The Glamorous Life of an Entrepreneur part 2 – Name Branding

Soon after we decided to go for our idea (which I wrote about in part 1) we realized there was a huge ocean between dreams and reality when it came to execution.

We defined our future product idea but then we need to figure out to whom we should sell it and how do we do it. We first needed to determined the gender of the baby and then decide on a name for it.

We started with targeting:
Many questions had to be answered:
1. Do we target a specific gender or do we get even more specific in terms of age or occupation (women aged 20-40, students, housewives, etc.)?
2. Do we target a specific social class Class C vs. Class A/B (mass or elite product)?
3. Do we go for an emotional appeal or do we go after a rational solution?
Etc., Etc.

Well, guess what? It was the chicken and egg problem. We were entering a new market with a new way of doing things: Online; Shopping; Fashion, were just some of the dimensions that shaped our world. The couldn’t really get responses before we tried but how do we try if we don’t know what we are offering?

We decided on the combination of all – we were going to target a more sophisticated consumer that seeks solutions and answers(logical) but also a sense of comfort (emotional). Our clear goal was to be simple and straightforward both in terms of visual identity and in terms of approach.

Naming the business was a parallel process that required a lot of brainstorming and creativity. We started with the name Spartana and even bought a domain for it. After much debate and consideration it was deemed too strong to represent our idea. We were in a search of something catchy but also cool that will communicate the above dimensions of comfort and helpfulness. Some people recommended using something that has a cool sound like: google, livo, fab, asos, etc., others suggested using a word play, while a third school talked about functional names like:, Another consideration was about using a name in Portuguese vs. a foreign sounding name.

We opted for a foreign name (LetMeKnow) both because it sounded catchy (Brazilian loveee America), it was not gender specific and the domain for it was available (a significant amount of time was spent on mapping available domains). Finally, all of our friends loved it and we figured we can trust their judgement 🙂

In my next post – on how we become technology gurus (well, not quite…), or the definition of a bottleneck of innovation.

The Glamorous Life of an Entrepreneur part 1

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

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!

Doing Business in Brazil

Almost one year ago, I wrote yet another (unimaginative) paper for one of my international business classes. The subject of the paper was “Challenges and Opportunities of Doing Business in Brazil.” I learned a lot and wrote a lot, while working on that paper, but only now I am really understanding what do they things I wrote about really mean. What is a complex legal system and bureaucracy? How can a country of 200 m have a failing infrastructure? What does lack of services translate into?
As an aspiring entrepreneur (some day, some way), I’ve been collecting ideas for potential businesses, identifying gaps and inefficiencies in the market. The examples are plenty: Forget e-commerce – the average business in Rio has a website that looks like something a 12 year old in the 90’s would make, while learning HTML. This is a great opportunity. Another one is customer service – an average waiter at a restaurant, would barely even look at you until you grab him by the sleeve, forcing him to get your order or bring you the check. The dismissive answer – “I don’t know, go ask someone else” from someone who SHOULD know, is extremely common.
There are many many opportunities in services and training, one could capitalize upon. For now, I shall continue brainstorming though..

One interesting anecdote I heard yesterday is a typical example of the types of risks we don’t think about as gringo investors accustomed to the developed world. A fellow colleague was considering buying land near an area in Rio where they are planning to build the olympic complex. She then consulted a guy who already owns a land there who informed her that his largest challenge was land invaders who will come every so often and try to set up their housing on his land. Then he had to get guys with guns, to get them away from his property. Solution: buy land and immediately build something on it and get tenants to make sure you don’t get a favela on your property!!