Small Business Owner or Entrepreneur?

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There is a great article in Entrepreneur about the difference between being a small business owner and being an entrepreneur. I’ll save you five minutes of reading and tell you that the basic difference is one of perspective. So where the small business owner is using their brain space to think about next week, the entrepreneur is thinking about next year.  The small business owner is concerned with definite – where the next dollar is coming from, what needs to get done in order to secure the business, balance sheets. The entrepreneur is thinking about trying new things, taking risks and being far more strategic in her thinking. Honestly, before I read that article I thought those two types of people were the same, that the minute you opened a business you magically got to call yourself an entrepreneur (a bit like the people who go to culinary school for a year think they can now be considered a chef.) That article made so much sense to me, and I could immediately see the way it applies to our industry.

I see nothing wrong with being either of those as the world needs all kinds of business people in it. As an example, a few weeks back I wrote about the realisation that your business might not be forever – in the case of the small business owner, it might be because they go back to more traditional work, in the case of the entrepreneur it might be because they’ve outgrown that business and it’s time to move to the next one.

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These past few weeks I’ve done some mentoring sessions with people whose businesses have hit what I call business puberty. Business puberty is when you really make that decision (and mental shift) about being a business owner versus an entrepreneur.

Business puberty is when most of these sound like you:

  • You find yourself with too much work for one person, but not enough for two.
  • You find yourself really sick of making other people’s designs. You find yourself thinking, “If I see one more ruffle or naked cake….!!”
  • Artistically, you want to do your own thing but you’re not sure how to sell that because until now, everyone loves what you do and you know if you say no, you’re worried you’ll get fewer orders or alienate your customers.
  • You’ve started to really FEEL that your prices are not worth the effort you’re putting in.
  • You’re sick of Facebook groups where people endlessly complain about customers and you’re feeling like you’ve outgrown some of those groups.
  • You feel like you’ve grown up as a businessperson and while it’s not perfect, you’ve got a way better handle on things than you used to.
  • You start to imagine what it must be like to teach and you’ve got ideas for downloadable tutorials. Secretly, you wish Craftsy would knock on your door and ask you to film for them.
  • You start to care a whole lot less about the little stuff  (OMG my pic only got 5 likes!) and a whole lot more about the big stuff (by the end of the year, I’d really like to hire someone to help with my social media.)
  • The numbers of your business (profit, loss, costing, pricing, social media stats) are much less scarier than they used to be, and you might even find them – dare I say it? – fun.
  • You probably are starting to hate your business name, logo or business colours. They don’t feel like they reflect your business anymore.

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In my experience, once some (or all!) of these things start to happen, it’s an indicator that you’re undergoing a business puberty of your own – as your business is growing up, you are too.  You’re getting into that entrepreneurial mindset more and more, where it’s less about cake or cookies and more about business and you’re totally okay with that.

I’m going to go out and say straight up that I think at the moment our industry as a whole is going through this as well. About 4-5 years ago the industry went crazy with people getting into it and now those people are hitting business puberty and either pushing forward into new ventures (at the moment that seems to mean a lot of membership tutorial sites) or they’ve chosen to leave. Either way it’s an interesting time for our industry and I’m looking forward to what young adulthood has to bring.

Where are you at with your business? Is it a baby, just born into the world? A toddler, slowly finding it’s feet? Or have you – like many of us – hit puberty and find yourself wanting to make some hard decisions about where your business is going? What’s going on for you right now? Please leave a comment below or email me, I’d love to hear where you’re up to.

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6 comments on “Small Business Owner or Entrepreneur?

  1. Its happening to me right now! I wrote a post in your group few months back about my cakery might die soon, but not giving up yet. Then, one thing and another open my eyes, making changes one at a time.. I can see the ‘light’ to lead my business to the next level and progressing really well. And if there is enough budget soon, would love to join your mentoring program. Keep inspiring and thank you so much!!

  2. Haha, just read this and it reflected me to a tee. Actually starting to teach sugar flowers now, and actually find crunching numbers ‘fun’ (geeky I know). I just told someone today I feel like big things are coming – definitely getting my entrepreneurial brain into gear. Great post 😉

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. It’s almost as if I did not have the words to express what I was feeling but you have expressed it for me. I’m not in the cake business but stumbled on to your site to think about if I wanted to be in this business. What you said in your post explains what I’m going thru. You wonder if you can keep making stuff and not get paid what you should. I hate my logos. I hate my colors. I had no idea what was wrong with me. Now I know. Thanks! Your blog is great! Love it!

  4. This is me too! I have just decided to increase my prices (since I feel no one understands the amount of work that goes into decorating), and change my business name so it better reflects the artistic side of my work. I am willing to lose customers if it means getting rid of the ones that nickle and dime me ! Thanks for this interesting article!

  5. Oh my gosh, this is me! I have a home baking business in Louisiana where the max yearly income can only be $20K, so I created a second company for non-edible business ventures like teaching. I also love to sew and want to create a line of aprons. I invested in being a vendor in a bridal expo a few months ago for the first time. My goal for this year is reaching new customers, increasing sales and paying off debt so I can actually consider a move to full-time bakery business next year. Not to mention, I have been researching logo options and have decided to hire a professional once it is financially feasible to do so. Your article has really hit home and I am super excited about finding your blog. Thank you!

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