It’s Valentine’s Day. The holiday of love, caring and chocolate. Okay, maybe chocolate isn’t guaranteed, but I can hope.
This is also the holiday we show passion for those around us. But, how about your business? What Valentine’s Day gift do you give it to show how much you care? Do you even love your business enough that you remember it on Valentine’s Day?
Maybe. Maybe not. For me, it depends on the last customer interaction.
After being in business for over seven years, I realized that I’m not sure I’m still in love with my business every day. I started Katarina’s Paperie as a place where moms could get unique party decorations.
When I was planning Little Bug’s first birthday party, we were just on the horizon of party printables. There wasn’t a ton to choose from. So, I started to create my own. It turns out that not every mom is crafty. This led me to handmaking decorations as well as sending digital files to create yourself.
Over the years, I have spent countless hours printing, cutting and designing for customers. There was a time I truly loved my craft. It was a break from the hubbub of babies and toddler wrangling.
But, nowadays, my littles want to do more. They are running around, sharing stories and suddenly their time with me seems shorter. I don’t want to be huddled over my cutting board missing out. I want to be playing together, jumping in mud puddles and helping with homework. Suddenly, I don’t feel the same love as I used to for my business.
I’ve been told that’s okay. You don’t have to love your business every step of the way. But I started this thing seven years ago to create something that I enjoyed. I wanted to put together a shop that let me build the motherhood I dreamed of. A place where I could go and get a rest from family life. A shop that I could call my own.
And, actually, all of those things have come true. I did build something that I enjoyed once. It was fun cutting and printing. I loved bringing customers’ vision to life through my designs.
I also designed a motherhood that I loved where I spent lots of time with my kids and never missed a moment. And I do, in the end, have something that is all mine. That I don’t have to share.
Building a business that you love is really important. You’ll be spending countless hours on the project and your customers can feel your passion for the things you sell.
My work over the last year has been to find that passion again. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been able to locate it for party decorations. I still love printables and I love helping families find joy in celebrating.
It seems, though, my desire for simpler living has taken over. Suddenly styling really intricate celebrations feels wasteful. I am not so keen on over the top celebrations or crazy styling set-ups just done for the pretty pictures. These don’t seem real life to me.
Not many other moms have the means, crafting talent or even plain desire to throw a celebration like that for their children. These over the top celebrations just don’t fit who I am as a designer any more.
I’m working through becoming a different kind of designer. Just like you transform over your season of motherhood, I find myself changing during this season in my business journey.
My new goal is to create a business that can be run more passively, one where I don’t have to be at the helm every step of the way. I want to make designs that help other moms and inspire them to be amazing. Hopefully, these changes will let me create a business that I love again.
But it took me a long time to figure out what I want from my business and how to love it again. So, how do you continue to love your business? Here are some ideas to uncovering that passion and making sure that it stays (a lot faster than I did).
Develop a business model around the life you want to lead
I just finished reading Grace, not Perfection by Emily Ley. She has an exercise in her book where you brainstorm all of the things that you want from your life. She suggests going over this exercise every few months since it changes.
And she’s absolutely right. I wish I had created a similar list at the beginning of my business journey and in the years since. I might have seen where the problems with my business model were so I could have course corrected earlier on.
Although most of us want to own our own businesses, it’s important to create a business around the life we want to lead. The purpose, goals and needs of that life vary. It used to not matter that I was stuck in the studio for hours. My kids were little. They required consistent naptimes at home. There was plenty of time to work in the studio.
This all changed once my kids started being more on the go. Suddenly, they don’t have as much patience waiting for me to finish cutting or packaging up orders. Now, all these years later, my chosen business model doesn’t match our lifestyle. Something has to change.
Evaluate your own life desires and make sure you are creating a business model that supports it. Not the other way around.
I am proud of the business that I’ve built. But, sadly, I can’t say that it supports the lifestyle I crave. I created a business where I make handmade goods. This means that I am in the studio crafting for many hours a day. Although I can take off afternoons here and there, traveling is difficult. The studio doesn’t travel with me and my customers have needs that can’t seem to wait.
These days, with technology, we no longer have to be stuck in one place. If you dream of traveling or spending more time with your kids, create a business that supports these endeavors.
Figure out what the life you want to lead looks like first. Then, create a business that supports it. You will love your business more in the end.
And if you’re in my position, where your current business model no longer fits, consider changes so you can create a model that works for your lifestyle. You might need to get a little creative, but that’s okay. Your business should be fluid and something that you love.
Need some inspiration? Just spend a little time on Instagram and you will find other moms killing it with amazing business models that support their dreams. It is possible. You just have to know what you’re looking for. Keep your list of what you want in hand so you don’t lose sight of your dreams.
What gets you excited
We’ve all read about choosing a business niche that we’re passionate about. And then we read the contrary – that passion doesn’t really matter. Money does.
I think it’s a mix of both. If you start a business around something that you have absolutely no love for, it’s difficult selling it. There’s no money if you can’t sell something.
To create a business that you love, you need to find excitement in what you do and sell. Hopefully, there’s some money in it. If not, you might need to adjust your idea a little bit. But, it doesn’t mean you need to throw it out completely.
When I started Katarina’s Paperie, I was really excited about creating special celebrations for my new little family. I also wanted to help other moms make these celebrations special for their kids too. The solution – a stationery shop featuring my original designs. Over time I built my passion for celebrating together into a thriving business.
I remember writing a blog post about airplane baby shower ideas to give a good friend some ideas for an upcoming baby shower. I sent her the post and her response back was:
“Wow! You’re really into this stuff. Now, I know why you’re going into business creating it.”
My passion for celebrations flooded off the page. It was really affirming that I chose the right niche.
When you’re looking at starting your own business, you need to find a topic, item or something that makes your excitement that apparent. It’s not okay just to be after money. You and your business won’t last long.
Keep in mind that building a business empire is a marathon that takes years. I know, I didn’t believe that at first either.
An old friend – naysayer let’s note – once told me it would take 3 years to make a profit. Yeah, right. Although it didn’t take quite that long, it did take three years before I was comfortable paying myself. The rest of the time any money made went right back into growing my business.
Having been at this for over 7 years now, I’m starting to understand better the marathon I signed up for. You need to love your business to make building it a long term game. Like it is in a relationship or with your children. Your love for the niche will help you along the way.
Discover the tasks you love to do
As an entrepreneur, we wear many hats in our business. As a business owner, we are also the designer, creator, customer service rep, photographer and social media manager. Plus lots more.
The reality is you aren’t going to enjoy every task that you need to do each day. After you’ve been in business a bit, start observing what tasks you love to do and which ones you could hire out.
Do you love creating content for your blog and social media accounts, but answering customer questions makes you cringe? Find a VA to respond to customers’ needs and let your focus be on creating shareable content.
If you concentrate your daily tasks on the things you are good at and love to do, you’ll find more love for your business. A business can be hard to run when it’s filled with drudgery. Fill your days with the tasks you enjoy. The passion for your business will stay lit longer.
Remember what you left behind
Sometimes we forget how much we love our business because we’re in the weeds. This usually happens around tax season for us.
Our businesses can seem (and can be) a lot of work. There is an endless number of tasks to complete and customers to make happy. You might ask yourself… wouldn’t it have been easier to have just stayed on the path I was on?
Then, my kids come home from school. And I remember that if I’d stayed in my old job, I wouldn’t be here to greet them. I wouldn’t be able to get them a snack and have extra family time. I’d still be stuck at work planning for the next day.
If your love starts to wear off, remember what you left behind. Think about the drudgeries and the time restraints. Most likely, owning your own business is a better situation. It lets you pursue your passions and build your own little empire. That’s got to be better than having a boss.
Build a supportive network
We all go through a time when it’s hard to find love for our business. If you’re doubting yourself and your passion at all, you are not alone.
Most of us work on our businesses alone – at least at first. We are solopreneurs through and through. So, it’s hard to get fresh ideas and feedback when we are the only ones consumed by our daily business operations.
Get out from behind the desk and start building a business network. Just like we can’t mom alone, we also need a group that understands our businesses. You need a supportive network that you can email, gather with and talk to when the going gets more difficult.
To build your supportive network, check out local small business groups. Meetup and Facebook are great ways to connect with these. If you have a local co-working space, they will often have networking events and opportunities to get to know others. Attend them. In person. You’ll be surprised how big your network will grow when you just start talking to people.
Beyond the local groups, check out online support networks. There are lots of awesome woman small business groups on Facebook that can answer questions and build community.
Take a break (often if necessary)
No one can work 24 hours straight on a project. No matter how passionate they are about it. As you build up your new business, make sure you take breaks. Often.
It can be as simple as a walk around the block after a long work session or a trip to the beach once you’ve made your first sale. However you want to relax, give yourself some time to breathe and think. You’ll be surprised how much clearer your mind will be after a few minutes away.
If you’ve jumped into being an entrepreneur full time, schedule breaks into your daily routine. I have certain times a day when I work in the garden, take a walk and get fresh air. These pauses give my brain a chance to rejuvenate, so when I step back into the studio I’m ready to get back to work.
Figuring out how to love your business is important for the long haul. Running your own business can be difficult if you don’t love what you write about, sell to others or create.
If you think that you’ve lost that passion, work on finding it again. Consider rebranding, change up the products that you sell, start designing something completely new or even start a new business venture. You can also seek out other supportive business women who can help you through the hump. Don’t worry. You’ll find love for your business again.
So, what is the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for your business? For me, I have to admit that it’s taking a break. A short trip somewhere to relax and not think about my business for awhile. I know when I return, I’ll be more relaxed and ready to tackle the spring and summer months ahead.
And as I always say. No matter what kind of break you need, your business will still be there when you come back. Promise.