The Iowa Secretary of State’s office in Des Moines recently launched a project that celebrates entrepreneurship by showcasing Iowa small businesses on their Facebook page. Among others, 818 – a tiny design empire was selected to be interviewed regarding our advice, knowledge, and wisdom we’ve gained from starting and running 818. Read the entire interview below!

What is the most rewarding part about running 818?

The most rewarding part is getting to know other small business owners and helping them grow their businesses. It sounds cliché, but it is true and it’s why we formed this business. Some of our clients are now some of our best friends and we enjoy working together to enhance the culture of our local communities. 

Who was your biggest supporter when you started 818?

Without sounding like an Oscars speech… the list really is endless. We couldn’t do this on our own. At our launch 3 years ago, we started out with huge support from family & close friends who shared our excitement. They were always there to bounce ideas off of, talk things through with or help with whatever they could. Having spouses that provided us some financial stability and health insurance was a big factor in being able to make the initial jump. As we completed more projects, the initial friends & family support turned into referrals and the support grew to others in our community and it continues to grow the more we do. Our first employee, Paige, has been all-in from the beginning and we thank her for being understanding of the start-up chaos. We are so appreciative of our initial clients, as they were the first to trust us and many of them continue to grow with us today and we love that. It’s fun to look back on our businesses together and see all we’ve accomplished.

If you could go back to the first day of running 818, is there anything you would have done differently?

We would have spent more time on a business plan up-front. We ended up completing ours after 6 months of being in business and we could have been a little more focused if we had done that work sooner. With that said, it was also nice to have some real-life experience under our belt before determining the plan. 

What was your biggest obstacle in starting 818? Did you overcome it?

Balancing cashflow was very difficult in the beginning. We started our business without loans, so we relied on ourselves to make sure we were consistently bringing in enough revenue each month to cover our expenses while growing the business. This didn’t allow us the ability to hire staff, so we’d work long hours every day in order to get both the business management tasks as well as the client work done. We still work those long days, but we’ve recently gotten to the point where we are comfortable expanding our team, so some relief is on the way. Cashflow will always be a tricky battle, but we’ve definitely gotten better at managing it.

What words of advice would you give others who are looking to start their own company?

Starting a business is a giant, scary, unpredictable roller coaster. But, as someone recently told us, everything is “figureoutable.” Approach each day and each hill with that word in mind and take it one step at a time. It’s hard. Really hard. But, you’ve got this. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry… and often together in the same moment. To run a successful business — especially in the beginning years — your personal life, health, finances and relationships will all suffer, so be prepared to make tough sacrifices in order to succeed. As you become more established, it will get better. Keep your head up and trust yourself and your team. Develop 1 yr., 3 yr. and 5 yr. goals and make time to reflect, evaluate and adjust goals as you grow. Find a mentor and/or a business coach that will help keep you accountable.