I don’t know who I’m writing this for. Maybe there’s someone out there who needs to read it. Who needs to know that they’re not alone. Or maybe this is for me. A way to help me work through the frustration and anxiety and self-doubt that I’m currently dealing with. I don’t know.
I know everyone is really into starting side hustles right now. Starting a new business, being your own boss, and doing something you love and feel passionate about is really exciting. As someone who has been self-employed for most of my adult life, I know all about that excitement. So, when my family decided to start a new business together, I was all for it. My husband and I have three kids. Nineteen-year-old twins and a fifteen-year-old. We are a very close-knit family and having a “family business” and being able to work together was really exciting. Starting it together was also exciting because it meant that it was truly something we did together, not just the typical kids going to work for mom or dad thing.
At first, we planned to do an entirely different business. My son wants to be a chef and had come up with an idea for a healthy drink, one that we hoped could compete with people’s love of soda. We planned to have zero waste, and to be as eco-friendly as possible. Everything was going to plan until right before we were ready to launch and discovered that our state’s cottage food law expressly forbids selling our particular products. We were devastated. In order to move forward, we were going to need a commercial kitchen, something that was financially out of reach for us. But, at that point, I wasn’t ready to give up. We still wanted to do a family business.
A friend of ours once told us we should “sow where we need”, which was the catalyst for us starting a handyman business years ago. That business had been successful, so, following her advice again, we started a business selling healthy and good-for-your-skin soaps, candles, and skin products. These were items we were already making for our own daily use. Something I started doing because I struggled to find already made products in the stores. Honestly, I would have been happy to purchase these items from someone else. In a day and age where it feels like we never have enough time, having to make my own bath products is inconvenient at best. I thought, surely there are other people like me out there, people who want healthy products, but who don’t have the time to make them themselves. Thus, Jasmine Falls was born.
This was over a year ago. We started out excited and raring to go. Ordered a bunch of bulk supplies and started making dozens of products to sell. Created an Etsy store, and listed all of our products, just in time for black Friday. We promoted on Pinterest. We even had my mom promoting our products at her school and Optimist Club. And then…nothing. Not a single sale. In hindsight, this isn’t surprising. There is a lot of competition on Etsy, and let’s be honest, the first thing we look at when we’re considering making an online purchase is reviews. We want proof that the seller isn’t going to scam us. Unfortunately, a new store doesn’t have any reviews. I don’t know if that was the only reason we didn’t sell, but it sure didn’t help. But, I still wasn’t ready to give up.
Our next move was to leave Etsy and create a Shopify website. There is still a lot of competition out there, but at least this way, we wouldn’t be directly competing with dozens of people on the same site.
***As a quick side note, you may think, why didn’t I just buy products from the people on Etsy? The reason is that a lot of those people still use ingredients in their products that we don’t agree with. We prefer products that use as few ingredients as possible and are as close to organic as possible. Yes, we use fragrance oils, which some people consider controversial, but we use high quality, phthalate free ones that are essential oil based, and in some cases, completely plant based.***
We spent months pouring all of time and effort into creating this new website. Let me tell you, when people say that anyone can create a website, they’re lying. I mean, sure, we ended up with a website, but it looked like garbage. In order to have an excellent website, you need design skills, programming skills, and, most importantly, photography skills. We were not prepared for that. There is a huge difference between taking photos of your kids blowing out their birthday candles and taking product photos. It was a hot mess. And, unsurprisingly, we once again launched to the sound of crickets. Still not ready to give up.
We tried renting a booth at the local farmers’ market. We spent two months making products, buying equipment, printing business cards, etc. Only for that to flop. I mean, we made sales, but inflation had just hit the economy and people just weren’t really showing up.
Still not ready to give up, I must be a masochist, we decided to completely re-do our crappy website. My husband, who is a programmer and designer, spent weeks working with us on the new design and layout, and then spent more time helping us take new pictures. We came up with new products, fancy packaging, and rewrote all of our copy. What we ended up with is something that I am actually proud of.
Here we are, ready to launch again. This time, we are doing things differently. We’re making both how-to videos and “commercial” type videos to advertise on YouTube. I’m still doing Pinterest, but this time, we bought customizable pins that are “guaranteed to get sales”. I started a blog where I’m trying to write helpful articles and fun product stories. (Writing is one of my passions.) We’re paying for ads, and my son even started a TikTok account. We really thought this time would be different. This time, we finally did everything right. But, we have only made a couple of sales.
It is possible that we just need to give it time. That no matter how you choose to market your business, it will always be a long game. Maybe this is supposed to be a lesson in patience, something I probably need to learn. But maybe it’s also a sign. A sign that this business isn’t for us. A sign that we should give up and do something else. I don’t know how to tell which one it is. All I know is that I finally am ready to give up.
Time to Give Up?
Honestly, I feel sad and depressed. I used to have a lot of passion and excitement for the products I created. I tend to be more on the creative side and this business was a great outlet for me. That felt like a sign we were supposed to be doing this. Now, everything just feels hard.
I wrote another article about side hustles and mental health. In it, I talk about the hard days. For me, this is a hard day. Owning a business is like a roller coaster. Some days you are down, but then something happens, like one of our videos will get a bunch of views or something, and then we go on a high feeling like there’s hope. That’s why knowing what to do is so hard. Every time you think you should quit, you get sucked back in by that one glimmer of hope. Maybe that glimmer of hope means that we do just need to give it time.
For now, I guess I will keep going. My family means everything to me and I can’t seem to make myself let go of the dream that we can work together. I will keep writing articles and filming videos, in the hopes that someday we will see success.
If there is someone out there, someone who identifies with the struggles I’m facing, I don’t want to leave you feeling negative. Regardless of what happens, we will get through this. Work is just one part of our lives. It doesn’t define who we are. Even if our business fails, we are not failures. If you need to talk, send me an email or leave a comment. We could all use some encouragement and I have found that I am much better at encouraging others than I am myself!