I have been working on starting my own business for about 6 months now. Figured it might be interesting to share some growing pains here, while the memories are still fresh, in case that some day I will become the new Steve Blank and will have to invent stuff in order to tell my story, as I won’t remember anything anymore.
The first phase: Glorious Ideas Waterfall
– It all started very simple: my partner and I were having a pistachio ice cream at my favorite place in Ipanema, Felice. There was something in the air that made us make the affirmative mutual commitment: Lets start a business together! We talked about selling various things: basic T-shirts, designer furniture, basic furniture, design services, basic services, consulting for small businesses, etc, etc. This is how the ball started rolling.
-Being uber-sophisticated business women that we are, we had to formalize our brainstorming process. We started making spreadsheets with our key ideas, their pros and cons, sources of information and previous examples. We mapped out contacts across marketing, finance, supply chain, other start-ups (in this process we also learned to use better google docs…). The lists were just growing, and so were our brains with the world of opportunities out there.
The second phase: The idea shaper market research
-We started employing our network of contacts and hold meetings with everyone we knew. We met all sorts of people: aspiring, current and former entrepreneurs, food industry specialists, oil industry specialist, tech geeks (who we tried to mind manipulate into helping us for free and must admit we failed – geeks are smart), start-up accelerators, marketing gurus, SEO gurus, a professional chef (not related but still cool), and the list goes on. Our main lesson learned from this was that given that meeting lots of people is extremely useful in order to get feedback and filter out ideas in the beginning of the road, but then it becomes very confusing as people give contradicting opinions which makes it difficult to move on. There is ultimately no right answer when it comes to future innovation.
-We also did some field research, taking a road trip to the North Zone of Rio, trying to find out what Class C is interesting in buying. We learned that the answer is everything and anything, as long as you can break it down into a sufficient amount of future payments. We also sent some surveys to people, but the above had very limited response rate and people gave a wide range of answers that also made it difficult to narrow down options.
-Finally, we surveyed tons of websites, both in Brazil and globally to understand what people are doing, what works and what doesn’t.
The third phase: Ready, steady, go! (Making Decisions)
-Post the research, our spreadsheet was more robust with further information and we came to the conclusion that our ideas of launching various e-commerce concepts are basically impossible to execute: we had no expertise on marketing, logistics, manufacturing, sales or any other core e-commerce activity and we were unwilling to just risk everything in order to dive into such a deep pool.
We had to opt for something simpler if we wanted our first start-up become a real thing. The concept came up through a conversation with a digital marketing guru that mentioned some sites that she ran into in the USA.
I was hesitant but my partner set her foot down and said: Lets just do it!! (Thank you, thank you!). The name was debated for more than three months until again, my partner came to our rescue when she went on a very productive family vacation, where a joint brainstorming gave birth to LetMeKnow.com.br.
Stay tuned to part 2, when I tell about what happened when we finally had to stop planning and start doing. Hint: My biggest lesson learned so far is that start-ups don’t need ideas, they need skills and connections!