For small biz owners, success does not come easy.
All small biz owners know that they have to commit their hearts to being entrepreneurs simply because the hours and the sacrifices are long and hard. Still, even when you pour everything into it that you can still experience heartbreak. Nowadays, anyone with a solid idea, a strong internet signal, and social media know-how can start a business but starting does not equate succeeding and succeeding does not guarantee longevity.
More than 50 percent of new businesses fail within the first five years but on a fairer note that means 50 percent also survive. We spoke to 6 female small business owners in Trinidad and Tobago who have faced uncertainty, their own fears and doubts, and yet are pushing through toward success. Some have been in business for less than 5 years, others over a decade. Some are in fashion, others are in entertainment, some in business coaching.
What do they have in common? They all believe that the rewards of serving others, filling a gap, offering their products and services to the world are well worth the journey. Here are their stories as told in their own words.
- NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS – The Fashion Arch @thefashionarchlifestyle
- TYPE OF BUSINESS – Creative Consultancy
- AMOUNT OF TIME IN BUSINESS – 3 1/2 years
One thing I wish I knew when I first started as a small biz owner was that nothing would ever be perfect and not to take myself so seriously. I have held myself back from a lot of ideas, moving forward and clarity, from being in my head and being a perfectionist. My service offering and brand have morphed into so much more than I thought it would have been five years ago when I first got the idea to start a consulting business.
The Fashion Arch Lifestyle was actually born out of an apparent gap and frustration I had with another business I was previously a part of. That business/partnership taught me that friends/colleagues sometimes really don’t mix with business and that I should go with my gut feeling when necessary. I am my biggest critic and it has cost me opportunities and collaborations where I would be slow to move or think my service and business were not ready, far less worthy to work with regional and international brands.
I have since learned that things do eventually work out and to take that leap of faith when needed. I still sometimes doubt myself and my capabilities but I keep researching, pitching, and putting myself out there. I started this business while still working full-time and because of constant outreach and networking I decided to leave to take up opportunities that afforded me to travel and network further with potential clients and collaborators. This has proven to work (outside of putting in the work of course) where I am now known to be a supporter and advocate of local and regional fashion, a go-to for pop-ups and fashion sale events.
I have also been a regional representative for the past four years at one of Jamaica’s biggest creative sales events, Collection Moda; invited to host branding workshops at Suriname Fashion Week and Caribbean Style & Culture in Washington DC as well at an empowerment event in Guyana due to me speaking in DC. You have to create your own path where you sometimes don’t see one, take your passion seriously and others will too. As small biz owners, we have to show up as leaders and strive for the best, always!
- NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS – FaceForward @faceforwardtrinidad
- TYPE OF BUSINESS – Beauty Industry Training Centre
- AMOUNT OF TIME IN BUSINESS – 15 years
FaceForward started accidentally. I offered a service and over one hundred people purchased within a week so I thought that I could make it into a successful business. I wish I knew that business was not just about selling. It took me considerable time to grasp all the intricacies involved in owning a business; marketing, accounting, the legalities and customer service issues. I lost many opportunities as a small biz owner because it took me a while to learn about these things and how they were relevant to what I was offering.
I have also learned that continuous learning is important for small biz owners. There’s always something new in different aspects of business especially technology. I think it is important not to get so stuck in the way you do things that you are not open to learning. Learning and innovating have propelled my business.
- NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS -Candy Coated Experiences Limited @candycoatedexperiences
- TYPE OF BUSINESS – Travel and Recreation Company
- AMOUNT OF TIME IN BUSINESS – 10 years
- NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS – @Shoeaholics
- TYPE OF BUSINESS – Retail
- AMOUNT OF TIME IN BUSINESS – 12 years
Advice for Small Biz Owners Do Not Mistake The Popular Circle With The Winners’ Circle.
There are some other things I would also tell myself if I was just starting out. I would say don’t go with the hype. Trust the process and understand that you are here for a reason. Don’t go into business because you want to make money. Do it because it’s what you love and because you want to add value to society. Don’t be envious, don’t count hours, don’t count efforts. Love doesn’t keep count, do more than you are paid for and eventually, you’ll be paid for more than you do.
- NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS – Immortelle Beauty
- TYPE OF BUSINESS – A Little Local Luxury – Bath and Body Products
- AMOUNT OF TIME IN BUSINESS – 9 years
- NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS: LdS Consulting www.leahdesouza.com
- TYPE OF BUSINESS – Business Coaching
- AMOUNT OF TIME IN BUSINESS – 16 years
“There are going to be great times and there are going to be tough times.”
That’s the one piece of business advice my mom gave me. And even though this message did not come with the solution to each time; the more I’ve reflected, accepted and prepared for each scenario, the stronger I have become during my 16 years in business.
When you’re in good times, you feel as if it will last forever. And then something will happen – an economic downturn, loss of a big client, high turnover, an employee takes you to court, a key supplier unexpectedly increases their costs, Covid-19. Then, when you are hard times, you may feel like that too will never end. Truth is, neither lasts forever. That’s just the way it is.
In good times, relish your wins and share them. Manage your spending during this period. It can be easy to say everything is an investment in the business during times of high cash flow. In the bad times, this is when your mental fortitude will be tested – and it has to be as this is part of the entrepreneurial journey. This is when the things you’ve built up in the good times will really count: your value-add habits, mental strength, good relationships, positive reputation, and financial savings.
Remember, resilience is not built in good times. And small biz onwers need to be highly resilient.
Since my teen years, my life’s credo has been, ‘To thine own self be true’. Even though I lived this while employed by others, I really have been able to express this to the fullest by being self-employed. As an entrepreneur, you have the unique opportunity to bring your natural gifts, personality, experience, and expertise to the job every day. I’m not saying that people who are not self-employed can’t do this, but often there are constraints: company culture, a boss who does not value individuality, and all the personal agendas and egos that can get in the way.
The technical nature of my job – interacting with thousand of individuals and helping them improve their workplace performance – coupled with my passion for learning has made being a business driver one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I’ve learned more about human interaction, motivation, and behavior that I think I would have ever learned by being in one job environment.
So, if you are in business for yourself or thinking about, bring YOUR self to your business. Small biz owners are unique for a reason. The clients, employees and vendors that are best suited for you and your business are found when you are truly your authentic self.