Want to start your own business yet struggling to take the first step? You're not alone. Putting yourself out there isn't easy - and to be completely honest, quite terrifying! However, despite the initial (and deserved) reservations, starting your own business can be the most exciting and rewarding adventure of your career.
Need more convincing? Take it from these three. Speaking to Sara Crampton of Harper and Harley, Eleanor Pendleton of Gritty Pretty and Beck Wadworth of An Organised Life, marie claire got the lowdown on what it really means to start your own empire.
MC: How did you get over the feeling of fear when going out on your own?
BW: Coming from a creative background, I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone to learn all areas of my business including sales, production, dispatch, accounting and business skills in general. Taking the time to thoroughly learn all those areas on my own allowed me to be able to get over the fears associated with making the move to running my business full time. I set myself stepping stones and thorough goals that I wanted to achieve creatively, financially and professionally before I felt ready to take the leap too.
SC: Having a strong support network around you is key. You need to have someone to tell you it’s going to be ok, even if it might not be - but feeling like someone is on your team and cheering for your success is going to help you get past the initial idea and putting it into action. For me, this was my husband. He completely backed the concept of The UNDONE, went through all the details with me, played devil’s advocate and challenged me when I needed it. He has been my rock and continues to be my biggest cheerleader for the business.
EP: You don't get over it – I think it's about channelling that fear, that energy, into being your driving force rather than what paralyses you. I'm someone who really thrives off a deadline or form of pressure and when I feel scared to do something, I make a conscious decision to choose to filter that into what gives me the confidence to take a leap. Assessing risk and writing a business plan can also be beneficial but once you do have your ducks in a row so to speak, I will ask the question, "When I'm 70 years of age, will I look back on my life and regret not taking this risk regardless of the outcome?" Nine times out of ten, the answer is always yes.
MC: What’s the one thing no one ever tells you about starting a business?
BW: It’s a wild ride! There will be highs and lows and an insane amount of hard work - but through it all, you will grow and learn more than you ever thought! No one also tells you the importance of keeping a diary through it all as well! While technology is fantastic for reminders, calendars and communication, there's nothing like the old-school way of note-taking and crossing off lists & goals. I'm loving our new mid year diary that has space to reflect on the past and also plan out your goals for the future!
SC: It’s really important to have a long term view. There are no quick wins, and I believe you need to put in at least 5 years of your dedication to a business to see if there is an opportunity for financial success, if this is the goal. We’ve all had great business ideas at some stage and it’s fun to brainstorm and discuss these with friends, but the reality of executing and seeing it through day after day, week after week and year after year isn’t always as exciting for some.
EP: How hard you will have to work – but also how rewarding it will be too. I've found the community among fellow Australian female business owners is far stronger and much more supportive than that among the corporate world, which is naturally somewhat self-serving. I think there is a real sense of empathy among other like-minded business owners – we get how hard it is to balance cash flow, manage employees and simply keep the cogs turning because at the end of the day, it's not just a job, it's our LIVES on the line.
MC: When you’re hiring someone, what’s the number one thing you look for?
BW: I love it when someone is a go-getter, when they are hard working, respectful and motivated and they love to learn and grow. Those traits can take you a long way.
SC: One of the most important things, especially in a small start-up business is to hire people that are incredibly passionate about the brand and will do everything they can to be part of the success of its growth.
EP: First, are they a good, kind person who will fit into our company? Second, what are their skills and strengths and what are their weaknesses?
MC: What is the best career decision you’ve ever made?
BW: To go full time on my business. It’s always scary but since I have gone full time, An Organised Life has gone from strength to strength and grown so much. Time is so valuable.
SC: I could have taken my blog full time earlier than I did, but I continued on with my marketing, sales and digital career path and I’m so glad I did. I took Harper and Harley full time at 24, which is still incredibly young to go out on your own, and I have been working for myself ever since. I’m glad I didn’t go independent earlier, as the skills I learnt have been critical in my role as buyer and owner of The UNDONE.
EP: I don't think there has been a single best decision but creating Gritty Pretty Magazine – the only digital beauty publication in Australia – is something I'm immensely proud of.
MC: What is the worst career decision you’ve ever made?
BW: Not trusting my gut.
SC: My worst career moments are always when I’ve not followed my gut. Thinking that you can ‘make it work’ or something or someone might be different in a new environment. It never works, and always causes more headaches and work for you when you need to clean up the mess after.
EP: Not listening to my intuition when I knew a certain staff member wasn't performing and was negatively impacting on my other staff. The lesson I've learned is to stamp anything that may be negative out of my company immediately.
MC: What was the best advice someone you look up to ever gave you?
BW: My mum always offers up the best life advice, which I love! I think the best advice from her has been to work hard, be respectful and learn from my mistakes. She has also always taught me to see the positives in a situation.
SC: It takes time.
EP: Be kind to all others – you never know who you might work for or who will work for you. In the end, your reputation WILL always precede you.
MC: When owning your own company, do you feel guilty for taking time for yourself? If so, how do you overcome it?
BW: Not at all! I don't do it very often, but when I know I need a break, I make sure I'm ahead of the game so that I can take some time off, relax and be present. I work long hours and extremely hard the rest of the time - so when I do take a break, I don't feel guilty.
SC: It’s really hard to take personal time when leading a start-up, where everything is on the line and you’re setting the tone for your team. But what’s more important is your physical and mental health, as if that crumbles, then the business will as well. For me, getting enough sleep is the most critical thing, along with getting outside during the day, even for a walk around the block to get some vitamin D and sometimes, just to take a few deep breaths.
EP: In the beginning, absolutely. I really struggled and felt a lot of guilt – there was no midday gym glasses or beach swims. Nowadays, I make more of a point to care for my mental health so taking time off when necessary is something I try to do. I probably still don't do it enough. It's also something I try to encourage within my team – taking days off to care for mental health are imperative for all of us to be productive, have clarity and work effectively at what we love.
MC: What is your go-to workday outfit?
BW: Hands down denim jeans, a classic tee, a boyfriend blazer and kitten heels paired with gold jewellery - and my diary of course!
SC: Striking the balance between comfort and being polished is what I aim for Monday - Friday. A fail-proof combination is a pair of cropped black trousers with a sling back low heel, blazer and ribbed knit.
EP: High-waisted Levis, a white tee or crisp men's style shirt and black blazer. I love working in the creative industry because I can have more fun with my 'work wardrobe' especially when attending work events and beauty product launches.
MC: How do you ensure you stay organised on a day-to-day basis?
BW: The main way I prefer to organise my life daily is with a good old to-do list in my mid-year diary! It’s all about prioritising my workload, my schedule and my time. I always start with my most important tasks (MIT’s), and then work through my other tasks in the afternoon. It’s all about knowing the difference between what you NEED to get done and what you WANT to get done!
SC: I have become a big diary fan and always use An Organised Life diaries. I need to have the full page a day layout so I can write all my tasks out, and this year I even maximised to the A4 size as juggling The UNDONE and Harper and Harley can get quite intense, so I need to make sure it’s all written down so nothing is forgotten. The tick off process is very rewarding.
EP: I keep An Organised Life weekly hard diary. I check it every night to see what appointments and meetings I have the following day and I write a to-do list at the end of each work day so I'm prepared when I sit down at my desk the next morning.