“How you define your life is entirely your choice. You can choose to see the worst in every situation, or you can simply choose to the positives and the opportunities life presents to you” — Angela Wang 2017
Yesterday Facebook Memories reminded me it was the one year anniversary of the first event I have hosted as an entrepreneur. As we quite often reflect on the past during birthdays and anniversaries, I thought it’s timely to also reflect on my journey during my 1st year in business.
I wish I could tell any up and coming entrepreneurs that business is easy! Unfortunately, like many other entrepreneurs before me, my first year in business was not one full of sunshine and roses.
Many people probably think being separated from my husband, learning to be independent and having just bought my first property on my own is enough to stop anyone from jumping into starting their first business. Not me! 2015 for me was a year of all of the above. As one of my mentors said to me… “you sure know how to line up your battles all in one go!”
What made me do all these things at once? I simply went with my gut instinct! I knew as much as that the timing might have been all wrong, it was time!
My First Year In Business
So, at the age of 32, I finally decided to take the first step to transform my dream of owning my own business, and started my first business “Peach Blossom Creative Studio” – a concept and name I have been putting together in my head since I started planning my own wedding back in 2010.
Like many people who wanted to start their own business but didn’t, I had been stuck with the how, and worried about other people’s opinion. I couldn’t see how I could have a day job that I am so very passionate about while running my own business. As cliché as it sounds, it wasn’t until one day after I attended a personal development course that I realised that entrepreneurship is in my blood, and this is what I needed to do… after all, there’s only one way to really find out if I am cut out for it or not, right?
With my mind set on this next challenge, I enrolled into business courses, registered my business and started working on my new “business baby.”
With a very tight starting budget, and very little contingency left in the bank, I decided to do as much as I could myself. I learnt how to set up a website, started my own Facebook page, and an Instagram account. I made myself attend one networking event each week, learnt how to promote and advertise my business, even started running my own events so I could show potential customers what I can do. All of this was on top of my day job in Construction!
Before long I found I was spreading myself too thin with my time, so sleep and health soon became a luxury. Still, I thought to myself, it will be ok, that’s what all entrepreneurs do isn’t it?
July 2016 was my highest and also lowest point in business…
My Lowest Point In Business
After the success of my first event in April, I decided to get together with a group of speakers and started planning my second event on the first weekend of September. I was extremely excited about the event! Surely running an event with three other people is just as easy as running my own right? Armed with my “naiveness” and a simple mission to provide tips and trick to help my audiences create a better life for themselves, I started working on my second event – “Spring Clean Your Life”
Little did I know that hosting a seminar for a group of speakers really isn’t child’s play, it is hard work and also a lot of pressure getting promotion, exposure and sales. I was feeling a lot of pressure, because I was now working for and with three other speakers, whom I felt responsible for, and felt obliged to make sure there were enough people coming to the event, so I could deliver what I promised.
Amongst the madness of running my event and my day job, I received an email out of the blue at the end of July. It was from a guy called Jonathan, he wanted me to help him organise his son’s 9th birthday for 70 people. I was scared and also over the moon at the same time. This was my biggest order so far, and it’s from a new customer, who is not a friend (does this mean all the hard work I put into my social media advertising finally worked?).
Part of me thought this would be a great business opportunity, but there was a part of me thinking, there’s no way I can cater for a dinner party on a weeknight for 70 people.
It turned out, Jonathan lives in Rose Bay (not far from where I am) and his wife had passed away a year ago. He was travelling overseas a lot for business reasons, and he wanted to give his 9 year old son Alfred a birthday that he would remember.
With my new business mindset in mind, I convinced myself to push through my fears. Not only was it a great business opportunity, but also I was very touched by the story and wanted to help create this amazing birthday party for Alfred.
And so I started to set up the quote and plan my days so I could have everything organised. Jonathan had accepted my quote without any negotiation and was happy to pay for the deposit upfront, with only one condition. He asked me to help pay for his party planner, as the planner does not have an eftpos facility. As I was all about providing top quality and hassle free services to my customers I accepted the request, charged both my deposit and the party planner’s fees from the credit cards Jonathan had given me, then transferred the payment to the party planner’s bank account
I Got Scammed
It wasn’t until I received a letter from the bank about unapproved charges to the credit cards Jonathan had sent me, I started to realize something had gone very wrong. It turned out it was a very well planned credit card fraud aimed at small business owners with credit card facilities.
To make matters worse, it was two weeks before my seminar, and there were only two people signed up to the event, and I only had on average 4hrs sleep a night for the past two weeks. I was tired, stressed, angry, upset and most of all, disappointed with myself for being too trusting and naive. All I had about Jonathan was the email address, a list of credit cards, his home address (fake of course), and the email address of the party planner. Silly me… I didn’t even get a phone number, how stupid could I be, I thought to myself.
At this point, I was ready to give up. I thought to myself, I could have just worked on my day job like I had been for the past nine years, and live comfortably. How silly of me to want to start a business and now I have just lost all my savings.
On the other hand, there was also another voice in my head. “Things happen for a reason, it is an expensive lesson learnt, but let’s look at the positives from this point on”
And I did! I started to count my blessings and look at the positives…Thank God I received the letter from the bank early enough so I could pull the pin before I lost any more money. I am surrounded with a group of amazing friends and mentors, and I have so much support. I still have a place to live, food that gives me energy, good health and a job that pays the bills.
I really didn’t have too much time to feel all these negative emotions, because I still had a seminar to run, and I couldn’t let all the other speakers down, they had been so supportive also. So I pulled together all my strength, had an emergency coaching session with my coach, and finished the event.
Learning The Business Lessons
Little did I know my true learning came after all this… and now looking back I can really look at this expensive lesson learnt as a gift.
I took time off my new born business for an entire month in September… allowing myself to let all the emotions settle, and re-assess where I wanted to be. I went back to the basics, reconnected with myself and my WHYS. I went back to my 7-year vision I set myself 12 months ago.
And when I reconnected with my WHY I realised I was making things way to complicated for myself, when all I wanted was to bake, create beautiful desserts and inspire women to go after their dreams and passion, no matter what it is. And YES I definitely still want to be in business!
It’s nothing to do with organising fancy events, or helping brides plan a wedding, it’s not even about making savory food. I just want to do desserts, and high tea and encourage women to love themselves first, and follow their dreams.
I realised while I was busy taking care of my business baby, I went back into the same trap I kept falling back into, even though I don’t have children of my own. Like many mums, I was too busy giving time to my business baby, I forgot about the most important person in my life. ME!
I was too busy comparing myself with all the other entrepreneurs I know, and trying to run my business as my second full time job.
I forgot that in order for me to maintain focus on my business baby, I need to make it fun, and allow myself to be creative. How do I do that you may ask? I stopped putting pressure on myself, and re-connected myself with my WHY. I didn’t start a business to make money, I started a business so I can pursue my passion and help others find theirs too.
Reconnecting With My ‘Why’
With these new found reflections in mind, I spent October 2016 re-working my 7 year vision, re-branding my business, and started looking for external help that could help me with what I don’t have time for and something that I don’t really love doing – sales and advertising. Instead of handing out business cards I hand out my baking at networking events, I tell people about why I bake and my story.
The most magical thing is once I started to have fun and enjoy what I do again, I became so much more creative with my baking, I have more ideas than ever, and businesses started to come.
These days I am living and breathing my new businesses baby “By Lala High Tea +” everyday, but it does not consume me. I take care of my own health first and sleep becomes the most important thing for me. Don’t get me wrong there are still long nights where I have to finish baking or I just simply get too carried away. I definitely still have so much more learning and growing to do when it comes to growing my business, but business is fun for me now. I have now found my own definition of a balanced life for me! And my own definition of what entrepreneurship means to me. I am now living on my own terms, and no longer compare my journey with others.
In summary, my first year in business has given me some of my biggest learnings and challenges in life. It has also given me the biggest gift, and that is finding my own balance in life, being able to live life on my own terms, and most important of all, being happy doing what I do each day!
Want to hear more inspiring stories and meet other amazing people who have been through the journey of following their own dreams and living life on their own terms? Join me on the 27th of May at my next High Tea With Purpose Event – “Your Dreams / Your Passion / Your Life”
Click Here to find out more!