The Biggest Lessons I’ve Learned as a Small Business Owner + The History of How Jess & Company, USA Came to Existence

Jessica Beauchamp

Jessica Beauchamp

Founder, Author, Lead Designer at Jess & Co.
MBA, BA, AA, & Teaching Certificate.
Jessica Beauchamp

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“Lessons are sometimes taught by others, while sometimes they are best learned through trial and error – this is something that I have learned best as a small business owner.”

– Jessica Beauchamp

I have run three Etsy shops, TeaRosie, Framed Furnishings, and JessDesigned before founding Jess & Co. USA while also selling in person through local craft fairs. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and run my own business, in fact, I wanted to be a fashion designer and studied art and fashion design at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) before I decided that it would be wiser to study business and know how to market and sell my product while still learning tips of the trade along the way. This is where I started business studies, first with a general AA, then with a BA in entrepreneurship and marketing, and finally with an MBA specializing in global management. Along the way, I also learned a lot of things through my work with AmeriCorps, as a seamstress, as a freelance virtual assistant (of which, I still am currently), and various other positions outside of my small business role. Ultimately, though, they all boiled down and equated to how the business way run – that was all I could see – or how something was made and designed. To turn this off feels like the end of my existence. This is how I coined the phrase ‘collide to coexist’. My life clearly has a purpose – just as everyone’s lives have purpose – and my interests, passions, business, and personal life all seem intertwined leading to that purpose – as it should be, not only for myself but for everyone.

The first biggest lesson I learned was: To take the plunge and not let fear navigate my decisions.

I feel like many people can relate, whether on a subconscious level or not. My fear existed in the form of failure, so I chose something safe, i.e. Etsy and products that were easy to develop. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I adore Etsy. It is a wonderful platform to start a business and develop a community of like-minded individuals for a low-cost, plus getting traffic to your shop is a lot easier than choosing to do so independently. Consumers are familiar with the name ‘Etsy’ so its’ more trusted and they have so many helpful articles and resources for starting and running your own store to increase sales. See, a great platform! But, I knew it wasn’t for me because of the limitations that I felt when using it. Etsy stores perform better when you focus on a single product niche – this is not something I do. I was trying to sell scarves and posters of a similar consumer market but appear less appealing to the average Etsy consumer because it makes the store look less organized and professional. Ideally, shops that focus on a single product niche seem to do best in regards to selling finished products, not including supply shops. I also know where I want to take my business in the future, which includes expanding into selling other artisan products that are not designed by me as well as leading into manufacturing (Etsy does allow manufacturing now and has a great list of preferred manufacturers, but did not during my first store, TeaRosie). In regards to my product choice – I chose a specific type of jewelry to design and develop for sale in my first shop. This type of jewelry was easy for me to make compared to other products that I could develop but did not push myself to do, although I wanted to – I chose the easy way, rather than the hard and more

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I adore Etsy. It is a wonderful platform to start a business and develop a community of like-minded individuals for a low-cost, plus getting traffic to your shop is a lot easier than choosing to do so independently. Consumers are familiar with the name ‘Etsy’ so its’ more trusted and they have so many helpful articles and resources for starting and running your own store to increase sales. See, a great platform! But, I knew it wasn’t for me because of the limitations that I felt when using it. Etsy stores perform better when you focus on a single product niche – this is not something I do. I was trying to sell scarves and posters of a similar consumer market but appear less appealing to the average Etsy consumer because it makes the store look less organized and professional. Ideally, shops that focus on a single product niche seem to do best in regards to selling finished products, not including supply shops. I also know where I want to take my business in the future, which includes expanding into selling other artisan products that are not designed by me as well as leading into manufacturing (Etsy does allow manufacturing now and has a great list of preferred manufacturers, but did not during my first store, TeaRosie).

In regards to my product choice – I chose a specific type of jewelry to design and develop for sale in my first shop. This type of jewelry was easy for me to make compared to other products that I could develop but did not push myself to do, although I wanted to – I chose the easy way, rather than the hard and more desirable way.

The second biggest lesson I learned was: KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

As most people, I have the tendency to overthink. This means that I overthink my product photos, my design choices, my color choices, my cut patterns, etcetera, etcetera, and so on, and so on. Sometimes I was just straight up avoiding making the final decision until I panicked and called something out, (mentally, of course), and then later usually regretted that choice – leading me on the downward spiral of overthinking and decision-making process once again. This does not equate to progress and this does not lead to a successful business. In fact, I doubted the name of my first company. I never really developed a logo for the second. These major branding decisions didn’t come to fruition because of me standing in my own way. Whether the timing was not right, I was trying too hard, or the creative element didn’t know how to stop, I am not sure if it’s one or all, but here is what I know now.

  • For a successful product sales photo – plain white backgrounds with no distractions,¬†bright lighting, and few shadows are the best. (Limit creativity).
  • Simple logos resonate the best with consumers.
  • You do not need to perfect absolutely everything that you try – because perfection is non-existent.
  • Advertise where your market is, and do it really well – you don’t need to over advertise and try to market on EVERY SINGLE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM AVAILABLE.

The third biggest lesson I learned was: Mindset matters.

If you or I want a successful business, then we must think of it in terms of a business. Yes, we may enjoy the work we do. Yes, some may refer to some of the tasks that you do in your business as ‘hobbies’. Yes, you will want to give up – many, many times. But remember, you are running a business and that business is yours and its’ no one elses! Essentially, you will get back what you put into it. So remember, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. But, if you run it like a hobby then it will respond like a hobby and not produce the positive growth rates that you want to see as you would expect in a growing business and therefore, you’re likely to become more defeated succumb to more and more self-defeating internal talk. On the other hand, though, you are not a workhorse meant to work all of the time. Think back on why you started your business and remember that you wanted the freedom and flexibility – not an 80+ hour work week to make less than you would working 40 hours. You need to know when to turn work off and when to turn work on. This may require some form of routines to get you into the work mode and out of the work mode. Something I like to do is enter my office and open my blinds to let in the sun then I sit down with my to-do list at the beginning of the day while I drink my cup of coffee or tea (depending on my mood). At the end of the day, I will end my work day by writing out the work tasks that need to still be finished to clear my mind and have a to do list for the next day. I then complete about 15 minutes of yoga to destress, stretch my muscles, and clear my mind {I love this Yoga Rinse – Yoga With Adriene video) and then I close my blinds and turn out the light. This means that I am done for the day. This is routine and how I trigger my body and mind into working and not working. You are running a business to live out your dreams and be the person you want to be.

The fourth biggest lesson I learned was: Do not be afraid to pay what you’re worth!

Artisan made items can easily be underpriced. Why? Because it’s easy to do. We don’t feel like we are worth the higher price tag that artisan entails, we don’t deserve it, and so on with the self-defeating and negative talk about how you should undersell your art. This is wrong for several reasons.

  1. This makes competition pricing difficult.
  2. This cuts your profit.
  3. This does not build a business.
  4. And finally, your skills and your time ARE worth it!

If you ever doubt your value – watch this video by David Picciuto!

 

One thought on “The Biggest Lessons I’ve Learned as a Small Business Owner + The History of How Jess & Company, USA Came to Existence

  1. Jessica,

    Recently I have realized that Fear often drives our decisions for good or bad. Knowing that as you have shown can help.

    The video about how much you are worth was great. Thanks for sharing! Something I am now going to calculate.

    Thanks,
    Elliott

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