Welcome to the third installment of our blog series — Starting Small: Adventures of Starting a Small Business. Here, we’ll be sharing stories and lessons we learn on our journey as full-time small business owners.
This week’s topic is “learn. grow. repeat.” As small business owners, it's important to us that we don't become stagnant. We want to continue to better our business, to evolve. But, as the business owner, we're now the ones at the top. Which means, there's no one telling us to keep learning. It's up to us to take the initiative to try new things and grow our skill sets. For us, we've found that the best way to learn and grow is by trying new things. We'll pick a project or come up with an idea for a new product ... and just go for it. Of course, that's with the understanding we may not get it right the first time around. And that's okay — that's where the "repeat" step comes into play.
We have come a LONG way from our first attempts at making wood art. When we first started out, we didn't even own a saw. We used to load up my car's trunk with wood planks and drive it over to our parents' house, where our dad would help us cut everything down to manageable pieces with his saw. Then, we'd haul it all back to our house and take turns sanding every piece with a hand-held orbital sander. Do you know how long that takes? You sand for too long and your hand becomes numb from the steady vibration. But at the time, it was all we had. We also hadn't yet evolved to having standard sizes, so each piece was a ... different ... size (*cringes slightly with shame).
Eventually, we bought our own miter saw and learned from our brother about the existence of benchtop belt sanders. Turns out, benchtop sanders are way more powerful and have a much higher sanding capacity than handheld sanders. They also help provide better consistency across projects. Adding those two simple tools into our repertoire has helped us not only improve the quality of our products, but also the speed by which we are able to create them.
Enter our newest product: wood bud vases.
To make these vases, I (Lindsey) have to drill 1" diameter holes into blocks of 4" x 4" wood, about 2.5" deep. I started out by using the only tool we had on hand: our handheld power drill paired with a forstner drill bit. While that worked okay for the first few batches, it was taking way too long to drill each hole. I was also finding it difficult to make them even and consistent. Plus, my arm started to feel like it was going to fall off after drilling about 4-5 holes. While discussing the new vases with our friend Patrick, who happens to be a very talented woodworker (Spicer Brothers Woodworking), he encouraged us to look into using a drill press. He said it would make the whole process easier and faster.
The only problem? We didn't own a drill press. Nor had we ever used one before. We didn't feel comfortable running out and buying one when we had no knowledge of the product. Luckily, our friend Patrick owned one and offered to teach us how to use his. So, we prepped a few vase blocks and took a little field trip over to Patrick's woodshop.
He explained all the different parts of the machinery and demonstrated it on one of our blocks. I was legit amazed at how quickly and smoothly it worked.
I'm basically a pro now. Though, I'm incredibly thankful to Patrick for taking the time to lend us his expertise and teach us a new skill. Yes, I'm sure we could have learned about it on YouTube. But sometimes, learning how to use power tools via YouTube videos can be slightly intimidating ... especially when it comes to larger machinery that has the power to cause legit damage to your body if not used properly.
So, THANK YOU, Patrick! We learned a new skill that's going to help us grow our business. Switching from the power drill to the drill press is going to make producing our vases SO MUCH EASIER. Work smarter, not harder, right?
As a videographer and photographer, I (Kristen) am in a career where the technology I use to do my job changes by the day. It's impossible to always own the latest and greatest video and photo equipment. Unless you're a big shot and have access to an unlimited budget ... which I am guessing is probably less than 5% of people in this field. Luckily, we have an incredible resource here in Memphis that I have used for years. It allows me to try equipment before I buy it, as well as rent specialty equipment I don't need for everyday use, but could be beneficial for a specific project. So, what is that resource? Lensrentals, which happens to be the largest online rental provider for photography, videography and lighting equipment and accessories in the United States. And they are headquartered in our city: Memphis, Tennessee. Meaning, I can drive 15 minutes to pick up pretty much anything I ever need for a shoot — for the fraction of the cost of purchasing it. It's a resource I want to scream about from the rooftops so everyone knows about it. We even got my dad a gift card for his last birthday, so he can get back into photography!
Different shoots call for different lenses, cameras and support systems. Below are a few examples of times I rented equipment to grow my skill set and help better capture a shot for a specific project.
Last fall, I went on my first photography adventure to Arkansas's Big River Trail to capture sunrise photos of the Memphis skyline. For the shoot, I rented the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens so I could capture extreme close up shots of the "M" bridge. One of my favorite shots I've ever taken of the bridge came from that day's shoot. The lens was extremely bulky. So, I'll definitely need more stabilization for it next time I rent it. Regardless, it was a great experience getting to try it out!
One of my new obsessions in the world of videography is the DJI Ronin Gimbal stabilizer. This is by no means a new product, but it is new to me! While the gimbal is definitely a tool that requires practice, I feel myself getting better each time I use it. I've also learned I need stronger biceps to better hold the device. So, I guess I'll be hitting that gym a little harder. Recently, I used the gimbal to film a ton of footage for ARCHd that we'll be using across several videos about the making of our handmade home decor.
UPDATE: Here is one of the finished videos.
This lens was a WOW moment for me. I've never had to photograph small subjects at very close distances ... until I booked a product photography shoot for a jeweler. This lens made ALL the difference in capturing all the jewelry's fine details. I learned during this shoot that while I don't have a regular use for this lens, it was awesome to try out. By renting it through LensRentals, it was also a much smaller investment for that one specific shoot.
This is not a paid sponsorship for LensRentals. I just REALLY love this place. It's been an invaluable resource for me to learn new equipment to expand my photography/videography skills. And, BONUS, if you don't happen to live in Memphis, they ship!
TAKEAWAY: Learn. Grow. Repeat.
Don't be afraid to master new skills. Because in the process, you'll grow by learning what does and does not work for you and your business. Learn. Grow. Repeat.
Lindsey & Kristen