STARTING A BUSINESS – I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW!

Studio fifty-three logo.

Studio fifty-three logo.

Starting a business is the dream of many people and I’m often asked about my experience of starting Studio Fifty-three.  It’s been over a year now since Studio Fifty-three was launched with a Champagne Appreciation co-hosted with the dynamic Kiron Barui .  In that time there has been many, many workshops at Studio fifty-three.  

I have to admit that creating, organising, running or hosting a workshop is a lot of work. But I have really enjoyed it.  I feel a great sense of achievement at the end of a workshop. To see everyone chatting and discussing something new they have just learned. Or swapping phone numbers with a new friend they have met that day. It is very satisfying.

I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW!

What I didn’t expect was how much harder it would be to run a business.  And by that I mean all the other stuff that comes with being a business owner. I wasn’t daunted by hard work, it was everything I didn’t know about. I guess I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

As I reflect back on the time since starting a business, I’m astonished and proud of just how much I have learned.  

STARTING – THE HARDEST PART!

When this journey began, I had visions of sharing my passion for arts and crafts. Providing a place for people to learn new skills, reinvigorate lost skills and meet new people. To create a community.  So, I opened the doors, threw an open studio and then we were away.  Starting a business seemed pretty easy and straightforward.

When you are starting a business, it is vitally important to START!  Lots of people harbour secret desires to have their own business and be their own masters but they just don’t start!  And maybe I wouldn’t of started either, except that the vivacious Kiron Barui pushed me into it.

Richard Branson.

Richard Branson.

I have been guilty of wanting everything perfect before I launch into something. All the T’s crossed and the I’s dotted. There have been lots of opportunities I have let slip by because I have waited for just the right time! I had recently read a quote from Richard Branson and it helped to change my mindset. “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity but you are unsure how to do it, say yes then learn how to do it later”.

 

INTO THE DEEP END

The invitation to Studio fifty-three's first workshop.

The invitation to Studio fifty-three’s first workshop.

So back to Kiron. I had asked Kiron if she was interested in holding a Champagne appreciation evening. It would be for when I launched Studio Fifty-three in a couple of months time. (When everything was perfect!) “Of course darling” was her enthusiastic reply “only we can’t wait until next year. Its Madame Clicquot’s birthday and I always celebrate it, so we must have our Champagne evening on the  16th December. And we can also make it the launch of Studio Fifty-three.”

WHAT!! Are you kidding? That was only 10 days away! And the event would be 9 days before Christmas.

Kiron and I at the launch of Studio fifty-three.

Kiron and I at the launch of Studio fifty-three.

 

Well if anyone knows Kiron, you know she is very persuasive. So between Kiron and Richard Branson’s words whispering in my ear, I agreed to go ahead with the night. You know what, it was the best thing for me to be thrown in the deep end. And… we pulled it off.   We had 20 fabulous invited guests, Kiron was enchanting, the Champagne was exquisite,  Josh Gomez – the executive chef from GOMA (can you believe Kiron managed to secure him!) produced canapés to die for and the night was a huge success. It was a great lesson for me.

From there, things just started rolling along. Like a crazy snowball rolling down the hill, slowly at first and then gaining momentum.

Now I had started, the next mission was to get the word out there!  I needed to let people know that Studio Fifty-three was open for business!

ADVERTISING AND MARKETING – PREPARE FOR A STEEP LEARNING CURVE!

A Taste of Italy - One of our first workshops.

A Taste of Italy – One of our first workshops.

Friends and family are a wonderful source of word of mouth advertising.  Word of mouth is how most businesses get off the ground and find their first customers.  I’m really lucky in that I have the most wonderful friends who spread the word far and wide. My first few workshops were filled with friends and friends of friends.  Such a nice way to get a business going!  A room filled with friendly and supportive faces.

But I couldn’t rely on my personal contacts if I wanted the business to grow.  Social Media was the way to go – and by that I am talking about FaceBook

LET’S GET SOCIAL

I needed to find other ways to get my message out there!  So, I set up a Studio Fifty-three FaceBook page . I invited everyone to like and share my page.  I began sharing what was happening in the Studio and soon enough people I didn’t even know were liking and sharing my page. I have to say that was a very exciting moment!  My business felt real!

I did try some paid advertising on FaceBook – and that had mixed results.  What I discovered is that ‘Reach” on FaceBook is what you want.  Reach is basically how many people can possibly see your post on FaceBook. You can imagine my excitement when my reach began nudging upward of 1000 people!

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED

And then it all came crashing down!  One day I was reaching what seemed like half of Toowoomba and the next I was barely reaching 20 people.  I couldn’t work out what was going wrong or what I did or didn’t do to get these kinds of results!

Ok – so I was in a panic. No one was seeing what I was sharing which meant no one knew what was on offer at the Studio! I have since discovered that Facebook regularly change their algorithms. (This is a whole other story)

Before this calamity befell me, a friend of mine, Cherie – also a business owner, had suggested that I needed a website and to build a list.  And she suggested I create a website.  I really didn’t think I needed one. Besides it was another job I didn’t want to tackle.  And I will readily admit it that I didn’t know where to start so it was just easier not to do it. Over a coffee and cake – ok it was probably champagne and cheese,  I was convinced that YES a website was something I needed!

I was now well and truly into the realm of all  things I didn’t know!  Lucky for me, Cherie (God bless her) agreed to build my website.

And so a new journey began with my very patient friend – who thankfully ignored the dire warnings from my family that I was a techno dunce and totally beyond help!

WEBSITES FOR BUSINESS AND WHY YOU REALLY DO NEED ONE – NO MATTER HOW SMALL YOU ARE.

One reason I didn’t think I needed a website was because I was just starting out and my business was so small.  What I wasn’t thinking about, is that today, when people want to know more about a business or a person, the first place they go is Google. It’s where they go to find out more about you and what you do.

So when people heard about Studio Fifty-three and visited Google, they found …… well, nothing!  And that was not good!  I am happy to say that today,  if you visit Google and search for “Studio Fifty-three” we have 7 of the 11 places on the first page of the search results!  Which, of course is fantastic for us and for people searching for Studio Fifty-three.

CONSTANTLY ADDING RELEVANT CONTENT

Our beautiful website.

Our beautiful website.

But getting there doesn’t happen by chance, we first of all had to build a website which meant creating pages with lots of words (and remember I’m and artist not a writer so that is a challenge each and every time I have to write), and then finding photos to make them interesting to look at as well as read.  This took an awful lot of time and is something that we are adding to constantly.

Having a plan before you start building your website makes the process much easier and less stressful – you wouldn’t build a house without some plans!

 

CHERIE IS A SAINT

Cherie, my friend and mentor.

Cherie, my friend and mentor.

I owe so much to Cherie. Not only has she set up my website, she has become my mentor. I can’t tell you how patient she has been explaining things to me, then explaining them again.

I know our website and Studio fifty-three would not be what it is without Cherie’s input. She has been so generous sharing her knowledge with me.  Now she just needs to teach me how to find another couple of days in a week.

THE LIST – WHAT IS IT AND WHY YOU NEED ONE IF YOU’RE IN BUSINESS

Once the Studio fifty-three website was built, the next challenge and learning curve was the concept of having and building a list!  In your business ‘having a list’ means creating a list of your clients, customers and people interested in what you do and/or sell.  Once you have that list, as a business you have the ability to let your ‘list’ know about what is going on in your business, what you have to offer, say thank you or Merry Christmas.

Having a list let’s you show your tribe appreciation for their attention.  Building a list seemed daunting but attacking it systematically made it a lot easier.

BUILDING YOUR LIST – where and how to start

So to begin with, I already had names and contact details of people who had come to the very first Open Day, contacts from a couple of workshops I had already run.  And names and contacts from people who would just stop me in the street and ask about my business and what workshops were coming up.

As your list grows, using something like, MailChimp makes it easier to email people rather than BCCing everyone in your email contact list.  It also let’s people opt out of receiving your emails in a way that makes them feel ok about it.  

I wear a few hats these days and having the website has enabled me to consolidate all my passions. It now also hosts an online shop and art gallery.

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE

Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.

Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.

For me, it is also very important to surround myself with the right people. Those  who are positive, encourage, support and hold me accountable. People who listen to my crazy ideas and not ridicule me for them. You don’t need people who tell you everything that can go wrong. You already know what can go wrong.   I am so lucky to be surrounded by the right people.

THE NEVER ENDING JOURNEY

Toasting the day we launched Studio fifty-three website.

Toasting the day we launched Studio fifty-three website.

In a nutshell, that is how my business, Studio Fifty-three, got started. Starting a business is a bit like deciding to start a family – a lot of fun, a lot of work and a never ending journey of learning!  And I think I have come to accept I will never know all there is to know and that’s ok, just as long as I keep moving forward, keep learning and keep having fun it will be worth it.

After months of me nagging her, Cherie has finally agreed to put together a workshop to help other new business owners just like me who ‘Don’t know what they don’t know.’ If you would like to be contacted when we release Cherie’s workshop you can leave a comment below.

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