I see it all the time: People saying over and over again that one day they want to start this business they've been dreaming up for years. Or that they want to go after that creative project they've talked about over and over. Or that they want to switch careers because they hate the one they are in.
So often I hear people dreaming about something they want to do but they just don't because the leap is too scary, timing never feels right, it can feel too overwhelming or any more of the mountains of excuses we all toss out there.
I have always felt like life was too short to not follow through with that thing we've wanted. For me, it was starting and building an apparel business. Has it been scary? Oh hell yes! Has it been overwhelming at times? Yes. Have I worried that imposter syndrome would get in the way? Yes.
Despite how terrifying it can all be, I, for some reason could never stand to see those things get in the way of actually letting myself go after the things I wanted. At the end of the day, you just need to try and be willing to put the work in. Things won't be perfect, the days might get hard but trust me, plunging into that business or thing that you always wanted to do will be so worth it!
Thinking about starting a business? Changing careers? Changing your lifestyle? All of it is totally possible, you just have to be willing to think it through, take the plunge and excitedly get after the damn thing!
This is a bit of a long one because I want to walk through a bit of our history about how we've taken the plunge on things, talk about some important things to think about before diving in and the reality of what to expect going after that next thing.
This blog isn't just meant to be read by people who are thinking about starting a business but will also be helpful for any of you who are thinking about launching a new project or for those of you who are wanting to grow your business you already have.
Now is the best time to make a transition or go after that thing you've been thinking about, big or small
Part of why I say now is the best time to go after that thing you want is because I think that the best time is always the time when the idea comes to you. I have found that when I think of an idea and just run with it, I'm never disappointed in myself for doing it because at the end of the day, if it fails, I know I put my best foot forward at trying it.
The other part of why I say now is a really great time is because it's one of the only times in society (at least in my lifetime) where flipping your life upside down won't feel weird, or judged (not that that should matter but it often stops us) or out of the ordinary because the world is so turned around right now. So many people lost their jobs within a day when COVID started and have been forced to figure things out, others saw staying home as an opportunity to chase something different. Whatever the case is, this year is such a good stamp in time to just go after that damn thing you've been wanting to do.
Stop doing the things you don’t want to do in life. Big or small
If you aren't happy with something, cut it out. Seriously. You might be reading this and think but I have a steady job and no way can my business support me and pay my bills. But I'm here to say that if you aren't happy with that one thing, you can always cut it out, just think about how you can realistically make that happen. I worked a 9-5 while growing our business and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Why? because I wasn't fulfilled. I hated spending my time working for someone else who truly didn't even value me. So one day I said "I'm quitting" and have never regretted it for one bit. Before quitting, I grew our business to a level that I felt comfortable with and had savings to get me through a time buffer if things didn't work out. I spent a solid 6 months planning this transition. I was terrified, I mean terrified and had no idea how this business would support my career and Tanner's too but the second we put our mind to it, it almost instantly became not just fine but we started thriving.
What's holding you back?
Let me guess, part of why you haven't chased that thing is because you’re scared to fail? We all are. Some of us run, some of us dive in head first.
Maybe you feel like you don’t have the right skills, training or education to start something? I will be the first to tell you that the expensive AF business school I went to didn’t show me how to run a business. It couldn’t even really show me the fundamentals. I learned it all on my own by just diving in. Tanner dropped out of art school because he learned more through practicing and teaching himself. If you care enough, you will take the time to teach yourself and learn from the mistakes that are inevitable.
Maybe you’re scared of or don’t want to deal with scary things like the legal side of forming your business, dealing with taxes, getting a lawyer when you get ripped off? Do you think I was taught when I was 16 how to do sales tax? NO! I just knew it was something we had to do if we wanted to run a business so I figured it out. Yes, I had breakdowns over it. But I did it, I had the sales tax offices help me and now those reports take me like 20 minutes no problem.
There’s competition and that’s scary. Um yeah, we make freaking t-shirts. That competition is fierce! But if you do it in your own way, through time you will grow and will actually start to realize that your competition is or was or will be experiencing the same doubts as you and a lot of them won’t make it. I can't even begin to tell you how much competition we had in our early days that are now just totally out of business. Focus on creating the best thing you know how, run with it, don’t be an ass in the process and one day the competition that scared you in the beginning will probably seem minimal (or will be nonexistent) years later.
Maybe you feel like you don’t have enough money to start? We had $100 and we turned that over and over until we were able to generate millions in sales. While in many cases it's nice to have funding, you don't need a ton of money to start most things.
Maybe you feel like it’s not what you truly want to do. Well you don’t know that until you start and give it a go.
We all have doubts and hesitations when starting something but everything can be navigated, you just need to try.
For many this can be a lonely venture. Thankfully Tanner and I as husband and wife have each other but just about every other small business entrepreneur works solo for a while, if not forever. This is not only hard because it takes forever to get tasks done on your own but the motivation can be so damn hard. I suggest either finding a partner with as much interest as you or get together often with other solo entrepreneurs to talk things through.
If you've got these things in you, you are going to kick ass as an entrepreneur:
1. Drive. If you don’t have drive and think people will hand you things or do things for you, you will not get very far. There are certainly ways to smartly delegate, but with intention. You need to truly have the ability to persevere and be willing to face failures head on, and probably often. You need to remember that if running a business was easy then everyone would do it and 80% of them wouldn’t fail by year 5. But wow, if you have the ability to persevere and the deep drive to see your vision through, it is so worth it.
2. The ability to be a self starter. If you can’t jump start our own goals and visions then being an entrepreneur is going to be really difficult. Personally, I couldn’t stand being told what to do by a boss because I had so much drive to do something with complete uncertainty of where it would go
3. The ability to keep learning. like I mentioned before, most people don’t know how to truly start, grow and run a business when they start. So, the only way to keep going and power through is to keep educating yourself, know you certainly don’t know everything and take the time to learn. This could be through reading books or blogs (like this one whoop whoop), hearing out your peers and competition, studying businesses that have succeeded or failed or whatever it may be. We’re a decade into this journey and educate ourselves as much as we can. My Papa educated himself until he was 90. If he can do that and remain sharp and open to learning then so can you. Always strive to learn and improve yourself. You’ll thank yourself later.
4. Risk averse. you need to be willing to take risks. They don’t always need to be huge but if you always play it completely safe you might not go very far. We took the risk of running our business full time at the same time. If we thought deeply about what would happen if it didn’t work, we wouldn’t’ve done it. But we took the risk and that one paid off.
5. Leadership. As you grow, you will likely get to the point of managing a team of yours. What do you think would happen if you were say a leather worker and all you did was tinker around with your leather all day with your head down if you had a team? They would sit there directionless and with nowhere to go. Even as I remained a huge part of day to day operations I've taken the time to manage projects and team members as best as I can. You have a vision and you need to make sure you communicate that to those around you. Inspire the shit out of them.
6. Extreme hustle and work ethic. You need to be willing to work through the hustle phase. If you are deeply, genuinely pumped to be an entrepreneur in your business this will feel natural. The amount of hours that we have worked for no pay can seem ridiculous to some but I think that if passion and drive isn’t at the forefront of your business then you won’t last long or be able to push through the hardest times you will go through.
7. Clarity and focus. You need to know where you want to go and remained focus to see that vision through. You don’t have a boss directing you on where to go. You don’t have Susan in accounting and Harrold in production to do that work for you. In the beginning you wear all the hats and you need to be dedicated to filling those shoes or delegating where necessary. You have to decide how all of these things will be handled. Without the deep focus on this, you will be so scattered and suddenly it will be hard to go anywhere and motivate those around you.
8. You need to be okay with uncertainty. This is both a beauty and a curse. Most days when I wake up in the morning I’m not totally sure what the day will bring. In any given day we could make $5 in sales or we could have a $40k purchase order pop up in our inbox. We never truly know. It’s exciting because you could never have that potential for excitement at a normal job but scary as hell because it could be a struggle to pay your bills on a down month. One day we showed up to an event and were able to make $20k in 2 days. We didn't even know that was possible! We were expecting about $3k so we had to adapt and when the day was done Tanner and I looked at each other and said what the F*** just happened??
9. Can’t be totally money driven. A small (by small I mean probably up to a couple million a year in sales) business owner can’t be totally driven by money. Oh honey if this is your only driver then you are doing the wrong thing. You need to be driven by growth, by the possibility of creating something from nothing, by the idea to make an impact and so much more. Then years down the road when it hopefully pays off you can celebrate that as a result of growing something because you give a shit, not just to make a quick buck. We went 2 years full time with a minimal paycheck. Now we have more financial freedom and solid salaries but it took years of grinding and doing it because we gave a shit to get there.
10. True Entrepreneurs stop making excuses and just start!
Becoming an entrepreneur is one of the most exhilarating experiences but also one of the most challenging.
Suddenly you don’t have someone to tell you how or what you should do. You are free from having a boss breathing down your neck and you can create your own schedule!
On the other hand you are now in a position where you have to figure it all out on your own. You don’t get to leave the clock at 5 and ignore your work for the night.
You are in charge of your own success, or failure. The possibilities are endless. You are so excited for what could come but it’s also overwhelming to think that everything you’re working for could result in nothing.
The potential is exciting and terrifying.
When times get tough, which they will-you are going to need to find ways to keep yourself motivated to keep going. You'll need to find ways to take care of yourself and find balance. A lot of days will be awesome and full of excitement but some will make you want to say "I quit." It’s all natural but how does one stay motivated to get through the days that make you want to give up?
The answer isn’t completely straightforward but if you keep following along future blogs, I'll walk through the things that have helped us navigate these challenges. I’ll show you what has and hasn’t worked for us, I’ll scare you into wanting to prevent yourself from burning out and I’ll help you create healthy habits and expectations so that you can learn to manage the hardest thing of all, yourself.
Planning, starting and growing your personal empire
I want to preface by saying that I am not going to sit here and give you a step by step process on how to start your business. Every business is different and every business has a different path to growth. What I will walk you through though is a set of common things to think about and guide you through a common path that most of us go through.
What is your idea? What are you so deeply passionate about creating? If you make something because you give a shit about it then you will be more excited to see it grow which often leads to the best results. Every one of our products started out as a passion project. We have created things because we want them for ourselves and based on our own life experiences.
For those thinking about starting a business or those in the beginning stages I want to emphasize this:
Many people have ideas for starting a business. Awesome, we all have to start somewhere. But what sets you aside from the people who have a vision and are all talk from those that actually build something is the simple task of starting. You do not need to be perfect, you just need to start. Our first set of work was awful. But we started and then transitioned over and over until we were able to transform our brand into something we are really proud of. Do you think we could’ve made millions off of selling the garbage we had when we started? (Sorry Tanner, it’s not garbage, it’s just been drastically improved.)
You need to understand that failure and hardships are inevitable. Just like life, running a business is never going to be a perfect, easy journey. You will struggle and you will probably at some point fall flat on your face. But if you’re mentally prepared to accept that then you know that life’s hard moments will just be a part of the roller coaster and you will keep riding when others think it’s too hard.
Think about it seriously, how many of the most successful business owners that exist today knew exactly how to start a business when they started? Sure there will be some with rich daddies that funded their weird idea and handed them everything but the vast majority started where you are right now or where you were when you started. They started with little to nothing and not much of an idea of how to build an empire. But they started, they failed, oh I’m sure they messed up in more ways than they’d like to admit. But they stuck with it when many others wouldn’t. They hustled, they remained dedicated to building what they started and slowly but surely grew. You are no different.
Next month I want to go beyond the idea of just starting that business, or project you've been thinking about. Actually taking that plunge is without a doubt the first step, but the next steps go so much deeper. What happens after you start? It's overwhelming huh? How do you get to a place where you aren't just starting but growing? How do you go from doing it all to finding ways to delegate? How do you create balance so that you can have healthy, long term growth? We'll get there.
I want to talk about the things that have helped us make everything manageable, talk about how we went from that initial phase of starting to actually growing and building our business to be sustainable. I want to go through how we've been able to keep balance as we've scaled and everything in between.
It might sound cliche, but it is possible to do what you love and love what you do. Life is too short to keep putting it off. If you tell yourself you can, you can. If you tell yourself you can't then you won't.
Get after it,
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