10 Lessons/Tips I've learned in the First Year of Business

Christine Yu, Callo
My first year of running Callo has been so incredible! I learnt much and have met many amazing supporters along the way. As someone who is always striving to push my own boundaries, to continually learn, make the mistakes, to grow and be better, celebrating our One Year Anniversary is such an achievement and with that comes self-reflection. I want take you behind scenes of what really happened in my first year and to share those lessons and tips with you. 

As some of you know the biggest highlight of 2020 was our re-branding decision from CY & Company to what we know as Callo today. THIS WAS BOLD. We had planned to launch this early spring in time for our anniversary but long behold we did it in the middle of COVID-19. Challenges came along the way and questions were definitely asked and thought of, but ultimately we are so happy to have made this decision early on in the business stages as it will help us grow our voice for the brand and pave the direction we are working towards. Talk about pivoting right? As entrepreneurs and leaders we often are faced with hard choices and decisions that force us to pivot in order to thrive and in some cases to survive.

Callo, Christine Yu

For those of you who don't really know who I am and are new to Callo, our message and brand. I'd like to introduce myself to you! Entrepreneurship isn't new to me, I grew up in a long line of multi-faceted entrepreneurs in my circle of family and friends. Callo is actually my second start-up company, first being in tech and digital marketing with a business partner. Over the years I've taken all my knowledge and experience and have started to mentor/coach other entrepreneurs and leaders in the community in cross-industries from strategy to building leaders within an organization.

Even through all of that, one BIG lesson that I learnt is that I am NOT an expert. Having all that knowledge doesn't necessarily qualify me as any type of guru. The experiences that I have acquired over the years have helped me build the foundation to new paths and adventures but let's face it.. ENTREPRENEURSHIP is a whole bunch of fi4935i !93@@@ ... am I right!? It challenges us in so many ways, it throws us in so many curve balls, it plays with our minds, our moods and all of our feels.. all the highs and lows.. we FEEL it. However -- that is also why I LOVE being an entrepreneur. I live for this adventure and it's so rewarding no matter the outcome. 

LESSON 1: BEING BUSY ISN'T THE SAME AS BEING PRODUCTIVE

Don't get me wrong here. I am a very busy individual, however I now stay organized with my intentions which has allowed me to become so much more productive in my days. Instead of waking up in the mornings and wondering what the next move should be. I plan, I set goals, I set daily intentions -- I got real with myself about developing habits that showed measurable results. Running a business is so much more than note pads with checklists. 1-2 times a week I dedicate those days to my "learning". Whether if its learning and researching more about the industry, how to do marketing, forecasting, planning, etc; I make sure that I continue to learn and stay on top of my skills and knowledge so that I can better prepare the business and myself for whats to come.

LESSON 2: BUILD AND RELY ON A SUPPORT SYSTEM

The glory of working for yourself sometimes can be very lonely and we all inherit it as entrepreneurs. However, I have to say that since starting this journey I vowed to myself that I will open up myself more and start building a community of like-minded people. This is so crucial as your community, your support, your team are there to really support you on some of those uninspiring challenging days. Search for those creative minds in and outside of your niche/industry to bounce ideas off of and help you develop a sense of community. Due to the unique background of where I came from, I've had opportunities to work in multiple different industries and positions that have allowed me to open up certain doors and networks. I think this is key to becoming a more well-rounded forward thinking leader. 

Callo

LESSON 3: THE UPS AND DOWNS ARE REAL

The sooner we understand and accept that ups and downs of running your own business is a reality the better we are at building that resiliency we need to keep going. Callo is so personal to me and I let my "why" continue to flow through vision, message and branding. As the company evolved over the year, I questioned myself a lot. I wasn't sure what I was doing was authentic to me, if I was worthy to put this out there and I feared any outside judgement to my business ideas and goals. There were days I wanted to roll over and say maybe this was a bad idea. There were months where my sales were so low that I questioned if it's even a viable brand. Maybe people didn't resonate with it or maybe the impact that I wanted to make wasn't realistic.

LESSON 4: PLAY UP MY STRENGTHS

What's interesting to me as we go through life there are many scenarios in life that teach us to work on our weaknesses. I shifted my focus to what I do well and started to think of how I can outsource the rest. When I found myself spending too much time on something and was having great difficulties getting it right, I hired the right person/contractor where possible. Coming to a realization that I couldn't possibly be intensely talented in every aspect of the business was definitely something that I had to adjust to. 

As of last December I onboarded a lead content strategist to help me with the voice and messaging of the brand. Her name is Nikita Gallyot, she has been such a joy to work with and we connected from the very first phone call. I had posted a few advertisements out there to see if anyone wanted to join my company as I knew I didn't have all the skillsets, knowledge, or even capacity to carry out a lot of things that I know needed to happen in order for Callo to succeed. I knew I didn't have a lot to offer at this point but a vision and possible success of a start-up company. This year, I onboarded a digital marketer lead who joined us around the time we launched our rebranding. His name is Rahul and he joins our team virtually from across the world. He has been the driving force behind getting our website ranking up and formulating digital marketing strategies for Callo. 

That brings me to my next point: people are nicer than you think! The positive reactions and the support that I've received from both Nikita and Rahul have been beyond what I had imagined. See - my point about ups and downs? As soon as I started to doubt myself, the universe gave me two very special people who continue to believe in everything Callo has to offer the world. This is beyond inspiring and motivating for me. It reinforces why I had set Callo into motion.

I could probably make a running list of people behind Callo who have supported us continually such as our official photographer: Louis Lay and talent duo with Melissa Riemer. All those beautiful campaign photographs were shot and styled by this beautiful couple. They are based in Vancouver currently and have been long time friends of mine. Can I say #blessed?

LESSON 5: STOP WATCHING THE RACE AND START RUNNING IT

As I was building our support community and getting to know other entrepreneurs. I felt myself naturally wanting to keep up with someone else's speed. Whether if it's increasing sales, launching new products, or growing our team. I realized that I run a much stronger race when I'm concentrated on the finish line rather than the competition beside me. 

LESSON 6: TRY EVERYTHING

Even though we just past our one year mark, I am still pivoting and trying new things for Callo. I got into the habit of saying yes to most things rather than no because how are you going to know if something is working if you don't try? Let this be ingrained in you as you work through the different strategies for your business. 

Callo

LESSON 7: KNOWLEDGE IS NOT POWER. YOUR ACTION IS

I waited almost 2 years before I launched this business. It wasn't entirely because I sat there humming about whether or not it was the best time to launch this but rather there were obstacles and challenges that also came into play. Barriers that I faced pre-launch included financial funding, marketing, procurement and production of my first jewelry line. I had a bit of a challenge finding someone who could create the pieces that I wanted to showcase. Once I was able to secure a designer that I was able to work with, the wheels started to move. The next step that I had to take was to update my business and contingency pan, marketing, website, branding, business processes etc;.The point is, don't let your own excuses get in your way of starting. Just do it! The rest will fall into place or you will just have to learn along the way.

LESSON 8: HAVE ZERO EXPECTATIONS AND JUST DO THE WORK

I think that throughout the years, I have always been taught to expect failures when it comes to running a business or leading a team at work. So when I started Callo I didn't really have any high expectations. I could've set aggressive sales goals, revenue projections, and map out every step I was going to undertake. But to be honest, in the first year of business you just don't know all of these things no matter how much you sit back and think you have perfected the ultimate business plan. I knew I just had to put in 100% and everything else will fall into place.

LESSON 9: BUSINESS CAN BE EXPENSIVE

Starting a business comes with its own jar of expenses no matter what service/product you choose to offer. Failure rates are high in retail and most businesses in my industry don't make it past the first year let alone first 5 years. Why? Because it's hard and expensive. Regardless of the statistics and what I knew could be a potential failure, I went for it anyways. I saved and invested my own money. Every dollar that I've made in sales, I re-invested into marketing, procurement, and maintaining the e-commerce site. My advice here is to understand what you need to keep your business running in terms of dollar amounts. It may take a few months, a few years, but your heart knows what it wants. If you want it, you will make it work!

LESSON 10: STOP SETTING LIMITS FOR YOUR BUSINESS (AND YOURSELF)

When I decided to launch my own online business, I buried myself into my web designing skills thinking it was the only way to get in front of potential customers. Then I realized people wanted to buy my products because of the brand I was building and the message behind the company, not what I assumed they wanted to see or buy. Now I find ways to market and bring in new products that I know will work with the client base as I keep building, not the next big trend that's sweeping our fashion/retail industry all over the social channels. 

It has always been important for me to me to stay true to the styles and product offerings. I am hands on with procurement and design and every piece is a reflection of what the brand represents: elegant, bold, daring, and unique designs that inspire confidence, joy, and love.

GROW, FALL AND GET BACK UP AGAIN

Change is inevitable and although it can be uncomfortable we can train ourselves to learn how to use it to our advantage. Whether if it's being in the know with the changes in my industry, accepting when it's time to separate from a contract, or taking on a new venture, change can make way for new growth. 

One of my goals for Callo is to have all of you follow along the journey as I grow, fall and get back up again. There's still so much that I am learning and I plan to share that all with you in the coming years or so long as Callo continues on. I hope that I can help inspire someone else out there to follow their own dreams and to never give up.

I'm excited for year number two and here's hoping 2021 brings fulfilling life ventures and business for everyone.

With much Love and Care,

Christine Yu
Founder & CEO
Callo 

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