Today’s article is a delicate subject. Delicate, because it’s important to me. I’ve been thinking about this week’s theme for months: and here we are, it’s finally Business Week. I noticed that when we’ve met you at our open house parties or at the Lemonade Shop this past month, you always have lots of questions about having your own businesses. I also feel that every time I’ve written about it, someone else will comment on the article too.
A lot of you ask me how I started… Four years ago, I started a blog while working full time as a designer for a jewelry brand. When the blog started to take off, I made more time for Make My Lemonade. Then I had to start billing, so I had to find a solution- take on the status ‘auto-entrepreneur’. Then I finally quit my job and dove right in.
As a ‘blogger’, I naively didn’t have a business plan because it’s not a typical job. It goes without saying, but if I played handball, I would be a handball player. Since I had a blog, I was a blogger, and this hobby was earning me money…
By the way, here’s how the French Wikipedia defines a blogger:
- A person who uses the Internet as a form of communication to express themselves and shares information on their hobby or area of expertise
Great! It’s not about money, but you might say that if I play handball on Sundays, it’s my hobby. But if I’m ranked and earning money, I’m a professional handball player.
So does that mean that when your hobby starts to earn you money, it’s a career?
You get the idea. My hobby took over in a way I would have never dreamed of. In the beginning, I started Make My Lemonade because I wanted to share my ideas and see if there were any other people out there like me who were looking for inspiration online. I wanted to inspire people too, because at the time, besides in the US, I didn’t understand why in France there were only fashion, food, or travel blogs. I love fashion, food, travel, and making things with my own two hands. That’s who I am, I didn’t want to limit myself. I opened Make My Lemonade because I wanted to do everything. I never told myself “it’s going to work for sure”. I told myself that if I didn’t try, I would regret it. I wanted to see where it would go. Then one year later, I started to work on the blog and its’ projects full time.
Deep down, I didn’t know what was going to happen. But when I first started working in an office, I thought to myself “it’s going to be so hard to get up to go to work for someone else”… I tried to convince myself that I could, but I just couldn’t push the thought out of my mind. I didn’t enjoy going to work. I felt like I was either failing my blog or my work and I didn’t want to have to choose between the two. I got started.
After talking about it with my friends, I realized that a lot of them knew that they would work for themselves one day too but they were waiting for a sign. For others, it was almost like a survival instinct because of awful work environments, tyrannical bosses, etc…I don’t think there are any particular rules, kind of like surfing. Paddle, paddle, paddle, slide, and then when you feel the wave coming, you get up. Starting your own business is also like following your instincts.
When I first started, I didn’t have a lot of overhead. I just used my couch, but soon I realized that besides help, I needed a place to spread out and not stay in my pajamas until 5PM. This was the start of the Lemonade Studio on rue de Jeûneurs.
Then Charlotte came to join me on my couch. We were getting more and more work. Then Jeanne came along and we seriously started to feel cramped because at the time we were roommates… but we kept going. We made lots of different things, and we made them well. But I dreamt of being elsewhere. I dreamt of my first love, fashion. But it was difficult because I didn’t really know if I had something new to offer to the oversaturated market. So I started thinking, trying to find “the big idea”. Offer fashion already made, or to make yourself, DIY! Wear Lemonade was still just a sweet dream when I met Laure, designer and patternmaker… but in order to pay for producing clothes, I needed money. I could have gone to the bank to ask for a loan, but I had never done that all alone. Instead I contacted “investors”- friends who had money to invest and time to spare to guide me. These kind friends worked online and in fashion, and sometimes both. Bam, Wear Lemonade was born.
You know the rest, we try lots of things, we learn, we adjust. The team has really grown. Today, there are seven of us- it makes my head spin just to think about it. But how nice it is for all of us to be headed in the same direction…
You have to know that the creative part of my job is no longer a part of my daily life. My day-to-day schedule is taking care of business. I have to keep my end goal in sight, find great ideas, and take care of problems. Or rather I have to find great ideas so I can reach my end goal, dodging obstacles in the way of my dreams. Taking care of business!
Even if you have the dream team, your business will encounter big problems! When an order gets lost somewhere in France without a tracking number, when the products finally arrive but they’re the wrong color, when the providers don’t answer the phone anymore, when people don’t take you seriously because you’re young and you’re a woman, when the post office has server problems, when you yourself have computer problems, when all of a sudden there’s a packing box shortage, when you have to find 150 missing invoices for book keeping, when you
have to deal with your team’s different attitudes, when you have to deal with yourself and lack of sleep, well you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get to work, because in the end, when your team can’t figure out the problem, you’ve have to so the ship won’t sink!
Despite everything I just said, you have to learn to delegate work. Right now, that’s not easy for me to do. No one is a super hero. Even if I like the idea of it, it’s impossible. I think that the hardest part is explaining everything I have in mind and helping my team understand my ideas. It’s clear in my head, and I think it might be for everyone else, but no! Communication and sharing are really things that I have to work on…
You should know that I’ve never liked numbers. After being practically threatened by my accountant, last week I had to install Excel on my computer. Now don’t go thinking that I hate it, but I don’t like tables and mathematics. My low high school test scores can prove it to you. But if you want your small business to work, you’ve just got to do it, and the sooner the better. It’s important to understand what you’re doing so that you can amaze your banker and get that loan to finance your Lemonade Truck. Numbers and your balance sheet won’t lie.
Even if I seem to be struggling with management problems and numbers are driving me crazy… it’s really great to get up in the morning to go work on your own projects, getting a little closer to achieving your goals and seeing the people around you grow!
Anyways, I was nervous about telling you about my business life, giving you a few tips and tricks on what’s what, in what order, and with who this week. I’d like to introduce you to women that inspire me too. I was lucky enough to interview my lovely accountant who tries to make things easy to understand, to give you some advice as to what kind of business to set up. There are things you can to do improve your resume, make your business cards nicer, and do well in interviews. We’ve spoken with the best: accountants, HR reps, paper specialists, and most importantly, a bunch of amazing business women! We’ve even put together a playlist for doing your accounting, check it out tomorrow!
If you’re interested and you’d like to learn more, here are some fantastically inspirational books:
- Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, to get you really going.
- Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso, for dreaming…
- Back Pack édition 2.2 by Maddyness and La petite étoile, a true guide!
- Tous créatifs ! A Guide to Creative Thinking and Problem Solving, by John Ingledew, for good ideas.
- L’âge de la Multitude, by Armand Colin, to help you understand.
Translated by Whitney Bolin