Many entrepreneurs go into business with unrealistic expectations. They expect to make a profit immediately, be able to quit their jobs within months and work when it’s convenient. The reality of business ownership looks very different. Successful businesses require investment, hard work and sacrifice. Sarah Fitzgerald, owner of Fuzzy Loon Designs, knows a thing or two about that.
Sarah and her husband started Fuzzy Loon as a hobby but quickly saw its potential for so much more. Their hobby business quickly took off and grew beyond anything they imagined. They now balance their business with raising a family and working full time jobs.
When it comes to maintaining balance and the ins and outs of running a business, Sarah has more than a little insight for all of us. She learned some pretty important lessons while building Fuzzy Loon and has agreed to share her knowledge with us.
You can find out more about Fuzzy Loon on their website, Instagram and Facebook.
Tell us about yourself.
Fuzzy Loon Designs is a small Minnesota home based business my husband and I started out of a hobby. We do primarily UV and Sublimation printing with a little vinyl and direct to garment. We mainly print on tumblers as that is our niche but as we grow we are expanding into printing other personalized items.
In the last several months we started wholesaling to other small businesses and printing their logos on items for promotional purposes. We love the relationships we’ve built with all these small businesses and really like the direction we are going.
How did you get into your business?
Like I mentioned, it was originally a hobby. We actually started our business out of a necessity. The hobby was doing primarily garment decorating and a little bit of this and little bit of that. We soon realized how profitable it could be but also were scared that we weren’t “legit.” Our business took off extremely fast as we weren’t prepared and spent almost all of our time trying to get our business in order and figure out exactly what we were doing.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge still to this date is balancing everything. My husband and I both still work full-time outside the home. We have a 2 year old and 4 year old who don’t do got daycare. Our schedules overlap so that one of us is almost always home with them. We find that we put in our 40 hours of work, all of our other hours with the kids and then hope there is enough time to get the work for our business done. So far we’ve been managing pretty well, though often that means late nights once kids are sleeping and quick bursts of work during toddler nap time.
What do you wish you’d known when you started?
I wish I would have known more about running a legitimate business in general. The information you need to know about taxes, sales tax, accounting methods, trademarks, copyright, etc. It was learn as you go and learn from your mistakes. At first it was beyond overwhelming but soon we got a handle on it and it got so much easier.
If you could narrow your success down to one thing, what would it be?
Networking. I mean that in a broad aspect. Instagram, Facebook, women like you. When someone reaches out with an opportunity jump at it. Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself. Don’t think of people of competition but as resources and networks. I can’t tell you how many people (mainly woman) I’ve networked with who do almost the exact same thing as me. But when one of my machines break or I have a problem I know exactly who is willing to help. That goes both ways. The more we help each other the more we can successfully run our businesses.
Where do you see yourself in a year?
It’s so hard to say. We have profit goals for 2019 and we have goals of what we want in our personal life. We’ve toyed with the idea of one of us quitting our full-time jobs, or even moving to a bigger home so we can expand. We’re very fluid right now and the one thing we both agree on is we want to continue to grow our business but also start making more profit.
What are your top 3 tips for women starting a business?
- GET LEGIT. First register with your state and county as a business, file for EIN, Tax info etc. Find out what you need to do and become a BUSINESS.
- Prepare to investment in yourself. The first year we took a major loss growing the business. We thought it would bring in money but honestly it cost us A LOT the first year. But it is paying off as we are growing leaps and bounds now with little extra effort.
- Prepare for this to take over your life. Your business should be a passion, you’ll enjoy doing it and want to. Your plate is only so big, how are you going to fill it?
What is a typical day like for you?
Wake up at 5 am and get to my full-time job by 6 am. I get home around 2:45 and typically unwind, clean a bit, take care of kids and spend time with family. On super busy business days the kids play on their own (if they’re good) and I try and get work done or prep stuff for my husband (remember he’s at work when I’m home. Often when he gets home at 10:30 pm) I have a bunch of work prepped for him to do while I sleep.
If I can get some house work and such done I do so before the kids go to bed at 8. Once 8 pm hits the kids are in bed and I often stay up til 10:30-11 pm working on business stuff. If the kids are being good and playing by themselves I often let them play in our work area or on their own and get to work earlier.
We don’t watch much TV as we dedicate most our free time to Fuzzy Loon. We do take days off on the weekends to spend time together and often we spend Saturday nights renting a movie
What is your business motto or quote you live by?
I guess we don’t have a motto but the number one thing I try and do is give amazing customer service. We don’t want anyone walking away unhappy. That seems to be lost on a lot of businesses these days.
If you were starting your business over again, what would you do differently?
Gosh that’s a hard question. Besides researching more on how to start a legitimate business I don’t think anything. This has been so fun and the journey along the way has been exciting. We traveled to New Orleans from Minnesota this spring to look at new equipment. There are so many little things but were any of them the right choice? It’s hard to say.
But number one thing I would have done was registered my business the day I started selling things. Going back and backtracking for taxes was a nightmare.
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