Small Business Learnings

Small Business Learnings - Advice for 2024

With the new year upon us it's always a good time to reflect and figure out what worked and what needs to be left firmly in the past.

Firstly, to bring you up to speed with my business, Big Little Gift Box. I finally took the plunge this year and set up Big Little Gift Box as a ‘proper’ business. I stopped referring to it as a hobby or fundraiser. That was really just me hiding that this thing is real just in case it didn’t work out. I found the mechanics of setting up a business quite simple, but making it work takes a huge amount of hard work and effort. It’s not been plain sailing, far from it. There have been months when I thought I had made a bit of a mistake, especially at the start.

I want to help others succeed on their own small business journey, so thought I would share my learnings. I have met some incredible people along the way, so I have also asked a few of my favourite businesses and customers for their biggest 2023 learnings too. So here we go...

Just when you are about to give in

June and July are the slowest months for many handmade businesses, something to do with winter maybe? It was about this time last year when I started to feel like there was something really wrong my with branding, products, social posts, me or all of the above. It was at that point that I focused on a 2-3 key goals and it became a bit of a tipping point to my business performance (and by that I mean sales) improving. I think the quote by Sir James Dyson about running is so relevant for business too “What I've learned from running is that the time to push hard is when you're hurting like crazy and you want to give up. Success is often just around the corner.”

Imposter syndrome 

Our next piece of advice comes from Saira who is the creative genius behind Arias Design Co. Making small batch polymer clay earrings and handmade jewellery, I urge you to go and check out her store and follow on Instagram. I was gifted some of Arias Design Co bouquet earrings for Christmas (see below) and love them! Here are Saira's thoughts from last year:

2023 brought with it a whole host of small business related challenges as well as a lot of reasons to celebrate. Something I personally struggled with while running Arias Design Co over the last year was the infamous 'imposter syndrome' rearing its head at every opportunity. When a huge part of your business is based on your online presence it's really easy to find yourself sucked into a vortex of comparison - watching the successes of other businesses online can leave you feeling like you're doing it all wrong and everybody apart from you has it all figured out. These negative thoughts can quickly spiral into feeling like you simply don't deserve to be in this space and should probably just give up... which couldn't be further from the truth!

When I noticed that I was slipping into these thoughts more and more, I found it really helpful to put some boundaries in place with myself and how I interacted with social media. I unfollowed my competitors and accounts that made me feel like I wasn't doing enough, and limited my time spent scrolling on apps. I try and consciously ignore the numbers - follower count, views and likes - reminding myself that my content resonates with my actual customers. Since I've started engaging with social media in a more conscious way I've noticed imposter syndrome having less and less of a hold on me, so would absolutely recommend taking these steps if you find yourself in a similar situation!

Arias Design Co Earrings


You can’t be for everyone

I’m sorry to say but some people will dislike your products. What, I'm so hurt! I know, I know. Making it feel worse, when you have designed and made that product yourself, it can feel like a personal afront. It’s not. If we all liked everything, this world would be a boring place.

However, before diving into a new business or product, it is important to check your product will sell and you have proof of concept. By that I mean, has someone who isn’t your best friend, grandma or next door neighbour bought your product willingly. Ways to get proof of concept could be selling your products at a small market, open a Felt store or list them on Facebook Marketplace. They are all great options to test and learn before launching into a full webstore set up and all the things that go alongside that.

Reels really work

I thought I was too old for Tik Tok, not able to make decent reels and I genuinely thought that those silly videos reely (haha) weren’t necessary. The reality is, if your business is reliant on social media to find new customers or reach existing ones, then reels are important. It’s also quite simple. You don’t need fancy editing software, I do most of mine within Instagram with the occasional use of Capcut and Canva.  The reach from reels last year was so much greater than posts for me. Check out your stats and see if that is the same for you too.



Patience - Good Things Take Time

Vanessa McGovern is a Mortgage Adviser with The Mortgage Supply Co based in Nelson. Not only does she help many people into their first, next or forever home, Vanessa also provides some great financial tips on Instagram and  Facebook.

Vanessa's key learning in 2023 was having patience and that good things take time. By doing this Vanessa has had to be open to learning and is always searching for more knowledge. In turn, she shares her own knowledge through social media. Her second key learning was about collaborating which is how Vanessa and I crossed paths last year. Vanessa says "Collaboration has been awesome as there is power in working together. You can always ask and they can say no...but everyone is so kind and keen."

Vanessa McGovern - Mortgage Supply Co

Plan to Make your Goals a Reality

Dani is the creator and business owner behind The Papery Studio. She creates beautiful notebooks, notepads and calendars to fit your life. Having just started using my lucky planner shown in the blog pic, I can 100% attest to that. Not to mention The Papery Studio has the cutest designs around - you can find them here. Dani shares her advice and goals from 2023.

My greatest learning is that there is no point in setting goals if you don’t have a plan to make them a reality. This meant that I needed to work hard in all the different areas to help my business grow.

One of my goals included social media. I focused on creating content to attract more customers and showcase my products and the end result was amazing! I sent orders overseas - the highlight was Japan! It is incredible how social media can help you reach new customers.

Another goal was to have a variety of products. It was good for me to try and see what other products I can sell well, but some of the investments were not necessary.

What went wrong: I signed up for a market that wasn’t good. I think it is really important as a small business to check what kind of customers go to certain markets, to know if your product is going to be good for it.

The Papery Studio

Real Engagement and Collaboration

It kind of gives it away in the title but social media is really all about being, well, being social. Making genuine connections has been so important to find both new suppliers but also new customers. I think it’s true that people buy from someone they trust which means connecting and collaborating is key. I’ve done this through social media messages, phone calls, emails, meeting for a coffee or at a market. I personally find great joy in this part of social media and hopefully you will too.

That's all for now folks, let me know if this was useful by sending me a DM on Instagram.

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