File this under "things that everyone already knows": starting a business is hard. There are innumerable resources out there, but there is no single roadmap. It takes patience and organization (two things that do not fall within my key strengths) to filter through everything out there and find what will work. Since I shared with everyone I knew that I was starting my own business a little less than a month ago, a lot have asked, "how do you even do that?". I'll be honest, I'm still figuring it all out, and will probably never have it all "figured out," but I will share a list of the resources that have helped me forge a path to build my own retail store. This is not an exhaustive list, of course, but these are some of the things I have referenced the most.
My dad started his own business when I was growing up, and he's the one who recommended I look into SCORE (formerly known as "Service Corps of Retired Executives", now simply known as "SCORE"). I am surprised that it's not more well known, because it is an incredible and essentially free resource. SCORE has chapters across the country and hosts webinars online as well as seminars in person. On top of the resources they house on their site, SCORE's biggest draw is that they offer free 1-on-1 small business mentoring. They give practical advice on how to write your business plan, plan your financials, or negotiate a lease. They've lived and breathed business their entire career, and though they do not offer opinions on the business concept itself, they've got some tried and true, no nonsense advice on business fundamentals.
Probably a no-brainer, but when you're starting a business and your budget becomes a little tighter, the wonderfully free library is your best friend. As the photo at the beginning of this post demonstrates, I have taken full advantage of the Hennepin County Library. Beyond all the books that I want to devour, the online resources were immensely helpful as I wrote my business plan.
StartUp is Gimlet Media's first podcast, and the first season was all about how Gimlet Media came to be. It was essentially an audio documentary of Alex Blumberg (formerly of This American Life and Planet Money) starting his own podcasting company and being completely transparent about the ups and downs of starting a business. The second season just ended, and it was dedicated to the dating site Dating Ring. This podcast does a great job of telling an honest and engaging story about a business from the beginning, and it serves as both an inspiration and a reality check. They're currently looking for a startup to feature in Season 3.
I honestly cannot remember how I found Being Boss, but I am so glad I did. Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon are two creative entrepreneurs who began the show this past January. Each episode tackles a specific topic, from managing money to balancing work and life to productivity tactics. These women are living this life, and I have so much trust in what they're sharing every week. The best part about Being Boss is the community it has created. The private Facebook group now has almost 3000 members and is an amazingly active and supportive network of creative entrepreneurs looking to give and receive advice about their work. There are currently 29 episodes (not including the mini-sodes) and this has become own of my favorite things to listen to on my morning walks.
WELL / AWARE.
I will be dedicating an entire post in the future to bloggers that I have been following, but in the meantime, I recommend WELL / AWARE. Lindsay Mueller writes about living well, mindfully, and what that means to her, and her podcast is an extension of that. There are only 5 episodes so far, but she's already interviewed one of my other favorite bloggers, Alden Wicker of Ecocult as well as the founder ofS. W. Basics and author of Skin Cleanse, Adina Grigore. Listening to WELL / AWARE is a nice way for me to learn more about overall wellness, but Lindsay's voice is so relaxing that it's also nice way for me to unwind.
The New Business Podcast.
The New Business Podcast is new to me, but with 110 episodes, it's been around for a while. It's dedicated to taking your business into the 21st century with digital marketing tips and tricks and fantastic interviews with experts in the industry. As soon as I discovered this podcast I downloaded twenty episodes that were immediately relevant to what I was doing (or needed to do), and I find at least one tangible takeaway after each episode.
Skillshare is a site that offers online classes on various topics, from social media strategy to modern calligraphy to Photoshop 101. The classes are all taught via videos that you can watch on your desktop or mobile device using their app, and students can share their "assignments" on the class page and get feedback from other students or the teacher. The teachers are not necessarily professors like you'd find on other course websites like Coursera, but rather experts in their field: photographers, graphic designers, brand strategists. Classes are reviewed and new classes pop up constantly. You can take some classes for free or you can take as many classes as you want for $8-$10/month (full disclosure: that link is my referral link and I get a discount if you sign up using it). I have used Skillshare to design my store's logo, learn Illustrator, research crowdfunding projects, and build a social media strategy. Not bad for $10 a month.
This is really specific to building a retail store, but the Shopify blog is full of great articles and tips to build a successful e-commerce store or brick & mortar store. Shopify is an e-commerce platform that offers websites and point-of-sale services, but the blog is completely available to anyone, whether they use the service or not. This blog has connected me with social media tools, creative common image libraries, and market research tactics, and it's the most direct link to the retail industry that I've found.
Without sounding too much like I'm accepting an Academy Award, I know that I wouldn't be able to do this without a lot of amazing people. I have the good fortune of being surrounded by practical family members who ask really good questions when I declare that I'm going to quit my job and build my own store, and my friends have offered immense support. Friends and family are integral to making this work because they will help me stay grounded.
Beyond those closest to me, I have found mentors, old and new, to also be incredibly helpful. My previous employer valued setting up deliberate mentor/mentee relationships, and I am so grateful that they did, because as a result I've become much more comfortable exploring those relationships and understanding how beneficial they are. I was able to bounce ideas off my current mentors and then reach out to new individuals and learn from them. It sounds a little scary to reach out to someone you don't know and ask for help or advice, but ultimately the worst case scenario is they say, "I'm sorry, I don't have time," and you move on. It's important to be clear about your intent and be prepared to make the most of their time, of course, but there's little to lose and so much to gain from reaching out. I was able to speak with two boutique owners about their experiences, and the advice they gave has stuck with me and is part of why I'm building Hazel & Rose today.
The importance of building networks has never been more clear to me than it is now. I've never loved the idea of "networking" - it seemed disingenuous to me, like the endgame was simply to make yourself known. Building a network can be different. In my mind, building a network means putting myself in settings with the intent of making real connections with those I may not have otherwise met. It means seeking out and attending events relevant to my passions, even if that means attending alone, so I can engage in the conversation and discover new people. It means ensuring that I am adding value whenever I can.