FYI as you read: Threads by Nomad is our company. My daughter is my partner. Her name is Christen, but she has been Sissi to the family her entire life. So while this is about Business with a Purpose there is a lot of personal thrown in. After all, business is personal.
This blog post has been floating around in my brain since the beginning of Threads by Nomad. I was freaked out scared when we started. Ministers/missionaries are not business people. Or at least I was not! I have changed in so many ways as a minister as a result of Threads by Nomad. I can’t even begin the list the things I have had to learn. I am very grateful to many people who have helped in that process. There is one group in particular that has stirred me to go ahead and put this on paper. I meet with Women Helping Women 2 Network fairly regularly. We talk about goals and we talk about how we can help each other in our businesses. Many of them like me, really did not know much about business or what they were getting themselves into. Like us at Threads by Nomad, they took the leap. Listening and sharing with this group of women has led me to wonder if there are not others who toy with the idea of having a business with a purpose, but have no idea what they are getting themselves into. In this blog series I want to share what I have learned that may or may not be in the books on business. Maybe some of what I have learned can help others. There are no priorities in my list. They are all important….at least they have been to me.
(Read about the first 5 things I wish I had known here.)
(Read about the second blog with 6 – 10 here.)
(Read the third part with 11 – 15 here.)
1. From the beginning my daughter and I promised grace and forgiveness to each other and to ourselves.
2. It is a gift if your abilities and the abilities of your partner complement each other.
3. There is enough business for all of us.
4. Bartering is not a bad deal, but it is messy.
5. Get out of your little world…intentionally.
6. Network, Network, Network.
7. Learn, learn, learn.
8. Make use of fund raising programs.
9. Determine your mission and stick to it.
10. Know the population of the folks you are working with to make a difference.
11. Surround yourself with people who can encourage and help.
12. Determine if this is a hobby or a business.
13. Social media is not an option.
14. However much you think it will cost, it will cost more.
15. Love what you sell.
16. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. I don’t do fashion shows or pop ups. I have never been a vendor at events or conferences. Guess what? I do those things now. Every time someone asks me for advice about how to pair something, what style for what body type, I cringe knowing that my daughter is the one better able to answer those questions. Our first few events I was so nervous about calculating tax and charging correctly. Once I actually charged someone a few dollars versus over $100. There was so much to learn and keeping up with all the technical stuff just wasn’t my forte. Add to this, that while you are uncomfortable, the people you are selling to may be as well. They may not understand why things are priced as they are. If you have fair trade items like we do they may not understand what that is. They may not understand your mission. It was uncomfortable for me to explain to people why our items are more expensive than what you find in department stores. It felt like I was urging them to make a purchase or was apologizing. In reality, you may need to educate the people you are marketing to. They might not have thought about things like minimum, fair or sustainable wage. They may have never had an occasion to hear about fair trade or the plight of refugees or of people eking out a living in other countries. There will be many uncomfortable situations. You just have to get comfortable with them.
17. Get the financial part straight and keep it straight. If you can’t do that find someone who can. Stay away from debt if at all possible. We made the decision to not have loans unless it became absolutely necessary for growth. Besides the kickstarter, we have invested personal funds. We felt that a loan was a pressure and obligation we did not want to take on. From the beginning we knew our weak point would be the finances. Neither of us have that as our strength. For the first year we had a friend helping us keep track of things, but as it became more and more involved we knew we needed more help. We needed reports. We needed better forecasting tools. We needed more in depth book keeping. We needed more refined check registry. Most of this we didn’t even realize we needed until someone showed us what all was possible. The more we have learned the more I am certain it is not an area one of us should take on. It needs to be more professional than that. So if you can’t keep it straight, find someone who can.
18. Stress is a part of it. Take care of yourself. Today has been a hard day for a myriad of reasons. Yesterday was as well. I have to stop. Walk away and renew myself. Sometimes it is reading a devotional. Sometimes it is taking a personal excursion. I am very faithful to my workout routine. I have a friend that I talk with once a week to just discuss how life is going and de-stress. I call my daughter and tell her I need reassuring. I have a prayer group that I meet with via conference call every week. I make myself take a day off. That is the hardest thing for me. I have figured out after so many years in ministry how to take care of myself in that realm. Business is a very different stress and I have had to work at finding the right rhythm. It is important to do so though. People are not buying your stuff, they are buying you. So you need to stay good. Take care of yourself.
19. Expect setbacks. Tenacity is the key. My daughter broke her foot just as we were starting up. She had to be carried up stairs to the space for the opening of our kickstarter campaign event. Just a few short months after beginning I fell and ended up with two major surgeries. We had a category 4 hurricane in Houston nearing the end of our first year in business. Hurricane Harvey was a serious setback to most of Houston, Threads by Nomad included. We find someone who seems to be a fit to work on a particular project only for it to not work out. Packages with necessary supplies end up in the wrong place setting us behind in delivering to our clients. We are so very grateful to those who rallied around us during these times to help us persevere. Oswald Chambers states, “Tenacity is more than endurance; it is endurance combined with the absolute certainty that what we are looking for is going to transpire.” So hang in there!
20. Don’t be afraid to let others know your struggles. Well, I have certainly shared mine fairly openly in this list. It is really okay to struggle. Sharing our struggles has opened the door for others to say, “Let me help.” Build a support system; then be vulnerable and let others learn from you. Vulnerability can be frightening. If it helps someone else on their journey, then risking the vulnerability is worth it.