Student Story: Five Lessons Learned From Starting My Own Business

This is a guest post from Mariana, who is a student in my Create A Profitable Online Store Course.

I consider Mariana a very special student of mine because she breezed through the material extremely quickly and launched her online store selling toddler backpacks and toddler nap mats in record time.

She is extremely driven and I really admire her determination and persistence. Today she is going to teach us some of the lessons she’s learned on her journey and tell us a little bit about her brand new shop, www.prekshop.com.




If you’re reading this, chances are you’re thinking of starting your own business. You might be wondering whether starting a business is going to be worth the huge effort for an uncertain payoff.

For years, I was also on the fence, pondering many ideas yet never committing to taking the first step.

One day, about 4 months ago, I was reading an email from Ramit Sethi. He asked “A year from now, you’ll be a year older. What are you going to do?”. It finally dawned on me, that if I didn’t commit to anything, nothing was going to change!

Since I was interested in opening an online store, I took the plunge and signed up for Steve’s course.

About a month ago, I launched my website PreKShop.com, specializing in gear for preschoolers. While my business is still in its early phase, I have learned some valuable lessons that I’d like to share with you.

Go In With Confidence

You’ll feel like an impostor at first, but you have to be confident if you want to be taken seriously.

It feels weird to call up established vendors when you’ve literally just picked your business name. At first, I was hesitant, “Hi, um, I’m starting a business…uh Pre-K Shop…and um…I’d like to sell your products?” That didn’t work. People ignored me.

And then I thought about it. Would I entrust my products to someone who doesn’t sound confident? So I totally changed my approach. I called or emailed vendors stating that I owned a business selling gear for preschoolers, and I’d love to carry their products in my store.

And everyone responded to me, and said they’d love to work with me. It’s all about confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.

Get Your Priorities Straight

There are too many things to do, and you really need to prioritize and eliminate less important tasks

With four young kids to take care of, I constantly have to decide on what really needs to be done and what can wait. Deciding NOT to do something is really hard. For example, I would love to dig into the details of web design.

However, my priority is to run a store, and I am only learning what I absolutely need to have a functioning site. I have a list of my goals ranked by priority, so every time I start working on something I make sure it’s in line with my top priorities.

Starting A Business Is An Iterative Process.

When you’re starting a business, you don’t know whether your idea is going to work out. It is essential that you start getting feedback from customers and mentors, and use this to make refinements and improvements. My website is not perfect, but it’s good enough for me to start getting feedback from real customers.

And this is much more valuable than any idea of perfection I may have in my own head. I’ve already bought some ads to drive targeted traffic to my site. After analyzing key metrics such as bounce rate and conversion rate, I made some hypotheses which I will test with my next round of ads. In this way, I plan to make iterative improvements on my site.

Associate With Like Minded Entrepreneurs

You need to find other like-minded entrepreneurs (and ideally a mentor) for support

When you start a business, you’re emotionally invested in the success of your venture. When you’re having a bad day, it helps tremendously to have support from peers in a similar situation.

In my case, I didn’t even tell most of my friends what I was doing, so I didn’t have a support group in the “real” world. Instead, I have met other entrepreneurs online.

Steve’s “Profitable Online Course” Forums have been really helpful; I always feel like I can get help or bounce ideas off of other members or Steve himself. There are tons of forums online. You just have to get out there and introduce yourself. You would be amazed at how many people are happy to help. You in turn, will be happy to help others.

Find Your Unique Value Proposition

Defining your unique value proposition and answering the question “Why should you choose my business?” is the most important question you’ll have to answer.

When you go on job interviews you are basically presenting your unique value proposition to the interviewers. The same goes for your business. You need to articulate very clearly why customers should pick you over your competitors.

Without an answer, you won’t have strong guiding principles to abide by when you’re making important decisions about your business.

In my case, I’m only offering high quality items that I would use for my own kids, so there are certain items that didn’t make the cut. It took me a while to realize I had to answer this question first and foremost.

Now, it’s much easier to make decisions and everything I do flows from this answer. Your answer will define the message you send to your potential customers in the form of your website copy, your store policies, and your ads.

Editor’s Note: If any of you have any feedback for Mariana, leave your comments below. Please be respectful

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21 thoughts on “Student Story: Five Lessons Learned From Starting My Own Business”

  1. Lob says:

    Great job Mariana. You continue to amaze me at the pace you are going at. Awesome post and great point about ranking your goals by priority. With so much to do, its so easy to get distracted and work on less impacting tasks.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Lob. :) It is quite challenging (crazy?) to do do this w/four kids, so I feel extra motivated when I do find time to work…It’s a marathon, though, not a sprint, so I need to remind myself to take it easy sometimes. There are going to be lots of ups and downs, and we need the stamina to get through the tough moments…
    Lots of luck to you guys as well, your new site is looking great :)!

  3. Mariana, A very sweet site indeed. Love the color layout, green is one of my favorite colors. And, I can see how it is going to be really exciting as you build your store and your brand. I just don’t know how you do it with four little ones, you must have tons of energy and of course being focused and stetting those priorities, awesome!

    Victoria

    1. Thank you so much Victoria! Lots of work, and I’m pretty tired, but it’s very satisfying too :)!

  4. This line hits me straight “A year from now, you’ll be a year older. What are you going to do?”. It finally dawned on me, that if I didn’t commit to anything, nothing was going to change!”… it’s true that most of us are afraid to start something new and I think the only way we could make a change is to overcome the things that we are afraid of. It is not all about succeeding or failing, when we succeed then that would be fine and when fail at least we learn something from it.

    1. Totally. You just have to try things, and you’ll learn so much in the process. That is the best part of starting this store, I feel like I have learned so much. So don’t let fear hold you back.

  5. Mariana, Congratulations, your site looks great and I love your niche. Prioritizing is so important, we all have wasted many hours doing unimportant tasks. I also enjoy the forum and interacting with others going through the same challenges. Best of luck to you!

  6. Catherine says:

    Fabulous article, Mariana! Your statement that your website, “isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough to start getting feedback from real customers” really struck a chord. We’ve been having a tough time getting our site up and running, mostly because I’ve been so concerned that it be perfect. What you say about running ads and testing hypotheses makes perfect sense. Thanks for the great insight!

    1. Hey Catherine! I’ve been looking forward to seeing your guys’ site :). It’s really great to get feedback, you’ll learn so much. One of my favorite quotes: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. Good luck!

  7. Melisa says:

    Hi Marianna. Thanks for the insight, it helps to lighten the load a bit. My husband and I just purchased the course about 2 weeks ago and are finished reading the manual and are now knee deep in Market Samurai (LOVE MS and highly recommend it). We are at the stage where we are needing to connect with other entrepreneurs through the forums for advice, a bit of hand holding, direction, etc. We too are keeping it a secret from friends for now, for fear of embarrassment, failure or something like that. Not sure why we don’t feel like we can share it with our friends yet. In due time. I’ve read many of your posts and you are inspiring, as are the others. It’s a daunting task to put together a business but the forums are helpful and articles like these keep us on track. It’s good to see successful online stores like yours working out and it’s inspiring to get a glimpse into your experiences.

    I also checked out your store and I love your products. Wish we had these available when my boys were little, they would have loved them.

    Keep up the good work!
    Melisa

    1. Hey Melisa,
      Welcome! Yeah MS is awesome isn’t it? Saves a lot of time! There really is a lot to do when starting/running a business! Whenever you get frustrated/overwhelmed, you can vent on the forums. I certainly do, and it helps! Good luck!

  8. Brandon says:

    Hi Mariana,
    Thanks for writing this post, I enjoyed it. Would you mind sharing how the first few months after launch went for you? Did you immediately see traffic and conversions, or did it take a while? Just curious what you did early on…
    Thanks again!
    Brandon

    1. Brandon says:

      excuse me, the “first few weeks”…i realize you just launched a month ago.

      1. Hey Brandon,
        I saw organic traffic before the site was close to ready, it was kind of funny. Maybe a hit every few days. It takes a while, so I’ve been running ads mostly (to optimize conversions), but I did get a sale from organic search the other day. I need to work on my on-page SEO, that should help. On my blog I get a lot more traffic, sometimes the day after I post something I will see visitors for the new content. Mostly long-tail keywords…Hope that helps.

  9. Bruce says:

    How to interact with the Forum??

    1. Hey Bruce, the Forum I mentioned here in the comments is actually the one in Steve’s course. It’s a great resource.

  10. Mariana,
    I especially like your section on getting your priorities straight. I’ve been working on my own store for many months now and still have a long way to go to launch. Reading your post has led me to resolve to prioritize better and get done the absolute necessary for launch and then go back later and make it more elegant and efficient. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Good luck Tyler! Looking forward to seeing your store soon :).

  11. Kathy Clubb says:

    Hi Mariana,
    Thanks for the advice – I am planning to open my Etsy store on 1-1-13.
    I have had a lot of the thoughts that you mentioned – feeling like an impostor is funny, but true!
    I have 10 children at home, but at least some of them are teenagers. Good luck with your business :)

    1. Thanks Kathy! Wow — 10 kids!! That’s impressive :). Good luck with your Etsy store!

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