Learning to Embrace Failure in Small Business

Launching a business is a tough road. Often entrepreneurs don’t get it right the first time but what makes them a success is marching forth in the face of conflict and learning from their mistakes. It’s not about never failing, it’s about learning from your failures instead.

Australian Stories

Even major Australian startups have failed somewhere along the road, but what saved them was perseverance.

Carman’s Muesli

When Carolyn Creswell purchased a small muesli factory from her former employers at 18 years old she was unaware of how it would shape her life. Now worth over $50 million, Carman’s Kitchen is an Australian startup icon. In an interview with Recruit Loop Creswell shared one of her failures along the road:

“…one of the supermarket chains decided to stop stocking our lines because of slow sales. It hurt and I was devastated. But I didn’t give up and worked really hard on increasing sales. After 18 months Carman’s was back on their shelves.”

Emma & Tom’s Juices

Tom Griffith and Emma Welsh both left large, corporate jobs to start up their healthy juice business Emma & Tom’s. But even years of big business experience couldn’t keep them from little falters along the way. Speaking with My Business, co-founder Tom Griffiths shared one of their biggest mistakes:

“We designed a bottle that our bottling plant was incapable of applying a label to. 18 months and tens of thousands of dollars later in contract labelling costs, we resolved this. We were much more careful with product design after that.”

Billie Goat Soap

What began as a soothing home remedy for her son’s sensitive skin soon morphed into a business idea worth around $2.4 million. But a drop in sales saw founder Leanne Faulkner facing the prospect of failure and a mental health battle few are brave enough to discuss.

She spoke with The Sydney Morning Herald about her struggles:

“I was nervous about telling people I had depression and still am. People expect you to live up to this stereotype of the successful entrepreneur who is on top of the world. Nobody expects that, like so many others in the community, you can suffer depression when the stress in your business gets too much.”

Now, with her health back on track Faulkner can see how her failures have shaped her path going forwards:

“I think failure has been my greatest success.  If I hadn’t really had that breakdown, which my husband calls a break through, I wouldn’t be advocating for mental health for small business owners.”

Bondi Sands

Australians are often known for their tanned bodies and afternoons spent lounging on beach furniture. Business partners Shaun Wilson and Blair James found a way to take this image and market a business with an internationally focused campaign. But Bondi Sands could have been broken just 6 months in if it weren’t for the determination of its owners. Speaking with Smart Company, Wilson detailed their first major hiccup:

“Something went wrong with the manufacturer; the quality wasn’t great with one of the batches… All of a sudden customers started complaining the product was turning them green.”

They lost 20,000 units in the bad batch but they were determined to take it in their stride.

“Looking back on that experience, it actually did teach us a lot – not to panic, to be transparent and to listen to your customers,”

What do they all share?

They didn’t crumble at the first stumble.

They treated this as a learning experience.

They worked hard to move forward rather than allow themselves to remain stuck.


The building blocks for success

Some form of failure is almost guaranteed as an entrepreneur. What matters most is how you handle it. Here are a few things many successful entrepreneurs can agree on when it comes to building success.

Find your niche

There’s no point launching something that already exists. If you’re competing with a major business then find out what it is that sets you apart or that you can do better and leverage it. The business world is crowded so your aim should be to stand out in the crowd.

Think big first

You may not have the budget for all the grand ideas you’d love to implement but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider them. Daniel Flynn, co-founder of Thankyou Group, says focusing too much on your realistic budgets can limit your creativity. Instead ask yourself if you had unlimited funding where would you take your business? Scale down the ideas that will work smaller and keep the larger ones in mind for long-term objectives. You never know how big you may become.

Learning to let go

Small business owners work so hard to get their ideas off the ground it’s no surprise many of them are unable to relinquish control when the time comes. Finding your business is too big to handle alone is a positive thing, provided you are willing to accept help.

Perhaps your business is ready to launch online shopping but you don’t have the knowledge or expertise. Focus on diversity in your roles and hire people who will bring something to the table that you cannot. This way you aren’t making yourself obsolete, merely complementing your success and building on it.

Every business experiences growing pains, even the million dollar ones. It’s only true failure if you fail to learn from it.

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