I started Canvy’s Bag Company two years ago as a college kid with a half-sharpened pencil, some bits of paper, a dream, and absolutely zero knowledge of what I was about to get myself into. What followed has been an outrageous rollercoaster of ups, downs, and a lot of plateaus. And I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world.
When I look back at defining moments in my journey to build my company, it’s difficult to break them into the typical, run-of-the-mill “Build a Gazillion-Dollar Company in 10 Easy Steps” format. Those are all well and good (and I read my fair share, I must say), but the reality of the world of entrepreneurship is so much more nuanced and fluid.
My experience was certainly never a clear-cut, step-by-step staircase to success. It was more a series of rocky hills scattered with a bunch of challenges that appeared like mini-Mt. Everests. A total newcomer to apparel production, buzzwords like “Ideation” and “Pattern-Making” were like Mandarin to me (and I don’t speak Mandarin), so the early learning process was frustrating.
There is no cookie-cutter formula to turn an idea into a successful startup. That said, there are certainly a few tools in my toolbox I’d gladly lend to anyone else. So, here are a few nuggets of wisdom I learned along the way that (I think) apply to just about anyone thinking about starting a company, no matter the industry. And I’ll cover them in less than “10 Easy Steps.”
Change is More than Good – It’s Essential
It’s almost impossible for me to understand how I got from “A” to… well… not exactly “B,” but somewhere else entirely – a place I never really expected to end up.
Don’t be deterred by change. Embrace it. Your business will go through so many iterations that your head will head spin, and each time you’ll learn something new about the industry, the company, the product, your customers, and heck, maybe even about yourself (yes, I’m getting a little deep right now). Each change can feel like a setback or a failure, but part of what has made Canvy’s Bag Company what it is today has been the trial and error, the struggles, and the inefficient processes we’ve been through.
That doesn’t mean you have to make wholesale changes at every turn to be successful. In fact, some things never change. Our mission, our very reason for being – to manufacture the highest quality and most stylish Made in USA travel bags – has never changed. Neither has my personal goal, which was always to successfully fund Canvy’s Bag Company on Kickstarter. I’m so proud to say that we are just a few weeks out and will be launching in early February.
If you don’t embrace change, you risk stunting your business’s growth potential. So, I challenge you to constantly revisit different aspects of your company with new perspective. Once you look back on where you started, you’ll wonder how in the world you got from “A” to… well… someplace special.
You Can’t Do It Alone
This was the most difficult lesson for me to learn and arguably the most important. I’m a consummate “do-it-yourselfer.” I like the personal challenge of being out on my own figuring things out, learning, doing, yada yada yada. The fact is there will come a time in your journey to build your business that you hit a brick wall. Hard. No amount of Googling or brainstorming will help, and your march to success will grind to a frustrating halt.
How do you fix it? Trick question: you don’t. The key to turning something good into something great is other people. If I had realized this earlier, I would have saved myself so much time, money, frustration, and Advil to relieve my headache. I can’t stress this enough.
Eventually, I realized it was best to network with industry professionals who were smarter and more skilled in the areas I lacked expertise, like pattern making and public relations, to add value to my bags and accessories. People are experts for a reason – rely on them. Get as many different opinions, suggestions, and critiques as you can. Sometimes you can be so close to something that you can’t see the whole picture yourself, but your network will give you more objective advice.
Technology can help you build a community of resources – websites like Maker’s Row provide helpful platforms to easily network with industry professionals and create an amazing support system. Cold calling is scary but important, and I have resorted to it countless times. Do yourself a favor and research whoever you’re calling ahead of time. Take the time to build personal relationships with the people around you, and you’ll be stunned by how willing people are to help a total stranger.
A Last Word on Courage
At the end of the day, building a company takes courage. It’s terrifying, and failure in business is public. Running a business can keep you up at night, make you lose weight … or gain weight. Uncertainty is the only guarantee in the realm of entrepreneurship.
Nothing you will read in any blog will prepare yourself for the incredible journey you are about to embark on. I can only say lean into it and love it. Trailblazing is exciting because you’re venturing into the unknown without knowing where you’ll end up. Don’t let fear stop the trek, because, I can tell you from experience, there is no feeling in the world like seeing your dream come to life in front of your eyes.
Starting your own business can seem like the open ocean. Everywhere you look there’s endless water with absolutely no land in sight. But, as long as you keep swimming, you’ll make it. With that, I urge you to be courageous and dive-in headfirst. The water’s fine, I promise.
If you’re feeling motivated to dive into your own business, use Maker’s Row to access over 10,000 factories who can turn your ideas into physical products. They span a breadth of industries, including apparel, accessories, packaging, furniture, and home decor. Over 1,100 will specifically work with and guide beginners.
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