through the trees”. Many of us have no problem seeing the forest. They can visualize themselves running the business and rocking the mom boss thing. The problem is that we have to cut down the trees to get there. (This is strictly metaphorical… I love forests, love trees and I am not actually cutting down anything except to dos).
It’s sometimes hard to figure out the path through the forest. You might not be able to conquer the forest in one naptime. But you can tackle one of the trees. And another, and another… until all of a sudden you are standing at the edge of the forest with your goal – an open shop – accomplished.
I used this strategy when opening my Etsy shop 6 years ago and have applied it multiple times since to accomplish other business goals. It’s also let me create a mom life that I love. It’s all about taking it a little step at a time.
So if you have dreams of starting a business, but don’t know where to start and feel overwhelmed, here are some steps to using my little bit every day approach to find some mom boss success at the end.
Figure Out Your Forest
Before you can start a business, you need to understand what kind of business you want to start. Brainstorm business ideas, think about what you are good at and what things you would like to sell. Write a business plan to help kick start your ideas. Whatever your business idea is, it will become your forest. The thing that you eventually need to overcome. Write down the business idea at the top of a piece of paper in big letters. Now, you are ready to figure out the trees.
Divide the Forest into Trees
The trees are the little steps that you will take to get through the forest. You can work on tackling the trees a little bit every day. This makes the entire starting a business task process seem a lot less overwhelming. Even if it takes months or a year, eventually you will get through that forest. Write down all of the little things that you think you need to accomplish to get your business started. It doesn’t matter how small of a task, write it down. You don’t want to forget the little tasks that might be important later on (such as taxes and legal forms).
If you have already started on your business journey, don’t forget to write down the tasks that are completed. Put them on the list and then cross them out. This will make you feel much more accomplished as you move forward.
Make a Timeline
Since you don’t want to try to work your way through the forest forever, a timeline will help you figure out which trees to work on first. Write each task on a section of blank paper. Cut out these strips of paper. Move them around in an order that makes sense. For example, you can’t register your business until you have a name for your business. When choosing where an item goes, make sure that you have accomplished what needs to be done beforehand. This will make you less likely to get stalled along the way.
It’s also important to figure out an end date for when you want to have finished your journey through the forest. This date would be your launch date (or at least the time when you want your business ready to go public). Consider this date a bit flexible – you can move it if life gets in the way. But, write it down. You’re more likely to stay motivated and work on trees if you know you have a specific date you are working towards.
Write the Start Date on Your Calendar
Why not make it the date to start your business official? I find things written down become more permanent. Mark your calendar (in your agenda, wall calendar, even family calendar) with your start date and your goal end date. Use bright colors here. Even write down the time you plan to launch. Then, stick to it. If you get a good start on your first tree you will be amazed how much easier it is to tackle the rest of them.
Working at One Tree at a Time
When you’re working through the trees, be sure to work on one tree at a time. You could get muddled if you attempt multiple trees all at once. As a kid, I loved to go to the library. I would take out a dozen books and read a chapter out of each of them. The next day I would do the same and so on. Until I got tired of those books and simply returned them to the library. I never did finish any of them – just a couple of chapters.
Don’t let the same thing happen when you’re starting your business. If you try to get through too many trees at once, there’s a good chance you will not get through any of the trees.
On the other hand, though, you should keep moving if a tree or smaller step gets stuck in the process. For example, if you have to wait for a response from a vendor (someone doing work for you). This is the perfect time to move onto the next tree. You don’t want to end up waiting around when other things could get done. Keep moving forward and you’ll see progress faster.
Check-In on Your Progress
As you steadily work on your small steps, be sure to schedule check-in points along the way. Choose a time at the end of every week where you review what you’ve accomplished and what you need to do the next week.
I used to choose naptimes on Fridays for a brief check-in session. I’d brew a cup of coffee and review my to do list. After looking over the things that I’d accomplished, I highlighted the items that were still there. Then, I would write the to do list for the following week starting with the highlighted items. It was a great way to feel relaxed and refreshed on a Friday.
Celebrating your accomplishments
When you do finally get your business up and running, it’s time to celebrate. Bring in take out, go out to dinner, buy yourself flowers and chocolate. Whatever will make you know that you did it.
Don’t hold the celebrations until your first sale. You can do that too, but it’s important to celebrate all of the work that you’ve done now. Just setting up your business is a HUGE success. So many people get lost in this overwhelming process. Recognize how important this stage was and what an amazing job you did!
Starting a business is amazing accomplishment. But the journey to start your business is even more awesome. You will learn, explore and discover things that you never expected. If you want to start a business, but feel overwhelmed, I recommend stepping back a bit. Go back to creating your forest and then figuring out your trees. Take on a little bit every day. It is only with these tiny steps that we are able to accomplish the big picture in the end.
Don’t forget to enjoy that journey through the forest can be a long one, but it is worth it in the end. When you look at all of the trees together, you will be amazed how beautiful your forest will be. Good luck!