5 Tips to Start and Run a Business

My business story as a busy mom looks back at my fourteen year journey building my business and raising my four children.  I have literally grown up with my business and children. Does anyone really have a handbook for either?  I share my successes, challenges, [I don't call them failures] and the real struggle to maintain my identity as ME outside of my title as a mom and wife and protect the slice of life I call my business.  Read more:  http://multitaskingmaven.com/blog/5-tips-to-start-and-run-a-business

My business story as a busy mom looks back at my fourteen year journey building my business and raising my four children.  I have literally grown up with my business and children.

Does anyone really have a handbook for either?  I share my successes, challenges, [I don't call them failures] and the real struggle to maintain my identity as ME outside of my title as a mom and wife and protect the slice of life I call my business.  

Before we get started, I'm gonna give you the backstory on how all of that really started.

    Over 16 years ago, I attended my first seasonal children's consignment sale, and if you don't know what a seasonal children's consignment sale is, they meet twice a year and typically it's not a garage sale, it's not a yard sale; it's where a lot of women get together, they bring in their items of clothing, and toys, accessories, all those things that your children can't wear, and they sell them. Then it's all set up like a department store. So my friend invited me to my first one and I was like "I don't want to go do this," and after that first one, I was completely hooked. I mean, I was buying brands at a fraction of retail. I still have the main toy ... We still have that main toy that we bought at that first sale for my son. And after that first one, I was hooked.

    And so I probably participated in this particular sale for three or four years, and at the time I was a pharmaceutical rep, but my background was in marketing and public relations. And so in order for me to shop earlier and have the opportunity to shop earlier, I would do public relations and get the media out there, television, all that sort of thing. And there was an opportunity where this particular sale said, "Oh, I'm gonna franchise," and I hopped on it. 

    And they never franchised, but I hopped on it, and I launched my first event. I was eight months pregnant, it was October, which was way past consignment sale season, and people had to pay to park. It was not a recipe for success by any means. I launched with 100 consignors and if we fast-forward to today, 14 years later, my event is larger than Target and I cap registration at 750 consignors. Like we can't take any more because we can't take any more items. We have about 120,000 items, the event itself is run by over 400 volunteers, we have 50 staff members, and I have delegated so now I have team leaders and I actually have a director that runs the event, and we do this twice a year. 

    And while it sounds very grandiose, which it is, it's not something that happened overnight. You know, from the humble beginnings of me being eight months pregnant with my third child, where people had to pay to park, there have been a lot of things that have happened along the way. We started out in a more of an urban space, a downtown space, and we were just nickeled and dimed for everything; whether it was for power, or Internet cords, all these things. And so we took a leap of faith and we literally kind of leapt out into the country among cow pastures, and we have never looked back. That is when we became more of a community event, a community sale, and ... But that also brought challenges.

    I remember, you know, when we first went, people really did not ... The event center that we were working with, they really didn't give us a lot in terms of thinking that we would be successful there. And we had signed a five year lease for about 10,000 square feet, so it was a smaller space, and after the first season, we outgrew it. And so then we moved to the big building. And I was really nervous because at the time, I think we maybe got 35,000 square feet, and after that first event, we were already spreading into the back of that building, where now we fill 80,000 square feet.

My business story as a busy mom looks back at my fourteen year journey building my business and raising my four children.  I have literally grown up with my business and children. Does anyone really have a handbook for either?  I share my successes, challenges, [I don't call them failures] and the real struggle to maintain my identity as ME outside of my title as a mom and wife and protect the slice of life I call my business.  Read more:  http://multitaskingmaven.com/blog/5-tips-to-start-and-run-a-business

    But along the way ... I mean, there are challenges, you know? For us, a perfect sale is when we have enough consignors and enough shoppers, so it's that correct balance, and it's not having too many of one or too many of the other. I remember when we went through a huge growth spurt after making our first move out to the cow pasture, it was an hour and a half wait. You literally had to wait an hour and a half in order to check out. And I can't believe people came back the next season. You know obviously, we make adjustments, we made changes, and people kept coming back. 

    We had a time where the ... It snowed. It was in the springtime and it snowed, and I probably had 50 or 60 volunteers in there, what we call breaking down the sale. So if items are not sold, then we return them back to the consignors. So in order to do that, we have to pull all consignor 100 stuff, put it in a pile; all consignor 101, put it in a pile. And there was this system, a rhyme and reason to all of this, but a snowstorm came in and we were in the middle of this breakdown where my consignors were picking up the next morning. The sheriff comes and says, "You've got to leave or you're going to get snowed in." I'm like, "What?!" But it all worked out. 

    We had another time where there were hurricane spottings and I had lanes ... 15, we have 15 computer lanes, so we 15 lanes packed with people, like 20 deep each lane, and there are hurricane sightings. And I'm just like, "What if the power goes out? What if ... " You know, all of the things that you're thinking of in this moment. It never happened, we never had a hurricane, but it still ... You know, all of these things you learn.

    And I'll end kind of with the bad thing; was we would write checks, obviously, to our consignors to participate with us, and my sister does that portion of the event. And she has a check-writing program, we have a check-writing ... You know, all of that system is down, and it crashed. Well, she started it back. Well, when she started it back, it did not put all of the numbers of our account. So we had about 100 checks that were affected by the fact that this computer program crashed. We tried to restart it, because obviously, you know, we've gotta get the checks out to the consignors. 

    So all of that to say I've learned a lot in 14 years. I've been put through a lot in 14 years. But there have been things that have resulted. You know, I think one of the big reasons why I started, number one, I was in the season of life where, at the time, when I launched it, I only had three children and ultimately now we have four children. But I was in a season of life that doing children's consignment, all of that made sense. It was important for me, and really my why, was that I really wanted to carve out a space in time that was just for me, and I had always loved the whole idea about an entrepreneur, and about running my own business. That was the one thing that I wanted to do, and this allowed me to keep my full-time job as a pharmaceutical rep, be a mom of three, now four, children, and also be able to run my own business.

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    And it's a big business. I mean, when you're talking about really this little mini-city, it's amazing to me, and I'm still humbled by it, that I can stand in the middle of 80,000 square feet and just see the activity; moms and dads and grandparents, and aunts and uncles, and kids and moms-to-be, go through the whole process, from set-up to pre-sales to shopping to discount to breakdown to packing it all up. It's literally ... It's like moving every six months. It's a great nesting activity that I do every six months, and we've done it now for 14 years. 

    So based on the 14 years of experience, the good, the bad, the ugly, all of the things that I've learned, I have five tips that I want to share with you if you are thinking about running your own business, or maybe you have your own business already.

#1 What works for someone else will not always work for you.

Now I could say that I learned a lot from my first experiences with children's consignment sale, but all of those different activities and things that were worked in one state didn't necessarily work for me and where I was with my event. It's almost two totally different events. So I don't want you to think, if you buy a course, or maybe you're using someone that you're modeling, a mentor, that what they're doing is always going to work for you. You're going to have to shift, and move, and do things that are going to work for you and gonna work for your audience. There's really, I don't feel, a cookie-cutter business where you can walk in and get absolutely the same results as someone else, number one.

#2 Never compare your beginning to someone else's middle.

I did this. In the beginning, I always compared myself to that original sale that I attended and that I as involved with. I wanted it so bad. I couldn't handle it when I first started, obviously. But you know, I launched with 100 consignors, and I should've celebrated that; I should have celebrated that I was able to fill 10,000 square feet, that we were able to do a successful event from beginning to event being eight months pregnant. Instead, I compared myself and said, "I only have 100; she's got 650."

    Now mind you, she had been doing it, probably at the time, six, eight, maybe ten years in, and this was my first season. But you put your blinders on there and you think that when you start, it needs to be just as good as someone who has been doing this for a really long time, and we compare ourselves, and we get down on ourselves. Instead we should celebrate our victories.

#3  Stop thinking about it and just do it.

I'm in a lot of private Facebook groups and I see sometimes these questions about businesses, about people questioning their business; should they do this, should they do that. And the thing is, I just say push publish. Push go. Push play. You've got to try. And it almost kinda refers back to that number one thing: What works for you is maybe not gonna work for me. I can give you a foundation, I can give you a framework to work off of, but you're gonna have to cater it and you're going to have to specialize it to you and to your audience. All right?

 #4   Know you and your schedule, and be realistic.

So when I started my business I was a pharmaceutical rep, which was a really demanding job, and really the children's consignment sale was almost a back-up plan. It was a back-up plan, of course I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and it just made sense during the season of life that I was in, having four children in five years. I mean, it was just great. Over the 14 years that I've been doing this, I have literally not paid for my children's clothing and I have saved thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. So all of that made sense. 

    Also along the way, that entrepreneurial bug continued to bite me, and in some instances I would take some of my earnings and I would re-invest it into other business ideas; because I'm just a passionate, passionate entrepreneur. One of the opportunities that I did, I thought was a great idea, was to launch a children's manufacturing company. It was really important to me, everything made in the USA, and so I went to an area where the textile industry had just been crushed. You know, everything went overseas. And so I was able to employ some seamstresses, cutters, that sort of thing, and I started selling on Facebook. And at first it was really manageable; ten orders a day, we were able to really ... We did the custom work, and we were able to do it and send it out. Everything was great. 

    Well all of a sudden, after Thanksgiving, the sky fell. And we went from like ten orders to 100 orders, and that is ... I am not exaggerating. I would drive 30 minutes, I would be at my shop at 6 AM, I would be cutting out these orders. People would come in, we went from one seamstress to four, I had an embroiderer, I had a packager, I had a shipper. It was more ... It was successful in that we did $40,000 in sales in a very short period of time. 

    And you're like "Well that's amazing!" But I was the most miserable that I have ever been. That was a horrible holiday. People are really mean, and it was just one of those things that during that period or during that phase of life that I was in, I couldn't homeschool. I couldn't do some of the things that I needed to get done because I was at the shop working. And you're like "Well, you asked for that," and I'm like "Yeah, I did ask for that." And one of the things I'm gonna go back to, what number 3, stop thinking about it and just doing it, it's an experience that I'll never forget. But it's never gonna be one of those things, "Oh I wish I would've" because I did it. And for me, the time and my season of life and really the priority of being with my children, and homeschooling, that was the choice that I made.

    So when we shipped out that last order December 15th, I shut it down and that was the end of my manufacturing experience. I never want to do another product-based business again. It's just I know that about myself now; I don't daydream. I think sometimes we can get in the car, we're listening to a podcast, or we're thinking about an idea, or we see a blogger doing XYZ, and we think we can do it too. And you may could do it, but the question that you really need to ask yourself, the season of life that you're in; do you have littles? Are your kids toddlers? Are they in elementary school, are they in high school, are they gone? You know, do you have a full-time job? What's going on in your home? These are all things that factor into being really realistic with your time, and it's something that I have battled kind of off and on, but I know my priority is making sure my kids graduate and go off to school, do the things that they want to do, being available to them here. But I also know that within my time and my space, it is important for me to carve out something that makes sense with my time now.

#5 Accept change.  What you start with is not going to be the same down the road. 

I know in the pharmaceutical industry, we would be going down one path, and then all of a sudden we'd have to switch over to another path, and then we would have to switch over to another path. What you start out with is going to look very different six months, 12 months from now. Again, you just need to take action. 

#6 There is no real work/life balance. 

 I think that that is a myth. I think that you have to put those things that are a priority first, and then you have to manage your time, schedule your time. Depending again on the season of life that you're in, it's going to be or it could be a lot more challenging. You know, when I started my sale, I was eight months pregnant walking on concrete floors, 10,000 square feet. Through the course of my 14 years, I added another child; I went through another pregnancy during an event, and then actually Jack was born and I still carried him or I had him in a stroller. Luckily our sale was really, really small at the time, so it was manageable. 

    But as far as the work/life balance, there is always going to be, as a mother, those demands on your schedule whether it's homemaking, getting the dinner on the table, getting to soccer practice, getting to dance, making sure a blog post is going to be published on time. Someone is always going to fight for your schedule, so you have to be at peace with that and you have to give yourself grace with that. What are the things that you're just gonna let go? Because it's important for you that you have something that's for yourself, that you've carved out that space, right? So it could be "All right, my house is not gonna be the cleanest," or, you know, "I'm not gonna be able to go out with my friends all the time," or "I'm not gonna be watching television at night." There's things, the give and take, that are going to help you in terms of trying to keep that balance in place, right? But the biggest thing is to give yourself grace.

    So those are really my five tips based on my 14 years of a wild ride of running my own business. And one of the things that I want you to know is that I want to be your Disney fast pass; I've always said that I will be your virtual cheerleader, so I'm here to cheer you on. In transitioning to online business, I know one of my truest passions is to encourage, to motivate, and to teach other women. I do that with a couple of the partnerships that I have in different online businesses, and I want to do that here at MultiTaskingMaven. 

    So what I've done for you in terms of helping you, whether you are a new business or whether you are a season business ... Because I think it's always important, as a season business, to always be checking in; what's working, what's not working. If you are someone who wants to start a business, then thinking about those ideas that you want to do. Is it running a blog, is it selling a product? Maybe it's a, you know ... You do handmade items, you love product-based business, whether it's Etsy ... I mean, all of these opportunities are open to us now. And what we've done for you this week, in order to explore that, is that Rachel has put together a wonderful worksheet, and it really breaks things down and it helps you, again, to get out of your brain and put it on a piece of paper. And I think that visualization so we're not carrying around all these ideas, and we think they're realistic but when we actually sit down and look at it, it's really warped and it doesn't make sense. 

#1  What is the quarter goal?

   So what we have for you this week is to take a look at your week. I want you to be very honest with yourself.  I want you to focus down just on the first three months of this year.

#2 Brainstorm different business ideas if you haven't launched anything.

What is it that you want to do? I did recently have an interview with Abbey Ashley and she suggests becoming a virtual assistant. If you are thinking about running a blog or doing any of that, I highly, highly, highly recommend being a service provider first, because people are paying you to get experience, and I will put a link to that episode here. But I've given you an opportunity to brainstorm different business ideas.

#3 If you currently are running a business take a look at what is working and what is not working. 

   Finally, if you are a season business, it's really important to inventory what is working and what isn't working. And what didn't work is always like this huge glaring thing, like that hour and a half wait that people had. That would never, ever happen again, right? So what can we do to help fix those things that are not working.

And typically each season, I don't have any more than two big goals that I want to accomplish, because when I can really center in and focus on one to two things, I can be more successful.

So those things that are working, how can we make those things work even better? Those things that aren't working, what is it that we need to focus down then?

    And the reason why I've given you this worksheet is that now you can always go back and reference that quarter goal. It's visual to you. You can see that and everything will really start to come together. Finally, I talked about, in one of the five tips, is to be realistic with your time. I have done it; I will be listening to a podcast and I think this new way of doing something is the best thing since sliced bread, I'm all by myself, it is peaceful, I'm not in the hectic-ness of my schedule, and I think I can do it. Friends, what I want you to do is I want you ... I've given you slots for every single point in your week. I want you to be realistic with your schedule. You may think you have 20 hours to work when realistically, you have four. 

    And again, it's that work/life balance; what are the sacrifices that you're willing to make? How fast are you going to be able to progress in your business? You can figure that out and you can really start to see that by filling out this worksheet. Rachel does a fantastic job. I love all of her printables that she does. 

    So I hope that this episode was helpful, gives you a little bit of insight into the success that I've had over the past 14 years, some of the challenges that I've had over the past 14 years, but most importantly, my why is my family. I don't want to say more importantly, but equally as important is to carve out that space and that time that is just for me so that I don't lose my identity of who I am. Before I entered into the relationship with my husband, almost 25 years going on being married, or being a mom to four kids ... Having those children four and five years, that is a lot of work. That is a lot of losing your identity, and so I can totally relate.

I want to be that Disney fast pass, I want to jump you in front of the line.