One of my goals in life was to start a company and on July 31, 2013 I launched Steep.ly. When you subscribe to Steep.ly we ship you 4 different teas every month. This allows people to easily experience new teas and flavours.
Here are a few tips I learned while creating and launching Steep.ly that I thought would be useful for people wanting to launch their own companies.
Sleep on the Idea
I had the original idea for Steep.ly 2-3 years ago. At the time I wanted to ship out bags of coffee instead of tea, but for various reasons the timing wasn’t right and I never executed on the design. Every few months I’d think about how I could get to work and I constantly thought about it. I started drinking tea a lot and in May of 2013 I knew I was ready to start this company. Having that long-lasting idea helped me finish Steep.ly. Short term ideas are often not important enough to finish.
The most important part of starting a business is researching the feasibility of the company. You can have the most amazing idea fail if nobody is willing to pay you for it. Once you’ve found people willing to pay you for your idea you need to research whether you can be profitable from it. I know there are stories of companies not being profitable until year 2/3/4 but that’s not the norm. I wanted to make sure that Steep.ly was profitable from almost day one and that took a lot of research into the costs of shipping, packaging, buying the tea, etc…
Researching your company first can save you a lot of time building something that won’t succeed.
Use Tools your Comfortable With
For me, launching my first company meant removing as many barriers to launch as possible. One of these barriers was technology. It’s exciting learning a new language, using the latest and greatest framework or technology but these things take time to learn and ultimately delay the launch of your company. I stuck to what I knew (Python, Django, PostgreSQL) so I could launch quickly. Using these tools also let me fix 14 separate things that weren’t working correctly after I launched. If I had used the latest and greatest tool it would have taken me longer to fix those problems.
There’ll always be missing features and nice to haves that you want to add. I could easily have procrastinated the launch of Steep.ly until 2014, then 2015, then never if I had tried to put every single bit of polish on the design and every feature that I wanted. Figure out the absolute minimum that you need to launch with, do those things and then launch.
For example, Steep.ly still doesn’t have a great logo, or labels for the first shipment, or even shipping envelopes. I knew I could do all of those things once I launched and got customers.
Content is greater than Features
The biggest oversight I had when launching was not to have as much content as I should have. The number one criticism about the site was that my tea section was empty. I initially thought that didn’t matter because each month the tea selection is chosen by myself and my team but I quickly learned that people want to see what they could be buying.
Next time I’ll make sure I’ll have all the content I need and potentially pass of some features that aren’t necessary.
Leverage your Network
Once you’ve launched your company you need to market it and get the word about about it. One of the best ways I found to do this was to leverage my social network. I created a Facebook page and a Twitter account and told all of my friends, family, acquaintances and pretty much anyone I could about it. Ask people to sign up, ask people to give you money, do whatever you can to get people to sign up and tell their friends about it.
I’m still learning about running my own company so if you have any tips or tricks I’d love to hear about them. Also if you haven’t seen the copious amounts of links, sign up for Steep.ly now!