Starting a business goes something like this: sleepless nights where you lie awake and plan your business, business workshopping sessions that are a flurry of creativity you never realized existed inside of you and endless conversations with loved ones who want to help you get your business off the ground.
Our first week felt a lot like that and I can’t wait to share with you everything we did as we (slowly) make our way towards $100,000 in sales.
What we achieved this week
- We came up with an idea!!
- We put together a 10 step business plan
- We came up with a simple marketing strategy to go with our plan, and;
- We put together our next steps on launching our business
We came up with an idea
Yep that’s right, that’s a lot of the heavy lifting out of the way already and I’m so happy we came up with an idea that we both ADORE without ripping each of our heads off 😄.
Businesses start out pretty differently. Some people just wake up one day and realize that they have a problem and there’s no solution – so they create a solution. For others they’re masters of their craft, then, a friend in passing suggests they turn their passion into a business and a lightbulb goes off. And finally, for some, starting a business is the goal, but they don’t know what to do to get there.
We fit squarely into the last category. All we knew was that we love working with each other, we respect each others skillsets and we believe that we wouldn’t be able to do this on our own.
But coming up with a business idea should never be random, even if sometimes it feels like it is. Here’s the process we went through to find an awesome business idea.
The four pillars of a great business idea
My philosophy is that any product is a good business idea. It doesn’t matter if it’s something that’s truly tried and tested or something completely new and original that no one’s ever heard of.
What makes a great business is not the product but a few other factors:
- It’s the founder(s) skillsets and passions
- It’s the drive and ambition to make something amazing happen
- It’s the audience that you choose to base your product around, and finally;
- It’s how you position, brand and make your product unique from everything else in the market.
That’s why we realized that to make a business idea great, it needed to tick a few boxes:
- It has to be something we’re both passionate about but also skilled in
- It has to be simple enough to produce but something unique
- It has to have the ability to scale but still retain it’s handmade quirks, and of course;
- It has to be handmade, or have handmade elements to it.
Choose a product you’re passionate about but also skilled in
At the end of the day, if we don’t care about our business, chances are it’s gonna fall flat on it’s face because we don’t want to drive it forward.
We realized that we need to do something that a) we love and b) we’re good at.
So we sat down together and wrote down a list of everything we’re good at and the things that we love. Here’s what it looks like:
Choose a product that’s simple to create but also unique to your customer
The product also needs to be simple to produce.
Just because something is simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy. We’re both committed to this business part-time. We want to build a business that’s “lifestyle-sustainable” and that’s always going to be a core focus.
I love the notion of building your dream without quitting your day job. Just because you don’t jump into a venture with 100% of your energy, it doesn’t mean that you don’t 100% care. The small amount of time you spend working on a passion project should enable all the things you love doing in your life – like spending time with family and friends while working on your hobbies and career.
The time limitations means that we simply just can’t spend all day painting amazing canvases and macrame-ing until our fingers get RSI (as much as we want to). ON TOP of that, we’re also running an online shop, shipping, packaging and talking to customers.
That means our business needs to be simple. Ideally our product should be either:
- Quick to make. E.g. pre-sewn leather goods where we stamp on personalized initials
- Can be made in bulk at once. E.g. cooking up our own candle wax and pouring many containers in one go.
- Or, something that can be made once and reproduced without much effort on our end. E.g. illustrated prints that can be designed once and sold an infinite amount of times.
There’s a huge problem with simplicity.
The more simple a product is, the more saturated the market is.
The more saturated a market is, the more choice there is for customers. It’s harder to stand out and capture their attention without compromising on price or quality.
So our goal here is to find a product that’s simple BUT also unique to our audience.
Choose a business that you can scale but still retains it’s soul
We’ve all experienced the brand that was once something we couldn’t wait to show off and rave about to our friends. But as their popularity grew, their quality, service and shopping experience declined.
At the end of the day, our goal is to make $100,000 in lifetime sales. We want to be able to scale our business to the point where we can meet demand but also make sure that each product has soul.
To be scalable, the product needs to check a few boxes:
- It needs to be reproduced easily, and;
- The production can be outsourced. Can we bring in external help from future employees or small batch manufacturers to produce our items?
At the same time, each item has to retain it’s own unique charm to it so that people can admire it’s character and the story behind it.
Choose a product that serves your people
We are believers in handmade – we shop local and we have so much respect for people who hustle through craft. It’s natural that we want to focus on this and craft something that’s truly handmade.
Over time, we might bring in outside help but the core of the business should be handmade. To us, handmade doesn’t mean every part of the process has to be crafted by hand. Handmade might look like printing our own designs but sourcing ethical supplies and partnering up with local small-batch manufacturers. Even though we aren’t making the products from scratch from beginning to end, we’re weaving many stories together and supporting the local community around us.
What are your pillars of success?
Now, onto you! On a piece of paper, write down the things that matter the most to you. Do you value time, money, a certain skill you’re passionate about, freedom of creativity or even fame? These are the pillars that’ll be foundational to you creating a business from an idea that’s both something you love and grounded in reality.
The big idea reveal
Here it is! Our product is a shop that stocks a range of unique prints that will be printed on fabric, stickers and paper. We’ll turn these materials into lovely designs for baby nurseries and home interiors.
- Baby clothes
- Wall decals
- Tea towels
- Pillows and cushions
We still have a lot of thinking, planning and action-taking before we can launch our business and see it come to life. I have no doubt that as the weeks go by, our business will change. So, what we’re announcing today, can be miles different a few months later once we’ve experimented and iterated upon our idea.
Here’s our moodboard of prints and products that inspire us.
What do you think of our business idea?
The 10 step business plan
So we have the product idea – the next thing we needed to do was to come up with a quick business plan to take it from idea to action.
We’ve decided to map out our business plan using the Business Model Canvas. It’s a simple technique where you can quickly focus on the heart of your business and start taking actions based on what’s written down. Something that used to take 20 pages and weeks to write can be brainstormed and iterated upon within an hour.
Our business model has ten building blocks:
- Customer problem
- Our solution
- Value proposition
- Competitive advantage
- Customer segments
- Competitor review
- Key metrics and actions to take
- Marketing and distribution channels
- Basic costs
- How money will be made
Take a look at our model below and you can download your own copy at the bottom of this blog to action your own business idea.
Our marketing strategy
The beautiful thing about thinking about marketing in the beginning phases of your business is that you’re already thinking like your customer. You’re turning your business into something that has commercial value and putting yourself in the mindset where your business is for your customer, first and foremost. What you create, where you sell, what channels you market on and how you even take photos and write product descriptions has a purpose. You’re making, designing and writing for your customer.
By thinking about a marketing strategy you’re already starting to come together with an idea of your customers’ expectations. I also recommend doing a customer persona exercise if you’re stuck but we very quickly knew who we wanted to talk to (because we had so many friends and family who fit into our target audience) so we skipped this bit.
Our marketing strategy is pretty simple and falls on one huge premise.
Focus on 3 to 4 core marketing channels and do those really well. Once you grow, slowly add more channels.
Most of us here are one (wo)man shows so time is something precious and rare. That’s why you need to do a few channels, figure out which ones work the best and funnel all your energy into those ones.
Here’s our marketing strategy which took us less than half an hour to come up with. It’s still a pretty rough plan, but knowing how and why we want to share our business gives us direction and a place to go.
You can download your own using the link below to plan out your marketing strategy.
Our next steps
- Validate if our business is financially viable to start
- Validate if our target customer actually wants to buy our items
- Start coming up with some test prints and patterns
- Come up with a business name and basic branding
I would love to hear the steps and processes you took when you started your business idea. Comment below!
P.S If you want to get a sneak peek into the details of our business, check out our Instagram Stories and Highlights at @handmadeto100k.