I wish someone had told me that… Rebeka Morgan, BuildHer Collective
This is the first installment of Propsa’s ‘I wish someone had told me that’ series, where we speak with seasoned small business owners to hear their advice on growing a business and what they wish they were told along the way.
It all started when…
I was a kid. My parents owned a carpet business – my brother and sister are still involved in the business today. We’d go into work with mum and dad on the weekends. I remember there were rolls of carpet everywhere; we’d run along the tops of them and slide down the other end – that was our playground.
I started working there myself when I was a teenager and all the way through university – I know a lot about carpet now! This taught me some really valuable business lessons, such as truly understanding what your customer wants from you, as well as making sure you secure a deposit, so you get paid for your work.
My family’s business is still part of me and my work ethic. There’s something really nice about the whole family pitching in – you live and breathe the business.
These days, I spend my time…
Running BuildHer Collective. My business partner Kribashini Hannon (pictured right below) and I help women to build and renovate their dream houses through online training courses. Kribashini has a background in project management and I’m a registered builder with 14 years’ experience. We love the community we’ve built together.
Our business came to be…
Around three years ago. We were both fielding calls from our female friends, and friends of friends, who wanted our help. They were getting stuck at some stage of the building process – usually with a builder or architect who wasn’t listening to them. Many women reported feeling brushed aside or intimidated in those situations, so we wanted to create a business to address that issue. The more knowledge you have, the more empowered you feel.
While the building industry might be male-dominated, we find the clientele for a build/renovation are usually women – they’re the ones invested in figuring out how the lounge room will look or how the kitchen works. They’re often driving the whole process.
In order to grow our business…
We make the most of Instagram. We’ve been able to gain a lot of organic traffic because finished houses make for aesthetically pleasing visuals. I’ve also invested a bit into Instagram because we really wanted to spread the word and grow our community. We’ve also got some properties on the market, so that helps to generate publicity, and we’ve created a podcast that covers everything from design tips, the challenges we’ve faced and customer success stories. Our growth strategy is really content driven.
I wish someone had told me that…
Starting a business would be like having a new baby. It’s an incredibly fast-paced but rewarding journey. I don’t think anyone can talk you out of having a baby, but they also can’t prepare you for what it will be like when you do. Owning a business is just like that; it’s a labour of love!
There are never enough hours in the day and there is always more you can do. Even if your business is profitable from the beginning, there is a fair chance you won’t be paid your true value – so you need to make sure you love what you’re doing.
Also, it’s so important to seek feedback. I don’t subscribe to the idea that you should keep your big ideas secret. I ask everyone for their thoughts and opinions on what I can do better, as well as which tools and systems I should use to improve my product. Time is finite – unlike money – so invest in getting to the right solution, quickly.
To maintain a work/life balance, I make sure to…
Understand where my true loyalties lie. I have to ask myself, “what am I really trying to achieve?” because it can be so easy for work to consume your day and night as a small business owner. Sure, you get lots done, but who gets left behind? You’ll make time for the kids, but the partner can get left behind.
It’s about making sure to understand what’s most important to you and then filling your days in accordance with those things, rather than the things that feel urgent. Because anyone who’s a small business owner could work for years on end without taking a break. But at what point do you say, “Hang on, these things are more important”?
What I’ve learnt in recent times is…
That it’s so important to have a business partner with complementary skills to you. Kribashini and I come at things from very different angles and this gives us the balanced approach that we need. We have eight children between us, so there have been a lot of ups and downs, but we’ve been able to lean on and support each other. That’s critical in a business partnership!
My advice to up-and-coming business owners is…
To savour and celebrate all your wins – even the small ones. It’s common for business owners to have something great happen and be like, “Oh, that’s great” then they move on without celebrating it. But you never know how many wins you’re going to get or how long they’ll last, so make the most of it.
Do your research before you jump in, but let your enthusiasm drive you forward. People will tell you it’s going to be too hard, and it will be difficult and much less comfortable than a paid job, but in my mind there’s nothing more rewarding than creating something from scratch. It’s not going to be an easy ride, but it will be enjoyable. So, do it.
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