I only started my blog, Hands and Hustle, last year, but blogging has already helped me find and hone my voice. It’s also led to friendships and new connections, has been immensely rewarding and, most importantly, has helped me fine-tune what I want to do and how I want to do it. And blogging is exactly what helped Vancouver-born Bre discover and develop Scout & Catalogue (which, yes, is spelled with a “ue” if you’re a Canuck like Bre and me!). What started as a blog chronicling her experience living in Mexico has turned into a successful accessory brand inspired and influenced by Mexico’s Bohemian beach culture. Today Bre chats with us about borrowing from the best, brand beliefs, the importance of support and what fuels her. —Sabrina
Why did you decide to start your own business?
Six years ago I moved from my hometown of Vancouver to Mexico, and while I was there I began a blog to share my experiences with friends and family. I called the blog Scout & Catalogue as I was scouting a new culture and cataloging it online. As I explored Mexico, I was inspired by their artisan culture and began learning about textile dyeing. My blog readers were so interested in this new passion that it was a natural step to develop an accessories line, and Scout & Catalogue the brand was born.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
S&C had such an organic start that it was really about making the best of my limitations while living in a tiny Mexican casita with a view of the Pacific Ocean. I had a borrowed sewing machine, a limited selection of fabrics to work with and a fairly flawed postal system at my disposal. All of my original business and brand decisions stemmed from these ingredients.
After two years in Mexico I relocated to Toronto and this move took S&C from a hobby to a business. I used this time to experiment with what I felt S&C could be in a more longterm context. As well, I invested in better equipment and brought in more help to allow the brand to grow.
The core values of my business have not changed over the years – I am passionate about textile dyeing, classic designs that stand the test of time and quality products that are manufactured responsibly. These beliefs have always defined my work and will continue to do so.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
Don’t try to do everything yourself. I am guilty of resisting this advice over and over, but every time I bring on someone to help grow S&C I am so grateful. Having support in areas that are not natural strengths gives you time to push in the areas in which you shine.
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
I think being comfortable with “not knowing” is my greatest challenge. Before I started S&C I worked in a traditional office that provided a certain amount of stability in my life. I still have wistful dreams of living in that world of certainty, none of which I experience when I am running my own show. But in exchange for certainty, I get to live the life of what I like to think of as a “creative pioneer” – someone who is moving towards my own dreams, and where all of my successes feel sweeter and more satisfying than any work I have done for another.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
I think building a practice of celebrating your successes is an important lesson. In all honesty, it’s a lesson I am still learning and there still never seems to be enough time or resources to meet my business expectations. For example, I have moved three times in five years and each move has both set S&C back and brought it forward in different ways. Building the habit of recognizing that forward momentum instead of just focusing on my limitations keeps me more focused and positive about what I can create in the future.
Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?
At the end of 2013 I received my annual fiscal information and it was really difficult to digest. I had worked so many hours over that year and pushed my business in so many ways and yet none of that effort was reflected in my revenue. It felt really disheartening. It was clear that crafting all of my goods by myself was creating an inefficient production bottleneck and in 2014 I addressed the issue by moving my production to a small Portland-based factory. Now, not only can I meet the sales interest in my line, but my goods are still manufactured in a production channel I believe in and the quality is better than ever. In facing the reality of those numbers I was forced to embrace systems that have allowed S&C to grow in a smarter, more sustainable way, and for that I am very grateful.
What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?
I would say my greatest sacrifice has been financial. Before I ran my own business I had a comfortable salary that arrived in my bank account every two weeks. It was awesome. There is a possibility that S&C will carry me financially higher than my corporate life, but it is not a guarantee and the past five years have been fueled by passion, not personal gain.
Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?
I think still being in business after five years is my biggest success.
What business books/resources (if any) would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?
I really liked the book The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. The author, Michael Gerber, talks frankly about the challenges in business, which I really related to, and offers tangible solutions to running your business smarter instead of harder.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
Work for someone else first. Whatever you think you might be interested in, go find someone who is already doing it and soak up everything they can teach you. I am forever grateful I worked in retail before I set off on my own – I was able to learn the ins and outs of the fashion industry and build a valuable network, all on someone else’s dime.
Write a business plan. If you don’t have the skills to write your own plan, hire someone who does. Having a road map before you start your journey will make your life happier and your business more likely to succeed.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Running a small business is equal parts exciting and terrifying and you never know what new opportunity or challenge is just around the corner.
[Has your blog sparked your business? We’d love to hear about it!]