The anniversary of G&B officially becoming an LLC is almost upon us, so in honor of being at this biz thing for a few years, I’m flashing all the way back to when I first started this business. For those of you that haven’t heard my spiel yet, I started Glitter and Bold while working as a substitute teacher (and therefore someone with ample free time after 2:48 pm every day) when I made a sharpie mug for my best friend’s birthday. I was also super crafty and into anything art related, so quickly discovered I liked drawing on mugs instead of watching my millionth episode of Lost or SVU everyday.
When scouring Pinterest for new mug ideas I noticed that people sold them on this crazy website called Etsy, and about $30 later I was set up and ready to go with my own shop. I had no idea what I was doing or even if it would work out. I even made all my original samples potential Christmas gifts for friends and family because I assumed they wouldn’t sell.
I was overwhelmingly wrong, and that first holiday season (only 2 months into being in business) I think I cried every single day while waiting in line at the post office, driving around at 9 pm searching for mugs, or crawling out of bed after only a few hours of sleep to go to my “real” job. Glamorous, right?
Today, I can look back at that time and shake my head nostalgically, but at the time it felt like I’d opened Pandora’s box and couldn’t figure out how, or if I really wanted to, shut it.
Suddenly, the idea of veering from my chosen career path (college – teach – retire) seemed not only possible, but pretty appealing. I bought a logo, invested in courses, and slowly but surely taught myself lettering and calligraphy. I went from sharpies to high quality porcelain paint to finding vendors to print my designs and trading in driving from Target to Target for buying mugs in bulk. Trial, error, and a hella lot of education later, I’m at a place where I can proudly declare that I’m the Official Doer of All The Things at Glitter and Bold, LLC, but there were some lessons I really wished I figured out sooner. Below are 5 things I’d tell myself when I started by business…
1. Her success is not your failure.
A lot of people put beautiful quotes on mugs. A lot of people even put the same or similar quotes on mugs. The bold, brushy calligraphy style you favor is trendy and all over the place. Your market feels totally oversaturated. Other women are totally rocking their Etsy shop/business/life/etc. That’s OKAY.
I’ve talked about the comparison bug before, but I really wish I’d come to the conclusion that her success is not your failure much, much sooner. Years into my business I feel secure in my brand, niche, and overall business, but at the start I was totally floundering. I set out with no clear vision so it was much easier to constantly compare myself to women who totally got it.
Going back, I’d tell myself to use these women as examples and motivation, not self-imposed competition. If they can make a living making beautiful lettered products, so can you! They’re living, breathing proof that this crazy dream of yours can actually manifest into reality, even if your friends and family give you side eye when you explain your new job and every guy you’ve ever tried to date feels the need to inform you they have “bad handwriting” (I can feel my eyes rolling back into my head just typing that last one).
2. Investing in your business is scary AF, but it’s also the only way to actually grow.
While this is still a struggle for me, at least I know that hitting the “buy now” button on 600 mugs is a necessity. Thinking back, I could’ve saved myself SO much time and trouble by investing in my business from the start. I seriously used to drive to the package store (of actual boxes, not the liquor variety) for boxes, and then Target for tape and mugs, and then the craft store for paint pens, and then still fill orders and drive to the post office every afternoon (and don’t even get me started on the December when there was a literal white mug shortage in Connecticut and I ended up crying at a Crate and Barrel).
While that kind of insanity might fly your first few months of business, if you’re going to actually be a business, you need take the time and money to find a better way. Buy a logo. Order supplies and packaging. Invest in courses and classes. Buy your own website domain. It’s scary stuff, especially if you didn’t think owning your own business was where you would end up in life, but it’s one of those “be scared and do it anyway” situations.
3. Just do the damn thing.
Owning your own business means not only doing things you don’t like (until you make enough moolah to hire someone else to do it for you if that’s your thing) but also doing things that you think you cannot do. As an avid negotiator and waffler extraordinaire, I’m great at talking myself out of things. I’m the queen of being “not ready,” and so, it took YEARS for me to do things like design my own logo (which is crazy as a hand letterer who literally designs logos for other people), set up a website people could actually shop on, and make the switch to printed products.
While I’ve definitely failed at things along the way, there are so many things that I never in my wildest dreams could’ve pictured myself doing that I now consider commonplace. Just do the damn thing even when you think you cannot. It’s a shoot for the moon and land among the stars kind of thing more often than you think.
4. Your business is you but you are not your business.
I often joke with my friends that while I’m usually a pretty easy going and forgiving person, there are two things in this world you just don’t mess with: my dog and my business. When you pour your heart and soul into your business, it’s hard not to take each and every thing personally. Be upset, be hurt, but also remember that for most people, it’s not a personal attack, and if it is, block those haters and move on.
5. No one is superhuman (at least not forever).
While it would be nice if my entire job consisted of creating pretty letters, the reality is that I wear a million different hats throughout the day. Emails, order fulfillment, customer service, website design, social media and marketing, teaching, researching, and cleaning up my black hole of a desk are things I juggle everyday. In the beginning, it felt like I had to do all of the things, all of the time, and if I didn’t I was failing (check out my post on that fun feeling here).
For years I adopted a I’ll sleep when I’m dead mentality, and surprise, surprise, I totally burned out. And not just a “I need to nap for a week” burn out, but a “I don’t know if I even want to do this anymore” burn out. You need to hustle, but you also need to take care of yourself. You can’t possibly produce your best work if you’re going 110% of the time, and that’s totally okay.
Whether you’re just starting out in your own business or have been in the game for ages (and are hopefully nodding your head in agreement and “duh” moments), I hope this post helps in some way.
I’d love to know what you’d tell yourself when you first started! Share in the comments below…