5 things they don't tell you about starting a new business

The view at the half-year mark

It’s been over 6 months since Mary and I initially launched Common Sights to the world. In that time, we’ve encountered some surprises that I’m not sure we could have imagined going in. We would love to share some of these with not only our customers but also our counterparts that are starting their own businesses. 

1. It doesn’t happen quickly

This should really be a given and something you hear all the time about starting a business. However, you think to yourself “but I know I can do this better” or people are just exaggerating how hard it actually is.

Let me tell you right now—all those anecdotes are completely correct. Your business could be the one in a hundred that has immediate success that is sustainable but I definitely wouldn’t count on it.

I would not say I am underestimating the experience Mary and I bring to the table. We have multiple years of successful start-up and blue chip company experience, but that hasn’t compared to launching our own brand. We’re almost 7 months in and I know we both wish it could be happening a lot faster. However, understanding that comparing yourself to all the best case scenarios on the internet is never healthy. Survivorship bias is a real thing.

2. Customer acquisition is really expensive

It might seem like all of the consumer goods companies out there have so many inefficiencies with paying for store space, staff in that store space, and dealing with middleman wholesalers. However, Inc. Magazine hit the nail on the head when they said “CAC is the new rent” that businesses pay.

For those that haven’t spent all their time working with business lingo and acronyms, CAC is “Customer Acquisition Cost.” It’s a mildly interesting way to simultaneously mimic a bird and talk about how much money you have to pay to get a paying customer.

Yes, you actually have to spend money to get people to spend money on you. The funny thing is that a lot of times, it costs even more money to acquire a customer than you make on that pair of sunglasses we’ve sold you.

That’s when you ask yourself if you would’ve rather just given that customer some cold, hard cash and a pair of our sunglasses for free. Instead, both we and our customer essentially give some money to Mark Zuckerberg.

3. Keeping motivation can be hard at times

Whether it’s working through the nights after a long day at your job that pays the bills or wrapping your head around investing your own money into your project without seeing immediate kickback; we’ve realized that it definitely doesn’t come easy.

It can put a huge strain on your ability to stay motivated. The feeling would be like running on a treadmill…while wearing a backpack filled with rocks. I’ve never done that but I have started a business. :) 

4. Friends are amazing

However, one of the best things about this is I’ve realized how much our friends are willing to show support. I don’t think I’ve interacted with anyone who hasn’t shown support in some way—whether it’s through purchasing, encouragement, promoting our products to others, or giving us very constructive criticism to improve. Many times, our friends have done all of those things.

It makes both of us feel like we’re not alone in this battle and that there’s always someone we can reach out to no matter what.

5. You learn so much

Through all of these surprises, we’ve been able to ride some amazing highs but also had to deal with challenges that are still left unsolved. However, the important thing is that we continue to learn, not only for the business but for ourselves.

There’s been lots of hard skills and knowledge we’ve acquired like designing a website, building campaign ads, designing, or the dreaded taxes. Still, the most value we’ve gained is from the introspection and self-reflection, which starting Common Sights has forced both of us to do on a daily basis.

 

ESSENTIALLY,

Leon Dong
Common Sights Co-Founder & CEO


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