- How This Entrepreneur Took Her Concept to Customer in 9 Months - October 14, 2019
Launching a company is an exciting, yet complex process. There are so many moving parts to consider when bringing an idea to life. The length of time it takes to start a business depends on many factors, but every type of business is bound to hit roadblocks or timeline changes eventually. It is important to be flexible while starting a company, but it is equally important to remain motivated to keep things moving. Through my experience as a serial entrepreneur, I’ve learned many tips and tricks for best practices to remain on schedule. My latest startup, Beautiac, was able to ship product within nine months of conception.
For those looking to jumpstart their entrepreneurial journey, here are a few tips to consider while building your launch plan.
Make a plan and hold yourself accountable
Create a comprehensive plan with specific deadlines you want to hit. You are your own boss, so task yourself with hard deadlines and hold yourself accountable.
If you were working at a large corporation, you would need to work with time-sensitive persistence as demanded by your supervisor to keep projects moving according to schedule. Treat your own startup launch the same way. By creating a detailed plan, you can then hold your vendors accountable by giving them deadlines, too.
Utilize other self-starters who align with your vision
Avoid bottlenecks in the branding and design process by approaching it with a clear vision. If you don’t already have a trusted agency in mind, I recommend leveraging freelancers. Solid branding and design work is crucial, but a costly and time consuming agency isn’t always the answer. Dedicated online communities like Upwork can help you find a great design entrepreneur who fits your style, budget and timeline.
Start by gathering five to 10 examples of brands you love, along with three to four clear, actionable reasons for why you love each brand. Saying “I like the way this font portrays femininity” will be a lot more helpful to a designer than “I think this logo is cute.”
Next, gather a handful of descriptors that you want your branding to convey. For Beautiac, I used: fun, casual, informative, bold and disruptive.
Lastly, make a list of everything you need your freelancer to accomplish. A design firm and some freelancers might have standard packages they offer, but it will be most helpful to provide a direct scope of work.
Branding aspects to consider include:
- Brand colors
- Tag line
- Font choices
- Packaging layout (if you have a physical product)
The Minimum Viable Product method
Focus on the minimum viable product (MVP) first and the rest second.
This development technique ensures you have a working product with sufficient features necessary to satisfy early adopters, while leaving room for feedback and improvement.
For Beautiac, I wanted to get product in the hands of consumers as quickly as possible, so I launched with a basic version of our website and backend software, with plans to implement upgrades every few months.
If you postpone putting your brand and product out into the world until it is 100 percent perfect, you’ll never launch.
Founders are notoriously picky, so an MVP allows you to make progress while budgeting for flexibility.
I suggest this because oftentimes, entrepreneurs will over-complicate their startup plan, and they’ll end up spending a lot of time and money in areas that end up being unimportant to their customers.
Every entrepreneur has assumptions in mind about how the market will react to his or her business and how the business will grow. However, at the end of the day, these are just assumptions. Once the product is out there for people to buy it, you can discover how accurate your predictions were and how you can improve your company to attract future customers.
Market testing on an idealized image of your company is great, but you can’t receive real customer feedback without having real customers first.
Cement your core business processes
Nothing will delay a startup’s launch quite like operations. Finance management, manufacturing and fulfillment are the basic components that you’ll need to set in motion to launch your startup.
Accounting is the backbone to any business. If you don’t fully understand the costs of your business, it is easy to run into an unexpected quote from a vendor and get stuck.
Budget everything out and add 20 percent to it. Most anything will almost always cost more than you think it will in the startup phase. In addition to bookkeeping, find someone who can model your business plan financially, as it will be the best money you ever spent.
Questions to ask yourself include:
- How will I handle bookkeeping?
- What bookkeeping software license do I need?
- Who will perform the duties of a bookkeeper and how much time will that take? If I’m outsourcing this, how will I communicate with this vendor so that we can work together efficiently?
Choose the right supplier by asking a lot of questions upfront. Determine how a factory works and if they are the right manufacturing partner for you. In such a saturated manufacturing landscape, some entrepreneurs can find it difficult to know what to look for in a strategic partner.
When looking at this process, ask:
- What is the most important aspect of your product?
- Does it need to be produced with sustainability in mind, and to what level?
- Do they keep a clean factory?
- Do they treat employees well and have good pay programs?
- Do they understand the quality that I need to meet?
- What other brands does this factory produce for and how much volume are they supplying those brands?
- Do they have someone that is proficient English (if overseas)?
You can also hire a sourcing company if you are a manufacturing novice. I source everything myself, as I’ve been in consumer goods for almost two decades and trust my instincts.
However, not everyone has the same foundation, so go with someone who has several years of experience in your specific field. Get them excited about your product and get their insights on how to get the job done on time and with great quality.
While you may choose to pack and ship items from your home initially, you’ll want to have a plan in place for each growth step. When will you need to invest in warehouse space? When will you need to invest in third-party logistics?
Detailed logistics are essential to properly pack and ship an order so it reaches the customer’s doorstep intact, on time and on brand. Shop around and find a fulfillment center that is located as close as possible to your customer base, so the cost of shipping stays minimal.
Ultimately, you’ll want to make sure you account for these costs in your planning phase. Even if you plan to start fulfilling out of your garage, you should budget for these future costs as a part of your initial margin. Nothing is worse than having to increase prices for your loyal customers because you didn’t account for the scaling costs down the road.
In the startup world, planning leads to success. It’s simple. If you have a plan with real numbers and real associated costs (plus 20 percent for padding!), you can execute with success.
I’ve outlined some of the foundational aspects of any startup, including staying on schedule, branding, finance management, manufacturing and fulfillment. You might have noticed that most of my tips involve outsourcing. It’s important to be honest with yourself from day one about your strengths and weaknesses, especially when it comes to the core building blocks of your company.
One of the reasons I’ve found success is that I’m not afraid to talk about my business and ask for help when I need it. When I need to find an expert, I talk to as many people as I can about their experiences and recommendations. By pooling resources, you’d be surprised at how many people will cheer you on.
No one person can be an expert at everything, so create a plan and know when to ask for help, and your startup will thank you in the long run.