Entrepreneurship in the q

Aliya Kamran​

A caveat: this piece is not about how you should start a business, or why you must. If starting one yourself would relieve you of the guilt of doing less in quarantine, then do not start a business. Relax those shoulders, because these are not the best of times, and you deserve to prioritise your wellness above your resume.

 

When quarantine started, my busy mind grew restless with ideas and possibilities. Returning home on a high from the first year of college, classes, personal ups and downs and shifting perspectives made me look at everything around me like an opportunity. 

 

That’s when it struck me. This was the perfect moment to do what I had always dreamed of doing. Starting my own business.

 

And in the style of Duke women and the Coop, I did!

Here are my thoughts on starting and running a new business for the first time, during a global crisis:

Talk to yourself...

...it doesn't mean you're going stir-crazy. It means you are actively iterating through the layers of your business, ensuring that it enters the market confident and adaptive. 

 

Having an idea, and having a business plan is completely different. Especially in quarantine, the line differentiating the two can become blurry. You can have the best ideas executed without business prowess, and the best business plans founded on perfect ideas. Alone in my thoughts, so far removed from a practical marketplace, I would stop at just the idea. 

 

For me, the idea was utilising the labour and already bought fabric of a garment factory with cancelled orders to make face masks. But to make it a viable business, it had to be a multidimensional idea. So, I began asking questions: 

 

Who was my target demographic? 

Where would I sell?

How would I deliver the product?

What would my brand stand for? (*insert dramatic mission statement*)

Zoom Drip

 

Putting together a team, accessing valuable mentorship and delegating tasks are essential to your sustenance and growth. But in the Q, your new normal prevents this from happening in the physical world. So, you make do with what you have in the virtual world. 

 

My team and I decided to stick to a meeting routine on Zoom. We meet on Sundays for briefings, Logistics and Accounting meet on Tuesday nights, the Tech team meets the next day to work basis the numbers accounting shares the night before, and Creative does what they want and when they want (Ugh, artists). This Zoom experience has been both good and bad for us!

 

Pros:

If you zone out on someone, you can pretend the audio glitched. 

Cons:

You really are less engaged in the conversation online. 

Pros:

You can dress as you please, or not dress at all. 

Cons:

Any sense of professionalism is lost.

Pros:

You can meet as late or as early as you want. 

Cons:

Zoom fatigue is real, y'all. 

"Productivity"

 

When you launch, you will be working full steam ahead. It's the most exhilarating feeling. I would check our Instagram DMs for orders every few minutes for a week. This is what I needed to snap out of my quarantine laze, or so I thought. 

But let's be real: I was very wrong.

Chances are you, too, started self-isolation with hopes of accomplishing a lot. Chances are you have been pushing yourself to self-improve, overhaul your bad habits, and are basing your results on your productivity. And finally, you too may be feeling overwhelmed because you are unable to meet these silly standards you set for yourself. This is what you call toxic productivity, and I experience it every day. *Revisit caveat*

Beginner’s over-enthusiasm and product shoots

R E S O U R C E S

Did you know about Airtable? SEO? Your friendly next-door taxation laws? Yeah, me neither. The special thing about the Q though, was how it made me prioritise finding life-altering resources to help me answer these questions. I really didn't have a choice but to optimise the use of technological solutions in my business. I couldn't shoot photos in professional settings, so I used the best editing apps to give the home-produced images a polished look. I couldn't sell in-person, so I had to learn to generate free traffic on the website. Quarantine made everything challenging, but thereby so much more efficient. 

I hate this. 

 

Think of your every interaction with an entrepreneur.

NEVER

EVER

Ever.

Do any of them involve the entrepreneur admitting that they dislike their own business. Not even a little bit. Each of them claims to have 'found their calling', they 'wake up grateful every day' and use words like #hustle and #grind with zero self-control. And I'm proud to say that I am not one of them. 

I'll say it: sometimes, I hate doing this business. 

 

Post-vaccine speculation

We sell masks online and at some point in the future, we will (hopefully) live in a mask-free society once again. But even until then, I can’t help but ask questions that seem to have no answers. 

 

Is this real? Did I really start something that I am a 100% responsible for?

Is this what I want to spend my time doing once everything is open again? Was this just an impulsive quarantine distraction I took too far?

Does my model work in a post-COVID world? How do I diversify our products so they remain in demand? 

But most importantly….WHAT is the post-COVID world?

 

Only time will tell. 


 

Subtle plug: www.effystore.us (NEW website coming soon)

Taking product images on my couch. White screen? An ironed blanket.