I launched my business ‘Lauren Aston Designs’ over 4 years ago with absolutely no clue what I was doing, hardly any money (or experience) but a determination to build a job that gave me a purpose. We moved to Devon for my husband’s job and I didn’t know the area or anyone in it, all I did know was that I had to create something for myself so that my purpose in life was more than just following a boy around the country (no matter how fond I was of that boy!).
With a degree in knitwear it felt like the only subject I knew enough about to use as a starting point, so I played to my strengths and fell back to knitting, hoping to grow the job from there. After a lot of research and development I found myself focusing on Giant Knitting, which at the time no one else was really doing, so this became my USP.
One of the main things I’ve learnt is that having a USP is vital, and that the evolution of that USP is what helps you grow and develop as a brand. To begin with, mine was the big knitting but as the market became more saturated I knew I had to push it harder and figure out what made me stand out from the crowd. Essentially, in my case, I learnt that that was me.
It’s not relevant to all businesses I know, but for small businesses it’s so important to show YOU. Embrace your inner weirdo and show your audience who you are (be it personally or as a business) and what you stand for. You don’t need to show them everything and it doesn’t have to translate into all elements of your business – there is a boundary between personal and business but it’s important to remember that people invest in people, so show your crowd who you are, why you’re brilliant at what you do, and embrace the quirks that make you You.
Aside from that, the best decision I made when starting out was to ‘Say Yes’ – I said yes to every opportunity that came my way, I applied for things I didn’t think I’d have a chance at winning, I embraced opportunities that forced me out of my comfort zone. It was scary, uncomfortable and anxiety ridden, but it was also empowering, exciting and the best thing I ever did for my business. When you say yes it’s amazing which doors will open for you.
Generally speaking, as women I think we often hide behind our self-doubt, we don’t feel (or want to seem) confident in case it translates as cocky (god forbid we actually believe in ourselves!) so we self-deprecate and assume we’ll never win ‘so what’s the point in trying?’ But sometimes when we try, we do win…and most of the time you have nothing to lose but everything to gain – so why not SAY YES and see what happens?!