One of my "2015" business goals was to network more. Networking, something every business guru preaches about - the thought of it alone makes me cringe. I'm terrible at it! However, as it is a necessary evil I've had to get to grips with it and I've finally figured out how to deal with myself feeling awkward and uncomfortable in rooms full of suited strangers - I've learnt how to curb the overwhelming urge to say something completely inappropriate to break an awkward silence, and instead learnt how to maintain a dignified awkward silence.
So I've put my newly found networking skills to good use lately and been a busy bee. In the last month I went to the Small Business Saturday pre-launch event hosted at the British Library, and also attended Blogcademy.
Networking's not alllll bad! I got to hang with top gal Sophie from Crown & Glory
I'm normally quite comfy talking about myself. I chat to customers and have conversations about my background and feel natural doing so as I think people are genuinely interested in getting to know the 'makers' and likewise I like getting to know my customers, but somehow at networking events it feels so forced. Don't get me wrong - me, myself and I are my favourite topics of conversation (that and filthy anecdotes, but this is my 'work' blog so I'll leave those out for now), but when I am faced point-blank with "So, where do you work and what do you do?" I freeze up. I guess I don't really want to say, "I have a cake and sweet shop in Kensington" - sounds twee. I don't want to say, "I run an artisan gourmet patisserie bakery eatery macaroony cakery emporium" - yeah, that sounds plain douchey. So I'll say - "I make and sell cakes and lovely treats like macarons, marshmallows etc at our sweet and coffee shop in London as well as online". Bleurgh. But nearly every time I've said it I've got a smiley response like, "OMG! That's amazing! You're living the dream!" which is super nice. It's true too, I'm surrounded by cakes and macarons all day long, I get to play with kitchen gadgets whipping up stuff I dream up, I have awesome coffee on tap, and I work with my husband and a brilliant team of the coolest gals. That's the best thing about my small business!
So when I was at the Small Business Saturday event, I was truly shocked at hearing what other business owners loved about being a small business: "Being my own boss" was the response almost unanimous across the panel of speakers. Huh? That's possibly the WORST thing about having your own small business. It's not only an uninspiring response, it's also doesn't really lend itself well to 'living the dream', does it. It's scary not having someone watching over, it's a massive disadvantage not having someone's experience to fall back on when making important decisions or expensive mistakes, it's nerve-wrecking being accountable for absolutely everything. It's quite possibly a nightmare. Surely there's other, much more inspiring stuff to love about having your own business?
How about making a difference and a living with your passion? How about realising your dream and commercialising it? How about providing your customers the best experience? How about making a positive difference to someone's day/week/life with your work? How about BEING the best boss you can be? I know I waffled about fluffy and cute stuff like being around cakes and macarons, my husband and cool people, but everything I just mentioned boils down to just that. I love being trusted to make someone's wedding cake dreams come true. I love being able to work with my awesome team and alongside some amazing suppliers. I love hearing great feedback from my customers about our cakes and macarons and also the service they get at the shop, how it makes them feel warm, welcome and happy.
Anyhoo, I'll continue chasing my dreams, but 'being my own boss' was never one of them - that's the stuff of nightmares, along with networking!