10 things I’ve learned in my First Year of Business


What a whirlwind of a year it’s been! I launched my business on January 1st and I truly can’t believe it’s already been an entire calendar year. Time really does fly! 

I’ve learned so much this year and have grown more than I could have ever imagined. I’ve had successes, failures, happy moments, days (and weeks) where I doubted every move I made and pretty much everything in between, but at the end of the day, I’m still here. I’m showing up every single day and doing the damn thing! 

So, in honor of my first full year of business, I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned. If you’re hoping to follow your passion and open your own business, I hope this will be motivating and helpful for you!

Okay, here we go. 

1. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

Starting a business is SCARY. Like, so scary that it took me an entire year of pondering and dreaming about it to actually make it happen. Honestly, I was so unsure of myself and wondered if anyone would even give a shit about my shiny, new stationery company. I struggled with self-doubt A LOT in the beginning (let’s be honest, I still do) and almost let it hold me back entirely. But something amazing happened when I poured my heart into creating something I believed in and put it out into the world… people actually cared! They sent me countless messages of encouragement, bought my products, shared my posts with their friends, stocked my products in their stores and made me feel like all the hard work I had put into this thing was worth it. I was actually DOING it and it felt so damn good. Fast-forward to 1 year later and here I am… following my dreams and showing up for what I believe in every single day. I promise you that even if you fail, it will feel SO much better than sitting around wondering “what if?” 

2. Be consistent.

Have you ever heard the phrase “consistency is key”? Well, it’s true! Think about the big brands of the world… which one do you think of when I say red and yellow? What about when I say, “just do it”? I’m going to take a wild guess and say McDonald’s and Nike probably just popped into your mind! Having a consistent brand identity and putting consistent messaging out into the world is how people will remember you! Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t pivot when you need to, because you absolutely should, but you need to have SOMETHING that people can you remember you by. For example, people remember me by my pink color scheme, fun and quirky aesthetic, and red hair! What do you want people to remember you by? 

3. You’ll make mistakes… and that’s A GOOD THING!

I’ve made a lot of mistakes this year and at first, I really let them get me down. It felt like the world was going to end when I didn’t order enough paper, had no clue how to ship a wholesale order, forgot to bring cash to my first pop up shop, and so many other little things that went wrong along the way. As time has passed, I’ve learned that every mistake is an opportunity to learn. Let’s be real, I will NEVER be done making mistakes, and that’s a good thing! We’re all humans and we’re all learning. Were you perfect at something the first time you ever tried it? Of course not! If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not growing and improving, and who wants that?

4. Don’t forget to celebrate the small wins. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking at “what’s next.” What will my next product be, how do I get into more boutiques, what should my next Instagram post be… and the list goes on. I often forget how important it is to celebrate what I’ve already accomplished! This year I launched my Etsy shop, got my products into 5 stores & sold my products in person for the first time ever! Ok, I know… those are some pretty big wins, but it is equally as important to celebrate the small things, like making that sale, getting your inbox down to 0 and honestly, just showing up for your business every single day. I think we spend so much time focusing on what we haven’t accomplished that we often forget to look at how far we’ve already come. Pat yourself on the back and give yourself a little grace! 

5. Know your numbers.

You know how I said I’ve had successes and failures this year? Well, I’d consider this one a pretty big failure, but I’m including it in this list because I know how important it is! I am admittedly not the best business person in the world (yet!), so this doesn’t come easy to me. The creative side of things is so natural, but the more logistical business side takes A LOT of work for my scatterbrained self. I wish I had kept better track of what was coming in and what was going out every month, how often I was ordering materials, what my monthly income looked like, etc. While it’s quite easy to see what is coming in, I rarely sat down to really take a look at my expenses and profit for each month and quarter. Not. Good. Being more in tune with my business’s financial health is one of my top priorities for 2019 and if you’re not already, I urge you to make it one of yours as well!

6. Be patient.

Great things don’t happen overnight! Again, patience is admittedly not one of my best qualities. If you ask my husband, he would probably tell you I’m one of the most impatient people in the world. While I might start getting antsy if I’ve been on hold for too long or have waited a minute too long for my meal, I try to take a different approach to my business. I know that growing something amazing takes time. It takes a lot of work and consistency. You can’t just start a business one day and expect to be rich the next (unless you have incredible luck or an out of this world product/service). You have to allow yourself the time to figure out what works and what doesn’t, create trust with your audience, consistently show up with new content and value, and ultimately, do your best to figure out what the hell you’re doing. If you consistently put in the work every single day, you WILL reap the benefits.

7. You’ll never be ready, you just have to go for it.

I talked about this a bit before, but I dreamed about this business for a long time before it actually existed. I read business books, stalked beautiful stationery companies that were making amazing work, dreamed about what my lifestyle could be like if I owned my own biz, thought about all of the amazing products I could make… and then told myself I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have the money. I wasn’t as good as everyone else who started their own business. I would never be able to succeed. Ugh, sounds exhausting, right?! If you let yourself, you will find a million reasons why you shouldn’t start something that you’ve been dreaming about. Squash that shit right now! It will hold you back forever if you let it. I did not feel anywhere near “ready” to start this business when I did, but I gave myself a date and said “ready or not, this is the day you’re opening up your shop.” And guess what… I did it! It wasn’t perfect and it’s still not, but it exists! If I would have never taken the leap and started before I was ready, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this blog post today. Let’s just say, I’m so happy I am.

8. The small business community is absolutely incredible.

Throughout my journey of becoming a small business owner, this has by far been the biggest surprise to me! I never in a million years dreamed that so many other small business owners, both local and afar (but especially local) would be so incredibly supportive! It warms my heart so much to think of the countless connections I’ve made and the tremendous amount of support I’ve received from other people following their dreams. For so long the idea of “competition” has been ingrained in our minds and lifestyles, but in the small business world, it is exactly the opposite! I have had so many boss babes share about my business on social media, reach out with words of encouragement, answer my newbie questions, and in general just hype me and my new business up! It has truly given me all of the warm fuzzy feelings and I can’t wait to make new connections and spread the love.

9. Building a loyal audience is not only important, but SO rewarding.

Your audience is the whole reason why you have a business in the first place, so it goes without saying that connecting with them and providing them value should be at the top of your list! These are the people who will continually engage with your social content, buy your products and services, share your work with their friends, and be your biggest cheerleaders! While it is a given that building this community is important, what really surprised me is how rewarding it would be! I am continually amazed at how many connections and friends I have made through this business. I absolutely love when people reach out to me with questions, reply to my stories on Instagram to let me know that they love the things I do, let me know what they would love to see next, and everything in between! This year I’ve learned that your audience really is your tribe.

10. You’ll feel really freaking proud of yourself.

Maybe it seems egotistical to say this, but damn, I am SO proud of myself for starting this business and not giving up. If you’ve read this far, it’s probably pretty obvious that I’ve struggled with a lot of self doubt and that it took a lot of courage for me to put myself and my work out there in this way. I was so scared that I would fail (big time) and that I would make a fool of myself for even thinking that I could (maybe) do this. Despite all of the fear, I did it and I’m still here! I truly am following my wildest dreams and passions with this business. I want nothing more than to build something for myself that I can call my own and I am FINALLY doing that. No more “what ifs” and “maybe somedays” …I’m making it happen and I can’t wait to see where it takes me. 

This year has without a doubt changed my life and the trajectory of my future. It has made me realize that with enough hard work, anything is possible! Here’s to many more years of growth and success in the small business world!

Kelsey Henson2 Comments