Sometimes, it turns out that being “in between things” is actually the best place to be. Darcy Allan of Tea With Gladys knew that she didn’t want to go back to working for someone else when she found herself without a job, so she decided to forge a new path, one that gave her the creativity and flexibility she had been looking for. Today Darcy shares a bit about the evolution of her online-to-in-person business and the many helpful bits of information she learned in the process. -Stephanie
Read the full interview after the jump…
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I had been out of school for almost two years, was in between jobs and the thought of tweaking and perfecting my resume once again fired up a feeling of absolute dread. Iʼve always had a trillion ideas running through my mind of what I wanted to do, what I wanted to accomplish, what I wanted to create. Working under someone elseʼs umbrella of creativity and control once again did not appeal to me in the least. I was tired of following others’ paths. It was time for me to show the world a peek into that trillion-thought mind, and it was the perfect time for me to share.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business should be?
While I officially opened my doors in February 2013, Tea With Gladys first came to be in 2007 while I was a student with an affinity for vintage clothing and thrifting. I would buy secondhand, vintage threads and re-sell them online. I named it after my grandmother, Gladys, and spent years sending one-of-a-kind pieces around the world. However, I always wanted my small online presence to become bigger, better and exist outside of the Internet. Fast forward to October 2013 when I finally knew I wanted to follow the entrepreneurial path – I just knew. Without any hesitation, I knew it was time for Tea With Gladys to make its new, revamped way into the world! I made a list of everything I love to do. I love art. I love clothing. I love working with children. I love teaching. I love vintage. I love selling adorable things like polka dot pens and crochet kittens. Instead of picking and choosing, I decided to incorporate everything I love to do into the business, so I know I will always love what I do. A career stew if you will.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
I was, and still am, so grateful to have grown up in an entrepreneurial household. My dad has owned and managed his own successful accounting business for 30 years now. Iʼve seen the highs and lows and the ins and outs of owning your own business. My father has instilled so much wisdom and has been such a huge support! He was the first person I went to when I had made the decision to go it alone. There was one thing he said in the beginning that I took to heart. There will always be people out there that will want to take advantage of you, that will impose their thoughts and ideals on you, that will tell you that youʼre doing it wrong – forget them. Open your ears to the positive connections and close them tightly to the ones that just donʼt feel right.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
The unknown. The thought of not going to the bank every two weeks and cashing that cheque I was so used to. Would people love it as much as I do? What would be their response? I think in the first two months I spent setting up and buying supplies I was a bundle of nerves all day, every day. I barely slept. I was SO NERVOUS. But SO EXCITED! It was like my stomach was auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance. Constantly tap dancing the days away. It really hits you, that this is all on you. I can make it, or I can not. You have to make a lot of sacrifices (goodbye, social life!), but again, I was about to embark on this huge career move that I LOVED!
Can you name the biggest lesson youʼve learned in running a business?
To be honest, Iʼm still learning this lesson. I have always been somewhat of a doormat. Too nice. Too willing to bend. Too sensitive. Too emotional. Tweaking these characteristics has been a work in progress. Iʼm not saying I want to be a mean, hard, cold person, but Iʼve always wanted to build up a bit of a thicker skin, to be able to stand up for myself when needed. Throughout the last two years, I can honestly say that owning my own business has helped me with this. Again this goes back to my fatherʼs advice about staying true to yourself and not letting the negative influences of others affect your path. For once, Iʼm learning how influential and positive MY voice can be.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
There were definitely times when I spent money that I regretted, or had moments during slower months that scared me, however, I donʼt like to think of any of my moments as failures. They are learning moments. To me, even if my entire business closed tomorrow, I still wouldnʼt see it as a failure. Iʼd take all the positives Iʼve had, bundle them up nicely with a bow and move on to my next endeavor. (Although one time, during summer camp we tried to make handmade paper. But we didnʼt have the proper screens to really filter out the water. The campers basically went home with these dry, crusty, grey looking disk things. Paper fail.)
What has been the biggest sacrifice in your business experiences?
I think everyone that starts their own business should get a t-shirt that reads “Sacrifice.” Because other than work, that is what you do. For me, my social life took a huge dive. Weekend? What is a weekend? Owning your own business is a 24/7 job. Even in the evening as I sit in my PJs and vintage granny robe, trying to catch up on the newest episode of The Mindy Project, my mind is still “on the job.” Iʼve since taken up crocheting + knitting to help disengage when my brain needs a rest. I had plans of buying my first home with my boyfriend of six years, however those plans were halted after my savings went into the business. That was huge for me. But this is the path I chose and Iʼm okay with that!
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
I can still remember some time last year, one of my illustration students came to me on the last day of class with a card and some flowers as a thank you. I later received an email from her mother thanking me for being such a positive role model and amazing teacher and friend for her daughter. Those words: Role Model. How amazing is that? To know you have made such an incredible impact on someone so young, brims my heart with joy. Iʼve had a few other instances like that and every time, my eyes well up, my heart is full and it just means SO much to me. To know that these young girls will carry all Iʼve taught with them as they grow into lovely young women, that is more than I could ever ask for. That is success to me.
What business book/resources ( if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
Iʼm not much of a business book gal, ( I still remember the Christmas my Dad had to give me the short version of Who Moved my Cheese because I couldnʼt get through the first few pages) and have just spent the last few years, absorbing information visually and continuing to be inspired by everything around me. Stay connected with not just creative people, but also people who have strengths in other fields as well.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
– Make sure you love what you are doing. There is nothing easier to do, even when times are crazy and busy, than to do what you love and believe in. If it holds a special place in your heart, who cares if you have to work 12 hours straight?
– Do you have a good support system? There is only so much you can do on your own. Whether this is financial, emotional, or physical support, you need to have that pat on the back at some point.
– Be unique, be original, be a leader! Wether you are about to embark online or in a physical location, make sure you do research and check out your competition, BUT stay true to YOU! If you canʼt see yourself growing with the business, and the business growing with you, then perhaps itʼs not the right fit.