I’m currently on a flight to Boston as I write this post, heading for a conference for the next couple of days. Recently, I have been using any available free time to try to get ahead on my to-do list. Life has not been the same since I started my own business. You hear that life is never the same after children but no one warned you about what life is truly like as an entrepreneur; much less if you have three million things on your plate.
By the time you read this it will be November 19th, exactly one year since Becalia’s official online launch. My stomach still feels in knots every time I think about everything leading to this new journey and every time I think about Becalia’s future.
Regardless of the struggles, here we are...one whole year later.
In this post, I want to share a little bit about my story, how Becalia came to be as well as sharing with you my hopes and dreams for the future. In other words, a recap of this crazy journey of entrepreneurship. It’s a long post, but stick around. I promise a great story, behind the scenes insights and my tips based on the mistakes and lessons made throughout this journey.
A BIT OF HISTORY
I was born in Los Angeles, California and raised there until I was about 8 years old. My parents were Mexican immigrants who came to the US for a better life when they were 18 years old. During my childhood, my parents decided to separate and file for divorce. My mother was looking for a brand new start and Atlanta became our new home; far away from our immediate family.
As I grew into my teen years, I wanted to be the pride and joy of the family. I was an honor student, pushing my academic accomplishments as far as I could take them. I knew that one day, life out of poverty would happen for my family. I felt an immense pressure to do everything above and beyond from what my family expected of me. I had a knack for business even at my young age. I'd find any way to monetize anything. I remember making popsicles in the summer and selling them to the neighborhood kids. I had dreams of becoming a business owner one day.
Yet, life got in the way. I was 17 years old when I shared vows with my ex husband. I’m not going to lie, this shotgun wedding was only the start of the countdown of the end of our marriage. We were young, inexperienced and immature. In time, I realized I was drowning in my own depression and unhappiness; it was up to me to take charge of my life. It was time for me to grow up and be my best self for my daughter. I filed for divorce 4 years later on my 21st birthday. Filing for divorce, without a penny to my name had to be one of the most difficult decision I ever made. So while my dreams of owning my own business was put to the side, I did everything and anything necessary to raise my daughter on my own.
Let’s fast forward a bit. Shortly after filing for divorce I was able to get a job working for a real estate law firm specializing in corporate accounts. I’m not sure it it was the timing or my own desire to make more of myself but I loved learning about his whole new industry. I dedicated the following 13+ years of my life to my career. The industry provided me with the platform to grow my own skills and abilities, not to mention a great life for my family. As I grew within my firm, I also started to feel a sense that I was no longer fulfilled. Perhaps it was a combination of anticipating my daughters start of college (only two years left) or recognizing my own mortality. Family and friends around me started leaving us and I was left with wondering whether I would be remembered for doing great things upon the eve of my own demise.
A LEAP OF FAITH
Last year, I found myself having a repetitive conversation with one of my best friends, Jo-Ann: I wanted to start a business of my own and I was complaining about how it’s never been the right time. At the end of the conversation, Jo-Ann gave me homework and had me think thoroughly of what kind of business I wanted to start. And by the end of the week of our conversation, I had a niche and a business name. I wanted to start a business that I could run simultaneously while still working on escalating my career further. As a single mom, you always have a Plan A, B, C, D ...LMNOP!
Tip # 1: Just start somewhere. Take small baby steps, even if that means your first step is coming up with a business name and filing for your LLC., or even if it means starting on your business plan. Taking that first step is scary, but guess what, the second step will follow naturally. Before you know it, you have set the foundation of your business.
Becalia Botanicals (named after my daughter, mother and grandmother) was born, June 4, 2018. It was possibly the worst time to start a business - the real estate world is hectic during the summer which means early mornings and late nights at the office. Additionally, I really was not in a financial position to fund a new business. So I did what everyone warns you against - I self funded with all my savings and incurred additional personal debt. It seemed like a sound idea in the beginning up until there were manufacturing delays and the credit card bills started piling up and becoming due.
Tip #2: If you want to minimize sleepless nights and anxiety then don't self fund with personal credit. Aside from the possible accounting and tax implications, you will be personally responsible for the debt.
I had absolutely zero experience in the skincare industry. My skin was not happy with many of the products out there and I refused to buy a $300 face cream. I felt compelled to create my own masks and moisturizers after finding that some of my favorite beauty stores did not carry clean brands. My kitchen skincare experiments led to the creation of my first product - Colada Cleanser.
I researched manufacturers, private label companies, FDA requirements and what seemed like an overwhelming amount of information. I was trying to learn so much information in a short amount of time while still feeling like I knew nothing at all. Patience is the one thing I have never been great at and it showed in the mistakes I made by rushing through the process. Everything from our website, logo and packaging was all created by me; I wanted to save costs and get the business rolling the same year.
Tip #3: Be patient! Everything will work out the way it’s meant to. Stop and take a step back if you are feeling anxious or rushed into making a decision. Everything does not need to be decided on the spot. If it doesn’t feel right, then it’s probably not right.
READY TO LAUNCH
Production started after finding a manufacturer that would work with my timeline and budget. Plus, this step was a HUGE wake up call. That full line I wanted to come out with on my initial launch like a BOSS was not going to happen due to the costs involved. Production was finalized sometime towards the end of October. I had a few weeks to send everything to a fulfillment center (I’ll touch more on fulfillment in another post) so that we could officially launch Becalia on November 19, 2018.
Tip #4: Crawl before you walk, or in my case, just sit down and take everything a step at a time. For new entrepreneurs, we often make the mistake of trying to perfect something so much that we end up missing deadlines. Just get it out there. It does not have to be perfect at first and it most likely won't be perfect. Use the feedback to improve the process and your craft.
Family and friends were incredibly supportive during Becalia’s launch. I honestly did not expect such a great response and for this I am extremely grateful. There are no words to express how thankful I am for their support throughout my journey. And to think that I almost shut everything down about two weeks before our official launch due to my insecurities of what I had built.
However, those first three months after Christmas were brutal. The holidays drains everyone financially. I barely had any online sales. I had to start putting my own money into the business to stay afloat. Let me just say that times got really hard. I kept having internal conversations where I wanted to quit and just shut it down. Other new brands I knew of seemed as if their business was booming and I felt I was being left behind.
Tip #5: Stop comparing your business journey to that of your peers. Trust me, you’ll drive yourself crazy if you start comparing your journey with others. Remember that you are not them and they do not decide how you should run YOUR business.
Then in February I made two terrifying choices: I was going to participate in my first market and invest more money into my brand. Why were these so terrifying? Well first, I’m really shy. It may not seem that way when you first meet me; I power through it. Plus, anything new pretty much makes me more scared than excited. It takes me a minute but I eventually come around. Secondly, I had not been selling much which meant there was not enough money to invest in anything.
I came across Amavi Studio’s Instagram page and really was attracted to Emily’s branding. Her style spoke to me and I immediately reached out to meet her. Within a few weeks we had begun dissecting my brand to get to the root of it. Her methods made me really take a step back and look at my brand as a whole. Emily made me dig a little deeper to find Becalia’s essence. A few months later she delivered everything so beautifully and I couldn’t be happier. Our customer’s response was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone loved the new packaging and our sales began to increase.
GETTING THROUGH THE FEAR
I signed up for my first market while Emily was still working on my rebrand. Being a vendor at a market is exciting but I was a newbie the anticipation of the event was terrifying! Is this event even worth it? Will people like my product? Will anyone buy anything? Can I make my booth look as awesome as other vendors? I had a ton a questions and a million insecurities.
My daughter, Aaliyah, was a rockstar and helped calm my nerves while I was there. Everyone loved our booth and products! We actually broke even which was more than I expected of my first market. I conquered my fear and now I was ready to continue the momentum. I participated in at least two markets/pop-ups a month, expanding my customer base and exposing my brand to new markets.
Amazing + supportive repeat customers.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Here I am, 11 months later telling you a little bit about the crazy first year I’ve had in business. The truth is that this post doesn’t even break through the surface but I hope that my story helps our customers get to know me a little better. Additionally, I hope my story helps encourage other struggling entrepreneurs. n 2020, I'm coming with Becalia at full force! I have enrolled in several skincare formulation courses and I'm extremely excited to put my new knowledge into amazing products. The truth is that I don’t know what the future holds for Becalia Botanicals.
I am certain of one thing:
I’m not giving up.