Sapphire Bates is the founder of The Coven: an online Girl Gang designed to bring small business owners and independent creatives together to learn, connect and grow. Aware of the loneliness and often lack of support when running a solo show as a female in a world that frequently still underestimates self-made women, The Coven was born. Whether an already established business or holding just a seed of an idea, witches (which fyi, just means you’re “a powerful woman who is ready to rise up, own her shit and become the best she can be”) have descended from all corners of the globe (yup, really) to become members of this very special business group of glorious, driven women. With weekly workshops with industry experts, monthly accountability calls up for the taking and a private Facebook group that will have your notifications turned upside down with messages of support, offers for collaboration and questions for those likeminded, there has not been a day that has passed since The Coven’s launch in June, this year, that I have questioned my decision to sign-up myself.
Having learnt a thing or five-hundred since successfully setting up and running her first business, The Flower Arranger, Sapphire recently made the decision to shut up shop in 2019 to focus solely on The Coven, minus a few weddings give or take (gotta give the people what they want, right?!) Which is why I wanted to take the opportunity to speak to her now, at this crossroads of her career. She is a woman whom I feel beyond grateful to have connected with this year; one who’s purpose shines through every single day as she helps so many women bring their dreams to life. As she ventures down a new path (quite literally - she’s moving across the Med at the end of the month!?), and it’s the time of new beginnings (hello January) I knew she’d have some pearls of wisdom to share on decision making, social media and planning ahead of launching a business, for this final instalment of Make Magick Happen this year…
Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
I always find this first question so tricky, it evokes a feeling not too dissimilar to standing up in front of a new class at school as a child. I’m Sapphire, obviously. I’m still figuring out who I am - the only thing I’m definite on right now is that I’m twenty four and an Aquarius. As for what I do… I run an online platform and community for incredible women such as yourself, all striving to be successful and achieve some really cool stuff.
Because a lot of the time we only see end results on social media, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there is a whole history of behind-the-scenes work and planning that goes into a launch or idea. What did The Coven look like pre-launch?
Eight to nine months of pure stress, haha. It took a long time to build The Coven into a platform that was usable and ready to launch. It took months and months for me to turn the ideas in my head into an actual business model that would actually really help the women I was targeting.
Running a business is rarely glamorous although social media often depicts it as such. It’s stressful and hard but equally the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. That’s the only downside I find to social media – the rose tinted thing that happens, although it’s lovely to see everyone achieving things and getting to see people's ‘best bits’ day to day. It does also lead people to think that running a business is quite a simple task when in actual fact it can be very hard, things go wrong allllll the time and ruin those nice looking brunches you see on Instagram. I strive to stay true and honest on social media, show people the good and the bad as it comes. I think that’s what social media needs more of (maybe with out my annoying voice? Who knows).
Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent. The Coven looked very messy pre-launch.
"Always start with finding your target audience and what problem you’re solving for them.
Don’t create the product THEN find the market..."
You recently closed books to your first business, The Flower Arranger. How did you come to make this decision and how can others know when/if the time is right to move onto something else?
It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make so far, I was so torn for so many months over what to do. I had gotten to a point where making flowers every day was causing more stress and anxiety than it was enjoyment. I was continuing because I was overloaded with enquiries and requests and also because of my pride. It was really hard for me to admit this to myself but I realised that I was holding onto The Flower Arranger and not wanting to let go because I was worried about what other people would think. I was so worried that people would view me as less somehow or less successful maybe because I’d gone from two businesses to one out of choice. I was often praised for working so hard and managing to juggle two businesses and then I thought what would all of those people think of me just saying goodbye to one?
In the end I had to let my heart win, sounds a bit airy fairy but I really honestly had to sit and think about what I wanted in life. I’d started a business originally (whilst still in Thailand) because I wanted more freedom, a chance to choose my own schedule, take spontaneous trips and not be tied to a 9-5. Running a busy events florist meant I was even more tied down than a normal job, I didn’t even have weekends and I had the joy of looking at my calendar a year in advance and knowing I had no free time the following year either.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time running and building The Flower Arranger – it’s my proudest achievement and my first business will always be my baby but 2019 is all about me and getting to a balance with work and life that I’m content with. I feel really grateful to have the opportunity to run The Coven and do this.
In my personal experience of being a member of The Coven, I’m always blown-away by how likeminded we all are. Any tips for business owners figuring out who their target audience is?
First tip is always start with finding your target audience and what problem you’re solving for them. Don’t create the product THEN find the market, do it the other way around wherever possible.
If you’re struggling to find out who your target audience is start by actually asking your audience – most people forget they have a real life audience sat in front of them on social media who are more than likely willing to help you out.
Social media is also great because you can quite literally look through your audience, you can look at your insights and stats to see their ages, locations etc. Start by finding out everything you can about them.
"You can do it all, just not all at once…"
A lot of time online can be quite overwhelming for some. With The Coven being an online community and platform, did you have to set yourself any boundaries?
This always surprises people but I’m very strict with the amount of time I spend online. I only go on social media if I have a purpose or reason to be doing so. I.e I need to post an Instagram story to my profile to connect with my audience or I need to go onto Facebook and spend an hour chatting with Coven members or I need to go onto my feed and engage with some of my followers and look at their posts to remain connected with them. I never aimlessly scroll – in fact if my businesses didn’t rely so heavily on social media or I didn’t run a business I wouldn’t bother with social media. I’d just go without, I’m not that into it.
I do have quite clear boundaries on what I share online. Although I am a notorious over-sharer and I am always happy to be honest with people about my life I do like to keep some things private such as my relationships and my family – these are things I don’t post about online because they are something I don’t think strangers on the internet need to know about. (That maybe sounds harsh – I know lots of you reading this aren’t strangers as we chat often but obviously having a public page on social media literally means anyone can read it).
Since it’s December - what has been the most valuable lesson you have learnt in business this year?
You can do it all, just not all at once… this is a game changer for me. I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself to ‘get everything done’ (an impossible task for any business owner so not worth stressing over) and to achieve the next thing and the next and the next all in a really short space of time. I wouldn’t change the past because it’s got me to where I am now but I am looking forward to slowing down the pace next year and savouring the journey.
In your opinion, what is the number one thing you should do before launching a business?
Plan. I know the temptation when you have a brilliant idea and you really want to just get it out there into the world and quit your job etc. etc. but if you do all of the research and the boring business plans beforehand you can go into it feeling confident and without the stress of just throwing yourself into it with your eyes closed.
People say business plans aren’t needed anymore and to a certain degree they are right – you only need a printed-out business plan if you’re off to the bank to ask for a loan or maybe meeting investors. However I encourage EVERYONE (even if you’ve already started your business) to do a business plan, a ‘for your eyes only’ version. It helps you to really understand your business, not just the idea but the business side of the business – who your market it, how the business will make money, what % of profit, what your costs are, how quickly it could grow, how you can market it. It also crucially allows you to dive really deep into the business idea and make sure that there is ACTUALLY A MARKET FOR YOUR PRODUCT. You wouldn’t believe the number of people (including big businesses who should know better) that launch a product without first ensuring that anybody actually wants and needs it.
Plan, plan, plan. Get organised and you will thank yourself later.
P.S. I hope you didn’t read that and get scared. You can launch a business without knowing anything about business, I did so and you can too – you just need to commit to learning and facing the scary stuff, don’t hide from it.
What do you think is the biggest thing in the way of people going after the career of their dreams?
Fear. It holds us all back at some point in our lives. The thing is, fear is sneaky, it hides itself behind barriers and obstacles that seem really real at the time: “I don’t have time” or “I can’t afford too”. 9/10 out of ten, that’s fear getting in your way and there is a way round that obstacle if you really go for it.
Finish the sentence: ‘Success is…’
To sign-up to become a member of The Coven, visit the website here and in the meantime, get to know all what the platform has to offer, and how much love Sapphire has to give by following on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you so much for reading Make Magick Happen this year, it’s been so fulfilling to speak to so many empowered business owners and independent creatives. I really hoped they’ve served to inspire you and give you the boosts of support you need within your own path. Can’t wait to bring you more insights with incredible magic-makers next year. Until then, you can explore the archive of Make Magick Happen here…