5 Things I Learned From Having A Failed Business

snapshot from one of our many incredible community events

snapshot from one of our many incredible community events

Shoutout to my Google Photos app for reminding me this week that it’s coming up on a year since I closed down my brick & mortar wellness studio in Phoenix, AZ. It’s not something I’ve really ever talked about publicly, or privately a whole lot for that matter.

TBH it was one of the most painful periods of my life.

Months leading up to the closure I was having daily panic attacks and my depression severely flared up over the financial stress it was putting on me. And I hid it all from just about everyone. There were a lot of rock bottoms during that time but guess what that also meant? Learning! And growing! And growing through the pain! (Praise be).

I know we all have our own definitions of failure — and to some level I didn’t fail. I was succeeding in the fact that I was working with incredible clients. Seeing the results they desired. Seeing their self-confidence sky rocket. And made some beautiful, cherished friendships. Some that I don’t currently have any longer but still think of them and their families with so much love. And that to me is success. But my bank account and the ability to keep up with bills or even groceries was a completely different story.

So here’s what I learned.

  1. Don’t Rush Into It

    I was 26 when I became a studio owner. Looking back now — I KNEW NOTHING. Sure, I worked for small businesses since I was 20. And even co-owned a farm when I was 21. But I was not mentally prepared for what it meant to have my own brick & mortar in a high end neighborhood. I also realized, I wanted my own space out of ego. I was making good money as a personal trainer and LOVED what I was doing. But wanted more purpose. Wanted to be more than just a trainer. My gut was telling me to slow down and I did the exact opposite. I rushed, rushed, rushed to give myself some feeling of greater purpose.

  2. Ask For Help

    I’ve been told a time or two during astrological chart readings that I can be very stubborn. This is especially true when it comes to asking for help. I like doing things on my own, even when I’m horrible at them or don’t know how to do them or am suffering miserably. I am a lone wolf through and through and this can be extremely hurtful when operating your own business. I wish I would’ve listened to this advice when I was given it but alas, I did not.

    So check your ego at the door and ask for help. Seek out mentors. Talk to your friends about your struggles so they can help connect you with problem solvers. Or just be there to listen and support you. Shining light on your struggles allows for others to step in and help you when you need it. Accept it with open arms and a grateful heart that there’s people in your life that love you enough to see you, listen to you, and want to help you.

  3. Margins Matter

    Your margins? They matter. Work with companies that are on brand and can offer your customers something well made and unique. Purchase it wholesale from them, and sell it at a 40 to 50% margin if possible. This can provide an additional stream of income while also providing some amazing products to your customers and clients, and getting to support other small businesses you admire. Screen printing apparel can also often be fairly low cost for you, allows your customers to represent your space out in the community, and can provide some pretty great margins for you.

  4. Outsource When You Can

    This was something I never, ever, ever, ever once did. And guess what? I was insanely burned out and drained. I was the accountant, the personal trainer, the house keeping, the social media manager, the website designer, the event planner, the customer service rep, head of payroll, the marketing department, and literally whatever else you can think of in between. And although that’s definitely a huge part of owning and operating your own business (I think you should absolutely work every single position in your company at some point), when you can, outsource. Your time and energy are so valuable! And I always thought I was too broke to ever hire anyone else to help. Look into internships. Or contracted positions where you can pay someone to work a few hours here and there as needed. There’s options, start small, and gradually outsource as you can.

  5. Know Your Why

    At the end of the day, the thing that kept me going was my why. I was so fiercely passionate about what I was doing and why I was doing it that I kept showing up each day, even when the ship was sinking.

    I know I’m here to help women rebuild a loving relationship with their bodies through real foods, movement that makes them feel strong and energized, and holistic beauty practices on any budget.

    I still haven’t given up on that mission. And having the studio was such a necessary chapter in my life. And I had so many beautiful experiences in that space with some of the most incredible humans that I’ll never regret it!

    Always learning. Always growing.

Caitlin Smith