When starting your own business it can be really difficult to know where to begin - there is so much freedom in being your own boss that it can be totally overwhelming to have such huge range of different possibilities ahead of you. I know that some people delay starting their own business for this exact reason; the struggle to figure out what it is you want to do, and where to start going about doing it.
Of course my advice for what you do is pretty simple - whatever brings you joy. Just because you're capable of doing something, doesn't mean you would be good at running a business in it. For example, I did an A-Level in Textiles, and I'm perfectly capable of sewing all number of products (bags, pillow cases, dresses) but it drives me up the wall. I also used to make my own jewellery with silver, but I find the repetition of jewellery making makes me a little bit crazy. So even though I am capable of sewing, and jewellery making, I chose to do neither when I started my business, because the thing that really brings me joy is Illustration. Because of this I have the capacity to sit and pack 2000 greetings cards into cellophane bags without losing my mind from boredom - I feel truly motivated to do it, because it's all part of a job that I love. If you're really passionate about something, you're way more likely to succeed in it, because you'll be more willing to put in the massive amounts of energy and overtime to make it work.
Though I am by no means an expert in business, I thought I would write a little on the best things to invest in for your new business (when you've figured out what it is!) drawing on my own personal experience.
Here they are:
When you start your business you're going to spend a lot of time sat on your computer/making products/packing products up/researching ideas/making a website. There is so much work to do, that it's completely necessary for you to have a good space to do it in. Even if it's just a corner of your living room, give that corner the best makeover you can! Get a little desk, put up a cork board, cover it in pictures of things that inspire you, postcards, bunting, anything with colour and life! A space that will motivate you and a space that you will want to spend a lot of your time in. Whoever said that a true artist can work with any tools was a wee bit daft, because everyone has tools that they love, and when you use them your work will always be at it's best. Make sure you get in the best tools, and the tools you know and love to work with.
Okay, so this one is obvious! You're going to need some products. When we started Papio Press we made a small initial investment in around 20 pocket mirrors, 10 iPhone cases and a bunch of prints, so we definitely didn't break the bank. We focused on products we could get in small quantities, but large design splits, so we could get a good idea of which designs were more appealing before spending loads of our money on products. We were lucky enough that we started selling, and from that we could track what was good to invest in. We probably spent around £1000 of our own money buying in products in the beginning, before our turnover started covering the costs of new products. But we only spent the money when we could make an educated guess on whether we would make our money back on that product.
Once you've got your products you've got to find a way to store them. Ideally it's good to find solutions so that they are both safe and kept neat, as well as easy to access when you're packing orders. Ikea is always a godsend when it comes to things like this, as you can get simple sets of racking for only £15. It's good to think outside the box when you're getting storage for products - the shelves in the picture are for CD's but I realised they would fit our greetings cards perfectly. When it comes to racking though I always choose functionality over attractiveness. You can always paint and up-cycle a cheap £15 rack to make it more pretty, and it doesn't break the bank. When you're at the point when you're packing 100 or so orders a day then you'll thank yourself to choosing storage that was functional, believe me!
Product images are one of the most important things when you're selling online! People don't buy things online if they don't feel 100% confident that they know what it is that they're purchasing. We taught ourselves how to take photos in the beginning. Harry bought his camera second hand from mpb.com for pretty cheap, and we took all our photos outside on non-rainy days, to use the good light that the sun provides you with for free! If you really don't feel confident in your personal photography skills, then it's always best to find someone who is. The best option is always dependant on your situation. If you have a friend or relative that is a photographer then you may as well as them for a favour in return for free goodies/love. If you have a small range of products that isn't likely to change then investing in professional photography could be a good idea for you - just be sure to do a lot of research and figure out what kind of photos you want before you pay someone to do it. If your product range is massive (like ours) and always growing and changing, it's well worth investing your time and energy into teaching yourself to take photos, otherwise you will spend endless amounts of money on photographers, and you'll have to wait for them to take the photos before you can list them on your website - your products could be sat around waiting to be sold for weeks while you wait for your photographer to fit you into their schedule. Where we can, we definitely prefer to not be at the mercy of other people's schedules - everyone is busy, and if you do things yourself it often gets done a lot faster!
The single most important thing we invested into Papio Press was the many many hours we spent building the business and our brand. We designed and re-designed logos & headers, and took new photographs every other week because we knew we could make them better. We spend endless evenings teaching ourselves everything we could about online retail, and learning how to make our products look and sound more appealing to customers. In our first year, every day at University we were learning how to draw & design, and every evening we were teaching ourselves how to brand and market our products. It's not as easy as just opening a shop, taking some photos and leaving it. You've got to work at it, and keep working. Every time you look at your products, or website you should see something new you can fix or make better. We still do that now - if you sat me in front of our website as it is I could tell you a huge list of things I'm planning of changing over the coming months.
We wouldn't be where we are today if we hadn't spent both the time & money we did on Papio Press. I know at first it can seem overwhelming, and it really is hard in the beginning when you are giving so much time, energy, and money to your new business, with very little back (we didn't pay ourselves a penny from the business for the whole first year), but believe me, it's one of the most worthwhile things you can do. I wouldn't swap my job, and the life that I lead because of it for anything, not even a million pounds.
So good luck with everything! If you are at the start of your journey, enjoy it all. Celebrate every win, even the small ones, and don't forget to remind yourself in three years time how far you've come.