My first year running ABLO - The challenges

Naadu Ashun

This is the follow up to my previous blog post where I talked about 5 highlights from my first year of running A Bag Less Ordinary. Here I talk about 5 challenges I faced in the first year. I wanted to share both the highs an the lows as I feel it's the reality of starting & running a small business and hopefully it can be of use to anyone who is thinking of starting a product based business or who has just begun their journey...

A bag less ordinary leather and fabric cross body bags


Selling at outdoor markets - I didn't do lots of markets last year as I am restricted to the amount I can do due to childcare and not being able to drive. Selling at markets is a great way to get your brand known, receive direct feedback on your products and to make sales. They can be really fun and motivating and you often meet lovely customers and other traders. But what I really struggled with was difficult weather conditions! It's a nightmare when it's so cold you can hardly set up as your fingers are frozen, bags are flying everywhere in extreme wind and even if I did manage to set up, often the wind has been so strong that I am picking up bags that have flown away into the street! I think for the kind of products I sell it's so hard to have a set up where the bags are secured and do not move if there is strong wind. And it's so tough sitting outside for hours when it's freezing temperatures. I have decided that for 2019, I will only do outdoor markets in Spring/Summer and I am working on how to have a display that means my bags are more secure. I think indoor markets are the way forward and I loved trading at Old Spitafields back in the Autumn where you are covered from the elements and have the most amazing stall that you can configure how you want with removable shelves. It made everything so easy.

Working on my expectations - For the first year of running ABLO my son was in nursery (term time only) until 12pm and that was when I could work. Plus evenings and whenever else I could squeeze in some work. So this meant I had started a business that I really wanted to succeed but I could only work on it part time. This has been challenging and I have felt frustrated by not being able to make more product, do more events/markets and spend more time on marketing and really working on planning and growth. I feel like a lot of the time I was just keeping my ahead above water and just about doing enough to keep the business going. But what I've had to work on is reminding myself that I am doing my best, that I have achieved a lot already and that there will be more time in the future to focus on ABLO. I am running a part time business and have to remember this means I will not be making as many sales as someone who is doing it full time and it will take me longer to grow but I will get there. I can already feel the difference with having more time now my son goes to nursery until 3pm and I can really start working on pushing ABLO forward.

Love yourself jungle fabric A Bag Less Ordinary bag

Being close to burning out - I've never loved a job as much as I love running A Bag Less Ordinary. I feel like this is what I was meant to do and I really enjoy being my own boss. Being able to express myself creatively and see my visions come to life is thrilling and exciting. I would say I am a determined person and have always worked hard. But at times the dedication, time and energy I have put into ABLO in the first year has caused me to feel exhausted physically and emotionally. Now I have a bit more time to work I am slowing down a little and have made a plan to give myself some time out each week to look after myself. On a Wednesday or Thursday morning I now take a few hours off to get out and do something inspiring or relaxing. I recently went to the Design museum and this week I went to Shepherds Bush to walk around and buy a book I wanted about Mindfulness. I also have decided that 1 hour before I pick my son up from nursery I will practice mindfulness and write in my journal. This way I will have some separation from my two roles (business owner and mum) and will be able to let go of any stress from work that day.

Learning mindfullness techniques as a small business owner

Keeping on top of book keeping - One of the biggest worries I had in the first year was that my book keeping wasn't being done efficiently. When I started the business I was doing my book keeping using spreadsheets, I had so many different suppliers that I was buying materials from and I didn't have a business bank account. Then about 6 months after starting ABLO I got a business bank account, found some wholesale suppliers and I signed up for a Xero subscription (accounting software for small businesses). Getting these things sorted was really important for making book keeping more straightforward and streamlined. But it took me until January this year to enter all my sales and expenses into Xero that I had been putting into spreadsheets and I only got my tax return submitted the day before the deadline! Going forward I now dedicate a few hours each week to book keeping so that it doesn't build up as it's the worst feeling to have hanging over you. I have decided that every Friday morning I will do my book keeping. I've also asked a friend to check that I am using the accounting software in the best way so I can feel confident that I am moving forward in the right direction. 


Letting fear have too much time - There are things I need to do to grow ABLO and gain more brand awareness. Two things that I know I need to do are work on getting some wholesale accounts and start contacting influencers to collaborate with and promote ABLO. With branching out into wholesale it isn't just fear that's held me back so far. It has also been that I haven't had the time, I've been concentrating on growing online sales and when I've looked at pricing for wholesale it has seemed impossible. But I think there is a bit of fear lurking its ugly head too. And the same with approaching influencers; fear is holding me back. I think it's fear of rejection with both. What if shops I approach and influencers I contact say no, they do not like my product, my product is not right for them or just don't respond? But is that so bad? Is that a reason to not do it? I know that I just have to do it. In the last few weeks I have been exploring positive thinking, self love and mindfulness and I am really excited at the changes I can already feel to how I am thinking. I know that the mind is so powerful and I cannot let negative thoughts get in the way of me promoting ABLO and growing the business. So Although I am a little daunted I am going to start contacting influencers and working on my wholesale plan for 2019.

Inspirational quote

So that's 5 of my challenges from the first year of running ABLO. It's not easy doing this, it is tiring at times but it's extremely rewarding, it's making me grow as a person and really helping me become more confident. I'm ready for this year and excited to see what new challenges I can overcome.

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