My 5 biggest Business Successes and fails
What I’m most proud of starting a business at 18
When I was around 12 years old I knew I wanted to be Self-Employed as a carpenter. All these years, from 12–18 I’ve been waiting for that time I was allowed to start my own business. Within the first week of me turning 18, I did just that. Tiny House Belgium was born. One and a half year later I want to reflect on 5 big business successes and what I would do differently. Before I start I want to mention that I’m really bad at talking about things I have done in the past. The reality for me is that what I have done is in no way what I want to reach in my life, so I talk about it like it wasn’t a big deal. My roommates convinced me to share more of what that one year of running my own business was like and I made a list of 5 things I’m the proudest of and some things I would now do differently.
1 Staring a business without a loan
Starting a business without a loan is not something that happens a lot anymore these days, but for me it came kind of naturally. First of all, as a high-school and University drop out, wanting to start a business selling a product no one in Belgium had ever heard off, it wouldn’t have been easy to get a loan anyway. And 2and, I had been practicing woodworking since I was 9 and with every penny I had from that point on, I invested in machines, which is the biggest expense in starting a Tiny House Business. Before I started my business, I had every tool I needed, valued at 15,000$. That’s a big expense to do in one go, but spread over 9 years, it’s not so bad. I was also very lucky that my cousin Reinout paid the rent for the workshop. A 600$ expense every month. I only had to pay for the space I was using during the time a Tiny House would be there and not in between, so no overhead there.
I also did not legally start a business or hired anyone. I was self-employed and used a few Sub-contractors again to not have overhead and to not have to deal with big legal expanses a corporation would have. This wasn’t meant to be a long term solution but it work really well for the time I used it.
2 Building up community
Besides building and selling actual Tiny Houses, my main focus was on promoting Tiny Houses, but also just smaller and smarter living solutions in general. I wanted to bring awareness to how we are using housing as investments in our future (which I think is total bullshit) and how we build bigger and bigger houses with less and less people in it (link). I attempted bringing a group of people together to bring awareness to the issue and to bring the issue up to the legislators (because living in a Tiny Houses is in Belgium technically illegal). I did succeed in the first part, bringing people together. But it’s interesting to me how people handled the issue. A few core members didn’t want to do anything before their was a legal structure around our group, like a non-profit. I didn’t want to do that yet because 1, that would bring overhead costs, legal cost and most importantly, a lot of time.
So I let them take over. They now, one year later, exist as a legal non-profit, spend a bunch of money, but haven’t done or at least achieved anything. It’s interesting to me how people care about little details like that instead of putting there head down, doing the work or even just get started. This brings me to one thing I would have done differently. I now think a lot about handling situations in the past differently, just like this one. Maybe I could have stayed longer and actually got some things done. I now know that the most important thing you have to figure out before you start a business is who the people are around you. The first 5 people in your company are the people that build your company and your culture, so make sure they’re the right people.
3 Running for a year without losing money
This one is something I’m now really grateful for. Running a company that builds stuff, there are a lot of overhead costs such as, renting a workshop, buying tools, having materials in stock… The fact that I didn’t go red had to do with two main things:
- I didn’t need capital to start because I already had everything I needed to start. For the past 9 years I had invested everything I’dd made into machinery and learning new techniques.
- My main focus wasn’t to build a big, highly profitable, business. I had the choice to hire people a lot and maybe should have done so, but I never did knowing that Tiny House Belgium wasn’t my end goal.
4 Turning a difficult client into a friend
Customer service was probably the biggest skill I improved in, or at least learned about. It’s something you can’t really prepare for, you just have to experience it. My biggest frustration was E-mails. E-mails from people asking the same questions over and over, every startups nightmare. The challenge is to think in the way your client, prospect client, thinks. Once you get to that place everything starts to go a whole lot better. You just have to treed them as you want to be treaded yourself. There is not really a secret to it, this is just what it is…
5 I found my love for Marketing
Sharing story is something I’ve always done. Since I got into woodworking I’ve always shared my projects with my friends and family. I couldn’t stop making websites and posting on Facebook. Lather on I also started on Instagram and Youtube. Sharing an experience makes it twice as valuable. I never really thought about the importance of marketing till a few months ago after I quit Tiny House Belgium. Now my mission is to work in Marketing and Branding here in New York City. You can find more about that here:
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