Hey, Greg, thanks again for taking part in the first round of interviews regarding your business site “More Caffeine, Please” and your weekly news letter “A Morning Jolt”. To check out Greg’s first interview you can go to:
This time, I would like to drill down deeper into how you got your business up and running. With so many people searching for a home based business and a business that they can launch with little start up funds, I believe the readers here would like to get some insight into your $500, 30-day launch program.
TSG: Were you able to hit your goals of no more than $500 in start up funds and launching “More Caffeine, Please” within 30 days? If so, would you mind giving us an overview of how much you did spend by category?
GD: It took me a little longer than 30 days to get a customer, so the answer is no. However, I was able to get that customer without spending more than $500.00.
My break down up until I got the customer was:
- $105.00 for two domain names and hosting plans
- $80.00 for help with the web design
- $25.00 for a white board
- I already had a laptop and internet connection so I didn’t count that as part of my spending.
The goal wasn’t so much that I HAD to spend under $500.00 and take less than 30 days to launch my business. I set out to eliminate the myth that it takes years and a lot of money to start something sustainable. In that sense, I feel like I was successful.
TSG: How did you find your first customer and what problem did you solve for them?
GD: I found my first customer through networking. I was referred to them by a friend. For a very low cost – because I needed the testimonial and experience, I helped her with her website. This might be too much information, but here is the problem/solution to her specific problem:
The Problem: A copywriting company was writing a couple of stories a week and charging $125. The owner, Becky, currently spends two to three hours a week on the phone explaining her service, her prices, and her value. She would like to spend less time on the phone and increase the amount of business her website generates.
The Strategy: The first step was to find out who her potential customers are. It turns out that most customers who seek ghostwriting services are small business owners who are earning less than $10 million in revenue. They do not have the resources to hire an in house copywriter, and more often than not are firmly connected to the marketing department.
Next we needed to find out what her customers want. Small business owners do not purchase stories for the sake of purchasing stories. Generally, they want a story to accomplish one of two things: either to distribute the story and draw attention to their product/service or to strengthen the bond between the business and potential customers; thus converting leads to sales.
Finally, we need to evaluate the website to ensure that it solves Becky’s problems and reduces the amount of wasted time she spends on the phone educating customers.
The Solution: The first thing we did was change the way that the copywriting business views their business. The company, under the stewardship of Becky was able to cultivate a network of hundreds of magazines and PR agencies over several years. This puts them in a prime position to solve one of the two reasons a small business owner wants to purchase an article – to distribute content.
Articulating Value: The company will no longer view themselves as a copywriting service; they will begin to view themselves as a content distribution company. Their value to small businesses is not only in the stories that they write, but in their access to relevant magazines, television and other media who can draw the attention of a business’ products and service.
Clear Pricing: The company will be creating packages based on their new business model. Since the value of the service increased, so too will the pricing. This will increase the revenue the company generates. Tiered pricing will be instituted to create various levels of service packages. Service packages will be based on media exposure.
Educating Consumers: The company will be creating a blog in which to educate the visitors to the website. The blog will focus on storytelling techniques and analyzing proper copywriting methods.
TSG: How much time a day / a week did you spend on your business in the first 30 days?
GD: I was spending and still do spend somewhere in the 14 – 16 hour a day range. I absolutely love what I do and it doesn’t feel like work to me at all. Most of the time, my wife is trying to get me to stop working!
TSG: Were you able to launch on your own or did you have help?
GD: I had help. Lots of help. I have about 7 or eight “advisors” who make for an amazing sounding board. When I have an idea or when I’m stuck, I call them and ask for their opinions. While I’m sure it is possible to launch a business on your own, I’m not sure it’s practical.
TSG: What backend programs (e.g. themes, registering domain name, hosting) did you choose for your site?
GD: The theme on my blog is Thesis. I registered my domain name and hosting with Godaddy.com. Their site is a little hard to navigate, but I love the customer service.
TSG: What was the hardest part about getting your business up and running?
GD: Say what you want about how difficult it is to write a business plan, how hard it is to build your product or service. The hardest and most important part of getting a business up and running is finding that first customer. You have to convince someone to buy your product or service – to trust that you will deliver – when everything in their gut tells them that the “safe play” is to go with one of your experienced competitors. That is by far the hardest part of launching a business.
TSG: Based upon what you had in savings, how long could you take before “More Caffeine, Please” needed to help start paying the bills?
GD: I’m completely blessed in that I have a wife that was able to hold down the ranch for almost as long as she needed to. Time wasn’t so critical for me, and I understand how lucky I was.
TSG: Were you able to hit that deadline or did you need to do something else during that time to bring in more money?
GD: I was able to hit my deadline. But from the question above, it really wasn’t that prudent.
TSG: Did you set any income goals for your business?
GD: I didn’t set income goals for the business yet. I know a lot of companies do this, and I suspect that eventually I will too. However, my goal isn’t to be the biggest marketing firm around – it’s to be the best. If I do great work for a customer, then they will tell their friends about me. If I write a great blog post, then more visitors will come to my site to see what I’m about. That is my whole strategy on business development for me and for my customers. Do great work and facilitate a word of mouth marketing campaign.
TSG: Have you set any detailed goals for your business?
GD: More than goals, I have a vision for what I want the business to become. It’s funny, but I can already see positions in my head based on the type of work and business model I am trying to set up. Unfortunately things have been in such a whirl wind that I am just now setting goals for myself and making plans on how I want to achieve them. I generally set aside an hour or two a day to “work on” my business instead of “working in it”.
TSG: Is it fair to say that your passion for your purpose was your primary driving force instead of hitting goals?
GD: Yes, that’s exactly it. I have seen entrepreneurs who are more passionate about the money than they are about the purpose of their work. They are always the one’s who flame out when times get tough. Or they have grandiose dreams of a $50 million in 3 years – but don’t care about the product or service they are providing. I’m not saying money isn’t important, but it can’t be the driving force.
TSG: Have you hit any obstacles from concept to today that would have caused you to move on to a new business if you didn’t have a passion for what you are doing?
GD: Yes. On the day that I said I was open for business – after I had outlined the services I was going to offer, the free consultation, the prices, etc – not a single person got in touch with me. Not even for the free consultation. That was kind of demoralizing. In fact, no one contacted me for about five weeks. I was open for five weeks and had zero customer interaction.
However, that adversity made me better. If I couldn’t get customers then clearly my marketing strategy wasn’t working. And if it isn’t working for me, it’s not going to work for them either. Pretty much everything that I do to generate revenue, I do for my customers too. I realized that my services were flawed, and used those five weeks to perfect my offering.
TSG: What are your revenue projections for the first 12 months?
GD: I’m hoping somewhere around $60 – $70K. Not a ton, but I don’t think it’s bad for the first year in business. If I’m able to turn $210 into $60K, I’d say that’s a pretty successful ROI.
TSG: One of the things that I find interesting about your site is that it is void of advertising. So many Internet “gurus” pitch ad links, Google AdSense and other campaigns for passive income. Why did you choose to avoid these programs?
GD: The reason I do not pitch ad links or Google AdSense is that it would take away from what it is that I am trying to do. My sole focus for my company is to become the best marketing firm possible – not to be a media company that sells ads. Not to say that there is anything wrong with being a media company that sells ads, but it’s just not my passion. I love to work with small businesses and help them generate revenue. That’s where I spend most of my time. If I were to sell ads that would mean that I’d have to concentrate more on my blog than my customers.
TSG: Do you have any plans to launch any side projects in the near future?
GD: There is no doubt that I will. However, it won’t be too far off to the side. For instance, someone somewhere is going to develop the next Twitter. My side project is to learn how it can be used as a marketing tool, use it myself, and then show my customers how to use it to generate revenue.
Eventually, I might delve into the area of software/product development to help customers with their marketing but that is way off into the future.
TSG: How has your participation in other forums (e.g. Entrepreneur Connect) helped you with your business?
GD: My participation in Entrepreneur Connect has been extremely successful, but not in the way that I thought it would be. When I first joined Entrepreneur Connect, I thought it would lead directly to revenue, but it hasn’t. However, I was fortunate enough to be noticed by the editor there (Kara Ohngren) with whom I’ve developed a nice working relationship with. That relationship led to me being able to give advice in their feature “Ask Entrepreneur”. They labeled me as an expert in marketing and startups. This turned out to be much better than any revenue I could have generated from the forum. When Entrepreneur.com labels you an expert, all of a sudden, no one questions your credentials. You automatically become a “go-to” person in the field.
Greg, I definitely appreciate you taking the time and letting us see behind the curtain on your business. Hopefully you found this helpful to see how another solopreneurs goes about running his business.
To check out More Caffeine, Please and subscribe to a Morning Jolt, go to: http://morecaffeineplease.com/
All The Best,
The Solopreneur’s Guide