5 years ago on March 2nd, 2009 I opened my (now closed) Etsy shop. I’d just lost my job, and no one was hiring due to the GFC and I was finishing up my University degree. It started with a sewing machine that I received as a 21st present, a few fabrics and a whole lot of making it up as I went along.
I opened my Etsy shop that day with 2 bags I’d designed from scratch and this crazy idea that if I couldn’t find work for myself, I would make some. I had one thought: “I will not just sit on the couch all day moping that I can’t find work”. And I didn’t. I worked all hours, teaching myself to sew, how to do accounts, how to build my own website, marketing, social media. On sick days, I worked in my pyjamas in between naps.
I kept that bag business going until the end of March 2011, when I finally admitted to myself that it wasn’t working, I didn’t love it anymore and I had lost too much money throw even more good money after bad. It was a heartbreaking decision at the time, but it was the right decision. I was 23 years old when I started out, and the bag business taught me more about business than my Business Degree and my Grad Cert in Innovation and Entrepreneurship ever did.
I love how much I grew and changed from the girl who saw success as a Bally Handbag and an 80 hour workweek, so someone who values the sunshine and being able to create something that means something to someone. That business gave me the time (and the necessity) to learn web design and I transitioned that to be my business for the next 2 years. It was profitable and for a while it made me happy, and again it taught me so much about blogs and businesses and social media. I made some great connections and even met some of my closest friends all from starting and running these businesses. I will always be thankful for that.
I took time off to go travelling last year, and I came back with this blog (Style for a Happy Home) as a seed in my head and just an inkling that all the business and life lessons that had come before this were leading me to it. They helped me grow up and realise that it’s not just about the pretty handbag, and that 80 hour work week just isn’t for me. I am still a work-a-holic in a way, but now I’m working towards building a future that I can be proud of. One where imperfection and the squiggly lines that help you reach success are something that you don’t want to miss out on – because there’s just so much good stuff that happens when you’re making mistakes.
You make friendships that can withstand job losses, moving countries, tragedy and all the wonderful, unexpected surprises that life throws your way. It teaches you to say “yep, I screwed that up, but instead of hiding from it, I’m going to share it with all the newbies, so they don’t make that mistake too”. It teaches you to look at where you are and where you want to be and gets you thinking about all the inventive ways you can get from A to B. It even teaches you what it feels like to lose thousands of dollars in savings chasing something simply to “prove them all wrong” (being young and stubborn can be a curse. Haha – Thankfully I got that out of my system early on).
I wouldn’t be where I am today, as happy as I am today, without all of this – the good and the bad. There’s no overnight success here. But there is a girl who now knows how to spot an opportunity and to go after her dreams. Losing that job 5 years ago made me resourceful, and I’m thankful almost everyday that I did. I’m still on my way to living my dream life, but I am on the right path. I’m sure it will have many twists and turns ahead yet, but I’m looking forward to what’s to come.
Here’s to many more years ahead! x
P.S. If you’re in that part of your small business where it feels like hell, please know three things:
A) it’s ok to walk away if you really want to, don’t stay for fear of what other people will think;
B) it’s more than ok to get other work whilst you’re building it up, it’s not a step back at all. You can still be your own boss even if you take on other work; and
C) if you really love it, step back, look at it like it was someone else’s business and ask yourself what you’d say to help them. You either know the answer, or you will at least realise what the question is you should be asking and who to ask. xx