Saturday, January 22, 2011

How To Know When It's Time: Starting a Small Business Part 2 - Facing Fear

Being thrust into having to start a business is nerve wracking and can be an emotional roller-coaster.  One moment I find I'm fighting paralyzing fear because I don't know what will happen...the fear of failing, and suddenly I'm so over the moon about my future all I want to do is move forward at full steam!  It's a new and strange experience for me.  To focus on either of them is not good as I've learned in my own life experiences and the experiences of others in their in business.  Surging forward too quickly is as bad as being bound up by fear and unable to move.  It is a warning and a reminder that being taken over by either emotion may be one of the trickiest parts of this whole venture.  In this post its all about facing fear and what failure really is.

Me at the site of one of my biggest failures and greatest is now an alter of remembrance and turning point in my life. It is the place I need to know that because I failed here does not mean I won't succeed tomorrow.  It is only a spot in the road of life.

We all fear the future in some measure because we don't know what it will be for us...success or failure; mostly we just fear failure.  Few people today really realize that failure is a great teacher and all because of the social stigma surrounding it.  I know I suffered under this social stigma and its short-sighted definition for years.  Even though there is a vast amount of help out there for small business start ups, I still I find I have to force myself forward and have to face those fears almost daily.  Each time I do I am discover over and over that this is really just series of steps taken one at a time, that I should not think about and consider what comes next but I must not worry about what comes next or that I might make a mistake.   This means I must not listen to the voice of worry because it binds me up with fear, tying my feet to where I stand with the chords of "what if?" so I never move forward.  However we all have to face our fears to reap our desired rewards.

We fear spiders because we think they are going to bite us...but they are only trying to survive and would rather have a nice meal of flower fly or other insect.  So is our fear justified...I think not; understanding helps to alleviate fear.

Fear and insecurities are something we battle throughout our lives and each of us has our own way of dealing with them.  Nearly every gardening class I’ve taught and every meeting I’ve attended I’ve met someone who will confess to me me that they are scared to death to start a garden. Being the oh-so-confident and fearless gardener I am, my response to them is simply this; "Ya gotta start somewhere, so why not here and why not now?", followed up with some simple instructional tips to help get them going.  Sometimes they need to hear that everyone fails and yes they will fail, they will kill plants or plants will just die...but that's ok, that's life in the garden.  That they should not fear these seeming failures but to grab onto them and learn from them as opportunities to learn what really happened to cause it or to look at it as an opportunity try something new instead.  Isn't trying a new business just like that?  I think it is a lot like that.

As I write this it amazes me how many lessons I am able to glean from my past career which speaks to me of how our lives are an ongoing journey filled with lessons and applications that are meant to translate to these new pathways, meant to help us become wiser, meant to teach us and meant to be shared with others to help them along their way too.  We tend to forget this truth in transition times when we start fearing the unknown, when  we begin to walk down that new path we have never been on before.

Its funny how I'm finding myself needing to take my own advise these days and it makes me pause to wonder at how long I've been being taught through my past circumstances, those lessons preparing me this season in my life.  I know its been at least for the past eighteen years and I'm guessing for my whole life; and I’ll be darned if it didn’t happen without my I even realizing what was going on.

Every new day is born full of new opportunity and the lessons that will accompany them if we take hold of them and step out into our future.

For me as a Christian I don't face my future alone but with God as my guide which is a great comfort and help when I am tempted to fear.  This truth was made plain to me years ago in a rather unusual way when I opened the first copy of Reader's Digest my father had sent me as a gift and on the first page I turned to, the very first thing I read was this quote:

"I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
“Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown”,
and he replied, “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God,  That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”  Louise M. Haskin

Whether you are a long time business owner, just setting up a new business like myself, or someone who is just walking along a new path in your life that you find challenging, I hope this has been of some encouragement to you.

Copyright © 2011 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How To Know When It's Time: Starting a Small Business: Part 1 Circumstances and Timing

This is the number one biggest topic in gardening...How do I know its time...time to sow seeds, when is it time to harvest or time to prune the roses or the fruit trees, or cut back the perennials?  How do I know when its time?  I got a fresh reminder of this question when I went out to check my bird feeders and found the black oil sunflower seed sprouting after a week of unseasonably warm and damp weather.

It was in the 50s all week last week...warm enough to sprout seeds

For one second I thought, "Gee, I should sow some sunflower seeds today."  It made things worse when I noticed the tall flower buds on my Hellebore and then the crocus shooting up out of the ground.

Yellow Cloak Crocus in mid January

Then it hit me...its only January!!! I think I'll wait a little before I give that desire any more thought.  Everything in its season for a reason.  I'm experiencing some parallels in my own life like this right now too.

Things still freeze solid in January

I just became a business owner for the first time a couple weeks ago.  This was not something I planned for, just like I didn't plan for those sprouting seeds, but is something that I needed to do after suddenly landing a contracted freelance writing job, my first job ever in this field. (I'm still pinching myself.)  It was so surreal  after years of only being able to dream of owning a business where I could work doing what I love to do, where my creativity could flourish.  Before now I was never able to get the legs underneath the hope I had for one reason or another and the dream of running my own business and creating the many things I wanted to make kept needing to be put off.  My story is a good example of how quickly things can change and how timing is sometimes everything.

I'm finding that creating a plan for my business has been very parallel to planning a garden for the first time, including having to wait until the brush gets cleared away before it can be built.

An congested corner in my garden needing a new look.

Circumstances and timing came together to suddenly push me out onto my future. Here I am trying to figure out what products to make like I used to have to choose what plants to grow.  I'm needing to find a workshop to work in which is not unlike evaluating a landscape and deciding where to place a garden.  Location is an important factor to the success of both and a hastily made decision can bring frustration and or failure in both worlds.

Hellebore seed pod ripening

Pretty soon I will be looking for seed money to feed my new little business and help further establish its foundation and future growth just like I've shopped for soil amendments that will help improve the soil in my garden giving the plants a healthy foundation to grow in.

Finally I am seeking the wise counsel of those who have traveled this path before because know I don't know what the heck I am doing and have a ton of questions about what comes next.  When I was in junior high school a teacher of mine told our class that the only stupid question is one that never gets asked. I am working hard to be fearless about asking any question I have no matter how silly the question may sound to me.  When I don't ask questions I find I am always wishing I would have and wondering if I got things right.

If only I had asked the question I wouldn't be stuck here!

If it had happened any other way I'm certain I would have second guessed the timing, fought with my own insecurities and probably never even have started a business at all .  Because of how things have come together I know the timing is right and it makes it a lot easier to forge ahead in the process so my patience is paying off.  If things aren't coming together for you I recommend you take a step back, maybe it isn't time yet.  But if it is, jump on that pony, hang on tight and ride!

I know this is somewhat of an unconventional look at starting a small business but we are each individuals in individual circumstances so take it for what its worth and I hope you have been inspired.

Copyright © 2011 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Seed Box Wisdom Part 1

With the arrival of the seed catalogs comes the reminder that its time to sort through the seed stash.  If you are like me you have a lot of seed packets in that stash and over the years have spent endless hours going through them, dreaming, organizing, swapping and etc. As I was going through my box last week I was recounting all the mistakes I've made and realized there are a lot of you who may not have the slightest idea some of the things you may be doing that are possibly damaging your little treasure of seeds and causing failure...I know that was me.  I'm hoping by what I share in this series of posts will help you avoid some common pitfalls and benefit from some ideas that really work.

Organize for better production is key to reaping a good harvest.
#1 - Shopping
Being a wise seed shopper is sometimes a hard thing to do if you love to garden.  How many of you feel like a drunk in a liquor store when it comes to buying seeds and find yourselves sucked into the marketing tactics of seed purveyors?  You are not alone.  (I raise my hand)  Seed companies are masters at getting us to drool over every new or reintroduced variety of seed out there; note those gorgeous photos and well worded descriptions, its their job after all to get us to part with our money for their products.

A small sampling of what comes in the mail.
It seems this is pretty easy to get us to do too because of the simple fact that one seed packet don't cost much and if we fall prey to their tactics we will soon have spent a small fortune.  I figure I've wasted at minimum a couple hundred dollars over the past 15 years and probably much truth be told.  Just think, I could have bought a really nice little fountain with that money or other needed things. These days my rule of thumb is this...I have to have a place to grow it, I have to have a good reason to grow it (food, beauty or utility) and it has to be a good value.  I am notoriously cheap as a gardener after working in the nursery industry, a fact I find ironic...maybe it was just easier to get more stuff that way.  So lets take a look at some tips to help you with your seed stash.

My bread box turned seed box where all my treasured seeds are stored
#2 Where are your seeds?
I know that may sound simple enough for many of you to answer but there are so many people I know who just toss the seeds any old place.  It becomes an important question I think when you consider that seeds cost money you wouldn't stash dollar bills in junk drawers or other odd places.  I'm of the mind that seeds need to be kept in one place and kept in an environment that will ensure their viability for as long as possible otherwise I may as well just flush that cash down the toilet or toss it out the window.  When we buy seeds we are investing our money in the hope of a harvest so make that money go as far as it can.

#3 Know what you have!
How many of you have your seeds organized so you can quickly see what you have?  I'm guessing not many.  I used to hoard seeds and love to collect them from any where I could which left me with two huge boxes of seed packets and a very long list of what was in those boxes.  Needless to say there was no good way for me to keep up with what needed to be sown let alone remember what I had.  It was so exciting getting new varieties every year but honestly, its so much more exciting to me these days to actually reap a harvest from the seeds I have than just be a collector and keeper of the stash like I used to, if you know what I mean.  If you want to take hold of the reigns of your stash you have to make some hard decisions...get rid of what you won't sow and organize the rest so it makes sense and serves you the gardener in your efforts to garden.

Organized and ready to sow!

#4 Know what to throw out!
I have bad news...seeds don't last forever.  Its true and that's why its important to go through and edit your seed stash every year. Seeds get old and as they do their ability to germinate declines.  So how do you know what is maybe getting old or is no longer good?  Start by looking at those dates on the seed packets.

Save this date!
Oops that may me cost later.
If you forget and accidentally cut off the date its good to have a pencil handy to make note of that date on the package somewhere so you don't loose track of it again.  This is important because take onions for instance, onion seed is only good for one year which means you will need to replace it every year while tomato seeds last for several years.  The old seed can be tossed onto compost heap and if you're lucky, some of it may sprout but don't hold your breath.  Finally its a lot more fun to find unexpected plants you can transplant than to find the seeds you have sown were dead after you waited a month for them to germinate so just get rid of them already!

#5 - Knowing when to sow.
Its easy to find good information on this subject out there today.  Tons of garden blogs offer tips, Local Master Gardener offices and websites have seed sowing schedules as do seed companies and even some nurseries.  When you find one that suits your region keep a copy of it in with your seed stash, it will save your bacon and help you stay on track with your sowing.  It was interesting when over and over again I found people suggesting seeds should be stored in the order in which they are sown seasonally.  What genius!  A system that tells you what needs to be sown by a quick peek in the stash box!  Another thing about this system is it is not static but a migrating system.  That means if you have a crop like kale, that is sown more than once in a growing season, you just transfer that packet of seeds from its first position in the system up to the next month/season it needs to be sown in and it will be ready and waiting when you are.  Its a really beautiful system for the home vegetable garden or any garden actually.

Extra seeds saved just to give away
#6 - Seeds are for sharing!
Storing seeds and swapping seeds are really beneficial to most gardeners as seed packets hold more seeds than the home gardener will use in a year in most cases.  This makes a well organized stash a gold mine of sorts for if you have extra seed and wish to share them with others or to have on hand for a little seed swapping.  Seed swapping is totally fun and can be addicting though so be ware!  If you have a lot of extra seeds consider your local food bank as a place you might share them with.  More people are gardening than ever and those seeds could go to help feed a family or beautify an elderly person's yard, so put those still viable seeds in the hands of folks who can use them up before they die.

Happy Gardening!

Copyright © 2011 by Patty Hicks
All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. All reviews must include author's name and a link back to this blog.