"The first year is the worst." That's what I had always heard. I never really knew what people meant when they would give me that piece of "wisdom" after I announced that I was starting a brand.
I think it's true for a couple of reasons. Primarily because nothing ever happens overnight. There is no magic moment where a few months in EVERYONE knows and loves what you've done. Things feel really slow, every little bit of progress almost feels useless in the first year because there is so little perspective on how it pays off.
Before I begin, I will say that every little step is a big one in the long run. You just don't realize it yet. You will. So with that in mind, here are the VERY important lessons I learned in my first year of starting Isa Foxx.
1.) Learn to learn
Sounds weird, but trust me. I thought I knew everything. I thought I was right about absolutely everything. There's no harm in confidence. However, it's important to learn from the successes and warnings of others. Even if you don't always exactly implement what people say it's always better to keep an open mind. I've found that people's advice is at the very least, worth looking into and learning from.
2.) Ask for help and advice constantly
Asking for help from people with more experience works. It's scary and awkward the first couple of times, not to mention that not everyone wants to spend their time talking to someone brand new in business, but more people than you might think are absolutely willing to take 30 minutes or so to sit down and advise.
I've gotten information and connections that could have taken me YEARS to achieve on my own by putting myself out there as someone new and eager. Again, as above, it can be difficult to remember that you don't know everything and you aren't the best (yet). Once you get over that pride and start asking around, you'll see how much more you get.
Millennial tip, DM (direct message) on Instagram is a great tool to reaching people for advice including, bigger brands and more seasoned business owners, in general, people who you might not get the chance to meet in real life.
Bonus, going to any kind of industry-related conference, seminar, talk or meet-up, is a great way to get face to face time with people who have a lot of experience.
3.) Unless you come from a famous family, forget their connections
Family connections / parents connections are all talk, little action. At least they were for me. My parent's are quite a bit older than many and they have such good intentions by putting me in touch with their friends and old co-workers who might want to help out, but even those people are so old and quite frankly out of touch with how businesses work these days. While it's nice to sit down and talk through ideas with someone new, the older generation has proven to be of little value for me navigating the online luxury world.
With that being said it will seem scary, perhaps but you have to really work within your own extended network and make your own connections. In my first month or two of having my brand I hoped and assumed that my parents would lead me to the perfect people to get me going and that it would be easy from there. It didn't work that way at all, I've found a lot more value in connecting with people, business owners, designers etc withing a 15-20 year age range of me.
4.) Try even if it means failing.
Basically everything in your first year fails so you might as well try more things. Plus, with so little “built” there’s not much you can lose. This one is 'obvious' and is in every book and blog post about starting a business but I think it needs to be said and re-said about 100 times for people to actually realize it. You have NOTHING to lose. So fail, get out there and try and fail, or succeed, honestly either way you'll get nothing if you don't at least try!
5.) Be humble.
This has kind of come up in point 2 and 3 but I'm putting it here again to really let it sink in. Maybe it's just me, but I really thought I knew it all. I still do (sort of), but I know that it's important to be humble with people you want to work with. As a new business owner, you will usually have the least experience in the room, and EVERYONE has been where you are now, so listen to them, learn from them, and your time will come. Trust me, you'll be the best in the room some day, you'll be the one everyone wants to talk to and learn from some day. It just won't happen in that first year and that's okay.
To conclude, don't forget that your journey in your new venture, business, brand, whatever is totally different from the person next to you. Love what you do and don't lose sight of your goals.