N & S – the beginning….2013
If you have read my first blog post then you will understand that I had some very varied work experience but all extremely useful and applicable to starting a small business.
Like I have mentioned many times, n & s was not intended. I had always planned to go back into full time work but life seemed to have had other plans for me. I don’t in any way, shape or form regret the path that was made for me and I have learnt so much in the past four years since taking the leap of faith.
When I finally made the decision to start n & s, the first step for me was thinking about a name that I loved and resonated with. I wanted the business to be a brand, a lifestyle, something more than just desserts. I feel that this was because of my history in footwear and fashion and my love for all things pretty.
Creating a name….nectar and stone...
I am a very visual person so colour is something I am always looking to for inspiration. Surprisingly for many of you to hear, peach and grey are my favourite colours so I wanted to create a name that incorporated this. I didn’t want to have sweets or cake in my brand name because I knew from the beginning that I wanted my brand to be more than just that.
I started to play on the words of peach and grey and things that I loved like homewares, my favourite seasons ( Summer x Winter ) and started to develop this concept of the fruit "PEACH". A peach has the colour of nectar and it has a stone. The stone represents the core of the brand, the core of the fruit, it represents my love for homewares and it is cold like winter. The nectar is the colour, the sweetness, and it represents the season Summer. I wanted to create a name that I loved. My success wouldn’t be based on my name, people would find me based on whether or not I was any good.
I gave myself a year….
I am afraid of failure and very much a perfectionist so giving myself a year to give this small business a shot was good grounding for me. Why? Because it gives me 100% focus, a target. And when you have something you are so focused on and it’s all you think about – you somehow make the impossible into a possible.
Research….What did I want my brand to look like? I call this “FOUNDATIONS”.
Having worked in several industries and experiencing different work cultures and ethics, I really wanted to create some sort of framework for my own brand. Even if it was just me at the time, I wanted my brand to in a way be representative of certain philosophies. This is my core – the “stone” in my name as such, what do I believe in, what are my values?
- Pushing Boundaries
- Supportive of women in business
- Inventing my own style
- Collaborating with brands that I ACTUALLY believe in
These are some of the things I believe in and from the very beginning wanted this to always be part of my decision making. I think that doing this is really important. You might read my values and agree that yours are the same, you may want to add or remove some of them. But doing this process is really good for you. And over time, things may change and evolve so it is always good to do a CHECK on yourself and see if these values have changed, especially if your business is growing and you have a team.
Building your foundations is extremely important before you even start to think about products. You need to have the foundations, your principles, values and beliefs in place. I believe that it creates an authentic, genuine, honest and sincere platform to start on.
As an example: Pushing Boundaries and Creative …
I made the decision from the very beginning that I would not make kids cakes ( like Mickey Mouse, Barbie etc ), the only designs I wanted to create were from my own inventions and creativity. Each cake or dessert would be original, so what my client would receive is something completely custom for them. I have always been open and upfront about this process because it is something I believe in. -- Hence the name I coined "Dessert Designer"!! I want to do something that I love and want to attract clients who believe and love the same things as I do. So yes, ( if you are asking yourself ... ) - I declined a lot of orders which means I declined quite a bit of money but I truly believed that I needed to do what was right for me.
Here is a small checklist I want you to see to make sure you are on the right path…
Checklist and Things to consider….
1. Business Name or Your Own Name – register it
3. Business Cards – I did at the beginning but then stopped.
4. Getting your ABN ( Australia ) – will you be solo or company
5. What kind of business are you? Do you need to get COUNCIL approval domestic kitchen etc.
6. Do you want to trademark anything?
7. Getting a domain name
8. Creating a website. You can either make your own or pay someone to do it. ( I did my own using Squarespace for a few years before I got a website made ). A website I feel is very important as it a landing page for people to find you, perhaps read your story, understand what you do.
9. Social Media – Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest - they are very good for marketing but also for people to discover you and get to know you.
10. An email address - starting with a proper email address is much more professional than using a GMAIL or HOTMAIL.
11. Thinking about your target AUDIENCE, what kind of clients are you wanting to work with and attract.
12. How much time are you devoting to this business? Are you doing this as a hobby, part-time or full-time? Now this is really important because your goals, achievements and success is going to be based on how much time is devoted to it. Having two small children, I knew that my progress may take a little longer because I wanted to be involved with my kids activities etc so I think it’s really important to be realistic with your goals especially if you have other commitments.
I know there are many of you with loads of questions on setting up a small business especially in the baking arena. I think I will need to write a few posts completely dedicated to this because there is just so much to say about it.
The next topic I want to cover is -
BEING a MUM…
Yes it is a juggle and sometimes I do internally want to scream and cry.
I’ve never really shown too much vulnerability to you guys about this because I guess I want to role model and show you that it is possible and it really is possible. In the past year I have tried to be more pro-active in speaking to other women in business, learning about their stories, struggles and successes – we each have our own formulas in getting the work done. In the process of these conversations I realised that I should share more of my story with you guys so that you know I too have my struggles and more importantly how do I overcome them and achieve my goals.
Support is really important. Who are the backbones in your life. If you don't have anyone that you feel supports you, this is a good opportunity for you to reach out and network. There are so many women in small business who are amazing, supportive and experiencing the same feelings you might be. I really encourage you to reach out. And of-course, I am here too. This is one of the very reasons I am doing this - so you know you are not alone, that the feelings you are feeling have been felt by others too.
I have been fortunate that my family have been really supportive and helpful to me. At the same time my clients and corporate brands I have worked with have all understood that my kids are part of the n & s journey. In my early stages the kids were around during meetings or important phone calls but this was no secret to anyone and I wasn't ashamed of it either. I had to have those upfront conversations with everyone so that they knew my position and truth be told, most of them could relate.
In the beginning of n & s, my boys were very young. I needed to create a timetable for myself so that I could feel like I was achieving some goals.
My 1:2 rule which I often talk about is devoting 1 hour in the morning and 2 hours in the evening of un-interrupted work. So this would require getting up before the kids woke up in the morning and doing work after they went to sleep. It was a sacrifice but something I knew that I had to do if I wanted to make this work. It was part of my “1 year” goal.
So what was I doing to start with in my 1:2 rule to start with…
1. RESEARCH --- Brands I liked and identified with, reading their stories ( fashion, flowers, jewellery )
2. MOOD BOARDS --- Creating mood boards of visual things I liked.
3. LEARNING --- understanding website building, social media ( Facebook at that time as I didn’t know about Instagram ), practicing photography ( I used to use a camera and then discovered IPHONE).
4. UNDERSTANDING --- How much money do I need?
The first few months were really devoted to learning and "skilling" myself. I bought lots of magazines that would share success stories on people that I liked. I wanted to understand how they started, what skills they had, did they have a lot of money to start with.
Finances is something I want to discuss a little later with you – but to give you a little insight, I started with $2000 approx. It was a very small amount and a lot of it went into setting things up like a business name, domain name etc. With my husband Nick working, we had an income stream to pay for our personal things so I was able to be at home with my kids and work on the business with my small allocated budget.
Yes….my budget was SMALL. I forced myself to try to learn as much as I could about doing things myself to save money. At the time I had to learn to make my own logo, learn about codes for website building, learn photography and of course later on – learn baking. I asked a lot of questions too - so don’t be offended if you don’t get answer when you ask someone, either ask again or just try someone else.
I was and still am a SPONGE. I love learning and will immerse myself into something so I can master it. And I have made so many mistakes, I can’t emphasize this enough. And I STILL DO. You have to be open to making mistakes even if you are afraid of failure like myself. It truly will help you grow and succeed.
There is so much I have to cover and I apologise in advance that I may not immediately be answer all your questions. I feel it is very important to show you all the initial phases as they are all really relevant.
Please continue to DM me on Instagram with your questions. They are very important and insightful for me so I can ensure I am covering all bases.
The Beginning of Nectar and Stone, how did Caroline Khoo start her journey.