WHAT WE LEARNED FROM RUNNING A SMALL BUSINESS
We get a lot of emails from you guys and we thought it would be fun to answer some of your questions in this blog post. Although many of the emails usually focus on natural hair, today we will be focusing on 5 questions from random emails regarding entrepreneurial advice, branding e.tc. So let's get to it.
- I want to open my own business but I feel completely lost. I have tried coming up with new ideas but so far my last venture was a burst. I feel fresh out of ideas but i don't want to give up. How did you guys choose this line of business? How did you know what industry will be profitable?
Okay, where to start. Many people don't know this but Catherine Marion was once a clothing line, which we started in college but later closed down because it was just too difficult to keep up. We reopened Catherine Marion a couple of years ago as a wig company after going natural and discovering we had a talent of creating protective style wigs that people actually wanted to buy. But to be honest we were never satisfied with Catherine Marion as a wig company because quite frankly it just wasn't where our passion lied. Pause! Depending on which part of the story you are reading, "WE" doesn't always represent both of us (Abby and Ivie) but we will refer to we to keep this simple. Back to the story... so where did our passion lie? Well at that time we definitely had no idea but we knew we wanted a company that just represented things we liked. When we went natural it honestly was more of just a fun hobby at first, but we got to a point where we wanted to see some real progress with our natural hair. In order to see some drastic progress you have to put in a little research. Through research we discovered that we have a passion for natural hair and having an overall healthy organic lifestyle. That eventually led us to see that there was still a need for organic products especially ones that cater to kinkier girls like us. Eventually Ivie's background in Biology and Abby's background in business lead us to where we are today. So the one advice we have for you (based on our experience), when opening a new company is to try and focus on things you are actually passionate about. When you do so you will find that you don't have to look too hard for a product or service to offer. It almost begins to come to you organically through your passion for it. Whether you passion lies in technology, art, fashion, finance, etc. focus on that and go from there. Also, it is completely normal to have interests in many things, so don't feel like you have to pick one particular interest. Just because your last venture was a bust, doesn't mean your next one will be. Keep at it, stay consistent and look to things that interest you for ideas on where to start.
- Should I keep my full time job while running my business?
This is a tricky one. Honestly it all depends on your financial situation. If you are at a place where you are financially comfortable enough to keep up whatever lifestyle you are accustomed to, where do not need a job then you should definitely QUIT. You do not need a job consuming precious time that you can spend on your company. But if you are NOT there financially then you should definitely keep your day job. The one thing about owning your own business is that there are ups and downs through out the year no matter what industry you are in. We started Catherine Marion with a small investment from our family but we worked while running Catherine Marion for many years. So it pretty much depends on how much of a risk taker you are and your financial situation.
- I'm having a hard time on deciding on a brand direction for my company. I love your branding and would love some advice on how I can brand my company.
In this day and age of social media marketing, branding was and still is very important. Branding basically helps you project the image you would like to represent your company. It shows your customers "hey THIS is who we are, THIS is what we like, if YOU like stuff like THIS then you have come to the right place". "Your Brand" should show the personality of your company, so when potential customers find you, they pretty much should be able to immediately get the feel of what your company is about. We discovered our brand's personality through living a more natural lifestyle in all aspects of our life. There are some things that we are naturally drawn to visually but we also did some research on what sort of personality already existed within our industry (not that this matters but it is nice to know), what sort of personalities our "Target Market" has and what we wanted our brand to project. Luckily for us our ideal brand personality (which was honestly based on our interest) naturally aligned with our customer’s personality. But if you find yourself in a situation where your natural interest doesn’t align with your “target market” then it’s up to you to do more research and think about what identity you would like your company to have. In cases like this we would advise that you cater to your customers but stay true to yourself. As we speak we are still learning as we go and through that always evolving as a brand.
- How important is social media to running a company, what if I do not want my company to focus on social media but instead I want to be more present in real life?
The funny thing about this question is we asked something similar to Vanessa De Luca, the editor of Essence Magazine, when we spoke at the “SHE LEADS AFRICA” NYC event. We asked this because we go through phases sometimes when we get so overwhelmed with creating social media content that we feel like stepping into the background and just quietly running Catherine Marion for a while. There is nothing wrong with wanting to step back but social media is definitely important. If you do not want to be present on social media then you certainly do NOT have to make yourself the face of your brand. Try using spokes models, bloggers, and brand ambassadors instead. Also you do not have to present on all platforms of social media, for example we have a larger audience on youtube and snapchat but a small but growing audience on facebook instagram and twitter. Focus on whatever platform your customers are finding you on and go from there. Finally, being relevant on social media is important but being present in real life is just as important if not more. Make sure you are doing collaborations, trade shows, pop-ups and events in which you get to directly interact with your customers building a stronger relationship and possibly opening new doors.
- Please share a fun fact about yourself
Ivie “Abby is a little obsessed with dancing and knows all the current instagram dance challenges but won't let me record her.
Abby – “Ivie is forever deciding whether she should go Vegan or not, but the Nigerian in her loves pepper soup and goat meat.