One year ago today, I did it, without hesitation, fear, or remorse, I started an LLC. Once I decided to be an entrepreneur, I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. I had passion, dreams, and more than 15 years of related experience. I was bound to be a huge success, right?! Here are my Top 10 lessons learned during my first full year of entrepreneurship:
- I love being my own boss.
If you know me, this is probably not a surprise. I have always loved autonomy, while collaborating with my colleagues or clients. I have ideas, and I want to focus on a particular area of work, specifically, marketing strategy. I know my ideal client is someone that believes marketing contributes to the bottom line but wants to focus on other parts of their business. My passion still lies in the consumer, and I bring a customer-centric approach to every single marketing solution.
- I choose the work.
At some points, it feels this may not be the most lucrative approach, but every single day that I thought about work, did work, discussed work, I absolutely loved what I did. Okay, if I’m being honest, there was a week or so earlier this month when I had to focus on getting my financials in order, and those were painful days. While I learned a ton, it wasn’t much fun. However, I am the proud owner of pristine books that accurately reflect my business’ financial affairs.
- I learn every single day.
When I was in my 20s, I would tell my managers when I was bored and I wanted more challenges. Then I went to business school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (Go Blue!).
I have never felt more average and challenged in my life. I loved the challenges, new information, collaboration, energy, and everything available to us (even wifi was cool back in the early 2000s). As an entrepreneur, every day is a chance to learn, evaluate and improve.
- Expanding my network is key.
I have met more people in the past year than I have since I moved to the Chicago suburbs almost 5 years ago. Networking is about building relationships, and it’s also about connecting people when it makes sense. I’ve had the opportunity to meet over 500 people through various events through the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, WESOS, NaperLaunch, SCORE, TedX, and other organizations. It’s a thriving business environment where it’s easy to meet people and build your network. I’ve connected entrepreneurs with non-profit organizations that didn’t know about each other. I’ve helped mentor students interested in marketing. I participate regularly in roundtables where I can share my marketing expertise to help other entrepreneurs succeed. I didn’t necessarily realize how important creating a supportive network would be, especially as a solopreneur. I appreciate the relationships I have made and are building, because they have provided me with support, understanding, ideas, advice, and friendship. It’s so much more fun to have people by your side, especially as an extrovert.
- Giving back feels good.
No matter how big or small your company is, I believe it’s important to always pay it forward. Have people or organizations helped you in your career or life? Generosity is in my blood and this year I shared my knowledge with FORWARD DuPage, BrightSide Theatre, and Congregation Beth Shalom. These non-profit organizations all touch a part of my life and I feel a sense of fulfillment by helping their marketing efforts.
- Keep testing.
It’s challenging at times to know the difference between what clients want, and what they are willing to pay for (and how much). When I started my business, I focused my efforts on creating proposals for project work that would address specific client marketing challenges. Today, I have expanded my service offerings to include Mastermind Group Workshops and hourly consulting. Each service offering has its benefits and challenges, but I still love doing all of them.
- I use my natural skills as an advantage.
I was a Theatre Arts major in college. I started out as a double major in Theatre and Math; unfortunately, 6 weeks into my freshman year, I began to hate math for the first time in my life so I focused on Theatre and ignored my parents complaints about spending $28k a year for a Theatre degree. I can finally say I’m using my degree as I take on more speaking engagements, and I love being “on stage” even if it’s on the same level as the audience.
- There’s still a lot to learn.
Sometimes I feel that the start-up phase is very similar to being a toddler (especially when I recently learned that start-up is the first two years). I make mistakes and I may even repeat the mistakes, but I don’t stop trying. I am determined, and when I fall, I get back up. I’ve received advice, some good, some better; it’s up to me to determined what’s best for me and the business. I have to learn to walk before I can run, and that takes discipline because most of the time, I just want to be an established business, after all, I’m established in my field. Like a toddler who wants to be older, I need to be patient, enjoy the journey, and do the best I can at each stage of my journey. I will neither confirm nor deny if I have had tantrums this past year!
- Don’t be the cobbler.
I am the cobbler. You know the story of the cobbler who is the best in town, but his kids have holes in their shoes because he is so focused on his customers. I’ve realized that my marketing game needs to improve, and fast. As I work with an expert on the redesign of my website (relaunching soon), and focus on my branding, really integrating more of the Hawaiian values into my marketing, I will be the first to admit, it’s a lot of work. I realize the importance of this work, and while I still feel it’s easier to market other companies, I will give my company the due diligence it deserves.
- It takes time and determination to succeed.
One of the reasons I started my own company was to be available for my sons. This career shift from corporate to entrepreneur allows me to manage my own schedule, without asking for permission or approval. That freedom alone is part of my success. The other part of my success is financially defined. I have worked in jobs where I felt my contributions weren’t valued and other jobs where I felt invaluable. I am focusing my second year as an entrepreneur to find clients that I can bring incredible value to their business, and they will wonder where I’ve been during their entrepreneurial journey.
I have exciting plans for Year 2, and I hope you’ll join my Ohana on social media so we can make our connection even stronger. Please join me in celebrating Marketing Mana’s 1 Year Anniversary by commenting below on your lessons learned as an entrepreneur.