5 Small Business Lessons I Learned in 2018
As we all bid farewell to 2018, it’s only natural to stop and reflect on the past year at Swoon Rugs. 2018 was a milestone year: for the first time, this little startup turned a profit, started paying working salaries, and became self-sufficient.
Borne out of my personal passion for finding and offering beautiful rugs—and my belief in everything a truly fantastic rug can do for a home—I’m now able to look back and know that our hard work has paid off. I’m incredibly grateful to you, our growing customer base, and glad that you appreciate us, buy from us, and continue to send us your heartwarming compliments about our selection—and to share your mutual love of the well-made rug.
Cristina Stauber's dining room featuring a pair of Swoon rugs
Of course, this success didn’t happen overnight.
In 2016, I started Swoon Rugs as a side project to my day job: interior design. Like many side projects, this one sucked me in quickly—requiring a significant investment in time, resources, money in inventory, and more. New businesses frequently hit a turning point, and mine came around December 2017 when, without a cash positive return, I wondered where the cut off point should be. I had to either focus on Swoon full-time—or do something entirely different with my life. It was a terrifying transition, and one that I hadn’t planned for.
Restaurant Design completed in 2016
Here’s how we got through—and some takeaways for you, if you’re pondering a new business:
1. Nail down a routine
When you start a business, money is obviously important. But I’ve realized that time and energy are even more valuable. At the start of the year, I was fumbling through my time—and it didn’t make sense. After all, one of the reasons I started Swoon Rugs was to have command over my time—and spend more of it with my daughter (now four) and husband.
I slowly started to understand how to structure my weeks, days, and hours to be more efficient and successful—and have time left over to spend with my family. My goal in 2019 is to continue to refine my schedule so that I can better dedicate my time and energy and do the things that matter most.
2. Learn when to let go
From failed ideas to unkindled relationships, there have been many things that just haven’t worked out. When you face a dead end, it’s natural to want to keep pushing forward. After all, if you give up too soon, you might miss out on a great opportunity. But it’s important to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.
If you keep pecking away at something that’s never going to workout, you’re just wasting your time—your most valuable resource. It’s a fine line to discern and every situation is different. It’s definitely not an easy thing, and I’ll admit I’ve made some wrong choices. I’ve invested in marketing initiatives that didn’t pay off. I’ve listed rugs that I didn’t love—just because the price seemed “right.” I’ve pursued cross-promotional opportunities with businesses that weren’t necessarily the right fit.
But the lesson here is recognizing that I have choices. Some things are not meant to be, and giving up and going down a different path does not mean you’re a quitter—it means you’re on the ball.
3. Failures don’t make you a failure
Alright, so this is technically a continuation of lesson number 2, but it bears repeating: failures don’t make you a failure.
It’s very easy to get focused on the things that don’t workout. These things are like a sore thumb, begging for your attention. But if everything I did failed, I wouldn’t be here right now. Amidst your failures are successes. It’s easy to discredit the effort it took to make it happen, that’s why it’s so important to celebrate these wins, no matter how small.
My biggest accomplishment is that I’ve started to view failures as valuable information—not as evidence of my shortcomings. The old adage is accurate: you learn more from your failures than your successes. Use this information.
4. Kill comparisons
Comparisons are traps—for small business owners and for everyone. The time you waste comparing your decisions, successes, failures to others is time you could spend cultivating your business. These comparisons are also moot.
I’m not my neighbor Josh, or my cousin Kelly. And I don’t run this business the way Josh or Kelly would. And that’s a great thing. I’m learning to find the joy in figuring out what works for me. We are all on a path and if our focus is directed at what someone else is doing in the distance, we miss the view standing smack in our face.
5. Make a choice and move on
I’ve had a few sleepless nights ruminating over my choices. Would a certain advertising campaign pay off, or would I regret the decision? Were the hours I spent writing blog posts—just like this one—good investments, or time wasted? Would anyone read those posts, or see the photos that we took?
But then I learned this: time spent worrying is the biggest waste of all. We can only ever move forward...not backward.
I’m learning to let my choices breathe. When things don’t work out, see lesson 3 (you are not a failure). And learn.
Over the course of the past year building Swoon Rugs, I’ve learned a lot about running a business. But the biggest thing I’ve realized is that all of these lessons can apply to daily life as well. In 2019, I want to continue to practice these five key lessons and become a better business owner, mom, wife, friend, and person.
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If you can relate to any (or all) of these stories, I’d love to hear from you!