One of the requirements for college graduation was completing an internship, and I was lucky, because I got hired as a PR intern for one of my favorite brands on Instagram, a local online business.
While some of I did was boring, intern work, a lot of it was interesting, and the owner put a lot of faith into the interns she hired. We were a part of growing this (mostly) online business, and it gave us a front row seat to the highs and lows of starting an online business and what growing it looks like.
Here’s what I learned.
Anyone can start an online business.
I don’t mean the hypothetical, elusive anyone. I mean that literally anyone with something to sell can do this.
The owner of the company where I worked felt a burning desire to start something, even if she wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be at first. She started building her business while she was working full-time in sales for a biotechnology company. When she was laid off, she didn’t get discouraged. She took it as a sign that she was meant to work for herself.
But not every one will be successful.
Before I worked here, I fell into the trap of believing that everything was as great as it seemed on social media. I forgot that the pictures and captions were carefully curated to reflect a business and its brand image.
Those images didn’t reveal the boxes of product taking over one of the bedroom’s at the owners house. They didn’t display the hours we spent building Ikea furniture for the office space. They didn’t show the time we spent writing Thank You note after Thank You note until our hands were cramped.
Basically, you couldn’t observe the hard work that was taking place behind the scenes. You couldn’t see how much it took to keep the business running. And I think that gives a lot of people the wrong idea. It’s not easy. And you have to really want to make your business succeed.
It takes a village.
I watched as the staff for this company struggled and hustled and poured their hearts into making the company everything they wanted it to be. I saw collaboration like I had never imagined. I watched designers and marketers and interns make decisions as a team for what was best for the business.
The owner chose to make building the company her priority and her willingness to ask for help and hire people who could do things she couldn’t. She knew that she couldn’t do it on her own.
Even more, everyone who worked for the company knew that it would be nothing without its followers and email subscribers. To them, their audience was a part of their team. The staff went out of their way to foster a community built around the brand and make sure that every customer, follower, subscriber knew how appreciated they were.
You have to believe.
During my internship, I realized that the reason this business survived (when most don’t) is because every person involved with it truly believed it would succeed.
To the owner, failure was not an option, but it was more than that.
The staff and their families didn’t just believe the company would succeed, they believed in the message behind the business. They bought into the brand and its mission, and that was apparent to anyone who came into contact with them. That’s was what made them standout
If you have a business that you don’t 100 percent believe in, how can you expect to convince others to believe in it? You can’t. It won’t work. A belief in what you are doing or selling and is absolutely necessary for your online business to succeed.