Time flies when you are having fun... or when you are intensely busy. In a blink of an eye, we are now just a couple of days away from honey&gazelle Design Studio's first year anniversary! Yes, we are turning one! It is so crazy that a childhood dream has bloomed into an actual business and we are not in the red. Haha!
We can hardly believe that it has been a year. A whole year of being unemployed in the professional corporate world and a whole year of waddling in the deep but cool waters of self-employment. It hasn't been the smoothest ride but it has been an extremely fun rollercoaster of firsts and a fruitful exploration of faith and trust.
As we ready ourselves with new strategies and plans for the second year of operation, we want to take some time to reflect on the most important things we have learnt in the past 12 months. Wouldn't it be enlightening to re-visit this post next year to see how far we have come?
1. It is important to know and trust your partner.
Min: We have all heard it before. Running a business with a friend or your significant other can make or break relationships. I love Jia - we have known each other since we were 9 - and after a year as business partners, I can’t think of anyone else I would do this with.
It is crucial to remember that your business partner should be someone who shares similar values and goals with you, and someone who will choose you over money. I value our friendship more than any other alluring thing in the world. Fun fact: we actually made a pact that we would both walk away from the business if we notice that it is tearing us apart.
2. It is about complementing, accommodating, and loving each other.
Min: We know personally that we are not the easiest to work with but in the past year, Jia and I have learned to work alongside each other. We are both very opinionated and strong-headed. She’s hardworking and I’m lazy. I’m neat, she’s neater. It has taken a lot of compromising to make this work. And all these can’t happen without God being in the centre of our friendship and business.
3. Find a routine that works and stick to it.
Jia: "You are self-employed? That is so cool! You get to wake up whenever you want!" and other variations of an easy breezy work life are things that we often hear from others. There are some definite truths in those statements for sure, as I don't have a boss breathing down my neck. However, if I woke up late all the time, go out for long lunches and early dinners, and work a few hours every day, I am pretty sure our studio will be in the dumps.
When I first started working full-time in the studio - Min only joined us full-time a few months later - I would sleep in until whatever time I wanted and started work at whatever time I felt like I was inspired. Initially, I felt refreshed at the breeziness of this work arrangement. However, as a creature of habit, I started feeling antsy at the lack of routine and also noticed that my productivity level was terrible. I was turning into a sloth and that will not do! Now, Min and I have created a routine (it is pretty similar to regular jobs) that we feel mostly comfortable in and the results clearly shows. There are still some tweaks and room for improvement in our schedule but we are getting there!
4. It ain't easy being your own boss.
Min: honey&gazelle Design Studio is my first business venture, my baby. The past year was all about firsts and making mistakes, and there were definitely times when I doubted myself. honey&gazelle has grounded me in many ways. Being my own boss is crazy difficult. I have to be responsible for my actions, deeds, thoughts, and constantly check if my personal values and company’s values are still aligned to each other.
5. All work and no play gives you a backache.
Jia: We created the above art print as an inside joke at first but soon realised that the quote was something that resonated well with so many people. It really is true, isn't it? Min and I are always complaining about body aches and would often fall sick after a particularly stressful and busy period. Running your own business and being accountable for everything (including yourself and your business partner) puts a toll on you. I often feel like I have to work until 4am daily because there is just an endless amount of things that can and should be done.
Although it is good to be hardworking, it is also very important to learn to take a break. This is something we are trying our best to do through various methods like setting aside some time during the day to motivate ourselves, sing badly and hilariously at the top of our lungs and also stretch our muscles by going out for a short walk. We have also heavily implemented regular working hours and we try our best not to work overtime excessively. More often than not, the work can wait!
6. The selfless support from family and friends is rejuvenating.
Jia: Starting a business is a really difficult journey. The hours are long and the direction murky at times. You know exactly where your destination is but it just seems so difficult to get there. You know what will bring you down even more? Naysayers and haters.
Thankfully, Min and I are so blessed to have amazing families and friends who have been with us every step of the way. Obviously, we are grateful for the big gestures but it is also the little little things they do that we cherish endlessly. A little bit of support goes a very long way and can really lift us up when we are feeling down.
7. You are always a work in progress.
Min: Well… I am still learning how to survive in this crazy, crazy world. There are plenty of talented designers and perfect business models out there. But I am still learning. honey&gazelle Design Studio has taught me to accept my flaws and work on my weaknesses. I’m glad to have met many likeminded crafters and designers along the way. Just like everyone else, I’m trying to grow and nurture what I love. My biggest takeaway? Patience. Like our art print says, anything worth growing takes time and dedication.
8. It is okay to march to the beat of your own drum.
Jia: I have always felt that it is okay to be yourself even though you may not fit into society's mold. It is perfectly fine. Being a design studio, we often have to make changes to our initial creative concepts to suit our client's taste. The client will always want to change the work and even though we think that the changes are unwarranted, we will still do it as it is our job to do the best we can for our clients. However, we need an outlet to express ourselves and create happiness!
This is where our retail line comes in. All we want to do is to create 'paper with personality' and products that will inspire, motivate, and put a smile on your face. We know that not everyone likes wordsearch puzzles for example, but we do! Not everyone needs to get us but we are so glad to have reached out to form a community with the ones who do.
9. In every situation, choose to be genuine, grateful and kind.
Jia: Min and I decided right from the start that the business will be a reflection of who we are in order to truly embody our slogan - happiness by design. In our path of choosing happiness, we have also made it a conscious effort to be genuine and personable in our interactions with people, be it through our designs, website, social media, or in person; to always remain grateful for all the things given to us; and to always react in kindness. Of course, there were many instances within the past year that we felt like lashing out at the situations we were placed in, but we always took a second (or like, 10 minutes) to calm down and react with love. Kindness begets kindness, and for us to spread happiness, we need to be happy and kind first!
10. Liberation and happiness are priceless.
Min: That’s right. After all the gutsy talk, this is my utmost truth. I get a lot of satisfaction and inner peace doing what I do. I am no longer working meaninglessly at a desk job that drives me up the wall, and I am finally doing something that means more than just being a name on a company’s payroll. I may not be racking in big money but I truly am very happy and contented where I am right now.
That was a lengthy post and if you are still reading this, we just want to thank you for your support throughout this past year (: You have made such a difference in our lives and we hope to do the same in yours too!
Tell us - what do you wish to see from us in the coming year?
With Love, Min+Jia.
The humans behind honey&gazelle Design Studio. When we are not frantically working, we share our mishmash of thoughts on design, life, and love here. Grab a cuppa and stay for a bit!