If I could have a little chat with my former business self, I would give the old me a bit of tough love. You see, when I first started out with Bikudesigns I was a terrible perfectionist. A perfectionist to the limits of procrastination. And I played small. Little old me?
Imposter syndrome, not knowing my worth, comparison struggles, overwhelm, passive marketing, I was the mistress of the lot.
There. I said it. And now, here's the story of how it happened...
Picture the scene:
It's 2008 and I'm working in an international school in Tokyo. Already 10 years in Japan, newly married and desperate to have babies and change my life. Even though I found teaching extremely rewarding, there were parts of the job I found excruciating. And none of those parts involved the kids. Drowning in paper work, justifying everything on paper, recording every move that the children made yada yada yada. Ad infinitum.
So it was then that I knew things had to change. I'd already been using my HUGE teacher summer holidays to develop jewellery production techniques. I'd trained in Tokyo and New York in classical techniques, diamond setting, casting, fabrication and was even an Artist in Residence at a jewellery studio in Sydney. I knew what I wanted to do but I was stuck in a rut.
While I was teaching I started to study ikebana with a passion and worked on building my jewellery (Brit sp.) skills by setting up a 'little side-business'. In my head (and even out loud), I called it 'little' and so, unsurprisingly, it lived up to its name. I believed that, "If I make it, they will come." And they did, Occasionally.
In 2010 and then 2012 came the babies and I was really busy being a mum for several years, but still toying with the idea of being an entrepreneur and making jewellery for a living. And while the littlest was a baby and the biggest started school, I wrote a parenting book, which to this day is still sitting unpublished in my studio. I'm not sure it will ever be in print or in digital format for that matter. I see it as my sanity project, my transition from professional life, to motherhood, showing up everyday to a project that I cared about rather than a mill stone. It was my bridge to working for myself.
In 2015 I could visualise a time that I would have several hours a day to work when my youngest would be in school everyday. I gave myself 18 months to create a viable business that I loved, all created straight from the heart. The old Biku 'little side-business' was gone, and I launched full-throttle into the new incarnation you see today. Well, not quite what you see today, I have grown a lot in the past almost three years and I'm still learning.
10 Steps to working for YOU: The G.Y.O.B. (Get Off Your Bum) Business Model
1. Start from the heart. Find your thing and really, REALLY dig deep as to WHY you want to do it. Be brutally honest with yourself. Can you imagine doing this full-time? Do you have the necessary skills? Are you TRULY committed? Can you talk about it with a passion that is inspiring to others? Do you grin from ear-to-ear when you tell others about what you are planning to do? If you find yourself saying, "I've got a great idea for a business..." run in the opposite direction, as fast as you can!
Don't compare yourself with other people in your chosen industry or copy what they are doing, find yourself and be that.
I can't stress it enough. Putting in the work at this point is the most important part of your new business and it will save, time, energy, money and probably tears in the future...as long as you are truly honest with yourself.
2. Just get on with it. Procrastination is a creativity and motivation killer. Second-guessing is not allowed...go with your gut. And if you were truthful with yourself at the start, this should be instinctual (see point 1) and easier than you think.
3. Launch before you're ready because it (and you) will NEVER be completely ready. In fact, you may start to talk yourself out of launching because something doesn't meet your original vision. Or "It's not as good as her business"... or "Am I good enough?" ... or "This is a bad idea."....etc. etc. Don't give your brain the space to seek perfectionism. Good enough is good enough.
4. Be proud to call yourself what you are and say it loud. Repeat after me, "I am a (insert cool business title)." Make friends within your industry, with your customers and with other entrepreneurs. These guys will be your constant cheerleaders and a great source of help and support. They will help you with your direction and to keep moving forward if they share your passion (that pesky point 1 again?!)
5. Don't worry about what people think about you. If it's right, you'll know. And never forget, your family and friends are not necessarily your customers/ clients. In this instance it really is OK to ignore their opinions. They are just worried for you.
If you are true to your passion and values, your people will find you. Cheer at every 'unfollow' and 'unsubscribe' because that means you are getting closer to your true tribe. Why preach to the unconverted if they are not interested in what you believe?
6. Show up. Do your thing every day without fail (and again with the point 1?) to keep that flow going.
There will be days when you accomplish nothing or make mistakes, these days are more important for your business than 'successful' days. They will help you to grow, show you where you need to put in the work or help you see the direction you need to go in.
7. Play the social media game in a way that you love, doesn't feel burdensome and transmits your brand values. Social media in one form or another seems to be here to stay and is a fab way to grow your core audience. Jump on that train!
8. Learn how to brand from the heart. Not just a logo, or brand colours, your core values and ethos are what should drive your business, and this truth will keep you motivated and on track (back to point 1).
9. When you make your first bit of money, show your biz some love and pay other people just like you to help. Think about your own skills and the time available, then outsource to your heart's content. Logo design (mine is by veraverita.com), website creation, content creation, accountant, social media help, branding, take training courses, find a coach. These can all be deducted for tax right?
10. Enjoy the journey. You will change, you will become empowered. People will be pleased for you, and excited but also envious that you are living your best life. Get ready for the roller-coaster. It's a great ride!
In summary, see Point 1.
Victoria Close from Bikudesigns talks kimono, business, Japanese design, life in Tokyo and all the things she loves.