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It was a little over a year ago that I decided to leave my job as an accountant. I liked my job and felt fulfilled, but leaving my baby every morning was really hard for me. I had been making jewelry previously… just tinkering with little things here and there, nothing major. Clay had just received a promotion at his job so we decided to have me quit and start making jewelry while being home with Ezra. But I had so many ideas, so many OTHER hobbies that I wanted to delve into… writing, weaving, pottery, I wanted to design surfboards for Clay’s little surf company, I wanted to design handbags! I was all over the place. Little did I know that a small business was about to blossom…

So over the past year, this idea of a jewelry Etsy shop blossomed into a full blown website incorporating everything I love: jewelry design, leather bags, poster prints and photography, home decor, we even have a stand-up paddle board designed by yours truly. After making so many contacts with some amazing creators in the social media space over the past year, it just made sense to work with these people who already had incredible talent in place. Visit our “Meet The Creators” page to get to know our designers!

There were definitely setbacks along the way — last October I didn’t even know if it was going to happen. I was feeling so frustrated and things just seemed to be dragging on. But we pushed through, and in January 2016 things really began to move and the brand behind Sugarhouse Supply started to form.

I wanted to share a few tips and tricks we learned along the way and although you will still make mistakes, I hope that this will save you a couple!

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1. Strong branding is everything

Pick a name that means something to you. This way you will be less likely to want to change it later on. Keep it simple and memorable. But as I am sure you know, branding isn’t just about a great name. It’s a look, feel and image of your brand. If you keep consistency with your logo, colors and even the font you use across every package, mailer, Instagram ad, blog post, etc., you will create a greater brand presence. People will begin recognizing your brand quicker if it is consistent.

2. You Need to Have Patience & Be Flexible

We began thinking up Sugarhouse Supply Co. in early April of 2015. I, being very naive and a little too optimistic, thought we could have EVERYTHING done by Christmas. But, being the brand we are, with several different products, mostly being curated by us individually or by other small makers, it just wasn’t feasible. The following SPRING wasn’t even feasible! I started getting a bit discouraged. We set our launch date for June 2016… more than a year after we had started thinking of our business! If you set a deadline or “launch day” that is actually doable, creating a schedule and plan, you will be so much less stressed and will be more likely to achieve your goal. Also, don’t forget to add in some “cushion.” Things always take more time and cost more money than you think they will. Create a spending start-up budget and stick with it! But don’t budget to your max limit. Plan on spending less than your max because there will always be things you don’t think about and things that cost more than you originally planned.

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3. Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Use your resources. If you know someone who is a photographer, branding expert, social media influencer, website designer etc. don’t hesitate to ask questions! Most will be happy to help and would love to support your business. I had SO MUCH help from talented friends and family with this business. It would not be what it is without their help. Never feel ashamed to ask questions.

4. Software Tools

I taught myself how to use Adobe InDesign years ago when a company I worked for asked me to create flyers and brochures for their marketing team. It has come in so handy over the years, especially now! I have used Adobe InDesign to create our insert cards, logo, packaging tape, designing parts of our website etc. I have found Adobe InDesign worked best for me, but I have heard Illustrator is also a great one for simple designing. Highly recommend teaching yourself how to use this program or one similar if you have a small business!It doesn’t matter the size of your business, keeping things in order on a spreadsheet will save you a lot of headache. This is where my accounting background comes in handy, I don’t know what I would do without my spreadsheets. But, you don’t have to be an accountant to organize and stay on top of things. Keep track of your inventory, pricing, vendors, materials… etc. There is a place for EVERYTHING on a spreadsheet. If you do not have Microsoft Office, Google Sheets is also a great resource.

5. Creative Market 
Creative Market is a website where designers can post their artwork and creative material for sale. It has become such a great tool for me when searching for new fonts, web designs and magazine layouts. Check it out! There are so many amazing creators out there willing to share their work for great prices.When you’re dealing with a minimum budget for your small business, every penny counts!
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6. Social Media
Social media marketing is HUGE. There are countless Instagram influencers that have a large reaches that are happy to help promote your brand. In the past few years I have promoted so many small businesses. Now that I am on the other side, I know the huge benefit that social media collaboration on Instagram can bring. From past experience working with small brands and talking with several people with small businesses, I would recommend starting your Instagram promotion by collaborating with Instagram influencers with 15k-30k followers. Many of these users will accept product as trade for promotion or do not charge too much. Many users with much higher followings may also accept product as payment, (depending on the product), but the likelihood they will get to your message or agree to post as payment is much less. I would recommend reaching out to people with smaller followings to save yourself time, especially if you would like to have the post unpaid. I have found that their reach is very valuable if their engagement rate is there.

With this said, photography on your social media and the way you display your photos is extremely important. Creating well lit (think natural sunlight), clear and professional looking photographs will bring attention to your products and will most definitely give you a greater chance of selling. Having a plain white or black background will make your product “pop”. If you do not have a great place in your home to take photos, you can buy a paper backdrop roll with crossbar supports and shoot next to a window. But honestly, for our first small product photos, I folded a piece of white poster board and placed it near natural sunlight…worked like a charm. All our jewelry photography was shot that way and then I just overexposed the photos to get a bright white background finish. Once you grow and have a little more money to spend, you can rent studios space and pay a photographer for your product photos.

From past experience working with small brands and talking with several people with small businesses, I would recommend starting your Instagram promotion by collaborating with Instagram influencers with 15k-30k followers. Many of these users will accept product as trade for promotion or do not charge too much.

7. Website

There are so many website platforms to choose from these days, it is so overwhelming. In our search, we couldn’t find ONE platform that did everything we wanted. So we made some choices and compromised. See what is important to you and do your research! Before we realized how important choosing the right platform was, we built our ENTIRE site and put in countless hours of work only to find it wasn’t compatible with a very important payment option that we felt was 100% necessary. That was a deal breaker in our book, so we decided to switch everything to another platform, re-doing our whole site. It was such a headache! If we would have done the research and looked at all the options, we wouldn’t have wasted so many hours.

 

Starting a small business is completely exhausting, time-consuming, scary, but most of all, very exciting. It can be so rewarding in so many ways! I can’t wait to see what happens with our little Sugarhouse Supply Company. I can only hope that everything will be as amazing as it is in my head. Only time will tell, I guess!
I also wish you the very best of luck. It will be great, you will be great, and if you stick with it, staying true to yourself and your brand, you will be so successful.
XX,
Mary Lauren

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