I Was Afraid Because I Was Doing This All Alone
By: Phillip Williams Published: 8/07/2015
High-school entrepreneurial teacher Sean Chinn wanted to treat himself to a nice spa day, and noticed the toxic chemicals found in store-bought bath and skin care products. That day spawned Sean Balm Skincare collection, which is a healthy alternative for beautiful skin. Let’s dive deep into entrepreneurship and get a better understanding on some obstacles you will face pursuing this entrepreneurial route through Sean Chinn’s story. You might learn something applicable to your journey.
“I also was afraid because I was doing this alone and without any valuable experience. I never obtained a job in corporate America to learn all the tricks of the trade. I never sat in on a marketing presentation or attended business workshops.”
PHILLIP: THANK YOU SO MUCH, SEAN, FOR SPEAKING WITH ME TODAY. I APPRECIATE YOU TAKING SOME TIME OUT ON A WEEKEND TO DO THIS!
Sean: No, thank YOU! I’m excited to connect, share, and talk about Sean Balm!
P: I WANT TO GET STARTED BY FIRST ASKING ABOUT YOUR TEACHING EXPERIENCE AND EXPLORING YOUR TRANSITION INTO ENTREPRENEURSHIP. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TEACHING AND WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT THAT EXPERIENCE?
S: I’ve been working in the education field for about 5 years and teaching for the latter 2. I love giving young people opportunities and supporting them. The joy I get from this aspect of teaching is priceless. For the past two years I taught high school Creative Writing in Miami. I decided to launch Sean Balm after my first year of teaching.
P: EXCELLENT! I THINK YOUR PASSION FOR TEACHING COMES THROUGH IN YOUR BUSINESS IN EDUCATING PEOPLE ABOUT HOW TO PROPERLY CARE FOR THEIR SKIN, WHICH LEADS US TO SEAN BALM SKINCARE. DID YOU FIND IT TAXING TO MOVE FROM WORKING MOSTLY WITH TEENAGERS TO WORKING IN A REALM OF TEACHING ADULTS? HOW HAVE YOU COMBINED YOUR INTERESTS IN BUSINESS AND EDUCATION?
S: Phillip, that’s a great question! First let me say that I love educating people about skincare because it’s an avenue for interesting conversation and learning. There’s really not much of a difference in teaching in the classroom versus virtually informing customers; it’s simply sharing information and responding to people’s needs. I’ve combined my passion for teaching and business by hosting online discussions (to start the conversation about skin types/best practices) and I’ve also attended several conferences and markets in the community to converse about beauty, skin, and business.
P: HOW DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE BUSINESS WORLD AND BECOME A PART OF IT?
S: Everything that I have learned comes from me taking the time to seek knowledge.Thank God for the internet! Lol. I have researched everything from marketing plans to website templates on the internet to strengthen myself as a businessman. And when you’re trying to master every department then websites like YouTube became very helpful. I was able to watch videos about how to write proposals, give presentations, prepare for markets, and the list goes on.
Sharpening my skills is very important for me because I wanted to prepare for my big vision. I know that one day Sean Balm Natural Skincare will be the world’s leading skincare brand and I have to spend countless hours of bettering my brand.
P: WHAT WERE SOME FEARS YOU HAD COMING INTO YOUR ENTREPRENEURSHIP? COULD YOU TALK ABOUT A TIME WHERE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT GIVING UP, OR WHEN YOU FELT THAT THE LEVEL OF SUPPORT YOU NEEDED SIMPLY WASN’T THERE? I KNOW FREQUENTLY AS A WRITER I HAVE FELT AS THOUGH I HAD NO AUDIENCE FOR WHAT I CREATE AND IT MADE ME QUESTION IF MY DREAM WAS FOR NAUGHT.
S: To be candid, some of my orders were shipping out late, I was losing much needed sleep, and I began to gradually lose momentum. I was afraid of people noticing my shortcomings. I knew that by starting a business, I was putting myself out there for everyone to judge and it definitely caused me to initially second guess myself as an entrepreneur. I was afraid that some people wouldn’t enjoy my products and write bad reviews or something like that. I think that just might be every business owner’s nightmare. lol.
I also was afraid because I was doing this alone and without any valuable experience. I never obtained a job in corporate America to learn all the tricks of the trade. I never sat in on a marketing presentation or attended business workshops. I felt that I had very few soft skills that would be helpful to me during this business venture, but I kept on anyway. Like I said before, I was in this venture alone. I had no business partner or investor. I had absolutely nobody to help make the products, fulfill orders, package and ship them. At times when I was overwhelmed with orders, I’d be up late nights and early mornings trying to prepare customer’s orders while working as a high school English teacher full time. The struggle of being in a venture by one’s self and stretching one’s self to attack marketing, production, administrative duties, and so forth was extremely exhausting and so, I became fearful of failing.
“It was over a year ago when I first launched Sean Balm and I’ve learned so much through my failure, which I typically don’t refer to as “failures”, just lessons.”
I initially thought that I would able to handle a business without any help from anyone. I quickly learned that there’s no empire so great that it can be built by one person. During my first nine months of business I did not take the time to properly network or attend professional developments. Staying to myself was very costly, and it taught me that people hold the key! Since then, I’ve been networking publicly and virtually and it has made a huge impact for the business.
P: AND IF YOU FAIL WITHOUT A TEAM THERE IS NO ONE WHO CAN SPLIT THE BLAME WITH YOU. I CAN UNDERSTAND HOW THAT LEVEL OF PRESSURE CAN BE OVERWHELMING, NOT NECESSARILY BECAUSE YOU CAN’T SHRUG RESPONSIBILITY BUT BECAUSE YOU CAN’T, AS A TEAM, HELP ONE ANOTHER TO GET BY.
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS CAN PRACTICE SELF CARE? IT SOUNDS LIKE THAT ENVIRONMENT THAT IS BUSINESS MANAGEMENT DEMANDS A KIND OF PERFECTION THAT IS INHUMAN. HOW DOES ONE MAINTAIN THEIR HUMANITY IN THIS FIELD?
S: That’s a great question. I’ll tell you what I learned: Dream big, but start small! When I launched my business I started with very little money, and way too much inventory! I started off trying to become the next Bath & Body Works. My vision and determination was great, but when your resources are very limited, then it requires one to make smarter decisions.
Also, since I was making my products from scratch, each item whether it was soy candles or body lotion, took a while to make. The wide variety of products (for one person to produce and package) added to much stress, so I learned to take a few steps back. I had to limit my product selection to and focus on what I was most passionate about, which was skincare. Once I did this, I gained back my sense of self. I now feel at ease and hopeful about the future of my business and even though I am still doing it alone, I have lots of more time to focus on other aspects of the business.
“My advice to any entrepreneur who is in the business alone is to focus on what you can and do it well… growth will come later on, but being present in the moment and making it count is what’s most important.”
P: “BEING PRESENT IN THE MOMENT.” THAT IS SO IMPORTANT. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AMBITION AND RUSHING THROUGH SOMETHING AND THE LATTER CAN REALLY DESTROY A VISION.
WHAT ARE SOME HOBBIES OR INTERESTS IN YOUR LIFE THAT ARE NOT BUSINESS RELATED BUT THAT HAVE HELPED YOU MOVE INTO YOUR VISION AS AN ENTREPRENEUR? HOW HAS YOUR SOCIOLOGY DEGREE HELPED YOU NAVIGATE THE BUSINESS WORLD?
S: It is super-important to know when to hang your business hat and take care of the soul. For me, this means working out, attending dance workshops, writing poems and stories, and trying new dishes and foods with friends. Although my hobbies are not directly related to skincare, they somewhat are. They keep me active in the lifestyle in which my business promotes. One that is health conscious, but free and filled with diversity. Everything that I do from dance to trying different cuisines has led me to a person who looks different than I do, and embracing diversity is what Sean Balm represents.
I believe studying business might save one from so much trial and error, however, entrepreneurs can become successful without attaining an MBA. In college I studied sociology (the study of social behavior) which has allowed me to pay attention to my customers in a very unique way. For instance, I monitor my social media pages and take note of which type of images customers respond to best. When featuring my products at expos or outdoor markets, I am always sure to collect the demographics, so that I can tailor my presentation and so forth.
I follow large corporations to gain new ideas, monitor trends, and learn. I then use my collection of data to create my own version of advertisements and media.
P: IF PEOPLE WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SEAN BALM SKINCARE, WHERE SHOULD THEY GO? I FOUND YOU ON INSTAGRAM. DO YOU ALSO HAVE A TWITTER PAGE?