The Realities of An Entrepreneurial Life

You: "How's the store going Nick?"

Me: "Ok, not crazy busy. I'm just tired and it seems like were constantly on the grind."

You: "Well, you can't complain too much because you get to set your own schedule!"

Me: "Uhhhhh"

Ok, so today I want to talk about the realities of being an entrepreneur. What does it really look like to own your own business? I feel that most people have this glamorous idea that if you own a business, you must have a lot of money and you probably have a lot of free time to do whatever you want.  I mean, it's your business, you can set your own schedule right?  My aunt Debbie, who has owned numerous of businesses and currently owns Martin Henry Coffee Roasters, said it best: "When you buy a business or start a new one, your not just buying a business, but your buying a JOB.".  You're literally paying money to work. It's insane. With that said, I'd like to make a CONS & PROS list for you focusing on what it is like to be an entrepreneur. Seems elementary but its actually very smart and to the point so listen up. 



The day you decide to own your own business, is the same day your wallet decided to hate money.  As soon as you put money in it, it just pukes it right out and gives it away.  You are financially invested in this new adventure of yours.  Those full-time perks you used to have working for COSTCO, see ya later!  Your financial stability is based on your businesses financial success.  If the business has a good month, then you get paid!  If it's a slow month, then you don't get paid. However, your still working the same amount if not more, but yeah your not getting paid at the end of the month.



Having your own business is like having a baby. In the first few years it needs your full attention. You barely can leave its side. If there are any issues you have to take care of it immediately . Sometimes you have someone else watch your business but they don't know what there doing so you have to fire them.  I can go on and on but I won't.  Owning your own business you will find that it's extremely time consuming.  Even when you're not working, you take it home with you.  Whether that's legit working from home or just mentally thinking/stressing about the business.  The "9 to 5" work day doesn't really exist in this world because its just the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep.  Oh and sometimes there's no time for sleep...



As a business owner, you are liable for your customers,  your employees, your space (if brick & mortar), your product, not to mention financial liabilities. The liability risk alone is enough to scare some people away from owning your own business.  If an employee get's hurt while they are on the clock, well now its a claim with L & I and you pray they don't raise your rates.  If a customer walks in, slips and falls and cracks their head, well in that case, you will be dealing with a mess of paperwork, if not, a lawsuit. The liability is high and its all on you.  Either accept it or throw in the white flag.



When you own your own business, there are so many factors that are up in the air.  For example: Will I get paid? Will people buy my product/service? Will my marketing pay off? Will people come into my shop today? Will I have enough money to pay for new inventory let alone bills? With my business (uxctacoma) there are times when we have to stop buying inventory because sales have been low. Or, if we've been swamped with buying inventory and need to slow down. Unlike other businesses, we can't put our inventory on a credit card, its all cash bases.  But we can't predict if we're going to have a busy week and we are not a big enough "company" where the product sells itself. We have to work our asses off to make sure we get people in the door, but there's no guarantee they will. On a weekly bases I think to myself "I hope we get paid next week..". Shit's real. NO GUARANTEES. Work harder than you think you have to.



The biggest risk of all.  Failure. You have to understand going into a small business that the chances of you failing is real.  However, a little over half of new businesses survive 5 years or more and about one-third survive 10 years or more (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).  So succeeding is possible but not guaranteed. Typically, with failure comes debt, out of a job, your ego/pride is thrashed, and any plans you had for the future is put on pause until you find some steady income. Though failing can be great life lessons, it still hurts like hell.


Ok now that we've discussed some of the lame stuff about owning a business, let's chat about some of the perks that come with it. Grab a beer or cocktail, get comfortable, let's lighten up the mood a little  :)




Yes, when you own your own business, you are a slave to that business.  No more "9 to 5". However, if you're having a rough day and feel like you need to cruise to the pub next door for a pint, no one is stopping you. If you want to go on a quick trip to Portland for the weekend with your beautiful wife, well then do it.  Shoot, if you wanted to be CLOSED for the Seahawks game on a Sunday, more to ya! You literally can do whatever you want! However, here's the catch, it's going to cost you. "Regular" people get to go on vacation and sometimes get paid for it, NOT YOU.  You have to be able to afford your vacation, plus the cost of you being gone.  If you want to close for the Seahawks game, then great, BUT, you might be out the typical $500-$750 in revenue that you typically make on a Sunday.  So yes, as a business owner, you do have flexibility, but its always at a cost.  Your "free-time" is no longer "free".



Not everyone knows this, but before I decided to jump into this entrepreneurial gig, I worked full-time for the Greater Seattle YMCA for about 7 years.  I helped manage before and after school programs & summer camps from Shoreline to Auburn.  Good times.  To make a long story short, when you have 2 or 3 people above you, the amount of "control" you have is ZERO. With the Y, there is a template for everything, down to your email signature, your newsletters, and the "curriculum".  I wasn't able to expand outside of their small box.  When you own your own business, you are the ruler of all.  What you say goes. Not to sound like a douche, but it's true. When we took over the store, I had this new creative outlet that I was just thriving with and soaking it all up. I just did every idea that came to me, cause I could. Now I've learned to tone it down a bit and really curate my ideas, but nonetheless, I do whatever the hell I want and I love it.



This is one of my favorite aspects of owning my own business.  Because of UXC, I've been able to meet some really rad people! Whether it's the new people we meet everyday that come into our shop, or when I'm cruising other stores around the area, I'll use my shop as a conversation starter. Just yesterday I was in Dry Goods Design in Seattle and mentioned to the owner how I envied how neat it was in her shop! I just told her that I owned a vintage clothing store in Tacoma and it can tend to get messy. I believe the more creative people you surround yourself with, the more resources you will have when you might need their services.  Or even better, I love to have them as a resource so that I can refer people to them. I think the idea of networking to build your contact list is a joke. Stop collecting business cards and start sending people work. I want to network so that I always have a solution for a potential client or a friend. If I can't get the job done, I sure as hell know who CAN and will connect you with them.



Don't get me wrong, going to business school and getting that degree is extremely hard and anyone who has done that I raise my glass to you. However, the experience of owning your own business just isn't comparable by a long shot.  I think what I learned in the first 2 years owning my business, is the equivalent of a 4 year degree.  But in those 2 years I'm learning about marketing, accounting, web design, photography, social media techniques, community outreach, etc. I'm not just studying one thing for 4+ years in hopes that I remember it all when I interview for that job that isn't hiring right out of college. I learn as I go, and then move on, and learn some more. I feel if I ever stepped back into the "W-2" world and worked for someone else, I'd be the best employee. No joke, I actually feel this way. Not just because of my work ethic and my creative thinking/problem solving, but because I KNOW WHAT MY EMPLOYER HAS AT STAKE. I know that if I don't produce, my boss might not get paid.  I know the bills he has to pay. I know, if he hired me, I'm not cheap, so payroll is probably high. So I'm going to work my ass off so that when payroll comes around or rent is due, he's not stressing because I'm producing solid numbers. Or if I'm not producing solid numbers, then I'm happy to walk away because I'd hate for someone to lose money because I wasn't qualified for the job. The EXPERIENCE is worth so much and with each year that goes by I just feel more confidant as an entrepreneur.



In the end, being an entrepreneur allows you to attempt to do something you genuinely LOVE to do. That's not to say you have to be an entrepreneur to love what you do, but there's a difference from loving your sales job at Nordstrom and creating Nordstrom. Entrepreneurs put EVERYTHING on the line for the passion and their "love of the game"! It's a risk, we all signed up for it, but damn, it's an exciting ride! It has it's ups and downs but with every punch, we take it. Gary Vaynerchuk says it best, "I am built to get punched in the mouth. I'll spit my front tooth out, look right back at you and be like: NOW WHAT BITCH?"!


So there you have it folks. My two cents for what it's worth. I hope this was informative or at the very least entertaining. Again, I can't reiterate enough that I want to start a dialogue about all of this! So if you read this and have questions or comments you want to add, CONTACT ME! Just go to the contact page and let's make it happen!

Stop thinking about being an entrepreneur, just be one! The journey alone is worth it!


Nicholas Casanova