The Life of Bon: 12 Tips for Starting a Small Business

Friday, March 24, 2017

12 Tips for Starting a Small Business

This post is sponsored by Square Cash but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Eighteen months ago, Greg and I started our small business, Hey June.  Greg was unhappy in his full time teaching job.  He was suffering from depression and anxiety and the 10 hour daily marathons with rambunctious, horny teenagers were not the cure.  (Shocker.)  For so long I had had the dream of selling birthstone necklaces on etsy, but I never dared pull the trigger.  This gave us the reason we needed to finally dive in head first.

We were so scared though.  Starting a business venture like that feels so vulnerable.  You are showing the whole world that you are trying something risky and if you fail, you fail in front of everyone.  I felt sick for weeks, I was so nervous.

Lucky for us, we didn't fall flat on our faces.  We made a few sales and a few more until now the small business has replaced Greg's teaching income and then some.  It has been such a blessing to us and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't feel gratitude for the opportunity to make and sell jewelry.

I'm sure there are a lot of you out there who maybe dream of the flexibility, earning potential, and work-for-yourself schedule that owning and running a small business allows.  Or maybe a small business is your worst nightmare! Either way, I want to share a few tips that really helped us in launching a successful business.

1. Repeat after me:  there is enough.  I think this was the biggest thing in launching our business- getting in the "enough" mindset.  It is so easy to feel competitive with other businesses.  Etsy tracks your sales, which is awesome, but it also lets you see how more more successful all those other shops than you are.  And it can get in your head.  I try very hard to keep an "enough" mentality- there are enough people who want earrings in the world that I don't have to be competitive with others who sell earrings.  We can all have enough.  A huge inspiration for me is The Daily Tay who freaking kicks butt with her t-shirt line.  She always sends good vibes and is not jealous of the success of others.  I try hard to follow her lead.  It has been a process, but I feel like being genuinely happy for the success of those around you puts you in a better place to be successful yourself.  Success begets success.

2.  Learn how to take good pictures!  I don't even think you necessarily have to have a nice camera (although it definitely helps), but learning a few photography tricks is key for a small business.  Use natural light!  Use a white background!  Study the pictures of people who sell similar product to yours!  Study the pictures of items you really want to buy and decide why you want to buy those items! I will be honest, the five excruciating years of blogging I put in before we started Hey June were crucial- I had already learned a long, slow lesson about the importance of good pictures.  I feel like I was able to avoid such a steep learning curve because I had learned slowly over the course of my blog how to take decent pictures.  I still don't love my pictures the most (and there are many I want to go back and redo from the very first months of our business) but they are good enough to do our product justice and to make people want to buy.  Yippee!

3.  Talk to the pros.  A lot of people have already been successful in what you are trying to do.  Talk to them!  I will never stop being grateful to my friend, Amy, who for five years has had a successful handstamping jewelry business.  When I asked her for help starting with the birthstone necklaces, she didn't bat an eye.  I am so grateful for her help in getting started.  Alexa Zurcher, who does amazing graphic design, helped me find a printer in our area to do our earring labels.  Taylor helped me buy our label printer which is the greatest gift any small business owner has ever been given.

4.  Buy a label printer.  See above.  (This is the one I use.  We bought it in December and mostly I am just so mad that I didn't buy it the day we started our business.  It's an investment, but worth its weight in gold.)

5.  Have someone to keep you from going insane.  Running your own business can be absolutely nuts.  There were days in December where Greg and I were both putting in 12-14 hours.  It can be such a zoo.  And then it can be followed by weeks of nothing.  And then you get the craziest review from someone online who only gives you three stars because you offered them a coupon code if they posted your item on instagram and they don't want to post your item on instagram.  (Seriously.  This happened.  People are cray.)  That's why I have Greg so I can tell him how totally nuts that person was and then we laugh about it and watch an episode of Parks and Rec and the world somehow goes on turning.  Without someone to talk to, though, the small business madness could totally get to you.

6.  Package your items in a cute way!  This one surprised me.  Shocked me.  If you look at our reviews on etsy soooooo many people mention how we package our jewelry.  We put our earrings on a crisp, professional looking earring card, we put them in a small box, stamp the box with our logo, and tie a ribbon around it. Greg doesn't get the bow, but I tell him it's like opening a present and people like to open presents.  Boy was I right.  People lose their shiz over this.  At Christmas we got real crazy and tied a RED ribbon around the box.  People went nuts.  For Valentine's Day we did pink.  The crowd went wild Now that it's spring we're losing our damn minds and USING PASTEL RIBBON.  PEOPLE CAN NOT GET ENOUGH OF THIS.  I can not stress this one enough.  Packaging is everything.

A post shared by Bonnie Larsen (@heyjuneshop) on

7.  Send items quickly.  This one is one that Greg I disagree with a little- I like to get items out the next day because I am an OCD freak.  Greg is okay to wait a few days as long as it falls under our shop's promised 3-5 shipping day policy, but to me personally, the faster we send out an item, the more likely that person will buy from us again.  And tell their friends.  Our etsy reviews confirm this.

8.  Follow businesses you admire.  I am energized by watching other small businesses who are doing it right.  I have already mentioned a few of the ones I really look up to in this post.  Others who inspire me in the business world besides the ones already mentioned are Freshly Picked, Made by Mary, Elizabeth Ivie, Little Olive Clothing Co, and Deidre Emme.  I also watch a lot of Shark Tank.

9.  Give oh give, give oh give!  I have found giveaways to be a great way to boost business, and to just send some good karma out in the world.  They can get hard to manage though, and sending free stuff can be a pain for us because I don't have a good system for keeping track of it.  The more giveaways we do, though, the more success I feel like we have.  This goes back to point #1- there is enough!

A post shared by Bonnie Larsen (@heyjuneshop) on

10.  Have a social media following.  This one has been a struggle for me lately- our main shop advertising is done through Instagram, but since they changed the algorithm, I find that many followers don't see our posts.  I have seen some small businesses just dominate the facebook world, but that somehow feels even scarier to me than instagram.  Although I don't feel like I'm on the top of my instagram game, I do know that it boosts our sales significantly.  Any time we have a sale we announce it only through instagram and this blog and I am always SHOCKED by how many people take advantage of the coupon code.  You've got to have a social media connection.

11.  Get the convenient apps!  If you are selling on Etsy, the Sell on Etsy app is crucial.  The other app that I couldn't do without is Square Cash.  The idea is really simple- it's a safe and fast way to send and receive money.  You link it to your bank account and you can send money in an instant.  It is the same idea as Venmo, but I love that it doesn't have a social sharing aspect so that others can't see who you are sending money to and when.  That weirds me out about Venmo.

I use Square Cash with our business constantly.  Anytime someone wants to buy jewelry from me in person (friends, family, etc.) I have them send the money through Square Cash.  (It also has an auto deposit option so that it will automatically deposit the money into your bank account.  I think that is awesome.) I always pay our market and boutique show fees through Square Cash.  It is such a no brainer for me.

Also, I can not emphasize this enough- IT IS SAFE.  Square Cash uses a passcode and touch ID.  Everyone I know who has not hopped on the money sending app train yet does so because they think it is not safe.  It is!  (Also, just for the record, I use Square Cash for so much more than my business.  I pay people back with it, I split the bill with friends it, I buy things on our neighborhood garage sale page with it, I EVEN PAY OUR BABYSITTER with it.  If you do not have this app yet you need to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask yourself WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?!?  (You can download it here.)

12.  Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed.  Aside from #1, I think this is the most important thing any business owner can do.  Surround yourself with positive people.  I am so grateful to my blog readers and friends on the internet who were a huge boost in getting this business started.  My family was all crazy supportive.  Every time I see my aunt she is wearing one of our necklaces and it kind of makes my heart melt.  My friends in the neighborhood all sport the studs we sell.  It seriously means so much to me.  A community of support is everything.  Thank you!

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