Black Dog Cafe, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Making it to 2 – the rollercoaster of small business

With the ever increasing number of empty retail shops in Tunbridge Wells, some may say this is not a good time to start a business. Couple this with the shocking statistic that 50% of new business start ups fail in their 1st year* and it makes turning 2 a proud achievement. And very proud we are; The Black Dog opened its doors on 7th June 2010 with no experience but plenty of passion, enthusiasm & drive.  Thankfully so because it’s been quite a ride;  leaving behind a comfortable corporate lifestyle, selling our home & investing all our savings into the start up, developing new business & trade skills and then top off the chaos by having a baby 3 months in – were we mad?  We must have been.

The reality of running your own business is a shock and the early days are tough; we faced a daily challenge to attract enough customers to cover costs, having to brave it out onto the street to tempt people in with free samples, the demoralising feeling of having an empty café at lunchtime and willing just a few people to come in to reassure us when we were worth considering. The daily demands overtook our life, with the lines between home and work totally blurred. After being on our feet for 10 hours we would head home to learn an accounting program, devise marketing strategies, pay bills, wash tea towels, keep on top of paperwork  – it was relentless, 7 days a week but we never lost sight of our vision.

The world of small business is unpredictable and starting one even more so, particularly in today’s economic climate.  We’ve made lots of mistakes and are still learning but these key insights are the reason we’re still here to celebrate this milestone;

  1. Be patient – you need to give your business time to develop. As we found out things generally don’t take off overnight & it can take years to become profitable.
  2. Accept the hard work doesn’t end. Many small-business owners will tell you they could earn more money and have an easier life if they worked for someone else. You must be prepared for long hours with evenings and weekends being catch up opportunities for admin tasks.
  3. Stick to your core principles – we never sacrifice our focus on quality and in time it has given us a loyal customer base and has helped establish our local reputation. It is all too common to see new businesses downgrade their offering to cut costs and lose their founding customers as a result.

Starting your own business can be a rollercoaster with high highs and low lows. There are days when you wonder why you did it and others when you wouldn’t have it any other way!

* Source Federation of Small business – Common reasons why small businesses fail, 15th February 2012

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