⚡ Signal - The Founder Journal

Getting to $23 400 revenue with a D2C eCommerce business, validating your business idea using Reddit, how to be more lucky, and more.

Hello Everyone!

🔙 In case you missed it, here’s last week’s edition on a foodie business that would be super easy to start.

In a close vote (44% vs 39%), we’re going through a game plan for how to build a founder/entrepreneur journal D2C eCommerce company. I like this idea!

Straight into this week’s edition.

Oh, PS: Last chance to get a discount on Build-a-Business.


🧨 Build A Business

// Follow along, as I actually start and build an internet business, step-by-step

The response last week was awesome - thank you everyone who joined.

Do you want to watch a business get built in real time, and be part of the journey?

Well, starting next week you will have that opportunity.:

I’m building a business.

From scratch.

With less than $100.

Over the next 52 Weeks, I’ll be journaling every single step of that journey here.

Everything I learn - you will too.

The best part? You can do it along side me. Every week I’ll be explaining what I’ve done, and what I’m working on next, and give you actionable steps to do on your own before the next edition.

Get 25% off forever

FYI: I’m going to be making this a paid segment, and this is the last time you can get a discount.

Why? Well, it’s going to be super in-depth, with a ton of quality content. It’s going to take me a LOT of time.

I think I’ve nailed down the business idea we’re going to be building together. I wanted to choose something that you could literally do yourself, in real time next to me. And I think I’ve got it.

Also, there is going to be an engaged community that is going to be running along side it where we discuss everything that’s going on, and go into your business too.

Invites are going out this week.

Here’s what the journey is going to look like:

  1. Idea Discussion

  2. Validation

  3. Minimum Viable Product

  4. First Customers + Revenue

  5. Customer Growth Strategy and Implementation

  6. Full Product Build + Skills Needed

  7. Scale

  8. Operations (Customer support, marketing, hiring etc.)

  9. A whole stack more


🚀 Startup Labs

// A business idea, explored

📖 The Founder Journal

The life of a founder is chaotic. Trust me, I know.

When you’re a one-person (or very small team) show, you muck in and get your hands dirty on all fronts. You’re literally the jack of all trades. What this does mean though, is that you sometimes lose sight of what you need to be doing to actually grow your business, not just operate it.

You’ve got your head in the sand. And sometimes you need to be forced to take a step back, evaluate, strategize and plan.

⚡ The Opportunity

An actual journal, for founders.

The question every founder wants to know is this:

What should I be doing right now that is going to have the most impact on moving my business forward?

It’s a place for founders and entrepreneurs to build their business, and most of all, keep track of their progress on things that move the needle.

💥 Features

  1. Templates/place for:
    - Business hypothesis (what problem did you set out to solve)
    - Ideal customer profile
    - Ideal day
    - Goal tracker
    - Customer feedback
    - Daily goal schedule (These are not calendars - online calendars are better at this - these are times for working towards goals)
    - Weekly goal schedule
    - Quarterly goal schedule
    - Advice/Snippets (A place to store and refer back to advice, useful bits of information from newsletters, blog posts etc. that you can refer back to)

  2. Option for a growth mentor bolt-on package

  3. Option for a accountability partner bolt-on package

  4. Partner with various services to prompt sign up at different stages of the journey:
    - Accounting (Eg: Xero)
    - Website (Eg: Webflow)
    - Email Marketing (Eg: MailChimp)
    - Small business legal (Eg. Avo Docs)
    - Build in the open (Eg: Indiehackers)
    - Mental health (Eg: Headspace)

  5. Incorporate a community around it. Entrepreneurs helping each other along the way (Actually don’t, that’s what Startup Labs is going to be from next week 😉)

  6. Eventually, build a Saas product that compliments it. An desktop app that ties in perfectly with the journal and monitors actual time spent and goal/progress tracking etc.

  7. The journals will be for quarters. You should have to buy one every quarter. Subscription model. Or, buy all four at once.

📈 Gameplan

Validate

  1. Speak to the people you’re targeting.

    Start engaging with the community in a genuine way. Find out their pain points of being single-person founders. Flesh out the ideas above and put together some mock-ups. Tactfully ask for feedback and iterate.

  2. The r/entrepreneur (~780k subs) community would be a good place to start. Easy access, plenty of members.

    Users of r/entrepreneur are also similar to (in order of similarity):
    - r/startups (~459k subs)
    - r/marketing (~279k subs)
    - r/smallbusiness (~325k subs)
    - r/productivity (~615k subs)
    - r/getdisciplined (~455k subs)

    See the Skill Builder section below for how to engage with a subreddit community!

  3. Incubators and co-working spaces are another good place to go and actually talk to people IRL. They’re a hive of busy people that are directly aligned with what you’re trying to sell. It’ll help to go to them with something and say “Here, would you use this?”

  4. Setup a landing page and collect emails from the beginning. Put up a fancy mockup and offer an early access discount. Also install the Facebook pixel straight away!

MVP

  1. Getting to an MVP will be relatively simple. Once you’ve collected feedback on the features you want to include (as listed above) you’ll know what’s going in.

  2. Then it’s about designing the content in such a way that is intuitive and genuinely helpful for an entrepreneur. This might take a few iterations. But luckily, you don’t have to print out the whole book for that. It’s super easy to spin up the just of what you’re trying to achieve in a Google Doc and send it to some friends who are entrepreneurs. Here’s what I’d say/do:

    Hey [Friend]!

    I’ve got an exciting product I’d like to get your expert opinion on. It’s called the Founder Journal. It’s made for busy entrepreneurs exactly like you.

    If my product is successful, it’ll help you organize your business life, and move your business forward day after day.

    The link below is to a Google Doc which outlines the basic flow of the book, with some example templates inside.

    If you have a spare 2 minutes, please could you let me know how I could make this an even better product for entrepreneurs like you?

    I’d be happy to ship you a free print version when they’re out for your efforts!

    -Simon

    Once that’s refined, it’s about finding a printer.

  3. That’s super easy. Look local first. It may be tempting to go straight to the Chinese market because its cheaper, but don’t do it (just yet at least).

    Find a local brand of journal/diary that you like the look of. Do some Googling and ask them about wholesale. They’ll likely be able to do it for you.

    I reached out to Moleskine while I was writing this and they said yes.

    Negotiate for a small batch run to start with. This will be a test batch so go as small as possible. When you’ve got them, circulate every single issue to as many ‘beta’ testers as possible. Get their feedback.

  4. Use the feedback to design a final product. If you’re short on capital, this sort of project lends itself perfectly to crowdfunding. Mix a well-designed and copy-written profile on Kickstarter or Indiegogo with a launch on Product Hunt and you’ll have your first batch funded in no time.

  5. Let’s say you can access 10% of the combined audience on r/entrepreneur alone. That’s 78k people. Let’s say 1% of those people buy your MVP. That’s 780 people. At a sale price of $30 USD (guesstimate) thats $23.4k USD after your first round of sales. Not bad. And that’s only from one sub-reddit.

Next step: Scale.

Website

By this stage, you’ll want a fully fledged website setup to handle orders.

My preference for a quick and easy setup is Shopify. The close second is WooCommerce, if you’ve worked with Wordpress before.

Don’t spend too much time on design.

This idea lends itself to a clean, minimal look (aka easy to design). Don’t go all in. If the website takes you more than a day to setup, you’re going too far.

Same for logo and branding etc.

Remember to install your Pixel and Google Analytics straight away.

Marketing

  • Visual marketing is going to be important. Get some beautiful photos of your product. Remember who you’re selling to. What sort of content resonates with them?

  • You’ve got a bunch of emails from your landing page. Send out some email campaigns to let them know your website is live. Remember to include content in there that’s going to be valuable to them, regardless of whether they buy your product or not.

  • I’d start with Facebook and Instagram ads. Using the Pixel which you setup on your landing page, and your target audience, test different creatives and find what works.

    If you want a full guide on getting started with D2C eCommerce Ads Profitably, it’s going to be given to the Startup Labs community (and paid subscribers of this newsletter) for free. It’ll take you from zero knowledge to creating killer Facebook and Instagram ads that are profitable.

    Subscribe now

  • Re-targeting is also going to play a big role. Because you’re going after busy people, they often get distracted in the sales process. Re-targeting reminds them where they were at. This is where your Pixel becomes important.

Scale

When you’ve got a few thousand bucks in the bank and things are rolling along quite well, it’s time to scale.

By this stage, you’re going to need a few people helping you:

  • Fulfillment (if not handled by a logistics/warehousing solution)

  • Dedicated customer service

  • Look at outsourcing digital ads

You want to get to a point now where the business is growing without your input on a day to day. You want to focus on product development and moving the company forward.

What have you learnt about your customers during the initial phase that you didn’t originally know? Use that to create more (and better) products for them.

That’s where the extra features I mentioned above come in.


🗳️ Vote

Which of these ideas do you want to go through next week? Click the link to vote.

  1. A simple “mom-and-pop” services business that anyone could start tomorrow (think, garden services, or rubble removal).

  2. A vertical-specific Saas product for last-mile courier solutions.

  3. A product to help stop people from getting divorced.


🛠️ Skill Builder

// A skill to add to your founder’s toolbox

💬 Market Validation: Reddit

Reddit is a gold mine of information, if you know how to access it. Get it right, and you can validate and access a pre-segmented audience almost for free. Get it wrong, and you can make a brand-enemy very quickly!

Here’s how to make the best use of reddit for market validation.

  1. Read the rules

    Each sub-reddit community has its own set of rules, both written and inherent. Read the written ones, and then read the top threads (sort by: Top) and comments. Understand what gets people down-voted and what’s frowned upon.

  2. Read the room

    Every sub-reddit has its own ‘vibe’. You can’t just arrive and impose your way of doing things. You need to understand how things operate and how everyone engages. Same method as above applies.

  3. Listen to the room

    This is also achieved by reading through the most popular and most-commented posts. By doing it, you’re getting a sense of the pain-points of that community.

    How can I alter my solution to better serve these pain-points?

  4. 10 Comment Rule

    I got this from the r/entrepreneur community, and its an internal rule I apply now whenever I join a new subreddit. Make 10 comments (which get at least one upvote) before you make an original post.
    This will give you a good indication that your tone and message resonates with the audience.
    Look out for an introduction thread. Make a post in there that stands out. Share something that’s likely to get your handle noticed.

  5. Give value before asking for it

    The only reason these communities are valuable is because people spend time giving away information (value) for free. That’s the culture. Contribute before expecting anything.

  6. Be tactful when posting your product

    A lot of subreddits explicitly ban feedback requests. When you’re trying to validate a market, you’ll need to make sure you’re not directly promoting your product. Wait until someone asks you in the comments for a name or a link and then post it. Until that time, use hypothetical’s and don’t self promote.

  7. Use subreddit stats

    There is a great way to find the most popular keywords, stats and users, as well as similar subreddits: Subredditstats.com. The screenshot in the Validation section of Startup Labs is from there.

  8. Reddit ads

    When you feel like you’ve tapped out everything above, and you’ve got a bit of capital to use, you can setup some ads to run on Reddit. See what resonates. Do some A/B testing and monitor CTRs.


📣 What’s-a-Twitter

// The tweet of the week, from someone I follow over at @simon_blogs

As per usual, Shane Parrish with some great advice. (It’s a thread)


🖱️ Clickworthy

// Valuable tidbits from around the interweb

🤯 Not clickable, but mindblowing. The eCommerce industry in the US has grown more in the last 12 weeks than it has in the last 12 months!:

Image

🙅 The CEO’s of the Big Four (Facebook, Apple, Google & Amazon) are facing antritust hearings this week. Scott Galloway (Subscribe to No Mercy No Malice!) breaks down just how big these companies are.

Some of the stats in their are crazy. Worth the read!

🛎️ How to market to people, not machines.

🎁 How to be more lucky at life.


👋 The End Notes

// I know, I know. I can almost hear you saying "Don't go, don't go." 

Do you have a moment?

I’d appreciate your help with growing this newsletter. Share the Signal with a few friends and I’ll be forever grateful!

Share The Signal

See yah next week, thanks for reading!

How did you find this edition?

👍 YES - I liked it
〰️ MEH - Average
👎 NO - Almost no value