When I created a new and better nasal aspirator to ease our son’s chronic nasal congestion, I didn’t really know what it meant to start a business. Now Baby Comfy Nose is available in 7800 Walgreens stores nationwide and the larger baby products company, Baby Comfy Care is expanding. There are many things I wish I had known before starting this venture and although I’ve managed to muddle through various challenges, I would have been better off, and perhaps you will too, by considering these points.
1) Online Delegation. It is tempting to try to do everything yourself including branding, web design, marketing, product design etc. This is a fast track to overwhelm and failure. Online services such as Odesk and Expert360 put top-notch free-lance skills a few clicks away. It is not necessary to hire a staff and deal with all of the difficulties of employees when you can hire the talent you need by the hour and only when you need them.
2) Beginners Mind. Because you don’t know, you often come up with faster, simpler, better solutions. Just because others have done it one way does not mean you need to do it the way it has always been done. Trust yourself and make a mistake or two, but you will probably emerge with the better idea.
3) Scalability. Ask yourself if your business model would be different if you made 100 widgets or 100,000 widgets. Ideally the answer is no. A massage therapist can only work on one client at time, which I appreciate when I am getting a massage, but earning capacity is therefore limited. Computer apps are the ultimate scalability in that you design them, launch them and the number of downloads makes no additional demands on the creator. Creating and selling physical products is not as hands-off as digital apps, but if your manufacturing and distribution channels are in place, it can approach that degree of scalability.
4) Trust but Verify. Small businesses are a particularly juicy target for scammers as we make independent spending decisions and constantly require new products and services to grow our businesses. I still can’t believe I fell for the “Nigerian government agency” that was interested in purchasing 50,000 nasal aspirator for distribution to hospitals. What could go wrong? The scam became evident several weeks into negotiations when the agent said that they would need me to pay government application fees. I immediately broke off communications before losing any money, but I had wasted the important commodity of time.
5) Don’t Take It Personally. Occasionally I will read Amazon reviews for my products and alternate between satisfaction with the 5-star reviews and indignation at the less than 5-star reviews. It is important to remember that the comments of a dissatisfied customer is not a personal attack. I have learned that a respectful response to a complaint or a poor product review (even though they didn’t read the instructions) is a powerful generator of brand loyalty in the long run.
6) One Product is not Enough. You have worked to create a product, you have brought it to market, established sales and distribution channels and created brand recognition. If you only have one product you are essentially wasting a majority of the time and effort you have expended. It is much easier to bring the second product to market because most of the work is already done. When I attended my first trade show, The ABC Children’s Product Expo in Las Vegas, I still remember one buyer asking me what my next product was. I couldn’t believe it! I had worked so hard to create this one and all she wanted to know was what the next one was? I still appreciate the message of this indirect advice: keep going.
7) Exit Strategy. It is best to structure the company from the beginning to be attractive to potential buyers when the time comes to sell. I do not have an exit strategy but would like to. There is an art to structuring a business to look attractive to a potential buyer and this is something that I still need to get up to speed with.
About the Author
Peter Champe is the CEO of Baby Comfy Nose