5 Lessons Learned During Our First Year as a Start-Up

Denver Start-up Week  kicks off this week! In support of all the amazing women out there venturing off on their own, we wanted to share a few lessons learned during our year.  

There’s nothing easy about starting a new business. We started with a kernel of an idea, little cash, and an enormous learning curve. We are two moms who ditched our corporate careers to pursue our passion for fashion. We wanted to put our experience in design and marketing to work in creating an amazing product that we would have a blast sharing with the world. After years of making other products look good, we wanted to create something so amazing it would shine on its own. We set out to break into one of the most competitive industries there is. Here are few lessons we learned during our first year out.

1. Focus is Everything

The details that you have to tend to when you are starting up are ENDLESS! When you only have two people to tackle product development, marketing, and business issues, focus is everything. It’s easy to blow the day working on all the fun things, which may or may not be the most critical things.

One thing that has helped us stay focused is to dedicate a portion of every day to our most critical tasks. Sometimes that means that non-critical things have to fall to the wayside. And that’s okay. Focusing 80% of your attention on the things that most directly contribute to your overarching goals will pay off in the end.  

2. Look for the Helpers

Never be too proud to ask for help. Starting up is a monumental task. Seek out people who can help get you where you want to be and graciously accept any support you can get. Go through your contact lists. You’ll be surprised at how many people you may have in your own circle who can give you a contact, offer advice, or help in some way. Some will come to you on their own, but for the most part it is up to you to reach out and make the ask.

3. Don't be Afraid to Switch Gears

It’s great to have a plan, but don’t be afraid to throw it away when things aren’t working. There’s no way to know in advance what barriers or opportunities might present themselves. If something is not working, make a change – even if it means starting over completely. Constantly evaluate your product, delivery methods, and marketing approach and be open to course corrections that will get you faster or better results. There’s a lot of trial and error involved in starting up. Growth comes from failure as much as it does from success.

4. Eat Your Pride - Get Early Awkward Exposure

One mistake that many start-ups make is waiting too long to get their product out there. It’s typically not feasible to completely perfect your product before you start showing it to potential customers. Exposing your product before you’re ready will hep attract early customers and allow you to get good feedback that you can incorporate into your final, perfected product.

We knew we had a long road to developing a beautiful product and attractive e-commerce site. We also knew we probably weren’t going to get everything right on our first go-round. We intentionally published awkward marketing materials and unfinished products very early in our journey. We got great feedback that helped us make design decisions and shift our marketing in a better direction. We also built up a fan base that became our first customers once we were ready to start selling.

Here's a look at one of first social media posts compared to one of our most recent posts. We've come a long way! Our early posts were prototype plastic models disguised as finished products. 

5. You Have to Keep Going

There is nothing quick about starting up. It is a long game. Sometimes painfully long. Some days will feel hopeless. Some days you will want to pack it all in and walk away, but those times are fleeting. Just when everything seems so very wrong, you will have another victory. No one is going to push you past the hard parts. You have to push yourself and keep going. Every single day.  



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