Jul 5, 2009

Starting a business can be complicated business!

I have to say, I am really excited about having a small business, even if it doesn't do anything yet. When someone asks me what I do for a living, I hate saying "I work at a temp agency" or "I'm a receptionist" (which is what I was doing up until a few months ago). I do actually enjoy reception, dealing with people, etc. but I hate feeling like I'm not in control of my own life. Owning my own business is a chance for me to sit in the driver's seat and decide EVERYTHING!! It's not a power trip, it's peace of mind.

I'm finding that the best way for me personally is to slide into this whole thing slowly, and believe me, it has been S L O W. I actually started writing my first business plan in October of 2007. I had a personal business adviser and everything (courtesy of the Govt. of Quebec, thanks Quebec!) With that endeavor, which was supposed to be a screen printing company, I had everything from the business plan, potential clients, equipment quotes, to my ad in the yellow pages (more on this later). So I proudly walked to the bank, business plan in tow, and the bank said unto me: " Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further". I had no savings. I had no collateral. I was young (still am). The best the bank could do for me was a $1,500 Visa and a $3,500 credit line. Really? Start a business on $5,000? That didn't cover 1/8 of my expenses. So I gave up (for a while).

Fast forward to 2 months ago. I work for a wonderful woman who owns a company called Around the Hounds ( http://aroundthehounds.com ). She decides that she wants some new fabric designed for collars. She wants some designs for jewelery pendants (you should see her work, it's gorgeous!) And she wants t-shirt designs (which I used to do in Newfoundland back in the day). So, this was it! I decided to get my butt in gear and try again with my business, only this time focus on illustration as well as screen printing. So, my awesomely supportive man and I scoot down the the city office, only to find out that you're not allowed to do production from your home (a bylaw where we live). Hmmm... dilemma. So I say fine, I'll just do illustration and research from home and do the screen printing some other way, now please give me my business permit. Then they still tell me no. No, I'm not allowed to do an ink sketch and watercolor it from home. That's against the law. WHAT? For 3 weeks, I email back and forth with this clerk who keeps telling me no. I am persistent. I am annoying. But also, I am RIGHT. He gets fed up, can't answer my questions (like, if one can be an architect from home, why can't one be an illustrator, since it's the same process??) and he passes me off onto his supervisor. The supervisor tells me I am correct, and to come update my business application. I go back to the city, fill out the application (again) and voila. I am authorized to draw from home without breaking the law!

So, this is where I am now. I am setting up my studio (in our spare bedroom), my amazing friend is doing a website for me ( here's his wicked photoblog: lowercasestudio.com), soon I will be looking for clients. I feel so professional! But, a word of advice. Don't get ahead of yourself when setting everything up! Back in the winter of 2008, I thought that I had it in the bag, I went ahead and registered my business name ( Le Studio Elephant) and I put up an add in the Yellowpages. To this day, I still get telephone calls from potential clients asking if this is the Elephant Studio. I have to awkwardly say "umm, sorry, the Elephant Studio doesn't exist..uh, maybe next year. thanks for your call". What a terrible first impression to make! Those are all clients that will never call me again :( So, until you're absolutely ready to go with all your supplies and everything, you're sitting by the phone just waiting for that first order, don't take out an ad.

Ok, wrap this post up. My little creative studio will soon be ready to take on freelance illustration contracts, and I'll be able to make and sell a line of accessories (I'm a seamstress extrordinaire heh). At some point I'd like to be doing line drawings for graphic designers who can't draw. Need a drawing of a fish turning into waves? No problem. Need a drawing of a moose wearing headphones? I got it. It's quick, it's fun, and it's easy. Unlike getting a business permit.