3 Things I Learned from Becoming an Entrepreneur

Rachel Khona
Dec 27, 2019 · 5 min read
I’m really enjoying my hair in this pic

I t all started with sticky notes me and my then-boyfriend would leave for each other. He would leave notes like “I love you more than all the stars in the Universe” and I would leave notes like “I want your P in my V”. I started collecting phrases in my phone for future sticky note usage.

Unfortunately he turned out to be a turd.

His very last sticky note[1] was left in my apartment with a box of my stuff saying, “this isn’t going to work”.

There was only one problem, I had a stash of potential phrases on my phone. Now what?! I couldn’t just leave them sitting there. I had a virtual goldmine of romantic penis jokes in my iPhone. One day when I was watching Oprah learning how to be my best self it dawned on me — why don’t I take my stockpile of sassy phrases saved on my phone and turn them into greeting cards? And poof! Crimson and Clover Studio[2] was born.

At first, I just put some cards on Etsy just to see what would happen. Soon things started to snowball. From one sale a week I went to multiple sales a day, a feature in Cosmopolitan, then my first store account. Okurrrrr! Within 2 years I was able to quit my job and go ham on Crimson and Clover full-time.

Unfortunately that’s when things got S-E-R-I-O-U-S. I went from doing something for the sheer enjoyment of it to “THIS MUST SUCCEED OR I AM AN ABJECT FAILURE, A TERRIBLE SOUTH ASIAN, MY FAMILY WILL THINK I’M A LOSER, AND I NEED MONEY, OMIGOD I QUIT MY JOB.”

See how fun that energy is? I spent my time reading traditional books on entrepreneurship and drawing up all sorts of plans and whatnots. But turns out being a business owner is about more than just spreadsheets and goal setting.

Obvs that stuff is important too. But without heart, you’ll end up just spinning in circles like a hamster on a wheel. Or a dog trying to get that dingleberry off its butt. As much as I wanted to Capricorn claw my way to the top, I began to plateau. I would enviously look at competitors and wonder what they had that I didn’t. I’d spend every waking hour working to the bone only to see minimal effect. What started out as a labor of love turned into a desperate attempt to prove that I was worthy and that I could make money from something as frivolous as butt jokes.

You may not have a deep drive to prove yourself to a snarky family of doctors (and lawyers and engineers, but who’s paying attention?) but you may have your own set of pressures. Your own insecurities and little voices in your head that tell you you’re not good enough and neither is your business. And that my friend, while motivating to an extent, is ultimately (in my experience) a death knell. Now you’re working from insecurity and lack rather than confidence and abundance. On that note, here’s what I learned from starting my own business.

FOCUS ON GIVING RATHER THAN RECEIVING

Initially I just wanted to make people laugh. But after I quit, I was so obsessed with scoring a sale, I paid less attention to what my customers might want. I found social media to be a chore. It was until I started meditating for an hour everyday it dawned on me that I was approaching this entirely wrong. I shifted my mental focus from “what can I get?” to “what can I give?” I started including freebies in each package, doing giveaways, and pumped up my Insta. Not only did retail sales increase, but so did wholesale. And a few months later, a major retailer (Nordstrom, NBD) came to me interested in placing an order. Coincidence? As much of a coincidence as the time I asked the Universe if my ex still loved me and I ran into him at the store. So clearly, not at all.

YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IN YOUR PRODUCT BEFORE ANYONE ELSE DOES

When I first started, my friends and family thought I just had a little hobby. A grumpy old man on LinkedIn told me I should tone down the curse words and sexual innuendos.[3] Numerous sales reps rejected me. My old sales rep wasn’t too keen on me starting a candle lineup. Two hundred plus stores later, I’ve proven all these hoes wrong.

But it wasn’t always like that. I used to put more stock in what others think than my own gut instincts. I would question my instincts thinking perhaps they knew more than I did. I would think getting into a certain store or getting a certain sales rep meant I was valid. And while that’s pretty cool, I realized the primary motivation had to be creating something I thought was funny. And then aligning myself with people who understood the vision. Not getting someone to tell me I was worth it and then designing a product. That’s some desperado shit and inauthentic. My first lineup of candles wasn’t the ideal, but I tweaked it until I knew I hit something. The sexual innuendo cards ended up being some of my best sellers.

STOP COMPARING

I know, I know. You’ve heard this before. But do you really get what that means? I didn’t. Comparison is just a facet of scarcity mindset. I used to feel threatened when I saw a competitor in a store I wasn’t in. Or if they had more social media followers. Or basically lived. It was a waste of fucking energy and did nothing to help my mindset. There is room for everyone. And even if there wasn’t, why bother focusing on scarcity? It’s far more productive to focus on your own vision. There is no one else 100% like you or your brand so why not double down on your voice?

To quote one of my spirit animals, Dolly Parton, “find out who you are and do it on purpose.” I shifted to bringing more of “me” into the brand and I immediately felt a change. I had more energy to bring to work. I felt more inspired. Sure we all have some crossover, but are there many other brands that have a Butt Stuff candle that smells like chocolate? I think not.

Follow on IG at @crimsonandclover_studio and/or @rachelkhona


[1] Yes, this dodo broke up with me on a fucking sticky note. He claimed to have never watched “Sex and the City,” but I highly doubt that.

[2] Nope, not named after the Tommy and the Shondells song. But bonus points if you can figure out which song without Google.

[3] Which of course is exactly what women (especially women of color) are looking for. More white men telling us how to do something.

Rachel Khona

Written by

I argued with a ghost once. Likes: singing off key, brie and wine. Credits: Playboy, NYT, Cosmo, WashPo. IG: @rachelkhona Twitter: @rachelkhona

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