Four essential tips for new businesses starting out

It takes perseverance to remain motivated, especially when progress is slow.

Some of you may know that this year I started my own business – to develop absorbent washable leakproof underwear for pee, periods and perspiration.

It has been an exciting yet tumultuous rollercoaster. Today I wanted to share with you my four essential tips for those who are just starting out.

  1. Perseverance is key!

It takes a lot of motivation to dedicatedly work for yourself day in a day out. Particularly in the early days you must be the ‘master of all trades’ (the CEO and decision-maker, the strategist, the product designer, the investor, the marketer, the logistics expert and so on). Some tasks are easier than others. But when things get tricky it is hard to keep slogging away at it.

I have goals to keep me on track – work wise. But what keeps me – pushing forward – is a verbalised aspiration (that I’m committed to). You see, I found that I needed to be clear about what I wanted to achieve, and by when, because my family kept asking me when I was going back to work. So here it is: my aim is to give the business two years to break-even and three years to make a viable profit.

In addition to this, I let my family know what my boundaries are, to protect myself from risk. That is, when I have spent a certain level of funding, without any profit then I would stop and go back to full time work.

Three years to achieve my first big milestone is long enough for me to think “I’m in this for the long term”, which keeps me jumping over the short-term hurdles.

  1. Clarity is essential.

I never realised just how hard it would be to find the right specially fabrics for moisture wicking, absorbency, comfort and odour reduction.

It’s been a hard learning curve. My one piece of advice for dealing with any type of suppliers, is to be as specific as possible with what you want. If that means you must ask a million questions first to better understand the lay of the land. Then ask away. There is no harm in asking. I like to lay out my requirements in clear tables, or under specific headings. I then number each question and answer. I give my emails informative subject lines so that I can easily keep track of information down the track. But importantly, I never let myself stay in a position of doubt. I clarify immediately when uncertain.

  1. The 80/20 rule is beyond helpful.

It’s easy to waste time perfecting certain elements when it’s your own business. But taking the approach, where you keep working on something because you don’t want to risk getting it wrong, will slow you down unnecessarily. Try to accept that things will evolve rather than be perfect the first time. When you start to spend too much time on a task – STOP immediately and put some time restrictions in place. Because when you think of the time that people will actually spend looking at it, it’s just not worth your valuable and limited time. This is why it is so important that new businesses land a minimum viable product as the primary goal. Because perfection is impossible to achieve, whereas trial and error keeps you moving forward.

  1. Build a following.

As you start your business you will meet many people who will help you or take an interest in what you are doing. Make sure you add their email address to your contacts database and grow this list as you progress your business.  

It’s important to nurture this group by keeping in regular contact. One way I do this is to send out a monthly newsletter that provides a simple update on my progress and some interesting tidbits. It doesn’t matter how you keep in touch but just that you do. Your early tribe are your greatest supporters. Mine mean the world to me and I cherish their feedback and support.

If you are keen to show a fellow start-up support, I would love it if you could like or follow my facebook or Instagram page. Just go to:

https://www.facebook.com/vivobodywear

https://www.instagram.com/vivobodywear/

Thanks for reading! Catch you next time.
xxoo

Step 1 – in my entrepreneurial journey towards the world of ecommerce

It’s exciting and a feel silly for jiggling in my seat, but I’m also grinning with pride, because I have hit two key milestones this month.

Now I’ve got to say – there have been roadblocks. Home schooling during Covid19 lockdown for one! I have now walked around the block and played Monopoly Deal more times than I can count. Because my kids have a clear limit of patience and focus when it comes to schoolwork.  

And while I have felt pulled in many directions and have had to jump from one task to another in rapid succession, I am still moving forward. Mmmm, maybe I deserve a glass of wine!

Wine aside, the first milestone I hit was coming up with my brand name. I didn’t think coming up with a brand name would be that hard. But it was the HARDEST! Note to self – if this ever happens again – ask less people for their advice. Because everyone has a different opinion!!

The worst enemy to creatively is self-doubt.

Sylvia Plath

I reached milestone number two when I finally choose the selection of fabrics that I’m happy with to progress to the next stage (prototype development). I have now tested hundreds of fabric samples. Not only have I undertaken all the scientific tests but I also borrowed a friends sewing machine and made some very rough prototypes to exercise in. Because that is the ultimate test! Running without leakage, especially after a day of drinking tea. I was so disappointed when the first few didn’t work. My bottom lip was out and I was not happy. But it didn’t take many mishaps to realise where I was going wrong. On the plus side – I have also somewhat improved my sewing machine skills, which – if I’m being honest – were absolutely terrible. But when I finally found the right fabric layers – I was surprised my neighbours didn’t hear my huge sigh of relief!

It’s early days yet and I know I have a long road ahead. But it feels rewarding to be stepping over the hurdles just the same.

My passion project

It was 22 January 2020, when I chose to tell my husband that I’m taking a year off from full time paid employment to work on my passion project – and that he would have to go back to work. My profession at the time was consulting/contracting for government agencies, primarily in policy and strategy development. I was paid well and I enjoyed it, but when I thought about what I’d do if money wasn’t an issue/requirement then I knew it wasn’t that.

So when I had my lightbulb moment (see previous blog story) I thought to myself – there is never going to be a better time to make a change. It was on that day when I registered my new company, with the intention of developing leak-proof underwear for pee, periods and perspiration. I was beyond excited!

I knew deep down it was the right decision. But self-doubt plagued me. It was very hard saying “no thank you” to the first few policy contract roles that were presented to me. And even after a month, when my husband still had no job, I was tempted to accept yet another short-term role. But I knew if I did this then I would lose momentum.

My husband and I had agreed that I could spend our savings, we would scrap the planned holiday, and there would be no more take-out or meal kit delivery. 😦 Plus we would need to take out a loan against the house for my first product shipment. This was my chance and while the since the family was being impacted I knew that I needed to have faith in my ability to deliver.

I started with a business plan, and then a brand strategy, a marketing strategy and a project task register. After that my primary goal was to develop a minimum viable product. However, textile manufacturers are not that common in New Zealand anymore. Not to mention, no one sold the fabric that I wanted. So while I waited (rather impatiently) for fabric samples to come from abroad I focused on everything else, such as pattern making, label requirements, packaging, and learning about online sales and marketing.

It is fair to say – that since I had never developed a product before, let alone sold anything online, I had a lot to learn.

With more time available each morning (because i was not rushing off to town on the train) I would walk/run and listen to podcasts. My husband turned the garden shed into an office for me and I would work all day out there. I was so excited to start each day. Then at night-time, when I would normally enjoy watching a light-hearted tv drama series, I found that I could no longer pay attention to them. I wanted to be thinking about my business or watching Startup School videos instead. My mind, which had previously been completely exhausted from working a solid 40hrs each week was now alive and in overdrive. This was a bit of a revelation to me. It was like a creative driven entrepreneurial energiser bunny was just desperate to be free. Who knew!

The exciting part is that its more than just making and selling a product. I am passionate about the subject of light bladder leakage because it has negatively impacted me for the past 12 years. I wanted to try and make a difference to somehow empower women to feel more confident in living their best life without limitations. I want to encourage others to share their stories and hopefully we can create a more open dialogue where we share information about the wide range of support and treatment available. Whilst also reducing some of the sensitivity around the subject.