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3 Lessons I learned as a small business owner

I can’t believe that in less than 2 months A Designer at Heart will celebrate its second anniversary. Already two years since I decided to become a small business owner.

I try not to get emotional but when I think about it, the idea that this little blog I once shily created is now a fully operating company is overwhelming. People, including me, rely on ADAH. It may seem obvious but for many months I didn’t feel like I could rely on the company, I felt extremely responsible for it and I felt worried that every single one of my actions could make it or break it.

Sofa adah group photo

Now ADAH is an entity of its own, my staff wakes up in the morning and is excited to work for it and, even though we are still extremely connected and will always be, it’s not just a vision in my head anymore. I trust its growth potential and I can see that other people who follow us, and new potential clients are starting to see its potential too. Which is exciting, to say the least.

I also noticed that, as I go through this journey, many of you are reaching out to ask for advice. Recently, I found out that my little cousin has launched a promising online business (YourSitter) and I have been extremely happy to give him some advice about marketing and business development. Also, some of my former university classmates and some Instagram followers are reaching out asking what coaches I follow, and whether I had them from the beginning, how I started, how I get organised, etc.

floor plans

This makes me proud, and I would love to help more people navigate their entrepreneurial journey. It’s a rewarding one but not easy. That’s why I decided to share the main 3 things I think every small business owner should know. Here they are!


1. It’s always your fault

Just accept it, everything that goes wrong is because of you. Especially at the beginning. A staff member doesn’t perform a task? You probably didn’t brief him/her properly. Does the company run out of money? You didn’t manage it well. A client is unhappy? You didn’t perform a good service. And so on.

small business owner materials

Now, obviously, if you are new to the business you will make mistakes. Being a great interior designer doesn’t automatically make me a great business owner. And the same applies to everyone. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take responsibility for things that go wrong in our companies. Of course, not everything that goes wrong is entirely our fault. But if we look into it, we’ll realise that we always have some degree of responsibility and should take ownership of it. Work on it and everything else will improve as a consequence. I learned this the hard way early on, but it’s been a priceless lesson.

A more optimistic way to look at it is that you can make everything better, as your positive and supportive actions directly affect everyone else in your business 😊


2. You need to make decisions quickly

small business owner working

Get comfortable at making decisions quickly. Because the moment you start to have clients and get busy, you’ll need to make tons of decisions every day. Mostly, decisions you never had to make before. You just need to make the decision and stand by it. If you took the wrong one, it’ll be an opportunity to learn and take a pick a better one next time.

Business is not for the faint-hearted, get comfortable with being in charge and you’ll start trusting your gut instinct a lot more!


3. It’s a business journey as much as it is a personal one

I’ll never get tired of saying this, but as a leader, you need to lead by example. I started to invest in my own personal development early on in this journey and it’s been the best money I’ve ever spent. On top of that, you need to have a growth mindset and be ready to get rid of all limiting beliefs you may have around growth, money, or leadership. In short, you’ll come out a better person!

Hope this was helpful. If you are curious to find out a bit more about my journey, have a look at this IGTV below where I talk about how I started from scratch and how I went from interior design student to business owner in just a few years!


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I am Martina, an Italian designer based in London. I spend most of my time designing interiors or writing about it. I also love travelling. You may find me walking around the East End of London, drinking coffee and stopping at every single bookshop I bump into.

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