Valuable Lessons from My First Creative Business
Many lifetimes ago I owned my first creative business: a floral and event design business with my mom. It was called Fiori Event Design and we owned it for seven years. We worked really hard, had fun, and were heartbroken when we had to close it. If I knew then what I know now... I would have done things differently. Owning that business taught me a lot.
Location doesn't matter. We started out in a small space and decided to upgrade our location because we thought the added visibility would benefit us. Foot traffic was not what we needed - we could have been in a warehouse area and spent a lot less on rent.
Networking is super important. Connecting with catering managers and being on the hotel's preferred vendor list was huge for our business. As an introvert I made the mistake of avoiding industry events and networking opportunities.
Don't spend too much on advertising. Some high end magazines had astronomical advertising rates but we figured if that one ad could get us x amount of business it was worth it.
Learn to negotiate. Almost everything is negotiable but if you don't ask the answer is always no.
Find a mentor. This was a VERY big mistake. I should have been working with someone who knew about running a creative business and who could advise me on where to improve, set goals, hire people, etc. I wasn't equipped to figure everything out on my own.
Late last year I began working with an art business coach (The Artist Entrepreneur) and this has made a HUGE difference in my business. With the help of Catherine and the other artists in the community I have been consistent in my work, developed good habits and set and achieved growth goals. When I get stuck and need help figuring out what to do next I have people I can turn to for advice.
Take time off and have a life. In the end, one of the things that drove me to close the business was how tired I was. I was burned out and going to work was no longer something I looked forward to.
Invest in the brand. I succeeded in booking a lot of out of town business because I had a good website. It was not anything flashy but it was way ahead of what many of my competitors had.
Looking back on my days at Fiori, I'm glad things happened the way they did. After all, that's what got me where I am today. All of those lessons are valuable and thinking about what I could have done better then helps me in what I'm doing now. For example, writing this post I realized I haven't been very good about having a life outside of work. Between my freelance marketing work and my photography work I seem to have forgotten to take time off and have fun. Now I make it a point to spend most of the weekend offline and to do things that have no business value. Bruno thinks that's an excellent idea ;-)