Most of us small business owners can sympathize with government regulations and its effects on our functionality and profit. But most of us Americans have no idea what it means to be flat-out told “no.”

Mazam, a small business owner in Petra, Jordan, knows what “no” means all too well. In Jordan, you have to apply to receive a government certification legally allowing your business to exist. Sadly, the Jordanian government simply doesn’t bother to fairly review most applications. Therefore, most businesses in Petra are simply tables or huts that exist illegally. Many of these so-called “businesses” are children running up and down the streets selling you bracelets or bags – certainly not a legitimate, government-approved business! Mazam was different, though, and felt it necessary to get his certification and have a legal business. He was denied four times but he fought and persevered and eventually received his certification.

All the work you put into your business leads to the pride you have for it. This isn’t something you hear too many people encouraging, but pride can be a very important virtue as a small business owner. Pride is what allows us to work harder. Pride is something that pushes us beyond our comfort level. Pride is what encourages us to make that next sale and make our business a top priority.

Pride is closely related to effort; if you put no effort into what you’re doing, then your pride is probably reflective of that. We have noticed with our own clients at Teahouse that the ones with pride in what they do typically work much harder and glean greater success.

What sacrifices are you making to further your investment in your business? How are you persevering?

Mazam owns the only exotic spice/tea shop in all of Petra. He imports products from various Bedouin Camps and neighboring countries. He is excited to greet customers in his doorway and give them a tour of his varying products. Mazam has pride in his business, as he should.

Pride is also an important concept for us small business owners to impart on our employees. Our employees are an extension of our ownership. They have a huge impact on daily sales and customer experiences. Educating your employees about your business, products, and industry will contribute to that. Ensure they know why they are doing what they are doing. Give them challenging responsibilities and allow them to rise to the occasion. Reward performance and help them to understand their role in the success of the business.

We challenge you today to ask yourself, what are you doing to grow your pride in your business?

Over the past few years, I have noticed a rise in at-home businesses, especially in my community – the military spouse (and mom) world. I encourage and support these fellow business owners/consultants and believe that what they’re doing is – can be – great! While this article is not about why at-home businesses are good, I want y’all to know first and foremost that I think these venues can be excellent opportunities for you personally and professionally. Having said that, I do have a critical eye for entrepreneurialism and I have seen your businesses succeed and fail as a result of your online marketing. I just want to help.

Before I dig in, let me establish what I believe represents success and failure in at-home business marketing:

  • Success: utilizing the available social media platforms to reel in your customers.
  • Failure: over-utilizing the available social media platforms to turn customers (and personal affiliations) off from your products.

If you’re an at-home business or consultant you are likely self-taught and self-motivated. Whether it’s Scentsy, Lularoe, Rodan & Fields, etc., you sought out this opportunity and made an intentional decision about investing yourself in this business and brand. You have used your available resources on a budget to set yourself up for success. You use a variety of tools to promote your products and attract customers. These likely – or mostly – include social media marketing. That’s what we’re talking about today.

Here’s the thing: there are unspoken rules regarding the usage of social media. There are some technical challenges to using social media, but there are also numerous cultural obstacles to navigate and ensure your success.

If there’s a main message I want you to take away from this article, it’s this: you can burn out your audience! Sure, it’s your friends’ choice to follow you and open their newsfeed, but social media is a two-way street – there is etiquette to keeping your friends.

Posting too often is annoying. What does this mean? Where is the line? Is the line different for each social media platform? Yes! From Facebook to Twitter and Instagram, each platform has its own social media expectations. I encourage you to get feedback from your friends/customer base (the ones that purchase and especially the ones who don’t). But from my personal experience:

Facebook: Facebook is the platform used the most for personal updates but also used the most for merchandise/sales. This requires a delicate balance. Here are a couple of practical ideas to maintain this balance:

  • On your personal page, show how you use your products in your day-to-day life.
  • Create a separate business page or group for a majority of your posts.
  • Be sure to post about your life on your personal page more than you post about your business and be authentic.
  • Personally ask your friends if you can invite them to your page or group first. While this may take more time than sending out a mass invite, it shows respect to the friend by not assuming their interest. Plus, they are much more likely to be active customers if you engage them directly!
  • Use high-quality photos.
  • Promotions, giveaways, and contests are definitely a successful and trending tactic used by many consultants – just be sure to keep them in your business page or group!
  • Boosting your posts will help with visibility and growing your customer base, but do not expect direct sales from one boost. It takes time to sell a customer – or friend. Set a small monthly budget that you allow yourself to use for specific types of post boosts.
  • Facebook events are an awesome way to reel in new customers and re-engage old ones. Live parties with incentives and giveaways are sure to bring in business.

Instagram: This platform is a little more difficult to build up a following base and it may take a little bit longer than Facebook, but it is a huge platform for online shopping. Take advantage of it! Be sure to follow the same etiquette as Facebook and mind the personal/professional balance. If you plan to post on Instagram frequently, create your own business page, just as you would with Facebook. Here are some practical ideas for your Instagram accounts:

  • Use high-quality photos.
  • Research your hashtags and use them consistently!
  • Utilize promotions, giveaways, and contests to grow your following base.
  • Cross promote with other similar businesses and team up to share one another’s followers!

Twitter: It is perfectly acceptable to tweet more frequently on Twitter than it is to post on Facebook or Instagram; just be sure your content is different! Twitter is very different than Facebook and Instagram and should be treated accordingly. Even though it is ok to tweet more frequently, be sure you still find and follow the right personal/professional balance and create a separate page for your business. More practical ideas:

  • Keep your tweets relevant and timely.
  • Always use hashtags – just be sure they fit!
  • Follow as many applicable pages as possible.
  • Be a good Twitter follower; retweet and like as much as possible.
  • Tweets with images still perform better than tweets without images.

Maintain your personal brand (life). Do not allow your business to consume your social media presence. Be personal, be yourself! Continue to share normally as you did before starting your at-home business. This is important because your friends are your friends because they’re your friends – not because they’re your customers. If you wish to engage your friends as customers, be sensitive and respectful to the friendship first and foremost! Ask them if they would like to be included before assuming. An invitation is very powerful and can actually help you make sales quicker than you would otherwise. Why? When you ask someone if they want to be included, that counts as a “touch.” In sales, you typically need numerous “touches” (engagements) with a customer before they’ll make a purchase. Also, a personal invitation signifies a commitment of some sort. If a friend accepts your invitation and says they would like to be included, that usually means that, at some point, they will make a purchase from you! If you never directly ask them, it is much easier for that friend to slip away passively and never make a purchase (this has happened to me SO many times)! Remember, building a business takes time!

Cross promotion is huge. Networking isn’t just a handshake anymore. Find other businesses or blogs with similar products or interests. Introduce yourself and pitch why and how you could help promote one another. Now, be sure your products or services are different, but similar enough where your customers may become their customers. Come up with a plan together and share one another’s content. Teaming up on a promotion or giveaway is an excellent way to grow your following base.

Share reviews and stories of how your products are being used. People want to know why your product is worthy of their purchase. The reality is that we live in an oversaturated market and we have to earn our customers’ loyalty. We have to show them why our products are worth their investment and how they can use them. To build loyalty and gain new customers, use your current customers’ real stories, real reviews, and real images of them using your products (with their permission, of course – maybe even offer an incentive)! In my experience, this can be even more valuable than a paid advertisement.

Now a couple of overall tips for your business pages:

  • Be sure your profiles are complete and your contact information is easily accessible.
  • Change your profile picture and banner on a consistent basis (monthly is a good rule of thumb). Be sure your brand is visible. Your logo should always be present in one of those photos, preferably your profile picture.
  • Spelling and grammar are very important. You probably know this by now; just don’t slack in this department. Sloppy spelling and grammar presents a poor image of your products and brand.
  • Take advantage of all the free photo and graphic apps and websites to further grow your brand.
  • Video is quickly becoming the most utilized visual on the web – just be sure to get your point across fast and keep them under 30 seconds! Also, visuals are more important than sound on video – so, instead of saying what you need to say, show it!
  • Finally, be patient! It takes time to establish a brand and even more time to establish a following. Don’t give up and keep at it as if you had thousands of followers. Fake it ‘til you make it!

*This article is not comprehensive as social media is a constantly evolving beast. There are many other platforms and perspectives to account for but hopefully this is a good starting place for you. We are open to suggestions and varying opinions as it is nearly impossible to have one rule of thumb for technology such as social media.*

Many of us find comfort in the community and familiarity of our favorite local coffee shop. Teahouse is excited to have a client that offers these simple yet valuable luxuries: Eden Cafe.

Joe Ventura at his bar at EDEN CAFE There are many unique aspects about Eden Cafe that differentiate it from competitors. While many national coffee chains can be found at every intersection, in most towns, coffeehouses have to present themselves differently.  Eden fulfills several communal needs: live entertainment three nights a week, free space for organizations to meet outside the office, and a menu with items that cannot be replicated at home.

Owner, Joe Ventura, launched this business with the hopes of creating a safe and inviting space for people of all walks of life.  Now seven months into operation the community is responding and many have become regulars.

In today’s small-business landscape, we have several factors working for us as we go up against giant corporations. It is essential to find those factors and implement them within your walls.

In a land with copious amounts of tomatoes, pasta, and gelato, most travelers’ response is: “it’s the best I’ve ever had in my life!” Italy is the fifth most visited country by tourists in the world with 48.6 million tourists per year (2014). Surely, we can learn from them – they’re doing something right!

Growing up in an Italian home, comprised of 50% Sicilian blood, Italy has always been a dream vacation for me. Turns out Italy was only a short and relatively inexpensive plane ticket from Israel, so this summer it became a reality for me.

Business was clearly booming as we visited during the peak tourist month of the year, July. I would have loved to visit in a less busy month to observe the true flow of business, but I’ll take what I can get. Walking the streets of Florence and Rome you’ll see essentially the same businesses with different faces. Gelato upon gelato shop, espresso stands, and of course Italian-made products – purses, suits, and leather everything! The first city we visited was Florence and I was itching to buy a new purse, but the streets (even the ground – literally!) was teaming with leather purses. I didn’t know how to tell what was authentic and what was a tourist trap! So naturally, I didn’t buy anything.

A couple of days later we arrived in Orvieto. Turns out, this quaint picturesque town was my favorite stop in Italy. A dear college friend, Hannah, moved to Orvieto to marry her Italian husband. Naturally, I needed to see her in her new habitat while I was nearby!

Hannah and Frederico own a leather shop in Orvieto named after him – Frederico Badia – and I’m telling you, it is amazing. In the video below they introduce themselves and talk about how they started their family business.

My first question to them (among a million) was “how do you set yourselves apart from the other leather shops in Italy?” They both proudly answered: quality. It takes Frederico nearly 60 hours to create one pair of shoes. I can’t even imagine spending that long on one item!

In a world where craftsmanship can easily rely on shortcuts to boost efficiency (and possibly sales), Frederico explained, a true artist keeps his product 100% authentic with the highest quality possible.

I thought about this a lot, especially as Italy repeats its products on each street corner. This concept should also apply to business. Find your niche and do it well. Don’t overextend yourself with too many products or concepts. Keep it simple and do it well.

Frederico told me about his customer base – the types of people that typically purchase his beautiful work. Find yours! Identify who your customers are, who you want them to be, and cater your marketing and brand around that base.

It is ever important in an oversaturated market to find your niche, provide the highest quality item, and sell to your specific customer base. Stay focused and take pride.

Federico Badia, Orvieto, Italy: Quality Leather Craftmanship Federico Badia, Orvieto, Italy: Quality Leather Craftmanship Federico Badia, Orvieto, Italy: Quality Leather Craftmanship

Federico Badia, Orvieto, Italy: Quality Leather Craftmanship

What do you find when you walk into a bustling, third world country, teeming with tourists while holding tightly to its traditional Muslim roots? A country in transition.

Culturally, Egyptians are wholly committed to their religious roots but they are also very aware of the Western world creeping into their borders. They admire it, want to be like it, and idolize the American spirit in many ways. However, they have an extremely unique history that drastically shaped the world we live in today. Sounds like society has ticked full circle to me!

The Egyptian pound ebbs and flows from markets and produce stands to tourism and trinket shops. The Egyptian economy is greatly affected from its government’s involvement. When a student nears completion of his/her secondary education (high school), they write a list of their top desired professions. The government pools the available professions and desired professions and assigns a life-long career to each student. Those students then either cheer or make the best of their situation and study for a few years at the University (completely government-funded education).

Meet Fatima; a passionate 20-something history major with three children at home. She defies many stereotypes and thoroughly enjoys her life’s profession. I was enamored by her passion and love for her country’s history and its impact on society’s evolution. She works in the country’s most successful tourism shop (which is government certified) and accounts her sales success to her true love of her job.

I asked her in many which ways, to see if she’d change or elaborate her answer, why she has been so successful. It always came back to her personality and passion. As a tourist in her shop prior to interviewing her, I can totally attest to that truth. My husband and I had three pieces of papyrus art on the check-out counter due to her thorough description and demonstration. Her genuine love for Egypt’s history was infectious.

We can all learn from Fatima. We can learn from her determination; even with her religious and familial commitment she still pursued her career wholeheartedly. We can learn from her personality; with each question we asked her, her optimism only grew. We can learn from her passion; her passion defined her, which arguably is what drives her success.

Corinne Ables, Teahouse CreativesWisps of light, stringy clouds are scattered across the blue Israeli sky. The sun is permeating the dry earth with a perfect heat. It is only early May and I can sense the engulfing heat of summer just around the bend along with the end of another season: spring.

Each season is my last here in Israel as my husband and I only have an 11-month tour here (just a few more to go). The brevity of my time here has pushed me to absorb as much as possible. The threat of that plane ride back to the U.S. brings a pressure and awareness that our life is to live today, as fully as possible.

I am not a still person; I am an Entrepreneur. Maybe you can relate? I like to build things. I like to grow things. And while living in various states throughout the U.S. and now in a new country, that desire to build and grow has only intensified.

My perspective has widened, my understanding of human nature has matured. I have seen firsthand, how vital small businesses are to our society worldwide.

It is an honor to share my experiences and ever-growing opinions with you. I share in anticipation of learning from you as well, whether you’re another traveler, entrepreneur, or marketing mind.

As one season comes to an end, we begin another – just keep your mind wide open.