This is a guest post by Sydelle Moore, CEO of Sydelle Cosmetics. Please welcome Sydelle to the HBW Community!
Transitioning into thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur forces you to reevaluate a lot of the basic things you’ve been taught and tests your resolve. The first step to starting any new business is mental preparation. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from my experience starting up Sydelle Cosmetics.
Get Out There Before You’re Ready
We as women can sometimes be overly cautious, but don’t let caution stop you from taking action! Get started now. Don’t use the planning phase as a stall tactic to prevent yourself from creating samples, or promoting your services. Entrepreneurs sometimes become mired in research and lose confidence along the way. Don’t do that.
Get out there with something so that people can give you feedback early on. Having real feedback from real people who aren’t your friends and don’t care about your oh-so-sensitive feelings is a great tool that you can incorporate into the business planning process and it is usually free or very inexpensive.
No, I am not encouraging you to recklessly avoid doing your due diligence. I am asking you to expand your definition of research into the realm of reality ASAP. Learning about customer behavior as soon as you possibly can will tell you fairly quickly whether your great idea is a dud or a stud.
Customer Feedback and ‘The Rule of Three’
If you hear a particular comment, question or concern at least three times then it is worth addressing. You can add a note to your label or even change the product, but you can’t dismiss anything after three different people have brought it to your attention.
A customer recommended that we make a solid version of our Pampered Pits natural deodorant. Her one, off-hand comment gave me the idea to produce a great, new product that will hit shelves in March 2013 and helped me keep a customer. Every customer makes a small investment in your business. Don’t ignore the opportunity to turn them into partners.
Do Math Often
If you can’t do math, but your accountant can; then your accountant will be rich and you won’t! Remember all those episodes of The Cosby Show where Dr. Huxtable gave Theo and Cockroach the facts of life with monopoly money in hand? All of those lessons are just as true today as they were during the heyday of the Coogi sweater.
You don’t need to be paranoid, but you do need to be able to check your accountant’s math, your suppliers’ math and even your clients’ math. If you’re an entrepreneur, you can’t spend so much time focused on your craft that you neglect the math. Do math. Do math often. Do math with confidence. Do math when you don’t want to. ALWAYS do the math!
You’re No Cheap Dame and Neither Is Your Work
We spend a lot of time and effort teaching young ladies not to undervalue themselves before they start dating. Many of those rules are helpful in business as well. Know what your work is worth before you begin negotiating.
Other people will negotiate with you over the price and that is their job. Don’t haggle with yourself. You are the business owner now and you have the authority to set limits. Educate yourself and set a price that is fair to you and your customers. It is smart and acceptable in most industries to include labor, research and development as well as other hidden costs that impact your business. Prices should reflect not only how much it costs to make the product, but how much it costs to run your business. Charge a price that won’t leave you in the position of giving away all of your hard work one handshake at a time.
Work Just as Hard for Yourself as You Did for Others
When you worked for someone else, you spent 60 hours or more each week cooped up in an office eating lunch at your desk.
Now that you are on your own, it is not a good time to rest your weary bones. Every phone call you make, every email you type and every unglamorous, messy or unpleasant thing you do is for YOU. Don’t shortchange yourself with a lack of effort. You are accustomed to trying hard for others. Now that you are working for yourself – try even harder.
Use a Schedule to Budget Your Time
Just like a budget forces you to look critically at your spending habits, writing down how you spend your time makes you accountable as well. When you’re an entrepreneur, input doesn’t always equal output. Finding out which things weren’t the best use of your time is a lot easier when you have a written log of your activities. Make a schedule and review it regularly.
What lessons have you learned so far in your journey to start your own business?
Sydelle Moore is the founder and CEO of Sydelle Cosmetics, maker of the wildly popular Pampered Pits natural deodorant. She is a happy black woman who lives, works and speaks in the Washington, DC area about women, entrepreneurship and self-esteem.
Check out Sydelle’s website for more information about her business: SydelleCosmetics.com.