My Rejection Story

I’ll always be honest and share my own experiences when writing about business because I think it’s one of the best ways to help other people.

So, in this post I’m going to tell you about a time I received a rejection, how I reacted to it, and how it provided me with an opportunity to learn and grow.  

I have received a few “Thanks, but no thanks” in business, but this one I’m going to share with you seems to have stayed in my memory more than others.

A few years ago, between about 2014 and 2017, I applied to sell on Not on The High Street four times and was rejected every single time.

* If you don’t already know Not on The High Street is a website which showcases thousands of independent creative businesses. It gives them chance to sell their thoughtful gifts and homewares, many of which are handmade. Makers and creatives are encouraged to fill in an application form on their website. Once approved a successful applicant becomes a NOTHS partner and is given their own virtual store front on site. Partners pay an initial fee to join and then a percentage commission to NOTHS for every sale made on the site thereafter. When I applied the fee was about £400.00 and the commission was 25% + VAT per sale. However, this may have changed since. *

During this time, I truly believed if I could get the opportunity to sell on there that my business would fly. I wanted to feel like I had made it in the world of handmade business and I thought this was the way to do it. I became quite excited by the prospect as I started to envisage how much success it could bring me.

I filled in my fourth application and put it to the back of my mind. A few weeks later, whilst I was watching the TV at home, my inbox pinged and I became excited when I could see it was from Not on The High Street.

It started: “While your business sounds extremely interesting...” and I didn’t need to read anymore. I’d received this email three times before, it was their standard rejection response, I knew from the first sentence that it was a no.

Oh well!

In my experience, Not on The High Street don’t offer tailored feedback if you aren’t successful. I did half-heartedly ask for advice after my first and second rejections, but, they didn’t provide it. I asked because I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do when you hear no. But I didn’t bother after the third or fourth. Over the years, as I’ve got more self-assured, I’ve decided that the polite feedback you’re usually given upon receiving a rejection isn’t worth having. Constructive comments are great, but in these circumstances people tend to tell you something that isn’t true just to soften a blow, and that kind of stuff isn’t helping anyone.

I don’t know exactly what motivated me to apply a third, and fourth time because my website and Etsy store were keeping me busy enough, but I think it's because I wanted to see growth, to feel accepted, and be part of the club.

I’d seen loads of my business friends being accepted, and I, maybe misguidedly, felt like I was an equal, but NOTHS didn’t agree and, yeah, it stung a bit at first.

Initially it made me doubt myself, my products, and my style. But, after feeling down, I accepted that perhaps I wasn’t what they wanted for their site. It’s carefully curated, and maybe my designs didn’t fit their chosen aesthetic, maybe they didn’t think my business was ready for it, I don’t know. It was probably just an impersonal business decision on their part. I decided not to ruminate on it anymore because ultimately, the reasons for their no were none of my business.

After my fourth rejection email I decided that I wasn’t going to read a fifth, and I let the NOTHS ship sail away and said goodbye to that goal of mine right there and then. And, I’ve never applied since.

I won’t berate Not on The High Street, because I really admire one of its founders; Holly Tucker. She has since left the company, but I applaud its ethos of providing a platform for independent sellers. I have good friends who have built their businesses on there and it’s proved an invaluable lifeline for them at times.  

But, I realised I couldn’t keep putting my energy into applying. So, I simply changed direction and moved on.

And I learned that although rejection can initially be a bit of a blow to your self-esteem, it can be a good thing too: it can force you into refocusing and reconsidering what’s important for you and your business. For me, this rejection made me realign my goals. I realised there were loads of other ways I could grow my business without the need for acceptance from someone else. I decided to focus on improving my own website instead, so I moved from using Big Cartel to Shopify which turned out to be a great business decision. I decided to put more work into my Etsy store, and my Instagram too and everything I worked on paid off in abundance.  

I know that my approach, to dust off, move on and readjust, isn’t universal. I know there are people who will advise you to relentlessly keep going, to do whatever it takes, until the yes eventually comes, and that’s fine. But it’s a lot of extra effort, and sometimes you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.

I didn’t start my business to try and please decision makers to get where I wanted to be. I started it because I wanted to be the boss of my own future. So, these days I prefer to hold my head high and accept that sometimes things are not meant for me.

I’ve received rejections since the NOTHS years. In 2019 I applied for a stall at a successful maker’s market, twice. The first time I was ignored, the second time I was politely turned down. Again, a lot of my maker friends had secured a spot, so after the rejection I initially felt like: “Oh. I’m just not as good as them.” However, rather than obsessing over it I just quickly moved on, and now, I can honestly say I don’t have any desire to do maker’s markets. I’m baffled as to why I applied because I’m shoddy at selling in person, I’ve never enjoyed fairs, all day, face to face interaction exhausts me physically and mentally. Perhaps I applied because I was distracted by what other businesses were doing, instead of focusing on my own plan.

So, if you get rejected like I did, you could ask yourself these questions.

  1. Was the rejection personal, or simply a business decision?
  2. Would receiving polite feedback really help?
  3. Was being accepted truly important to you, or were you influenced to apply because everyone else was doing it?
  4. Can you change direction, and do something else to grow your business instead?
  5. Will reapplying and doing whatever it takes to be accepted be a good use of your time and energy?
  6. Is your success going to be determined by that rejection?


And, here are a few thoughts that might help…


  • Don’t feel you have to be part of any special club, fair, or website to succeed, you can do it your own way. You can’t turn yourself down, so accept any rejection that comes your way and head confidently in the direction of your dreams.
  • Rejections can diminish your confidence, but they can also make you feel stronger and more determined. Let them fire you up a bit, but…
  • Never let a rejection make you bitter because bitterness is not the path to success and try not to obsess over the what-ifs because many times a rejection will lead you down a path that’s much more suited to you.

Lastly, if you get a lot of joy from what you create, look after your customers well, and you feel as though you’re doing something rewarding with your life and business then you will always be good enough in my opinion.

The end.



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