One founder comes clean about the tough decisions, terrible days and exhausting hours she faced to keep her business alive -- and explains why she's still happy she started her business.
By Jana Francis (Founder, STEALS.com)
I love a great deal…but I never thought one day I'd make a career out of finding them. Talk about a dream come true! Five years ago, I left my job in broadcast media sales to start my own business – an e-commerce site offering daily deep discounts on amazing brands for babies, kids, and women. I had just had my third child. As I was pulling out of my driveway, it hit me – I couldn’t do this anymore. I wanted to find a way to be my own boss, become financially free, and achieve the work-life balance I’d always wanted. I wanted to be an entrepreneur.
Well, I may not have fully perfected the work-life balance part yet – as every entrepreneur knows, it’s tough! (More on that below.) But this decision has undoubtedly been the best thing I’ve ever done, for myself and for my family. What started as a business run from inside my garage is now a business run from out of a huge warehouse with over 70 employees. And every day brings new lessons learned. The fact is, building a company is fun – but managing one is hard work. Here’s what I’ve learned from my experience – my confessions of an entrepreneur, five years later.
Accept That Tough Decisions Have to Be Made
When I first started, STEALS.com was a single daily deal site. My business partner and I didn’t pay ourselves for the entire first year we were in business, just to make sure we could keep that one site going. Talk about a tough decision! But sacrifice is a very typical entrepreneurial habit – embrace it. This has also helped me appreciate my previous bosses. It was always easy to critique them when I was working for them, but when I became the boss, I was finally able to relate to the choices I'd witnessed them make in the past.
Look for the Opportunity, Not at the Roadblocks
There are very few "average" days when you’re the founder and president of a business. And because you’re emotionally vested in your business, it’s hard not to take the terrible days personally. Still, you can’t let those days discourage you. When you encounter roadblocks, take a step back and see where the hidden opportunities lie. It’s the old adage about making lemonade when life gives you lemons. Persistence and positive thinking always pays off.
Make Time to Refuel
Easier said than done, I know, but it is absolutely critical for entrepreneurs to make time for themselves. You have to refuel your pump - because no one will do it for you! Many think that because we’re the leader we have all the fuel we need, but it’s simply not the case. Schedule an hour to do something you enjoy each day. If you don’t have an hour, take 15 minutes for a walk outside. Always do something for yourself on the weekends that’s not work-related whether it’s a fitness class or just reading your favorite book at the kitchen table. It’ll help you recharge for the week to come.
The “Work-Family Balance” Is a Work in Progress
I’m the first to admit that I haven’t fully accomplished the "work-family balance" that so many women entrepreneurs seek. I’ve learned it’s something you need to work on constantly, and that’s okay. A good rule of thumb is making a point to shut down every now and then and just have family time -- but to do it when it’s most realistic for you. For me, this is actually at breakfast! We realized early on that I’d have more late nights than not, so family dinner was not always an option. But, we’re all always home for breakfast, so that’s our time. We all sit around the counter and I get to cook a big meal, (also a passion of mine), while spending some great, quality family time together.
Being an entrepreneur is definitely not what I expected, but it has been the greatest experience of my life. I may have lost hundreds of hours of sleep, but I breathe an entrepreneurial spirit, I believe in my concept and I’m determined to continue to make my obsession my profession. The love for what I do has kept me going, even when obstacles loomed. Taking your idea, your true passion and turning it into your life’s work is an incredible feeling.
What tactics do you use to keep your business alive?
About the guest blogger: Jana Francis is the founder and president of STEALS.com, a network of four niche woman-focused deal-of-the-day websites. Her sites have outperformed other deal sites by building relationships with their customers, working directly with vendors and offering quality products, dedicated customer service and fast shipping.