Souky Souky

Business

365 Days Ago...

Business, AdviceEllen Dittmar

Okay, guys… you might want to pour yourself a white wine spritzer for this one. It is longish story. And a sentimental one. And if you're a little buzzed you might even cry a teeny bit. Also, you will be less likely to notice grammatical errors and the like…so don’t hold back…pour yourself a healthy glass! I’ll join you! Because today we are taking a little trip down memory lane.
 
Did you know that one year ago today, I started this business? Yup. It was April 23, 2017. The world was still reeling from the election. Despair hung thick in the air like the smog on a no-wind-from-the-north type of Beijing day. And I was restless. I knew I needed a change. I knew I needed to immerse myself in something meaningful; in something that I truly loved.
 
When I started this business I had: a quirky little shop name and a VERY rough idea of what I wanted to do (something with home décor). That was about it.

The list of the things I did not have was significantly longer. That list included, but was certainly not limited to: graphic design skills, angel investors, a website, an accountant, a business license, products to sell, customers, connections, an office or a studio space, a business plan, or the first clue about how to set up, let alone, run a business.
 
Despite the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing, on April 23, 2017, I committed to the idea just starting something.
 
On that day, I opened a business Instagram account under the handle @soukysoukyhome. Then, I posted my first photo. It is a photo of a striped Hmong pillow that I had made local tailor many, many years before and a throw blanket I purchased from Thailand back in 2008. I simply wrote, “The beginning”. And it was. The very, very beginning.

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 It would be another 4 months before I worked up the courage to even tell anyone what I was working on and another 3 after that before I sold my first pillow.
 
It is one year later and it still feels very much like the beginning. I experience new “firsts” all the time and every other day it feels like I am learning (or need to learn) something new to propel me forward.
 
In some ways, it feels like it was just yesterday that I hit publish on that first Instagram post. Time has flown by! I find myself thinking, “How could a whole year have already passed? Not possible. No way.” Sometimes I even get a little bit bummed when I think about all the things I haven’t yet accomplished or learned.
 
And then, I think back to the woman I was April 23, just one year ago. That woman was SO terrified. She did not even know WHAT she was going to sell. She could not have told you the difference between a LLC and an S-Corp. She could not imagine even whispering her dream to loved ones, let alone announcing it over a loudspeaker (a.k.a. Facebook) to the whole world. And the thought of actually selling anything to anybody...well that just seemed downright impossible.
 
When I think back to where I was one year ago today, I can’t help but pat myself on the back and feel immensely proud! Three hundred and sixty-five days. That was it.
 
I don’t tell you this to brag or boast. Believe me, by most definitions of the word “success”, my business would not qualify as one. So I don’t exactly have a lot of room to brag. But regardless of these traditional definitions, I’m proud of myself. And I want to share that with you because you need to know that AMAZING things happen when you take a chance on yourself and just go for it!
 
So in the spirit of reflection, I thought it would be fun to recount 10 amazing things that have happened to me since opening this business You ready?

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This year:

  1. I sold a pillow.
  2. I sold another pillow…this time to someone I didn’t know!
  3. Someone (actually...a few someones) wrote to me and told me that I inspired them to pursue their own dream.
  4. I learned about 1,047 new things.
  5. I have made some new and dear friends that I would not have met without starting Souky Souky.
  6. My kids learned what Souky Souky is and they see me actively pursuing my dream.
  7. I made some pretty big business mistakes – and not only survived them– but was forgiven and shown compassion.
  8. My pillows were featured in a magazine.
  9. A perfect stranger asked me if they could put my pillows in their shop.
  10. I started to genuinely believe that I can do whatever I put my mind to.

Looking back at this list is such a source of motivation for me. It only took 365 days to do all that? Just imagine what can happen in 365 more! I can't wait to find out!

So...friends...if you are on the fence...if you find yourself making excuses...if you find yourself talking yourself out of trying...I want you to think about your list 365 days from now. Better yet..write it down. What could your life look like? What could you gain? What could you learn? What could you achieve....if you just TRIED?

I'm telling you....all you have to do is start.

    My 'Why'

    BusinessEllen Dittmar

    I have been doing a bit of business soul-searching lately. And while this soul-searching looks a lot like drinking coffee and staring off into space, there is A LOT going on in my mind, I promise! In these highly-caffeinated, dazed sessions, I have been mostly pondering my 'why'. Why do I pour countless hours of my time, energy and money into this little shop every week?

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    I never went to business school, but I assume that for many entrepreneurs their ‘why’ comes down to making money. I mean…that is sort of the point of doing business, right? I will be perfectly honest; I would love that too! But (BIG but) making money is NOT my 'why'. Making money is more like my 'how'.

    When I really thought about core reason I am doing what I am doing, I realized something. Admittedly, this “something” sounds pretty cheesy but, I promise therein lies a profound truth.

    By starting my business I realized that I am simply trying to make the world a better place.

    I know what you are thinking...."Decorative throw pillows? That is how you are making the world a better place? Ummmm...okay....psycho. Glaciers are melting and people are starving but...yeah...throw pillows. So important."

    I know, I know...in the grand scheme of things, selling decorative throw pillows doesn't sound like much, but hear me out.

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    1. Happiness breeds happiness.

    I believe that making the world better starts with each and every one of us. Our tiny and enormous actions are the sum of this world. We, literally, make up the world that we live in…so what we do in this world, matters tremendously. Putting energy into something that you truly love, fuels you. It gives you a sense of purpose. When people are filled with purpose, they contribute, they share, they love, they help…they are happier. And, so too are the people around them. Imagine a world where we were all doing something that we truly loved. I want to live in that world. Doing what I love makes me happy…and that, my friends, has REAL ripple effects.  

    2. We care about the product AND the process.

    One of our main goals is to offer beautiful and carefully crafted products to our customers. However, an equally important goal is to ensure that these items are produced in a way that actually benefits the world. We do our best to source materials and fabrics from vendors that support fair-trade and have their own mission to give back. We try to ensure that the people we partner with earn a living wage and so do their employees. We invest a portion of the money we earn to KIVA grants and loans so that others less fortunate can also find and follow their dreams (read more about that here). And while we aren’t there yet, we are also striving to better serve the environment (No more plastic bags...hooray!). The point is, from start to finish, we want this business to serve the world. We want other people to benefit because Souky Souky exists.

    3. We get to share all this goodness with you.

    We like to think that Souky Souky’s existence also benefits you all (our wonderful customers)! We hope your home is now filled with beautiful, one-of-a-kind items that make you smile when you walk in the door. We hope you find it easier to find home goods that you just absolutely LOVE! We hope our products add a little extra quirk and color to your life. We hope you enjoy having the opportunity to support small businesses. We hope we have provided you with a viable alternative to shopping at the big box stores that we all know and love (but sometimes need a break from). We hope that you enjoy watching the process of business-building and that you can learn from our successes and many mistakes. And maybe most importantly, we hope that by starting this business we have inspired even just one of you to say, “f#$* it”…and chase down that dream.

    So there you have it. My ‘why’. And because it is a bit of a mouthful to say all that when someone asks me why I do what I do, I think I will just say: I’m spreading goodness.

    Boom.