Imagine you’ve got a side hustle selling greeting cards and gifts. It’s going well, so you quit your job and go all in. Then, within a month, a global pandemic strikes and all the events you’d signed up to have been cancelled. That’s what happened to SaVonne Anderson from New Jersey-based Aya Paper Co in early 2020.
Despite the major curveball, Aya’s had a year that many small businesses dream of – going from zero to 40+ stockists in 12 months, Nordstrom, Kohl’s and Macy’s included. Here are the skills she’s had to master.
‘When we were late [with orders], we had to make calls to say, “We're still shipping it, but it's gonna be a little bit delayed.” I've realised that communicating is so important, especially when you're working with big brands. Because I think they know what they're getting into – they're working with a young brand. They know we haven't done this before; they know that we have a small [office] space. So there's some flexibility. And we just kinda played that up. Every time it was like, “We're small, we're figuring it out!”’
‘Having a team has helped me to be better with stress. Because when you're leading, the people who follow you, they can't trust a stressed leader. You have to put on a brave face and look like you know what you're doing and come up with solutions and not be stressed by whether it's the right decision or not. I think I learnt so much in that time of getting those first big orders of how to get through it. It can be stressful, but it doesn't need to stress me out all day and night.‘
Dealing with speedy growth
‘[Fast growth] requires constant improvement and re-evaluation. You have to constantly be responsive. When the growth is that fast, you have to evaluate and make changes super quickly… There's no rule book for knowing when to make these changes. My brain never turns off from thinking about the small changes we can make to help us grow faster, increase our profit margin and make more impact.’
‘I’ve had to develop boundaries. I was way more stressed when I was working longer hours and all through the weekend, and not giving myself the grace to have a break. One of the best things I did was hire a project manager at the end of last year. After all that season, I was like, “I'm not doing this again.” And it's been so much better. I can step away from email for some time. I'm taking my first vacation next month. So I think that it's so important to figure out.’
This article was first published in the Courier Weekly newsletter. For more insights, analysis and inspiration, sign up here.