Inside a Small Business - Insights from Donna on her birthday!!
Hey guys! It’s my birthday! So it’s a great time to reflect on the past and look toward the future.
Yesterday I had a blast from the past that brought me so much joy! I ran into an acquaintance from high school. We caught up on what is happening in our lives and marveled at how different life turned out based on our high school expectations. She isn’t on social media and we were short on time, so I handed her one of my Weighting Comforts business cards. “This is the part I love right here,” she said as she ran her fingers across the words “President/Founder.” My heart was so full. I love that part, too!
Part of the reason I love it is because I did NOT see it coming! The creation of Weighting Comforts over the past five years has been so unexpected.
For my birthday, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on how Weighting Comforts has changed me and to answer common questions I get asked when I tell people about my work.
Growing up, what was your dream job?
When I was in high school I planned on going to college, getting married, having children, and being a stay at home mom. I majored in home economics education because I wanted to be the best wife and mother ever! I never expected to work outside the home.
Did you ever think you would be a business owner?
NO! I dabbled in some multi-level marketing a couple of times. But I really didn’t think of myself as a business person, much less owner. No one is more surprised than me to own a business of this magnitude with such purpose.
What are two big lessons you’re learning about leading a company?
Lesson #1: Everything happens in a process. A business is made up of many processes. Some processes we create ourselves. Other processes we learn from our suppliers. When I needed to find fabric suppliers, I went to a fabric show in New York. Part of a supplier’s role is to help you integrate their processes into your business. You don’t have to start from scratch with everything.
Lesson #2: With risk comes reward. In the summer of 2016, Josh and I knew that hiring an online coach that cost half our bank balance was a financial risk. But it came with the high reward of significantly accelerating our business. That same summer, my one (1!) seamstress left the country and recommended her friend as a fill-in. The logistics were crazy, but I took a chance on her even though I didn’t know if it would work out. And it did!
Seeing the outcomes of risks gives me more confidence to take more. The risk may not be the most logical step, but in the end, it works out. In order to grow, we have to step out. It’s always worth a try.
How do you do it all? Isn’t it stressful?
It can be stressful, but every day I remind myself: I am never alone. People comment about how much Weighting Comforts has grown and wonder how we did this. We did this one step at a time, and we didn’t do this alone.
Also, we hire people who know how to do what we don’t know how to do. People in the business world know how challenging it is to start something, and they are more than willing to answer our questions.
How have you grown?
I have become comfortable talking to people in the banking industry. This is a big deal for me because I had very little prior experience with the banking world. Bankers, like many other professionals serving small businesses, really want to help people. They are kind, intelligent and helpful. They don’t expect me to know everything about finance - that’s their job, not mine.
Also, I have more confidence in my abilities - I CAN run a business! I CAN ask questions, create products, sign leases, hire people, make good decisions, learn from my mistakes, contact suppliers, consult with experts.
What are some of the challenges of running a small business?
Understanding different cultures is a unique challenge for us. Finding a space for our Muslim employees to pray, various religious holidays, the language barrier, sanitary practices… there’s a lot to work through.
Employing people who have never worked outside the home is also a challenge. We are training them how to be an employee -- you need to call in when you’re sick and give advance notice for time off and let your supervisor know if you made a mistake --- things like that.
What is one of your favorite things about owning a company?
The privilege of employing others. It is such a privilege to employ people and provide a safe place for work. I love knowing that each blanket that is sold is not only helping someone with sleep better but that the person making that blanket is making a living wage and improving their lives.
Donna Durham, MMFT
President & Co-Founder