DECEMBER 10, 2012
When I finally made my mind up and decided I was going to start a business, I quickly learned you need four key strengths to get a start up off of the ground: work ethic, persistence, a good sounding board and some luck. In my first week of idea generation, I bounced the new idea off of everyone I thought would use my product.
I am not discounting constructive criticism, or the pessimistic view, as I believe it’s necessary. I felt focusing on the future product users would help me quickly generate ideas around the product and keep the positive energy flowing. I knew there was a million ways it could fail, but I also knew there was a few ways I had a chance!
It wasn’t until I actually did it on my own that I understood how many hours you have to spend brainstorming, preparing for meetings and learning from them, and how many hours you have to spend creating content for your site when you don’t have the funds to hire outside help. For two weeks straight, I spent every free hour talking, writing, meeting or thinking about GetintheLoop. Believe it or not, the time it took to go from idea generation to creating a bare bones website was just over two weeks. I now had a website, a concept and 50 home-printed tear away business cards; I was ready! Ha!
This is where the persistence came into play. I worked for a week pitching to my friends and family, anyone who would listen and critique me. I got better and felt I was ready to go. Whoever said practice makes perfect, lied. You can practice all you want, but at that first meeting when it’s your idea and your own product, everything changes quickly. My first conversation with a partner golf course was arranged via a relationship with a good family friend. I gave my “pitch”, which was way below average. I nervously stumbled through my main points and what I could do for them. I listened to some great feedback on what he liked and what needed to be my focus and then at the end he said “OK, lets try it!” Wehooo! What a rush! For the first time in business or anything work related, I gave a hockey style first pump to myself in the car.
Throughout the next two weeks, I met with any business that would listen on both the golf and entertainment side. The feedback was positive, but getting that “YES “ when you are not proven and new is not easy. I heard a lot of, “call us in a couple of months”, or “maybe we will try it next year”. The one big thing I learned is it’s always easy to say “no” on the phone; you have to go see your prospective clients. I had a new idea and I needed to find the right people who were open to giving it a try. This is why I am always thankful for those who took the chance and gave me a shot at proving the concept.
In Year 1, I spent a whopping $125 on marketing; this gave me business cards and a few posters for the partner courses. My advertising budget was zero dollars, so I relied on social media, word of mouth and the help of everyone who was a part of the idea brainstorming from the beginning. I would give away a membership at men’s nights, and in the middle of June I was lucky enough to be featured in an article in the business section of the paper. All of these factors contributed to steady growth and a fun first year. Without taking the chance and learning along the way, none of this would have been possible. I had no idea how I was going to get the word out, or gain members; I just knew I had to.
Coming into Year 2, I had some new opportunities: I could now advertise, my website could improve and I had learned. It was up to me to maximize the first year’s momentum and improve the experience for both our members and our partners. Like one of Darwin’s theories explains, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change”. I knew I was definitely neither of the first two, but I had an opportunity to be the third; I could learn and change.
Some issues I had in Year 1 were no e-mail notifications available to members who didn’t want to receive texts and no tool for Loop members to identify themselves at the course. In Year 1, they just showed their cell phone to prove they were receiving GetintheLoop’s exclusive texts. Coming into Year 2, I had to make sure that e-mail notifications were an option and I had to find a way for our members to identify themselves. Beyond that, I was left with a bit of a dilemma; I now worked full time at the Business Development Bank as an account manager. I didn’t have the finances to hire someone and GetintheLoop was not able to be my only means of income.