So we opened our doors to Piccadilly Lilly 9 months ago, having made the decision to move the family 60 odd miles to start afresh.
After much planning and many should we shouldn't we debates we decided to take the plunge. The planning was very exciting, not allowing myself to think too much about failure.
I likened it to having a baby for the first time, so much goes into the planning for the birth that we forget that we have to look after the baby when it arrives, and quite frankly (for me anyway) giving birth was the easy part. Well, opening the shop felt a bit like the same, now it is here it needs my constant attention, I worry about it all the time, is it going to be ok? Of course I am not that naive, I knew looking after children/starting a business was going to be hard work - but really? that hard? I mean I have the read books. Both have induced me to tears, made me grey, and driven me to drink way too much more wine that I should.
I suppose thats where the similarities end. I have discovered that whilst making sure all their needs are met if you let children get on with things themselves, this can help them grow. Psychologists believe there is a link between boredom and imagination and that children need to be able to cope with boredom, because lets face it life is not all summer camps and sports activities in adulthood. It also suits my type of parenting style!
If however you leave your business to get bored it is in danger of dying. I have had an amazing response so far, with lots of lovely comments and repeat customers, but having just limped my way through my first winter season I am beginning to realise the importance of marketing and PR when starting out and that giving it constant attention will help it thrive. Once people come through the door things are fine, mainly people like what they see and I have a high conversion rate, but it's getting folk through the door that I struggle with. I also have the added complication of being in a very seasonal location. Here are a few things I hadn't thought about that may prevent someone coming in.
- If its quiet people feel awkward and don't want to come in therefore vicious circle
- Is it too exclusive/expensive for them (it isn't everyone welcome but how do I get that across)
- People don't know where it is
- It doesn't look open from the other side of the street
I sometimes feel I am on the wrong side of the street but if you have a good enough product people will come, it's getting folk to come.
I also have learnt to be patient and lower my expectations as this helps with stress levels!!
I keep reminding myself of the positives to motivate me as I have had many days hypothetically walking round and round in circles until I eventually find myself taking random quizzes that friends post on Facebook such as what type of dog would I be, discovering how good at grammar I really am and my personality type, I am a Poodle by the way.
So after being paralysed in fear and self doubt for a good couple of months, spending time wondering what the hell I was thinking, it is now time to start planning the next year. I am not ready to give up. A customer who was also a shop owner said to me that if I can hold my nerve during the quiet times I will be ok. Now I understand what she meant.
I need to shout louder that I am here, explain better what I am about, hold my nerve. I need to enjoy the things that made me go into business in the first place, there is so much more to develop and discover, so hopefully I will be here this time next year with another years worth of lessons learnt.
So remember its ok to ignore the children but make sure you look after the business!!!
All free advice very welcome...