The Only 3 Steps You Need to Start Your Business
“Seriously, how do chicks wear this stuff without looking wack?” Here we are crackling through the store like we have no home training. This is the very question we asked as we sifted through the clothing racks at Ross. I could see people staring at us as we laughed and joked. Women pushing carts around looking down on us as if we were too bourgeois to be in the store.
Truth is we loved a good discount store. We weren’t too good to shop in Ross, Marshall, T.J. Maxx or even the DAV Thrift store. Lets be clear, no matter how frugal we were, our pride was all to thick to wear anything we didn’t think looked good. And in the back of our minds we often thought dated, off-brand clothes would be much more appealing if they were styled better. Little did we know, a random shopping trip would spark a creative collective between four friends.
Days later, we discovered ourselves chatting again about what we’d do if we’d been given the chance to make style and buying decisions at discount store. After a subtle push from my friend’s dad, we decided to stop joking about it and be about it.
How could we integrate vintage off-brand clothing with our existing wardrobe in an affordable yet fashionable way?
This question was my very first taste of entrepreneurship.
I was a second year community college student trying to find my place in the world. It was Christmas of 2010 when our ‘question’ became a reality, Craze: a vintage thrift boutique that catered to the everyday college girl. We looked around and realized no one was doing what we were doing in our area. We understood that “vintage” was in. Going to the thrift store and finding your weekly outfits was now cool and the people around us welcomed our idea.
Craze started at a kitchen table with 4 friends who had a vision to solve a problem and make something that was bigger than themselves. From December of 2010 to August of 2011 we’d kept our dream under-wraps. We’d meet weekly, splitting tasks amongst the 4 of us and diligently building a solid foundation for our company.
The beginning phase primarily involved strategy, planning and research. Each one of us brought a unique set of experience and skills to the effort. I was the solution-oriented optimist; always searching for a lesson in every setback and thinking of ways to make us better.
Here’s the best part: we had no idea what we were doing. Business plans, legal documents, accounting, inventory, customer satisfaction and marketing were all skills we developed along that way. All we had was passion and that alone pulled us down the satisfying road of entrepreneurship. Little did we know we were following a simple yet effect business model: the lean startup.
Bottom line: passion, hard work and strategy bridge the gap between having a hobby and a running a successful business.
As soon as our idea came, we began to act on it. We wrote everything we wanted to accomplish down. The ideas were flowing so well that by the end of the first month we had developed four divisions to our company: fashion, events, production and promotion. Clearly we had the most going on. After seeing how complex our business was becoming, we scaled down and decided that fashion would be our only focus.
After months of grinding in the dark, it was time for us to pre-launch the business to a trusted group of family, friends and peers in the fashion industry. We curated a pop up shop featuring the collection to be released Fall of 2011. This event validated our idea.
It wasn’t until we presented Craze in front of our peers that we really knew we were on to something. It was clear, the people wanted what we were offering.
We understood that successful businesses served others and it was important to us to be of service to our customers and community.
By the end of the event three things happened:
- We established ourselves as the go to girls on all things fashion e-commerce
- We gained insights on how we could make improvements to our business model before the big launch
- We hit a milestone and it was something for us to celebrate
If you ask me, I don’t look at the ending of Craze as a failure but rather a learning experience. We had great success, more than we ever thought to be honest. But more importantly we learned how to start, develop and run a business all while with being ethical, logical and effective.
Success shouldn’t always be quantified through material or monetary gain but rather embraced as a feeling.
We had a successful launch event, sales increased, operated a reputable black owned business and became recognized as leaders and innovators within our community. And to top it all off, we sponsored the hottest party in 757 in 2012. And yes, this indeed was an accomplishment.
Craze had a good run; but now we’re on to Rituale. Just like then, we’re following the simple principles of the lean startup method: build, measure and learn.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be breaking down the steps needed to get your business off the ground. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freelancer or looking to start your own company, the process is all the same.
- I’ll break down in detail each step: build, measure and learn
- I’ll provided resources to support you along the way
- I’ll give specific strategies on how you can get started NO
- And much more
In the meantime, I want you to leave a comment and answer this one simple question:
Do you believe you can build and sustain a successful business?
- If yes, what type of business are you in? What’s your definition of success? Describe it in detail, and explain how having your own business will support that?
- If no, tell me more. I still want to know your definition of success. What type of business are you in? And what’s holding you back from achieving success?
One more thing:
I’m still putting this content together right now. So, if you’ve got any specific questions about freelancing or starting your own company, leave a comment asking your question, and I may be able to work it into this series.