Alice Rossiter has a blooming career, literally. After feeling stifled in a series of art-oriented start-ups, she launched Alice’s Table, part flower-delivery service and part executive retreat. At her Boston-area evening events, busy women congregate over cocktails for a couple of hours to learn flower arranging. Rossiter considers her full-time events and personal bouquet delivery business a vital, beautiful break in a demanding world.
It’s a risky niche business, but she couldn’t be happier. Here are her lessons for entrepreneurs with unusual ideas.
Keep your eyes on the prize. “Know your mission each day and execute on that mission,” she advises, even when you’re dealing with red tape. As a new business owner, it’s easy to get bogged down in logistical details: contracts, lawyers and bank accounts. “Staying focused on your idea and mission is criticalbecause you can get caught in the weeds. I keep a bulletin board above my desk where I pin inspirational things all day long. It’s covered in messages that remind me of what the dream of this business is,” she says. Whether it’s a mantra, a bulletin board, or a photo, make sure to constantly remind yourself why you started this business.
Draw energy from others. Rossiter knew she had a good idea when friends and relatives volunteered to help. “That was the most amazing thing to me—how many people have asked. That's when you know you really have a good idea: when people want to be involved.”
Be ruthlessly realistic about finances. “I gave myself a year and a half and a set amount of money—not my life savings. And I told myself: If you run out, you're done.” A few months into the business, she feels optimistic.
Be ruthlessly realistic about scope. “A lot of people start a business and think, ‘I'm going to be a national brand tomorrow!’ rather than having attainable, bite-sized goals.” Start small.
Differentiate between goals and tasks. Goals are big; tasks are small.“Have a list of actual tasks. Do not consider something like ‘develop a creative marketing plan’ a task; that’s a goal. Tasks make up one larger goal. If you set unattainable tasks, you can’t check things off your to-do list, and you’ll never get sleep because you have so much to do!” she cautions.
Hire people. A staff, however loosely defined, holds you accountable. “When I decided to take the leap, the first thing I did was hire people. I had to show up. People were depending on me,” she says. They needn’t be highly paid—maybe you hire a PR consultant to help the launch or a web developer to craft your website. These people will keep you on track and force you to define your brand.
Never pursue a goal you’re not in love with. “If you're passionate, go for it. If you’re lukewarm, don’t even think about it. If you start out unsure, you don’t have a chance,” she says.