Last week one of my BAD challenge colleagues wrote a blog post on distilling a marketing message into one word using this phrase, I _______, therefore I am. It seemed like a simple answer: I design, therefore I am…but that’s all about me. As a business owner, being “all about me” is a tough way to turn ones passion into profit because businesses succeed, or fail, based on how well they meet the needs of their customers.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I’ve been doing this business “thing” for the past 21 years. My business was launched when my my youngest son was still in diapers. A series of calligraphy classes inspired me to learn how to reproduce my artwork so that I could make greeting cards and stationery: Perhaps even sell my designs to a Hallmark or American Greetings as a stay-at-home mom. You want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
Instead, an acquaintance needed some custom designed invitations to a large event, plus wanted the envelopes calligraphed. After fulfilling her request, and then a few more, I soon became her go-to person for all invitations, plus other graphic design services like brochures, interpretive panels, product catalogues, signage, advertisements, newsletters and all kinds of fundraising pieces where she worked as the Director of Alumni Relations for a prestigious boarding school. She also became my best salesperson. Soon other departments were requesting my services, as well as other private schools, colleges, and even museums and small local businesses. Within 5 years I had four employees and was working around the clock.
Having my own business was not foreign to me. I grew up in family business, and married a man who inherited a family business. Although I worked for others as early as 13, (I was tall and desperately wanted a Singer sewing machine so lied about my age to work on a local tobacco farm), and worked during and immediately after college for others, it just didn’t seem right to be on staff when my children were little. As any mom knows, there is no such thing as sticking to your plans when your kids are small because someone inevitably throws up on your best shoes as you’re rushing out the door to a much anticipated event, or trip, or … you fill in the blank.
21 years later it’s just me, once again. Graphic design and computer classes at every high school and community college, plus computers on every business desk in the country, coupled with the stock market crash and Global Financial Crisis in 2008 nearly forced me to close my one thriving service business.
This time, however, it’s going to different. My customers are different, and so am I. I have a business coach and a former client who is teaching me project management. I have no intention of making the same mistakes, and running myself into the ground. Been there. Done that.
Thus, my excellent journey through the forest of entrepreneurship has begun…finally.