When you’re starting out in business, there’s just so much to learn -- including all the things you don’t yet know you don’t know! We believe a great way to save time, reduce stress, make smart decisions and avoid costly mistakes is by learning from others who have been there, done that. So here are some valuable insights from entrepreneurs in our QB Community who have already experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of starting a small business -- this time, they’re talking about the very first days of their brand new business ventures.
Alexia Burke, co-founder of Izza Pops: “I started making my own ice cream at home from coconut milk and cashews and sharing it with friends for feedback. I brought some popsicle prototypes to a dinner party at my now co-founder's house. She loved them! Within a month, we’d both quit our jobs to build a company and create a product we couldn't find on the shelves. I was 27 with no real financial or personal obligations, I realized this was the least risky time in my life for taking a chance and starting my own business. I thought, why NOT me? Why NOT now?”
Ian Siegel, CEO of ZipRecruiter: “The first year and a half it was just us four guys, working at our kitchen tables part-time while still working our full-time day jobs. We got our first customer after deciding to invest $50 on Google AdWords. We decided to bootstrap ZipRecruiter for a variety of reasons. For the first four years, we were only funded through the profitability of our product. Amazingly, we were able to grow our business to over 3,000 customers before hiring any other employees.”
Alan Verma, owner of five Jinky’s Cafes: “For 12 years (after coming to the USA), I learned everything I could from anywhere I could. I got an opportunity to buy a share in an Indian restaurant in Sherman Oaks, California and, under my management, it became very popular. I created a new menu, promoted it differently, developed their catering business and managed events. It was the first step towards going all-in on my own place. The experience made me realize I really could own and operate my own restaurant if I wanted.”
Julie Ball, founder of Sparkle Hustle Grow, a subscription box for female entrepreneurs: “I did a pre-launch a couple months before I sent out the first boxes. I held a contest through social media to give away a one-year box subscription, and as a result, I was able to grow an email list. From there, I did a pre-sale, selling about 45 boxes, which provided me with the capital to buy the products for the first box.”
Matt Clackett, freelance session saxophonist & music consultant: “At 17, I had just relocated to a new city and I searched Time Out magazine to find open jam sessions. I went to as many as I could and played whenever I could. I started seeing the same musicians at different venues and soon I was building a network of contacts, which eventually turned into paid work that took me all over the world.”
Leslie Barber, co-founder, NutraBella prenatal nutrition bars: “We really wanted to get into Whole Foods, but we had no idea how to do it. I started by going into a few local stores. Each time, I found myself talking to guys who had zero interest in prenatal nutrition. We decided to try a new angle. My brother knew someone who worked at the Portland, Oregon Whole Foods Market and his friend knew that the head of the Whole Body department was pregnant. So, we sent them some product to try. About two weeks later, we got a call from the regional manager with the news that they loved our bars and wanted more.”
Wendy Shelton, owner, Planner Chick Designs day-planner stickers: “On my first day after opening my etsy store, I received 16 orders and thought that was pretty good. Then my revenue doubled each month after that! The new business, coupled with my day job, meant I was working from the moment I woke up until bedtime. By June, I needed a third sticker machine and hired my son to cut stickers while I was at work. I quit my day job in July, and by August I had hired one of my daughters to package orders. By October, my two remaining daughters and my son-in-law were working for me. I’m lucky to have grown-up children willing to help!”
QB Community Members, what were the first days of running your business like?