I have an acquaintance that I talk to you every so often. One of the first things she always asks me (in this exact phrase) is 'How is your little side business going?'. She's a really nice person and I know she is genuinely asking me in a nice way about my jewelry business, but it has always grated on me whenever she asks. It makes me feel like she is being condescending and belittling, although I know that is not her intention. Last time she asked, I sort of bristled and said 'Well, it's not so little anymore.' Then I moved on to another subject.
During one of my morning walks, I started thinking about this exchange of words and I immediately became agitated at her comment/question. I then thought back to the times when I've mentioned my jewelry business to strangers or someone I meet briefly and they say something like "Oh how nice! I bought my 8 year niece a jewelry making kit - it's so cute." (or something similar). I'm sure we've all been on the receiving end of these comments. We know that the people delivering these blows to our ego don't intentionally mean to be snide or rude, but it still comes off that way, or at least that's the way we feel.
But then I had a sudden epiphany. It wasn't her fault that she refers to my business as 'little' and 'side'. It's my fault! I must obviously be conveying that message to her otherwise she wouldn't have that image. In fact, each time she asks that question I only reinforce her belief by quickly changing the subject. I then realized that I do that all the time. If someone asks me a question about my business, I usually make a brief statement that it's going well and then I move on to something else. I don't really like talking about myself and I feel that talking about my business would be boring to others and if I mention how happy I am and that my sales are good, they'll think I'm boasting.
Also, if I meet someone and they ask what I do for a living, I always mention my day job as a software manager. I don't even bring up my jewelry business. Part of the reason is that I'm protecting myself from the usual 'Oh, how nice...' comment that often comes. But, I also still have trouble parting from my identity as a corporate professional. I worked hard to get my college degree and have worked in the corporate world for a long time. It's hard to change gears sometimes. It's been who I am for so long that I have a hard time switching over to business owner. But if I don't take myself seriously, how can I expect someone else to?
So, next time someone asks me how my business is going, I'm going to respond like this:
'It's going great! My sales have been steadily increasing and I'm really excited with the direction my company is taking. I've been asked to participate on some other retail sites, so I'm really looking forward to these new venues. I've added some new product lines and they have been really well received. I'm on my way to achieving my dream of quitting my day job and pursuing this full-time!'.
Now, isn't that so much better! Why haven't I done that before?
The next time I meet someone and they ask me what I do, I'll respond this way:
'I'm the owner of Theresa Rose Designs - I sell my handcrafted jewelry design on-line. I specialize in affordable handmade silver and gold jewelry and have been growing it steadily over the last 5 years. Lately, I've been really growing with bridal and personalized custom jewelry, which has been an exciting new venture for me. I'm also now starting to branch out onto some new internet sites, so it's been really exciting.'
I now can't wait for someone to ask me about my business!
Is this common? Do most of us have a tendency to downplay our business achievements? Are we sometimes too wrapped up in our identities as mothers, wives, corporate professionals, etc. that we don't give ourselves the same recognition as independent business owners?
I'm sure I'm not alone in this mode of thinking. I think many of us do this unconsciously and it doesn't serve us well. I am going to work on presenting myself and my business more enthusiastically. I wonder how many opportunities have passed me by because I gave the impression that I wasn't serious about my business.
What do you think? How do you present yourself to others when asked about your business?