Starting a business has rewards beyond a paycheck
PRIME – April 2013
By Debbie Gardner
Much like the three local residents I've written about in this month's feature story, I too have dipped my toe into the world of owning a business.
No, I wasn't as brave as the individuals whose stories I chronicled for the paper. My business venture didn't involve figuring out what I was good at, or sinking a lot of time and money into a new concept.
My self-employment foray was more of a sure thing, or so I thought.
I decided to join one of the popular direct selling companies that had recently moved into our area.
I'm certain you all know what I mean by direct sellers – after all who hasn't been invited to attend a Tupperware or Tastefully Simple or Princess House party by a girlfriend, granddaughter or niece?
The shows are usually fun, and, in most cases, it seems to attendees that everyone is eager to buy the product.
For someone like myself who might be dreaming about staying home with a child but still contributing to the family bottom line – my husband and I had just adopted our son, Evan, when I decided to give direct selling a try – the concept is very persuasive.
But as I said, I dipped my toe in business ownership. I started the direct selling business while still maintaining my regular job. It was a smart move.
Whatever the company name, the start-up process is the same for a would-be business owner such as myself. You purchase a pre-set kit of products and supporting paperwork, and the company provides training, either through a local longtime member of the company (either called a team leader or director), or through online courses and videos.
Some companies – the good ones – provide newbies with both live and online support in an effort to insure initial success.
And, I'll admit, success did seem easy in the beginning. I had plenty of support from family and friends when i announced I had decided to give xyz company a try. Many were willing to help me get off to a good start by hosting parties, or helping to put me in touch with friends or family members whom they knew were interested in the type of product I was offering.
But – that kind of momentum doesn't keep going forever, and after a time I – and anyone else who has ever tried this kind of business – learned that owning a business requires an investment of your time and effort.
I didn't go into the business world completely blind and naive – as eMarketing Strategy owner and sought-after marketing consultant Ruth P Stevens notes in her advice to would-be business owners on page 5, I did choose a direct sell product that fit my skills and experience. I also developed a business plan with goals – which I did meet in the initial phase.
Where I fell down was in the all-important area of networking and contacts.
I'm not a bubbly, outgoing person by nature, and striking up a conversation that might develop into a business lead did not come as easy to me as it did to other direct sellers I talked to. I also suffered from phone phobia – I had a hard time making the all-important follow-up phone calls to ask individuals who had attended one of my presentations if they were interested in hosting their own party.
Stevens would have chided me that I hadn't figured out how to network on my own terms, and in a way that better fit my personality.
Still, I learned a lot about running a business – things such as scheduling (even if it was just my own time for parties, submitting orders and networking), cash flow, customer service, public speaking, promotion – both product and self , and business analysis.
I learned to be resourceful – there were always times when the product didn't work correctly, the host was not prepared for my demonstration or the attendance was dismal – and I had to figure out how to salvage the event for the host on the fly. Being in business for yourself definitely teaches you to think, as it's said, "out of the box."
I also learned a lot about myself – and that I probably couldn't turn my self-employment dream into a reality, at least not with the business I had chosen.
In my eyes the true profit I made came from the experiences I gained and the friends I made, both clients and fellow direct sellers, as I struggled to succeed.
I haven't given up – one of my strengths, it seems, is perseverance. I'm still in the direct selling game.
Only now, my goal is just to help fund Evan's gymnastics.