Starting a business and keeping it afloat is one of the hardest things I’ve done. The launching of it part is easy (anyone can literally do that) it’s the keeping it alive and progressing that is the hard part. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to take my business to the next level. This is personal obviously, people want different things from their businesses. I knew from the get-go that I didn’t want a lifestyle biz, by that I mean a business that would pay me an average wage with maybe one or two-part timers helping out. I wanted more, a global business which means a team of people and an infrastructure all focused on this.
Regardless of whether you want something small or big the challenges remain pretty much the same although the more you expand the bigger the challenges! In today’s column I’ve outlined the highs and lows of running your own biz.
The low points
Oddly enough it’s not the hours although they are long. This past weekend we had Saturday off but Sunday was a working one, I can’t actually think of the last time when we had two days off on the trot where we did only fun weekend-y things. That is part and parcel though because for the most part I love what I do and it actually doesn’t feel like work. The hardest and sometimes the lowest part of running the business is the business itself. As much as my life seems glamorous and exciting to the outside world with constant trips to Hong Kong, the States and Europe, and studio days spent designing products around roaring fires and scented candles, and amazing collaborations with cool brands I can assure you it’s the complexity of the business I have created with its so many arms that is the most challenging. Managing our income which supports an ever-expanding staff and now a team of artisans and factories across the other side of the word is challenging with a constantly expanding pay role. Not to mention all the other stuff like VAT, office expenses, rent, tracking merchandise, dealing with factories, managing factories.
Zillions of issues a day which we are troubleshooting; delayed orders, lost deliveries, stuff left at port for weeks, customs problems, issues on and on I could go. Constant setbacks, everything takes longer and costs more money than we could ever have imagined. Cash flow is a perpetual nightmare, stress is high, friends and family don’t always understand what you’re actually going through – it’s tough I tell you. To get through it you need two things firstly a big dose of determination and secondly some buffers to enable you to go forward. Any business will have a lot of balls in the air and ours in no different. We are constantly juggling the retail side with the wholesale side, and then the ‘me’ side!
There are three stands to our business retail, wholesale and me. I bring a whole other complexity to the biz with my expanding portfolio of licensing deals, big collaborations, book deals, the lecturing side so like I said there are a lot of balls in the air at a given time!
The high points
There are more highs than lows I think. I love love love what I do so a lot of the time it doesn’t even feel like work.
My heart skips a beat when I see a product that I’ve seen in my head come to life, or customers coming into the store and loving the collection. It’s humbling to see artisans and factories tun what we’ve dreamed up into actual pieces. By far the best side is being able to influence people’s lives with the products we’ve chosen. I truly believe decorating changes lives, it makes you happier coming home to a pad that welcomes you with the coolest finds. I know it sounds corny when I say I feel like we’re actually changing lives and perceptions of how people decorate. The whole dark side thing, the whole design school and retail school stream it gives me the biggest rush. Take that one step further when the coolest stores around the world start buying into your own label like Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and Liberty’s in London. It’s amazing!
To feel in control of your destiny is empowering stuff. I thrive from the day-to-day variety of this job. I start the week thinking we’ll be doing x y or z only to find we have been approached to do things I couldn’t have ever imagined. I’m learning all the time, which is exciting, and with all those challenges I spoke of above I get this fantastic sense of achievement. Having control over everything, having no one senior telling me what to do, doing exactly what I want when I want and how I want is empowering stuff. On top of that there is no greater buzz than seeing someone on the street with your product or meeting someone for the first time that knows about your company. Two years ago G and I spent Christmas in a château deep in the depths of France for Christmas. At supper we were introduced to two American’s who were also staying and who knew about my business. Beyond amazing!