In 2019, I quit a well-paying job as a content strategist to “start a business”.
And I did.
But that business shut shop within the next three months.
Why and how did I go from charting out a plan and investing money to shutting shop within the next few weeks?
Let me tell you.
The “business” idea
I was working with a leading travel platform in India at the time. Before I put in my papers, I spent a few weeks planning the entire concept. It wasn’t a profound idea, nothing that was going to “change the world”.
I wanted to sell jewelry. I knew there was a niche market for it on Instagram, which is where I planned to set up the store.
I didn’t want to get into the whole e-commerce hassle yet.
I narrowed it down further and decided to have earrings as my main category. I found several stores on Instagram re-selling jewelry, but none of them had only earrings. At least not in my area.
Also, I love earrings and I thought it was the perfect market because everyone loves earrings. This is not a very wild assumption, but as you will find out later, that’s not how you should make business decisions.
Then I went to online marketplaces to try and find jewelry manufacturers. I did end up getting in touch with several. Set up a meeting with a few. Designed my label, the jewelry boxes. And within about a week of making the decision, I had already placed orders for all the inventory.
Setting up the shop
Once I had the plan charted out, I put in my papers and got to work.
Setting up a store on Instagram, as you might have guessed, takes a lot of visual work. You play the role of a seller, marketer, photographer, editor, designer, and more.
I worked hard for about two weeks to click pictures of everything in my inventory. I was also the model in some of these so I had to take the help of a friend to take my pictures. I edited and saved them to post at regular intervals.
It was already a lot of work because I was on my notice period with the company I was working with. That didn’t leave a lot of time to do anything else.
Once I had all the material ready, it was time to launch the shop. I created a schedule and got to it. And I even got a few orders, enough to make back my initial investment (which wasn’t much, to begin with).
I carried on the charade for several weeks, getting 3–5 orders every week. It wasn’t a lot but I was getting by. The feedback was good too.
But as time went by, I found myself investing less and less energy and effort into the business. I stopped responding to messages. I delayed sending out orders and stopped creating new content altogether.
Eventually, it fizzled out. I stopped talking to anyone about it. I dodged all questions about it. Over time people stopped asking.
Why did this happen?
After about six months of being absent from the shop, I acknowledged that my business was over.
I started looking back on the things that had gone wrong and why I stopped caring. Here were my main takeaways:
If you’re trading time for money, it’s not yet a business
It’s just another income source like a job or a freelance project.
You get as many rewards as the hours you put in. This became clear very early on. I was spending up to 10 hours a day creating content, packing and shipping orders, and then coming back to repeat the cycle.
I used to think that as long as I was my own boss, anything I was doing was a “business”. But the more I learn about entrepreneurship and running a business, the more I realize that unless you can scale it, you’re going to be stuck in a monetary loop.
It won’t last if money is the only driving force
My primary objective with this shop was to have a source of revenue before I quit my job. I had always wanted to do something on my own but I had never quite figured out what it was going to be.
As I came across jewelry stores on Instagram, I thought it seemed lucrative enough to put my money on.
That’s it. There was no other aim. And I’ve realized over time that money, more often than not, is not enough of a driving force.
You need to have a vision and plan for growth
Unless you have experience in creating business plans that accommodate growth, risks, and everything in between, you’ll find yourself directionless.
I had no experience. I looked up stuff on the internet and decided to create a plan. It was a poor one clearly. I didn’t accommodate for time, sustainability, effort and more importantly — growth.
One of the reasons I believe it fizzled out was because I didn’t have a vision of what it would look like 5 years down the line. Motivation is fleeting. You need to be working towards something so that you can continue working on it.
It’s important to learn how to price your products and services
And it’s not just about how much profit you’re making per sale.
There’s a reason why companies have a varied price range and varying profit margins. It is to accommodate for growth and different types of customers. My prices were based on one thing and one thing alone – whether I was making a 100% profit on the sale or not. This led to some of the prices being exorbitant and therefore those products not selling at all!
Learning content marketing is essential
If you have a brand that primarily sells and markets through social media, you need to understand the ropes of content marketing.
And no, it’s not the same as content creation. Selling is a whole different ball game. While I do understand the concepts a lot better now, back then I had no idea what I was doing.
Customer experience is key
This is one thing I can say I did right for the business. Customer experience is important regardless, but if you’re a small-scale business, it becomes essential.
For my jewelry brand that meant personalizing the experience for each customer. I had handwritten notes and gifts and this helped me grow a loyal base in a short amount of time. However, doing this in addition to doing EVERYTHING else was overwhelming and quickly became unsustainable.
Running a business takes a number of skills, especially if you’re a solopreneur. The best way to go about it is to try and get a mentor who has been on a similar trajectory before. Now, I run a coaching and consulting program for budding entrepreneurs and before starting this I worked with several mentors who helped me understand the ropes of the industry.
If you’d like help with your small business or just read more about my experiences, you can drop me an email at email@example.com