Today I’m talking about how things don’t always go to plan in your business and how it can leave you feeling ashamed and like a failure. This isn’t a popular topic because everywhere you look on social media, there are influencers showing how great things are going for them. I’m keeping it real because it has been HARD in my business, just as it is for so many other people.
Many of us had other careers before we trained as personal stylists. I worked in manufacturing for years, held a senior position and earned good money before giving it up to become a stylist.
I thought it would be easy to become a successful, profitable stylist. I had years of professional experience and was highly skilled. Anyone would love to have me as their personal stylist. How naive was I? 😂
Like many new businesses, I went under in the first few years. I got myself into debt. I left my corporate job in February 2006 and opened my studio on Orchard Road in Singapore the next month. I’d saved about 120,000 Singapore dollars, and the rent on my studio was around $3,000 a month. My savings didn’t last very long! A year in, I could no longer afford the rent, but being tied into the lease, I had to ask my family for a loan.
I felt a lot of shame, a complete failure. I felt the eyes of my family, friends, and everyone I knew on me judging me. It was a painful experience. My business had failed, and I was seriously considering returning to an employed role.
I didn’t return to a job straightaway, but as soon as the lease on my studio ended, I took a tiny room in the corner of my husband’s office. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the only option I had to continue doing my colour and style consults. Online working wasn’t a thing back then!
The early failure of my business took its toll on my confidence. It was hard to move past all my doubt and uncertainty and keep going. When I got pregnant with my first son, my husband’s office block had just been refurbished, and the smell of the paint made me sick. It was miserable going to work every day and feeling ill.
Eventually, it got to the point where it was taking so much time and energy to try and find clients and with bringing up a new baby, it was too much. I decided to let the business go and went to work for my husband. It was the easier option. He allowed me to work part-time, and I had the security of a consistent salary every month.
I’d always been used to earning my own money and having financial independence, and I didn’t want to have to keep asking him to bail me out or to pay for this and that. I wanted to earn my keep, so the business closed, and I went back to work.
I worked three hours a day, four days a week, so I wasn’t earning a big salary, but at least it was consistent. I could be there for my children and still feel like I was contributing to the household finances. There was a lot to be thankful for, but it wasn’t how I’d seen my career turning out.
Have you been through something similar in your business?
If so, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Many women who set out in business end up in a similar situation. It isn’t just you. It actually isn’t anything you’ve done wrong. You need to learn some new skills as an entrepreneur. If you failed the first, second or third time you tried, you are definitely not the only one. If you take nothing else from me today, please know that.
It was so hard returning to a corporate role after enjoying the creativity I’d unleashed in my image business. I really missed it! I kept all my books and drapes and did colour analyses for all my colleagues whenever they wanted! I had a handful of clients who’d keep coming back to me for shopping trips which I did on the side. I kept my hand in but did zero promotion. I didn’t want to put myself out there because I’d failed. I kept telling myself that I was no good at styling and wasn’t cut out for a career in the industry.
I’d invested so much money in my training and qualifications. I’d put so much time and effort into it, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make it work financially. It was truly depressing. 😞
If this is you right now, it might not seem like it, but it isn’t the end of the world. Styling might not be for you YET, but you’ll get an opportunity to try again. It could be in a few months or maybe years from now.
My do-over came when we moved from Singapore to France. I was pushed into it by circumstances and was reluctant. I still felt the disappointment from before. I felt like I’d never be able to make real money as a stylist. I couldn’t see how it would equal the salary I’d make working for someone else.
By 2019, we’d been in France for a year, and I couldn’t get a job because I didn’t speak the language. A lovely friend came to visit, and she noticed how down I was and encouraged me to try again with my business to escape the misery of job hunting.
I knew it would be hard to start again from scratch, but I didn’t have many other options. So, I built a little website, chose a new name, and off I went…
It was just as challenging as I expected it to be. Not speaking the language, I relied upon the English-speaking community for business, and it’s a very different environment here compared to Singapore. The wealthy ladies in the South of France are famously glamorous and well put together.
I started using the same tactics as I had in Singapore. I held colour workshops and other free talks, which no one came to, and I tried to collaborate with some of the local boutiques. I picked up the odd client here and there, but it was painfully slow. There were a lot of pressures alongside business – two young boys to settle into school, my husband and even some of his team working from our home – it was a lot to manage!
I quickly realised that I had to do things very differently if I was going to make the business work this time. Full confession: I had no idea how to do that!
I was trained in the traditional colour and style methods. I was taught how to do colour demos, hold free workshops and team up with local stores to get clients through the door. I had no experience working online and no clue how to use social media. So, I invested in myself. I took a course and learned how to create an online program. I did all the work, but my program didn’t sell the first time I tried it! 😨
t’s been quite the journey of learning, experimenting, failing, tweaking and trying again, but I’ve now replaced and exceeded the salary I took in my old corporate job, and it feels wonderful. ❤
I work with so many stylists who have a similar story to mine. They started and stopped their businesses and went back to the 9 to 5, but couldn’t resist the pull of such an exciting industry. Although sadly, the fear of failure and the shame from their previous attempts holds so many of them back.
If this sounds like you, I want you to remember this: the difficulties in your past do not dictate your future. They do not mean that you’re going to fail going forward. You’re older and wiser now and less likely to put up with any rubbish from crappy clients. You have so much more focus and determination to make a go of it this time.
Get clear about the impact your work can have on people around the world. Think about how you can improve the quality of people’s lives, how you can make them feel better about themselves, and the ripple effect that has.
The work you do matters. It isn’t frivolous and fun, as some people might think. Mental health is so important, and it’s essential for our mental well-being that we love and value ourselves, and as stylists, we help people to love and accept themselves as they are – that’s a MASSIVE impact!
Do you fully comprehend your power?
Maybe you need to give yourself a good talking to? 🤔
We can earn good money as women. We have more of a say in our lives compared to the generations who came before. We have greater equality in our relationships and we have more of a say in our communities and the lives we touch.
If we’re relying on somebody else to pay our way, we’re handing over our power. Earning our own money allows us to make our own decisions and we can use our money however we want. That’s a big positive for the world because we women always put some of it back into the community and good causes. Another ripple of goodness and positivity flowing from us.
I’m so passionate about women’s financial independence and helping other people feel good about themselves but I don’t think I was fully in tune with this the first time around in business. On that initial journey, the tiniest little thing would knock me off course because I didn’t have the strong why like I do now.
I also have this responsibility as a mentor and trainer to personal stylists. I give them the colour and styling skills AND business know-how to create a profitable business, not a hobby. I give you the skills to grow a real business, make real money and have a significant impact on the world!
Now, if something doesn’t go as expected in my work, yes I’m disappointed, but I’m not derailed. I get up and go again because I’m anchored to my higher purpose.
What is your higher purpose?
Why do you do what you do?
I want you to take some time today to really tune into your why and feel the passion. The more you focus on your big reason for doing your work as a stylist, the more resilient you will become, and you’ll find it easier to handle the tough days in your business.