The Failures That Led to My Best Business Idea


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The Failures That Led to My Best Business Idea

While I know that my experience won’t be the same as anyone else’s, I really do think there is value in knowing what someone else goes through. A lot of people aren’t willing to share the bad, too, which is SO unfortunate for new small business owners. When I first started out, I had such a hard time finding other people in my same shoes. They were either newer than I was or were so far along in their business that they’d already found the success I was desperately wanting.

So the question I’m touching on today is:

how was it for you just starting out?

I’m going to divide it into two parts (maybe more if I get super wordy) because it really was a unique start for me. Maybe not for some people, but for myself and my now husband? It was a total leap of faith.

Our business started back in October of 2012, but the idea for the business began in Summer 2012. Even before that, my self-employment journey started two years prior.

In 2010, I left a job that was no longer challenging me for a company I was absolutely convinced I wanted to work for. I had worked there as a temporary employee a few years prior, my father had worked there for over 20 years, and my husband also got a job there when I did, too. We actually went to on boarding the same day and life seemed perfect.

While it’s nothing against the company, the role was absolutely not right for me. It was a customer service role that I took too personally because of my nature and it led to many tears. I had high hopes of moving into their compliance department eventually as I was going to school for Environmental Management and this was my foot in the door. But six months later, I could’t take it anymore. I was still going to school, we were getting married in early 2011, and I was miserable.

So I quit.

I put in my two weeks notice, said I needed to focus on school, and walked away. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I was stepping out of the corporate world to do something that made me happy.

I started my old blog, After Nine To Five, right around this time to process how I was feeling and to keep me on track to figure out my dreams of being self-employed. I had been blogging well before then (Livejournal and Xanga, anyone?) so this wasn’t new territory for me, but it was something I needed to feel connected with the world. I felt insanely lost, but I was convinced I’d find my way somehow and I wanted to track that journey. 

Because I had a prior knowledge of blogging, I’d thought I’d give it a shot. I thought “maybe this is my path.”

So I tried the blog as full-time income, but I never reached my goals. I realized it was more personal than business for me and moved on.

Then I tried the blog with consulting and blog design as full-time income, but there was no connection for me there. I got frustrated and dreaded my work on a regular basis and just as it started making about a part-time income, decided to move on from this as well.

I kept the blog as a hobby, but decided I needed to expand beyond blogging.

So I moved on to Etsy and opened up a jewelry shop. I’m still not sure why I did to this day as accessories aren’t that big of a deal for me, but – while it paid some bills and it had potential to grow into something more significant, I realized that this was yet another thing I could cross off my list of jobs to try out.

Around this time, I also realized I would no longer be needing a degree in Environmental Management and as much as I was super interested in it, it was no longer going to serve me the way it was meant to. So I switched majors to Marketing, even though I swore I would never ever, EVER go into sales and marketing.

Next I tried a prints and decals shop. It was a good fit for me for the most part. It allowed me to get back to graphic designing (which is what I went to school for at a local community college right after high school) and kept me interested. But the market I was in was overly saturated and I found myself losing interest when I had to change what I was creating to keep up.

I was no where close to finding a full-time income and two years had gone by. My husband’s job was enough to barely support us, and the guilt had settled in. I’d stopped thinking of new businesses to move on to and started looking for corporate jobs again. I was sure that this was the end of my self-employment dream.

While I was looking elsewhere for employment, I told my husband that I wanted to start one more Etsy shop – but this time as a hobby. I wanted to start an eco-friendly bath and body product shop because I loved making those types of products and I needed something to keep me from being so down about my situation. I had no intention of creating a true business out of it – I just needed a hobby that would generate a bit of income while I found a “real job.”

This is already way longer than I intended it to be so I’ll leave off here. In the next part of the series, I’ll jump into how the Gnarly Whale started and eventually became a full-time job for us both!

If you have any questions you’d like answered in this series, leave them in the comments! Or if would like to connect with me beyond the blog, feel free to email me any questions or even your personal stories of being self-employed – I’d love to hear them!

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