Building Your Own Business: Think Big And Start Small

In my last column I talked about building relationships in business. Today, I will talk about the process of building up a business. It’s all about thinking big but building small – step by step.

Building your own business

Your business is your  baby. You have been living and breathing your business idea for something that feels like forever and you are so excited to take over the world! But wait, before rushing into the next big project you have to take a step back and start small. Building an empire and a successful business takes time and while you grow its potential in your head, you have to let your business grow slowly in each passing moment.

The process of building a business without financial backing takes 4-5 years, with at least your first two typically spent in the red. Proof of concept can often take a year in itself, and the mistakes you’ll make after that will take both your money and your time.

No matter what way you slice it, a business is built on thousands of individual moments that need your attention before you can move forward. And, sometimes, it feels like its going to be forever before someone rings the gong and welcomes you into the next phase.

When my heart is tired and my brain hurts and my emotions are all pushing me to give it up, I turn to meditation. The principles of meditation are teaching me to stay with the right now. Not when I’m making x amount of money, or manage to take on x amount of new accounts. Right now. This moment, with the recent mistakes and the present frustrations.

I’m learning to “hold my seat” – to engage fully with this exact stage of my business,  just like each moment on the cushion.

Here are a few reasons why that is so important:


The future builds off this moment:

I’m often tempted to run ahead to the next big thing – to do what’s more exciting or let my thoughts wander out to six months from now, but the truth is that each individual phase of building is vitally important to the next. If I hadn’t spent a year providing my concept, or several months on strategic planning, or made mistakes that showed me what direction not to continue in, our business never would have moved forward to the next phase.

This moment is teaching me something I need to know:

In hindsight, some of the most seemingly “wasteful” moments of my business have taught me absolutely vital skills. I saw this last year, after helping my former guide through a medical emergency in Uganda. I was glad to help – but I struggled, over those weeks. I was there to do business and ended up spending hours in medical clinics and hospitals, arguing with drivers and handling payments.

While all that time felt genuinely wasted due to a corrupt health-care system,  those weeks taught me cultural insights that now prove useful to me every day.

This moment deserves my attention:

In meditation you learn that things you typically ignore, like your breath and the feeling of your stomach filling with air, are actually tools. While seeming insignificant, they can actually be the key to handling your life’s largest stress areas well. And, I’ve found that seemingly mundane or unexciting tasks I’d like to ignore make up the foundation of my business – things like market research, accounting, inventory are each important in their own right, and need to be done well in order for the business as a whole entity to flow smoothly.

This moment will give me strength for the next one:

I was once told that building a business is like running a marathon – not a sprint. This means that endurance is required. And, the only way that you can learn to get comfortable with endurance is by starting with where you’re at.  Slowing down and breathing through one moment is what gets me through the next.

So –  Breathe. Stop. Stay.

Give this imperfect, messy moment your very best.

Shanley Knox

Shanley is the CEO/Founder of Nakate Project, a global accessories brand created in collaboration with celebrity stylist Antonio Esteban and individual artisans in Uganda. She live in New York, where she runs her business in a little Brooklyn flat off the M train.

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