Last week I celebrated my 9 year anniversary of owning Kidville Bethesda! Wow, still sounds so crazy to say! In a way it feels like I’ve had this business forever and in other ways it feels like it was just yesterday that I opened! This business has literally felt like my 3rd “baby”. I birthed it when my second child was only 2 months old and my older child was only 2! And I’ve watched it grow and flourish over the last 9 years. This was my first venture in entrepreneurship and it has taught me so much and has led to so many additional opportunities and entrepreneurial ventures!
Reflecting back on this journey, I’m sharing 9 lessons that I’ve learned over the last 9 years of entrepreneurship:
1. Work hard play hard: The first couple years of owning my business were rough. There were several weeks I worked 7 days a week and sometimes now I still struggle with turning my mind and “work brain” off. But, none of it is worth it if you don’t take time to enjoy life as well! Biz ownership becomes much more enjoyable when you give yourself a break from time to time.
2. Managing employees is one of the most important but also hardest parts of biz ownership: Having a brick and mortar service oriented business requires employees that are reliable, hard working, and amazing “people people”. I have been so so lucky to have amazing employees many who have been with me for 2+, 5+, and even 8 years!! – they are the heart of my biz and the reason customers keep coming back. But managing 25+ part time employees is tough – tough to find good people, tough to retain them and honestly one of the hardest parts of running a brick and mortar!
3. Don’t strive for work/life balance, strive for harmony: I think “balance” is a fallacy for mompreneurs. Our business and personal lives will ebb and flow. The key is to find harmony and make sure that you aren’t letting one takeover the other (for too long!).
4. Your kids learn so much by being exposed to your business: My kids come to work with me often, they see me doing payroll at home, they hear my calls with customers and employees….they have learned about treating employees and customers well, the importance of service with a smile, the costs associated with running a business. And they are now both budding entrepreneurs as a result!
5. Relationships are key: One of the keys to successful entrepreneurship is the ability to make long lasting connections and relationships. My friends call me the “mayor of Bethesda” because when we are out, I am constantly stopping to chat with someone I know, more often then not, from one of my businesses. So many of my customers have come as a result of referrals from other customers or referrals from my personal contacts. So many of my employees have come from referrals from other employees who love working at Kidville. So much of the press I have received is a result of the relationships I have formed and my focus on networking. Building solid relationships is critical.
(our grand opening celebration 9 years ago)
6. Being an entrepreneur = being a jack of all trades: One some days I am tech support, on others I am the custodian, on others I am the front desk greeter. Being an entrepreneur requires the ability to wear many hats. No two days are ever the same and your role is ever changing which makes it continually interesting!
7. Building a personal brand is critical for all entrepreneurs: Some of my biggest wins, customers, media opportunities have come from the personal brand, connections, and social media presence that I have built. My personal brand and efforts have led to new customers, opportunities, and sales for my business. Don’t underestimate the importance of building your personal brand as well as your business brand!
8. Entrepreneurship is tough: Social media can often make everything look like roses and rainbows, right? Many, including me, often glamorize entrepreneurship (it does rock, don’t get me wrong – see the next bullet!) but it is also super tough! It can be stressful figuring out where your next sale is coming from, lonely make decisions on your own, and taxing always wearing the hat of business owner. I didn’t realize how hard the hustle was until I was in it!
9. Entrepreneurship rocks: Despite any of the challenges I’ve outlined above, I LOVE being an entrepreneur. I love the flexibility, I love what I have learned, I love how much I have grown as a result. Once an entrepreneur you become an entrepreneur for life because you couldn’t imagine doing anything else!