“What about http://www.missmustardseed.com/? That’s available. You could be Miss Mustard Seed.”
When my brother said these words to me almost two years ago, I was not very thrilled at the idea of being Miss Mustard Seed. I pictured “her” as being a short, squat cartoon gardener wearing a straw hat and holding a sunflower. I’m not sure why, but that’s what I imagined and that is not me. Now I am Miss Mustard Seed, so how did that work out? This brings me to my first post about starting your business.
Before you look into any of the nitty gritty details, you need to dream. What do you want your business to look like at the end of a year? How do you want you and your business to be perceived? How much do you want to grow? Then, dream really big. Imagine a magazine feature, being interviewed by Oprah, a line of your creations/designs carried in a fine boutique or a retail chain. Imagine your services being in such high demand that your phone is ringing off the hook and you have to hire help to manage it all. Just let your mind wander and see where it goes. It can be as big or small as you want it to be…just dream.
When I decided I was going to “do it”, I immediately started to keep a notebook for ideas, goals, brainstorming, and to do lists. There is A LOT to do when you’re starting a business and it’s easy to lose track of it all. If you keep all of your ideas and information in one place, it’s going to make the process a lot easier for you.
You need help. Even if you are the sole proprietor of your business and you are the only employee, you need support. Your family has to be on board and you need people you can bounce ideas off of. It’s also a big bonus to have people who are willing to share their own talents, expertise, and energy to help you get started. My website is hosted by my brother, my friend (and one of our former youth students) designed my website, blog and marketing materials for school projects, my parents are my investors, and my husband helps me with the woodworking and repair aspect of the furniture I paint. I simply could not have done this alone.
I don’t mean go get an MBA. I mean do your research. If you’re starting a business in Pennsylvania, you can visit PA Open For Business and find tons of information about steps you need to take, contact information, printable forms, and more. I imagine you can find sites like this for most, if not all, states. I would also encourage you to check out some books that are about starting a business in your field. I read How to Start a Mural and Decorative Painting Business by Rebecca Pittman and I constantly turned to this book for direction and inspiration. (I will be sharing a lot more on this later in the series, but I wanted to touch on it briefly in this initial post.)
You have to follow your gut on this one and remember that it does not have to be set in stone. It is a natural thing for your business to evolve as it grows and develops. I started with a decorative painting and mural business and have evolved into a refurbished furniture/antiques/home decor business, so you never know where your journey will lead. Just be flexible to move wherever the market (and your clients/customers) takes you. One last note on this…make sure you love what you are doing. You have to be self motivated when you own a business and if you hate making purses, don’t make and sell purses for your business, even if you’re great at it. You will be miserable.
This is such a personal thing. Your name is going to be your brand, your personality, your trademark, the way clients and customers know you. Your name is important. First of all, make sure the name is “you.” I had a lot of people suggest names. My dad thought “Seldom Scene” was a great name for a mural business. I thought it was so creative, but I knew I didn’t want to be stuck in a murals only business, so that was not going to work. I thought of just using my monogram…”MVP Designs”, but that sounds like a sports-themed thing. I really liked the idea of having a name that was flexible and had a deeper meaning. One night, the bible verse about having faith the size of a mustard seed (Luke17:6) came to mind. I loved the idea of my business name reminding me to have faith in God in all things and that even a small amount can move mountains. It was a name that was unique and meant something to me.
Be original in your name. First of all, you don’t want to steal someone else’s name…or kinda their name. It may be illegal, if their name is registered or trademarked, and it is also confusing to customers and makes you look like a wannabe, not a creator. For example…let’s say you really like my name, so you decide you want to be “Mrs. Mustard Seed” and your business is going to be called “Mrs. Mustard Seed’s Creations.” Yes, it is different from my name, but people are going to confuse the two of us and, since I already have an established presence on the web, most people are going to find me, not you. Make sense?
This leads me into my next tip about your name. You have to have a presence on the web, so make sure your name is not already taken by a similar business AND you can have a .com web address that makes sense with your business. You want a DOT COM. Yes, you can get a .net or .lotsofthings, but you want a .com. This takes us back to the top of my post. How did I become Miss Mustard Seed?
I knew I wanted the name of my business to be Mustard Seed…something. Designs, Creations, Interiors. The name came down to what web address was available. None of them were, but mustardseedcreations.com was owned by woman in Texas selling tiles with bible verses painted on them. I knew we wouldn’t be in competition with one another and maybe she would give up the site some day. (It turns out that it recently came available and I now own mustardseedcreations.com!) Anyway, as I was trying to work out a web address, my brother suggested missmustardseed.com. He pointed out that it celebrates the fact that I am a one-woman-show and it makes the business personal and about me, my designs and my style. Despite my preconceived notions about the short, squat gardener in the straw hat holding the sunflower, I went with it.
I had no idea I would embrace the name as much as I did or that I would become “famous” for it in the blog world. It’s pretty funny how things work out.
So, go with it and enjoy the process. My next post in the series will be all about the practical and detailed side of setting up a business. You will not want to miss that one.