We started our business four months ago. We started a little while before we officially launched so we could get over some initial teething problems. Despite badgering everyone we knew for advice, buying enough business books to open a library and existing with a constant soundtrack of business podcasts in our ears, it’s amazing how unprepared we were to start.
All the advice tends to come through the lens of people who’ve “made it”. We wanted to give you some advice from a business still in its very, very early days. We might not have everything figured out, but we’ve learned a lot since we first decided to start Story Shop.
Give yourself a break
The single best thing we did was when one Sunday morning, like Pavlov’s Dog, we both pulled out our laptops and started to crack on with work. We looked at each other and the bags under our eyes and asked whether what we were going to do that day was going to result in any significant progress, or if it was just to make us feel better. After all, entrepreneurs are supposed to grind 24/7, right? Rather than sit on the laptop all day, we decided to spend an hour doing what we absolutely needed to do, and then went to see Parasite at the Cinema and to one of our favourite restaurants, Ranjit’s, for dinner (this was back when eating out and going to the cinema was still allowed.) The following day, we were far more refreshed, raring to go and creative than we otherwise would have been.
IT is important
It’s far too easy to dismiss big businesses for their inherent flaws. Much of the time, they’re not very agile and inertia is endemic. However, there are a lot of things that they have very right. The amount of time we’ve spent battling with IT issues at the very start of our business was soul-destroying. While we want to remain agile, dynamic and all the other buzz words related to a plucky wee start-up, firing ahead without proper systems and processes in place was a nightmare. We are very relieved these initial teething problems are now behind us.
Spend time creating your environment
We had to keep costs low at the start, but soon realised, as many of you will have recently, that working from a kitchen table is a disaster for our backs, as kitchen tables are not built for 8+ hours of sitting, and for our stomachs, because of the constant nagging temptation by the fridge. This is probably a journey most people reading this have now been through.
So we invested in making our office (spare room) as conducive to good work as possible. We bought proper desks, proper chairs and made sure there was proper lighting. We do miss the ability to change our environment and, as much as we prefer to be together than apart, it was nice to take a momentary break from each other now and then. Before lockdown, we worked from every hipster coffee shop in the West end, the library, a pub (The Belle on Great Western Road), the offices of friends, and everywhere in between.
Sometimes it’s easier to be creative and get into the “deep-work” zone when away from your home, but we make do with what we have. I’m currently writing this from the front step outside my house.
Clearly define your vision
Immediately, we started goal setting for everything from month 1 to year 30, and it’s amazing how there’s an almost innate belief that success equals numbers. We imagined a world where we’d have hundreds of employees and realise that’s not what we want. We want to grow but we want a small dedicated team that we trust implicitly. We’re not selling a product, but a service, and we want to prioritise that service above all else. We want to work with companies we believe in and help them grow, and as they do, become a bigger part of their organisation.
We help our clients with marketing strategy and creating content. When we need anything else, we tap into our little black book of trusted freelancers to bring our clients’ campaigns to life. We made a conscious decision to be very clear about who we are, as we believe people buy from people. We can’t be everything to everyone, and that’s OK. When starting a business, people often pedal the line “when you’re big act small, when you’re small act big”. But we’re small and we provide a personal service, that’s key to who we are.
We’ve never been ashamed of what we don’t know. And we wouldn’t have been able to get off the ground without advice from people we trust. By speaking to people who’ve been there before, or are particularly skilled in one element we’re weak at, it’s been incredible the mistakes we’ve been able to avoid. That’s the beauty about Glasgow right now, there are so many people willing to give their time and help you. If ever we’re in the position to help someone, we’ll always pay it forward.
We want to build a sustainable business, and an awful lot can be achieved in the 30+ years we have left in our careers. So we’ve made sure to never see a bump in the road as a catastrophe. We’ve learned from every single bump and will continue to. When Coronavirus hit, some clients understandably froze. But we can only control what we can control – so we worked hard on the job we’re doing for current clients, and by practicing what we preach and developing our own brand.
We’re still learning all the time, so if anyone out there has advice for a plucky young start-up then get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you’re thinking of starting on your own and want to hear more about what we’ve learned, our metaphorical door is always open now and our actual door will be open once social distancing is lifted.