Having just celebrated Black Dress Partners’ eighth year in business, I’m reflecting on the many roads I’ve traveled as Founder & CEO, roundtable facilitator, and (in the past few years) PhD candidate. I’m all about sharing experiences and knowledge, so I’m thrilled to share my most valuable lessons from growing a successful business:  


~ 8 Lessons in 8 Years ~

Life as a Small Business Owner


1) Don’t Burn Bridges—Ever

You never know when you might need to cross one of those charred bridges (especially in a small market like St. Louis). Even when you are steaming with emotion, try to think long-term, and set aside your fire. Imagine how you’d feel seated next to ‘that person’ at a future business event with a burned bridge history. (Props to my Dad Jim who shared this tip with me long ago; it has served me well many times over.)


2) You Can Drown In Opportunities; Become a Master Swimmer

You must be strategic, discerning and hustle-focused when evaluating opportunities for your business. This quote by entrepreneur Mark Cuban explains this well: “Few businesses only have one opportunity. Every entrepreneur’s mind goes crazy with the new and exciting things she can do beyond the new and exciting things she is already doing. Bottom line is this: If you’re adding new things when your core businesses are struggling, rather than facing the challenge, you are either running away or giving up.” 


3) It Will Take Twice as Long & Cost Twice as Much

When you’re considering new projects, balance your optimism with realism. Be pragmatic in what you take on and know that almost without exception, most projects will take twice as long and cost twice as much as you expect.  


4) Prioritize Your Well-Being; Without It, Everything Is Compromised

There was a time when I thought this truism was something for ‘older people,’ so I didn’t pay much attention — until I did. I learned from my own journey how impactful a setback in one’s health can be to business productivity. So my dear readers, be intentional with your health and well-being. Take it seriously and don’t take your wellness for granted. Be proactive (not simply reactive) with it. Keep your health habits high on your priority list or your foundation can be ripped from underneath you, and your livelihood with it. If you’re struggling, seek help.    


5) Your Success Is Directly Related to the Quality of Your Network

Think beyond social media platforms and think about the people you know and meet, including the media. For example, I recently met a woman at a social gathering and she later invited me to be a feature in the magazine she writes for! Give and get referrals and take a ‘how can I be of value?’ approach; you’ll be amazed at how far you’ll go.


6) Embrace Social Media

Social media is a free megaphone for your business and only requires your time to engage it. Put yourself out there consistently in all your imperfection, especially with video. The opportunities are there to be embraced.    


7) You Can Create ANYTHING! Knowing What You Want Is Critical  

Embracing this lesson (or even taking a fake-it-until-you-make-it approach) goes a very long way for building business success.  


8) Your Team Is EVERYTHING  

Your support systems (including those both on and off your payroll) can mean the difference between thriving and floundering in business. Research shows that entrepreneurs who are well supported have higher levels of confidence which is directly tied to taking action in their business. The impact of having a support system for knowledge sharing and improved decision making is significant as well. Who doesn’t feel more positive with a personal cheering section on their side?    


In your business challenges, remember that small and consistent changes, including learning from other’s successes and failures, add up to big shifts and steady growth.



Erin Joy


Fun Facts About 8

  • The number eight is considered to be a lucky number in Chinese and other Asian cultures because it sounds like the word meaning ‘to generate wealth.’
  • Eight is also considered a lucky number in Japan, but the reason is different from that in Chinese culture. Eight gives an idea of growing prosperous because the letter () broadens gradually.
  • The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing started at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm (local time) on 8 August 2008.

Props to Wikipedia for these fun facts.