I have spent a lot of time working for startups and small businesses in many different industries over the years, and I’ve paid very close attention to the way they do business. While I do cultivate a small product development practice catering to independent craftspeople and artisans on my own free time, I have a terrific day job working for a small women’s athleticwear company in San Francisco that I do not plan on leaving voluntarily any time soon, for the following reasons:
It brings in a base salary and benefits Until you’ve struck out on your own, it’s hard to imagine how much it costs in terms of time, energy, and revenue to supply for yourself things like health insurance, 401(k) plans, and forget about paid vacation! My day job takes the pressure off me so I can fill my free time with things that are very interesting to me but less lucrative than what I do in my 9-to-5 hours.
It keeps me in the industry Working every day in the industry helps me to remember how important it is to stick to the fundamentals when running a business. It keeps me aware of the state of the industry as it’s happening and how it responds to a changing retail environment. Most importantly, I have the benefit of the friendship and experience of the talented industry professionals I have the pleasure to work with and learn from on a daily basis.
It gets me out of the house Starting a business by yourself can be very isolating, and takes a lot of self-discipline to stay motivated in the face of huge project deadlines or slow- to- nonexistent paying work. Having somewhere to go, getting dressed and interacting with other people and working towards a common goal can do a lot for your mental state and self-image in the face of what may seem like impossible obstacles on your way towards achieving your dreams.
Working on your business model while otherwise employed gives you the freedom to dip your toes into the waters of entrepreneurship without taking the huge risks involved with throwing all your resources at an untested business idea. It takes a lot of discipline and time management, but it’s a good way to go for a lot of first-time businesspeople.