For Misty Harris, the director and owner of Texas Etiquette, her passion is all about transformation.
“I love what I do! I can just see how it changes people’s lives,” Harris said. Though her business originally started out targeting local areas, Harris is beginning to grow its reach by offering online classes and Facebook Live sessions.
How did you start your business?
My background is really off from what I do now! I went to school for architecture. Then, I ended up going to school to become a midwife. Then, I trained to be a Montessori teacher. I knew that whatever I did, I had to be able to take it with us because we’re a military family. I have five children. I needed to be able to work on the schedule of the children and make an extra income, so I realized I needed to work for myself.
I love working with children. I like to see that light flash in their eyes when they learn how to do something. With that, etiquette just did it. Manners and civility apply to everyone. My first investment in etiquette was that I took an online class and became certified. I’ve read Emily Post books from here to there. Then, we moved to England. In England I was saturated in etiquette. I took a Canadian certification that applies worldwide. Then, I went back to England and went to finishing school in the shadow of the Queen’s home. It just keeps going. The more I share, the more I learn!
How do you manage finances in your business?
At the beginning, I used personal savings for the business and quickly paid that back. Then, I used a credit card and quickly paid that back. In the last few years, I opened a shop and closed it. I used credit cards and a loan for that. I’m almost done paying all of that back. It was a personal loan because my personal credit score is in the 800s, so they let me take whatever I wanted. In the long run, it wasn’t that great because I ended up spending more than I should have.
I try to spend as little as possible. I try to pay myself first, then any bills I have, and then I bank the rest for the company. The business is actually very seasonable – I have so many requests for classes in the summer, then it calms down when the school year begins. I do a big push around the holidays and then also in the spring. I do try to forecast for that, but sometimes I need to kind of help it along.
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What’s the most challenging thing for you about running the business?
Marketing is my Achilles’ heel. People are afraid to ask, but when they talk to me, they’re like, “Oh, we needed this! Where have you been all my life!” Lately, I’ve been doing Facebook Live and people say, “Hey, you’re great! You can take my children – Please!!”
What’s the most rewarding thing for you about running the business?
I teach everyone about thank you notes. Getting a thank you note or a call or a picture from one of my students who have used what I taught them is very rewarding. Seeing that they’ve succeeded and their confidence has grown and more and more good things are happening to them is wonderful.
What mistakes did you make when you were first starting out?
I learned the lesson that just because you have access to money doesn’t mean you should spend it. I did spend a little more than I should have with my business loan. My husband is a tightwad who always told me I shouldn’t spend more than I make. He always told me that if I had the money for it, I should pay for it outright and be done with it. Having him in the background helps a lot with me not going over my budget or my credit limit.
What is something smart you did at the beginning that has set the business up for success?
When I was first starting out, I was really tight and only bought what I needed. If I needed something printed, I would go have it printed somewhere else instead of buying a printer. I did a lot of bartering, too. I always ask for referrals. I think keeping it small and personal has really helped me a lot because people remember me from 10 or 15 years ago and they still call their friends and tell them to send their children to me.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Take it slow. Plan for anything, because anything can happen. With my business, I am a one-woman show, but I just pulled someone else on because if I got sick and couldn’t teach, then there would be no income coming in. Always have a backup and a backup to that backup.
What’s next for Texas Etiquette?
We have an online class coming up for elementary schoolers. When we first moved to Texas, I put 70,000 miles on my car teaching. The demand is there. People want these classes and need these classes and see the benefit. But, I can’t do it all and be everywhere. So, I’m going to go online. Kids will have a recorded lesson and a live lesson every week. They’re going to get a packet in the mail and cards encouraging them to remember their manners. It’s called Elementary Etiquette and it’s starting at the end of September.
In the spring, I’m going to launch Tuesday Tea Club. I’ve always done tea parties, but now I’m going to do them online. They’re going to get all of their little tea supplies in the mail. Then, we’re going to get online and have a good discussion over tea.
Image courtesy of Misty Harris
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