Becoming Your Own Boss by Jessica Fong

***TRANSCRIPT VERSION***
Hey guys, welcome to the CyberVOICES podcast. My name is Jess and today I’ll be talking about my small scrunchie business that I started this year, January 2020, before quarantine. I hope you guys enjoy the episode, so let’s get into it. 

So, the sewing machine that I am working with right now, I’ve actually had for a couple of years. I don’t exactly remember where I got it but I think I got it from Target. It is a cute little mint-green Hello-Kitty sewing machine and it was just so cute and we just had to get it. So, I first got the fabric probably from Joann and the first thing I made was a quilt and that was pretty much all I did for many years. I did not touch it for a long time until January of this year. I am not sure what prompted me to get it out of the closet when I was bored one night but I guess I did. I just searched up on Youtube like “easy things to sew” or “easy sewing projects” and a lot of them had scrunchies in them. I had a lot of charities I could use and I just thought that I would follow along and see what I could do. Before I knew it, I made my first scrunchie. I was just so excited, I guess it was just something new: something new, and different, and exciting. I ran downstairs and showed my parents. I posted on my Instagram “close friends” story and it was just an exciting time. 

Some more backstory that kind of explains what made me want to open an actual shop and start selling things was in 2016 when slime was popular. I had actually sent a slime account and made a slime shop; that was actually my very first Etsy shop. I actually had one sale from that slime era, and that was really exciting. After that kind of passed, my Etsy shop was just empty and it just sat there. I revisited it when I had this scrunchie idea and I had to think of another name that pertained to my new scrunchie business. I will kind of walk you through my naming process, and I’ve gone through three names so far. It’s a little much but I’ll explain why I went through so many names. So, the first name I came up with was “Bloom by Jess.” I designed a cute, pink logo and did everything. When I finally started an Instagram account for “Bloom by Jess,” a couple of days or mauve a week into it another Instagram account messaged me and she told me that her business with the same name has a copyright over that name. I had to change it, and so back to the drawing board. I had to figure out another name. 

So, when I was sitting one night trying to brainstorm more names, this next name I came with was pretty spontaneously created. My dad was going to eat some of this honey cake that we had in the fridge. He kind of just blurted out the name because we were all collectively brainstorming words to use. He just said “honey cake” and I don’t know, I kind of liked it. Since I was selling scrunchies, I decided to put “hair” at the end. So it said, “honey cake hair;” it was kind of catchy and it was also ‘HCH’ and it has a cute, little monogram and that was my second name. It lasted longer than the first one and I had made a new logo and everything. I updated everything. I created some little business cards with that name so Honey Cake Hair went fairly far. There was a point where I wanted to expand my shop and not have the word “hair” in it since it was kind of restricting the things that I can sell in my shop, restricting it to hair products and hair accessories. I was kind of exploring the idea of having stickers maybe because I liked drawing and I liked art. The easiest way of taking “Hair” out of it, I was thinking of just changing it to “Co” or “Inc.” Then I thought about it some more and part of me wanted to completely change the name. Even though I liked the name “Honey Cake Hair,” it was missing a personal connection and it just didn’t have a meaning behind it. It was kind of, as I said, spontaneously created. So, I started kind of venturing off to completely different names that didn’t have “honey cake” in the title at all and so what I finally decided on was changing it to “Lemon Bun Co” which is what it is now. 

Now, I will explain what made me want to make that drastic difference and the backstory behind it. So, the reason why I chose “Lemon Bun” as the token word is that there used to be this bakery when we lived in California and my family used to go there quite often I would say. A couple of times, my brother and I would get these little baked lemon balls and I just remembered them being so good. Especially because we don’t live in California anymore and we can’t get those any longer, it makes them memorable and that item is especially nostalgic and reminiscent. I don’t exactly know why but it just kinda stuck into my memory and thinking about it just makes me happy and like I said earlier, nostalgic. I like remembering past experiences so I really liked the thought of incorporating that into the name because it had such a unique and personal backstory to me. 

So, now at this point, we have a solid brand. Our storefront has some products already there and I also have a pretty solid Instagram account. So, once you have a solidified base, you should probably focus on the more little details like the titles of your listings, your descriptions. Especially on Etsy, since it is an already established platform, they kind of have their own algorithm. So, for Etsy and other platforms as well, keywords are very important. The tags that you associate with your listings are important. Basically, that all feeds into the likelihood of your product getting found based on what the customer is searching for. Science, I started this process with basically no business knowledge at all, no e-commerce knowledge, pretty much what I have learned has come from the internet. I think there are a lot of good resources and videos that you can watch. In my case, I would search up “how to get found on Etsy,” “how to write tags for Etsy.” Try to optimize all my products and try to get the visibility very high and try to get a lot of people to see my products. Likewise, another point is of course you want to get your product out there and get people hearing about it, but of course, another factor is having a good product. I felt pretty good about my products, I hand-sew the ends of the scrunchie so everything looks pretty nice. I think it looks really high-quality so I kinda already had that. 

Another aspect of having a business is packaging your stuff. For me, I really liked the packaging and I liked looking at other companies’ branding and how they design stuff. Another pretty prominent aspect of my business is being eco-friendly as I can. I started off by packaging my scrunchies in little plastic baggies. After I used up all of those, I wanted to do a more no-plastic approach to my packaging. As of now, I use little cotton twine and I tie it like a little gift package and tie a little bow at the end. I think it looks really cute and it doesn’t use any plastic so that is always a plus. As for my little business cards, they are just made from cardstock paper so obviously 100% recyclable. Another tip I would say for trying to improve your shop and just make it as best as it can be is searching for other shops that are in the same niche, or in the same area. I would look at other scrunchie shops or other hair accessory shops. Since I am using a platform like Etsy, I would go on Etsy and look at other scrunchie and hair accessory shops because they are working with the same algorithm that I will be working on. So, if I see them using a certain tag, I can think “maybe I can use that one too.” If I see a unique way that they are formatting their descriptions to make them more readable, I will take note of that and try to edit my description. I will use bullet points, make them into smaller paragraphs so they are easier to read. One thing I would be careful about is going a little too far and comparing your shop to other more successful shops because you can just never compare your progress to other people. Maybe they started a lot before you or maybe they have a lot of money to invest and more marketing. Another thing Etsy has are ads and of course ads cost money so if you have a bigger budget, you can do this which means that more people will see your products. So, you just can’t compare to your situation. You just need to try your best under the circumstances and just take note of things those bigger, successful shops do and try to implement into your small business, which could turn into a bigger business. 

Another thing as I kind of touched on earlier, I came into this with no prior knowledge or experience. If you want to start a business or some sort of shop and you just don’t know how to and you’re just worried about how the outcome will go, I think you can totally educate yourself and learn so much from just a couple of Youtube videos. You can do some research and that in and of itself is a pretty good starting point and if you can do that, I’m sure you can get a lot farther and maybe have an actual shop. There are a lot of ways you can start a business. You can have a handmade one like mine. You can have a more “drop-shipping” style business where you can design something like a T-shirt design and upload it on websites like Teespring. They just mock it up for you and they will ship it directly to the customer. I think that is a pretty good way to start a business since you don’t have to make any of your stock. You don’t have to purchase the materials and worry if you’re going to make your money back or not so that is another thing to think about if you want a lower-risk way to start.

That was my take on how I started my business and how I managed it and I hope you learned something. If you are thinking of starting a business, I say definitely go for it. I have a lot of fun packaging orders and it is so exciting when I get a new one. There are a few other things I want to include. You can find my shop, it’s called “Lemon Bun Co.” You can search for it on Google, Etsy, and Instagram. It is the same handle @lemonbunco. If you know my personal account, feel free to message me there as well. Lastly, I just wanted to say thank you so much to CyberBORN for opening up their platform. Make sure to check out their other episodes and also visit their website where you can read their blogs with other super cool and amazing stories by high school students. I think that is all for this episode. I really hope you guys enjoyed it and I hope you all have a happy holiday season!

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