src=”https://buffer.com/resources/content/images/2022/07/INGLENOOK-MARKETPLACE-STOREFRONT.png” alt=”Starting My Business as a Side Hustle Helped Me Succeed, But I Wish I Had Gone All-In Sooner”>
Many entrepreneurs will know the origin story of my company: I was fed up with my full-time job and had an idea that I couldn’t let go. At the time, my job was at a design company and I was unhappy with how expensive everything we were selling. Inglenook Marketplace was my vision of luxury-quality home goods at an affordable price.
I created a website, began filling it up with products, and shipped handmade candles from Brooklyn. I also dropped ship a selection of goods I had purchased wholesale from other manufacturers. I was at a point in my career where I felt I had to leave my job. They weren’t paying me enough, but I wasn’t ready for the full-time business. I applied for a new position. I started to see my brand grow and was receiving more orders each week, which I would then fulfill on weekends and nights. Because of the lack of growth opportunities, I quit my day job and started another one to protect my salary. My vision for my business was growing and I opened my first storefront in a small upstate New York town. It was only open weekends, so I commuted during the week to my full time job.
Nearly five years after I started my company, I decided to quit working for others and give all my energy to my business in 2019. And I am so glad that I did. We’re now doing much better than ever with a larger storefront, a growing e-commerce business and white label wholesale, and a brand so loved that we were recently voted best candle maker in Hudson Valley.
I believe that the time spent developing my business side-by-side was crucial to today’s success in some ways. However, I often wish that I would have believed in my idea sooner and taken the leap. These are some of the things that helped me build my side business, and also the ways that I held myself back.
How I was able to build my business on the side and succeed
I got revenue to a stable point
My biggest benefit from building my side business was my ability to stabilize my finances.
My life and bank account were very different when I started Inglenook Marketplace. My life was very different in Brooklyn, where the cost of living is high. I was also young in my career and didn’t have much savings. If I had started full-time, my business would not have been able to begin making money right away . This is a challenge for any business looking to grow its customer base. I would also have had to compromise my vision to make more money sooner. I may have worried about my finances and given up on my dream.
All of this was possible in just a few short years after I started my side business. I had just moved to a more affordable area in upstate New York. I was saving as much as I could to have a cushion in case of unexpected financial events. The company also had the time to grow organically, to the point that I had enough sales each weekend to make the business pay for itself. This gave me the freedom to focus on building my brand rather than worrying about how to scrape by.
I gained the customers to reinforce my vision
Customers were my greatest motivator to succeed, even if money was the best indicator that my business was ready for full attention.
I might still be working full-time if I didn’t get the response that I received when I opened my shopfront. Customers walking in to say that the store smelled great validated my product. Commentaries like “This is the cutest place that I’ve ever seen” helped me to feel like I was adding joy to people’s lives. Repeat customers proved that I was fulfilling a need in a small town with few other shops.
It is essential to have customers who love what your business does. I found that positive reinforcement was more important than the money. It kept me going through tough times. Although running a business can be stressful, it’s not all bad. I don’t mind packing orders and filing taxes because I know what I’m doing. When COVID struck and many stores were forced to close, I shifted our stock to supply essential goods to ensure that the business survived, as well as to be there for my customers. I don’t know what I would have done if I had just started my own business without any customers.
I had the time to refine the product and customer experience
My business was slowly growing so that I could fine-tune the product and customer experience to ensure people keep coming back. Even if I was working full-time, I could have improved the customer experience. However, it takes time and I was able to do so because of my salaried job.
I could experiment with different approaches, get feedback, then tweak until I found the right one. I didn’t have to be too concerned about perfection. I was able to build relationships with my customers, gain insight into their needs and provide feedback. I attended classes and spent time researching the business knowledge I needed to get my business up and running. Even more knowledge was gained through my full time jobs. I learned so much from working for design firms about branding and marketing that it inspired me to bring this knowledge back to my own business.
When I was all in, I had an intimate understanding of my customer, their needs, and had put in place streamlined processes. I was also sourcing beautiful, high-quality products and constantly creating them.
Why I Wish I’d Go All-In Faster
All of these things were true before I quit my job. Even though I was applying for my previous job, I already had loyal customers who loved my product and was earning enough money to support my business and myself.
Fear and lack of confidence were my only barriers to investing fully in my company. Fear of losing a steady salary was what kept me from investing fully in my business. I struggled to believe that I could support myself and my family with my company’s income, despite the fact that the numbers suggested otherwise. Despite the fact that so many people had supported my vision, there was fear in believing in myself. Even though I had been a huge success, I was unsure if I could succeed in building a successful business.
I was so busy that I had to take on another full-time position, which was both hard for me and the business. I had to balance my day job with my growing business. This caused me to miss customer calls and made it difficult for me get orders out on schedule. These customers will never return because of the unpleasant experience they had in the beginning. It was frustrating that I had such limited hours in my brick-and mortar store. This reduced the chance of new customers discovering the shop. More than anything, my heart was in my company, and it was difficult to deal with the frustrations at work.
I wish I was more practical about how the business had to make money to meet my needs. I would have quit my job as soon I reached that threshold. I was unable to do so until I gained my confidence.
Fortunately, there were a few things that helped me to change the direction of events. One of them was the fact that I began dating my partner who was my greatest fan. I have never had someone support me as much as he has. It can be a huge help to find one person who believes in you so strongly.
My father died at the same time. This ignited something inside me. I thought about how unhappy my parents were working for others, and how I was stuck in that same cycle. I was constantly facing roadblocks as I tried to share or advance my ideas in my full time role.
One day, I finally woke up and realized that this was not the way for me. No one can control my future or tell me I can’t do something better, or put a limit on my career.” I finally decided to believe in myself.
From that point forward, I was all in.
One day, I finally woke up and realized that this was not the way for me. I realized that no one can control my future or tell me what I cannot do, and put a limit on my career. I started believing in myself. – Heatherlyn Nelson Founder of Inglenook Marketplace
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