Mama Gracie's Pregnancy Shop was birthed on Labor Day 2015. It was a dream of mine to own my own business since I was a teenager. Everything was going great implementing the business plan and getting it set up and then life happened. There are five things that I didn't hear anyone say as I prepared this journey and I hope they will help you on yours.
1. Down-Size your Life
It is crazy that I thought leaving my 6-figure salary to start my own business would just flow. Our family has two cars, a rental property, a house, and bills. As the loans that we used to start the business started coming due and there were no sales at the shop, our cash flow was severely decreased. Later on, our renters gave their notice and our financial situation worsened. We down-sized so that we had the capacity to keep things afloat, be able to eat, and not lose everything. Being forced to down-size was probably the best way for me to handle the situation, but I wouldn't recommend it. After this season of financial hardship, I am leaner in my spending. It is fun now to see how much we are able to save because of our thriftiness.
2. Study your Customer
To study your customer, you need to know your customer. The Small Business Development Consultant suggested to collect data about my potential customers. The data I collected about my customer base supported the claim that there were expectant moms in the Princeton area. But the data didn't answer many important questions. Where were these expectant moms going? What were they doing day-to-day? Were they shopping in the local city or going to larger cities where they could find more shops? At my shop's opening, there was only one customer base I had counted for (pregnant women). I wasn't getting the customer base I had written about in the business plan. Afterwards, I realized there were a lot more customers I hadn't taken into account like dads, grandparents and friends.
3. Get to know the City Ordinances
My business was supported by winning a local business competition and so I assumed the city was supportive of small businesses. It wasn't until real-life happened that I saw that there were so many city ordinances that were not supportive of local small businesses. Examples include signage, parking and collaborative opportunities. We had a great sandwich sign at the end of our street that let people know about us. I received a note from the city that it was in violation of the city sign ordinance which required that the sign be only outside our shop. They couldn't allow everyone to just put signs up. Customers and people in the community asked what happened to our sign.
4. Know Perseverance
Webster defines perseverance as steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Work had always been easy to me but it was different when I had no colleagues or boss. It was up to me everyday to be inspired to love our products, our services and implement the vision that was in me. As personal and financial pressures worsened, I found the perseverance to keep going instead of implementing my plan to close the shop. My motto is that "I'm going to work this until it works.". We tried various ideas to kick start the shop and these ideas did keep the shop going. In 2017, we did need to downsize on some services (e.g., massages, yoga) and bring it back to being a pregnancy shop. Perseverance will win!!!!
5. Choose your Measure of Success
Recently as Mama Gracie's has changed in her 2nd year, many friends, family and loyal customers have said " I'm so sorry it didn't work out." My answer is "Mama Gracie's is successful." She is a brand that is known across the country, maybe the world via Shoptiques. She has been featured in many local pregnancy stories when yoga and massage were part of the shop. We have mamas and babies using the products we sell and she is still young. There are many things that I didn't know when I started my business and have had to learn on the job. My vision for Mama Gracie's is that she will grow bigger than what we see today!
Faith Goenner, Entrepreneur, Visionary