January – that time of year when newness is celebrated and resolutions can translate into fresh business ventures. As 2017 gets into swing and we look forward to the bright ideas it will bring, we ask a handful of honest and established small business owners to share their advice to long-lasting business.

Today we speak to Steph Taylor, founder of The Sugarfree Box, to discover the healthy lessons she’s learned during her first year of business. 

After eating one too many office cupcakes, Steph Taylor quit her corporate job to create a subscription box service that only delivers sugar-free products. Despite this positive start, Steph’s journey has had several twists.

“Within two months I went from being flat broke and trying to sell her business to now creating a profitable product that her customers love,” she says. “I’ve learnt first-hand that the quote ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ is true in the entrepreneurial environment too.”

Your grass is just as green

That’s why Steph reminds would-be business owners to resist the temptation to believe that the ‘grass is always greener’.

“Just because your journey doesn’t look like everyone else’s doesn’t mean that you’re a failure, and sometimes you actually need to fail to learn,” she says.

“At the time I felt like a failure because my “entrepreneurial journey” hadn’t been anything like the hundreds of business success stories I had read about. I hated my product, I was putting in hours of work and barely turning a profit, and I just wanted out.”

Believe in your product

This experience ultimately taught Steph that belief in your product is everything, something she is keen to now instil in would-be business owners looking to start up in 2017.

“If I had to give one piece of advice to someone starting their own business it would be to make sure you are absolutely in love with what you’re selling,” she says.

“If you don’t 120% believe in your product, you’re going to have a really tough time selling it to your customers.”

Keep the hustle alive

These days, overwhelmingly positive customer feedback fuels Steph onwards. “Receiving happy customer feedback gets me out of bed every day,” she says. “But there’s one other thing I’ve implemented that helps to focus me too.

“Set yourself the goal of doing at least one thing to grow your business, every day. Ask a friend or family member to check up on you every day and keep you accountable for it. It’s too easy to get caught up doing the ‘busy’ tasks, that we forget to do the ‘productive’ tasks – this helps keep the hustle alive!”

Embrace outsourcing

Steph also encourages new businesses to become very familiar with their own skillsets before starting out.

“Don’t waste your time trying to do whatever technical task is before you, if it doesn’t play to your strengths. You’re better off outsourcing it to someone who knows what they are doing, so that you can spend your time working on the business, not in it.”

The proof is in the pudding for Steph, who says these lessons have helped her shape her #thesugarfreemovement on Instagram. But she knows there is still much to discover in the years ahead.

“Yep, 2017 is about growth. Now that all the initial teething problems have been sorted out and I finally have a marketable product, I’m going to focus on growth.”

Quick-fire answers

  1. My favourite business apps for the year ahead are… Xero (and I’m not just saying that!), Zapier, Stripe, Asana, Typeform and ActiveCampaign.
  2. What I love about Xero… It makes the dreaded task of bookkeeping so much easier. My online store is hooked up to Xero via Zapier, which means that my sales transactions are automatically imported in from my store.
  3. My best tip on supporting cash flow is… Be careful if you are receiving revenue in advance with customers pre-paying for their purchases. It can be tempting to spend the surplus cash on growth activities, leaving you with little cash to fulfil your orders when they are due several months later.Consider a subscription model. Recurring revenue can really take the pressure off by ensuring you have a consistent, stable income stream.

The  My advice to the startups of 2017 article first appeared on Xero Blog.