I think I was business person at birth but as a child, adolescent, and until middle age I had unrealistic ideas and false assumptions of just what business I should go into during my life. I also gave away all the hobbies I made for free to neighbors, friends, and family because I never really gave serious thought to making money by doing all my favorite hobbies. But after I retired from my formal career in social services and as an educator I began to be bored and my business plan started to form unexpectedly. How to give back to all the folks who have helped me along the way, respect to my ancestors, and my hobbies were my business plan goals and now they are our small business. I do my own schedule because after 30 years of being on call 24/7 overworking is not part of my day anymore. Initially, I didn’t know what to do for my own business nor how to get started, stay motivated, find customers or the money to accomplish it. When the requests for me to cater, make ole tyme crafts, storytelling, make gifts, write recipes…got to big I stopped doing all of it due to exhaustion. My neighbor lady said to me,” Your small business is growing so big you don’t have time for all of us anymore. I knew she was right, my enthusiasm to have my own business was building to the point that I was working more hours than I did in social services or education. So I scaled our small business back down to manageable to have a personal life that was relaxing and enjoyable regaining laughter and fun at creating.
I had heard so many say to me; “you ought to sell your products” but being a traditional salesperson was not for me. I had not really gave it much thought because I did not want to “sell” anything by myself I just wanted to have fun, create, talk, demonstrate, and meet people. . So a few years back I went to my local library who had an educational meeting about having your own business. It was the best thing I could have done. I learned from those presenters at the library that there are so many resources available but until I had a solid workable business plan I was never going to get off the ground and all I would have was wishful thinking not fun, not creativity, and certainly not the happy small business nor money I wanted.
Writing my business plan was difficult because I had never really thought about absolute details in writing or how I would creatively start, establish, and maintain my hobbies into our own business. I considered what was going to be my selling points, places to sell my products, who my customers and how to maintain repeat business. After the library meeting, I was referred by the library staff to contact the small business administration in my city, the zoning authorities, and to do research for my business plan. The librarian told me that if I wanted a small unique business that involved creating food and art that I could sell by storytelling about my products rather than cold call sell or telemarketing. I had never thought of that as a business. As I did my recycled art I realized that I needed to do more than filing my research. I noticed I had a file cabinet of information but nothing detailed as a business plan done in writing. So I took the on line courses from Small Business Administration and I learned an enormous amount of specifics that I had never considered for my business plan such as realistic ways to advertise, get all the tasks done, satisfy customers in a timely manner or profit margins.
My first official small business plan was as follows:
1. Have fun, create, sell by storytelling and do it all on consignment at craft shows, farmers markets, flea markets.
2. Keep my small business ideas and plans “small” and consistently reliable.
3. Limit my products to what is unique, handcrafted, simple, basic, and ole tyme.
4. Start with friends, family, neighbors, specialty shops, and local small retail business that wanted or sold similar products that I could add to their collections and business product lines.
5. Keep my accounting books factual, simple, and traceable.
6. Follow zoning regulations, vendor licenses requirements, and FDA laws.
7. Ensure that my overheard cost was as low as possible, profit to me was 3 times my materials cost and that wholesalers and retailers receive at least 25%, include in-kind services.
8. Use word of mouth, my integrity, quality of service and product as my advertisers.
9. Keep my consignment business locally so that my community benefits and have only one highly respected small business owners; wholesaler or retailer that is my base customer every 25 miles within a reasonable area span. Have them make referrals about my consignment work to other small business owners.
10. Have someone who loves to do quality bookkeeping, scheduling, shopping, and deliveries as In-Kind services exchanges that I do for them and they do for me with no money involved.
After putting the above small business plan into action the only things I have changed over the years are:
11. Make available samples of my work for consignment free of charge to just the small business owners that have good business practices, reliable repeat business that is successful.
12. Creative business cards on magnets.
13. Deleted plans to have Web Site because then it’s not my own small business and got to large to handle.
14. Increased in kind services with small business owners, farmer’s markets, and trusted vendors.
15. Limited on site demonstrations to the small business owners who gave me my start up consignments rather than adding more small business owners.
Our small business is successful because we do what we love, we do our the best we know how while we are creating, having fun, meeting new folks, and keeping the integrity that our ancestors taught us-“Our word of honor and our handshake are our commitment to do what’s right.”
My husband and I share the consignment spaces as follows:
1. I make the food, recycled art, ingredient and materials packets.
2. In kind service volunteers do the packaging, handled phone calls and errands.
3. My husband makes the wood carvings and framing, and deliveries.
3. Together we make the sunburning designs and make decisions about what products to have just seasonally, what to delete, what to add, and how to make our small business stay manageable so we have the input from our family, friends, neighbors, customers to make our products better and our service excellent.
My advice to anyone who wants to have their own small business be successful is do what you love, do right by your customers, check out all resources, write a solid realistic business plan, use in-kind services for the tasks of your business you don’t want to do. Be honest, reliable, consistent, and customers word of mouth will sell your products if your quality and services are of the utmost excellence. Go slow, take your time, stay open minded, and build your business so you and your family and your customers can take pride in it.