The start-up journey is hard. It comes with ups-and downs. It comes with tears & sleepless nights. And it comes with great success & achievement. I have been through it all (and to be honest, at times there still are sleepless nights). My start-up journey started in January 2017. It was just me & my little PDF I had bought about ‘How to Start a Swimwear Business’, fast forward to 2019 & I now own an internationally recognised swimwear brand Elka Swim.
Owning a business is never smooth sailing. My journey started, then due to some life issues, it stopped – this was a blessing in disguise. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but now I’m in it, I love every minute. I was working as a full-time Radio Announcer; which I had thought was my dream job but after 9 years realised it wasn’t, and was trying to build my side business at the same time. It took my savings; it took lots of cups-of-tea & it took lots of time & energy. But one thing is for sure, no one will ever care about your business more than you!
As a new business owner, you are faced with many challengers. Some challenges bigger than others. I thought the style & creation areas were the most challenging until it came to dealing with others. The biggest challenges I had (and still have today), is dealing with people that aren’t directly within the business. Our first challenge was dealing with our first photographer for our first photoshoot. They were late, rude, left early & didn’t give us our photos for over a month (and when you’re working to a launch date this is not great). When we finally got some photos back, they were terrible. There was even a shot of our videographer in one of them. It took another month of back-and-forth to get the rest of the images from them. It still makes me mad to this day to think about how rude & unprofessional they were.
The next major challenge came with Influencer Marketing. This new way of marketing is a thing & as a business owner it is something we have to learn to embrace. Some influencers do treat is as a business, others do not. It’s the ones that don’t that cause the heartache. If you are too trusting (as I was), then you are already on the back burner. Not all of them will ‘take you for a ride’ but when they do, it hurts. It hurts the most when you are relying on their post as part of a launch to help create brand awareness. One thing is for sure, when you find a good one, build a relationship with them & keep it going because they are few & far between.
Both of these major challenges could have been avoided by one simply thing, a contract. Yes, I was new to the business world & very naïve. And too trusting. As I said before, no one will ever care about your business more than you. I have since put contract agreements in place & they have come in handy a few times, especially with Influencers. I will also never make full paid upfront. Ever. Again. In the real world – well the one I was from before, you know the working 9-5 one, I had to work and then I got paid. In this new world, it seems everyone excepts to be paid upfront, in full. I have noticed since I pay a small percentage upfront, it gives me more control over the outcome. If that outcome isn’t what was outlined in the agreement, I have just saved myself my hard-earned money & some heartache. Moral of the story, contracts save lives – or at least your sanity.
With the bad, does come the good. I was a Social Media Mentor in my past life as well, so I know a few things about that world. This knowledge helped get us some great international exposure. We have been in UK Vanity fair twice, Tatler Magazine & UK GQ. So how did I do this? We were consistent & we had a strategy in place. Your strategy is a road map. Spend time engaging, collaborating with brands, be active in Facebook groups & post consistently. All of this helps create & build your tribe & brand awareness. It’s hard work but when it pays off, all those sleepless nights & litres of cups-of-tea are all worth it.