Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Raeha Keller, Owner of Ectogasm, located in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I'm an artist who got bored with the products I saw in stores marketed toward women. As someone with a personal style that's more alternative, I wanted to make accessories and fashion items that are edgy, unusual, and fun while still being beautiful, tasteful, and high quality. My customers are people like me who love to express themselves in a way that's true to who they are.
Tell us about yourself
I'm a lifelong illustrator who was inspired by other artists I saw opening online shops and selling their own creations. Disenchanted with my 9-5, I dreamed of starting my own business and working for myself. So, I scraped together what little money I had, about $600, and started hand-making pins out of shrink film! A bit to my surprise, people loved my designs. I kept going and reinvesting, always looking for something new to delight my customers with.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
We've come a long way from where I started. I've designed hundreds of enamel pins and have expanded into socks, suncatchers, bandanas, and other accessories. Our fashion line is now in development, and we will launch dresses, skirts, and shirts with patterns I've illustrated very soon. I'm SO excited!
What got me here was a lot of small accomplishments. Switching from handmade to manufacturing to meet demand. Hiring a 3PL (third-party logistics company) to ship my goods for me and free up some time - not to mention space in my house. Protecting my copyrights and winning settlements against infringing companies, which I could then reinvest into my business. Hiring web developers. Hiring social media help. I've been in business since 2015, and it's these little building blocks, all stacking up over the years, that built Ectogasm into what it is now. I'm proud to say we are now carried in hundreds of stores and boutiques across the US and in tens of thousands of homes, with even bigger plans for growth in the works.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
For a long time, the hardest part for me was the solitude. I worked from home well before it became commonplace, and I didn't personally know anyone doing what I was doing. I didn't even know other business owners my age. I was fortunate to meet my fiancé John, who is a business owner in the creative field too. He provided me with a lot of support, and he also helped push me out of my introversion bubble. I've now met many other men and women who own their own businesses. I've also made friends through Instagram who are makers selling in my niche. It is such a help to have people in your life who understand your struggles and successes and who can offer advice. I strongly recommend other business owners put themselves out there to find a community, whether it be online, through meet-up groups, or just being friendly with everyone you meet.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Believe in yourself. I know that sounds corny, but if you don't believe in yourself, no one will. You need to be your own best supporter and cheer yourself on every day. I strongly believe that the universe gives us exactly what we expect it to, so set your expectations for yourself high.
- Take risks. I was terrified to make so many of the jumps that led to my business growing - switching to manufacturing, reaching out to stores to sell wholesale, making hires, etc. It's ok to be afraid, but don't let yourself give in to fear. In business, it's often the bigger the risk, the bigger the possible reward. Be ready to make those jumps when needed.
- Hire help (which can mean freelancers as well as employees). This one took me a long time to grasp. Often, when you're starting out, you can't afford to hire any help, so you're doing everything yourself. It's easy to get stuck like this. Once the business starts to grow and you have a little capital, start hiring help. For me, I started by hiring things I needed and couldn't do myself, like manufacturing, accounting, and legal. Then things I could do but took up a lot of my time, such as fulfilling orders. After those bases are covered, you can hire people who do things you can do but better, which for me was web design, branding, photography, and social media. These things free you up to focus your time on the things that you can do to add the most value to your business.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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