The first year starting a small business feels an awful lot like having a business during a pandemic. Even though I started Loblolly Creamery back in 2011, I feel like I am back at square one. What I learned the first few years still applies now and will in the future.
So deep breath, y'all. We will get through this. Here are some things that help me get through, and yes, a good scoop of chocolate ice cream helps.
1. Be flexible.
You may have a business plan, a clear idea in mind. Get ready, it will change. Whether it is demanded change or a new product develops or your business isn't taking off, your business is constantly changing and fine tuning and then changing again. There was and is never a time where I think my recipes, my product, my brand, my business practices, my sales, my management, my knowledge/education are perfect and done tinkering with. Keep tinkering, keep changing, keep moving. That is how to survive. It is the Hustle.
2. Get help.
I laugh now because I thought entrepreneurship meant running a business all on my own. Haha. You are building a brand, a service, sure, but what you're really building is a culture, a community, a team, something more than you. Plus, if you ever want to go on vacation, it has to survive without you.
Also ask for help where you lack strengths. I am not good at bookkeeping, accounting, taxes, excel spreadsheets (yuck!). It's not my jam. I had a rude wake-up call the first few years when I messed up my taxes and had terrible-looking books. Get people on your team who can hold the business up and keep you accountable. Especially get someone to do the books. It's super important.
Another pro tip: Use free resources. Look into SCORE and the Arkansas Small Business Technology Center. They are great (free!) resources.
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3. Stay on T.R.A.C.K.
Teamwork, respect, accountability, communication, knowledge/kindness are the Loblolly values, besides making super good ice cream. Having values is important. Having a "why" is important.
4. Generate goodness & create whimsy.
Let's have fun! You get to make your own path. How cool! So have some whimsy, some goodness and some silliness. Collaborate, donate, try something new, say "yes" when you are nervous, take a few risks. Life is too short not to laugh and not to have some spills.
5. Take a break.
Burnout is real and burnout is a hard lesson to learn. You have to take a break. You have to sometimes put your business in the back pocket and take care of yourself, period. Be patient and kind to yourself. Only a recharged spirit can tackle what’s ahead of you. And remember to eat some ice cream. It heals stress. Promise.
Sally Mengel is co-owner of Loblolly Creamery with her mom Laura Frankenstein. She spends most of her time with her partner Michael Buckner watching his THV 11 Getting Reel Film Reviews and coloring with her daughter Sophie.