How I Started My Small Business With No Savings and Quit My Full Time Job The Same Week
If you're reading this you've probably either started your own small business, trying to or are thinking about it. Whichever stage you're at in your little journey I hope that any insights into my own journey will help in some small way one way or another!
So if you're at the first stage and thinking of starting something, you don't even have to know what it is yet, just the fact you're thinking about it means you're already on the first step of the ladder.
So now it's up to you whether you want to take a step up or get off it completely because even though the first step is the most important, you also can't just stay there forever. You're either in or you're out and if you're going to spend your life wondering what the second step looked like then you shouldn't have gotten off in the first place.
Fear is usually what holds people back at this point, and trust me I stayed on that first step for a while. We've all seen the motivational "if you never try, you'll never know" quotes on Pinterest but take them all in. When I needed the push this is where I started, reading and researching and writing down cute quotes.
So I'm going to let you know not only how I got up onto that second step, but also how I succeeded and quit my job the same week I launched my website!
Now I know you're serious about this and if you've read this far you're already on your way to that second step because all it takes to get there is research, research, research!
Speaking from a handmade point of view, if you're not sure what you want to start making and selling yet searching the hashtag #smallbusiness, or similar, especially on Tik Tok will surely inspire you!
So during the research stage I firstly joined a bunch of groups on Facebook that related to the product I wanted to make/sell. I favourited these groups so that my newsfeed was full of posts relating to it, people would ask questions and get a hundred answers and I tried to read as many as I could.
From doing this, as well as watching a couple of Youtube Videos, looking at other makers' social medias to see what worked and what didn't, I learnt which tools and materials to buy and which techniques I wanted to practice. My technique got better the more I took notice in the groups and even started asking questions myself. (By the way, the experts in these "newbie" groups are the nicest people you'll ever come across on Facebook)
Once you've practiced some techniques and made an impressive array of items, it's at this point that initial fear starts to wear away and here comes the confidence, WHO IS SHE!? So your inner Boss Bitch starts making decisions and you just roll with it.
Okay so you want a website, or perhaps you're more inclined to an Etsy Shop, you do you boo. First thing you need is a name. This is important because I wouldn't recommend changing it once you're up and running because you want to try and establish your brand in the small biz community.
I came up with my brand name Inka Rebel by narrowing down words. I already knew I wanted 2 words that were relatively easy to pronounce, spell and short enough to easily type into a search bar.
I wanted to build a brand based on natural colours and textures with a Boho and Native American vibe. I looked at tribe names, Inca Gods and even Hotel names in Mexico. I chose some of my favourite singular words and mix and matched them until I got Inca Rebel. It was only when I went to purchase the Domain Name on Name.com that I changed the C to a K to see what it looked like. (Inca can be spelt both ways).
Before you commit to your chosen name, get on all the social media platforms you can think of (even the ones you don't think you will use) and make sure there are no similar accounts under that name anywhere.
When you're good to go, go ahead make an account with all the social media platforms (yes even the ones you won't use) because you might use it in the future, you never know what the latest platform will be in 5 years time. It also stops other people from using the name.
I made notes at this point of all my socials and log-ins etc because if I decide to post on Youtube in a years time there is no way I'll remember the details!
I fully recommend buying the domain name (don't forget to compare prices on various sites) because A. It looks more professional, B. It's easier for your customers to type into a search bar, C. It stops anyone else from using the same/similar name.
On that note, I purchased both inkarebel.com and inkarebel.co.uk to stop anyone using the name but I chose to use the .com version for my website because I ship Worldwide. This just made sense to me.
I made a logo for free on Canva, again I wouldn't recommend massively changing it once you've got a following so make sure you like it!
So I built my website using Shopify, it's £19 per month but there is no surprise fees like Etsy. I may move to Wordpress in the future but I really like how easy it is to use Shopify at the moment.
I installed some plug-ins that would help me get traffic such as Google Analytics and Smart SEO (research!), plug-ins to connect my social media accounts to shopify and a plug-in to be able to email subscribers.
I was 5 weeks in at this point from the moment I bought my tools, started hyping up my social media pages about what was "coming soon" and creating an inventory of products that I deemed good enough to sell. A lot of pieces didn't make the cut because I was practicing and experimenting a lot. I got my listings written up, my website policies filled out, and products photographed and uploaded.
I was ready to announce a launch date. March 26th 2021.
Fear came back, What if it fails? What if I haven't done enough? Queue more Pinterest Quote searches.
I already knew that it was important to stay present on Instagram/Facebook stories even if I didn't post that day, so I tried to make them look nice and within my brand using Canva App and it was only when I announced that the launch day was tomorrow did I realise that my followers were just friends and family.. Shit.
I promoted the post about my launch day being tomorrow with a snippet of some products and writing including "Free UK Shipping" and "Ships Worldwide" and anything else that might get people to click on it. The promotion cost around £4 and it managed to reach 117,699 people!
Within 4 hours I had gained, not just a decent following, but a following of my target customers. I watched my following grow from 150 to 400 overnight and I received a heap of supportive messages from total strangers either wishing me luck and asking how they can purchase.
I sat at the kitchen table with tears in my eyes reading a particular message about how they were shocked I was a small business and they thought from my post that I would be a big company and that they admire the courage. Just overwhelming stuff!
I hyped up my launch the next day with a series of stories including ones of me showcasing some of the earrings and holding them up so people could see what they looked like.
As the online shop opened, I stayed present on stories monitoring the amount of visitors currently on my site and thanking each one as they purchased something. I like to believe this got more people on Instagram intrigued enough to hop on the hype.
My launch date saw 21 orders, some of which purchased multiple products, and the next day I received 12 more orders.
So my website has been open for just over 5 weeks now and I've made around 120 sales so far.
Now don't compare your journey to my blog title because the only reason I was able to do all this in a short space of time was because I was on Furlough from work and I spent 14 hours a day researching and making earrings. Obviously the time frame is going to vary for everyone because everyone has different commitments, work, school, children etc. Just remember your progress is monitored by whether its going forwards or backwards, not how fast it's going.
When I realised that the more time I put into the biz the more attention it got, is when I realised I wouldn't have time for a full time job as well. I left my job of 8 years and got a part time job instead.
I'm also lucky enough to share bills etc with my boyfriends so it keeps my living costs down. Again, everyone will be in different situations therefore the time will vary.
Don't rush the process because you will naturally know when it's time to move to the next stage because with every step you gain more confidence. This is why getting past the first step is the hardest because it's a place full of self doubt. But do your research, practice your technique and take a risk. What is the worst thing that will happen? You fail? So what? Try again.
My biggest challenge at the moment is my conversion rate. I will get on average 50-60 visitors per day but only around 1.8% of those people will actually buy something so I'm looking into how I can improve that.
The hardest thing is just keeping it going and not letting it go stale so I'm constantly looking for ways to advertise at a low cost, how to engage people and find more of my customers. It's a constant battle!
To Conclude, around 60% of my time is used online either researching or promoting. 35% of my time is spent fulfilling orders and custom requests because my items are partly Made-to-Order to save me time in the long run. The other 5% of my time is spent making new designs, I wish I had more time for this but for me the priority is marketing and I'm still learning that side of things!
If you want more content like this drop your email in the sign up box at the bottom of the homepage and I'll email you with similar content in the future rather than posting on here!
Examples; "How I easily ship my items, including International, without stepping foot in a Post Office" and "How I save myself so much time running a small business"