Today, the 26th of August, Molly and I have been in business for three months. As in, we have owned our domain name for three months. We started discussing the business and walking through the logistics of it for weeks before that, but April 26th, 2019 is the day we decided on our name and fully committed to moving forward with this project! So, as we’ve just now begun settling into our routine of posting and creating content, we thought it was fitting to do a short breakdown of what we’ve learned in our first three months of business, and how we plan on improving going forward. Plus, in the coming months, we’ll have individual articles on each of these topics.
One of the first things I learned in our first three months of business is that I need a dedicated (as in, not at home) place to get work done. This is something I sort of knew ahead of time, from years of not being able to do schoolwork at home (coffee shops, libraries, the like, all worked though). But for some reason, I thought work for TEEP would be different. This expectation left me annoyed that I wasn’t getting anything done and frustrated that I didn't seem to have enough motivation or will-power, but I just had to learn to face up to it and find a solution. Thankfully, getting our membership at the Wing really helped get me on track, and made me happy to give into what I already knew about my means of being productive. (Because really, who wouldn’t want to work at the Wing?) Sometimes all it takes is trying out the different options you have, and don’t feel bad if that’s a necessary step for you to find your productivity place.
I do best when I can talk through problems and ideas out loud. Speaking about problems and finding the words to explain them has really helped me find solutions. The same goes for ideas: when I can talk through an idea I have, I’m able to get to the core of the idea and refine it. This maybe gets annoying for Molly sometimes, but it’s also made me really thankful to have a co-founder I can talk things through with. If you’re having an issue with someone at work, or are having a hard time figuring out a problem in your own life, try talking it out with someone.
I can’t let one project become all-encompassing. Sometimes, it can be really easy to let the new or exciting rule your entire life, and let the rest of your priorities fall to the wayside. Now, my no means have I mastered the work-school-life balance, but I am getting there. No longer am I at the point where one job rules my life, nor am I ignoring everything to focus on school. I’m still learning, but I began making this change in these past three months and my life is better because of it.
One more quick thing that I'm still learning: motivation can't and won't run a business. As much as we love this project and this work we're doing, discipline is what is getting me and Molly through this, and what will keep it going. We're holding our commitments to each other, and to you all.
One of the most important skills I’ve learned in our first three months of business is the ability to maintain open lines of communication with the other half of my business (AKA Ava). Because Ava and I were friends and roommates before business partners, it was often easy to assume that we shared all the same thoughts and ideas and feelings. So much of our relationship had become unspoken, as many close friendships do. I don’t need to ask if she wants to stop for snacks on the way home from a long day—I already know the answer. But the same doesn’t necessarily translate to the business world. Co-founders (and co-workers in general) should never assume they know what the other wants or needs, no matter how close they may be. Learning how to communicate open and honestly—not just once or twice during official business meetings, but constantly and consistently—has definitely been a factor in the progress we’ve made these three months.
With open communication comes inevitable disagreement. Learning how to disagree with (or rather, learning how to differentiate from) each other has been an important part of our journey. Of course, co-founders and co-owners have to agree on some integral facets of business, but they will never be clones. There’s a reason why I run the social media, and Ava writes most of the articles. We each bring a different skill set to the table, so it’s inherent that we also bring differing opinions and thoughts, which is okay and encouraged. Healthy debate fosters the growth necessary for a small business like us.
Finally, I’ve learned a lot about my own work ethic. Unlike most of my prior work experiences (school, internships, service industry jobs), working as an entrepreneur requires an understanding of my own abilities, my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve learned that I am most productive when I’m comfortable (or more specifically, when I’m in my PJs in bed, as Ava can attest, or in a cozy corner at the Wing) than at a bare cubicle at the library. I’ve learned I cannot focus in public like Ava can. Understanding my productivity patterns, and especially how they might differ from those of my work partner, has been a vital skill gained over these three months.
What This Means Going Forward
To me and Molly, starting this business meant taking a leap of faith and believing in ourselves in a way we never had (or had to) before. But it was something we believed in, and we were willing to handle the learning curve that came along with starting a business and working with your best friend (and roommate). Because we know we have a lot to learn, we’re hoping to share this experience with you all so maybe you can learn something from our mistakes and eventual successes. More of these to come, here’s to the next three months, and the next three years, and beyond.