My friend and I have a small business together. We sell whipped body butter and scrubs to a small and select clientele. We have been doing this for about five years and take pride in our product and process to make the perfect batch. We are constantly tweaking the ingredients and label design, searching for the perfect container that speaks to who we are as a business and the quality of the product itself. We know the product is good, because we are directly in contact with it at all phases — doing everything ourselves by hand.

When to Compromise and When to Hold Your Ground

Recently a friend reached out on behalf of someone she is in an organization with, who wanted some of our “butters.” My friend was acting as the go-between, communicated the needs of this woman via a series of rapid-fire texts we exchanged.

As a small business, my partner and I are always open to new opportunities to expand and build. Notice I said, we are open to new opportunities, not that we are looking for new opportunities. I have a full-time job and she is super busy managing a household. We never want the product’s quality to suffer; we want to give the process our full attention.

Navigating Small Business Negotiations

The woman wanted 60-65 sample-sized butters by the following Sunday – less than seven whole days. I asked what their budget was, to gauge what was possible. She came back with a figure that was less than what we proposed. When we presented our price, she began altering her request. Now she only wanted 50, and wondered if it would be cheaper if we didn’t add a scent, or if she printed her own labels. I took all of this information back to my partner; I try not to make decisions without her involvement. We agreed the price would not change. No matter if we reduced the number being packaged or not, we can’t skip steps in the process. Plus, rush orders would incur a fee. Finally, what would be the purpose of doing the batch if they were not branded with our names?

small business compromiseWe declined.

What my partner and I both understood was that without even starting, the project was presenting itself to be taxing. We were asked to alter our production to fit their budget. We needed to rush something that we, ourselves, never rush. And we were being low-balled. My friend, the intermediary, totally understood. There were no hard feelings.

As a small business, you are torn between taking any and everybody’s business and also understanding your limits. There is a product we like to put into the world and we don’t want that hindered by someone else’s lack of planning. It is also difficult at times to not try to “work with people” and meet their budgets. What I remind myself and others is, we are a small business, we are in no position to give deep discounts and lose control of our process. Also, what standard are we creating by faltering on things as basic as price? Finally, as my partner brought up, “You wouldn’t go to Barneys and ask them to reduce their prices.” She’s right.

As consumers, we are so inclined to haggle with small businesses. I was empowered by our decision and emboldened to keep that same energy for future projects. It made me love our business more and take even greater pride in our butters.

In what way have you taken a loss in business when you should have held your ground? How do you decide which clients are worth your time? Are you quick to take on any new client? Give these questions some thought. You might be surprised at how your business is affected by the tone you set with clients.

Featured Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


When running a small business, deciding when to compromise and when to hold your ground can be a challenge. Negotiations can be tough to navigate.