By Carolina Wilson
Budding entrepreneurs about to begin their businesses gained key insights last week from entrepreneurs who have already made the journey, during a Refresh Miami event titled “You’ve Built It, Now Launch It!” It was part of a startup-focused series Refresh Miami put on this summer culminating in Refresh's Demo Day Aug. 28 at Miami Dade College; there is still time to apply to present or get tickets on RefreshMiami.com.
A packed house turned out at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science on Thursday for the latest installment in the group’s “summer startup series.” Three panelists provided their takes on missteps to avoid and actions to take that encourage success. They included:
- * Sari Azout, the founder of New York-based Bib and Tuck, an online platform that allows users to sell clothing items they no longer wear and then use those proceeds to fund their next fashion find.
- * Dawn Dickson, the founder and CEO of Flat Out of Heels, a Miami-based business that sells easy-to-carry and rollable flat shoes for when a person has passed the breaking point with her high heels.
- * Igal Aciman, the head of global sales and marketing for Miami-based ParkJockey, a mobile app that allows users to find and reserve parking ahead of time.
1. What challenge did you face when launching your product that you perhaps didn’t expect?
“You spend so much time building this startup and it means everything to you. Then you launch and nobody really cares,” Azout said. “So the first 1,000 people are the hardest to get onboard.”
Dickson faced the opposite problem: getting people too excited about her project before she could deliver. She then had to work quickly to get the product out to her impatient customers.
“I think I just jumped the gun by telling everybody about the business,” Dickson said. “I didn’t give myself enough time to develop the product, so I just launched it initially before I should have launched it.”
Just because you understand your product doesn’t mean everybody else does, Aciman said.
“Everybody has a different approach, so that means you have to budget in more time and resources to try and convince people.”
2. How did you build buzz around your business before you launched?
“Definitely social media,” Dickson said. “Even if you don’t have a following and you know you’re about to launch, go out there and connect with your customers in advance.”
Spend time collecting contacts, Azout said.
“Make sure you have a launch page where you’re gathering emails. Email marketing is incredibly affective,” Azout said. “One of the advantages of taking so long to build and being able to launch a product is that you have time to build the right relationships.”
Aciman said keep your friends close.
“I think you should find a good ally or a few allies,” Aciman said. “Think about what’s the pain point you’re addressing with your product and then who will care about that. There are a bunch of influencers for any product.”
3. What tools do you use every day that you find invaluable?
“Making sure that we’re very organized in terms of outreach is key,” Azout said. Azout uses a platform called Highrise to track outreach to influencers and Pivotal Tracker for project-management tasks.
Asana, a project-managing tool, is helpful to businesses with team members working from different locations, such as Aciman’s.
“If you’re across different time zones, email becomes a huge problem,” Aciman said. “For us, it was unmanageable.”
Carolina Wilson is an editorial intern for Knight Foundation. This post was cross-posted with permission from Knight.