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8 tips for starting a successful business or side hustle

We spoke to women who started businesses later in life (and are now Katie’s Shop brands!).

If you’re the type of person who has a lot of hobbies, or even just one hobby that you’re particularly passionate about, we have a question for you: how many hours have you spent dreaming of turning your true passion into a your full-time job? Hours when you were supposed to focus on your “real” work or creating something you love to give away to a neighbor for free. Maybe you’re thinking about how you can put your baking skills to good use or share your eye for fashion with the masses.

Maybe it’s time to give that fantasy a whirlwind in the real world. We’re not suggesting that you get up and quit your job right away; many people start businesses in their spare time, gradually building a brand in small increments. Given the current economic climate, we wouldn’t blame you for going this route before giving up your stable income.

Whichever way you do it, starting a business can seem like a daunting task – zooming in on the right product, finding the courage to get started, finding the money (and then managing it), learning how to market your brand properly, managing customers, ensuring product quality – we’re already sweating just thinking about it. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either.

If you think it’s too late to start a business, you’re wrong – and we have proof. We spoke to women who started their own businesses later in life after leaving their previous careers and women who nurtured a passion project in their spare time. What do they all have in common? They all now have booming brands that started as side hustles.

After surviving leukemia, Lynne Fletcher O’Brien launched Line in the Sand at age 57, a line of protective and active aquatic clothing, so people like her who are worried about sun exposure can have swimsuits in which they feel comfortable and focus on the water. Meanwhile, sisters Hala Yassine and Farrah Haidar, who immigrated to the United States as young girls, harnessed their ability to bake delicious sweet treats to launch Seven Sisters Scones as a side-hustle. When they started, Yassine was 50 and Haidar 40, and they were both juggling full-time jobs. Beauty experts Lorrie King and Celeste Lee decided to focus their energy on finding skincare solutions for older women based on hormonal changes in the body, creating Caire Beauty. They were in their late 40s at the time and well aware of the challenges women face in their later years.

They have advice for the rest of us on what to keep in mind if we want to turn a hobby into a side hustle.

Prepare for a serious commitment

“Prepare to put your heart and soul into something,” Yassine says. “Because if you’re not, it’s not worth it; you are going to be poor in ideas, poor in money, poor in time. But whatever you put love into will grow.

When Yassine started Seven Sisters, she was working from home managing programs for a company, seeing clients as a therapist (yes, she also has a doctorate in clinical psychology), and caring for her two children. It was never going to be easy. But she was engaged. At first, she worked 17-18 hour days, compromised many nights of sleep, and turned her home kitchen into a scone-making arena.

While building Line in the Sand, O’Brien spent many nights with her new best friend, Google, researching the right material for swimsuits, learning new skills and developing the relationships she had. need to start a business.

Anticipate evolution

Yassine says that starting a business is “a bit like having a baby – you have all these hopes and dreams, and then the baby grows up and you realize it’s not what you imagined”. She believes it takes on a life of its own. “If you’re ready to figure it out [the business] and loving him for who he is will be fantastic,” she said.

So once you’ve invested your love in starting something, you need to be open to learning, growing, and iterating. You can’t be attached to your idea of ​​what the business was meant to be. Instead, you have to accept it for the life it takes.

Look for mentors and connections

We know it can be difficult to approach strangers, especially in this post-pandemic world. But, sometimes that cold email to a stranger can be a game-changer for your business. O’Brien says she realized that “people just want to help.”

She recommends using LinkedIn to connect with people who could guide and help you on your journey. Look for like-minded people who are further along in the process, whether they’ve started a successful small business or are working at a large company in the same industry, or reach out to people you admire. Don’t wait for a mentor to fall into your lap—as O’Brien says, you must “create mentors for yourself.

Know your resources

Cairo Beauty founders King and Lee relied on outside resources to learn how to start and grow a business. Many of these resources are free, like Y Combinator’s Startup School, and there’s no reason not to use them.

And the resources are different for everyone – it doesn’t have to be a fancy accelerator or a startup school. For O’Brien, his resource was a children’s book, What do you do with an idea? It gave him motivation and energy right from the start.

You can also get tips from successful entrepreneurs on Mixergy or join the conversation in a forum like Quora’s page for startup founders and entrepreneurs.

Go ahead and find the right resource for you.

Decide on the best way to finance your business

Putting the money down can be scary – all the upfront expenses, raw material costs, staff salaries. Ah, that looks like a big jumble of scary numbers.

Wait though, it doesn’t have to be so scary. It is important to realize that everyone follows a different path when it comes to financing their business. O’Brien was lucky enough to be able to use his savings to launch Line in the Sand.

Yassine and Haidar did the same. “We invested in ourselves,” says Yassine. The sisters decided how much they were willing to part ways and invested exactly that. With this initial investment, they gave themselves a chance to make Seven Sisters Scones work. They also took out a precautionary loan to help with the expansion, but they never ended up using it. They spent years reinvesting what they earned to grow and get the equipment they needed. Within four years, the business began to be self-financing and became profitable.

But, it is not the only way. Lee and King entered a series of startup contests to raise money for their business. They have entered a number of fundraising and pitching competitions – winning some and losing others. Eventually, they were able to take Cairo into the Entrepreneur Roundtable Accelerator, and that changed everything for them.

All of this to say that there is not one path that suits everyone – different founders find different ways to launch their initiatives. Start by identifying what works for you; these can be venture capital competitions, loans, crowdfunding or any combination of these and other funding options.

Be prepared to do anything

As a small business owner, Yassine does it all – you can find her cooking, cleaning, sweeping, answering phones, handling customers or preparing orders for shipment. Even after a few years, with a team to support her, she remains rooted in what it means to run a business: you have to be ready to do anything.

So when you start something, be ready to take on whatever task the job requires. In fact, according to Yassine, doing it all gives him the opportunity to understand all the different aspects of the business.

King and Lee agree – they think it’s important to “get yourself in the weeds”. In this highly digital world, it’s easy to hire consultants to manage and help you grow your business. But much of the learning comes from jumping headfirst into the waters of entrepreneurship.

Ask for help when you need it

Yassine and Haidar will never forget the time they were featured on QVC – it was a huge agreement. They knew that meant they would see orders skyrocket over the next few days and they would need all the help they could get to keep up. As Yassine said, “We were little potatoes back then. In any given week, we baked and sold around 2,000 scones. QVC hit and we had to go from 2,000 to 25,000 in four days.

So they had to rework everything and understand the operations to make this possible. They turned to family and friends for help, who then helped the sisters deliver thousands of scones.
So sometimes you just have to lean on the pillars that you have. Simply put, don’t be afraid to ask for the support you need.

Remember why you do this

We know how hard it is to start a business, especially when you have so many things to do – kids, work, life. Is there time to sleep in there? O’Brien faced countless setbacks when launching his brand: there was a pandemic that caused shipping issues, one of his factories was looted, his yarn was stuck in Japan. and his fabric was stuck in Italy.

Despite the obstacles, focusing on small wins kept him going. “I get a few emails at least every week that rock me deeply and remind me why I’m doing this.” For her, that means getting emails from women telling her they haven’t been to the beach in 10 years, but now they can because they feel comfortable in it. her swimwear line. It means messages from women who believe that Line in the Sand water clothes are liberating and feel like a second skin. More importantly, these are the messages from cancer survivors who can now be back in the water without worrying about skin exposure.

Likewise, for King and Lee, it’s all about their mission. They wanted to create a “pro-aging” skincare company that focuses on providing women with effective and affordable products, with benefits backed by scientific research on hormonal changes in women’s bodies. For them, it always comes down to their goal – it’s what keeps them going.

So when you start, ask yourself whose life you want to impact. And when the going gets tough, remember why you started this journey and think about each person you impact.

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