Small business isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s for the brave, the patient and the persistent. It’s for the overcomer. – Unknown
If you missed the prior posts in this series here are the links.
It’s been a bit over two years since Farmhouse Frocks has been established and it has been a whirlwind ever since. It seemed the idea went from “0 to 60 in ten seconds.” I have had a lot to learn and have learned by doing and having successes or failures then picking myself up by the proverbial bootstraps and trying something different when things haven't worked out.
Developing Farmhouse Frocks was my natural talent. Growing it seemed to go hand-in-hand with developing it, but I’m finding that maintaining that momentum is quite different. The challenge is different, the product has been developed and now I have to find ways to keep the product fresh and appealing and keep the momentum going.
Maintaining the Momentum
Tip # 1 – Have Systems in Place
- Establish systems to help you stay on track and not fail. You might end up with ten or twenty different systems to help you maintain your business.
- Example: Open a tax bank account and set aside a percentage you and your bookkeeper come up with to pay your quarterly taxes and monthly sales tax. (Trust me, this is important.)
- Example: Keeping track of your inventory. (We take inventory once a month. Taking inventory monthly has been a helpful system for the company, it helps us to keep our online store updated with product we actually have for sale.)
- Example: We have systems in place and when someone walks in the door we hear it and our goal is to have a verbal connect with the customer walking through our front door within 10 seconds.
Tip # 2 - Know your numbers.
- What percentage are your COG (cost of goods), wages, rent and etc.
- When you run sales make sure you aren't losing money.
- Your margins are a huge percentage to keep a close eye on.
- You should constantly be searching out for better resources for your products.
- Always buy your product wholesale.
- Use your tax ID number when buying.
Tip # 3 - Plan ahead.
- Production at Farmhouse Frocks can plan about six months in advance
- Example: Because of the trends in the fashion world we can’t plan too far in advance because we have to learn what the new colors will be for the new seasons.
- As you grow your business you will hopefully have some extra revenue and be able to plan ahead for upcoming opportunities so you aren’t doing everything “last minute.”
- Example: Our seamstresses are already busy sewing the frocks for the shows we are participating in this Fall and for both our store in Millersburg, Ohio and our online store.
Tip # 4 – New Ideas
If you are the creative type, like I am, you might have a zillion new ideas buzzing through your brain and ready to create something new. That can be good and bad all at the same time. Here are a few tests I give myself before running with a new idea.
- Answer this question, “Can my company afford this if we incorporate it?”
- Write down the pros and cons of implementing your new idea. This will most often lead you down the right path.
- Does it stay on brand? If it doesn’t stay on brand you will confuse your customer and you might feel overwhelmed if you are pushing something new that doesn’t fit in with your brand.
- Does it excite you? The answer should be obvious, if you aren’t excited about it, don’t do it.
- Sometimes we put tons of time, energy and money into a “great” idea that ends up not working. We hang on to our idea and all it does is cost us money. Don’t be afraid to “let go” and try something else. Chalk the cost up as a lesson learned and move on.
Tip # 5 – Create an Experience
As you think about maintaining your business you want to think more like your customer and create an experience for them that incorporates your brand and is something they look forward to each time they walk inside your store, either online or in person. Are items easily accessed? Is your brand displayed well? Is the floor plan comfortable to maneuver through? Can customers find their sizes? As a whole is the store pleasing to the eye?
Assuming you have a store front or online store, here are some tips that are important to implement.
- Always have your store looking fresh.
- Online, “fresh” means updated images and new products displayed. Maintaining social media and publishing new blog posts.
- We change our window displays and mannequins on a weekly basis.
- A cleaning lady comes in weekly and cleans after hours. I suggest this isn’t a job for your team members.
- I'm anal about the hangers being the same color on the racks and we straighten them daily.
- We go through our racks twice a week and make sure everything is hung by size.
- We revamp and move things around bi-weekly.
- Live flowers always make the show room look alive.
- We are intentional on where we place our product. For example we never place popular sellers in a dead spot of our selling space, this goes for shows also.
- Curb appeal is huge.
- We make sure our store smells good.
- Keep improving your packaging, customer service and products. Your efforts will not go unnoticed by your faithful customers and new ones too.
As I mentioned earlier the challenges are different than in the beginning. Lately, I’ve been going through some trials in my personal life and some challenges I’ve had to meet head-on with my business recently and in my experience when things like this happen I know God is preparing me for something big.
I’m not totally sure what that something big is, but lately I’ve been feeling this urge to look into growing in the area of selling wholesale. I've only dabbled a little in selling wholesale. We've been selling our handmade cowhide and leather bags wholesale. For more information you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. As I dig into learning more about how to sell wholesale there will be many questions I have to answer. Can my seamstresses handle the extra workload? Do I have the resources available if I ramp up production? Am I excited about selling wholesale? Will it take away from my family life? Can I compete with those who are purchasing from overseas? These questions and others will have to be answered before we ever decide to get into the wholesale business.
My heart’s desire is to be an encouragement to other small business owners who need a shot in the arm to help them hit the ground running as they get started developing and growing their own businesses. As you can see I still have things to learn. These past two plus years have been learning years for me and I continue to learn. I wouldn’t want to get to the place where I know everything. Seems to me that would be boring. Beyond all the successes and lessons learned, heeding the slogan that is written on my heart, to have more faith than fear always serves me well.