It’s been almost a year I ventured into the online clothing and accessories business focusing on South Asian people in USA and Canada. As all of the entrepreneurs, I jumped into it with all the energy and sources that I had. I did try to juggle the full-time work with part-time love for my new venture. Ultimately, time came when I decided to focus completely on my business as it was a one woman show. Along with starting a new business, my responsibility as a single mother (because my husband travels a lot for his business) was keeping me way too busy. I spent sleepless nights and days to make the inventory up to date with all the barcode tags, doing research online to find the cues on writing description of the products, taking pictures of the products that involved learning how to take photos in different light settings, learning and failing miserably sometimes while taking pictures of clothing and jewelry, learning to set the jewelry pieces in certain focus/background for best quality, getting watermark and logo on the pictures, and finally making entries of every product in the website with description, size details where ever applicable, and providing as much as description to the viewers/consumers in an effort to provide transparency and build the relation of trust.
I spent almost initial two months in finalizing the logo of the company and the tag labels, with different sizes, color combinations for text, text on the tags for clothes Sarees, Pearl jewelry online, and accessories. This was the first step to provide consistency of the company persona everywhere in the social media, online website, and in person. So far, the branding has helped in bringing unique look and feel to the company.
The next step was to build a website that is easy to access for content management and for customers to view and shop online with a responsiveness on mobile and desktop platforms. The biggest mistake I did at this point was to go for a cheaper site building company, and like they say, you get what you pay for, I did get what I paid for, which was almost close to nothing! Unfortunately, I had problems with the site almost every week, from not able to load any pictures to website itself not loading properly. It was a challenging time for me to accept the fact that I need to look for different option to build the website from the scratch and spend more time and effort to do so. Hope this rings the bell to all of us, who have hard time admitting our mistake and correcting it (including me).
It was almost the month of June 2016, when I had to decide if I should stay or leave with the original website. At the same time, I had a pre-planned trip out of country for almost 2 months, and needless to say, the whole plan of changing the website was put on the back burner until I come back from my trip.
When I came back in August, I had almost forgotten what I had started with, and started with the doubts in my mind about the whole online business and entrepreneurship! By this time, I was totally in perplexed mindset about why, what, and how for the business. The month of August was very tough on me as being a motivated and busy person all the time, suddenly I felt the emptiness in my life. Slowly, I started looking out for job again, in fact, I gave a few interviews too. At one point, I thought of completely stopping whatever I am doing and go back to my consulting work in IT industry. But then, I thought of all the various options, and it made me realize that I have not given enough of what is needed before I give up on my venture! Then I rolled my sleeves and started working on new website, with all the previous experiences and learning. But now I was getting trapped again in the cycle of ignoring my health to a point where I was not able to walk too much because of lower back pain. By this time, I had the website up and running, the Facebook page was all setup and posts were done on the social media with minimal paid marketing. But I still had no sale or not too many visitors online.
Then it hit me that now I have to focus on SEO, Social media marketing, and advertisements. Unfortunately, by this time, I had consumed all my money set aside for the venture, mostly in inventory, equipment, and building website (two times). I am still continuing my journey and have not given up yet because I know that I have chosen a unique path in completely unknown territory with no mentor or guidance with very little resources and lot of competition.
What I am set to do is not just to make money, but it has changed my life inside out, I have made lot of new friends in various groups to learn about consumers, products, and service. I have got actively involved in local community through various events. I have learned more about myself, as an individual who always wanted to be busy, I have mellowed down a lot, learned to enjoy my time with my son attending his activities, I have slowed down to learn the basics of the venture, which is inner strength and happiness or pure joy of enjoying the journey of entrepreneurship. For me, starting a venture has not been about money making, it is about leading my life in new territory, adventuring the path to learn the unknown, and explore the possibilities. It is also about being able to do something for the people through giving back to the community, not only through my business but also as an individual contributor. It is a quest for myself to build the life not just for 8-5 work which I enjoyed while I was doing it, but to make it more unstructured to enjoy and feel the spontaneous energy in the moment, rather than planning it ahead of time. I still do believe in detail organization and planning, as it is core of my personality. Expanding my core personality by pairing it up with unknown surprises, and taking the ownership and responsibility for my own time and effort is very hard, especially when there is no one who is setting the goals or targets for me, except for myself!
Truly speaking, this is a wonderful journey I am on, where I learned to be inquisitive about people and their interests, rather than pushing my own agendas. I recently started writing blogs which I am thoroughly enjoying as it is not a paper of MBA or Doctoral exams that I need to worry about plagiarism or references or staying to the topic or the points I will gain or trying to make sure that people are attentive to my presentation, so I can get that extra performance grade on my quarterly review! What I write is what I think of and what I absorb from reading so many articles, books, and my own experiences.
The journey of entrepreneurship is not what it looks like, it is much harder, much stressful, much monotonous, and many times comes with unexpected outcomes, so be ready to face it as it comes, and enjoy it for the passion and love of life!