5 Tips to Starting a Business by Abby Larson
October 1, 2013
About a year ago, the cute/smart/fabulous girls at The EveryGirl - with photos by Danielle Moss - put together a feature on SMP and the business that our team has built. That said, I thought it would be nice to dive in a little deeper into the business of SMP and the many lessons we've learned behind the scenes. Whether you're  just starting out - launching a new blog, a new craft business, a new anything really - we hope to shed a little light on the process. We are still learning of course, but it's been 7 years of lessons and it's about time we opened up the doors a bit. And you can see more behind the scenes on instagram!
So we're starting a new series. We don't have a name for it yet but the premise is simply learning and sharing what we know as business owners in a creative field. Inspired mostly by our behind the scenes and the incredible women that we've come across, the series will focus on finding out what makes a thriving business, well, thrive.

And while there is no real way to scratch the surface with 5 measly little tips, we hope that this is a series that will inspire and educated and bring us all together to learn from each other. So let's get started!


1. Ask yourself this question. Is your idea better than or different from what is already out there?

Is your idea different than what's already out there? If the answer is yes, you're off to the races. If the answer is no, which for most it will be, consider this. The fastest way to success is either in doing something differently or doing something BETTER than what is already out there.

When I started SMP there were perhaps 3 blogs out there that were centered around weddings. And yet there were these magazines that brides would wait for 3 months to read, filled with pretty weddings that were happening everywhere. So why weren't more weddings like the ones filling the pages of print, also filling the pages of bridal sites. It made no sense to me. Thus, my quest to fill that void - for beautiful, curated, magazine worthy real weddings in an online format - began.
2. Be willing to take the leap.

Not everyone is ready the minute their great idea takes form. Some say you need to have 6 months worth of savings in the bank to go safely out on your own. I don't really know what the answer is financially. But I do know this. Dreaming doesn't ever equal doing. I know so many women who have these incredible ideas for business, that simply never find the courage or time or something, to see them to fruition. Sometimes, it's the desperation that comes from actually taking that scary leap, that fuels the most passionate of successes.

I started SMP in a small, 600 square foot apartment in Palo Alto. My husband was in grad school and I wanted to do something on my own. I had recently sold my invitation business and was desperate to stay my own boss. If you want to read about taking the leap for the first time with my stationery biz, click here. I suppose I had the safety of my husband or the small small (small) cushion from selling my business, but I also felt good in that I had a strong idea. And I went with it. I made it my full time, no holds bar ,no distractions job. That is very self serving and a bit spoiled of me to admit and I realize that most people don't have that luxury, but it's what I did. And I believe it's what powered the early success of SMP.
3. Leave your perfectionist self at home.

Your logo may not be absolutely perfect, you might not have (or need) all of your business stationery, you may be a little foggy as to what your business plan looks like in the long term. Who cares. Just start doing. My dad always said...you have to keep dreaming but start doing. No one ever made any money sitting on the couch planning. They got off their tail and started making things happen.

When it came to blogging, one of the things that I had going for me was speed. It had actually gotten me in trouble at many another jobs in the past - too fast, not careful enough. But when it came to blogging, I was able to write a handful of posts a day which meant that people came back for more and more. Despite the occasional spelling error. One unique visitor turned into three or four pageviews throughout the day. By writing consistently throughout the day, there was a constant reminder of the brand SMP throughout a reader's workday. That was invaluable and it was ultimately my ability to check my perfectionist at the door that made the difference.
4. Get scrappy.

I can't tell you how many people I have met that say they have no idea how to even start a blog - or a business. Neither did I, friends. I'd never laid an eye on the makings of a website or a blog and I certainly had no clue how to modify or edit code to make said site look like my own. Full disclosure, my husband is a web developer and a fancy one at that, but he was also crazy busy - going to grad school full time and working a second job. So I was always left to my own devices. I learned the VERY basics of html so that I could tweak layouts in my blog templates, I relied on the offerings of Typepad (we are now on Wordpress) to make simple changes - updates to my logo, color palette etc. I researched permalinks and link sharing and social media. I didn't know much, but I was willing to find answers and get done what I needed to get done. The way that I wanted it to be done.
5. Ask for help. And be willing to help others.

The number one question that I get from those dreaming of starting their own blog is this: how did you get your initial surge of traffic? The truth is, there wasn't ever a surge. It took time. I remember seeing Oh Joy's traffic stats when I first started out and thinking that I would never be able to climb the mountain to reach the success that she has found. But instead of sinking into my own insecurities, I put my nose down and worked. Really hard. Every day.

And I asked people like Joy Cho and Grace Bonney and a handful of others for help. After all, they had been where I was not too long ago and I though perhaps, on a whim, they might want to help a newbie out. And they did. This is the first and second post that Oh Joy wrote about SMP's inspiration boards. It was a win/win...they were able to use our content and we were able to gain new readers.
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Asking for help didn't always mean just begging for a link. It meant offering something great in return. For Design Sponge, I guest blogged on Creative People and their Creative Spaces and profiled people like Lisa Vorce and her awesome home). That relationship was critical to our early success, as then Grace asked us to contribute in other ways - from their gift guides to allowing us to send content her way. Again, win/win.

Those very early readers - aside from my mom and sisters - really came from the help that others were willing to send my way. And they were willing to do so because they saw a blog that was viable. One that was updated every day, that was steadily cranking out content, developing a voice, really working to establish itself. And a blogger that was willing to provide beautiful content that was unique, crafted just for them.

So there are my first five tips. I have about a million. And if you're ever interested in reading a bit more about what I was up to before I started SMP you can do that here. Or if you want a few more fun little tips for starting a business, click here. Or if you want to read up about blogging and business, click here. Backstage is our sadly neglected business blog that I'm hoping to either revive or roll into what we're doing here. But if ever you want to know some insider secrets to SMP, that's the best place to go!

So now we want to hear from YOU! What are some of your tips for running or starting a business? We'll be sharing them on social media throughout the day!