Quit the Day Job! How to Make Your Creative Business Idea Happen
Is your New Year resolution to leave that corporate job behind? To finally take the leap and make that creative business idea happen?
I can help! I am Lucy Edge, author of Yoga School Dropout and owner of YogaClicks.store, and I am here to share my journey from corporate burn out to (occasionally) chilled out entrepreneur and my all-time favourite ten top tips for starting a creative business – culled from my own experience and other successful entrepreneurs with creative businesses.
Tip 1: Use your expertise or experience to create something unique
My job in advertising had become really exhausting and taken over my life. When I was diagnosed with clinical depression and, because yoga was the only thing that made me feel better, I decided to spend 6 months in the yoga schools of India – I would de-stress and take some time out to help me decide what to do next.
Six months later I was on the plane home with a suitcase full of diaries. I may not have become the yoga goddess of my dreams but I had rediscovered my childhood love of writing. Yoga School Dropout was published by Ebury Press, all about my encounters with ashrams and gurus and my quest for inner calm. It sold really well and I got lots of emails from readers who wanted to share their related experience. Yoga was the common thread – it had helped us all to find a different way of living, and in many cases, of making a living.
Lots of people I spoke to had been inspired to act on their creative small business ideas – from yoga mats and yoga clothes to herbal tea and spiritual jewellery. Then in 2016 I had my “aha” moment. What if I created an online portal to collect all these makers in one place? A place that would champion their products to other yogis and mindful shoppers. YogaClicks.store was born. Two year later we have 60 makers on board, creating incredibly innovative business ideas – everything from Dorje inspired spiritual jewellery complete with meditation app, to yoga pants made out of recycled coffee grounds.
Tip 2: Have people around you who share your values and vision
Creating your own business is tough and you won’t be able to do it alone. It is really important to have people around you who support your vision for the business, whether it’s co-founders who share your values, investors who understand your proposition or family members who will roll their sleeves up and get stuck in when the chips are down.
My husband was a big believer in my idea, and its principle investor. However, we did struggle to execute our idea until we met Duncan, who is a fantastic developer with a strong commercial bent. He shared our vision and not only did he make it a reality, he added a lot of ideas of his own.
Tip 3: Know where the money is coming from, and create your context
There is a tendency for spiritual entrepreneurs to feel embarrassed about the money, or to feel it’s not ‘yogi’ to talk about it. It is. Whilst the ancient sages may have lived up a mountain, clad in nothing but ash, foraging for fruit and seeds, most of us live in the real world where our customers are. We need to make money and there is nothing wrong with that.
Get real about the amount of money it’s going to take, and how long you might be without any income. If it’s going to be three years maybe you need, like me, to do some freelancing on the side, or perhaps your staff can work on consultancy projects to help pay the bills for a while – but do make sure both you, and them, have the time to work on your business!
When I am thinking about money, I also find it helpful to think about my business context; who I am creating money for. It isn’t just for me, my investor or my staff. I have created a platform for my fellow yogis – I want our 60 makers to be successful businesses.
And like them I put environmental sustainability at the heart of our offering. Perhaps it’s all about social sustainability for you. Or maybe you have a charitable cause that you like to support. Whichever way you need to think about your wider context – your place in the world – and to have a purpose higher than yourself.
Tip 4: Do your research, but trust your gut
My friend Alice Asquith taught me this one. She is one of our makers and chief designer at the much loved Asquith London. A highly respected business woman, she emphasises the importance of doing your research, but also trusting your instincts.
‘Make sure you know that your idea isn’t just a great one but a viable, profitable one. Research your competitors thoroughly and work out where you can sell and how you can market your brand before you start. Talk to everyone in the yoga world that you know and introduce yourself to those you don’t yet know and would like to know. It’s a wonderful, friendly community and people love to help. Be sensible about how and where you invest but go with your gut. Nine times out of ten when I haven’t I wish I had and it bites me back.’
Tip 5: The best advertising is a happy customer
Psychologies own Kat Farrants is the founder of Movement For Modern Life. The business is now four years old and says Kat, ‘it owes its success entirely to our community, both of wonderful supportive teachers who are glad to be spreading the word to those who can’t get to class, and also our community of evangelists. I believe that you only need a few people to get to know your product, and really LOVE what you’re doing for the wonderful knock-on effects of word of mouth.
Once people started to find out about us, first of all just via our teachers and some of the press we’ve received, the site has grown like wildfire. But I think the crucial thing is not to aim for big numbers, but to aim for just a few people at first to love your product, and REALLY LOVE it, so that you can rely on them to spread the word’
Tip 6: Use social media to share your story but keep it real
Social media has played a role for many successful businesses. Post images on Instagram, Pinterest and your blog to document what you're doing. Share what is unique to you and personal – your work space, your inspirations, your fails as well as your successes. Reach out to bloggers who share your values – they are hungry for content and your picture might go viral – giving you loads of free advertising. Who knows, perhaps Oprah herself will place an order.
But don’t get carried away trying to portray the perfect lifestyle. The critical thing is to make sure that your posts are authentic - the words are coming straight from you - never be afraid to tell your story to others - people like to follow REAL people.
Tip 7: Use the real world to engage directly with your customer
Take every opportunity to connect with your customers. YogaClicks is an online business but we launched ourselves at the Om Yoga Show and regularly have stalls at yoga studios, and Christmas fairs. We also put on events of our own – our Mala Making Workshop was a big hit at the Mindful Living show this year and we are putting on a two week yoga festival as part of the Makers Festival at the Forum in Norwich in February.
It is undoubtedly a huge amount of work and can cost a lot of money. I won’t lie, there are some events we have done that we wished we hadn’t – they cost us thousands of pounds with little or no payback. But it’s worth persevering as the right events will give your brand great exposure and enable you to engage directly with your target audience. You gain feedback that you don't get from selling online - why they love the product, what they don't like, why they might be hesitating. These are all invaluable insights. For example, we did a show in Primrose Hill last weekend and I watched people picking up our linen eye pillows to smell them – this told me that people want their eye pillows to smell nice. I could never have got that nugget with a solely on line business.
Don’t worry if you’re not a natural sales person. I would never have thought of myself as a sales person, but I have learnt that it’s just about sharing my passion with the customer and community and letting this shine through when I talk, and listen.
Tip 8: Invest in great imagery
As a writer I’ve always relied on words to engage people but I have to concede that images are a much more immediate way of communicating what your brand stands for than a ton of text. I can’t emphasis this enough. Think about it. Which brands do you remember? Which ones do you love? It’s always the ones with the great images.
It doesn't need to cost the earth. The website Canva has lots of free templates you can use to create beautiful designs – and you can use their stock photography or your own photos. For original bespoke work go and see your local art college business liaison officer and ask for help with photography, graphic design and web design. Ask him or her to advertise your brief as an intern vacancy. Students love having real world work for their portfolio, and a credit on your website.
Tip 9: Use other established platforms
Far from being the enemy of small business, the net has proven to be a massive positive for independent sellers – providing them with a platform - helping to revive great British craftsmanship. Etsy is one and Not on The High Street in another. NOTHS is home to 5,000 small businesses and insane amounts of traffic.
Following in their wake, there are an increasing number of curated sites specialising in niche markets. Look for one that’s right for you – one that not only offers you a platform, but also a voice. I created my ‘made by yogis’ marketplace for this reason. Not only to provide a home for yoga’s creative talent – shining a light on the boutique, handmade and original – but also to tell these makers’ stories– inspiring mindful shoppers with this deep well of eco-friendly and ethically-conscious creativity.
Tip 10: Remember to breathe
I know, from personal experience, that creating and driving a business takes everything you've got. I would be a puddle on the floor if I didn't practice every day. Meditation helps me clear my mind, listen to new ideas and it gives me the courage to keep going when the going gets tough. There is no way I could do what I do without yoga.
While we don’t all have easy access to a beautiful studio of our own we can always find a bit of space and time to roll out a mat. I wait until everyone has gone home and roll out my mat between the desks, even if I only have fifteen minutes I always give myself the gift of yoga. After all it was yoga that got me into this in the first place!
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is a yoga advocate and writer with three yoga books to her name, including the beloved travel memoir Yoga School Dropout. She writes regularly for the national press, has authored over 150 guides to types of yoga and yoga poses, discovered nearly 250 proven health benefits of yoga through her painstaking classification of 300 clinical studies, and collected more than 500 personal testimonials to the real life benefits of yoga. She is also the creator of our yoga shop – YogaClicks.Store – handpicking yoga brands that are beautifully made by yogis committed to environmental and social sustainability.