Budding Business: 5 Practical Tips for a Successful Start
Starting your own business is a lot like learning to swim in the deep end of the pool without your floaties on — sometimes you’re not sure if you’re sinking or swimming!
I launched my business, Heritage Flowers, in the fall of 2015 and it’s been a long (and fun!) journey for me as I’ve entered the wedding industry and the world of small business owners.
Though I am certainly not an expert, I wanted to take some time to share with you several tips I’ve learned along the way that may help you in your journey. Whether you're in the early stages of dreaming up your company, or a veteran in the industry, having a solid foundation to your business is vital to your growth and long-term sustainability.
1. Brand Identity
Before you start anything else, the most important thing you can do for your business is simply to sit down and start writing about WHO your company is. Your business has an identity and personality that sets it off from others around it.
This concept is much bigger than just your logo, color scheme, and tagline (although those things are important). It has to do with the essence of your business. The wedding industry is saturated with vendors and companies who do very similar things, so it’s important to know who you are and be proud of it! It will help you stand out from the rest.
Begin by asking yourself these two questions to help shape your brand identity:
What are my company’s values and style?
Who is my target audience?
For example, you might want to specialize in high style arrangements while targeting a more modern bride. Or perhaps you’d prefer garden style, bohemian arrangements that cater towards a more whimsical bride. Or you might just like a classic style, accessing a more traditional bride.
Brainstorming these topics for your company from the start will be a huge asset for you later down the road. These values will help shape how you spend your time, your money and energy. If you’re struggling to define your brand, start making a list of some of your favorite companies. What do you like about them? What do they do well? There're no right or wrong answers! This information will help point you in the right direction. It’s just about who you want your business to be.
One of the most challenging aspects of running your own business is time management. I constantly feel pulled in multiple directions with a long “To-Do” list waiting for me. It’s easy to spend all your time either designing, focusing on marketing, or tweaking your website without ever getting much done.
First, I’ve realized that one of the best ways to organize your time is to find a productive location to work. Regardless of whether you have a brick and mortar shop or work from home — it’s easy to get distracted by your surroundings. Therefore, one of the best things you can do is to find a location where you’re able to concentrate and work with focus.
If you’re not designing flowers, your local library or a co-working space can be a great space for paperwork, emails, and the more tedious (in my humble opinion) side of business. Or, if you need a more creative space for arranging flowers, look into a local maker’s space (a co-working environment created for more hands-on jobs) or even a local park. Often, even going to your backyard can help with concentration and creativity! The point is to find somewhere where your mind feels peaceful so you can focus on your work.
Once you’ve found a place to work, start organizing your time into reasonable chunks. If you mostly service weddings and events on weekends, this might mean you spend Monday focusing on marketing, Tuesday on taxes/accounting, Wednesday on ordering and processing flowers, Thursday and Friday designing flowers, and Saturday delivering and setting up. Sunday you take the day off. Regardless of the exact nuances of your schedule, find a rhythm that gives you structure. This will help you feel like you’re meeting attainable goals. Always remember to take a day or two off! Being burnt out never helps with motivation and progress.
There are also lots of apps out there to help with time management. I’ve found that Trello helps me to organize my information in a functional manner, while also allowing me to collaborate with others on tasks that need to be done! So do some research and find a couple of apps to help with the organizing.
3. Accounting & Taxes
Accounting and taxes have been the bane of my existence as a small business owner! There are so many rules and information out there that I get overwhelmed and give up trying! One of the most important things you can do is to find a management system that works. If you’re in charge of your own taxes and accounting, try using QuickBooks or The Wave app to help with organizing. If you look online for various Floral ERPs by other companies, you can get a feel for how to organize your expenses.
If you don’t have a CPA working on your taxes, it might benefit you to simply meet with one, so you can discuss any questions you may have. Since every state has different regulations, it’s helpful to speak with someone who can point you in the right direction. Having a system in place will greatly decrease your stress level when tax time comes around.
Lastly, it’s vital to manage your invoices and payments in a simple system. I’d recommend using PayPal or Square, but there are lots of options out there. Although this is my least favorite part of running my business, it’s also the most important (no money = no job). So don’t neglect this area. Reach out to others in your area and find out what they do and what works best for them.
4. Website & Social Media
In the wedding industry, every piece of information and imagery is highly polished and meticulously curated. I get intimated just scrolling through most floral design Instagram feeds! Don't get me wrong; I love beautiful images and well-planned content. I just think sometimes these feeds can sometimes appear less authentic and accessible. It’s important not to get sucked into that trap! Social media is a very important tool for marketing and communication, but it shouldn’t feel like an impossible task. If you don’t currently have any business social media outlets, just start one!
Some of the most popular tools that showcase your work are Facebook and Instagram. Find one you like and start posting your work, telling your business’ story, or creating conversations with others! Your best bet is to take pictures of all your work and start sharing them with the world. Don't worry if the images aren’t perfectly polished. We all need to start somewhere; focus on being genuine. People crave human connection (even when they’re staring at a screen!), so post things that are meaningful to you and foster communication.
If managing multiple accounts is tricky for you, find a way to plan and sync them. Hootsuite is an excellent app that allows you to run all your social media accounts from one platform (it doesn’t hurt that it’s free). You can schedule future posts, so you have a system in place, and can spend your time elsewhere.
5. Inspiration & Networking
Lastly, one of the most vital keys to a successful business is staying inspired! So many small business owners get several years down the road and begin to feel like floral work has lost its magic. Burnout, stress, or a lack of a support system can really suck the life from you! So start finding ways to stay creative and inspired.
This could range anywhere from taking floral classes, hosting workshops, designing your own styled shoots or simply following others you admire via social media. Floral work is truly an art, and it has so many expressions, so take the time to explore and try out new ideas or concepts! Surround yourself with likeminded individuals — this could be by networking with other floral designers or local entrepreneurs. Team Flower has many ways to help you stay inspired, whether by joining their online community or taking some of Kelly’s classes. There are also free tutorials to help keep your creativity alive. Start looking for ways to expand and grow by reaching out to others to find creativity and support.
As I mentioned before, this list is hardly comprehensive! Personally, I know I still have so much to learn. The day that I quit my day job to pursue floral design full-time, I knew I was in for a huge leap of faith. I can imagine many of you have felt the same way!
Although floral work can either be non-stop busyness or slow moving, remember to stay motivated and take it one day at a time. The last and most important step, regardless of where you’re at in your journey, is to give yourself grace! Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes — learn from them instead. Enjoy the process.
My hope is for your journey in business to be a rewarding adventure!