Entrepreneurship is a dream for many women. Earning money by being your own boss explains why our Facebook feeds overflow with products sold by women trying to catch a piece of this world for themselves. Owning your own business is a source of pride fueled by fresh ideas, determination and surprisingly more work than if you were working for someone else.
I, too, had the entrepreneurial flame burn inside of me years ago.
Engaged to be married, I was high on love and all the parties that celebrate it. Pre-Pinterest, if you wanted to be inspired for a party you had to search individual websites. A decade ago, there were around 20 blogs dedicated to party planning. I had one of those blogs, Head of the Table. Writing a blog about party planning was fun but not a moneymaker. I dreamed of quitting my day job and making Head of the Table my full-time career.
Not wanting to compete with established party planners in my city, I decided to create a business model for something that didn’t exist in the area—boutique party rental, a company created for hostesses to rent unique and colorful plates, stemware and utensils to fit their party’s theme. Think bamboo forks for a luau dinner party and pink polka dot plates for a bridal shower.
My finance husband and business-minded father supported me as I wrote a business plan, obtained an LLC, created an intricate website and filled a 2-inch-thick binder full of paperwork. Legitimate businesses don’t open overnight. It took me more than a year to set my dream in motion. Hanging over me was how I was going to pay for it.
When I married a man who would support my dreams, I made the best decision of my life. When I asked him to finance my company, it was the worst request I could have asked of him. He saw how hard I had been working and felt my passion to open a business. He gave me $15,000 of his savings to start up.
I filed to close my business and began liquidating my inventory.
I didn’t quit my day job when Head of the Table Rentals opened for business. I was still bringing in a steady paycheck, but it also meant that I was dedicating my time and energy elsewhere. Business ownership needs as much, if not more, attention as a full-time job. Every moment of my free time needed to be dedicated to promoting, nourishing and running the business.
And then I got pregnant.
Nothing brings free time to a screeching halt quite like having a baby. I became a stay-at-home mom, as our family adjusted to living on a single paycheck. The business hadn’t taken off like I envisioned, and now I couldn’t use our limited income on things like advertising, which was essential to growing and thriving in that industry.
My infant son began accompanying me on the few rental deliveries that were booked, his little pumpkin seat saddled between racks of stemware and salad plates. Life shifted focus from a passion for parties to the commitment of childrearing. My company didn’t just take a back seat to my new full-time job as a mom—it got stuffed in the trunk.
When I got pregnant with our second child, I could no longer devote even the little time I was attempting to give the business. I filed to close my business and began liquidating my inventory. I made back about $5,000 of the $15,000 we had invested. The remaining $10,000 was gone along with my pride.
Guilt piled on my failure. Disappointment piled on humility.
Personally, using our own money was a mistake.
I've obsessed about what happened and hope you'll learn from me. If you decide to go for it and launch a business, just do yourself a favor and keep in mind what I wish I had done differently:
1. Start slowly
While I wanted to carve out a niche in my market, I should have done so slowly. Establishing myself, not just my blog, in my area could have gone a long way in making the connections needed to start up a business. Instead, I was trying to establish my business in the market and myself in the industry.
2. Research interest
I wanted to use my service and thought everyone else would, too. What I failed to do was ask anyone besides my family and friends. Other industry professionals should have been leveraged as resources.
3. Rework the business plan
Business plans are essential to owning any business. If you’re selling something right now, even if it’s through direct sales, take the time to write a business plan. My mistake was not going back to my business plan and revising it once my life changed and my initial goals weren’t achieved.
4. Explore funding options
Personally, using our own money was a mistake. I should have spent more time looking for alternative forms of funding. However, self-funding is a viable option and a consideration by many entrepreneurs.
I am in awe of women who run their own businesses, big or small, defying the odds. If you own a business or you’re considering opening a business, I applaud you. This world is better because of people like you. One day I may be one of those entrepreneurs again, starting a new business with fresh ideas and determination.
And some really big lessons learned.
Kim Mower is a stay-at-home mom of three young children. She writes to avoid cleaning. Sometimes she tweets @a_housewife but most of her day is spent caring for her children who demand things like food and attention.
Photographs by Kim Mower