Tips for Running a Small Business from a Small Business Owner

Running a small business can be a daunting experience. The sheer range of activities that you do on a daily basis can make it exciting for some and overwhelming for many. When starting my small online shop Literary Book Gifts I was completely in over my head. It took me a while to learn the in’s and out’s of the business to keep things running smoothly.

I would like to share a few tips that I use when running my own business in the hope that it might help others. I am constantly on the hunt for knowledge from other fellow entrepreneurs and have so much to learn myself. Although no two businesses are alike, I hope that sharing my experience may impart some valuable knowledge to someone else, just as the advice of others has helped me in the past.

Figure out what is manageable

I am only one person. For many other handmade shops I see that is also the case. As a single person I only have a limited amount of energy and time during the day and am constantly reminding myself not to take on anything I can’t reasonably manage on my own. The time management starts before a business even opens. If you are trying to figure out what type of products to sell, make sure you are able to produce them in a reasonable time frame. For example, I have been crocheting since Kindergarten ever since a lovely before-school teacher taught me how. But crocheting is something that I am pretty slow at, and it takes me even longer to do a good job. I also enjoy doing paper crafts such as making cards, working with clay, and friendship bracelets. Unfortunately these all take me forever. If a customer ordered any of these types of items from me, it would take me over a month to get it to them. Just because I enjoy doing something doesn’t mean that I should do it as a business. Offering tees and totes such as this J. M. Barrie Peter Pan Tote Bag allows me put time in at the beginning, during the design phase, but less time later. It’s a process that requires image sourcing, remastering, and use of graphics programs which can take me an extensive amount of time per design, but it allows me to get products out in a timely matter after they are ordered.


Do the math

It’s never fun to work out the finer details, especially those related to cost and profit. As a business owner, it is your sole responsibility to make sure you are making a profit. Imagine putting in all the work and effort, thinking you are making money while happy customers buy your products, only to realize later that you have lost money in the process. One should never assume that just because they are buying raw materials and adding value to them, that the money will result positively in their favor. Every product in the economy has a different price and different stores sell to different customer bases. Someone just starting out isn’t going to be able to get the same bulk wholesale price that a large company might, even for the exact same product. I’ve often noticed that some supplies in basic craft shops are more expensive because they are geared towards the hobby crafter audience instead of someone who is looking to turn a profit on the items. These supplies often come with additional material such as instruction booklets, extra items you may not need, and fancier packaging. This is great for hobbies and gifting, but will almost always result in a price mark-up. Don’t forget to include the price of gas from driving to buy supplies or take packages to the post office. If you are selling your products at trade shows or fairs, include the price of the setup, banners, tables, and registration fees. It’s a good idea to keep track of every single purchase and receipt. Include everything from packaging material to website hosting fees. It may seem obvious, but make sure that every hour you spend is going towards making money, and especially not towards losing it.


Remember, things can take a long time

Forget the stories you see in movies, starting a business is something that should not be taken on lightly. It can take months, if not years of trial and error to streamline your strategies and come to anything that even resembles a daily routine. I love that as a solo person I am able to make my own decisions on what I am able to do everyday, or even every month. Some weeks I can work solely on design, some at attempting to find new customers, and I plan to devote many months making my website a better experience in the future. Putting myself on dedicated projects or activities helps with the fact that there are not sales everyday, or even every week. I have a goal and timeline in my mind about when the business has “worked” or “failed.” But until then, it is best for me to just keep my head down and work as much as possible. I find motivation when I can, and I appreciate the small things. Helping hands from kind bloggers, and compliments from excited customers keep me going. Even if they never end up buying anything, it always bring a smile to my face.

Small business owners are entrepreneurs, and just like start-ups, not all of them succeed. I am happy to have to opportunity to show the world something I have created. If others think it has value, perhaps it will have a place in the economy.

I hope that sharing some tips from my personal experience might help a fellow or prospective small business owner or entrepreneur. Take care and I wish anyone who is in the same position as me the very best of luck!

Written by Melissa Chan, small business owner, hobby crafter, and graphic designer at Literary Book Gifts, gift shop for all things bookish.

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