Why you should care
Because you could be missing out on the next big (and lucrative) opportunity.
You’ve got a rad new idea for a toy that is sure to be the next must-have. Or you believe you have an entirely new twist on a concept that might just make for a great business. But you’re hesitant to take the plunge because starting a new venture is perilous work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Only 50 percent of small businesses will survive five years or more. Approximately one-third will survive 10 years or more.
It’s no wonder that knowing where to start — how to build a prototype, how to market your product, etc. — can seem so intimidating. One thing that differentiates successful startups from unsuccessful ones? The right advice and the right tools.
We tapped four entrepreneurs for tips and tricks for how they turned their big ideas into unique products. Each recently started exciting new ventures with funding from Backed by QuickBooks as part of their crowdfunding campaigns that helped them make the leap into working for themselves.
Industrial designers Shubham Issar, Amanat Anand and Yogita Agrawal first came up with the idea for SoaPen — a colorful tube filled with liquid soap that allows children to draw on their hands and learn the benefits of handwashing — as part of the UNICEF Wearables for Good Challenge (which they won in 2015). Due to their background, they didn’t worry about how they’d package the product. Figuring out the winning formula for their soap? That was the first challenge.
“The chemistry was all new to us,” admits Anand. “Most of our time went into identifying the right people to help us with the manufacturing.”
The concept started out as a crayon-like bar of soap, but after some experimentation, they realized liquid soap would be easier to scale.
“We started by learning how to make bar soaps in the kitchen in different shapes and colors and eventually went on to work with Ph.D. students at a lab to help us develop the concept,” recalls Anand. Her key takeaway: Don’t be afraid to make a messy prototype and solicit advice from everyone about how it works. Take the time to build a smart, scalable product.
“Don’t treat your ideas as precious, or as if they will get copied,” she says. “User testing and leveraging your network will give you unique insights on the shortfalls of your ideas.”
Create a Brand
You don’t have to create a completely new concept to come up with a creative marketing strategy, notes Stacy Moeller, owner of Des Moines–based flower company Tiny Acre Farms.
“The flower-farming concept itself isn’t new; it’s actually quite old. Like the scrunchie, it is an old idea that’s making a comeback,” she says.
To give the urban flower farm a wider appeal, Moeller moved away from the floral and feminine, instead branding the business as a fresh, modern take on the farm. “Think hipster flannel versus farmer flannel,” she says.
She also hasn’t shied away from unique ideas, like selling her floral creations out of a vintage food truck. Her biggest branding advice? Don’t do it on the cheap and don’t do it on the quick.
“Sure you can jump on Fiverr and pay 10 bucks for a logo, but what sort of impression does that logo send about your business?” she says.
Build a Community
Social media makes it easier than ever for businesses to establish a base of followers around the world, so take the time to cultivate fans. Fostering a community that has your back is a huge bonus, as plus-size fashion blogger Lauren Jonas found out. When she launched Part & Parcel, a startup that makes wide-calf boots, her readers followed right alongside her and encouraged her to make her idea come to life with a social impact focused on inclusivity in fashion.
“For eight years, I have built lasting and deep relationships with many of my readers, hearing their struggles,” Jonas says. “At the end of the day, Part & Parcel is about serving this population and building a home for them that’s often about more than boots.”
As much as you love your work, finding time for other things that bring you joy will let you bring your best self to the business. Hannah England, of Wash. It. Later, a soak-and-clean system for children’s clothes, admits that the work-life juggle most days makes her feel like she’s in the circus. Building a loyal team that leans into her strengths and divests from her weaknesses has been vital, she says.
“My husband and sister-in-law are the best teammates I could ask for,” England says. “Day-to-day is constantly busy, between building a business and raising a family. But staying organized and having accountability gives us a chance to feel more balanced.”
Building a thriving business to scale takes careful planning and nurturing. The good news is that the blueprint to success is transparent and easily followed. With a little stick-to-itiveness, you can bring your ideas to fruition and craft the business of your dreams.
Use the Right Tools
All of these businesses were chosen as part of the Backed by QuickBooks campaign this fall. Each Backed by QuickBooks company received capital, a new laptop, and other resources to help get their businesses up and running, including a subscription to QuickBooks Online and time with an individual QuickBooks Pro Advisor.