\nToday is both my 29th birthday and the 10 year anniversary of starting my first real business. I started my first 'company' when I was eight years old- a pet detective agency. I can't remember what inspired it, but clear as day, I remember finding a lost cat and reuniting him with his worried owner. Unfortunately, opportunities to track down lost pets were thin on the ground in a tiny suburb of Dunedin, so it fizzled out and I went back to planning and creating art for my art gallery (although I still can't draw even now.)The bug to create something never left, and like most fifteen year old girls of my generation, I considered starting up a baby sitting club (does anyone remember those books?) It didn't last long either as I found out quickly I would do anything rather than babysit and organising other people to do stuff that you won't, is pretty tough.My first real company was started when I was nineteen and about to start University. I started a cake decorating company because my Mother (who nows runs our lab), creates the most incredible cakes and I assumed it must be genetic. The company lasted about fifteen minutes, before I realised that no, it isn't genetic (see my first tip.)So I started a natural bodycare company (oddly enough also called Ethique). It made sense; I was studying science, I loved making stuff (mainly mess as my Father would say) and I wouldn't have to work for anyone else. It went quite nicely over the next three years as I studied part time and worked on my hobby business. I say hobby, because I know now, that there was very little about it that was business like. Totally unstructured, no accounting at all (which I suffered for a couple of years later when the IRD showed up), no strategy or planning. But I learnt a lot. I learnt that people love being told the truth and that when something sounds fake and advert-like to me, it does to them too. I learnt that people love to help you develop things and watch it grow and that the answer to a problem is just a question away.My second business started when I got bored with the first iteration of Ethique.The next was a confectionary company. Great product, yet everything else about the business was pretty terrible. We had the great problem of being unable to keep up with demand, but it was because we had no structure, not because we had hundreds of thousands of orders. The planning that was desperately needed was just not there.I sold both businesses eventually after learning many lessons.Now in my tenth year of starting \u0026amp; running businesses, I have learnt an incredible amount. I am exceedingly lucky to have found a large group of advisors who offer advice and their time whenever needed. My team of Janette (my Mum), Margot, Helen, Dee \u0026amp; the newest, Moses are dedicated \u0026amp; honest with me, if they think something could be better.So here are ten lessons I have learnt over the past decade.Know your passion.I am not passionate about makeup, cosmetics or fashion. I love science and the environment and if I wasn't doing this, I would ideally be wading through the Amazon, studying the creatures that live there (avoiding the spiders.)I am passionate about the values Ethique stands for and the change we are creating with products that are waste free, gentle \u0026amp; effective. I am insanely proud that we have prevented 53,000 bottles from being made and disposed of thus far and our next goal is one million. I have been able to use a skill I have to create a business that has a tangible positive effect on one of my passions.To work much, much longer hours than a normal job for next to nothing you have to love what you do. I mean, that's why you start a business right? Long after excitement and exhilaration has died away, passion will keep you pushing to improve and grow.Hire people better than you.This is regularly stated and so true. I often feel redundant as my team knows exactly what to do and does it so well. A good leader acknowledges their weak points and builds a diverse team with complementary strengths and weaknesses. I hate numbers so I have a team member who is very strong with them. Margot, whom most of you probably deal with, has an accounting degree and understands these things much better than I do. As you read this I am on a plane headed to Tasmania for a chemistry conference. I have no qualms about leaving as I know everything will be handled beautifully (although I will check in... I am a control freak after all.)Networking- do it how it suits you \u0026amp; don't feel like you don't fit in, if you don't like the status quoI hate generic networking events. They are stilted and unnatural; just a way of getting people who share very little together in a room. It often feels like everyone you talk to is interested in you until they have determined that you are of no use to them and they disappear to find someone else to pump for information.Instead, I find real value in more targeted groups. The Sustainable Business Network runs great events that are obviously sustainably themed and everyone in the room shares that value. The Canterbury Chamber of Commerce runs a young leader group and whilst the businesses within the group are varied, they theme the events around a speaker with a great story and everyone there is going through the pains of growing a business.Going to networking events and handing out your business card is old school. Do it how you want to. Some of the most inspiring business owners I know don't even have business cards (like Anna, from Pledgeme.)Surround yourself with people who have been there \u0026amp; done that, but back yourselfThis is one I learnt recently. I have a wonderful board with two very experienced directors; one who has been the CEO of several significant companies and the other who founded a very successful mineral makeup company in Australia and went on to export around the world. Both are very careful to respect my position on a subject, while presenting their side. It is vital to have people who challenge you, in whatever structure you feel suits you. I am all go-go, so having people who are calmer and more methodical is invaluable.But, you do have to be able to argue your points if you believe in them. It can be very difficult feeling so much less experienced than whom you are talking to but you know your business better than anyone. Listen and learn, but don't go along with what you don't agree with, just because you don't have the confidence to back yourself.This leads very nicely to my next tip...Trust your gut.Again, very cliche, but this is one of my favourites. Ethique (back then Sorbet) was started in 2012 and I ran it on my own (except for Helen, my wonderful bar stylist \u0026amp; logistics lady) for just over a year before some heavy hitters got involved. That year was when I set down the values Ethique would always operate by in terms of sustainability, team culture \u0026amp; transparency. I had no real experience but I felt that that was what was important and what would give the company the longevity I sought. Whilst an incredible amount has changed, our ethics have not.Everything was done by gut but the company did well. Now, we have plans \u0026amp; structure and we wouldn't be where we are without them, but intuition goes a long way.In short, if something feels wrong, even after a good deal of thought and discussion, don't do it. I have learnt this the hard way and it's almost always the number one thing you hear from other entrepreneurs telling their story.Don't neglect to planAs I mentioned, Sorbet (now Ethique) flew by the seat of it's pants when we launched and whilst it went well, it could easily not have. My previous two companies suffered from a total lack of planning and organisation and therefore we ran out of cash. Both were great products that could have had a great future had the business around them been built correctly.I joke that the only reason I have a business plan now is because of a business competition I took part in in 2013 at University. Whilst not strictly true, it did make me sit down and really flesh out what I wanted to achieve and how, sooner than I probably would have. We constantly update our plan and evaluate opportunities against our long term goals. It is important to make sure you are heading in a straight line and not weaving around crazily. Humans can't walk in a straight line when blindfolded, let alone run a business with no clear goals.You will feel alone sometimesI'm an only child so I'm quite independent and don't mind spending large periods of time alone. But I often feel alone even in company because no one quite gets the stress, the pressure or the excitement of growing your own business. Even though my team and my family are as passionate as I am and love what we do, they can't understand how emotionally attached I am to it. It's like having a piece of you on a table, which everyone can look at, laugh at, judge and poke. It's so much more personal for the founder and that can be really hard.But some sage advice from one my directors recently told me that every entrepreneur feels this way and whilst it doesn't go away, you learn to manage it better. That is why picking the right events is ideal, as you are more likely to develop meaningful relationships with people going through the same thing.Don't worry if you don't fit in the 'entrepreneur box'Being an entrepreneur seems to be presented as some kind of hero- think Elon Musk \u0026amp; Richard Branson. The focus on what makes entrepreneurs special, or how you can 'become' an entrepreneur seems to have reached new heights. I think this is ridiculous. An entrepreneur does not make a business. They may have the vision \u0026amp; the creativity to get the ball rolling, but they need a team of devoted first followers who see your vision and help you actually achieve it. And those people are often the bravest ones.I have read many 'five things every entrepreneur does before breakfast' and 'ten ways to become more entrepreneurial' style articles (a la Buzzfeed), that make Entrepreneurs seem like extraverted whizz kids who single handedly save the world before they are 40 years old before retiring on their mega yachts. I have yet to read any of those articles where I fit in the supposed entrepreneurial guidelines and I'm really not bothered. Being entrepreneurial is about thinking outside the box, so why on Earth do we keep trying to put people in one?Imposter Syndrome is real and it's not funI regularly question why people let me run the company. I'm lucky in that the support around me is incredible, but Imposter Syndrome (the feeling that you are unworthy of your position and don't deserve it), can cause serious problems. I'm working on my negative self talk as this is definitely something I struggle with- if you do too, it's worth having a chat with a business coach as there are some great ways to work on it. Women tend to struggle with IS more, but men do too.You have to look after yourself firstI haven't quite got this one down, but I'm working on it. I am prone to depression and occasionally I will have weeks or months where even getting dressed is a struggle. This happens when I eat badly, don't exercise, work seven days a week for weeks on end or neglect the other aspects of my life.Yes it feels like your business is the most important thing in your world- but it isn't. And you won't have a business unless you look after your mental \u0026amp; physical well being.