Design is sustained and enriched by small businesses: They bring new energy and enthusiasm to the art of decor, adding personal narratives and intimate details to the experience of shopping. There's also something incredible about all of the time, energy, and effort that goes into keeping a small business alive. Especially after how hectic the last year and a half has been in the time of COVID-19, it's even more important to spend your money at businesses you want to continue supporting.
It's not all negative: While it was a tough time to be a small business owner, Forbes reports that, in 2020, new business applications actually rose at the fastest rate they have since 2007.
This Small Business Week, we're highlighting a few of our favorite small businesses in the design and decor space, especially those that make us feel enraptured by their work, and encouraged by their distinct individuality. Their stories make us feel like maybe we can finally live out our small business dreams, too.
In the name of learning more about what it means to run a small business that prioritizes beauty and design, we asked: What is your best piece of advice for building — and maintaining — a small business? These are their answers.
1. Don’t try to blend in.
"Stand out from your competition. Luckily for me, there aren't many bakers who specialize in custom cookies in my area. The ones that are, are all older white women. So I have branded myself as a Gen Z, Latina, college student, and an advocate for social justice to set me apart from them." — Aly Juarez, founder of Que Dulce Decor
2. Go for it.
"Don't wait until you think it's perfect to start, do the best you can and go for it. Most likely, the thing you are stressing over or trying to perfect is going to change ten more times. When I look back, my business looks nothing like it did when I started and I am proud of that. Being open to constant learning and change has allowed my business to evolve into what I had always dreamed of. I've learned so much along my journey of being a small business owner and perfection is nowhere in the storyline." — Brittiny Terry, founder of Effortless Composition
3. Lean on your community.
"Build your community — and lean on them. When I first started Sunday Club, every single order came from friends and family, and that support was what gave me the momentum to get to the next step. Since then, my community has grown to include other small businesses (seriously — they are your biggest cheerleaders), creators whose work I admire (all it takes is a DM!), and customers from across the country whose support I am in awe of and so very grateful for." — Alice Chen, founder of Sunday Club
4. Trust the timing.
"The best advice I was ever given is, 'What's for you won't pass you by.' It's really become my mantra. I think that it's really important to not force things to happen on the timeline you think they're meant to happen on, but instead to trust that everything in the world has its own timing, and what's meant to be will be." — Leonara Manyangadze, founder of Tanaka
5. Be willing to experiment as you grow.
"While our core ethos has remained the same over the past five years, I've been open to experimenting with my brand and letting things shift organically as we grow. Whether through our Instagram posts (which we try to keep fun, fluid and not always product-related) to testing a new product category in our storefront, I am open to trying different things to see how our audience reacts. Not everything sticks or is a huge success but we always learn something or gain some insight!" — Shannon Maldonado, founder of Yowie
6. You should love — not like — your business.
"Find something you LOVE! Not like, kind of love, or maybe will love one day, love — find something that brings you ultimate joy, something that will make you throw the covers off in the morning and chomp at the bit to get started each day. I think people often do not realize just how much work goes into starting and maintaining a business and how much of it you yourself have to do to get it off the ground. The last thing you want is to start something you are not willing and able to fully commit to." — Jessie Williams, founder of Edge of Urge
7. Don’t follow trends.
"My biggest advice on starting and maintaining a small business would be to stay true to who you are and to keep putting in the work. If you are passionate about what you are selling or creating then it will pay off. Try to find your own style/aesthetic and stick with it rather than giving in to the current trends." — Molly Jones, founder of Local Shade
8. Learn as you go.
"Take the first leap! I tried not to worry about making everything perfect — everyone makes mistakes, and those will teach you the biggest lessons in the end. Plus, you're the only one that knows you made the mistake; nobody else will ever notice! Learn as you go along and enjoy the process." — Francesca de la Fuente of Pomelo Casa