I’ve been avoiding writing this. I suppose it’s because I feel a bit exposed, letting everyone in on the inner workings of the struggle and success of The French 75. I want to share some thoughts, successes, and failures of my first year of starting my own business to hopefully inspire you, and help your own dreams to come true.
The French 75 started as an idea around July 2014. My great friend Sepi at Nest & Foster and I worked together in my day to day job. One of her amazing talents is to inspire entrepreneurs to follow their dreams. Another one of her gifts is to support your dream while asking you the hard questions other people may not want to ask. It is truly because of her and her encouragement The French 75 lives today. I believe it is almost impossible to move forward on your dreams without someone to believe in you and support you from day 1 (and every day after that).
Originally I wanted my business to be me designing amazing vintage inspired swimsuits and selling them on Etsy. One catch, I don’t sew (yet). So while that dream is in my back pocket for later, I started off buying up as many vintage clothes, jewelry, and household products as I could. I didn’t know what would sell, and I didn’t know what I wanted to sell. I still have about $200 worth of product just sitting in my spare bedroom and I likely wont bother listing it for various reasons. Even though this may be a failure, I’ve learned so much over time about merchandizing, styling, and branding it was a very inexpensive lesson to learn in the grand scheme of things.
Sepi helped me with my website, branding, and business coaching. Then on September 18, 2014 I launched The French 75 website & shop with three products – a 1950s faux fur wrap, a 1960s drink shaker and glass set, and a vintage pillow. I borrowed Jay’s iphone and snapped photos of each item, did the write up, and put them up on the shop. A pretty random mix and they all sold pretty quickly (surprising me to say the least!). I was hooked.
Soon after the launch of the website & shop I started The French 75 Pinterest page (currently with 34 followers), The French 75 Facebook page (87 likes), and TheFrench_75 Instagram account (237 followers). Even though it can be very time consuming to keep up on them I have had multiple sales and opportunities because of these social media accounts. These are where my most passionate followers have come from. I am happy to report all social media accounts are steadily growing – success!
Especially at the very beginning I read articles every day about starting your own business – what to try, what to do if you’re a new vintage seller. Some were encouraging, others weren’t. Sepi kept my spirits up and helped me focus on the goal of having my business succeed and grow. I invested in items that would help my business: a domain name, a website, branding, a business logo stamp, packaging materials, a mannequin, an iphone. I sold $699.30 from September to December 31st and ended up with a net loss of about $500 because of the investments I made, many of which were one time purchases for the business. This year I am happy to announce I have covered all of my costs and am now showing a profit which is quite exciting as a new business owner!
Now into my second calendar year, with my storefront being up for 14 months, I am still learning so much every day. I am still trying to find out what my ultimate goal is. I have some ideas and I’m going to try them out. I did my first flea market this year and sold only two items. Yes, it was a failure, and yes, I did lose money. I sheepishly did a second market a few months later and sold one month’s worth of online inventory in 6 hours – success! I’m learning from these experiences and moving forward.
The Life of (This) Business Owner
One of the most shocking realizations I’ve had since I started my own business was that it is not glamourous. I’ve followed certain blogs and businesses for years admiring how happy, creative, and lovely their lives look! Behind the scenes things are messy, you are exhausted, things struggle to stay organized, and sometimes you wonder how you can keep on top of it all (many times you can’t). But you keep moving forward, perfecting, and creating as much as you can. Sometimes you get a bit of relief (maybe it’s an extra day off from your day job) and you flourish and fall in love with your idea and business all over again, and it keeps you going.
So, after launching the French 75 in September 2014 here are some thoughts I have on my first year:
Thought #1. In this past year I have felt more creatively alive & more tired than any other year of my life
Thought #2. A business is continuous work (I know this sounds obvious but it is true, every minute there is something to do or something more you could do). The French 75 is what I do after my day job and I work on it every day if I can, and more and more each week
Thought #3. I love The French 75 and can keep pushing it to be bigger and better because I love it! I love vintage, styling, finding items, presenting items, researching items. I mean, watching loads of Call the Midwife episodes on Netflix wasn’t just for fun, it was research!
Thought #4. A business can only grow if the time you have to put in to it can grow too (especially if you start it on the side)
Thought #5. Celebrate every success (especially the small ones) and preferably with someone who can share in your joy
Thought #6. Learn from the failure, and move forward
Thought #7. Learn basic accounting & keep records daily (this is one I still have to master)
Thought #8. Some people wont like what you are doing, forget about them and move forward. Everything else is white noise as Sepi would say 🙂
Thought #9: Stay flexible, things will change and you will have to change with them!
Thought #10: You never know unless you try
A big thank you to all of my customers, and cheerleaders (some of which are both) that we have seen this year – The French 75 wouldn’t exist without you. Thank you for helping me do what I love, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow, next month, and next year has in store!