Written by Jamie Kutchman of  Marigold + Grey

Written by Jamie Kutchman of Marigold + Grey

DREAM BIG, START SMALL 

When you’re a creative and over-the-moon excited about your business, it’s easy to want to take on way too much at once. You have your vision and you want that vision to come to life right NOW. But resist the temptation to do too much at once. When I first launched, I wanted to market Marigold & Grey to all major US cities. But, what has actually worked best is to market to the local area, master our operations, and scale from there. It can save you money and mistakes.

LEAD WITH YOUR HEAD

It may sound strange to tell fellow creatives to lead with their heads rather than their hearts but in most circumstances, this is sound advice. For example, let’s say there a particular tote bag I fall madly in love with and want to begin offering my clients. I reach out to the vendor and they tell me there’s a $3000 order minimum. I have no prior sales for this item and no way of knowing if the market will love it just as much as I do. And even if I DO get orders for the bag, it probably won’t be $3000 worth which means I’d be sitting on extra inventory that may never move. In this situation, I may have to forget about this perfect, amazing, gorgeous tote bag and instead pursue another one that makes more sense to me and my business model. Not the fun choice but the right one!

FIND YOUR NICHE

Know your audience. Before you even start your company, have a clear idea of who you’re selling to, what problem you plan to solve, and don’t try to be everything to everyone. You’ll run yourself into the ground trying to make every single opportunity work. This will create inefficiencies, eat away at profit and dilute your brand. It may seem risky to have a narrow focus or turn business away but, in the end, you’ll have a well-defined brand and clear message which will, in turn, attract the ideal clients.

HAVE AN ELEVATOR PITCH

You may be saying to yourself “Well, I’m a creative so this doesn’t apply to me.” Or, “I just rebranded and have a gorgeous website that my clients love so I don’t need to be salesy”. Or, “I get tons of leads from Instagram so I never make pitches in-person.” But after existing in the corporate world and now successfully crossing over to the creative world, I’m here to emphatically say that YOU are the single most important factor in determining the sales success (or failure) of your business. As a creative, you have an advantage over most. You were born with a gift. Whether it’s floral design or calligraphy or event planning or watercolors or fine art photography or blogging or something else. It’s what makes you who you are and the story behind your unique gift is your biggest selling point. Practice consolidating the problem your business solves and the “why” behind you starting the business into 2-3 sentences. Make sure you’re ready to comfortably deliver your pitch both in-person and in writing.

THE NON-GLAMOROUS IS NECESSARY

Anyone who knows me well, knows I struggle with this one so here’s a little “do as I say, not as I do”. Accounting, bookkeeping, taxes, and paperwork make me nauseous. I despise doing them and, as a result, always seem to be behind. After almost a year in business, my inability to focus on these areas is catching up with me, and I finally understand the importance of running a tight ship. Even though you’re following your passion and may not love the admin side of the business, you MUST focus on it or you run the risk of not having a business at all. Call an accountant and set up a meeting. Try out a few different bookkeeping programs and find the best one for you. Hire a part-time assistant, virtual or in-person. Devote a certain time each week to knock out the paperwork yourself. Find whichever works best for you and do it sooner rather than later.

WELCOME ALL FEEDBACK

Let’s face it. There’s nothing worse than hearing negative feedback. As creatives, our craft is often a big piece of our identity and so criticism feels personal. I challenge you to welcome all feedback, whether it be good, bad or lukewarm. Also, don’t sit back and wait on reviews. Reach out and directly ask your clients for their honest opinion. Explain that you sincerely want to make your business the best it can be. Feedback from the market is valuable, real-life information that you can use to improve upon your business and help to better solve your clients’ problems. It may be a blow to the ego, but can also be a boost to your business!

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  1. Jeff says:

    Marigold & Grey, very good advice! You have done a great job in identifying a few broad areas, critical to the success of startups. I love the way you intertwined traditional business concepts with personal story telling to help me relate my business challenges to your advice.

    Thank you
    Jeff W

  2. Sara Jones says:

    Jamie, thanks so much for this inspiring article! Love your words of wisdom and positivity, and your gift baskets are so gorgeous!! I’m an aspiring small business owner and struggling to make the leap. I’m terrified of giving up my steady income and venturing off-the-beaten path. Would you recommend having a certain amount saved up and set aside before starting a biz? Or starting a biz part-time while working a traditional job? Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks again for everything that you do 🙂

    Sara

  3. Hi Sara, just now seeing your comment! Your question is a great one, and one that SO many aspiring business owners struggle with. For me, I tried for a brief period to do both but wasn’t able to advertise my business or have a social media presence for fear that my employer would fire me on the spot. So, it became clear to me that I needed to take the plunge 100% and find a way to make my business idea work. I did have money saved up from my previous career to fund the business (branding, web development, legal, etc) so that was already in place. But I also had to make drastic changes in my lifestyle. i.e. no more travel or recreational spending whatsoever. I’m adjusting fairly well because I wanted the business to work more than anything. Also, when you don’t have any other forms of income coming in, you have a sense of urgency to succeed that you might not otherwise have. However, if you CAN keep your traditional job and build your business at the same time without getting fired, it would be wise to bank as much cash as you can. Things are always more expensive than you realize and the savings account can deplete quickly. So without me knowing your particulars, I can’t advise you on finances but can only share my circumstances in hopes that it offers you some insight. I wish you all the very best!!!

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