How to DIY your business
This month in the Social Spotlight, is Kim Oliver, who manages two vastly different businesses with a classic Kiwi DIY approach.
Starting your own business is a dream that many people have, to work for yourself, take only your own orders and not having to explain yourself to anyone, you are in full control. Sounds like a dream right?
It is now nearly 3 years since I started my business, and let me tell you, I want less control! I had no intention of starting a business, I simply wanted a hobby to keep me occupied and I enjoyed what I was doing. Working with different fragrance oils and the soy wax was super relaxing for me and I loved showing off my creations to friends and colleagues. Soon after I started bringing my candles into the office I started getting requests to make candles for other people, and they were offering to pay for them! Of course I couldn’t refuse and soon I was selling at a local market. This is how my business was born, unexpected, insanely quick, and with no training wheels on to guide me.
I had no choice but to jump in, who needs to swim when you can drown!? I was totally overwhelmed, and had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t have a network of friends that I could ask for advice, and no money to hire a business coach either. I quickly learned my first lesson:
Lesson 1. Don’t try to do it alone
I was desperate for advice but had no one that I could talk to that had any idea of what I was going through. My husband tried, he has been amazing through all of this, but it is different because he doesn’t have his own business, and he isn’t my target audience (more on this later). So I did what many people do, I went online in search of help.
With the help of a friend I found an online community that was built on supporting women in business succeed, and I loved being a part of it! All of the sudden I had found a group of women who understood what I was going through, had expertise in areas that I was lacking, and were willing to help me for free! The friendships I built in this community have become very strong, we refer each other to new clients and help our businesses grow together. Now I had my tribe, I needed customers!
Lesson 2. Who am I selling to?
Selling a candle sounds easy enough, everyone loves to have a nice smelling home. But making candles is something that many people do, and it has become a highly competitive and over saturated market (in other words: there are too many people making candles!) so why would people buy mine? It felt like a quick and hard crash when I realized that after my initial success I now had to find new customers. The people I had sold to so far loved my candles, but they can only burn 1 at a time and because mine are a large size it would take weeks or even months to finish them. I had to figure out who I was going to sell to next; who was my target audience?
The trick to this is to be very specific, you basically come up with an idea of your ideal customer. For me I easily came up with: female, early 30’s, mum, Auckland area, loves to entertain friends. Now that I knew who I was trying to sell to it made my life a lot easier. Instead of trying to sell to every person I met, and wasting energy and time, I would only try to sell to people that would fit in my ideal customer profile, and I would manage to sell a few more candles.
Lesson 3. Learning how to promote/sell
Talking to people you meet about your business is a fantastic first step, but once you have told someone and they haven’t bought from you, you cant keep pitching to them every time you meet. One of the few ways to be able to reach out to new people on a daily basis is your social media presence. I had none! We all have to start somewhere so I created a Facebook business profile and started tagging my page in every relevant conversation I could find. Note the magic word here is ‘relevant’. Don’t spam the online world with your business, but if you come across a post that is relevant to your business then you can share your details.
Always make sure to keep it informative and relevant, don’t just dump your details and leave. How are people supposed to trust you’re a real person if you sound like a robot? After some time I opened up an Instagram account as well and used it to show more ‘behind the scenes’ photos. I was told to also open up a Twitter account and a Pinterest account. But I went back to my ideal customer profile, would my customer have time to go on all those different platforms? No, she wouldn’t, and I certainly didn’t have time to maintain all of those accounts either. Not on my own.
Lesson 4. Hire a pro!
All the free advice in the world isn’t going to run your business. You need to invest time, and money, as much as you can of both. For me money was tight. I was still working full time, but the spare money I had was being invested in purchasing stock and equipment, I refused to take out a loan and get into debt. But because of my day job I didn’t have much time to spare either. Finally I caved and hired a professional photographer, best decision ever!
We met for coffee and discussed what I needed, and how she could help me. Within 2 weeks I had beautiful photos, better than I could have done myself. I had been working on my own website, terrible mistake, and was so pleased to finally go live! Business had become busy and I was spending almost every weekend at a market selling my candles. I didn’t have time or energy to keep doing it so I needed to find a way to sell without having to be at a market. Online sales are a perfect solution, but building a website should be left to the pro’s! I initially created my website within a weekend, I was so excited to launch my online shop and to show off my beautiful new photos, I rushed it and I was never happy with it. I have had my website for 2 years now (launched it one year after starting my business) and have never been happy with it, I have made changes almost every week, which is not a good idea. You want to be able to edit things when needed, like when you launch a new product, or you see a spelling error, but other than that you should leave it to the pro’s to build the website if you are a perfectionist like me.
Lesson 5. Never stop
Once you have your social media accounts and website (even if you don’t sell products, a website helps to build trust with potential customers and is super important in my opinion) you can’t sit down and relax. You need to keep those accounts active by posting at least 3 times a week, this helps to build engagement with your audience, to grow your followers and to build trust so people will actually buy from you. Your website needs to be regularly updated otherwise Google may decide your irrelevant and will stop showing your content to potential customers.
Lesson 6. Don’t be like me
For a couple of reasons I decided to quit my daytime job in September 2018 and start a 2nd business. Yep, that is right, with my first business still within its first 3 years I decided to start another business. To make things worse, the two were completely unrelated! My 2nd business is in insurance, I am a personal insurance adviser. And let me tell you, selling a service is super hard!
You don’t have a product to promote, you are the product! You have to build up your own personal brand, by showing your face, being approachable and helpful. And eventually, once people know you better they may refer to you. If you sell a service like me, you still need to get your social media and website done, but your biggest challenge will be yourself. Don’t burn your bridges, you never know when you may need to them!
If you are like me, on a tight budget, and an ultimate control freak, then you may choose the same path I did. I DIY’d my entire business, all my social media accounts, my website, my content, my photos (in the beginning, until I hired a pro), I even make all my own products. But if you have the money and are willing to let go of some of the control then I highly recommend hiring a professional to help you out. There are people for every part of your business, the accounting, the advertising and marketing, the content creation, the photos, EVERYTHING can be done by someone else. So think about what is important to you, what parts of your business do you have the knowledge and the skill to manage yourself, and what do you need to outsource? Did I mention how much I love my bookkeeper?!
Now that you understand my journey, it is time I tell you about my businesses. My first business is my candle business Flame And Scent Ltd. I specialize in custom blended and natural soy candles and home fragrance. Each product is made to order, I don’t have piles of stock sitting in my garage. And that is my point of difference, simple but powerful. In my 2nd business is Willowgrove Consulting. I am a personal insurance adviser, and help my clients find the best insurance solutions for their long term needs. No one knows what will happen to us in future, but we can try to be prepared for them as best we can. Both businesses hold a special place in my heart, and they help me stay balanced and grounded.
If you’d like an analysis of how your social media strategy is going, and how it can be improved, we offer FREE Social Media Audit’s to all New Zealand businesses. You can get yours here: