Passerbuys Events / I'm My Own Boss, What Now?
02.01.17 | THE TEAM
Last night, Passerbuys hosted the second installment of our What Now? Panel Series with a discussion about the unique challenges faced by creatives, entrepreneurs, and freelancers.
Our panel was made up of some seriously kickass ladies that have taken total control over their work life. Panelists included Sabrina Diaz of Grassroots Juicery, Éva Goicochea of Tinker Watches and Maude, Abby Levin of Jam Jar Bakery, jewelry designer Laura Lombardi, Jenna Saraco of Local Creative, art director Leta Sobierajski, and Maggie Winter of AYR. The discussion was moderated by jewelry designer Susan Alexandra.
Missed the event? You can check out the full discussion on the Passerbuys Facebook page, which is also where we posted some photos from last night. Scroll down to get the highlights and a list of some of our panelists' favorite resources for entrepreneurs, then click the link to see the rest!
Responding to questions posed by our moderator, Susan Alexandra, as well as the audience, the panelists discussed many of the unique challenges and experiences they've had while being their own boss. Topics covered included the actual costs of launching a business (good news: you don't have to be rolling in cash), how to build a community for both your business and yourself, and how to figure out all those nitty gritty details of business ownership (yes, we're talking about tax filing). The panelists also weighed in on time management, dealing with failure, curating a social media presence, and the many nuances of marketing on a budget. Keep reading for some of our favorite thoughts of the evening.
On Financing A Business
The costs of establishing a business aren’t cheap, but our panel is proof that you don’t need to attract the attention of investors to be successful. Jewelry designer Laura Lombardi’s entire company paid for itself: when she started out, the money she made from selling pieces went directly back into things like equipment and materials until eventually she was making enough to also quit the three retail jobs she was working and make jewelry full time. According to Laura:
“You can do this with no funding. A lot of people don’t think that’s possible with a product-based business, but it’s really just about how hard you’re willing to work to reach that goal.”
On Establishing Your Community And Network
There's many ways to make new connections while growing a business, but regardless of your approach, you can never be shy. Entrepreneur Éva Goicochea, of Tinker Watches and Maude, encouraged the crowd to get as excited about new introductions the same way a child gets exciting about learning a new vocabulary word that seems to instantly expand their world and knowledge, saying:
"You just don’t know you’re going to meet, and you don’t know who they’re going to become. I think you need to be that open-minded wherever you go in life to have a community, but also to have your business. And it’s not about an exchange, or commoditizing a relationship, it’s just about truly expanding how you perceive the world and how you perceive your place in the world."
On Learning How To Start A Business From Scratch
Having the skills and passion for baking, graphic design, photography, fashion design, or any number of other disciplines doesn’t necessarily prepare you for opening a business in the area of your expertise. Our panelists figured out the fundamentals in a variety of ways, from working with a mentor to going into business with a partner. Sabrina Diaz, owner of Grassroots Juicery, learned by observing others:
“I knew nothing about opening a food service, let alone a juice bar, but I would spend time at different businesses and just observe and ask questions.”
On Being Strategic
When you're launching a business on your own (or with the help of a partner or a very small team), every minute is precious, and our panelists had a number of suggestions for making the best use of your time. When it comes to social media and marketing in general, Abby Levin, owner of Jam Jar Bakery and Abigail's Bakeshop, stressed the importance of finding which channels are the best way to reach your target audience:
"Start by figuring out who your target is, who your customer or your client is. I run a food company, so Instagram is great for food. Pinterest is also great for food, but maybe it’s not great for other things. So know who you’re looking to target and know your product and how to market it."
On Dealing With Failure
Stumbles are inevitable on the road to establishing a business and panelists agreed that failures have often been their most valuable learning experiences. Taking mistakes or setbacks in stride is easier said than done, but according to Local Creative co-founder Jenna Saraco (and many of the other women on stage), the best way to keep moving forward is to remind yourself exactly why you started:
"If you make a decision to go out on your own, then no matter what lies ahead you sort of have to overcome it, whether you stumble, or you get through it, you learn from each experience and you keep making that decision that this is what you want and you just keep moving forward. I don’t think that turning back is an option."
On Curating Your Social Media Presence
How much time should someone who is their own boss devote to their social accounts? Many of our panelists have used social media as an essential (and free) marketing tool, including art director Leta Sobierajski:
“I’ve gotten a lot of work just through my Instagram account. I think that when you have your own business, you need to be very adamant about representing yourself in every way possible and every communication form possible. My Instagram is always updated with the work that I’m doing, clients I’m working with, or promotions. I’m even getting work advising other people on their social media accounts, creating strategies for them. And if you can’t afford to hire people to do it for you, just develop a look or feel; look at other people’s accounts and see who’s doing something really well. It’s easy to just observe other things and figure out how to apply it on your own."
On Getting The Word out
Another marketing hack is to get creative with ways to engage your potential customers or clients. AYR co-founder Maggie Winter reminded the audience to never underestimate old school hustle:
"Whether it’s having open studio hours, or you’ve got a friend who’s got a cool space who would totally loan it to you for a night. Don’t underestimate of hanging out, face-to-face, in real life: that is how you build the army. That’s how we launched our brand two months before we launched. We’d run it out of a loft for two days, and we invited all our friends to come hang. My partner, Max, is a sick publicist so some of our friends were really cool editors and influencers and that didn’t hurt, but the idea truly was old school hustle, friend to friend, word of mouth."
RESOURCES RECOMMENDED BY THE PANELISTS
✓ Éva uses Proposify to draft proposals for clients
✓ Leta keeps track of projects and to-do lists with Nozbe.
✓ Abby was paired with a mentor through SCORE's free program
✓ And of course, Quickbooks.