Lessons From A Small Business Owner: Making Right Choices

My name is Taylor Scarboro, and I am the founder and C.E.O. of Sugar & Succulents. I aim to discover my truest self and follow my passions. I’m still amazed that this isn't just a dream and I'm living this life I'm creating with love and purpose.

I’m 26 years old and live with my husband in Mechanicsburg, PA. I am strong-willed, driven to succeed, and slightly impatient. I am a quick learner, a hustler, and I’m learning to slow down to appreciate the simpler things in life. Living more intentionally was actually one of the driving reasons behind why I started my company. But truthfully, my business was born out of my quarter-life crisis. 

I graduated from an all-women’s university in Pittsburgh in 2011. When I chose to attend, I honestly didn't think about the impact it would have on my life and my future. If you’d ask me today, I truly feel it was an integral part of shaping the woman and entrepreneur I've become.

My husband and I were married in June 2015. At the time, I had a job that I could no longer say I loved. I was a zookeeper (yes, really) and while I loved the animals I cared for, I was no longer happy with working weekends or the salary I was receiving. It was a very tough decision to leave the career I built, but I don't regret it. 

More recently, my husband and I discussed our future plans and decided on an opportunity for his career that resulted in us moving three hours away. Jobless in a new suburban area was NOT part of my life plan.

While searching for job opportunities, I realized I was being extremely picky. I didn't want to work weekends or nights, I didn't want to commute very far, I didn't want to settle for something I didn't love. There were a lot of “I don’t wants.” So I reframed the question to find what I did want. I wanted something that could move locations with me, I wanted flexible hours and vacation time, and I realized I might have to become my own boss to meet those conditions. 

While I’ll always find inspiration in others, I wanted to be a leader and initiate my own path with my company. Deciding to start my own business was an idea that I had conceptualized but had no idea how to begin, so I started small with a notebook to collect ideas. Anytime I had a thought or potential business venture, I wrote it down. The first few pages of this notebook are scribbled with ideas ranging from a cooking blog to a dog trainer. I thought about things I like and things I don't like, and what I want and need compared to what’s available. I wrote down anything and everything I was interested in and searched for connections, repetition, and clues. Eventually I narrowed my focus to home decor, and Sugar & Succulents was born! 

The name of my business came from two of my favorite things. I absolutely love desserts and sweets. I also love fresh greenery and plants, especially plants that are hardy and low-maintenance. My main aspiration for Sugar & Succulents is to become a lifestyle brand associated with simple goodness. I created this website to inspire others to create the home they want, by making what they can or buying what they can afford.

After deciding on a niche, the most challenging thing about becoming an entrepreneur was finding resources. I had this great vision in my head and no way to achieve it. I was doing a lot of online research and getting conflicting information about how to set up an business, insurance, websites, advertising, and anything else you could Google. I ended up going to a local university (that I did not attend) and asking for help from the Small Businesses Development Center. My contact there, Robin Burtner, has been so amazingly helpful and responsive. I still email her multiple times a week.

Today, I am focused on finding internal validation. With a traditional job, you have a boss to correct your downfalls or credit your achievements. Right now I’m going with my gut with decisions like purchasing inventory or the look of my website. Its difficult to gauge if I’m doing the right things, making good choices, or offering a product that people other than my mom want to invest in. I am dedicated to growing my brand through my aptitude for this niche, and I am driven to find the customers and followers that support the lifestyle. Finding this strength is hard. In college there was always a right or wrong answer, and not a ton of room for creativity. In social situations we are always taught to blend in, to go with the flow, to be agreeable. Initially, I found myself seeking approval and asking others for constant feedback. “What do you like about this website? What don't you like about my business?” These questions left me feeling hurt or misunderstood when my friends’ ideas for didn't align with my own. Trusting my intuition during this experience has allowed me to accept compliments humbly and negative reviews with a grain of salt. 

I've also learned that sometimes change is necessary. Initially I was using a font on my website that I loved, but it was difficult to read. I ignored this design flaw because it “fit my vision.” After receiving the same criticism from multiple different sources, I decided that a user-friendly website was more important than an illegible aesthetic. I feel it's important to note that this was my own decision, and learning to make them is an important part of being a business owner. Occasionally, I make choices for my business that aren't my favorite option or my own personal preference, but ultimately, no one else can make the right decisions for Sugar & Succulents. I’m learning not to focus on pleasing everyone, but rather making the best-informed decision with the resources I have. Running a business means having pride in my own work, which includes making my own choices confidently. Bending my core founding ideals to fit a mold isn't going to help my business stand out or thrive. 

I think a lot of young women get lost amidst ideas of who they are supposed to be and how they are supposed to act. Putting these limitations on creative individuals effectively results in unhappy people, which affects all aspects of their careers, relationships, and lives. So my advice to any young woman entrepreneur is this: ask questions. Find someone who can answer them. You owe it to yourself. It only takes one small thought to get the whole ball rolling to live a life you're passionate about, and the possibilities are limitless.