4 life-changing lessons I have learned
Although I am only some-what new to the game, it doesn't stop people asking 'how you you got started in business' and 'what are the lessons I have learned along the way'. As a child, I was always enthralled with people's stories, anybodies. I was particularly intrigued by what people did and why. I still am. I love that people have shared their stories with me - so today I thought I'd share my story.
Here we go...
Many years ago, after completing a some-what dry Economics Degree, I had the dream of working in the fantastically-creative fashion industry. This started me a journey which took me around the globe and eventually to producing handbags for lovers of beautiful quality leather. This is my story about my company and the invaluable lessons I learned along the way.
I don’t have an official title, I’m a designer, a business women, an accountant, a marketing manager just to name just a few of my roles. I have a background in fashion, that trails back to working with all sorts of wonderful people across many countries. I studied at the London Fashion College and worked in management for the world’s best department store Selfridges. While working at Selfridges, I learnt all there is to know about work, life, fashion, fun and friendship - I knew one day I wanted to create my own little piece of this pie.
Starting A Business...
I always had wanted to have my own business, so I could have the freedom to do whatever I wanted. I don’t mean have long-lunch breaks and Friday afternoons off – that never happens. I mean to be creative – design handbags, direct photography, style stuff, come up with creative marketing ideas, produce, laugh, be kind and share my journey… I also love working, even when I’m not working – I’m thinking of work ;).
I didn’t start out by writing a business plan (although 10 years in “the business” gave me a good idea of what was ahead of me). I also wasn’t in a position to just stop what I was doing and take-time out to ponder over a business concept. I just started. I decided I’d do one thing towards my business every day – that was my goal. Simple and achievable. Some days, it was as little as sending an email (yes just one) and others it was launching a website. So approximately after about 950 days I had a business!
Although I didn’t have a plan (and it embarrassingly took me two years to come up with the name NIKKI WILLIAMS), I was very clear on one thing: I wanted a company to produce the best-quality designs I could possibly make and to enjoy the journey.
So to get my business off the ground I started talking to people - in the end hundreds of them. There’s the leather to source, the patterns to make, the hardware to design, the tags to produce, the bags to stitch – each element requires a new and different expert to find and work with. The quality that we try to make is difficult to source. Reason being that there are not a lot of companies around the world doing such high quality work. The stitching on our bags is always 100% correct- I don't accept anything else. Some of the leather used in our designs takes two months to be ordered from Italy (and I don't speak Italian), but as I say there's always a solution and finding the most-skilled people is crucial to achieving your goals. It was hard work finding the right people, but it was worth the search.
Even with all these skilled people –it’s still easy to make mistakes. And I have made mistakes, so many, but mistakes are always fix-able – especially if you believe in the team around you. We all work to support each other. That’s one of the things that I think is truly the secret to success – treat people well. Treating people well is at the core of my business – everyone and of course our customers. Its people that make my business what it is. We produce handbags as good as the high-end designer labels, the only difference is you can email us with a special request, question or idea and you’re likely to get an answer back. We love hearing for everyone, seriously about anything!
For those that are still keen to read on – I have jotted down a few tips I believe will help anyone wanting to realise their dream…..I hope it’s helpful - NWx
The lessons I learned....
Action Attracts Action - Even if your business plan is not ready, or your bio is not perfect, or your blog needs work, that does not mean you shouldn’t launch your company. Heck, I haven’t even written a press release yet!! I see many people who want to start their companies but hold back because their plans are not perfect. Things will never be perfect. Just start…you’ll end up somewhere and it won’t be the beginning!
Start out small - That way you can work things out along the way. For example, don’t g ordering 10,000 promotional flyers or offer cards, your business will change. You’re better off paying slightly more for a smaller order than having a huge stockpile that will be out-of-date. You don’t necessary need business cards – your face works the same way!
Change your course - Do not be overly focused on doing a task one way. Often when running a business, a new technique, program or product will come up which can help you. Always be open and, if need be, change your course. If it can save you time, money or get you more sales, then try it out. If it doesn’t work you can always go back to what you know. You are better off making small mistakes as a small business rather than big mistakes as a big business. I made so many mistakes – I love them. Every mistake I make it an opportunity to change and improve.
Research Your Competitors - This is something you need to do, but don’t let it put you off. If I researched every handbag company around I ‘d still be doing it. It can also be a little (actually massively overwhelming) to look at the 1000’s of business out there doing what I do. Do your research online and see what others are doing well. Model the processes that other larger companies have – even though you are small, you’ll be bigger one-day.
So off you go, start now - just do one thing today :).
Melissa Nolan said:
Thanks so much for sharing this personal journey. So inspiring! I’ve just started working for myself (two months in!) I use my 20+ years as an executive assistant and office manager to work with small and medium businesses run more efficiently – whatever that is. Anyway my office is portable, I have an extra large felt bag which I love and store all my office in and a handbag too but I need a new handbag and I like classic design and a bag that doesn’t slouch…I like them sitting upright – like the original oroton design which I have but way too small now. So I’m pleased to have discovered you!! All from a gumtree search on “hamptons”. I also do styling and colour consulting hence incolourmode and my other service offering is inbusinessmode anyway..I’m keen to purchase to will send this essay and say thanks again for your inspiring words!! :) Melissa x
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