And just like that, another year has come and gone. 2019 was a magical year - we expanded our team, launched new best-sellers and grew beyond our wildest dreams. I’ve learned so much over the past 2.5 years since launching Three Ships (formerly NIU BODY) with Laura, but this year in particular was significant, as we both went full-time with the business.
As an entrepreneur, you’re constantly putting out fires and facing new challenges every day, and as a result you learn at an exponential rate. It was difficult to narrow down the list, but here are 10 things I’ve learned in 2019 as a founder:
Your health is and will always be #1. It seems wherever I look, I’m constantly being reminded to “hustle harder” and “sleep when you’re dead.” Don’t get me wrong - I’m a huge proponent of working extremely hard and am hyper-focused on daily self-improvement. But take it from someone who had to learn the hard way through burnout that taking care of your physical and mental health is paramount. Plus, if you’re not feeling your best, then you also probably won’t be a high-functioning business owner. It’s much more effective to practice self-compassion and take care of yourself, than to work deliriously around the clock. (PS I recommend reading the book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.)
- Guard your time. There is never a shortage of tasks to do. Laura and I often joke that whenever we cross one thing off our list, ten things are added. At one point this year, I was incredibly anxious with the growing *keyword self-imposed* pile of work/stress. There was a period of several weeks where I’d dream about what I didn’t get done and berate myself for “falling behind”, promising that the next day I’d work even longer. I eventually learned from this experience that with growth comes more work. I now focus on my daily top 3 priorities, reduce unnecessary calls and meetings, and block time in my calendar for self-care and friend/family time.
- Work on your business, not in it. This was a big one for me. There is a massive difference between being busy and being productive. It’s a much better use of your time to plan your long-term social media and content strategy than to respond to every single giveaway and co-promotion request. Don’t get caught in the weeds, and remember to think big picture.
- Stay in touch with your customers. Actively listen to their needs, and improve your product offering based on what they want. We achieve this through regular user testing and customer feedback calls, responding to every Instagram DM, and running local skincare workshops. You learn such valuable information that no amount of market research can buy.
- Comparison is the thief of joy. As someone who is always trying to improve, I often struggle with measuring myself and the business against companies I aspire to one day be. It’s great to get inspired by others, but it’s equally as important to acknowledge your own accomplishments and recognize how far you’ve come. Without practicing gratitude, you will always be chasing the next big milestone and never fully satisfied. Something Laura and I started doing this year was filling a scrapbook with photos of our biggest wins of each months, as it’s something we often forget to reflect on. Small acts of self-recognition like this have helped us come really far.
- Remember why you started. We started Three Ships with a simple yet powerful mission: to make natural beauty accessible for all women. As we grew our company rapidly over the past 2.5 years, we started to experience more naysayers. Some were outright mean, and others were subtle in their jabs, saying things like, “don’t worry, you can always find a great job if this fails.” At times like this, knowing that we are positively impacting even one person with our products helps me ignore the criticism and remain focused on our north star.
- What you put out in the world is what you will receive. I’m a huge believer that you attract the energy you put out. Focus on being kind and helping others as much as possible. You’ll be surprised at how much you will receive in return for helping others. One example from this year was when I had a coffee with a friend who was inquiring about the previous company I worked for. At the end of our conversation, she asked me what I was focused on, and I mentioned my multiple attempts to contact a certain retailer to no avail. She realized she had a friend who worked at that company, and was able to put us in contact. I had a meeting with the buyer two months later. Being kind and considerate is a strength and will take you far.
- Follow the 80/20 rule. The Pareto principle states that 80% of your outcome comes from 20% of your work. Focus on the critical projects and delegate/de-prioritize the rest.
- Help is there if you ask for it. There’s a difference between being weak, and being compassionate enough with yourself to ask for help. We’ve been introduced to so many incredible founders and resources by simply asking for help. This not only saves you a bunch of time, but also expands your network and allows you to pay it forward.
- You make time for what is important to you. If you care about your health, you’ll carve out time in your schedule to exercise and eat well. Similarly, if you’ve been thinking about starting your own business but find yourself constantly researching to refine your idea, just start. There will never be a perfect time, nor will you ever feel like you have enough time. If you have a business idea that excites you, then go for it! When Laura and I started Three Ships, we both had other full-time jobs. We’d work in the evenings and on weekends together because we believed so strongly in what we were creating.
I hope you found some of these tips useful! As always, feel free to reach out in the comments below, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Can’t wait for what’s to come in 2020. It’s going to be the best year yet!