Sharon Rowe is the author of the new book The Magic of Tiny Business. The founder and CEO of Eco-Bags Products, she defines "tiny business" as "conscious business where profit, planet and people are all part of the puzzle vs. driving for profit only while punishing or putting at risk planet or people." Rowe lives in the Hudson Valley.
Q: Over the years, have you changed your goals for your own business, or have they remained more or less the same?
A: My goals with the mission of the company have remained the same while my financial and structure goals have changed with market conditions and as I’ve grown older. I started the brand and business to be a platform for a culture shift I wanted to see…” to clean up the planet one bag at a time.”
What do I mean by this? I started the business to kickstart the conversation around single-use plastic waste and to kick the single plastic bag habit.
I wanted to do this in a way that was compatible with raising a young family and responsibly providing a good financial return for everyone involved in my business, from production to sales. I decided early on that vacations, evenings and weekends were non-negotiable, as were mid-day swims.
I deliberately chose to limit my work hours to have personal time vs. slotting my personal life around the business. This created efficiencies and the ability, over time, to prioritize. Not that I’m perfect! I’d say my approach worked 80 percent of the time.
Q: What do you think people need in order to start a new business?
A: To start a new business you need to start…wherever you can, even if it’s a conversation to get a sense of whether your idea will fly. Whether you’re sparked by a new idea or opportunity, you need to know that starting a business takes time, persistent, energy and capital and you may not have everything at the beginning and that’s OK.
Starting a new business requires having very frank conversations with yourself about what’s most important to you, your family, about time and money, and articulating what’s enough and what your expectations are. None of this will be perfect and it will change over time. It’s a process.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from your book?
A: I would like readers to take away the following—the confidence to start something, the humor that’s required for perspective and skill sets to practice in order to create a valuable asset.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Since the book launched in May I am working on promoting the book and the concept of Tiny Business. I’ve been invited to speak to various organizations as well. I’m considering writing a play next and getting back to my earlier career as an actor as well. AND – there is my tiny business Eco-Bags Products. Somehow it will all work out.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: When I started I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and while I absolutely did question myself along the way, I didn’t give up. It’s not that I stayed the course but, rather, I curated my path. About 80 percent of the time things worked out. The 20 percent challenged me to make new decisions about the growth of the business and my own personal goals.
There is so much about building a business that’s about learning to embrace process while keeping your eye on goals and practicing being comfortably uncomfortable. I know that my acting and improvisation training helped me along the way. I’d like to add as an end note, be kind to yourself, pick a direction, pick yourself (as Seth Godin says) and go.
Thanks for asking!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb