Things That Keep Us Up At Night: Entrepreneur Anxiety

LuckyBreak-EntepreneurAnxiety1

Each year, I invite my clients to participate in the Lucky Break client survey. I ask you all sorts of things: about your business, about where you turn for advice, about how confident you feel in various aspects of your business, and about what biggest piece of entrepreneur anxiety is keeping you awake at night.

 

Several hundred people rose to the occasion this year (thank you!) and I wanted to share some of the responses with you. Why? Because so very many of us are lying awake with worry/ fear/ overwhelm at night, and there’s a surprising amount of commonality in what plagues us. Entrepreneurship is damn hard and sometimes I don’t think we talk about that enough.  In my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve often taken comfort in community, talking about the “hard stuff” and realizing that my worries and failures are well-tilled ground among the small business set. In fact, that’s the reason that I started a consulting company- to help us connect to one another, pull back the curtain on running a product-centered brand, dish “no b.s.” business advice, and help others benefit from the 3,719 mistakes I’ve made as an entrepreneur.

 

Entrepreneur Anxiety

 

I sifted through hundreds of survey answers to discover that the vast majority of replies fell under one of five main “umbrellas.” Below you’ll find some direct-from-our-mouths answers about what’s rumbling across the brain waves at 1am. The responses are purposefully provided without any identifying information, because the replies could easily have come from any of us!

 

ENTREPRENEUR ANXIETY + FEAR OF FAILURE + JEOPARDIZING OUR FAMILIES

  • Fear holding me back every step of the way. Worried that I’ll waste my family’s money on a failed attempt at entrepreneurship.
  • Every-frigging-thing.
  • Worrying that I’ll fail.
  • Not getting this company I’ve worked so hard for off the ground and where I want it to be.
  • Wondering if it’s all worth it.
  • Are my products good enough?
  • Family balance.
  • Should I continue this business or shut it down? Is it adding to or taking away from my life?
  • Managing anxiety, and managing unfounded doubts about potential success and failure when taking risks.
  • Imposter syndrome.

Mercy… that’s is a heavy list, isn’t it? I put it forward because I think these are the anxieties that constantly dance through our heads, but so rarely roll forth from our mouths. But there is comfort in the commonality… you aren’t alone. You’re not the only one facing that fear, white-knuckling it, and sweating it out.  In my experience (and in the experience of the majority of my consulting clients), struggle is at the very core of entrepreneurship.  But there’s a tremendous beauty in challenging ourselves, pushing outside our comfort zones, and taking a risk. It’s never easy and rarely boring, but there’s almost nothing else I’d rather do with my life at this point.

 

Here’s my advice…

 

Nervous energy isn’t your friend. And I say that as someone whose first grade teacher gave her a book about anxiety at the ripe old age of 6. I’ve ultimately realized that all energy is either productive or destructive, and anxiety is massively destructive energy. That doesn’t mean that we should go running off of cliffs blindfolded in the name of courage. We shouldn’t ignore our gut, but it’s wise to be aware of (and attuned to) our nervous energy. Once we’ve made a decision, stand confidently in those decisions.  Don’t give into panic or stagnation or the negative narrative that your mind wants to produce. Becoming more self-aware is an essential building block of business success.

One of my favorite books to read to steady myself and help me pay attention to the negative narratives that run on a loop in my head is Rising Strong by Brene Brown.  It’s a good read and I hope you might find some value in it, too.

 

LuckyBreak-EntepreneurAnxiety2

 

Impostor syndrome is real.  And we all suffer from it. I don’t think there’s any level of success that’s immune from this beast. But the key- I think- is to hear that narrative when it pops up. Be attuned of it, but don’t indulge it. Two things that help me:

  • Keeping a journal of my accomplishments.  Progress is hard to see when it’s incremental and we’re standing so very close to it. But if I keep a notebook nearby (or even a digital note on my smartphone), then I can casually jot down the wins- both large and small- in the moment.  When I feel stagnant and like I’m up against the impossible, I leaf back through those notes and I’m continually reminded of just how far I’ve come.

 

(more…)

The Best Business Books 2018 for Makers + Product Designers

I recently asked the Lucky Break community to chime in with their favorite business books.

  • Beloved books that are brimming with actionable advice.
  • Writing from authentic voices that skip the hype to deliver meaty advice.
  • The best business books that have truly helped propel them forward.

Several hundred of you answered my rallying cry (thank you!) and I wanted to share the best small business books that makers and product designers have found most helpful.

 

BestBusinessBooks

 

My sole aim here is to help you identify solid books that are a good investment of your time and energy, so there are no affiliate links in this list. Each book title  links to Powell’s, the largest independent bookstore in America. Yes, you’ll likely find them cheaper on Amazon… but you’d make me even happier if you hit up your local bookstore. *wink*

 

Author of cult classics The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur offers a simple, counter-intuitive cash management solution that will help small businesses break out of the doom spiral and achieve instant profitability.

 

It’s not how good you are. It’s how well you tell your story.

Big corporations might have huge marketing and advertising budgets but you’ve got a story. Your brand story isn’t just what you tell people. It’s what they believe about you based on the signals your brand sends. The Fortune Cookie Principle is a brand building framework and communication strategy consisting of 20 keys that enable you to begin telling your brand’s story from the inside out. It’s the foundation upon which you can differentiate your brand and make emotional connections with the kind of clients and customers you want to serve.

The most successful brands in the world don’t behave like commodities and neither should you. A great brand story will make you stand out, increase brand awareness, create customer loyalty and power profits. Isn’t it time to gave your customers a story to tell? The Fortune Cookie Principle will show you how.

 


Book2    Book1     Book3
 

(more…)

Where are they now: Harmony Todd of Old Soul Artisan

Slider_1600x

OldSoulArtisan_Logo

 

Are you wondering what happens to my Brick House Branding alumni post-graduation? What they do with the momentum and new-found knowledge? Curious about where they take their businesses in the year following all that hard work?

 

I’m back with another installment in my “Where Are They Now?” series and I’m doing-cartwheels-excited to show you the serious waves my BHB graduates are making!

 

HarmonyTodd

 

Say hello to Harmony of Old Soul Artisan

 

I’m thrilled to kick off this round of catching up with my Brick House Branding graduates with Harmony Todd of Old Soul Artisan. After digging deep in Brick House Branding, Harmony fully embraced her brand’s dark side + emerged with a beautiful, focused brand. Welcome, Harmony! We’re so glad to have you here.

 

Lucky Break:  Why and when did you originally launch your company?

Harmony: I launched Old Soul Artisan in September 2014. I had just finished graduate school and spent the summer evaluating career options that had at one time seemed logical but were now surfacing questions about whether any of them would lead me to the life I wished to have. The cure to some of this anxiety came in the form of creativity by resuming an old hobby I had of making candles. The beginnings of my company were similar to many makers: I made candles for fun, gave them to friends, someone mentioned I should start selling them, and so I did! Within a few weeks I had created a small product line, designed simple labels that I printed at home, and got a booth at the local farmers market.

 

 

Lucky Break:  At what point did you know it was time for a rebrand?

Harmony: By early 2017 I had been in business for a few years and had grown a small following of customers and a handful of wholesale accounts. My business was growing, but very slowly. I was struggling with the feeling of working all the time and some weeks having very little to show for it in my bank account. Most of my sales were from repeat customers. While that let me know I had a great product, I realized I had a problem attracting new customers or new stockists. I felt like I was just spinning my wheels and that my marketing and brand messaging must have been so disconnected that my brand wasn’t able to stand out.

 

Lavender4oz

Old Soul Artisan packaging and logo, BEFORE Brick House Branding and a rebrand.

 

Lucky Break:  Please share a significant realization about the brand development process that you discovered while in Brick House Branding.

Harmony: The most significant realization is that I needed to niche way down. Lela said something to the effect of “when you try to speak to everyone, you speak to no one.” The exercises in Brick House Branding led me to visualize the company I wanted to build. I realized I needed to put more of my own artistic flair into it. It dawned on me that I had given up a career for the pursuit of creative freedom and that my company had not been reflecting the creativity I had bottled up inside of me. BHB helped me infuse this creativity with a brand story that targeted a niche market and the result has been a company that is more genuine and unique.

 

 

Lucky Break: What professionals did you tag in to help with the process, and what pieces of the branding puzzle did you DIY? 

Harmony: I manufacture all my items, so everything from scent development to pouring and labeling candles is done in-house. Additionally, I built my own website on Shopify, wrote all the new copy, and designed my wholesale line sheet.

 

However, trying to DIY everything was one reason I had found myself in the position I was in, so I tagged in several professionals for help. I hired a wonderful graphic designer who was also a photographer that had experience with other brands with a darker aesthetic so I knew she would understand the look I was going for. She helped bring my vision to life by updating my logo and designing new product labels and marketing materials. After having my labels professionally printed (which look much better than anything I could have printed at home), I shipped my items to my designer to have them photographed. The investment was worth it. Not only do my items have a much more professional and sophisticated presentation, but outsourcing this work saved me a lot of time and stress that these tasks used to create.

 

OldSoulArtisan-Purification-4ozsoycandle (2)

Old Soul Artisan packaging and logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand.

 

 

Lucky Break: What was the biggest obstacle you encountered during the rebranding process?

Harmony: The biggest obstacle was learning that everything takes longer than you expect it to. In the end, everything worked out and I was able to launch the new branding on time but it was a big lesson learned in project planning for the future. The biggest problem I ran into was with my printer. I expected to have my labels printed in two weeks but it ended up taking about six weeks because they weren’t color matching correctly. I ended up having to change label paper due to this but it actually turned into a positive outcome since the textured paper enhanced the leather-bound book cover design of my labels.

 

 

Lucky Break:  How has your own perception of your brand evolved since graduating from Brick House Branding?  

Harmony: It has changed a lot! Before the rebrand I was directing everyone to my Etsy store. My photos were OK but certainly not professional. There was always a voice in my head that said “in the future…”. In the future, I will have a website or better photography or this or that. There were always things that I was unhappy with, most of it because I tried to DIY everything that I simply didn’t have the talent for. After finishing Brick House Branding I now feel much more empowered to get out there and talk about my company, and with the additional information learned in LBU feel ready to pitch retailers with confidence.

 

 

Lucky Break:  Are your products are being received differently by others since the rebrand? How has their reaction evolved?

Harmony: The reaction was amazing! When I launched the new branding (and website) I received great feedback about it. My customers loved the new direction of the company. A cohesive brand story is incredibly important and my customers could immediately identify exactly how much work went into this rebrand. The products are basically the same but the new presentation and storytelling that has been interwoven into each of the scent descriptions has been an exciting change to my customers. I’ve also begun to see more press and retailer notice that I imagine will only help my company to continue to grow.

 

 

Lucky Break: Can you share a recent win that you’ve realized because of the rebrand? 

Harmony: Even though I’ve been in business for four years now, there has always been some nagging thought in my head questioning the sustainability of my business and its potential for growth. Due to the positive reaction to the rebrand I finally feel like, “Yeah, I can make this entrepreneur thing work!”

 

OldSoulArtisan-9ozSoyCandle-Ritual (4)

Old Soul Artisan packaging and logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand.

 

 

Lucky Break: How did Brick House Branding experience help shape your branding process?

Harmony: It simply wouldn’t have been possible without BHB. Lela asked all the right questions that got me thinking about things in an entirely new light. Without the trainings, worksheets, feedback, and coaching calls I would have never been able to get my brand story as cohesive as it is now. Hiring Lucky Break Consulting was the best professional development investment I’ve ever made.

 

 

Lucky Break:  What do you wish you had known at the beginning of the brand development process? What advice would you give to someone who’s getting ready to start the brand development process?

Harmony: You have got to go into this with an open mind and be willing to objectively analyze your business. You need to be prepared to change things you may not have expected to when you started the process and also be willing to invest in upgrading things like photography and packaging. My rebranding experience required a lot of soul searching. It was hard work but absolutely worth it.

 

Be patient and expect there to be delays in the launch timeline. Rebranding can be a massive project. There can be hiccups along the way, especially when you tag in other professionals to help. It took me 14 months to finish the rebrand.  Please be gentle with yourself and keep generous amounts of wiggle room in your project timeline.

 

Finally, enjoy the process! You will learn a lot about yourself and your business along the way.

 

Thanks for catching up with us, Harmony. We can’ t wait to see what comes next for you and Old Soul Artisan… We’re cheering you on!

 

If you’d like to build a stronger, smart brand in 2019, then I hope that you’ll consider joining me in the winter semester of Brick House Branding. This 9-week brand development mentorship dissects awesome brands and then helps you build your own, brick by brick, with me working right alongside you to cheer you on and ensure that you’re on the right track. Enrollment opens on October 2!

 

 

How to Pack a Pallet

How-to-pack-a-pallet-Square

More and more Lucky Break clients are packing pallets these days (hooray!). Whether they’re bound for Anthropologie, Home Goods, TJ Maxx or subscription box companies, many of us are tackling big corporate purchase orders and the mondo-sized shipments that go with them. I thought a tutorial on how to properly pack a pallet might prove helpful. If you’re ready to start working with products at a larger scale, then I hope this post takes some of the mystery out of the process!

 

How-to-pack-a-pallet-Square

 

How to Pack a Pallet of Product

Step 1: You’ll use case packs and larger shipping boxes, much like you likely already do. For instance: if you’re shipping candles, we wouldn’t want to pack large boxes of 48 candles each. That would be hard to stabilize and leave the product vulnerable to damage. A better option would be to pack those candles into case packs of 6 or 8 candles each.

 

Once those smaller “case pack” boxes are packed and taped shut, you’ll then load those case packs into a larger exterior shipping box. So we might have one large shipping box that contains 8 case packs containing 6 candles each, for a total of 48 candles. A series of those boxes are prepared and individually weighed, carefully noting the weight of each.

 

Step 2: You’ll load those larger boxes onto a wooden pallet.  You can often pick these up free locally- check home stores, flooring stores, etc. Note that your boxes shouldn’t overhang the edge of the pallet… everything should fit inside the pallet’s “footprint.”

 

Step 3: Start with your heaviest boxes and layer them on the bottom. Unless your boxes are square, I recommend packing the layers “criss-cross” style. So layer one boxes all go in one direction, layer two boxes are rotated 90 degrees, layer three boxes are packed the same way as layer one, and layer four boxes are packed the same way as layer two, etc. Don’t pack much higher than you are tall!

 

Step 4: Once all the boxes are loaded, then wrap the pallet with plastic wrap. Wrap multiple layers all over the pallet, starting at the bottom and working your way up by physically walking around the stack. Be certain to wrap the actual pallet as well- if you simply wrap the cargo on top of the pallet, then it can slide off. Be careful to wrap the top half of the wooden pallet itself once it’s loaded with cargo to effectively attach the boxes to the pallet.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5: Affix a shipping label with the destination clearly displayed. I recommended typing this in Microsoft Word (large type!) or a similar program, printing the label on regular paper, then affixing the label to the wrapped pallet via clear shipping tape.

 

Step 6: Affix a detailed packing list in a clear shipping pouch to the exterior of the pallet, next to the shipping label. The packing list should list your contact details as the shipper, the contact details of the receiver, and then carefully note the number of boxes per pallet, along with the contents of each large shipping box.  Be certain to reference any purchase order numbers attached to this shipment.

 

Three important things to note:

  • When you arrange the pickup, you’ll need to give the trucking company the weight and dimensions of the pallet. The dimensions are easy enough to determine with a tape measure. But to get the weight, you’ll either need a jumbo-sized floor scale you can roll the pallet over (read here: $$$), or you can weigh each box as it’s added to the pallet. Simply tally them all up and add 20# for the pallet.

 

  • If you plan to move the pallet around your space, then you’ll need a pallet truck. If pallets are something you’ll be wrestling with often, then a pallet truck is a wise investment. You can sneak a peek of one in action in the video below.

 

  • If your facility doesn’t have a dock, then you’ll need to let the trucking company know when you arrange the pickup. They’ll send a liftgate truck which has a hydraulic lift on the back. That lift can lower to the ground and that truck will have a pallet truck inside. The driver will use the pallet truck to guide the pallet onto the liftgate and lift it back into the truck. Liftgates are usually an additional fee of $50-150, but there’s no way around it and no regular truck can pick up a pallet off the ground, so be sure to indicate this need when you first speak to the shipper!

 

 

 

 

What questions do you have? Drop a comment below and I’ll do my best to help! If you’ve packed a pallet, was it easier or harder than you imagined?

 

MANY THANKS to LBU alumni and Coaching Community members Unique PL8Z and Sequoia for generously sharing their videos to accompany this post.  I love watching you ladies take care of business! xo

 

The Lucky Break Calendar – February 2018

2018-01-25 12.26.40

February is the month of love… wholesale love that is! Have new products to roll out? Shout it from the (wholesale newsletter) rooftops! Have some new educational shelftalkers or product photos your stockists can put to use? Share it loud and proud! Now is the time to be getting your brand in front of the eyes of buyers!

 

I joined Instagram Stories last month, and it’s been a really fun way to interact with people I otherwise might not get a chance to chat with. This month, my team is taking over for a day each, so that you can get to know them, too. I’m also offering a special F-R-E-E Instagram Stories training over on Facebook Live. A social media expert I’m not, but I’ll be sharing the tips and tricks I learned to help me get over my fear of being on IG Stories, so that hopefully you can jump on in, too.

 

Whatever you’re working on this month, know that I’m forever cheering you on!

LuckyBreak_CalendarFeb2018

 

PS – Enrollment for my Spring session of Brick House Branding is officially open! I’m sealing up the doors tight on February 9, so don’t miss your chance to reserve your seat. Have a question? Join me on Facebook Live on January 31 at 12:30pm EST, and I’ll do my best to get you all squared away. See you there!