We’re always interested in a good business story. Each one is unique and almost always stems from a lifelong dream or passion. In honor of National Small Business Week April 30-May 6, we took a closer look into the humble beginnings of a few small business owners. They gave us some sage advice on getting started and managing the stress that comes with it all. Here are their stories:
When Amy Harness was a young girl, she dreamed of becoming an interior designer. Two years ago, that dream took the shape of a home décor retail store in the quiet and quaint town of Franklin, Indiana. Now, she helps clients design their homes and sells unique furnishings online as well. Starting her business didn’t come without rolling up her sleeves and learning a few lessons.
DO WHAT YOU CAN WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
“I had a friend who believed in me. He gave me the paint, my boys and my mom helped me paint and the rest was all out of my pocket and resources. I look back from the pictures on opening day to where I am now and my shop looked a little naked. However, you just start where you can and with what you have.”
GOING IT ALONE
“The most stressful thing was trying to do everything completely debt free and not having to ask anyone for help. Being a single mother, I didn’t want to go into debt for my business. I also didn’t want to have to ask for help. I am very independent, so asking for help was out of the question for me.”
OVERCOMING RESOURCE OBSTACLES
“I managed my obstacles by working with the resources I had. When people offered to help, that is when I would take the help.”
ADVICE FOR OTHER BUSINESS OWNERS UNDER STRESS?
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m so blessed to have the opportunity to pursue my dream, be debt free and being able to spend more time with my boys than when I was working in the healthcare field prior. Surround yourself with people who will build you up and support your dreams. Remember to help other new business owners, because you were once new as well. I’ve been blessed with a great online community reaching out and inviting me in as well as the Franklin community welcoming me.”
Meredith Scott grew up in an adventurous family, traveling the U.S. in a van and a twenty-seven foot travel trailer and eventually taking to the seas on a boat built by her family, sailing the coasts of Turkey and Greece. Starting a travel agency with her husband Bruce was a natural next step born from a shared passion for experiencing the world.
A LOVE OF TRAVEL INSPIRES AN IDEA
“We came up with the idea for a few reasons: First off, I love to travel, so that was an easy fit. I absolutely love to research, especially when it comes to new destinations. Because of that, I found myself researching and planning trips for friends and family, just because I enjoyed it. And the lightbulb moment hit one day when I realized that I could make a career out of doing what I was doing anyway for others.”
NETWORKING FOR NEW BEGINNINGS
“While still working full time, I spent a year and a half taking night classes in order to receive a certification for the travel and tourism industry. This offered me the opportunity to learn more about the business, such as industry specific computer software programs, etc. It also gave me some wonderful networking opportunities. The business had only been up and running for a couple of months, and during that time, we’d begun to establish our client base.”
JUGGLING THE DREAM
“The most stressful thing was and is managing time. Especially when you’re starting a business while simultaneously working a regular day job. When you’re used to working a full day and then coming home, doing chores and relaxing–but then realizing you’ve got to put in more hours at your new “second job”, it can be overwhelming when you realize you have so much less time to do the things you’d normally need or want to do. That stress even starts to impact relationships. Communication with your loved ones becomes extremely important, because your relationships naturally have to change and adjust due to the increased demands on your time.”
MANAGING IT ALL AND ANSWERING TO YOURSELF
“Managing it is still a learning process. The most important thing is to change your state of mind to expect, and accept, what your life will be like in the foreseeable future. It may sound simple, but it’s critical to adjust your line of thinking. Another thing is to start treating your new business as if you were going to another job, with another schedule and answering to another boss, even if that boss is yourself.”
TECHNIQUES FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS ON STRESS MANAGEMENT
“Schedule your day. Schedule your weeks. Make sure you book yourself some “recreational” time. Be accountable for goals that you set for yourself. Picture the light at the end of the tunnel on a regular basis. See it as a challenge and have as much fun as possible. For most people who start their own small business, they’re already passionate about the business they’ve chosen to pursue, so having fun and enjoying the journey shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.”
Born and raised in a rural Texas town, Chef Michael Ruffner ventured off to The University of Texas at Austin to study History and Spanish then received a commission in the United States Navy. World travel and cultural immersion started when he reported to Newport, RI for training, then to San Diego for life aboard ships. After six years he resigned his commission to pursue his dream of culinary arts at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. After working for a number of fine dining establishments in San Diego, he decided to break out and start his own business, Urban Eats.
“The idea for Urban Eats was born one night in Indonesia when Ruffner saw a multi-course dinner party served from a small motorcycle kitchen. He thought San Diego provided the perfect blend of great local ingredients, year-round sun and adventurous eaters for a new gourmet mobile kitchen. Hence, Urban Eats was born.”
FINDING A WAY
“Given the nature of my business, the most stressful part was finding consistent areas to park and sell. Finding areas with enough people willing to buy, reaching them through a marketing tactic that they would use and reminding them of my schedule was very daunting in the beginning.”
DON’T STRESS MORE: LEARN MORE
“Managing the stress just comes with time. Continuing to adjust for the market will ensure your business will survive and ultimately thrive. Feeling frustrated that your brand is suffering because of the market will create more stress than learning how to keep your brand intact while adjusting for the broader market. I’m lucky enough that people have shared their stories of failure and problems to help lead me down a better path.”