Starting a small business is challenging, whether you’re ramping up your hobby, buying into an existing enterprise, or taking the leap with your fragile, heartfelt passion in your arms, into the big, wide world.
So many things to consider. Who is my demographic? Market stall, or bricks and mortar shop? Full time or part time? What’s my brand, and how do I establish it? And most importantly, when and how do I start actually making a profit?
I completely understand. That anxiety we feel trying to plan and strategize everything is only matched by the sense of excitement we have that after all this time, after talking ourselves out of it again and again, after so many false and no starts, we are actually doing it.
I know. I’ve owned and operated several micro and small business, and worked for a few as well. Currently, I’m the owner, space holder and chief ideas generator for Sister Jo Bangles, a retail and creative enterprise operating here on the Central Coast of NSW, Australia.
Sister Jo Bangles was borne out of a time in my life when I burned out yet again giving too much to too many for the wrong reasons. Like many of us, I had reached the limit of my physical, emotional and mental resources. In fact, I had to stop work and employment of any kind altogether for a time while I allowed myself time to heal and recoup. It was in this downtime when I drew on my most comforting ideas, doing the things which gave me most pleasure to help me heal. Having had cancer thirteen years prior and closed a business down at that time to make my health a priority, I knew I could not let myself be consumed by anxiety about money – I needed to put my recovery first. I decided to walk myself back from the mental health crisis the only way I knew how. One day at a time.
To begin with, I started visiting op-shops to build back the habit of leaving the house to help with the anxiety and depression. I’ve always found rummaging through charity shops to be incredibly relaxing and lose myself for hours. Inspired, I was soon bringing home small collections of goodies to remake into bohemian style jewelry. Soon, I was out of the house almost every day looking for materials, with the rest of my time spent pulling it all apart and putting it together again. After a few months I began listing my pieces online, and they sold. Encouraged by this teeny success, I dusted off my old sewing machine and began doing the same process with clothes. Again, my upcycled creations sold. Utilising my experience in retail, knowledge of marketing and branding and understanding of who was likely to be my most engaged customer, I threw myself completely into Sister Jo Bangles – a name I thought up in the shower. By now, it had been some time since my breakdown. I had walked myself through my recovery. I was not a millionaire, but I was in control of my mental and emotional health, living life again, using my creativity every day, and finding myself energised and not depleted going forward. And the most exciting part? Not only do I love what I’m doing and the way it makes me feel, others tell me all the time how they love Sister Jo Bangles and the way it makes them feel too.
Wouldn’t you love this feeling for everyone who engages with your burgeoning little enterprise? That they would feel your passion, your energy, and see your ideas bursting forth in everything you do? Wouldn’t you love them to feel drawn to your space, and keep coming back again and again?
Wouldn’t you love it if your enterprise inspired and energised you every time you engaged in it, rather than making you feel burdened and unhappy? Wouldn’t you like to draw the kind of people who will understand and appreciate your vision, and want to become a part of what you’re creating?
The world needs more places where we can feel energised, inspired and above all, included and comfortable. We need to create spaces for one another where our true selves are celebrated and where we are appreciated, not just sold to or marketed at. A retail or market space is not merely a hole in a wall in which to conduct a transaction. It is a safe space. It’s within safe spaces trust is built, and where loyalty thrives. Safe spaces in business are not defined by physical structures. Safe spaces can be permanent places with bricks and foundations, or they can be surrounded by walls that are temporary. Safe spaces can even be virtual – online, invisible to anyone except those within them. What makes a space safe for those who enter it is this –
A space is made safe when somebody holds it. Someone who knows how.
Do you know how to make your retail or market place into a safe space? Can you hold that space for your customers, your visitors and guests, and those who come looking for your knowledge and advice?
Because when you understand how, you will build something that’s more than just a business. You’ll build a tribe.
For all enquiries regarding consultancy, mentorship, workshops and speaking at events and to groups, please contact me via the CONTACT page and I’ll be in touch ASAP.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY:
“ Opening a retail store is not as easy as plonking stock on a display table and opening the doors to the public. No matter how wonderful your products are they are only a small factor in the ‘retail success’ equation. One visit to Sister Jo Bangles is an educational experience revealing to the careful observer the many facets of operating a successful store. And one conversation with proprietor Jo Hilder on the topic of starting a new venture provides the listener with practical guidance and wisdom Jo has acquired from her years as an entrepreneur. Value what she has to say, and take any opportunity you can to learn from her journey.”
Georgia Thomas, Legal HQ Pty Ltd
Solicitor and Author of The Small Business Legal Toolkit
I’ve been involved in creative arts since the 1980’s, studying, teaching and working across many spheres including drama and acting, singing and songwriting, art design and advertising media production, web design and blogging, screenprinting, clip art and stamp block design, leadlighting, fabric art design and quilting, painting and drawing, sculpture, clothing design and upcycling and jewelry making.
I have over 30 years experience in retail, management and advertising/marketing, and I had the opportunity to operate my first fashion retail store at 18. I trained in retail sales and operations under my parents Ray and Dianne Southeren, owners and operators of several successful businesses here on the Central Coast including Insignia of Erina Heights and East Gosford. As well as being employed by various large leading retail companies, I’ve operated independently as Weekenz fashion, Mammy Jo Folk Craft, Country On Sea of Nambucca Heads, Jo Hilder Cancer Coaching and now Sister Jo Bangles.
I’m a writer and published author, having blogged for many years and written for various online journals and publications including ABC The Drum – Unleashed, The Newcastle Herald, Burnside Writers Collective and BlogHer. I’ve authored several books, most recently Small and Pure – A Cautionary Tale, released in June 2016 by Rhiza Press. I’ve also written and spoken widely on my experiences living with cancer, mental illness, depression and bipolar disorder.
I’m a qualified and experienced group facilitator and community advocate, having held various roles with the NSW Cancer Council including Programs Coordinator and Relationship Manager. A trained Chaplain, I spent many years in various roles in local church congregations in pastoral care, music and creative ministry. For a year I worked as a Cancer Coach, supporting those experiencing cancer treatments and facilitating creative therapy programs.
I’ve spoken at and acted as Master Of Ceremonies for several Cancer Council conferences, as well as speaking and presenting at various summits, conventions, and media and advocacy events.
- Hunter Breast Cancer Forum, Newcastle, 2013
- Cancer Council Survivorship Forum, Darling Harbour Exhibition Centre, September 2013
- Rise and Shine, Television Interview, September 2008
I’ve also been employed and trained in the area of community mental health as a support worker and case manager, serving the needs of clients with schizophrenia and other chronic mental health challenges. I’m especially interested in integrating creativity and art-making with the recovery process, as I live with my own mental health challenges and diagnosis of bipolar disorder and depression/anxiety.
As well as spending my days creating beautiful things and making a gorgeous space for my many friends, customers and visitors at Sister Jo Bangles, I am presently offering Micro and Small Business Coaching and Mentoring, and am available to speak to small and large groups on creating a healthy and inspiring small business culture.