It’s hard to believe that five years ago today I was sitting at our little folding table desk filling out forms online to make Happily Ever After Me, LLC official! I had an idea that became a big dream, and now it is the closest to reality than it has ever been. I think that it’s a pretty cool and exciting thing to watch it unfold.
I’m not a very patient person, at all. I expect things to progress and produce results immediately, and if it falls short I feel that I have not done a good enough job. But, there are things that I have learned, both professionally and personally, these last 5 years. So, I thought maybe I would take a few minutes to share those things with you. (Hence, the title…)
5 things I have learned as an individual
1. Family comes before work and time spent with them comes before money.
“MOM mom mOOOOm MOOOM… mom….MOM!!!” Who can even think with that going on?! Many hours were spent in front of the computer screen or drawing board when I should have been spending time with my children. Old habits are very difficult to break, so it took some time and personal growth (see #5), but I have now found a good balance. Late nights take the lead, and that’s okay because that is what works for us. I learned that I can’t try to squeeze work into every free second of the day or it will just drive us all insane. I am a mom and wife first.
2. Stop giving things away!
I love my friends, especially the ones that love my products. (Haha jk) I love making friends too. This is one way to make lots of “friends.” I used to love contests and promotions and giveaways because of the idea in my head of the exposure they would give me. BUZZ! WRONG. I have learned that plenty of people will jump for free. Free things don’t make people want to buy more or buy another product. Free things don’t even necessarily make people like you or your company. People just love free, plain and simple. Don’t get me wrong, I like free too and I think it is okay every once in a while, but when I realized the amount of money and time I was losing on freebies, I had to make it stop.
3. It’s okay to say no.
This one is still difficult for me at times. I am a people pleaser and I want everyone to be happy. I want everyone to like me as a business owner and like my company for what we provide. Customer Service is so extremely important to me, and word of mouth from our clients has been a huge seller. I’ve had to accept the fact that there are people out there who will try to push to get more, and want to be the exception to the process, guidelines, etc. I have learned that sometimes I just have to say no and remember there are policies set in place for a reason.
4. I DO have a job even though I stay at home.
Someone asks if I work… I say no I am a stay at home mom, I home school, and I have a little business that I work on at night…
*Gasp* I have insulted myself!
A little business, you say?! How about you go ask your customers how little they think their stories are. I’m guessing they will say their stores are a pretty BIG deal. This is something I am still learning. It’s hard to say that I work from home when it is something that I love so much and I don’t give it the hours that a full time job does on a weekly basis. But, I have worked pretty hard for what I do and I need to give myself more credit.
5. It’s okay if I don’t do it all.
This is HUGE! There came a point with a story, when I realized I just couldn't do it anymore. I didn't want to give up. I didn't want to feel like I was failing. I just simply did not have the talent to continue. When I started Happily Ever After Me, I did it all. I talked with the customers, wrote the story, illustrated the story, scanned and cleaned up the images; re-sized, colored, prepped for print… you get the picture. I did it all, and I realized that I was going to work against myself at some point. Realizing I needed help was the best thing that ever happened to me. I found Joyee, the very first illustrator that I brought on the team, and she was an angel. I was so thankful for her and her talents. And now, here I am 4 years later with 4 illustrators on the team and 1 other writer. So blessed!!!
5 things I have learned as a business owner
1. Your product is worth what you make it.
We are completely customized. We have some amazingly talented girls on the team. They create beautiful, original high quality illustrations each time we create a product, and Natalie can whip up a new story from 3 full pages of ideas and requests like you wouldn't believe. These girls ROCK, and they do it for next to nothing considering the love and time they put into each product. But, for a really long time I felt like I had to explain away our prices before anyone ever had anything negative to say about them! Why did I think that was okay? That’s a sure way to make people feel like you don’t believe in your own product. (That goes back to people pleasing, I do believe!) I have learned not to downplay our worth by trying to defend our prices. It’s okay if people think it is expensive. You are paying for what you get, and our products are worth it.
2. People WILL pay.
Along the lines of #1, this is also something I have had to learn. Some people do realize the value of your product and they will pay. This has been the most encouraging thing through the whole process. I started creating these books for a whopping $30.00! That is crazy to think about now, but I did what I had to do to get my name and product out there. I began pricing our products according to what I could pay, what I thought my friends could pay what I thought people WOULD pay. I was still on the losing end. I began taking baby steps and would raise the price a little bit with each year passing. Orders kept coming in, and my confidence in our products kept growing. Finally, I came to a point where I realized that it could only continue if I made it worth our time. So, I looked at the numbers and set a realistic budget, and amazingly the orders continue to come in. (Wow. Thank you!)
3. Men understand.
Ladies, it’s the truth. Would you believe it if I said that I had multiple male customers suggest that I charge more for what I do? And guess what the women had to say about our products? It’s been the women who have complained or turned the other way because of our prices. I can’t believe what I am about to say, but the best advice I have received here recently has been from the men. One man in particular seems to know what he is talking about most of the time… Haha. Kudos and thank you to my smart and supportive husband - I might have taken the long way around, but eventually I got to where he said I should have been in the first place.
4. I could not do this without the other girls.
No joke. I have got some of the kindest, coolest, gracious, and most talented girls working with me that I have ever known. I don’t even want to think about doing this without them! I am so thankful for each one of them. They seemed to show up and just the perfect times, just when I thought it would be nice to have more variety or when I thought it would be great to have help with the writing… then POOF here comes Joyeeta, then Eva, then Abira, and then Gina and Natalie. I still have never met these girls in person, but I feel a special bond with them. I thank God for bringing them into my life not only as part of my team, but as people that I consider my friends.
5. I have no doubt this is what I should be doing.
With each major change in life over the last couple of years (And even this year with homeschooling, which by the way is when Natalie came into the picture! Wow, perfect timing again!), there has been a question of whether or not I would be able to keep up with HEAM. It seems that even with all of the other priorities in life, HEAM has kept at a manageable, steady pace for me to continue on. It’s exciting, it’s super fun, and I couldn't feel more at peace with where things are right now. I am so thankful for the opportunity to use my imagination and have a part in creating these wonderful products! I can’t imagine life without being able to do something like this. As long as people have stories to tell, I hope that I can continue to play a part in them. I look forward to seeing what this next year holds!