Wow, I cannot believe that another year is over already. As an entrepreneur, time flies – especially when you are a mom. Managing your kids and family while starting a business is no snooze-fest. I encountered this new word of supposedly being a “mompreneur” and I love the concept. There is always something to do (or fifty things to do). I often have to remind myself to be more patient, to take a conscious break to reflect, and review everything I have done and accomplished. In the spirit of the new year, I thought why not start by doing that: looking back when I launched Zeitgeist Gifts!
Experiences, Emotions, and Hard-Learned Lessons
I had to face some hard truths with starting this business. I have been in situations where I hear myself telling my husband that I will quit the foolish venture and just return to a normal life. A life without constantly thinking about what needs to be done: purchase orders to process, inventory to be checked, finding new products, Marketing and all of the day-to-day tasks small business owners face. But of course, I also remember moments of unlimited joy, gratitude, and pride. Even small victories, ones that might seem meaningless to others, could instantly renew my faith in this business.
I remember my first sale to somebody I didn’t personally know: someone out there in the big world of the Internet. It’s amazing that they found me in this new digital Galaxy. The thrill of this very first order reminded me that you can surprise yourself with what you can do. And indeed: it's one of the mottos that I have always believed in and what my parents have told me. "If there is a will, there is a way." I always had resilience. I thought, “I don't give up.” Missions have to be completed, after all. I guess that may also have something to do with my German background. Doing things properly and being held accountable for what you do and what you say matters very much to me.
Past and Present
So here I am now: 5 years living in the U.S. in an environment that has surely changed and shaped me in all sorts of new ways. I particularly love the positivity of the U.S. and its people. Their drive and approach is admirable – if you want to do something, simply do it! I think it’s true when people call this the land of the free where possibilities are endless. So many people have been so encouraging and supportive along the way. They have all inspired me and I am truly grateful for these experiences and shared moments. I believe our world is coming closer together although we are becoming more international. Some mottos I have learned to follow: always be open, broaden your horizon, and recognize how other cultures live. Keep all the good things you have and add new things that are better from other places.
The Realities of Running a Small Business
So yes, when I began this small business journey - roughly a full year ago – I was very enthusiastic and I was so sure that this venture would bring instant success in a short time. As always, reality caught up with me one day. I encountered more expenses than I originally anticipated despite doing my “homework” with a proper business and financial plan. We had less growth than hoped and experienced issues I hadn't expected.
It's easy enough to build a website nowadays – even an ecommerce one – but what I had really underestimated was the difficulty of driving traffic to that site. It's like opening your new store in a cute neighborhood, but nobody has discovered it yet (and it's really outside the high traffic areas). You can imagine my frustration! I quickly learned that I had to study more and focus on smart marketing strategies to improve my business visibility and achieve my goals. This epiphany was huge, but I was also spread so thin while taking care of everything from website updates to reorganizing the warehouse and even sending out orders (and, of course, my family).
Developing a Lean Business Model
Opening more sales channels on other marketplaces was one of my primary goals and it has proven to be a brilliant move. Amazon, in particular, has fascinated me since the beginning. I do believe that there is a huge potential if you understand the mechanics and manage your business well. An important move was recruiting professionals for specific tasks, but maintaining cost-efficient practices at this early stage of my business. I found many freelancers that did great work, but encountered several setbacks with this approach. People who work multiple jobs are often not as easy to manage or communicate with effectively. However, mostly it worked out when you are grateful and treat each other with respect.
That brings me to one of the biggest modern headaches for most business owners: Marketing. Let me tell you: I worked in Marketing in Europe for almost 14 years. I would call it “Old School Marketing” because of how much social media has completely changed the rules of the game. In this respect, the U.S. has been an absolute eye opener. Affiliate marketers, influencers, live marketing – just to name a few of today's digital wonders. I am still learning how to market my business in this digital age. I am, most importantly, leveraging all of the tools at my disposal to address my largest challenge: navigating my way through the new digital space to increase my audience and store visibility.
Moving Forward into 2017
I also wanted to express immense gratitude toward our partners and product vendors. It has been truly fulfilling to offer merchandise from people I personally know. My vision for 2017 is to discover even more amazing products and to be able to cater to all gifting occasions here in the U.S. From small home accessories and quirky gifts to unique kids' toys; for people, young and old, who want a lifestyle of the modern time – our Zeitgeist. Not only do we focus on the uncommon and the contemporary, we (most importantly) focus on things that make you smile. Because these things are what really matters: happiness, appreciation, and the little things in life.
Finally…..(I promise, I’m almost done)…..I am SO grateful – and also a little proud – that my business has allowed me to become more flexible and still spend time with my kids and husband. In almost 14 years of corporate jobs, I have never learned as much in such a short period of time that I learned last year. Overall, Zeitgeist Gifts has been such an enriching experience that, despite struggles, frustration, and exhaustion, I am confident that I will drive the business forward. I am excited to acquire new partners, develop synergies, and grow the business with the newly joined forces. Lastly, thanks to YOU for all your support. It means so much to us! You have helped us pursue and live what we love everyday. I wish everybody a happy, healthy, and wonderful 2017!