Take These Last 4 Steps Before Launching Your Startup

by Stella Fayman on February 21, 2012

This is the conclusion of a series of posts by entrepreneur Pooja Vithlani, creator of Sass Factory, a customizable, paper-doll inspired t-shirt and applique line for girls age 5-12 with an interactive web experience. 

Pooja concludes her guest posting series with the last four steps you need to take before launching and after you start a business while holding a 9 to 5 job, then ask  five crucial questions during the startup process.

1) Once you have decided on a concept, you need to identify the skills you have versus the skills you need to source. I know I have a range of skills, but I also know what skills I don’t have. I knew I needed graphic designers, web designers, developers and manufacturers.

As I got closer to launch I also needed talent/models, hairstylists, lawyers, photographers, etc.  On top of that, I needed all of these skills within my limited budget. I worked with people across the US, as well as companies in China, Malaysia and India to get what I needed done. Many were volunteers – yes, people who asked for NOTHING in return. I had a photographer, a graphic designer, models and even had an established PR specialist and a copywriter volunteer for me. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help you if you just ask.

For everything else, pay as little as you can. Use daily coupon sites like Groupon and Living Social to see what services you can use for lower cost, post projects on freelance sites (I had a terrible, fraudulent experience on Guru.com and don’t recommend that site, but I use Elance.com frequently), and visit online B2B marketplaces to find manufacturers abroad that you can often connect with in real-time on chat. Whenever the option is available, ALWAYS use trustworthy escrow services when dealing with offshore vendors to protect yourself from fraud.

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2) Validate your product or service. The best thing you can do for yourself before going into production or further investing on a prototype is testing it with your target audience, potential customers or clients, venture capitalists, and industry experts. I conducted a focus group early on and it resulted in changing the entire design of our products. We found moms wanted the characters on the t-shirts to look extremely wholesome, while girls wanted them to look more voluptuous. We needed to do some more design work and came to a happy medium that would appeal to both.

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3) Prepare to go to market; make a list of all the launch activities you will need to invest in and start building them early on. Decide on your story – what problem are you solving, how does your product/service differ from other competitors, what is your brand voice and what do you want to be seen as having expertise in? Start researching influential connected people with clout in your field and engage with them on interesting topics. Create a social media following early on, engaging them with content that you know will appeal to them.

For example, I began a Twitter account early on where I would tweet about appropriate fashion for tween girls, a problem my business offers a solution for. As a result had over 600 Twitter followers before even launching my business – 600 more people I could market my business to directly once I launched. Also consider attending relevant trade shows to get a good lay of the competitive landscape.

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4) Lift off is by far the scariest thing. Having just launched, this is the stage I’m in now, and I can say with absolute honesty that nothing has been more frightening than working hard to get your product to market and the fear of it not taking off.

I’ve heard plenty of successful entrepreneurs say success doesn’t come overnight, but it’s still nerve-wracking.  There is a whole world of social media that is constantly evolving and tons of competition for shelf space. Juggling post-launch marketing in this world of new media, and a full-time job is probably tougher than the work leading up to launch. That said, every minute is worth it and I am still full of hope that my venture will be successful.

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