Tiny Business: 7 Steps to Growing Your Own Tiny Business

3 June 2018


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tiny business book cover

The Magic of Tiny Business: You Don’t Have to Go Big to Make a Great Living by Sharon Rowe

Barrett-Koehler Publishers asked me to give an honest review of this book about how to build a Tiny Business from the ground up. I was pleased with the topic of this book because it fits directly with what I am working on right now in my own life. Building a Tiny Business.


I felt like Sharon Rowe did a great job of being ‘different’ from the rest of the self-help guru entrepreneur authors out there. After all, she comes from a different background from those jet-fueled productivity junkies. She has created what she calls a Tiny Business. In this review, I’ll write more about what that is as well as more of my thoughts about the book.


What is a Tiny Business?

They are laser-focused, mission-based enterprises that are about profit but also about meeting personal, lifestyle and social impact goals. This type of business allows you to initially work part-time gradually moving into full-time work while still having time for yourself, family, and friends.


But can you make millions of dollars off running a business like this? Yes, you definitely can and Rowe explains exactly how she did it with her unique style of running a business.


There’s a big difference between a Tiny Business and a business like Uber. Uber started out small with global domination in mind. Whereas a Tiny Business will build gradually over time. Eventually, your company could grow to be a global phenomenon. The point is that it’s up to you how fast or slow you go always keeping in mind that you need to put yourself, family, and friends first.


Having a Tiny Business Does Not Mean Having a Tiny Purpose.

tiny business purpose

The cool thing is you can still have a purpose which may be small yet has a huge impact. Taking, for example, Sharon Rowe’s company, ECOBAGS. She first started this Tiny Business back in 1989 with the simple goal of replacing plastic bags with their original stretchy cotton net bag. The idea slowly took off and took years to reach the million dollar mark.


But to Sharon, this didn’t matter. She knew she was making an impact on the environment by encouraging people to use her bags instead of plastic ones. We all know plastics take thousands of years to decompose when thrown into landfills or even worse rivers or oceans. Even though her business was small she knew her purpose was big. She had to reach the right influencers to make her product tip to a wider audience.


One of the ways Rowe suggests doing that is reaching out to people who believe in your cause who have a bigger following than you. The bigger the better. In Rowe’s case she set out for one of the biggest opportunities she could ever get. Se got featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007 for the Earth Day Special (read the article for more details). By doing this it opened up thousands of doors for her Tiny Business.


Your Tiny Business Must Fit With Your Why

tiny business why

I love the fact that Rowe refers to her ‘why’ a lot in this book and recommends that if you’re starting your own Tiny Business that you make sure it fits precisely with your ‘why’. If you don’t know what your ‘why’ is or how to find it I highly recommend reading both Start With Why and Find Your Why.


Whatever your ‘why’ is your Tiny Business should not stray from that. Not for money and especially not for time. One of the biggest reasons Rowe started her Tiny Business was so that she could have time for herself and family. This is part of her ‘why’. You should find what fits with yours too.


Steps Rowe Took in Building Her Tiny Business

For the purposes of this review, I picked out 7 of the top tips I gained from this book. For the rest, I recommend buying the book from Amazon here. The book is well worth it.


Building Your Tiny Business Step 1: Think About What You Have and Don’t Have

When you’re first starting out you may have no idea what you need or don’t need. So do the research. Take out your pen and notebook or laptop and start making a list of things you need to start building your business. No one starts with nothing.


Make a list of things as the book suggests in one of the exercises:





Family Income

Health Insurance



Wealthy Parents, in-laws, or others close enough in your network.

Trust Fund


Good Credit

Access to Credit

Business Connections


You can’t let money be the deciding factor on whether you start your tiny business or not. Money is only a tool. It’s powerful, but it’s just a tool. It’s so important at this stage to harness the power of what money and skills you have and put it to the correct use.


Building Your Tiny Business Step 2: Get to Know the Right People

Networking is your friend. Try getting yourself out to meetings, fairs, and conferences as much as possible. Any sort of event which is related to your business you should go to it. Get to know the people at the event, especially those closely related to your Tiny Business niche.


Here are a few tips from the book about preparing yourself to go into a room where you don’t know anyone.

  1. Make sure you’re healthy, energetic, and hydrated.
  2. Make sure to breathe, get the oxygen flowing.
  3. Commit to listening instead of talking too much.
  4. Be curious.


Going to events related to your Tiny Business is a way for you to toss your ideas out into the open, hear what others are saying, and make connections which may or may not be of use to you in the future. Some of your closest connections can turn out to be great partners or loyal customers in the future.


It’s like what Hugh Locke said:

“One single real connection is what satisfies when I go to an event. I never know how that connection will play out but somehow it always does, in time.” Click To Tweet


Search All Around You

In fact, look all around you for the ‘right’ people whether it might be a future customer, partner, friend, lawyer or investor. Rowe even found out after decades that the neighbor she was living next to the whole time had connections she had no idea about.


You never know who you might meet in a place you’d least expect to meet them.


Building Your Tiny Business Step 3: Be Clear on Your Priorities

Rowe calls this her ‘need to do vs. nice to do’ and what she would usually do is frequently make a list of thing that needed to get done and prioritize them into two separate columns, need to do and nice to do. Eventually, the items in the nice to do column would build up and either get done or be tossed out as unimportant.


An important thing to realize with any sort of list is not to try and get the whole thing done all at once. Try taking care of your list in chunks. It makes it much more doable and so so overwhelming.


The 80/20 Rule

80 percent of the results are produced from 20 percent of efforts. Rowe followed this rule tightly but also added an extra layer. She would give herself a little room to fail and try again as well.


Building Your Tiny Business Step 4: Get a Glass of Water

You will be coming across problems running your Tiny Business. As the founder, you must come at the problem with a level head. That’s why Rowe recommends ‘getting a glass of water’ before dealing with the problem.


Simply said, calm down and take a breath before you make any rash decisions. Look at your list of ‘need to do and nice to do’ to help you decide on your next course of action. Try making this ‘problem’ into an opportunity and call for help if you have no idea where to begin.


Building Your Tiny Business Step 5: Tell Your Brand’s Story

tiny business brand story

There is almost nothing stronger than telling a compelling story. Stories are what we are made of. Stories are who we are.


Rowe found out fairly easily back in the 90s that people were interested in her product. But, she also found that having a story of where her product came from was even more important. Her brand’s story created loyal followers who sported the product and the story as if it were their own.


When your product is your story people embrace it and will be loyal to it for as long as your brand is alive. Click To Tweet


Related Posts About Stories:

Storytelling: The Key to Public Speaking Success

Petra Christian University – Let’s Speak Up Workshop

Successful Entrepreneurs Use Stories to Stand Out


Building Your Tiny Business Step 6: Getting Seen

There are some inventive ways of getting seen that I didn’t think of so maybe you’ll appreciate as well. Best thing is usually these two things are either free or very cheap.


1. Win an award

2. Get media or influencer attention (I talked about it earlier with the Oprah example. After that opportunity came up Rowe received several features in Inc. among other huge media outlets.)


These are two free ways (usually) of drawing attention to your brand. For example, Rowe applied for awards at her local business chamber or business media outlet. Her brand won the award for best entrepreneur of the year at the Business Council of Westchester where she attended the ceremony in front of hundreds and got featured in the news publication where it was sent out to thousands along with her photo and bio.


Imagine the exposure you could get through any of these opportunities. Any type of exposure is almost always good exposure.


The more you get, the more you're seen; the more you're seen, the more you get. Click To Tweet


Building Your Tiny Business Step 7: Pivot Quickly With Growth

As I mentioned earlier, Rowe managed to get on The Oprah Show in 2007 which changed everything for her Tiny Business. But to Rowe, she wanted to still have the freedom to have weekends and nights off. She wanted to have the freedom to go on holiday as she pleased. Even though her company was making millions she still wanted to stay Tiny.


A Tiny Business is about building something agile and profitable, on your own terms, so that you (and your team) can be home for dinner.


Here’s one way she was able to keep some of her own freedom during a growth period.

Outsourcing my stress allowed me time to regroup, keep my free time prioritized, and see what the business needed next. I consciously limited my role in my own business in order to stay true to my Tiny Business principles, which, let’s not forget, included remaining a profitable company.


Last but not least if you ever get too tired of running your business there are certain levels of responsibility you can place yourself in. Afterall you are the CEO. You can:
-Sell and walk away.

-Sell and stay on in some capacity (if your future professional life is linked to the brand, there’s no reason to lose the leverage on what you’ve built).

-Find a partner and work side by side.

-Find a partner to run the business and become a silent stakeholder.

-Continue to own 100 percent and not participate by hiring a CEO and putting key metrics, goals, and reviews in place.

-Sell to your employees.


BONUS: Other takeaways you’ll learn in this book include:

  • When the competition gets tough collaborate.
  • Co-opetition
  • Going where your brand is already getting love.
  • Protecting your brand
  • Knowing your numbers

And many more!


The Magic of Tiny Business

All in all The Magic of Tiny Business is about making the right connections and building up the right relationships to help move your Tiny Business along the right path. Rowe gives many great insights into how she grew her Tiny Business from a small powerful idea into something much bigger. She is the one who helped create the plasticless bag movement by providing an amazing product with a great story behind it.


Best of all while reading this book you can feel the connection with Rowe, herself. She writes in a very personalized way. I would have liked to read even more about her and her journey. This is a tiny book packed with big takeaways. And it’s much different from the other ‘bigger’ business books out there. You’ll enjoy the personalized insights Rowe has to offer you so that YOU can grow your own Tiny Business.


I highly recommend buying The Magic of Tiny Business from the Amazon link below which will also support the continuation of this website and the growth of my business.

Always remember to share what you’ve learned with the people you care most about.


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