Starting A Business – In the (Very) Beginning

“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. 

Have a dream.

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.

Keep a note book.

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. 

Set up a support system.

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. 

Get educated.

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.)

Decide what your business is going to be.

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. 

Give your business a name.

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.

Miss Mustard Seed


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Comments

  1. I love the way you came up with the name from Luke. That's neat. Thanks bunches for this post.

    olive

  2. Great great post! I'm loving it! I'm going to see if the name I chose for myself is available! I can't wait for more of this series.

  3. Really loving this! It's like a good book! =)

    Jeanine

  4. marian- this had me cracking up! when i first saw your blog i loved your work and was amazed. i also assumed you had been doing this for years, meaning that you were easily 50 or 60, and wore bermuda shirts with white socks up to just below the knee, and were retired from maybe being a preschool teacher, and just were an artist and gardener in your newly retired free time. i finally read once that you had a baby, and i realized you must be around my age! and then i met you and you are adorable and young, and not the image i originally pictured just by the name. :)

  5. It was because of you explaining how you got your name that I changed mine…I started out as French Country Furniture and within months had 'boxed myself in', lol. First big mistake made! Thinking up another name consumed my thoughts for weeks and any time I thought of something that involved an actual name, I usually pictured little grannies knitting or patchworking which I didn't love, haha. I keep writing down names in my notebook, and one eventually kept sticking out – the one I went with, and I love it, I feel like having the right name gives me presence, confidence, direction, something to work towards, plus (kind of) explains what I do. And yes, I can picture it on a shop sign one day (I have started small but I dream big too!) I own the .co.nz domain name and have registered the company in NZ. Really looking forward to your next instalment!
    xx Karen

  6. Thank you for the valuable tips. You have come a long way and it is inspiring to read these posts!

    xoxo
    Janie

  7. lol @ Cassie's comment! I pictured you as young but with dark hair till I saw your photo from the Luckett's fair :) Dunno why!

  8. I love the way you came up with the name too. I am in the very early stages of starting a business and I still have no idea where to start. I do have a name though and I have secured my domain. I am just not sure if I need to create a big expensive online shop, go through Etsy (where they take 4%) or just start small and sell stuff on my blog. My name came from Lily (my youngest daughter) and Lou (short for Louise for my oldest daughter Designs. Keep the tips coming they are helping tremendously.

  9. This is a good post, I'm going to link to it :)

  10. Thanks so much for posting this series of buisness starting tips! It's so helpful for those of us who are newbies trying to break in. I LOVE our name (Twice Lovely.) It became a small obsession while we were in the planning stages of starting down this road. I think it totally encapsulates the image we want. I'm really excited to hear about the nitty-gritties in the upcoming posts!

  11. Marian,
    this is a great post. And thanks for sharing it. I have gone through name changes while trying out this business thing. I started with Prim and Proper- you know primitive and fancy stuff; but grew out of that. Then I went with my true love- chairs. Not any chairs but Orphan Chairs. But then people were asking me if I did other things besides chairs- I never thought of people seeing it that way. So, after much thought- I am now and will be till I quit- Tattered & Timeless. I got the .com to it and I am enjoying it all. I have dreamt big- been dreaming of this time for so long – finally the last of 4 kids is off to kindergarten in July and my journey can start to grow. It is scary and fun and I can't wait to ride this ride.
    tammy

  12. thanks sooo much for these tips..really helpful. ps i lOVE the name. it's so unique and you have done a great job branding yourself!

  13. I hate my company name. But after 10 years… it would be an ORDEAL to change it. Great advice.

  14. This series is really giving me inspiration to chase my dream. Thank you so much! Can't wait to read the next post in the series!

  15. I hope you know that you are a real inspiration! I have been dreaming about a business for a while, started talking about it (outloud)a few months ago and now I'm making it happen. I'm teaming up with a few friends to host occasional vintage tag sales. Meeting you at Lucketts even inpired me to start my own blog. You mentioned that this series was coming up soon and I've been holding my breath waiting. Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us. Can't wait to hear more!!!

  16. Loving this series! You're providing such great tips and it's especially applicable to me right now. Thank you!

    Kacey

  17. This is a really nice site and very informative. I would just like to add that if you are starting out with your business, you can definitely give it a good boost with custom-designed professional business cards. You can create one via Vistaprint, and as it is affordable, it will not weigh much on your start up cost.

  18. I am really glad you're doing this series as I would like to set up my own business someday. Thank you very, very much!

  19. I love how you came up with your name. The advice about keeping a journal of your ideas and sketches is a great idea. Must do this!!
    I need to contact my city/state and see what things I need to do too!
    Thanks for the heads up on all of these things.
    Hugs
    SueAnn

  20. Beautiful post, I need to add a link to this series at my blog. It's very inspiring. I can't wait to read more! I keep my business notebook of dreams and work toward these goals every day….while working for my real bossman :)

  21. I love to hear about how other small business owners got their start, specifically the questions, challenges, doubts, and dilemmas in the beginning. thank you for sharing your experiences! i'm just starting to get everything together for my business and will certainly be following this series. :)

  22. Nice post! You do have a great name! Ours is after our Grandma. We wanted something quirky so we're Ethel Edith – and our business cards add Funk, Junk, & Furniture – everything we love and do! I hope one day I can do it full-time like you!

  23. When I opened my own business a few years back, I started from scratch. I agree that a person cannot start his business all by himself. No man is an island, right? I needed somebody to finance it. Good thing, I listened to my wife. She told me I needed a concrete business plan. A piece of advice: Before you enter a bank or any international small business loans institution to finance your business, you must be prepared; from the product branding, outsourcing details (if any), target market, target dates, to every single detail of your business- everything should be completely polished! That is how banks and international business loans firms will trust you. Planning is definitely critical when starting a business. Now, I can say that I am completely happy with how things work out with my restaurant!

  24. Miss Mustard Seed –

    I am so excited about this series and the chance to learn from someone who has done what I hope to do! Your "Nitty Gritty" post has given me some homework…but this one was confirming for me that I started out well, as I could say "check, check, check" as I scrolled through your tips.

    I featured you on my blog today. http://www.snugasabugbaby.com/?p=1116

    -Alisha @ SnugasaBugBaby

  25. Interesting article. It is definitely difficult handling franchises and juggling all the endeavors with it. If you want, you can check out Franchise Expo if you're interested in helping businesses come into fruition franchise

  26. Thanks for the awesome tips on how to start a business! These tips will really come in handy for anyone who wants to start their own small businesses. I'll take not of these.

    I noticed the part about not going into much detail when you're just starting to create ideas for your business. I like that. I always come across people asking about what they should do for the accounting part, the advertisements, and all that. Well, I'm guilty of that, too. I already bought my Peachtree Quantum accounting software to be ready. Well, it is useful, and I know it's going to play a vital part in my business.

    Anyway, before I go into the details of the many features of Peachtree Quantum 2011, I just want to say thank you again for sharing your insights on how to start a business. More power to your blog!

  27. i really needed to read this and i really loved the way you wrote it. also that you love God! yay!

  28. Thanks for the encouraging post! I am still a new blog and it's nice to hear from someone who is successful and has been doing this awhile!

  29. oh thank you for your advice, it is very encouraging, and its true about the mosterd seed en believe ! That's the most imported part in't it ?!

  30. If your planning to start a business start first with a franchise for with this you don't need a very large amount of money you can monitor if you business is gaining profit or not. be wise enough to run your business and know the economic system for you to be able to adjust and be updated with the latest product that is in demand.

    sugar

  31. Lisa Cole says:

    Thank you so much for your posts on starting a business. I quit my job five months ago after 20 years of doing work I am not passionate about — in fact, I came to hate it. Now I'm dreaming of what I really want to do, and interior design and refurbing furniture is what I have always loved! It's true that starting a venture like this takes faith and I'm so glad you're so open about sharing yours. Your story is inspirational, and I hope someday I can bring my dream to fruition as well! -Now for getting started on that notebook! : )

    Lisa in Cal

  32. I have been non-committal about starting this journey, start stop start stop….do nothing. Now, yesterday in fact, I started making a space for a occasional shop in run down garden/floral shop space. I shop that I owned. It is difficult to say the least. Having one unsuccessful business it is really scary thinking of starting an other. So this thank you for sharing your starting out story comes with a double helping of appreciation. I pray for strength and fortitude, The physical hard work it takes is the easy part.

  33. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and knowledge. It’s wonderful to meet you. Your story is so inspiring. Sometimes starting out can be discouraging but you plant seeds of hope!

    Blessings to you,
    Tamara

Trackbacks

  1. [...] you missed my previous posts on starting a business, here they are:In the very beginning – getting startedThe nitty gritty – all of the details and not-so-fun stuffBe worth the riskDon’t be [...]

  2. [...] Nitty Gritty June 22, 2010 If you missed my previous posts on Starting A Buiness, My Story and In the (Very) Beginning, make sure you check those out before you read this [...]

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