What I’ve learnt since starting my own business

What I’ve learnt since starting my own business

Back in June 2020 I launched my online evil eye store I SPY MY EVIL EYE. I wanted to start my own business for a long time, something separate from my books and writing, and was planning to launch my shop much earlier in the year. But then the pandemic hit along with a very sudden family loss, and I put my plans on hold for a few months.

I eventually opened the shop on the 7th June selling an edit of handpicked sterling silver and gold plated evil eye jewellery, along with some fashion jewellery. The support from my family and friends was wonderful and a few months later I expanded the collection to include ceramics and homeware, mainly imported from Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.

Just over two years on and I am still absolutely in love with my small business. I have learnt a lot during the relatively short time it has been open and I wanted to share some of my ‘wisdom’ with those of you who might also be thinking about starting your own little entrepreneurial sideline. So here is what I have learnt from starting my own business:

Start small: whether you are handmaking items to sell yourself, or importing goods from abroad, it’s a good idea to start with a small batch of products first before expanding your business. This is for two reasons: 1) you can set your initial budget and not overspend, 2) you can test the waters and see what sells and what doesn’t. I started by selling just evil eye jewellery before slowly adding bigger items such as homeware and accessories.

Think about your brand: it’s important to have a catchy brand name as well as a marketing image like a logo to help people identify your business. I made a rough design for my logo on Canva, and then paid for a logo designer to bring my sketch to life using Fiverr. This doesn’t have to cost the earth and makes your business look more professional. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t change your name or update your logo at a later stage, but it’s good to start off strong!

Navigating the waters of online commerce websites can be tricky: I chose to create my own website using Shopify, but many small businesses use Etsy to sell their wares. They both have their own advantages and disadvantages so it’s important to research which commerce platform you think is best for your store. I wanted to have complete control over how my shop was presented and love having my own online space to showcase my products. The downside is that it can be more difficult for my shop to be found as a lot of people head straight for Etsy. Of course you can always chop and change – shopify allows you to keep your shop in ‘draft’ mode if you decide to give it a break and try out other platforms.

Social media is king: Setting up a flashy Instagram page is always fun at first, but it takes a lot of effort to maintain. I know that some businesses post every single day and I imagine that it probably does bring in the followers eventually, but as my business is so small, I don’t have enough content to post every day. Instead, I post roughly twice a week and have periods where I take lots of pictures and make reels and videos, usually when I have new stock in. I also use Canva a lot to make giveaway posts and special discount images to use for seasonal sales. At the end of the day I’m not after followers – I want to generate sales – so it’s more important for my feed to look aesthetically pleasing and inviting, rather than posting a million photos day after day of the same thing.

Sales can go up and down: Sales during the first month after I launched my shop were reasonably good as I had gone all out on the social media front and had a loyal following of friends and family. Sales then plateued for a little bit until my social media presence picked up. Don’t be put off if you’re not making loads of sales – particularly in these post-pandemic times!

You can’t please everyone: I am a perfectionist and put my absolute all into everything I do. I lovingly package all of my products and often include free little gifts for my customers. I am always so thankful when I get a sale and really want my customers to love my products as much as I do – sometimes I even follow up with an email to make sure everything has been received. However, sometimes things do go wrong – items get lost or broken, or the customer just doesn’t like it for whatever reason. The main thing in these situations is to be polite and courteous even if the customer is not. I had one situation where I posted an item abroad, and due to some illegible writing by the post office on the customs sticker, a customs fee was charged above and beyond what was expected. I was horrified when the customer notified me of the charge by email and couldn’t understand why it had happened. I had told the post office that the items were under a certain amount so as to make sure that any customs duties would not be too high. Before I had a chance to investigate, the customer then sent me a second email, this time with a distinctly impolite tone accusing me of purposefully stating that the package was worth more than it was. This really upset and also baffled me as I found it strange that they would think I was somehow getting something out of charging a high customs fee! I ended up offering a full refund of the product even though it was not my fault. So be aware that sometimes you will get rude customers who simply get the wrong end of the stick and will never know how much effort you have put into your business. Best to settle their issues and never sell to them again!

Delivering worldwide is not always profitable: UK postage costs are already extortionate, and in recent times buying and selling items abroad has become an absolute nightmare. Due to problems such as the one I encountered above, I stopped selling worldwide as it just wasn’t worth the hassle, not to mention the worry whilst I waited for the package to be received. Often it will cost more to send the item, than the actual item!

Prices change: don’t be afraid to up your prices. I now offer free postage to the UK and instead incorporate postage fees into the overall price of my items. It seems to work better than constantly changing postage fees. At the end of the day, you are looking to make a profit from your sales, so it’s not worth selling an item for only a little bit more than the cost price, and then losing money on postage. And don’t forget that your prices should also include your packaging costs too!

Be inspired, not envious: I did lots of research on stores and online shops that sold evil eye jewellery before I launched my store and still find inspiration from sellers who stock similar items to mine. This is not copying, or stealing someone else’s idea, it’s market research. I’ve noticed that there are a few stores out there that sell exactly the same products as mine – some at distinctly higher prices and some claiming that they are ‘handmade’ when they are not! Unless your items really are completely handmade, selling the same items as others is bound to happen particularly with evil eyes as most are sourced from Turkey where sellers stock the same things. That’s why I also sell items that have been custom-made for my store, either by myself or people that I know. I know a few shops that seem to be doing amazingly well selling similar products to mine. The important thing is to not get disheartened by the success of others, and focus instead on the strengths of your own enterprise.

It will take time to make money: yes there are overnight success stories but I wouldn’t believe all that you see or read on social media – some people are great at making things look much better than they are!

Enjoy yourself and keep it simple: yes I started a small business to make a little bit of money, but I also started it because I love evil eyes and I love sourcing new pieces that I think people will like. I don’t intend for my business to make millions (although I wouldn’t say no!), it’s more of a side-line that I really enjoy and if it makes a few pennies then great. Next year I actually plan to downside, as keeping stock such as large ceramics and homeware is just not fitting in with my new ‘minimalist’ attitude. Instead, I want to go back to basics and focus more on jewellery, accessories and handmade items. Sometimes the simpler things in life are what we enjoy the most.

Trust your instincts: a lot of people will try to stop you when you start a business, however small it may be. They might even have good intentions and be worried about the money you are spending, or the amount of effort you are having to put in. Obviously it’s down to you to get the balance right and not neglect other important areas of your life, but at the end of the day, if you believe your enterprise will work then just go for it. You will never know until you try!

Thanks so much for reading guys and don’t forget to check out my shop I SPY MY EVIL EYE for all your evil eye needs!

 

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