Abraham Chavez (@RedPlasticSky) presented at the Lincoln Dot Net Users’ Group tonight about his experience starting his own business – http://mexrico.com.
Abraham’s one of those few people you meet who you might call a unique thinker because he makes an effort to form his own ideas and opinions and is interested in countering common wisdom. He draws on his experience and on the seemingly many books and articles he reads to develop a way of thinking about life and work at a philosophical level, and then has the will to live that philosophy – a rare combination.
The presentation covered lessons learned in how to start a small unfunded business while you are still working 8-5 at your day job as a software developer. Here are some of the ideas that he learned or that worked for him:
Pivot – be ready to change your business as you learn the market. You may design something for one audience and find that it is not wanted there, but with a change of direction can be very desirable in another market. It’s a good idea to anticipate this and to not try to do all of your design up front so that you don’t become too rigid.
Local – we usually think of putting our software or product out on the national market so that it reaches more people. Abraham turned that idea on it’s head – there is less competition locally, and you can very easily network in person. You can market your business as a local thing, and that really does lend a big hand. Plus, if there’s a national company that does something similar, they may just buy you out so that they can capture the market in your town.
Snowball – sometimes starting small and simple, then pivoting, can lead to a snowball effect that takes you farther than you could ever imagine. Think about how apple made an iPod->iPhone->iPad.
Constraints – have designers block? Give yourself some constraints to boost your creativity. Abraham gave a great example of using a grid with three dots on it. Use the constraint that drawing your logo has to fit on that grid and has to include those three dots. Giving your mind somewhere to start is so much better than looking at a blank page.
Reduce Complexity – be zen-like in all things: don’t give your customers too many options, it’s paralyzing (again, constraints are good). If you don’t need something, get rid of it or don’t do it. I really liked how Abraham’s business, mexrico, just did one thing: make and deliver tamales. He started with 7 types, and reduced that to three. You had to order 6 at a time. It was so easy for customers – there’s no psychological weight – and it’s like the business model for Caine’s chicken fingers, it’s just drop-dead simple. Man, I really want some tamales, now.
Out-Source – you can out-source and off-shore everything that isn’t core to your business and that you’re not great at. Abraham shared a couple of his favorites that he used to get logo and graphic designs, and video, too: http://fiverr.com and http://asksunday.com.
And finally, for funding? Abraham swears by contract employment. He’s been able to find renewable 1-year contracts that pay very well and include benefits, although, he warns it isn’t necessarily a fun path, but it can provide you with the cash you need to get going.