By Danaé Reid
The beginning of my sojourn as a small business owner was pretty seamless, and foolishly, I thought it would continue on that way. My creative business endeavour began during COVID as the result of an “in the moment” decision that had positive long-term implications. However, over the past year, I’ve learned quite a bit and now have an understanding that even though the beginning was easy, things seldom stay that way.
The lessons that I’ve learned in a business setting translate to everyday life, and the things that I’ve learned over the past year have reaffirmed the most basic concepts that are somehow the easiest to forget.
1. One size does not fit all: My naive assumption that every new product I added to my business line would be as easy to make as the initial product has cost me money and time that I can’t get back and a lot of anguish which could’ve been avoided.
Business lesson: When creating a new product that may be a bit more involved, do your research before undertaking a new project, and then spend a few weeks or months learning about this new, more involved undertaking so that you can decide if it’s something you actually like. It’s important to know how to discern the simple from the complicated.
Life reminder: Not everything is going to work out, and that’s okay. Don’t be too hasty, but also don’t be afraid to move. Sometimes the best ventures, relationships, etc. do take some time, but it’s okay because most of the good things in our lives do as well.
2. Don’t do things you don’t love: As much as I don’t want to be a capitalist, the reality is that those of us born in this country have been indoctrinated into a life where capitalism is the name of the game. I’ve fallen victim to that in my business. For example, there have been products I’ve added to my business that I didn’t love for the sake of making more money — I was miserable creating them, but the money was enough to fuel me to push that hatred to the back of my head and power through. It wasn’t until I had another conversation with a fellow business owner that I was reminded that I shouldn’t do anything that doesn’t make sense for me, especially if I don’t have to.
Business lesson: Having a small business is difficult enough without having to force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy doing just for the sake of a dollar. Not all ideas work and that’s okay. Extricating those things that you don’t like may seem scary or like a setback but doing something you don’t enjoy when the business is your own seems to defeat the purpose of owning your own business.
My “failure” is that I attempted to make products out of resin without knowing enough about it. I absolutely delivered and the products always come out well, but I forced myself into it and now I’m in a position where I’m more than ready to discontinue those products because it’s not something I enjoy.
Life reminder: Life is too short to do anything that doesn’t fulfill us or make us whole. Understanding the difference between a general annoyance and an actual dislike is the trick here. Even at 25, I already can see just how fast life goes by and I’ve made it a point to be very intentional with my time and my space because I know that the time I have on this earth is borrowed.
Ask yourself, “do I feel fulfilled?” Because of the way I live my life, I know that if I died this second, I would be happy with the way my life went. You don’t reach this level of contentment by forcing yourself into spaces that don’t align with your spirit. Have fun.
3. Everything is a rollercoaster: As an anxious person, I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to curate the most seamless life that I possibly could. The concept of “letting go and letting God” was foreign to me until recent years and it’s still something I struggle with from time to time. I spent so long trying to run from my negative emotions that I developed an unhealthy relationship with happiness as a construct. Thinking I always had to have it together, feeling like I needed to constantly attempt to save face and be vulnerable. I’ve learned though that a life like that isn’t sustainable.
Business lesson: Business sales go up and down for every company. It’s easier to be hyper-fixated on these sorts of things if you own a small business, but it’s a natural part of the journey. Some months will be slower than others, and that’s okay. As long as you’re continuing to work and put love and energy into your space, those sales will eventually go back up. It’s only a matter of time.
Life lesson: Being able to enjoy and appreciate any extreme would be impossible if you don’t embrace the other. For example, if you don’t allow yourself to feel any sadness because of the fear of being vulnerable or looking “unkempt,” you can’t fully appreciate the light that comes after that. Life is about uncertainties, but in a way, that’s what makes it so exciting and fulfilling. We can only control so much of what happens to us but having such a tight grip on the outcome will hinder us and prevent us from enjoying our time and our lives the way that we were meant to.