– Oliver Wendell Holmes
Starting a business from scratch is no small task. You can take classes, workshops, talk to other business owners, and read every book you can get your hands on but nothing will prepare you for opening your own company. Nothing.
I started a web company in 2001 while in college with no idea how to run a business. I found a need & filled it. I taught some of my marketing classes because I had more experience than my teachers at building websites.
I made money helping my community while finishing up my degree & heading off into the “real world.”
It seemed so easy because it was a small town and had no competition.
Restarting Sisarina was prompted by a huge downturn in the economy. My boss asked me what I would do if he couldn’t keep paying me and I responded, “I’d work for myself.”
In May 2009 Sisarina Inc became a full-fledged company again with a designer, a developer and myself heading up the frontlines. June found me hiring an assistant & by January 2010 we had a staff of 10, an office in downtown Bethesda & things were moving along at the speed of light.
I was on top of the world.
Running a business is just as much about appearances as it is about operations.
As a growing business, Sisarina ran into the same problems many other businesses run into with hiring, renting & renovating an office, clients, and cash-flow.
The only problem: we had no idea others had these same problems.
Feeling like you’re alone is one of the scariest things about working for yourself. As an employer, you can’t talk to your employees (or even your friends and family, really) about your struggles because you want to maintain a sense of control over your business.
It is at this point that you realize support systems within the surrounding business community are what can make or break your company.
Having built a strong support system, I reached out to two fellow business owners who showed me I wasn’t alone in my struggles. Being able to keep the appearance of normalcy while dealing with the drama and having an outlet for venting was a huge part of our growth.
What a relief it was to know that others had gone through, and were still sometimes going through, the same things we had.
It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a community to raise a business.
As a huge proponent of community in every aspect of my life, I knew that the best marketing plan for Sisarina was to create a community. Twitter was just becoming a buzz word and I noticed that it had everything to do with the same kind of community I was always trying to create. Information sharing, local events and connecting were all things Sisarina’s marketing plan had included, so I put together a Tweetup.
Ten of us shyly met for happy hour and in May 2009, #DCTweetup was born. The people Sisarina has brought into our community through networking, hosting events and finding resources have been the reason we’ve grown so much in such a short time.
We were getting leads from people we wouldn’t meet until months later because they loved our brand and knew we were a resource to them.
Fifteen months after Sisarina restarted, we are considered a success as 50% of businesses fail within the first year. Our portfolio is growing, our events are getting bigger and our brand is becoming well-known locally.
Without the community we started building from the beginning, this would not be possible.
Tips from a new business owner:
Love what you do.
It’s a LOT of hard work & long hours. If you don’t love what you do, it won’t be worth it.
Find people you can trust & who will make sure you never feel alone.
Be a part of a community.
Create your own community/network of people – even if it’s only a few people. People work with people they like.
Don’t think you’ll just hang your sign & clients will show up at your doorstep. Get out & find them.
Take a break.
As humans, we need breaks… especially business owners. Schedule time away from work to relax & get refreshed. Your clients and employees will love you for it.
- The Sisarina Start a Biz series, where entrepreneurs give you their war stories & tips for starting a business
- How humor can grow your business, by regular contributor Alexandra Williams
- Deborah Ager discusses how to get new clients (including by organizing a tweetup)
Image: by Flickr user vaishalee, Creative Commons
Melanie Spring is the principal and project director at Sisarina Inc., and a regular contributor to, and avid fan of, Women Grow Business. An expert networker, Melanie and Sisarina connect individuals and companies with the tools they need to market and promote their brand successfully and efficiently. Connect with her on Twitter where she’s @sisarina.