Photo by Lisa Warninger
Today’s Biz Ladies Profile comes to us from Jocelyn Rahm of Beam & Anchor. Jocelyn and her husband (and business partner) initially followed career paths that did not allow for the creative expression they longed for. So after some planning and strategizing, they finally decided to take the leap into business owning and open up their own creative shop for artisans and creative designers to flourish alongside them. Today, Jocelyn shares a bit about their career transition and journey in opening up Beam & Anchor in Portland, OR. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us today, Jocelyn! —Stephanie
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
My husband and I are both closet creatives who had chosen career paths that did not utilize that skillset. Robert had been a therapist for the better part of decade and I had been an educator and then veered off into corporate consulting. We were both feeling really static in our work and wanted to shake things up and see if we could create something that would fulfill us in a deeper way. We went through a process of reimagining our work life and Beam & Anchor was the byproduct. Robert had a sabbatical from work and wrote the business plan. What followed was a mixture of due diligence, tons of hard work, things lining up at the right time and a ton of support from our community.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
Robert is the one that held the vision for Beam & Anchor. He saw the potential for a retail space that converged a myriad of design sensibilities that was connected to a community where there was a synergistic relationship between the making and the selling. Because we had both done a lot of community based work and believed in the power of building collaborative partnerships within the context of business, it felt important to have community as a central part of the vision. My role creatively has been to help Robert refine the vision and integrate in the feminine. We both play our parts operationally but I oversee more of that part of the business. We are in an ongoing process of defining the business as we grow, and it continues to define itself independent of our own vision and will, which is very interesting to watch unfold.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
A friend of ours encouraged us to “burn the boat” which essentially means to not give oneself the option of turning back. We determined that if we didn’t give ourselves the option to fail then failure wasn’t a conceivable outcome. It was largely psychological but it was super helpful especially when things got dicey. We definitely hit some points when it would have been easier to give into the challenges that were presenting themselves but the “burn the boat” mentality gave us the courage and tenacity to stick with it no matter what. It forced us to get creative and think out of the box when waving the white flag felt like the easier thing to do.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
I think the absolute hardest part of starting Beam & Anchor was believing in our vision and really holding that vision in our hearts even in the face of criticism and evidence indicating that our idea was too far-fetched. We had zero retail experience, we were trying to accomplish something that really hadn’t been done (there are not a lot of models out there to reference) and we didn’t have a ton of cash as leverage. Not giving into the worried looks on our friends’ and families’ faces and deflecting the skeptical comments was really challenging. It required a level of perseverance and faith that I had never had to harness before. When my faith faltered (which it did more than Robert’s) I had to rely on his and vice versa.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
Oh man, it’s hard to pick just one. A big lesson I’ve learned is that bringing into being any major creative endeavor involves an element of chaos and that it’s important to be in right relations with things being chaotic and messy. Sometimes it takes a long time for an idea to integrate and fully emerge. This has applied to almost every aspect of creating Beam & Anchor from originating the concept to creating our own products to building out our webshop. I have discovered that it requires patience in order to allow an idea to cook for as long as it needs to before it can become real and this process cannot be forced. I’m an abstract painter and my painting process is a microcosm for this particular lesson. Sometimes it takes a long time for a painting to resolve itself. I just keep painting and sometimes it gets really chaotic before there is any semblance of order or aesthetic congruence. I think there’s something co-creative that happens when we are partaking in the creative process. We need to show up and assert our will but we also have to bend and yield to what shows up along the way. This is especially significant when working creatively with others.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
We have made more mistakes than I can count! It’s cliché but it is always the mistakes that we learn the most from. I can trace almost all of our failures back to not trusting our gut or original instincts. We have failed when we have made decisions because we think it’s the practical (or in some cases, the path of least resistance) thing to do rather than what we feel is the right thing to do for us. I would say the biggest mistake we have made thus far was partnering early on (even before B&A existed) with someone that on a gut level we didn’t trust. This person ended up costing us a lot of time, money and anguish that would have been avoided had we listened to that internal voice. We have learned to always do a gut check on any decision we make and to use each other as checks and balances. It’s not fool proof but it helps tremendously.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
I would say our greatest success so far has been a combination of leveraging our community and surrounding ourselves with amazing people in which we’ve created mutually beneficial relationships and taking a risk by trying something totally different and continuing to push the envelope of what’s possible – thereby differentiating ourselves in the marketplace.
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
Here are a few books that have certainly influenced our path:
The E Myth Revisited – Michael Gerber
The Hero with a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell
The Speed of Trust – Stephen Covey
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
The Four Desires – Rod Stryker
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
1. Does the passion I have for this idea burn strong enough that it will provide me with the conviction I’ll need to persevere through all the obstacles that show up along the way?
2. Is there legitimate demand for my product or service? What’s the process I’m going to use with which to find out? Who’s my market? Why are they going to come to me vs. the other guy? What’s my edge?
3. Is who I am (my personality and makeup) going to align with what’s needed to be a successful business owner? Am I truly entrepreneurly minded?