Five Lessons from My First Five-Year Business
You never forget your first time. In my business ventures, that first time was five years ago.
It feels like yesterday I nervously sat in front of my computer wondering if any one of the 30 people I sent an email to about my new business, MEND Jewelry, would purchase—let alone care. It didn’t matter that those 30 people were friends and family members who submitted their email to my “coming soon” splash page. I’d bare my business soul for the first time at a mere age of 24. I prayed the little savings I’d invested would be enough. Little did I know, this email announcing MEND’s launch would transform my business and life forever.
I wanted MEND to succeed so badly, I didn’t care about the risk. Being an entrepreneur is all a matter of risk appetite. And I am always hungry.
There was a 50 percent chance my business wouldn’t make it this far. Half of businesses will fail by the five year mark and these odds get slimmer for women owned businesses, too. I flipped a coin with MEND and prayed for tails (because, you know, “tails never fails”).
Five years later here I am, with MEND by my side through all of the triumphant and turbulent years. Five years. Half a decade. One idea flourished into a brand that launched 20+ products, partnered with national brands, received six figures in venture capital and more importantly, empowered and connected more than 2,000 customers with MEND’s simple, clean designed jewelry.
Of course, these past five years were not always the highlight reel above. I’d tried and failed A LOT.
In 2020, after my funding ran out, I decided not to take on additional capital, therefore removing my salary from the company. (Read: Why I Stopped Taking Salary).
I floundered freelancing a bit and then fell into a full-time communications role at a public technology company for the majority of 2020-2021. After discovering (quickly) that I am a forever entrepreneur, I went back to consulting under JDP Consult. This time with an LLC and confidence in the value I can provide. With my new consulting company, my time became razor thin, and I had to ruthlessly prioritize my time with MEND.
I decided 80 percent of my time would go towards JDP Consult and MEND would get 20 percent per month with the exception of Q4. During the merry-money-making season of the holidays, I’d invest closer to 40 percent of my time on MEND to capitalize on the gifting season.
I mapped out the different channels of the revenue and created a rubric of yeses and nos. Questions to define this criteria were the following:
- How much effort does this take?
- Does it drive revenue?
- What is the impact?
- Does this benefit my customers?
- What does the data tell me?
This process ranked and eliminated different parts of the business that received my attention. MEND only attends events with proven sales or curates partner-specific pop-up events with nationally recognized brands. When it comes to wholesale partnerships, I saw massive trade shows shutter their doors and translate to a crowded online retail space. MEND now has a shortlist of stores with great relationships and customers who carry our products. I have cut my store list in half to focus on quality over quantity. No dollar amount is worth the headache of mismatched partnerships, especially at half the cost.
I’ve put a sharp focus on online efforts; from SEO implementation, video content to email strategy. MEND’s primary source of revenue continues to be online. The efforts are streamlined and the impact can be measured with real time data. My customers started here and will continue to find the best experience and breath of products available online.
MEND is a profitable business because of the decisions made every day to serve its customers. The business will continue to be an asset I value whether it pays off my student debt, gets me a pink Tesla or continues to hire more women. When I lose the drive to design and connect with my customers, I’ll be done. But until then, MEND will adapt and grow every day, month and year.
Five Lessons from Five Years
Now, there’s no exact playbook to making it this far, but there’s some important lessons I’ve discovered over the past half-decade. I even reflected on the first TCB post I wrote in 2018 to see if those lessons actually ring true today. I stand by them all, just now I have a bit more experience.
- You are your most important asset, so take care of yourself. No one will care as much as you do about your business, which means you’ll work yourself into the ground if you’re not careful. In a world of burnout and not being able to turn off, prioritizing your well-being is like building muscle. Even if it means scheduling 5-10 minutes in the morning to meditate, stretch, drink coffee in silence, take that time. Bye bye hustle culture, hello balance. Successful entrepreneurs know when to pause and take time for themselves, guilt-free.
- You are who you surround yourself with. OKAY OKAY. We all know this, but are you actually practicing it? Think about the last five people you texted (besides your Doordash driver). Do they lift you up or weigh you down? Do they challenge you to be better? Or can you sit through another happy hour with them complaining about the same things they refuse to change? In order to become the successful business owner you dream of, relentlessly assess your company. Find folks who match your values, dream big and lift you and your business up. The biggest barrier? Putting yourself out there. I’m talking to YOU MINNESOTA natives. Burst out of your bubble. There are endless places to find, meet and build your center of influence. You’ve got to be willing to awkwardly small talk your way into new adult friendships! The company you keep will become an asset to your company.
- If you’re not flexible, you will break. If the global pandemic has taught us anything, besides prioritizing our health, it’s how to adapt. The past few years have felt like survival. But we’re not just surviving anymore. With each passing day, we are proving our resilience and ability to overcome each new challenge. There is no turning back from this point in time. We can continue to fall into a cycle of survival and reaction or transform our businesses to evolve and explore new changes.The only constant is change. We can either collapse each time a new wave emerges or learn how to surf.
- Persistence is key. Unless someone says ‘no’ to a potential business opportunity, consider it an open task until you get an answer. I didn’t get into Nordstrom by asking one time. I had 30 seconds of the manager’s time, convinced her to consider a MEND pop-up shop and then called her every Friday morning at 10:00 a.m. for three weeks until I got an answer. And that answer was YES. Don’t be afraid of the follow-up. People are busy, forgetful and need reminders of how your business is the only one they should partner with. The more you follow-up, the more opportunities created.
- Remember your North Star. It’s easy to feel trapped by our daily todo lists, calendars packed with back to back meetings and an endless email inbox. Our day to day gets us to the businesses we dream of. But if we don’t have the big dream in our peripheral vision, we’ll lose sight of what this is all for. At the end of last year, in my Business Women Circle (BWC) we were all tasked to show up as ourselves five years from now. I went all out; I rented a designer suit paired with Italian black heeled leather boots. Beyond looking five year ready, I designed a five year manifestation manual, outlining who I aspire to be personally, professionally and financially in the future. Future me is a New York Times Bestselling author, successful serial entrepreneur who invests in women, makes time for her family and loved ones while prioritizing her health and wellness. She sounds pretty badass to me. Every morning after I meditate, I take a moment to flip through my five year plan knowing I am one step closer to it. Even if you don’t design a booklet, write down “New York Times Bestselling Author” and stick it on your computer. Aspire to create a future for yourself you’ve always dreamt about. Now write it down somewhere.
To celebrate our five years in business, MEND Jewelry will be investing 50 percent of our sales to women owned businesses via iFundWomen through the end of February.
Cheers to five more years!