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Have you ever thought about starting your own small business, but thought it’d be impossible with balancing school, work or even doubted yourself because you know nothing about ‘business’ to start? I started my own small business during my second year of undergrad, knowing absolutely nothing about business or the amount of work that goes into it. Today, after 4 years of ongoing learning and hard work, it is one of the best decisions I’ve made. 

To support all you fellow future entrepreneurs, here are some super helpful tips that I’ve learned along the way that have helped me cultivate the business that I own. 

  1. Choose Something You Are Passionate About

Don’t go for something just because it’ll ‘make you rich’ or ‘it’s cheap.’ Pick something you are passionate about, like a hobby or a specific skill set that you have. If you choose something that you enjoy, you are more likely to stick with it. This doesn’t mean that you have to solely stick to that ONE item; add how you see fit and let your shop grow. For example, while I started off selling book sleeves, I have been adding stickers, tote bags, and shirts, which help gain new customers looking for different items. 

       2.   Research Your Item

You might be thinking, Why would I do that? It’s a good idea to have a basis as to where you should start. Know your competitors and know the market. For example, there are many candle makers in the Windsor-Essex area, specifically soy candle makers. How can you make yourself stand out from their products? Would it be the scents you offer, different and unique label designs, or do you add glitter or colouring to your candles? The best place to go for research is Etsy, which specializes in a variety of handmade items and can provide ideas as to how to move forward with your product/service. 

      3.   Social Media is KEY

As society moves further into the digital age, social media is becoming more prevalent as to how people advertise and choose what to purchase. This is the perfect way to grab a person’s attention and make them check out what you are selling. Do you know all those fun TikTok songs? Use that to your advantage! Make sure what you are posting is clear, not cluttered, and if you are hoping to stick with a certain aesthetic, try different variations of angles and edits until you find what works best for you. Live-action shorts are always fun, or even getting props from the dollar store. For example, all that fun Halloween decor that is currently in stores, pick up some fun garlands or even a pumpkin or two. By adding these to your photos or backgrounds of videos adds a pop of colour. Since many are turning online to shop via social media advertising, this is a huge part of running your business. 

      4.   Be Patient 

This is SUPER important! You may not start off with 100 orders, and that’s totally okay. Sometimes it may take months to finally get an order, but never give up hope. This also ties into social media; promoting it to friends and family, taking fun product photos—anything to get a person’s attention and make them stop to read. 

      5.   Know Your Audience

Starting a small business may seem like a daunting task at the start, with the amount of work that goes into it, but take it from someone who’s been running her business for 4 years now; it does get better. For me, I target those who enjoy reading, so I find people or social media accounts that suit what I create and follow them to try and get the word out. Sometimes it takes a little while to find the right audience, but if you get one person talking about your business, it’s bound to grow.

Carly Coombe is currently in her last year of Teacher's College for P/J, additionally with an Honour Bachelors Degree in English and History. When she’s not busy balancing school and work, she often volunteers her time as a Girl Guide leader for a local unit or is working on her small business, which has taken off since quarantine. She will always be found with her nose in the latest book, sometimes even ones that have not been published yet. She aspires to earn her TEFL degree and become an English and History high school teacher.
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