by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 12th August, 2018
Traditional business ownership has been all about the money, creating and selling products or services that put profit over everything else, and this has had an impact on the environment, the consumer and the workers who are hired by these businesses. Now we are starting to see a rise in bohemian businesses, who shun the ways of large money-driven corporations and are instead focusing on providing good services and customer satisfaction. But how exactly do you start and run a bohemian business...?
So, what exactly is a bohemian business? The term will mean something different to everyone, but generally speaking a bohemian business is primarily an ethical business, run with the intention of providing a genuine service to the customer whilst also enriching the business owner's quality of life. As the owner of a bohemian business (or a business run by bohemians), you generally won't be making millions or jet setting off to remote islands or being featured on fortune 500. You may even run into money troubles or suffer rejection from your friends and family, but you will be running a business, working for yourself and working within a field that you are passionate about. Bohemian businesses are all about integrity, passion and ethics. No corruption or tax evasion and no jumping to fill holes in the market without thought. With a bohemian business you provide quality and you show that you care.
There are so many reasons that people start bohemian businesses, and normally it's a combination of the reasons discussed below. You'll know for yourself whether starting a business is right for you, which we'll discuss later on.
Probably one of the most commonly cited reasons that people set up and run their own bohemian businesses is to finally be able to work for themselves. Having your own business means that you are no longer working for or giving money to another person. Every hard hour of work you put in (hopefully) pays off and any profit you make comes back to you. Even if you don't make much money to begin with, you have the satisfaction of knowing that all of the money you do earn was earnt by you, doing something that you love to do. You get to decide your own work hours, your holiday and where you get to live.
Have you ever had an amazing idea and thought to yourself what an excellent business idea it would make, how many people you'd be able to help or how much fun it would be to run? Well, you may just have stumbled upon your reason to become a bohemian business owner. So many people have ideas to start their own business with grand plans for the amazing services they could bring to the market, but very few ever take it anywhere. Those who do however, generally become successful bohemian business owners because they know that they can provide a valuable and needed service or product to public.
Is there something you love to do, or drink, or eat, or make? Have you found a way to make it better, and would love to share this passion with the world? You've stumbled across your reason to start a bohemian business! Many people start a business because they notice a gap in the market, or they see that a particular product is doing well, but they have little to no interest whatsoever in the product/service itself and no passion for their business. Some of these businesses do very well of course, but a lot of them fail or leave the owner feeling trapped working in an industry that they never really liked in the first place. A bohemian business generally works from a place of passion and love for the product or service, and the customer can see that, and you get to work doing what you love.
So many of us find little satisfaction working 9-5 jobs, being ordered around by other people and getting paid just enough to survive. Not having the freedom to travel or do what we love gets a lot of people down in the dumps about life, and slowly draws them to starting their own bohemian business. Running a bohemian business gives you the freedom to travel, escape the 9-5 and do something that you love.
Enough of the what or why, here is the how. What are the practicalities you'll need to consider when starting a bohemian business, and how do you keep it ethical and personal?
The first step to starting any business is to decide exactly what it is you want to provide and how you want to do it. Chances are you already have an idea of what kind of service or product you want to create, but do you know the nitty-gritty details of what it is and how it will work. To a certain extent, you can't predict how everything will work, but you can have plan set out. Talk to other business owners who are doing similar work, and try to find any elements of business-owning that you hadn't considered. For example, say you want to start making and selling a special type of tea blend that you have created, there's a few things you'll need to consider: who are you selling it to, how are you selling it, how are you going to make the tea in bulk, and how are you going to ensure a quality blend every time. Once you've got at least a rough idea of how your business is going to operate, you can move onto actually starting the business.
How on earth do you fund your business? Realistically there's only two main ways you can start and fund your business, either through investors or through self-funding. Each one has it's pro's and cons. Investing: finding investors to invest in your business is a great way to go if you've got grand plans that need a lot of money that you simply wouldn't be able to save up such as a restaurant. Having people invest in your business gives you the chance to grow much faster, since you'll have the monetary backing to help you start. However, finding investors can be difficult. You'll need to show them that not only is your idea worth investing in, but that you've got the ability to make it work. If you do find investors who want to invest in your business, you will from then on have to work with them and they will be taking some of the money and will have a say in how the business is run, which can be frustrating to some bohemian business owners, as the investors may not have the same ideals as you.
Self-funding: with self-funding you can build your business completely from the ground up, without ever having to rely on investors. Loans also come under the category of self-funding - if you simply don't have the savings to properly get your business up and running then getting a loan is often the next logical step. It's likely that through self-funding your business it will take longer and you will have to work harder to get it to succeed, but at the end of the day, your business is completely yours and you aren't answering to any investors.
Where is your business going to be based? This is an important step to figure out, as where your business is based (online or brick-and-mortar) will affect who is seeing and coming to your business, in other words - your traffic.
For a traditional brick-and-mortar based business, you'll need to think carefully about where you want your storefront to be. If you're opening a cafe for example, you'll want to ideally aim for a place that gets a lot of foot-traffic, near some shops or other leisure amenities. Picking the wrong place could spell doom for your business, so pick wisely. If where your business is run from doesn't really matter however, then you'll need to think about finding a place that is as functional as possible.
For an online business, your platform is equally as important as if you were based in the real world. For many small bohemian businesses, sites like Shopify, Etsy and so on can be a great way to get started. They provide a platform where it is easy and quick to get started, and in the case of sites like Etsy, you already have a huge amount of traffic flowing through the website. However, many try to steer clear of these websites simply because they will often charge or take a cut of your money. Ultimately it's up to you to do your research and decide what is best for your business.
Finding the right branding as a bohemian business is tricky - you want to well represent your business, look professional, attract customers and show that you are a business with integrity, but you don't want to be too obtuse about it.
Many bohemian business owners make the mistake of trying to do all their branding by themselves. They design a logo, come up with a tagline and make business cards, without any real knowledge of what works and what doesn't. Sometimes this works, but often it doesn't and you're better off hiring a decent graphic designer from the start. By collaborating with a graphic designer and making sure that they understand the heart of your business and what you want to convey through your branding, they'll be able to take that and create an entire branding set-up for your business that's creative, eye-catching and spreads the message that you want to put out there.
Depending on what you do as a business, you may not need to think much about sourcing your materials. However, if you're selling a tangible product that the customer can feel and hold, you'll definitely need to make sure that the materials you're working with reflect the attitude of your business. For example, if you're setting up a bohemian business that creates hand-made yoga equipment, all at a fair price with fair wages given to the workers that create the equipment, it probably wouldn't look good or feel good to the consumer if you create your equipment using cheap, plastic material that didn't last and polluted the environment. The materials you use form the very core of your product, so it's important to pick the right ones and put quality over quantity. Generally, it's better to create a quality product with the right materials over a cheaper product with inferior materials.
How do you get your business known and spread the word without creating obtuse annoying ads or spending a fortune trying to manipulate potential customers into buying your product or service? Essentially, how do you advertise and market yourself in the same way that you run your business: with integrity, passion and quality. The answer will totally depend on what kind of business you run, but to give some guidelines, here are some do's and don'ts of ethical marketing.
A lot of prospective bohemian business-owners erroneously assume that once they've set up their business, the hard part is over. Unfortunately, this is not true, if only it was! In reality, the day-to-day hurdles that come with running a bohemian business need to be addressed and dealt with, but with planning and some practice, you can start jumping over them without a second thought.
Let's assume your business grows exponentially after it's first year - fantastic! But now you're swamped with work and you need a helping hand, so you decide to hire someone. How do hire and pay someone fairly and in concordance with your bohemian style? For a non-bohemian business, this would be easy - post a job online, find someone qualified and hire them for less than they probably deserve. It's likely that the worker themselves wouldn't be putting in the maximum amount of effort they could and probably won't be invested in the company itself. This is not what you want for your bohemian business. When it comes to running a small, ethical business, you want to be hiring the best you can. Someone who's qualified to do the job, but also passionate about the work itself. Finding someone like this isn't always easy, and keeping them could be even harder - which is why it's important to search hard and make sure that you can pay them a decent salary. There are hundreds of websites all over the internet where you can post your job and get responses from hundreds of applicants, and you may well find success here. Posting on the more niche job boards can also help and you'll be more likely to find highly qualified candidates who are invested in your industry and looking for a job like yours.
Once you have hired, how do you create a fun and passionate work environment to work in, and how do you deal with conflict and stress? It's damn near impossible that you'll never at some point in your journey as a bohemian business owner, stumble upon conflict, pressure or grudges between co-workers or clients. What do you do in this situation? More and more businesses are adopting ways to improve their working environments, rather than ignoring it altogether as has traditionally been done. Having meetings to resolve conflict and calm worried minds often helps to keep a team working smoothly and communicating effectively. Many businesses are now incorporating meditation practices into the work environment to help everyone de-stress and re-center before or after work. It's totally up to you how you choose to deal with problems that arise- having a plan and some resources in place before it does will help you overcome the problems that much quicker.
What do you do when a customer comes back and says that they aren't happy with what you have given them? Many large and more un-bohemian businesses have lots of ways of dealing with unhappy customers, namely difficult returns policies and unhelpful customer service advisors. These tend to leave the customer feeling all the more annoyed and frustrated than they were to begin with, so you want to steer clear of these tactics. As a bohemian business, one of your top priorities should be providing quality and creating strong relationships with your customers. If a customer isn't pleased with your product, then this is a worrying sign. Offering to refund or replace their product is generally the first step to improving the situation, as well as creating an open dialogue where you hear them out and explain what went wrong and what you can do to help. By treating your customers fairly, you're much more likely to have them return and spread the word to others about your business. It might cost you a little more time and money, but the overall gain is worth it.
Not everyone is cut out for life as an entrepreneur and that's okay - so how do you know whether starting a bohemian business is right for you?
Entrepreneurial Mindset: have you been dreaming up different business ideas forever or always making and selling crafts as a child? Then chances are you've got an entrepreneurial mindset, and you'd suit starting your own business.
Willing To Work Hard?: Running a bohemian business isn't easy, if you truly think that you are enough of a self-motivated hard worker to start and run your own business and stand up for what you believe in, then starting a bohemian business might just be for you.
Do You Have A Passion?: Bohemian business ownership is all about the passion and drive to deliver a quality product that your proud of. If you have that passion for an industry or product, then you'd probably suit a bohemian business.
Are You Willing To Work For Nothing?: All this being said, are you actually willing to give up some comfort and luxury for the sake of running your own business? While ideally in the end you will be making more than enough money to live on, in the beginning it's quite likely that you'll have to sacrifice some home comforts in order to make your business work as it's unlikely you'll be raking in the big bucks straight away.
With all these things in mind, it's up to you whether starting up your own bohemian business is the right choice.