• Jen

A little happy dance

Updated: Oct 18, 2018

It’s true! When I hear the “cha-ching” sound of an online sale I get all excited and do a little happy dance because someone has bought an item from my shop. I smile like a mad person and have a peek to see what it is they have bought.

I remember very clearly one evening before Valentine’s Day last year, I was busy cooking dinner and my mobile phone sounded my special “cha-ching” alert every couple of minutes which indicated sales. Literally one “cha-ching” after the other. At first, I thought there was a problem with my mobile, but on inspection I saw that one particular item was selling like hot cakes.

To say I was excited would be a massive understatement! I was grinning and doing my happy dance all around the kitchen. I couldn’t wait to get the orders ready for my oh-so-lovely customers. You see, it’s so personal when we small business owners get a sale. Yes of course, the money is important (we need to eat) but it means that all of the hours it took to make or design our product has been appreciated and worthwhile. We have designed and made our products with love, care and attention.

I love the whole process of getting the order ready, personalising (if required) and carefully wrapping it and attaching one of my thank you tags. It’s important to thank my lovely customers, as I really appreciate each and every sale. And each item bought gives me an insight into what it is my customers like and want, so I know in which direction to take my business.

Building a business from scratch is tough, hard work and sometimes, if I’m honest, totally soul destroying. The idea sounds lovely and when I had a ‘proper’ job, I would envy people who ran their own home business or think how lucky and easy they had it. Now I’m on the other side, I realise just how tough it is and think on many an occasion of throwing in the towel and getting back into regular employment.

This is where us small business owners need our friends and family. It's so important to have them as your team of cheerleaders. For them to support you through the highs and the lows - as starting and running your own small business is a rollercoaster of a ride and emotions. And by 'support' I don't mean they have to buy every single product in our shop, they can help in many ways, which I'll list at the end of this blog.

Marketing an establish brand / business with a large marketing budget and communications team is hard enough (been there). But when nobody knows your shop even exists and it’s just you and your social media tools, it’s a long hard slog to build up your online presence and brand.

Marketing is just one of the many jobs you have to take on when you are a small business (Jack of all trades) owner. In any one day I do many of these tasks: designing, spending time (and money) on new production techniques, research, processing orders, developing my thoughts on where I want to go with my business, new products ideas, updating my website content or online shops, photographing products, then faffing with the photographs to ensure my products look as good as they can, writing product descriptions and developing content. This can be anything from writing a blog, uploading Instagram or Facebook posts, taking lovely Instagram-worthy photographs and thinking of the right words to go with them. Trips to the post office, checking stock levels, ordering packaging materials, printing your own stationery items. Or making up your thank you tags whilst watching the telly!

Oh and of course as we’re working from home and it’s our own business, it means we also have time to do the washing, do the school run, make cakes for the bake sale, create a last minute dress-up costume, prepare something healthy for dinner, make packed lunches, do the food shop and try to fit in 10,000 steps a day just to keep your fit-bit happy!

It’s exhausting and sometimes for very little return in the beginning. But we want to be a success, so we keep going because there were several very good reasons why we wanted to start our own business and we mustn’t lose sight of those!

I do know what it’s like when a friend or acquaintance starts to sell hand-made items. You groan inside because you think, as a friend or family member you are obliged to purchase the crocheted tea-cosy made from Mongolian Yak’s fur. Fair enough, you may not like the crocheted tea-cosy, but you don’t have to purchase something in order to help and support a small business.

There are lots of other little ways in which friends can help and support a small or local business which won’t cost them a penny, but the small business owner will really appreciate.

It’s funny to watch people’s habits online, what people share or like. A photograph of someone saying they are having a glass of wine and everyone comments and likes it. There is literally a whole stream of comments about drinking wine. Post a picture of a cute cat/dog/racoon (particular favourite of mine) and there are hundreds of thousands of likes and shares of that picture. Post something about a small business and, well, let’s just say there aren’t as many likes or shares.

The person who has posted the picture of the somersaulting racoon doesn’t need your likes or shares. However, if you like or share a post from a small business, we literally jump for joy and send you lots of virtual kisses across the internet. We really NEED your likes and shares.

Encouragement from friends and family means so much to us. If you know someone with a small business and are a little unsure on how you can help them (without purchasing the tea-cosy) then keep reading as there are some little things you can do that will mean the world to your friend.

· Most small businesses have an online presence. Engage with them online. Whether it’s following their business page, or simply liking or sharing their posts with your online community. It’s just one little click.

· Write a small comment on the post. This will literally make your friend’s day!

· Often small businesses will post content that isn’t a product as they are aware that their followers don’t want to be bombarded with posts just of their new products. If it’s a funny or inspirational quote, or simply a ‘lifestyle’ shot – give it a thumbs-up or comment on it. These little tiny clicks on the like icon mean a great deal to the behind-the-scenes techy bods who add up all of these likes and make your friends business more visible.

· Help to promote the ‘shop small’ and ‘buy local’ ethos by doing just that at Christmas time. Aim to buy one or two gifts from small and local businesses who will be so grateful for your support.

· Does the business have a blog or a newsletter? Yes? Then subscribe to this and when you have time, grab a cuppa and have a read. Again, engage with it and like, share or comment on it. Send it on to a friend who may also be interested in the content.

· Help to distribute paper-based marketing material by offering to pin up a flyer advertising a local fair where they will have a stall. These little gestures really mean a lot to the small business owner who is trying to do all of this on their own.

· If you have bought a product, leave a review on their website or online shop. Comment on a photograph of that product on Instagram or Facebook. You don’t actually have to have purchased a product yourself to comment on it. You could just write something like “I love this, it would be perfect for my kids at Christmas.”

· Word of mouth. If someone comments on the product you have bought, tell them where you bought it from. Spread the word.

· Just be there for them. Discuss ideas with them or perhaps you have heard of an event where they could have a stall.

· When working for yourself there is no “job well done” from your boss, a nice end of year bonus or a really positive annual review. So, give your friend a pat on the back, a hug or a “well done”. It will mean the world to them.

These may all seem like little tiny things, but each like, share or comment really means the world to your friend and their little business.

So, a HUGE heartfelt thank you to all of those friends who are supporting their friends with small businesses. It is really appreciated xx

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