Blog – Becca Williams
What We've Learned, One Year In: Tips for Starting a New Business
Hi friends! In April, we came up on one year of running our lil' business, so we thought it was good time to share some of the things we have learned along the way. We are in no way experts, but we've definitely learned a lot over the past 16 months, and we thought we could share our (limited lol) wisdom!
1. Support other small businesses ☺️
We know everyone always says to network, and we don't want to sound like a broken record... but for real. The small business friends we have made have truly been the biggest highlight of our experience running a business, and this is the biggest piece of advice we could give to others.
From sharing advice and tips & tricks, doing product swaps, running giveaways, supporting each other on social media, testing each others products, and chatting over DMs, we have made lifelong friends this year with fellow small business owners. Nobody else out there is going to understand what you're going through as much as other business owners!
2. Start your social media channels early - it's all about community! 💃
One of the things we were most excited about when starting Alben Lane was our social media channels. Becca works full time as a social media manager for a local company, so we already knew a little bit to get started.
We launched our social media pages almost 5 months before we actually launched our candles, which seems a little long... But, what it allowed us to do was take our time with building an engaged audience before we even had anything to sell! We were able to build a little hype around our launch because we were posting sneak peaks, product shots, and getting people excited. Plus, this is where we met so many other local business friends!
3. Use Quickbooks - and track everything 💸
We know this might seem completely obvious to anyone who knows anything about accounting and that side of running a business, but it wasn't to us. From the start, we wanted to make sure every expense, mile driven, receipts collected, etc. was tracked—but we did it all manually.
The busier we got (especially around the holidays), keeping track of these things became increasingly difficult and hard to keep up with. I think we were hesitant to spend money on a software that could do it for us, because at the stage we were at, we couldn't justify spending money on something we could do ourselves (even though we were not). We should've justified it.
Quickbooks truly has been an invaluable tool for keeping track of our finances. We only wish we had found it sooner! The interface is super intuitive and easy to use, this is coming from two dummies who know nothing about finances or accounting (at all). Now, after tax season, our accountants are definitely thanking us for it 🥲
4. Participate in markets ✨
We didn't do any markets for the first few months after launching our business, this was a huge mistake! A lot of that had to do with the pandemic, but I also don't think we put ourselves out there enough.
Ever since we have started participating in markets, they are our favorite way to sell our products. We get it, you might not think markets are your thing (we thought the same)! Try just one, and you might fall in love. They are a great place to meet other small business owners, and also meet your customers for the first time, which is incredibly rewarding!!! It might take a bit of time for you to get out of your comfort zone, but make eye contact with customers walking by, ask them questions, and engage with them!
Our biggest piece of advice on markets would be, in our experience, the higher the price to have a booth does not mean more foot traffic or more sales - we've attended free markets hosted by other makers and have had the most incredible times.
Lastly, invest in a Square or Stripe to try to be able to accept all forms of payment (credit, debit, and cash). You will miss out on revenue if you are only accepting e-transfers - a lot of customers might not want to go through the effort of e-transferring, and it's not an entirely safe point-of-sale payment option either for you or the customer. You don't want customers to cancel the transfer after they've walked away with your product!
We use this Square, although they have a free reader that we used for months that works, too! There's just no tap available, so users might not be able to tap their Apple watches or phones.
5. Skip the ads unless you're sure of your target market ⏭
We know how it is—it seems incredibly temping to spend money boosting a post if you're not getting a lot of traffic to bring more people to your site or page. We're all for targeted ads—key word being targeted. Creating a general audience to show your ad to likely won't work as well as you hope it will.
Spend some time researching your current market as well as the type of consumer you're trying to target. That way, when you're ready to start creating ads, you'll be able to reach the consumers who are more likely to be interested in your product, remember your product, and hopefully will want to purchase your product!
6. Don't underestimate the power of email marketing 📧
We're still learning about email marketing every day, but we've been working to grow our strategy, and have seen amazing results! Whenever we have a launch, we announce it on social media, of course. But not all of our consumers are on social each day, or even at all!
We've found that keeping emails to 1 or 2 a month keeps consumers informed, but avoids making them feel spammed. Hubspot's guide to email marketing helped us so much, and we always try to reference it whenever we're building a campaign!
7. It's all about having fun ✨
Lastly, just have fun with it. Whenever we get stressed or overwhelmed or start overthinking, we just tell ourselves that this is supposed to be fun! Having a business is an incredible way to learn new skills and learn about yourself. That being said... a business with your best friend is even more fun.