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

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.

The light-bulb moment that caused the passion project

One day I was on an overnight tramp with friends. We were sleeping in a Dept. of Conservation hut at the top of a gorgeous mountain, in a dorm room with single mattresses covered in thick durable plastic. The kids got to sleep fine after a long day of hiking, but I lay awake all night feeling uncomfortable, hot and with a mind full of thoughts. It was that night that I had a bit of a light bulb moment.

I had not been open with my girlfriends about my personal problem – and yet we are really close friends. I guess its because no one really wants to talk about bodily fluids – because that’s nasty!

But here I was, lying awake, thinking about how annoying it was that my backpack waist-strap had dug into my bladder all day during our hike and that I wish I had better pelvic floor muscles. Because not only had I leaked through the pad in my undies that day – but I was also dreading having to put another pad in the next day, as the only private place to do that was in the outdoor long-drop toilet, which was a haven for mosquitoes. 

As I lay awake that night there were three key fields of thought that just kept swirling around my head.

Firstly, I wanted to understand why I wasn’t being more open about my bladder leakage issue. I remembered some data that I’d read once that said only 1/3 of people with incontinence issues seek help. This felt wrong to me and I vowed then and there to be more open about my issues. But i thought – why not also see what I could do to foster a more open conversation about female incontinence in general.

Secondly, I was annoyed that I hadn’t been able to buy any leak-proof underwear in New Zealand prior to our overnight tramp. I had found some online providers overseas, but the cost of the product was out of my price range, particularly when I added shipping. So I decided then and there – I needed to do something about this too!

Lastly, I was annoyed with my husband. We’d had a disagreement prior to the hike and my inner self was telling me that something had to change. The thing is – I am a naturally positive and optimistic person. My husband on the other hand, is more of a realist, or a pessimist some may say. For the past 24 years that we have been together my constant level of happiness outweighed any negativity that he could bring to the table. But over the past year something had changed. I was becoming resentful and less happy.

Initially I blamed him – and that was what our disagreement was about. But then I realised – it was me that I could change. Not him. And that was the start of my much better life. And also the start of my passion project!