If you’ve read much of this blog before you’ll know that as well as Business for Mums, I run Mum2mum Market Nearly New Sales. Neither of these were actually my first business. My first business was “Tots Tales: The Baby and Toddler Book Club”. It was baby and toddler classes based around books (I’m a former librarian so it’s kind of my thing). They ran for about 9 months before I accepted defeat and closed them down. Had you told me that was where I’d end up I’d have been horrified, failure was my worst nightmare. When I experienced what it’s really like when your Business fails, it really wasn’t so bad.
How it all started
In the beginning it seemed like a great idea. I loved going to baby and toddler classes with my kids. I loved books. I have a Business Studies degree. I even lead the singing session at my local toddler group. What more suitable business could there be for me than running book based baby and toddler classes? What I didn’t think about was how stressful I’d found my previous experiences of teaching. How I wasn’t really that keen on children who weren’t my own. How I had avoided like the plague running story time when working in the library. I didn’t want to go back to work, I’d always wanted to start a business so I only saw what I wanted to see and ignored the glaringly obvious reasons that it was a bad idea.
There were things about the business I loved. Researching and planning the sessions was good fun. Getting the logo designed and creating my stationary was great. Learning about accounts and marketing was satisfying. Unfortunately I soon came to dread running the actual classes. Initially I thought it was because numbers were low to start with and that created an odd atmosphere. I then did a big Facebook promotion and had lots of people come for a free trial. Very few came back. In my heart I knew then that I’d made a mistake. I didn’t enjoy running the sessions which was the heart of the business and it came across in the delivery. If I wasn’t having fun, no one was going to have fun.
Knowing it wasn’t going to be a success
I carried on for a while, feeling that it was too soon to give up. I tried changing the structure of the classes, tried to relax and enjoy it more. Eventually I reached the point were I was feeling sick at the thought of running the class. I had to accept that this just wasn’t the right business for me.
And once I’d done that I felt fine about it. In fact I felt excited because now I could focus on finding something that was right for me. I always imagined that I would feel humiliated if a business failed (in fact that’s probably why it took me so long to start) but actually I felt proud that I tried when so many people never do. Friends and family were surprised when I stopped running it but nobody made me feel like a failure.
I started researching other opportunities and this time I was far more honest with myself. When I came across Mum2mum Market I really considered what would be involved and weather it would suit me. It was scary trying again. You start to wonder if you can trust your own judgement but I had loved being self employed so much that I couldn’t imagine going back to work. This time I got it right and have been running and growing nearly new sales in my area for three years. I had developed a good knowledge of the local parenting community when I was running a Tots Tales. I was able to make use of that in my new venture, as well as all the general business skills I learnt like book keeping and marketing.
The most valuable thing I learnt from the experience was that failure isn’t the huge disaster we think it is. I was lucky that the only money I lost was my redundancy money and obviously if I had lost money that I couldn’t afford to, it could have been a much bigger problem. But it’s usually the humiliation that we fear and the experience has taught me that it’s really unfounded. Most people just carry on down the easy route and never really follow their dreams but, to adjust the famous Tennyson quote, it’s better to have tried and failed, than never tried at all.
You can read more about Tots Tales in my Business Story or read about other people’s business fails in Businesses that didn’t make it.