Holly Bohn launched See Jane Work in 2004 after becoming discouraged by the challenge of finding office supplies and desk accessories for her accounting office.
She wanted a workspace that was productive and organized, but also fun and unique, so she decided to create a brand with the products she wanted.
Find out how Holly’s love of fun office supplies spurred the idea for a successful business.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
My love affair with office supplies started at an early age. I didn’t play house, I played office. I set up a card table as my desk and had Hello Kitty office supplies. I knew someday I would start and run my own business. What I didn’t know is that it would be so challenging or scary. To survive a start-up you have to be driven, optimistic, and absolutely love what you are doing, otherwise, you will give up.
What did you do before launching your own business?
I had to put myself through college, so I worked in the accounting field as the pay was higher than typical college jobs. As a result, I ended up getting my degree in finance. There are times when I wonder, how I ended up in a creative and marketing role with a degree in finance? But my degree and background did come in handy in starting a company.
I now see college a little differently than most. College kids spend so much time worrying about the path to take. I believe the right path finds you. If you are lost then just get a degree in something you can fall back on, something that will provide the lifestyle you want. If you are meant to do something else, you will eventually get there and a degree may or may not matter. No one asks if I have an art degree when I design new products. They just know my designs sell.
How did you fund your business?
Funding my business was my least favorite part of the entrepreneurial journey. It’s hard to know who is leading you on and who can and will provide funding. You need funding from someone who can also provide financial advice; you don’t just need a check no matter how desperate things may seem. Remember that whether it’s the bank or an investor you are now in business with the people you take money from, you should be interviewing them as much as they will interview you.
I didn’t fund my business properly or choose the right investors and as a result, I almost lost everything. No matter how great your idea or your drive to see it through, if you don’t get this part right you won’t make it. Network, network, and network until you find trustworthy people who can truly advise you in this process. If they are asking for a commission or have not done this before then don’t trust them.
How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent in your home office?
I work about 60 hours a week. I try to work at least 25 hours from home. I’ve had trouble with balance at different times in my life. At this particular moment I feel that I’m getting better at shutting the door to my home office and being present with my family.
How would you rate your success?
My answer to this question is probably the same as any other entrepreneur. We never quite know when we’ve succeeded. We just move the carrot further out to challenge ourselves. If I sit back and truly look at how far I’ve come I guess I’ve achieved some success, but I’ve also made a ton of mistakes.
What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?
One struggle has been to know what to focus on and at what time. As an entrepreneur, I feel like a circus plate spinner, but my plates are never spinning at once. I get one spinning and another falls or stops spinning. Often you spend time on things you want to do rather than things you need to do. You have to be objective about how best to spend your time and you have to trust your instinct.
My biggest struggles have come when I haven’t followed my instincts. You think that because someone has a degree from a better school than you that they have all the answers and that isn’t always the case.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Take time each quarter to step back and reprioritize. Evaluate your business plan and make sure it is still accurate. This seems very time consuming, but it can save you from huge mistakes.
Keep family and friends out of the business. You need your family and friends to support you when times get tough if they are in the middle of the stress at work they can’t be there for you.
My next piece of advice is to know how big you want to be and stay there. Growing isn’t without pain and sometimes you realize that you don’t have the time or energy to run a huge company.
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
I have three kids so my personal life right now is all kid stuff. I have very little time to myself. I have trouble balancing work and kids. I have to make myself turn off the computer and put down my iPhone at the end of the day to be present with my family. I live by my Outlook calendar, but I also have a Whomi Wall Calendar for my family. I often schedule time to take care of family business or meet with my husband to discuss important subjects. I end up running my home the same way I run the business, but it works for us. My home office is setup like a real office, but it’s important to me that it is lovely and practical.
Thanks to Holly Bohn for sharing her story!
You’ll Also Love These Posts:
Studies have shown if you like this blog post — you will also love the following articles.