Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Chanel Kimura, CEO and Owner of Handmade Home Co., located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Handmade Home Co. is an online marketplace offering one-of-a-kind furniture and home decor created by independent artists. Our online store supports small business owners selling handmade furniture, refinished furniture, and handmade home decor.
Handmade Home Co. is changing the way that homeowners shop for home furnishings online by reducing the environmental impact that purchasing mass-produced home furnishings can create. Handmade Home Co. provides consumers and artists with a high-end and efficient online marketplace to shop and list one-of-a-kind home furnishings.
With our quick and easy checkout, safe and secure payment process, and clear shipping prices, Handmade Home Co. makes shopping for unique furniture and handmade home decor simple. By shopping with HHC, you are supporting the environment, the local economy, and small business owners. Our customers can feel confident that they are receiving truly unique pieces made with quality materials.
Tell us about yourself
In 2018, I began flipping furniture for my apartment and quickly realized how lucrative this "hobby" could be. Initially, I specialized in custom furniture projects, then moved on to flipping furniture to sell. But, my search for the most effective places to list my work was very difficult. In 2020 I set out to create a high-end marketplace that focuses on handmade home furnishings, where haggling is prohibited, the fee structure is simple to understand, and all services are provided to help small businesses succeed.
There are a few things that keep me motivated to keep working hard for this business. For starters, our artists have already saved over 1,000 lbs of furniture from reaching the landfill this year alone. We pride ourselves on being sustainable and repurposing materials that would otherwise be tossed in the trash. If we continue to support artists, refinish pieces, and stop buying low-quality “fast furniture” from big box stores, then we could really start to make a change with the global landfill crisis.
The main motivation that keeps me going each day is knowing that I am helping artists with the most difficult and confusing aspects of their business. Providing a high-end website where all of the maintenance is taken care of, providing shipping services for all products, and offering marketing and advertising services make me confident in knowing that we are providing everything we can to help artists grow their brands and businesses.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
So far, Handmade Home Co.'s greatest accomplishment has been creating this platform for fellow artists. Making sure that the platform is fast, high-quality, and easy to navigate. This commitment to quality has enabled HHC to foster a vibrant and engaged community of artists. During our first month of operation, we onboarded 35 artists and were pleasantly surprised when a handful of Furniture/DIY Influencers promoted our brand and services on their social media pages. My pride in starting this business grows with every successful sale an artist receives.
The goal of this platform was to help artists sell their work online, and knowing that we are succeeding in that makes all of the hard work worth it. These have all been extraordinary achievements, as they demonstrate HHC's ability to consistently meet high expectations and drive results. This success was made all the more gratifying by the fact that these results were achieved with an ever-growing roster of talented artists.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The hardest thing to deal with as a business owner for me is self-doubt and lack of funds. It is so easy to get in your head and start comparing yourself to other people or businesses. Before you know it, you are doubting every single thing you are doing. Is this even worth it? Does anyone care about what I am doing? Am I going to have to work this hard forever? Is my business ever going to “take off”?
Remind yourself that you started this business for a reason. You believed so deeply in yourself and this idea that you worked damn hard to make it a reality. You took months, or even years, to prepare for this idea. Why quit before you’ve even given it a fair chance? If you quit tomorrow, what would your story be in 10 years from now? Would you be filled with sadness, questioning what could have been? Keep going. Ignore the doubt and focus on why you started this in the first place.
When your finances are tight, it can be hard to find the motivation to keep working. Life is already expensive, and adding a business on top of it can make things overwhelming. Try to take a couple of hours every single week to apply for grants, loans, and resources. As a business owner, you know you are going to have overhead costs, so get ahead of it. Make sure you don't cut your time short because of some roadblocks and give your business and yourself a chance to succeed.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
In my experience, the most valuable tasks you should start with would be:
- Business Plan & Financial Projections. Make a proper business plan. This is the key, most important thing you should do when planning to launch a business. A business plan is an important document that outlines the goals and objectives of a business, as well as the strategies and tactics for achieving them. It also provides a roadmap for how the business will achieve its goals. Writing a business plan forces you to think through all aspects of the business and helps you identify potential roadblocks and solutions. Additionally, it is a useful tool for communicating your vision and ideas to potential investors, partners, and employees.
- Funding, Loans, Grants, or Sponsorships. Finding funding, loans, grants, or sponsorships is essential for starting and sustaining a business. This money can provide the resources needed to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality. Even if you have enough money to get your idea off of the ground, do you have enough to keep it running? Do you have enough money to hire staff? Offer additional services? Do you have a reasonable marketing/advertising budget? These are all things that you will need money for. You do not want to scramble, so get ahead of this while you can.
- Mentor & Resources. Many local and state governments offer small business support in the form of tax incentives, grants, loans, and other resources. It is helpful to research the available support in your area to see what kind of assistance you can get to help your business succeed. Take advantage of these resources, as they are generally free and can connect you with awesome entrepreneurs and services for the future of your business.
- Marketing, Advertising, & PR. For small businesses, marketing and advertising are essential components for success. With limited resources, it’s important for small businesses to maximize the impact of their marketing and advertising efforts to reach their target audience and drive sales. Get ahead of this and find a marketing manager to help you create and implement a marketing strategy and plan. If you are a small, independently owned business, my advice is not to work with a large marketing team at the beginning. Finding a marketing manager who you feel comfortable working with and who has the skillset you need is important. Influencer marketing is a great asset to consider in your strategy, as you can advertise your product or service directly to your target market through a trusted person in this community or industry.
To conclude, as long as you prepare as much information as possible within your business plan, you'll be able to determine where you'll need staff and how much capital you'll need to keep the business afloat. This, in turn, will provide you with the highest level of confidence that you have a solid foundation from which to build your new business. It is within your power to accomplish this. Do not give up.
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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