Very cheesy and totally out of character, but, here:
As some of you know, I’ve been working on a small business startup. Not to pull back the curtain all the way on our operations, but in growing, the CEO, sales department, SEO tech, graphic designer, IT, product development, and all other positions have been filled by one person. It’s easily the hardest-thing I’ve ever done, and I’m sure I’ve aged four-times as much as I should have within the past couple years. I went from having a safe-but-immobile corporate job that was netting me 80% disposable income, to bleeding money every month and living off credit cards. Only recently did my passion project start paying off: and I’m suddenly faced with the choice of cashing out, or doubling-down on the same struggle in order to achieve growth and make this a long-term sustainable business. Here are the reasons for the decision I’m choosing to pursue; I’m writing these down in the small hope that they can help someone in the same position as I was when I started out.
I haven’t had any subjective support in doing this: my family and friends haven’t supported me, for a number of reasons. Whenever I doubted myself out loud, or asked for help, I was either ignored or told to quit. Not one person went out of their way find me business, to tell me they believed in me, say they were proud of me, or even communicate that they thought I could “probably” make it. Even when I begged for it. Except every so often, one person I barely interacted with would give me a little bit of support that made all the difference. My friend from childhood connecting me with a potential wholesale account; an acquaintance trying his hardest to get me into his cafe’s coffee rotation; someone I just started doing business with telling me, “I’ll go out of my way to help you, just because I Was Where You Were Once.” I’m going to keep this going in one form or another just for you people, and one day when I have the opportunity to repay you for those acts of compassion, I’ll do anything, because they’ve meant everything to me. A lack of support from the people closest to you can actually be deeply motivating.
Knowing I’ve objectively made a high-quality product has helped. Learning how to perform at the top of the game in a fractured market takes a lot of perseverance. Hearing that my coffee “just wasn’t that good” occasionally only made me want to perfect what I was doing so that there’d be no more excuses. You develop a lot of humility hearing “No” every single day for months. Possibly the greatest learning experience I had in this came in December: I’d roasted a coffee and knew it was my best work the second I tasted it. I immediately sent it out to a couple bloggers, hoping to get good word of mouth buzz going, and one of the amateur ones gave it a poor review. (There’s a tendency to ignore startups in Coffee, there’s a thought process that “If I haven’t heard of it, and my friends haven’t heard of it, it must not be good.”) I felt like giving up… until a week later, when the most-important reviewers in the industry publically gave it my highest-scoring review ever, and I sold out of every pound I had left in a few days. Having that confidence in yourself - knowing you’re objectively doing something worth building a business around - is this invaluable thing you develop. Acknowledge your criticisms, and build off them; look at whatever “paper cuts” they leave as a “cost of doing business.”
Use your connections, but don’t depend on them. I invested financially, and more importantly emotionally, into the few connections I’ve had. I bought extra stock in preparation for the flood of orders I thought a celebrity shoutout would bring - and then didn’t sell one single bag.
Don’t take things personally in business; what you’re doing is 100% about a bottom-line to at least one person. Don’t feel like people are out to fuck you; they won’t have a reason to unless you give them one. Don’t burn bridges if you do get fucked.
Learn who your market is. Learn who your market isn’t. When you’re starting out you’ll see that the people who you’d like to work with are already working with someone more-established, cheaper, and overall better. Get creative about new business: go after who your direct competitors aren’t going after, and give them every excuse to work with you.
This last piece of advice should have been the first: new business is everything. Even if you have to work every second you’re awake because you don’t have the money to hire help, you need to be be finding new business, no matter how small. Momentum.
Starting your own business is probably the hardest-thing you’ll ever do, but as you’ll hear from the people you should be emulating, it’s worth it. Don’t take one “No” for an answer, don’t take 100 “No’s” for an answer. We’re all endowed with the brains and will to make it happen, but you have to want it, and you have to want it enough to break your back every day for it.
If you have any basic questions, I’m happy to help you: firstname.lastname@example.org