Secret File #006 - 5 Ways Failure Has Helped Me Grow My Business
In this episode, we’re going to be talking about the one thing business people avoid talking about — failure. There's a personal backstory on my one business failure never shared before anywhere else publicly.
Every downfall in your life will lead to something greater. At the point of the downfall, you just couldn't see it yet. Once the grieving process has completed, you'll look back in retrospect and realize that THAT moment occurred to guide you to be where you are today.
Eventually, all these events helped me grow my business.
I can't wait for you to listen to this episode!
Listen to the Episode below:
In this episode, you'll hear about failure and how it has helped me to:
What do you think?
I'd love to know what you think of this episode. Do you struggle with failure in your business, and how did you overcome them?
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Welcome to Fempreneur Secrets, where business secrets are revealed. Today is going to be an interesting episode because we’re going to be talking about the one thing business people avoid talking about — failure.
Here’s 5 Ways Failure Has Helped Me Grow My Business.
Let me take you back to the year 2015. I was still running my online store customizing notebooks & planners. It would have been my 8th year running it, on a part-time basis. To build this business, I sourced and commission numerous designers.
I even paid a friend of mine in kind to design the templates, and had hundreds of files saved to make this business work. It was my passion as a teenager bitten by the organizing bug, so by then, I was in too deep.
I had plans of building my own factory when I ended school, and I wanted to hire the low-income single-mothers in Singapore to make the notebooks. Eventually, I had plans for a social enterprise. Plans 3, 5 and even 8-years down the road.
Everything was going dandy.
But soon you'll realise that even though I planned so much, there was ONE thing I forgot to plan. So one day — One happy and well-rested morning, I woke up to a nice cup of Milo (it’s like hot chocolate and available readily in South East Asia).
Headed off to my working area, and turned on my laptop. If memory serves me right, I was working half-way through a new design for my client. If you’re a designer, you’d relate with me when you turn on Illustrator and click "open recent file".
Graphic Designers: You'll probably be able to relate to what I'm about to share. What is the biggest fear that graphic designers have?
You've guessed it.
A prompt appeared which changed my life forever
“Your file couldn’t be found”
As serious as it gets, I nearly dropped my mug of Milo. I tell you, this is literally the worse thing that could happen to a graphic designer. I searched for my file, and I couldn't locate even the folder that it was stored in.
The whole folder of my years of hard work building the business disappeared just like that. I remembered I had a backup. As I scour through my bag looking for my external hard drive, I constantly prayed that this one design was saved.
I plugged the cable into my laptop and tried once more and hoped for a miracle.
At this point, I just wanted to break down. I remembered I had a cloud backup. I opened Chrome browser, typed in the URL and tried looking for my works.
Everything before 2011 was there. But this was 2015, and anything between 2011 – 2015 was not there.
All my hard work... Years worth of artwork... All gone in a minute. The designs that my customers order were no longer there, and my commissioned designers (mind you, there’s at least 40 of them) required me to pay a retrieval fee.
There right there was the lowest point of my business, which led to me going on a super long hiatus for this business until today. I've not resurfaced this business yet because of this loss.
So, how then did I pick myself up?
I realise then that I had to start over but I had to decide soundly. Calculating all my past earnings & expenses for the year made me draw a conclusion that it wasn't profitable to stay now that I have to start over. With a heavy heart and after speaking to many business coaches, I decided to leave my business.
My exit plan was to clear stock. But I couldn't because there was nothing left for me to clear. I did customized order, which means the orders come one at a time.
I only had tools which I use for the business left. I kept those, hoping that others will emerge.
As I cleared out my things, I found many unused notebook covers from my first pop up store. I packed them nicely and put them up for sale.
I took a month to recover.
After that month, I picked my camera up and thought that I could do something with it. I started exploring the ways I could easily maximise profits for myself.
A business plan was developed and I began my new journey as a photographer in Blissful Studios.
Fast forward to today, Blissful.Asia which now owns Blissful Studios, was a result of that. With that really important back-story, there’s a lot of learning points.
I’ll summarize them into these 5 Ways Failure Has Helped Me In My Business. This is as raw as it can get for me. This is a real thing that happened my business.
Failure has helped me to:
Always Have A Backup Plan
It wasn’t easy to admit this at first, but if I had multiple back-ups and invested in auto-sync or the Time Machine, I wouldn’t have had this problem in the first place. But it was meant to happen. The important thing in life to always have backups, and backup plans. Even when you have one backup plan, have many more just in case. They’re not there because you’re paranoid —they’re there because coming back up quickly requires swift actions. In a time of downfall, you won’t have the time to weep if you’re in deep in your business. You just have to pick up the next course of action and carry on. If you’re just starting your business, think of possible ways you can safeguard your business. If having money stashed somewhere as backup helps you, then do that. In every business plan, we need to write down an exit plan. While it helps to be positive, write down that exit plan any way. At least when shit happens, you have foreseen this and will be more prepared to face it. For you ladies who depend heavily on your digital products, please, please, PLEASE invest in cloud backups. I use Dropbox, which I backup to Box. I keep multiple copies of the critical documents like my business plan in Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and even printed it out in case. If you’re like me and you design your products, really invest in Amazon S3 if you can. If you’re using Mac, don’t skimp on getting the Time Machine installed to your laptop. Any measures possible, do it. Always have a backup and a backup plan!
Never Give Up
When things push you in a situation of difficulty, hold on and don’t give up. Keep your head held up high because the next things that’s going to happen to you will be sourced from your strength. I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I knew that running a business is what I wanted to do. So, regardless the stumbling block I encountered with my first business, I did not stop there. Giving up is not the question when you clearly know yourwhy. After a challenge, find all the strength in you to pick yourself back up. You need all that energy to deal with your challenge. Finding the solution is key, and you need to be in the right frame of mind and energy to do just that. Never give up. Persevere and press on.
Be Kind to People, Always
Ladies, the biggest challenge to overcome during times of difficulty is your emotions. While it can be tempting to shout, scream or even give someone a hard time — just don’t. It’s not easy, but you’ve got to get your emotions together. My friend who’s a business coach tells me this a few years back. Whatever negative energy you’re feeling, gather them into a ball. Take a deep breath and imagine this ball turning into something that sparks joy like fluffy cotton candy! During this time of difficulty for me in my business, a customer turned friend came forth and suggested for me to clear my supplies. The money gained will be a great stepping stone to the next business. I listened to that advise, placed my items on Carousell and got my stock mostly cleared out. The money I earned from that wasn’t much, but it helped me finance my photography business. Be kind to people, always. You never know what’s in store for you. For all you know, this person you’re nice to happens to be your biggest customer. And that person you weren’t nice to happens to be her cousin. Things like this happen, so do your very best to be kind to people no matter what.
Love Yourself, No Matter What
During times of difficulties, it’s almost normal to blame yourself for what happened. It’s hard to get out of that self-guilt, but you must do it. You owe it to yourself to love yourself. It may seem dark in that moment, but the dark clouds will pass by soon enough. Love yourself because if you don’t, no one else would. Loving yourself could be in the form of making sure you don’t miss your meals, or get plenty of rest.
Ladies, we are made to be nurturers and have been designed to care about others before ourselves. At times of difficulties, especially in our business, we owe it to ourselves to celebrate the good times and learn from the bad.
We owe it to ourselves to embrace our sincerity, authenticity and drive that made the business possible.
And finally, we owe it to ourselves to give ourselves a break from this pain, and relax before the next moment steps into our lives.
After 1 month of “mourning” over the loss of my data, I stopped everything and just headed out to the beach. I rented a bicycle and rode it out with my husband. That truly is all that mattered. Letting go of the past, and looking forward to the future.
Upgrade Your Skills
We are all educated in some ways. But that education requires constant upgrading liken to our phones. Every month or so, there’s a notification to upgrade our OS to the latest ones. Why don’t we do the same to our knowledge? Upgrading your skills is critical in times of difficulty like this. I took a photography & videography course, and ended up producing videos for notable brands like Prudential and Volkswagen. I managed to build a team and still doing that now. Upgrading my skills brought me to the next chapter of my life and into my new business. Wrapping up, there’s only so much you can do when the going gets tough. But it’s how tough you are that brings you forward to the next chapter in your life. Embrace failure because it leads to something much more beautiful later on in your life. You just need to have faith.
Bonus: Innovate Your Buisiness
You owe it to yourself to see your business to fruition. You owe it also to yourself that your plans and your strategies work out the way its supposed to be. So innovating your business could be as simple as making sure that your orders goes through on time, efficiently.
Innovating could be as easy as cutting down from 30 min of admin time to just 5 mins, which I've successfully done in my business as well. Before I learnt about 17Hats.
I was spending close to 20 minutes to generate Quotes, Invoices & Service Agreements per enquiry. I tried it out, and it turned out to be the best decision of my business life. With 17Hats,
I cut down my admin time from 20 minutes average to 5 minutes. All I have to do now is to fill in the client details and then click ONE button.
If this is something you'd like for your business, take it from me and learn from my mistakes. Then, you implement it in yours.
Phew! Now that’s a real episode.
Some of the things I’ve shared today hasn’t been shared at all before. I reserve my stories to only the closest and dearest to me but that’s why I created Fempreneur Secrets.
These are stories you won’t hear elsewhere. These are truthful, raw secrets that are only unlocked on Fempreneur Secrets Podcast.
Some of the resources I've used to pick myself up in business are in the Secret Vault. I've created them and stored them in one location, just for you. Gain access now.
Till the next episode, This is Huda — Empowering Women Through Business.
Hello, My name is Huda. It means guidance in Arabic. I help women entrepreneurs uncover secrets in business, branding & marketing knowledge. I host my own podcast show, Fempreneur Secrets. I also educate and support women entrepreneurs who are looking to launch and grow their business. Listen and Subscribe at www.FempreneurSecrets.com