As the run up to Christmas begins, we are about to celebrate The *TeaShed’s 2 and a half year Birthday! Yep, we celebrate in half years here (just in case something happens and we miss out on the yearly birthday cake!)
Although The *TeaShed is still laying down its foundations, I feel like I have learnt so much and already had so many adventures. From starting it off as a university project to launching straight into Fenwick to then getting an email from John Lewis three months later plus a load more stockists across the world, the journey has already had huge excitements. But then there has also been the low points, mistakes and very stressful situations, which have lead me to a diet of G & Tea and sugar loaded biscuits.
But overall, running your own business is amazing and I would recommend it to anyone. It could just be a side line business that you do evenings, weekends or in your lunch break. Anything that lights you up and makes you feel excited and that makes you feel ‘you’.
Here are 6 key lessons I have learnt along the way and I hope they will help you too!
Lesson No. 1 Live your dream but remember you won’t be sleeping living your dream
Most people have something they love doing, something that would make them get out of bed at 6am on a Sunday morning to do. For some people its a hobby such as cycling or fashion, for others it’s perhaps the idea of cooking a lavish breakfast. Now you may not want to turn your hobby into a business, which is totally understandable – and I guess making a fry up on a Sunday morning doesn’t mean there is a potential business plan sizzling away, however wouldn’t it be great if that passion could be done more often, perhaps every day (definitely not the fried breakfast idea) and give you the income so that you don’t need to do anything else?
Well, then running your own business can tick that box. If you love cycling for example, could you start organising cycling competitions, clubs, training, design a product, website or app (surely there is room for another app??) or you could even start your own delivery service! I could actually do with a local cyclist who would pick up letters (and not too heavy parcels) for same day delivery – please email me if this is you!
If you already have a business in mind, then perfect! Just go for it, life is too short. Make sure you tread carefully and test the market fully before selling your house, car and dog to do it though. And just remember, that whilst you’re dreaming your dream you will be enjoying a nice nights sleep, but when you make this dream a reality, you will not be doing much sleeping.
Days are long and nights are very short because you have so many things to do. It is probably only you doing it and on a very tight budget so you will be the person sorting the accounts, website, social media, packing, calling, emailing…
It is super hard, probably the hardest and most draining thing you will ever do, but if you do what you love then you will love what you do and so it is totally, one hundred percent worth it 🙂
Lesson No. 2 Listen to other people and then make up your own mind
Always listen to what other people have to say, even if you don’t really like the person, they can be your worst but best critic. Let people pull your business apart, let them make you cry and insult your ideas because this is just the start and people will do this all the way through business, so it is important to get tough early whilst still keeping your confidence in yourself and business.
I started off doing markets as this was a great way of seeing what people thought of our products. I would get up at 6am on a Sunday for a market and then stand for hours and hours in the freezing cold, hopping from foot to foot until out of the mist, a potential customer would come and talk to me. I would tell the old lady about our fantastic quality teas and how I lovingly pack these myself and they were £3.50 for 20 of the finest whole leaf teas in the convenience of a teabag. Ten minutes later she would say “but I can get 80 teabags for 29p at Tesco” and then leave, whilst I remained stood there frozen and hurt. What I learnt that day was who my target customer was.
Lesson No. 3 Enjoy the journey
For people who don’t want to just make money from a hobby and instead create a growing business, one of the reasons why you want to do this, is for the (hopefully) large financial reward.
The honest truth is, you won’t make much money for quite a while and even when you do, you will be putting it back into the business. Unfortunately, running your own business is not going to shower you with money and if anything you won’t even have enough money to shower. It took a year and a half before I took a wage because buying tea is more important than buying new clothes (to be debated). But lack of showers and clothes aside, the journey to earning a decent wage is actually the most fun.
Over the past couple of years we have done those soul destroying markets, we’ve also done festivals, trade shows and each one has been an adventure.
The first festival where we sold hot tea, was T in the Park and I had bought a £70 marquee which on a nice sunny day in your back garden would probably have held up, but with the torrential down pour and high winds up in Scotland, meant that we had to chase it as it blew across the muddy field. A lot of duck tape and wooden poles later we had finally managed to secure the marquee down and we had an amazing weekend selling tea. That weekend we made about £200 profit but I have a story that makes me smile for the rest of my life. Making even a £2000 profit today doesn’t hold the same memories as that weekend does.
Lesson No. 4 Network
Network as much as possible. Talk to everyone (even the old lady). Get onto twitter, facebook and blogs. There are so many markets and networking events out there for you to try and social media is free and right at your finger tips right now.
I have been to lots of business networking events in the past and at the beginning I was really shy and I would get stuck talking to one person the whole night because I didn’t know how to excuse myself and move onto the next person. People come to these events to network, so now I just think if I am bored of talking to that person, then they are probably bored of talking to me, so it’s time to move on! (But don’t forget to get their business card before you go)
Social media is amazing and enables you to connect with the whole world from anywhere you might be. Pretty much everyone has a smart phone so you can be uploading photos and updating your status whilst running to meetings or sitting on a train. There are lots of workshops you can go to which talk about the best ways of handling social media, which are great. But alongside this, you need to think what works for your own company as the same rules don’t apply for all.
Lesson No.5 Work hard and be nice to people
Running your own business will have a direct impact on those around you. Perhaps they will have to give you financial support, a room in the house or if you’re lucky, they will stand in the freezing cold with you. There will be tensions when you are up until early hours of the morning squinting at your computer screen whilst your partner is asleep and annoyingly, actually dreaming.
It’s so important not to forget those around you who support you. As hard as it is, forget about your business for a while and give your friends and family some time. In the end, success will be pretty rubbish if you don’t have anyone around you to share it with.
Lesson No. 6 (The most important lesson of all) Always drink *TeaShed Tea
I hope that this helps anyone who wants to start their own business. It is a scary thing to do (I am scared writing this in case people think it’s rubbish or my grammar is bad), but you have to put yourself out there to achieve and you have to do things which make you uncomfortable because once you’ve done it, you will be proud of yourself and you will think, ‘yea I made the most of today’.
Happy tea drinking!
Love Jules X