Starting – let alone running – your own business is no easy feat. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and patience. But it can also be a rewarding and fulfilling venture.
If you’re curious about what it takes to start and maintain a small business, illustrious founder and CEO of Sugar Wood, Chana Wood, is here to offer a candid look into the world of business ownership.
Q: What motivated you to start a small business?
A: Starting a small business was truly something that came about by happenstance.
Two major things happened at once in our family that propelled us into business ownership. Jon was laid off from his job at the apartment complex where we lived and he worked. We had 14 days to move out of our home.
While we were looking for extra money at that time, I decided to sell some of my grandma's recipes in a big beautiful treat box. Because of that, people asked us to bake more and more and we started to realize we had a small business on our hands.
We also wanted the freedom to know that no one could take away our destiny again the way they had robbed us of Jon's job. We wanted to challenge ourselves by using our innovative talents to see how far we could take this business idea. It became a daunting – but exciting – challenge to us.
Q: What do you like most about owning and running your own business?
A: What I like most about owning and running a small business are the daily challenges that force me to tap into my creativity. I love setting my own hours, creating products, and challenging myself to market them well.
I also love the ability to define what success is rather than stack myself up against coworkers to outperform. There’s no one to dictate how I build my brand; therefore, I'm forced to push myself.
I also love networking with other business owners and asking them for wisdom and insight on their brands so we can compare notes. I’ve found myself enjoying teaching other new business owners some of the tips and tricks I've learned over 9 years.
Q: What has been the most difficult part of being a business owner?
A: The most difficult part of owning a small business has been the inability to "turn it off". It’s a 24/7 daily grind, and finding the ability to cut that off and enjoy home life can be hard. I have missed holidays, events, and many special moments because I wasn't able to take a week of vacation like I would have been able to in another job.
It can also be isolating. When you run a business, you have to learn to reach out to others to network – a built-in community isn't at your fingertips, so it can be lonely at times.
Challenges with supply chains and other issues can be exhausting as well. But in the end, like having children, you learn to take the good with the bad.
Q: What have you learned about being a business owner in the years since starting Sugar Wood?
A: I've learned so much in the years since starting Sugar Wood.
One of my biggest lessons is "consistency is key". In the beginning, my product photos weren’t great, my social media marketing was lame, and my packaging was subpar. BUT my product was the exact same as it is today. What I've learned is that you can gloss up and glamour your packaging photos and marketing, but if your flagship product isn't incredible, none of that will matter. You can learn how to market your product, but unless you have to have a concrete product to build upon, your brand won't last.
I've also learned the glory of good help. If you want to grow your brand, you have to hire help to achieve your goals. As an entrepreneur, you want to control and hold onto every part of your business, but I've realized that it's impossible to do that if you want to expand and ensure your brand reaches the levels you are setting your goals for.
Q: What would you say Sugar Wood’s greatest success has been so far?
A: I believe we've had many successes at Sugar Wood and it truly just depends on the day which one I feel is the "greatest". On a personal level, I am proud of the fact that we've sustained a profitable business over 9 years and have grown each year. Soon, my husband will be leaving his full-time job to join our business as a full-time owner and that’s a dream we have had for years.
I am also proud of the fact that our daughters have watched us build this business from day one. They have helped us to achieve so much; they’ve seen us on our bad days and celebrated with us on our good days. They have also had an up-close experience of what it takes to run a business, and hopefully they’ve gained some skills and knowledge from watching us.
If I'm going to add ONE more success, it would be that our brand made it on the FOX National News Holiday gift guide this year – it made our products to go viral!
Q: What advice would you share with someone looking to start their own small business?
A: I think the first thing I would tell someone who wanted to start a business is to make sure they have a flagship product. This has been a staple in successful businesses for ages. I can't speak to those who want to start a service-based businesses because my expertise is in products, but having one product you can become known for is key. All other products can stem from that.
I would also tell them to make sure they have a clear concept of realistic growth expectations. It took us at least 2 to 3 years before we saw steady success. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
You must also be very clear in your intentions for what you want out of your brand. In order to do that, a lot of internal work is needed to be able to harvest your own intuition for what you feel guided to do. It isn't anything that comes easily, and if you give up too soon or have unrealistic fantasies of what it will be, prepare to be disappointed.
Conversely, I'd also love to say to prepare for success as well. So many people plan for failure, but what I've learned is that succeeding too quickly can lead to panic and actually CAUSE failure. Having a plan for if/when your brand hits it big or goes viral can help.
Finally, I’d advise anyone considering starting their own business to dream big. Visualize what it will look like to have the business of your dreams. Getting there is like eating an elephant. One bite at a time.