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5 Lessons from 5 Years of TNTP!

This month The Neon Tea Party turned FIVE YEARS OLD! How the heck did that happen?! Did you even know this colorful little brand has been around for that long?! Well let me tell you, the past five years have been quite the journey…

I launched theneonteaparty.com on October 10, 2016 as a blog focused on “playful eclectic lifestyle,” which incorporated personal style, home decorating, and travel in addition to DIY craft projects! What started as a hobby quickly turned into something I hoped to pursue full-time, and with the support of my now-husband and TNTP Chief Hustle Officer, Sam, I was incredibly fortunate to be able to do just that.

Today, 5 years later, after much trial-and-error, TNTP finally feels like it’s on track to bring our grand vision for it to life: to be the coolest crafting education business and community out there! (Speaking of community, be sure to join The CommuniTEA — TNTP’s crafting community platform that launched just this week in honor of our big birthday!)

In the past year alone, we re-established our business in South Orange, New Jersey, grew our team to have four full-time employees, trained a wonderful batch of new local TEAchers, deepened our relationship with our CommuniTEA by turning CAMP TNTP into an adults-only program, plus launched new product categories (hello Beads and Party Boxes!), took on some of our biggest events yet, and dipped our toes into the world of wholesale!

But what feels like our greatest accomplishment is that for the first time ever, we have a master plan guiding our team and the most hard-working, creative, and dedicated employees to execute our collective vision! (Shoutout to Hannah, Estee, Ally & Dorth!!!)

Getting to this point in our business journey has been anything but easy, and the challenges continue as we continue to push ourselves to become the best business we can possibly be!

As I look back on how we got to where we are today — and in honor of five years of pom poms, sweat and tears — there are five pieces of business advice that have helped TNTP over the years that I hope will guide and encourage anyone else out there who might be on your own entrepreneurial path.

THE 5 BIGGEST LESSONS I’VE LEARNED IN 5 YEARS OF RUNNING A BUSINESS

moving out of our would-be studio space after breaking our lease due to covid

1. BE FLEXIBLE & NIMBLE

When you set out to start a business, you’ll inevitably experience unexpected circumstances along the way (hello COVID 😅) and learn a lot about your business and yourself as you go. Your original “master plan” may need to flex over time — and that’s ok! In fact, the more open-minded and nimble you are, the better your business will be in the long-run.

Take customer feedback to heart. Adapt to consumers’ current needs. Ditch parts of your business that no longer serve your bottom line and lean into those parts that have the highest financial potential. As long as you stay true your business’ mission and values, this flexibility will benefit you time and again.

You can read more on the blog about how we “Tested Business Models Before Committing” and our COVID-Era Pivot.

our newly certified local TEAchers!

2. GET HELP

You cannot grow a business alone! I’ve learned this lesson time and time again as my dreams for TNTP have expanded and I’ve become more intimate with my strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur.

Lean hard into what you’re great at — your “superpowers!” — and get help with the things that you’re less-than-great at, as well as the things that simply call for extra hands. This help can come in so many forms. While it certainly can mean hiring part-time or full-time help, it can also be reaching out to your friends and family to assist you in bringing a project to life or leveraging your network for professional advice.

When it does come to paying for help, consider your return on investment. Would hiring someone help your business make more money? Could the opportunity pay for itself and then some? Start small, be smart, and you’ll see how far your business can go when it’s more than just you running the show!

3. LOOK AT THE NUMBERS

Of the five pieces of advice I have to offer, this is the one I still need to remind myself constantly. I default to making decisions based on my gut instinct rather than hard facts. While I do believe that listening to your gut is critical when making decisions — hint: if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t! — it’s also critical to look at the numbers in your business to guide your decision-making process and ensure you’re using concrete information to your advantage.

Make time or get help to pull any reporting you can! Break down your monthly revenue and profit by income stream. Look at your engagement stats across all marketing platforms that you use (Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, etc!). See what’s working and lean harder into that! And for the things that aren’t working: figure out why and make changes there. The more time you put into what’s actually working, the better your results — and revenue — will be!

enjoying some family time while on maternity leave!

4. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF & THE THINGS YOU CARE MOST ABOUT (AND SAY NO TO EVERYTHING ELSE!)

Being a business owner can feel like a 24/7 job. There is always something you think you should be doing or a new opportunity you could be pursuing.

That said, it’s my belief that just because you’re a business owner, you don’t have to ditch everything in your life to focus solely on your business — I see that as a recipe for loneliness, burnout, and resentment. However, you do have to limit what you say yes to during your precious non-working hours.

Try making a list of the non-negotiables in your personal life. Then start kindly turning down invitations to anything that doesn’t fall under that list. I’ll bet that you’ll have more confidence in how you’re spending your time each week and hopefully feel some sense of “balance” in your life (whatever that means as a business owner).

While this is still something I’m working on today, here are a few things on my personal non-negotiable list:

  1. Friday nights are chill, family time. No work commitments, no computers.
  2. If one of my best friends or family members is in town, there is ALWAYS time to see them. Same goes for if I haven’t seen a local loved one in a long time.
  3. I take breaks when I need them. Calling it an early night to get an extra hour of sleep or simply taking a shower to recharge makes all the difference in my well-being and overall productivity.

my second ever pom pom workshop!

5. DON’T FORGET WHY YOU STARTED IN THE FIRST PLACE!

While building TNTP for the last five years, there have been numerous occasions when I have felt so in the weeds of the day-to-day business operations and planning that I have found myself in the moment forgetting why I started on this path in the first place. In these moments, I look around my office filled with colorful creations from over the years, or scroll through TNTP’s Instagram feed to remind myself of all the crafting we’ve inspired.

Your raison d’etre (your reason for being) is what should hopefully motivate you to get out of bed every morning and continue to chase your dreams! If you need help remembering this, find a system that will help you do so, whether that’s hanging up an inspiration collage or a souvenir from when you got started, or perhaps journaling regularly and including a mantra about your purpose when you do! Being ever-aware of your own and your business’ purpose is the one thing that will continue to motivate you at all stages of your business and keep you excited to dive into work each day!

I hope these tips are helpful to anyone who needs them!!

And most of all, thank YOU for joining TNTP on this wild-and-crazy journey! I wouldn’t be writing this blog post today if it weren’t for your continued love and support of this little craft business of ours! Cheers to 5 years of neon craftiness, and many more to come!

Peace, love & neon,
Marisa

2 Comments

  1. Elvira on October 21, 2021 at 5:34 pm

    I loved this read! thank you Marisa! Very wise tips and recommendations.

  2. Roberta Lash on October 21, 2021 at 5:57 pm

    Love this post Marisa. So many pearls of wisdom.

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