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I’m presently in the final stages of getting my business together, but it wasn’t all a simple process. When I was starting to look for information on how to get myself together, I found a stunning lack ofhelpfulresources for young’uns and those with zero experience. It was all legal jargon, technical terms. References to bills and documents that made my head hurt. There were also surprisingly few people that could give me pointers on where tostartthe business idea. Plenty of people that could help when I had the ball rolling, but taking those first few steps was damn near impossible.
After much research, I eventually worked out that there was no simple way to do things. It basically boiled down to “fake it until you make it”. This is what I went through to try and get my business up and happening.
The best place to start is to work out if you have something - be it skills, a product or otherwise - that that other people want or need. What are you good at? Where to do your skills lie? I loved making things. Jewellery was heaps of fun. I also had a lot of experience with leather work thanks to my history in the medieval movement. I loved sewing, tapestry, woodwork… Everything seemed to be heading in the right direction for a business. I had already proved as a hobby that I was capable of these things.
Once you’ve worked out what it is you can do, ask yourself if you can sustain this skill or product. Do you have the ability to stick to this idea and see it to term, even if it only lasts a matter of months, or is still going ten years later? Often in the heat of excitement, we forget to look ahead. I had to take a step back and ask myself “This is fun now, but will I be able to stick to it?” Will I be able to find this fun with all the stress of a business, demands of clients and markets and all the book keeping? Can I physically keep this up?
There are so many things you need to ask yourself at the end of the day. You also have to consider money and location and a dozen other things. How are you going to start a business if you can’t afford to get it registered or you don’t have the space?
After a few months of toying with the idea, I had a business concept and I started my test marketing. I made a few sets of jewellery, a few leather items and a few odds and ends and set myself up at a market. Bearing in mind that most markets require you have your own public liability insurance, it was difficult to find a starting point. My very first stall came with the help of my adoptive Dad as he was organising an event and had a spare spot. It was a tiny little card table less than 1x1m and I had the flu from hell. The wind chill outside was -4’c and I was a 4 hour drive from home, but god I loved every moment of it. By the end of the weekend I had sold two items. One was a little necklace with a brass pendant. I sold that on the Saturday for $12. My first sale ever. I was over the moon.
To cut the story short, I was so excited by my two sales that I overlooked the cost of petrol to get to the event, the money invested in making the products, my time and a whole other range of business-related things. I was just excited by the fact that people wanted to buy my stuff. Over the next few months, I started selling a few things online. It was mostly hit-and-miss, as with everything in the early days, but I did answer a few very important questions.
Would people buy my stuff? Yes. That was the short answer. I needed a lot of publicity and marketing for people to know who I was and what I sold, but that was a matter for later.
Was it fairly priced? In hindsight, I can say that I did (and still do) have issues with underpricing my product. One of my many goals was to make the concept of Steampunk available to people, particularly those of low income. I need to constantly remind myself about keeping myself clothed, too :P
Who else was out there in the market? I can not stress enough how important it is to do your research in this area. If you’re looking at starting a craft business like myself, go to craft fairs, ask questions, research online sellers on facebook and etsy. Check out what other people are selling. All of these people can either be alias or your biggest competition. Get to know your market.
Once I got this far, I applied to be part of the NEIS (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme) which would walk me through the rest of the process. I’m presently in the process of completing my Cert 4 in Small Business Management and I can not express how useful it has been to me. I was walked through the process of writing up a business plan, working out financial tables, learned what I was legally required to do to get everything ready to go AND I get 12 months of mentoring once I get the business up and happening.
The biggest issue I’m having right now is the paperwork. There is nothing quite like the joys of dealing with local council. I’ve spent the last three days trying to get a Development Application approved because I want to list a residential address as a business address. No change to the property, no customers on site (‘tis all online and at markets) and the property isn’t rented. So, after three days of phone calls from one department to another (See: One dpt says I need form X but knows nothing about it, passes me on to another who says I need to speak to Q) I finally went into the office. Braving crazy temperatures, mental drivers and gale winds, I showed up looking more than a little frazzled. After ten minutes of explaining the situation to the poor girl behind the counter, and more research after that, it was eventually concluded that I didn’t need the form in the first place and that I was entirely exempt from the paperwork I had been hounded about. Suffice to say I was glad to eventually get home.
Thankfully, that’s it for now. I shall keep this blog updated with all the fun and games direct from The Tattered Tower.
So, it turns out I’m averagving a sale a month. This is terribly exciting for someone who’s just starting off!
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