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Alice specialises in handicrafts and runs a shop, in which personalization of the product, diligence and commitment are significant values. My interlocutor shares her experience of the three-year period of running a business and impressions from the participation in the 100 Days Entrepreneur Impet Programme.
What have you been specialising in and how long?
I have been specialising in a widely understood handicrafts for six years. At the beginning of my own business I ran creative workshops in different institutions. I have been in the market as a company for three years. I have had a stationary shop with handicrafts, accessories for making jewellery and other handicraft products since last year. A customer can have the individual order performed here. In fact, I provide a full range of handicrafts services. I sew bags, I make felted things, jewellery, interior accessories. I put emphasis on personalization.
You make to individual orders and you implement customers’ ideas about the product. What does the process of implementation of such an order look like?
First, I talk with a customer and I listen to his expectations. A customer sometimes has a ready idea but he does not always know how to shape it. For example, he would like to have a felted bag, but we establish the details on the spot. I develop a commissioned project in a direction that corresponds to the client. I show him different examples and pictures and a customer makes the final decision. I establish the deadline of performance order and final product collection. Most frequently I fulfil an order on my own, but currently I am learning to outsource some things.
What did you want to achieve, starting your own business?
During my studies I was cooperating with community centres. I found fulfilment, but I couldn’t completely realize what I really wanted, so I started my own business. I had the idea that it is easy, simple and fun to run a business. However, in fact, it turned out that it was not always true. I gave a lot of constant classes in handicrafts and people participating in classes asked me where they could buy accessories, or if I could resell them some things or prepare something for them. A lot of people ordered products from me by word of mouth. One evening I was on a walk with my friends and I found that in the village where I live there was no point where people could buy accessories for handiwork. There were either jewellery stores, or stores with ready stuff. There was no workshop, in which a customer would have his idea realized or buy something original in a single copy. I decided to create such a place. I started to look for a suitable premise in a good point and at a good price. After some time, I found it and I opened my own shop.
You benefited from the support of 100 Days Entrepreneur Impet Programme. Do you remember the moment of starting the programme?
Yes, I do. I remember it perfectly. It was a very nervous time. I entered the program three years after I had started my business and two months after I had opened the shop. Then, I led workshops, I organized sales at the time, I wanted to place as many products as possible, and I had a lot of orders. It was a stage of intensive development. In those circumstances exactly, I was offered to have coaching by my friend. I was exhausted from doing everything at once. I began to organize my work better because of the coaching. I identified problems which I had to face. Later, I started to plan and regulate the work so that everything was going forward. Self-employment requires good organization and mobilization. Regularity is necessary, and I often distracted myself from work because I was doing too many things simultaneously. I learned to choose activities that bring development to me and my company and leave the ones that are useless and consume my time. The coaching was a godsend and took me out of the place where I was.
What did the organization of your work before the coaching look like and how has it been since the coaching?
Before the coaching I was passionate about writing lists of specific tasks for the given date but my lists were unrealistic. During one day I wanted to implement the plan for the whole week. All the time I had one thought in my mind that I didn’t keep pace. My plan was too optimistic and unrealistic, and this was reflected in my life, which became nervous. All the time l had to run somewhere and all the time I was dissatisfied that there was something that I didn’t do. At work I was at work, after work, I was also at work. It was a dull and tiring period. When I started coaching I realized that you work more efficiently when you have time for yourself and for others; when you have a sensible and realistic list of tasks to do. I had a visible problem with planning. Everything was possible for me to be done for tomorrow, but during the order execution I was working against the clock to manage to do it on time. The first thing I learned during the coaching was the prolongation in the execution of orders just to find time for peaceful implementation. Because of this, I stopped to work under stress and pressure. I have improved planning of work and scheduling of a day.
What impressions accompanied you when you took part in the programme?
I have a strong personality, so when I heard the offer to participate in the programme I was wondering if I needed such support, and if it brought something. I treated coaching more as a new experience rather than something that could help me. However, after the first two conversations, which I did not expect, it turned out that it was great. The conversation with a person who skilfully asks questions and is a specialist in his field can change a lot because it leads to simple conclusions, which a person is not able to come to on his own. Mentoring, in turn, taught me planning according to the SPOCO method, which has eased my work. I learned that not everything always goes perfectly and we should leave ourselves additional space of time. The mentor openly shared with me his experience. Those were two different forms of support, which complemented each other perfectly.
Do you see any benefits from the programme?
The first benefit is mainly that I began to have free time. It’s a big profit. I leave evenings for myself because when I am rested I act more efficiently. Previously, it seemed to me that I had no such need. The second advantage is that I’m learning to delegate tasks and look for people who can replace me in some activities. It wasn’t easy but I realized that you don’t have to do everything on your own.
What happened that now outsourcing of tasks is easier for you?
During the coaching I was looking at the map, which presented what I would like to achieve. I saw that I wouldn’t develop my business without the help of outside people. You can’t work for a long time when you sleep one night and the other you don’t do this. Such an organization does not augur well for the development. I realized that I could outsource some tasks, because it would ease my work and, additionally, it would provide me time for doing things, in which I am irreplaceable.
What are you the most proud of?
I am proud of the fact that I continue and develop the way outlined during the coaching. Of course, there are moments when I become lost. However, despite of this fact, I am progressing. There is the end of the stage of art for art’s sake understood as I create and sell on my own. I have identified the areas that I want to develop. I know what I want and what I aim at. I’m beginning to see prospects for the future in my business. I may create something bigger than a one-man company.
What, to your mind, should a person focus on starting his own business?
My mistake was that first I opened my business, and then I started to create handbills, business cards, products and to search for contacts. Now I would do it differently. First, I would prepare everything, and later I would submit the application to start a business because harmonizing of all things takes a lot of time. The first year I lost on the organization. I carried out single orders, which was sufficient or not sufficient for the monthly fees. If a person loses his heart for something in the beginning, later it’s mentally hard to get motivated and work. I was digging out of this error for a long time, but I have succeeded.
Thank you for your open and inspiring conversation. I wish you interesting ideas on the organization of a place that you are creating.