While it’s always fun to learn about success stories, it’s often more useful to learn about challenges that businesses have had. Every business is going to run into a ton of hurdles, and learning how to overcome them is what separates the successful businesses from the ones that won’t last.
We polled 10 of our makers to ask them what the most frustrating challenges they’ve had with their businesses are, and how they overcame them and continued building a thriving brand.
My number one challenge is that I have so many ideas and so little time! In this past year I have started hiring on help and outsourcing things I don’t like doing or that I’m not very efficient with, so will continue to do more of that and hope to be able to put more new ideas into action very soon.
Lack of funds. It can really stunt your growth in scaling your business.
Being a single-woman owned business, I have had to spread myself very thin. I am not big enough to hire a team of people to help, so going at it alone (with one or two employees to fill orders), has been the most challenging.
When you first start this business, it is really in the hobby stage. You use extra funds to make soap. When you decide to proceed into selling soap, you make more and more products, the money becomes tighter, you use credit and expand.
Because I did it slowly and was trying not to open a storefront downtown, my funds got sucked up pretty fast. I have so much I want to do, and quickly! People want to loan me money, but I currently don’t want to give up control of my business.
It’s hard to be both producer and salesperson. It’s a delicate balance even though I sell my products better than anyone. This delicate balance costs money and causes your finances to swing. I soak most of my money back into my business through marketing, and perfecting my brand. Eventually, I will need to borrow to expand further.
The most frustrating challenge I’ve had with my business is getting packaging right. The first order I sold online arrived broken! I had to put serious thought into how to pack effectively and still leave the product elegantly packaged safe. Today we are packaging pro’s.
Our biggest and most frustrating challenge with our business is the low frequency of purchase in flatware. We have to key on the major flatware buying triggers (wedding/bridal, 1st time home buyers, foodies). Our stainless steel line costs more to produce, and therefore are priced as a higher end set.
We are working to introduce a change of mindset. The introduction of our lower price point (Try Me items) and our new eco products give consumers a reason to test at a lower investment and risk. Hopefully that leads them to replace, or better yet, upgrade their tabletop and kitchen.
We’re selling what is ultimately an experience rather than a product, and hope to create a burning desire to buy our product. A slim marketing budget, in conjunction with a low frequency purchase and the educational element that is important to the brand makes marketing and selling this a challenge, but one that we are up for every day.
Cash. It truly is king. And it can really burn quickly, especially when using the traditional “big distributor” and “big chain store” sales channel. Our greatest challenge is to manage it, not stall growth, and find the right sources for funding.
Maintaining the culture and dealing with third party logistics (3pls) is the most frustrating challenge I’ve dealt with in my business.
Finding the right people to help us grow, for photography, social media, PR, website design. I used to wear all of those hats, but eventually you come to realize that not all of this is your zone of genius. You can’t do it all well. You need to learn to delegate, but finding the right people to delegate it to, while keeping it in line with your vision is super hard.
Any journey into uncharted territory should be an emotional rollercoaster. Otherwise, it ain’t really uncharted, you’re just enjoying an ego trip of self-confidence. The most frustrating challenges you’ll have with your business are actually hidden blessings. They’re the invitation to transform through discomfort, rather than stagnate in comfort.
I knew nothing about trademarks, sourcing, compliance, or incoterms when I began my journey with Schooled by Paper two years ago. And at times that brought up frustration, exhaustion, guilt, all the usual suspects related to thinking I needed to be somewhere other than where I was, which was in process. And in process means to embrace the emotions! Not to try and eliminate them. And to really love yourself as well, and not think you should be anything other than what you are, and where you are.
If you have fully trusted in your brand or business (in the intuitive way I mentioned earlier), you are aligned with something much larger than little, ego “you.” And that something is never wrong in where it is guiding you overall.
I know that’s going to rock a few canoes because language breaks down sometimes in a layered conversation like this. But you can never be in the wrong place in that journey. You can only hinder progress by resisting. But even resisting is okay, because that’s part of your progress as well! You can never get away from you, that’s an illusion in your mind.
Alan Watts put it well when he said,
There’s no way of improving oneself. That’s the worst thing an American audience can hear. Every kind of culture in this country is dedicated to self-improvement. But what happens if you know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that there is nothing you can do to be better? Well, it’s kind of a relief, isn’t it?
Or if that doesn’t work for you… try the word grace.
So just relax and enjoy the rollercoaster. That’s why we went to Six Flags in the first place anyway, right?
We are so funny in that we want so many things in life, and once we get them, we complain about having them. I think that’s a key into the fact that what we really enjoy is process and not product. Journey and not destination. Tension rather than a flatline.
To me, product and destination are illusions. McGuffins. No one cares about the actual object called the Infinity Stone, we just want to see the Avengers go on a roller coaster ride that ends well. And that’s also why branding that is essentially genuine, passionate, other-serving, and story-based is going to win in the end, because the truth is that we as humans want and need this so much more than the physical product. The McGuffin. That’s a little secret into life as well!
And yes, I’m optimistic about the end of the rollercoaster ride.