The Accidental Entrepreneurs

If you’ve been paying attention to our social media the last few days, you know that we had the opportunity to speak for the Wichita Independent Business Association (WIBA) Wichita Women’s Leadership Alliance luncheon on November 7th. We love WIBA and are lucky to be able to attend the WWLA event every month, but this time we were asked to fill in for a last-minute cancellation. Thank goodness we were able to just talk about ourselves and our entrepreneurial journey!

Our topic was all about going from corporate to owning your own business, something both Chrissy and I have a lot of experience with. Though we both find it a bit funny because we would never say either of us in our careers set out to own our own business until we met and things just kind of fell into place. But anyway, since it was a women’s only luncheon we thought we would offer a bit of a recap of what we talked about and the top 3 tips we have for anyone else considering following in our footsteps with their own side hustle.

Our Career Stories

We won’t give you the whole long spiel, but both Chrissy and I started by talking about our individual stories. We know that everyone will have their own version of how life throws you (or pushes you on a certain path), but we also know that our stories might strike a chord with some of you in your own journeys.

Chrissy

Chrissy will tell you all day long that she wanted to be a lawyer most of her life. A bit of a strange childhood dream, she entered college to get her degree in political science and be pre-law while playing volleyball for Emporia State. A back injury and some other personal upheaval meant she came back to Wichita to finish up her degree, learning from a professor that political science might just be a worthless degree (he used the example of a friend with a doctorate in Political Science now working as an optometrist). Having done some graphic design in high school, Chrissy decided to enter WSU’s exclusive design program and double major.

While she was in her junior year, she began working for KC Creative, which then became B2H Marketing. A print and media advertising agency, she uses the amazing things she learned there for our clients now, but a couple years after graduation was approached by a recruiter to work for a digital agency. Though she had no digital experience, she was ready to take the leap and expand her knowledgebase. She made the switch there in 2014.

Marisa

I on the other hand always wanted to be a novelist. Making up stories since before I could write was my thing. But then I watched my older brother do very well, as a teenager, working as a software and web developer. I decided that would be fun to learn, too, and spent most of high school learning all I could about front-end development. My childhood dreams still strong, I entered BYU as an English major, but paid the bills with my self-taught developing skills. After my sophomore year, I went on a study abroad to Scotland where I fell in love with the country and its culture and literature. After that, I was determined to get my PhD and enter academia.

Towards the end of my Master’s course in Stirling, Scotland, I met my now-husband. And life took a detour from there. We spent some time apart with me in the States and him in the UK, and I worked for a company doing copy writing and social media management, among other things. After we married and I moved back to Scotland, I worked for the Scottish Government publisher, back doing full-time web development. After a couple of years in Scotland, we decided to move back to the States. That’s when I applied to the same digital agency that had just hired Chrissy.

Meet-Cute

Like a classic rom-com, when Chrissy and I first met at the digital agency, we weren’t the fondest of each other. Differing visions of websites and how they should work/look meant that we butted heads a few times. However, our love of Chipotle and just general nice-ness meant that defrosted pretty quickly. After a few months of working together, we found we were using each other’s skillsets for freelance and decided to just make it easier and partner. And thus Hexcode was born.

Sure, there’s a lot of stuff that went on between everything, but this is the short version, remember? Fast forward a few months to last fall when Chrissy’s old boss from B2H Marketing approached us about buying her client list. We completed the purchase last October and began learning all about our new clients (though many Chrissy was still very familiar with), what their needs were, and making sure we provided the same level of client care that they had been used to. We left our full-time positions at the old digital agency several months later in May and haven’t looked back since!

Tips for Striking it Out on Your Own

Now that we’ve gotten through the boring stories, you want to hear about taking that side hustle and making it full-time? Look, it’s scary, no doubt about it. But during our talk yesterday we were also able to touch on some of the things that we did to prepare (though is it ever really enough) and how we got ready to take the leap.

1. Save, save, save.

Yes, this seems simple enough, but whatever you need to do, make sure you’re financially ready (ish). Whether you have a certain number in mind that you have saved before you take the leap, an investor, or a partner with the cash, running your own business takes capital and you might not get paid for awhile. Sure, creatives are lucky that we can work from home and have little overhead, but not all clients pay on time and you have to get out there and make your own sales, too. Keep that all in mind in whatever business you open and have a safety net.

2. Get a lawyer, accountant, and insurance agent

This is the “boring” tip, but it’s really important. No matter if you have a partner or not, you need a lawyer to help you form your company and get an operating agreement in place. Think through the stuff that happens if you’re seriously injured, you die (yes, none of us live forever), your partnership hits a rough patch, or you want to sell.

Have an accountant to help you make sure you’re paying all the right taxes, paying yourself correctly, and to make sure your books are in order. Interview a few and make sure you choose one you trust (if you’re not lucky to have 2 in the family as Chrissy and I are).

And you might not think about this one, but insurance is important. Life insurance when you run your own company is vital, simply because what happens to your family, your company, and any business partners if the worst happens? Plus you’ll likely need insurance on whatever office space you have. Find someone who specializes in commercial and get a few quotes and have them give you a run-down on what else your specific company might need.

3. Build the right relationships

This tip is a bit more fun (depending on your personality). Go out and meet people in your local business community. Whether you build those relationships with former co-workers or out and about at networking events, they can be vital to helping your business grow. Get your friends and family to support you by liking and sharing your social media, talking about your company when appropriate, and just generally being for you on those awful days (because they will exist). Even in the age of online relationships, a lot of business is still who you know, so take time to get involved with those local organizations like your chamber of commerce, BNI chapter, and others to give a better idea of what you’re all about and start bringing in those referrals!

TL;DR : Take the Leap

This has certainly been our longest post to date, but we were so glad to be able to present the other day and we really wanted to be able to share that with all of you! What our speech basically boiled down to was two things – 1. You can’t always plan out your life, and 2. Just take the leap. Plan as best as you’re able, do the market research, and all the other things you should, but eventually you do just have to jump and trust in that unknown.

Posted in Hexcode News by Marisa VanSkiver on November 9, 2017.

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