PosyMarket Talks: Being Taken Seriously About Being a Small Business Owner
She's the Girl Boss of PosyMarket. An online shop for all things vintage and adorable.
When we were seeking collaborators Laura reached out about contributing. Below is her thoughts and opinions about being taken seriously as a small business owner.
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I was at a friend’s dinner party recently and folks were going around the table sharing what they do for a living. When it was my turn, I said that I own a vintage shop. And, as always follows, I was asked if I had an “actual” store somewhere and when I responded that I don’t, the conversation died.
I used to scramble and attempt to explain all that I do and ways that I sell, but stopped when I realized I’d already been dismissed. So, year after year, I’ve focused on ways to grow my business and be “successful,” but I recently concluded that I’ve been working toward others’ idea of success and my desire to be taken seriously by them.
The beginning of a new year is when I map out the months ahead, where I’ll sell, where I’ll buy, ways to expand my reach with new customers and ways to encourage repeat business from past customers. But this year, I’m adding another to-do regarding this serious business…talk it out and then let it go. Better yet, focus on being taken seriously by the one person whose opinion really matters: me.
Over the last year or so, I keep noticing a similar thread when I talk to other makers and vendor friends: we’re all wanting to be taken seriously. Whether that means a certain number of likes or new followers, getting into an actual brick-and-mortar space, wholesale customers or financial stability. We all want the acknowledgement and have developed tricks for getting it. Like how a maker will not mention their non-related full-time job, because they don’t want their handmade business to seem like a hobby. Or folks like me, avoiding the “mompreneur” label for fear it’ll seem like our business is something we do to fill the space until the kids come home. (And, as a side note, how many business articles mention the number of kids a male business owner has within the first paragraph of the article?!) Or owners that have P.O. boxes so that their home address doesn’t diminish their look, or, speaking of, trying to “dress the part” so that you exude your brand in every possible way. (The wonderful Grace Bonney of Design Sponge posted about this on Instagram, how she’s finally letting go of that wardrobe worry.) The list of “what-if’s” goes on: what if I…raise my prices, build a fancy website, teach classes, get a business mentor, participate in bigger and farther markets, talk about my company as “us” and “we” when it’s just “me,” collaborate with local businesses, host a pop-up, on and on and on. How many “when’s” and “what if’s” will it take to be taken seriously?
It’s the same that I give my eight-year-old daughter when she needs a boost: chin up and let it roll off your back. Surround yourself with a nurturing, creative, empowering network of like-minded makers and business owners. Share your frustrations and laugh about the naysayers. Don’t compare yourself to others; look at what you’ve accomplished. Focus on your own goals and not the milestones you think others will recognize. Be brave.
I started taking steps toward this last year and they were crazy scary, so much so I had a very thoughtful doctor (and EKG!) tell me I needed to calm the heck down. A goal of mine has been to participate in bigger, regional markets and shop long-distance sales, getting outside my comfort zone of a 20-mile radius. This meant, for the first time, disrupting my home life, making work trips, piecing together childcare and even having my full-time, in-an-office-working husband work from home so I could be gone. It meant renting a van and getting hotels. It meant real-deal expenses and big-deal pressure. And I made it through…learned a lot, dramatically improved my booth design, reached a lot more customers and made new dealer friends, but most importantly, it was the push I needed to say, “I’m really doing this. This is my work and my job. I am taking myself seriously. There’s no going back.” And it feels damn good!