Starting your dream business is a lot simpler than you may think.
In 2015, I left my cushy corporate job to pursue a tech startup I’d been working on for over a year.
I had designed UIs, wireframed out a user experience, written business plans, financial projections, hired developers and more.
The investors and founders of Vea had invested nearly 100K and countless hours by the time I left my corporate job.
It took me about two years to get the app launched – from idea to app store
Looking back, I realize how unnecessary this two years and immense cash investment were. Not because the business wasn’t a great business, rather that I didn’t think this through enough before starting.
I could’ve leveraged countless platforms and expedited launch tenfold had I known what I know now.
Here’s what I would have told myself back then – spoken through an interview with 21 year old founder, Adam Stinson.
It’s a New World of Business
Nowadays, there are so many tools and platforms to start companies, and most of them are free at the starter level.
Looking back, any investment of 100K into an app – looks archaic and unnecessary
I even came to find out there was a company in London who built exactly what I built, that I could’ve leveraged as a white label service – instead of developing my app software from the ground up.
Given all these learnings, HelloCBD founder Adam Stinson wanted to try starting one in a much leaner way.
Here are the steps he took to start his new business, HelloCBD for dogs, which shipped its first customer products 29 days after forming his LLC and beginning work.
Step 1) Map Out Your Dream’s Requirements and Lean Down Aggressively
Before you dive in, think about it like this.
What are the ABSOLUTELY necessary steps to launch?
Adam explains “One of my friend’s businesses launched before they even had a website. How? They were just doing outbound cold calling. And then sending customers documents only if they requested more info. They sold $10K the first month without any website or official documentation. Observing that experience taught me a lot.”
He continues, “HelloCBD is an eCommerce company selling CBD oil for dogs and cats to improve wellness, reduce overactivity, relieve anxiety, pain and effects of aging. We launched in less than 30 days.
When designing the business, we thought through our business model, and made checkboxes for exactly what we needed to start selling product.
After making the list – We cut out tasks ruthlessly
We had no fancy logo and built our website with a marketer-friendly site builder – Shopify.”
For you to get started, it helps to make a simple checklist of what you think you need – then review it with a friend and have them help you cut non-essentials or find cheaper alternatives. If you’re having trouble, simply ask a friend (or me! DM on Instagram @TCG_style).
Step 2) Put Simply: Choose Affordable Choices
It’s tempting to build the whole business at once, from marketing to operations to finance to HR. But when you’re a one-woman show, most of this isn’t necessary to get you to “launch”.
There’s some degree of confidence that comes from knowing “all the boxes are checked”.
“I challenge you to be OK with not having a perfect business before launching.”
Instead of thinking “what can we do?” think “what can we cut out?” Adam beckons.
A traditional retail business might require:
- Custom web design
- Custom web & eCommerce site development
- Lawyer to form a legal entity
- Marketing plan
- Marketing campaign development for paid channels
- Social media pages with content postings
- Staff to handle operations
- Product stock
Here’s what we came up with and how much they cost us:
- Website and eCommerce store
- Shopify Store – [Hack] open a partner account and use the “Development Store” option to get a free site
- Web hosting
- Facebook Messenger App plugin onsite for customer support / sales
- Payment processor (Stripe, Auth.net)
- A super basic logo & product images
- Designed the logo on Canva
- Standard product images from manufacturers & unsplash.com
- LLC to do business under via LegalZoom
- A single low cost, high ROI marketing channel
- social media influencer who gets paid after posting (aka after we get sales)
Without needing to say it – this was much more achievable than the first set of options. Fewer and smaller project.
“Once we had it all in place, I almost felt like we weren’t ready.” Adam explains,
“When we processed our first test purchase, it worked too easily. I felt concerned.”
That fear is rooted in not knowing what to expect once he sold some product. But the only way to learn is to actually try it!
Step 3) Bossbabes – Focus Opex versus Capex at First
That last thing to consider in your business design when you’re starting off is this: Operating expenses (OPEX) versus capital expenditures (CAPEX).
Operating expenses are monthly or recurring expenses – like a ClickFunnels subscription. This would cost something like $199/mo.
Capital expenses are one time fees for assets that last beyond a month – like building a custom website from the ground up. A custom $10,000 website should last you a few years.
When you’re first starting, it makes a lot of sense to use free or cheap OPEX until your product is actually selling and you’re supplementing costs with new revenue.
Especially considering that most business softwares are free at the base level
Adam offers up a few favorites that start out free or cheap:
- Mailchimp – Email automation
- Shopify – eCommerce and website hosting with plugins
- Canva – free design tools
- Unsplash – free high def imagery
- Wave Apps – free accounting software
- Facebook Messenger – website chat function
- Stripe – payment processing
As your business matures, you will want to invest in capital expenditures – or long term investments.
For example, down the road Adam might want to shift away from buying stock and toward bottling his own product, to improve your margins once there’s predictable sales volume.
But for now, focus on cheap, low committal services with good reviews and a lot of software integrations.
It doesn’t need to be that hard, really
We as humans tend to overcomplicate things.
There may be some psychological explanation for wanting things to be perfect, but there’s more and more data suggesting this isn’t the ideal route in business.
“Perfectionism is the entrepreneur’s plight”
Don’t get caught in a cycle of trying to perfect something that doesn’t affect the bottom line up immediately.
Things like logos are important, but are easily redesigned after launching and making some money.
Starting a business or need guidance? You can ask others who’ve done so in our Facebook Community if you’d like.