Want to Start a Business? 6 Small Biz Owners Tell It Like It Is
Ain Earle

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
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started your business?

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!

Alicia J Walters
  • NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS – FaceForward @faceforwardtrinidad
  • TYPE OF BUSINESS – Beauty Industry Training Centre
  • AMOUNT OF TIME IN BUSINESS – 15 years
What is the one thing you wish you wish you knew before you started your small biz?

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. 

Candace Guppy Sobion
  • NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS -Candy Coated Experiences Limited @candycoatedexperiences
  • TYPE OF BUSINESS – Travel and Recreation Company
  • AMOUNT OF TIME IN BUSINESS – 10 years
What's has been your biggest lesson?
When I first began Candy Coated, I had a dream to become self-sufficient and to be my own boss. I had a knack for planning experiences for my friends and family, bringing people together for enjoyment. One thing I wish I knew before starting this business that became a tough lesson for me was financial accounting. Though I was able to manage my money well enough to build a profit and sustain it to become a full-time business owner, I didn’t have the technical know how to manage business finance properly. I found myself on many occasions scrambling to make ends meet when my ideas became too big for my pockets.
Finance was a daunting area often overlooked in my business. This is something as a small biz owner, I struggled with and others will as well. When starting a business you have your dream and dedication to propel you but most times with limited resources and fear you end up trying to do it all yourself. I wish I knew about the importance of managing your finances to see your business grow. When I first started budgets were in my head, which eventually migrated to excel. Some instances it was cash in hand and cash out.
As small biz owners, we always have to keep proper records and be accountable. Owning a business gives the illusion that you don’t have to answer to anyone, but you can find yourself years in with no ability to truly tell how far you’ve come. Without this information, you will be unable to grow because, without it, you will not know your profitability or where to invest. Your growth depends on it. In business for you to truly enjoy what you do, you must do what comes naturally to you. Hire professionals for the rest.

 

Before beginning my business, I wished I knew to: “Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can but do not give up on yourself, you are going to make it”. If you wish to chart your own course, identify your talents, and explore the business of it. Starting where I was meant identifying my talents and using them for the greater good of the people around me. For me, using what I had meant using my own personal values to directly contribute to my business. Doing what I could meant remaining consistent. Do not promise something that you cannot deliver, be honest with yourself about how much you can realistically deliver and deliver it. Consistently.

 

Walk in your own purpose as a small biz owner, be yourself, people will connect with your business if you are genuine. It is easy to remain consistent if you are yourself. The path that you choose for your business should come from your core strength. Find what you are good at and sell that unique talent. Be bold and stand by who you are, your consistency matters to your consumer. We have big dreams and we want to live in a way that can change the world. Your idea can change the world. Be Bold, Be Honest, Be You, Be Consistent and your company will grow naturally.
Jillan Aimable
  • NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS – @Shoeaholics
  • TYPE OF BUSINESS – Retail 
  • AMOUNT OF TIME IN BUSINESS – 12 years
What are some of the best lessons you've learned as a business owner?

Advice for Small Biz Owners Do Not Mistake The Popular Circle With The Winners’ Circle. 

One of the lessons I had  to remember was that God is my source. I had to learn  that all over again, that I am nothing without him.

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. 

I would tell myself it’s quite ok to start small and build yourself up. You don’t need a loan and you don’t need the bank. You don’t have to be ashamed of eating ramen for dinner or Crix and butter for breakfast.  I would say don’t beat yourself too much about your choices. As small biz owners, we must remember we are living the way most people won’t for now so we can live the way most can’t in the future.

 

I would embrace the distance developed with strained relationships when you are no longer available to go to a party every weekend or do whatever comes with not having a set goal in life. Don’t stress or have an issue with it. Embrace it because the person you are becoming will not be able to have pointless relationships. You will have to shed some fat to properly soar in life. Embrace it all!!! I would say you don’t always have to be liked but you must always be respected. 
Finally, I would say don’t get caught up with the hype of having ten thousand likes on your products. Make sure what you do adds value and is not easily replaceable. As small biz owners, a common practice we do is quantifying our value and that of our goods and services with social media and its following. These figures are too easy to manipulate. DO NOT Mistake the popular circle with the winners’ circle.
Kathryn Nurse
  • NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS – Immortelle Beauty
  • TYPE OF BUSINESS – A Little Local Luxury – Bath and Body Products
  • AMOUNT OF TIME IN BUSINESS – 9 years
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The one thing I wish I knew when I launched my business in 2011 was how essential and important failure would be on my journey. As a passionate, and very young startup entrepreneur I was so confident in my products that I couldn’t imagine a world in which customers didn’t see their quality or retailers wouldn’t want to fill the shelves with them. Yes, I was arrogant. So arrogant it didn’t occur to me as I wrote out a business plan filled with growth milestones, that I had no idea HOW I would be achieving those milestones.
A year and a half later when confronted by products that languished in the storeroom of my house, I felt defeated. Nothing that I had written in that original business plan had come to pass in the way I had envisioned. I was surrounded by stories in the media of young entrepreneurial successes, people who hit the ground running with their ideas, and to whom millions of customers and millions in investment just came to effortlessly. Clearly, my story didn’t have a fairy tale ending, and I was filled with shame that it hadn’t worked out. I decided to put the business aside before I got too deep and focus on developing my talents elsewhere. Basically, I stopped trying.
I decided to get an MBA and try to see if I could find employment internationally in the beauty or fashion industry. After 5 months of searching nothing had materialized. I had to return home, to figure out my next steps.
I decided to restart the business in order to generate some income while I figured out what my next step career-wise would be. With the stakes much lower, I decided to discard some of the aspirational elements I had when I originally launched. I took the lessons I learned from customers during my first failed round, and brought them together with the lessons I had learned during my year at grad school and created a small line of products that I thought might appeal to people a little more, without such grandiose ideals.
That small line of products has since expanded and grown is now the backbone of my business. Without that original failure, I would have never had the humility to sit and listen to what was truly wanted and needed within the market. Since then I have learned that entrepreneurship is a journey filled with hills and troughs and through that failure is the greatest tool to learn how to navigate through. In order to create a robust business, you must fail and fail again to determine what really works and create a strong foundation. The greatest lesson that I have learned in these 9 years is that failure is not to be avoided.  To all small biz owners, I would say failure is a most helpful tool.
The only true failure is to not try at all.
Leah de Souza
    • NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS: LdS Consulting www.leahdesouza.com 
    • TYPE OF BUSINESS – Business Coaching
    • AMOUNT OF TIME IN BUSINESS – 16  years

    As a small biz owner what is the one thing you wish you knew when you started your business?

     “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.

    Leave your comment below! 🙂

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    Judette Coward

    Judette Coward

    xo xo xo Judette
    Sharp Mind. Big Heart.
    Heart-to-heart, I help female entrepreneurs like you create profitable content to grow your ideas, audience & small business, and feel free to have a life you love.

    Free Coaching? I'd Love It.
    Judette Coward

    Judette Coward

    xo xo xo Judette
    Sharp Mind. Big Heart.
    Heart-to-heart, I help female entrepreneurs like you create profitable content to grow your ideas, audience & small business, and feel free to have a life you love.

    Free Coaching? I'd Love It.

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    2 Comments. Leave new

    i read every word of this article.
    I loved the honesty, authenticity and the reality of these women dealing and managing a BUISSNES WITH persitence .

    Forward Forty
    August 17, 2020 1:39 pm

    Patience and persistence, I welcomed their honesty because truth is, entrepreneurship is not easy

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