B2B or Beer2Beer, that is the question…

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Frankly, I’m having mixed feelings after Grow Up Start Up event that took place on 19-20 June in Warsaw, Poland. I’m not gonna talk about the things I didn’t like though. I’ll focus on the positive outcome instead. Because THERE ARE a couple of excellent take aways for me after these 2 days.

First of all, contacts! I truly believe I found myself in the right place at the right time. We decided with a colleague of mine to skip a discussion panel and go for a beer. There, we figured out how our visions of running our own start-ups are similar. Suddenly, a bunch of people joined us at the table and we continued our inspiring conversations in a bigger group (have a look at the photo above, it speaks for itself ;)). What I noticed was the fact that they were all open-minded people who go for such events from time to time and who know what networking really is. Yep, most probably that’s why it was incredibly easy for all of us to communicate so well and take advantage of that opportunity. Continue reading

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Go Creative!

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It’s time I told you about my latest big adventure. Big in a sense that it enriched my professional life.

A couple of months ago I applied for a business contest. It was a local initiative supporting new creative businesses. Together with other 21 wonderful entrepreneurs and their teams we made it through to the last stage after a very careful selection. Several weeks of trainings, workshops and integration events were offered to us as a preincubation process.

The trainings included such aspects as social media, e-commerce, marketing, finance, accountancy, business model canvas, creative solutions, effective presentations, among others.

To my surprise, the group turned out to be extremely friendly and not competitive at all. Moreover, we started to help each other by sharing useful information one may need to run their specific business.

I created a closed group on Facebook where we could easily communicate during those weeks of intensive preparations. Let’s only hope we do stay in touch for longer than that 😉

It’s worth mentioning that we had a pleasure to work with very experienced trainers, many of them being actually entrepreneurs themselves.

What I found extremely insteresting was the fact that the best feedback on our businesses we were getting was coming from… the members of our group! I was happy to see people sharing their opinions, ideas and best practices amongst the group. And we still do. This is something priceless indeed. What’s more, two girls surprised us with their decision about joining forces. They both had a similar idea for apparel design. What a great example of combining strong assets! With a competition! 🙂 In my humble opinion, they do match and have all the complimentary skills to build a strong brand. I wish them best of luck. Great story, isn’t it? 🙂

So when the workshops finally finished, it was high time to work on our business models. I remember how sad I felt because I knew something was coming to an end. It was an end to a great chapter of my professional life where we had loads of fun with the group. So now is the time to start serious hard work on the projects. No excuses! Time to act.

Working on my business model helped me realize all the gaps and what was still missing in my plan. Good business exercise, I have to say.

I spent a lot of time thinking on it and planning the strategy. It’s not easy when you are doing something for the first time 😉 But I love to learn new things so it was a great opportunity for me to grow.

After we sent our business models for evaluation, there was one more task to be performed: a creative presentation.

I spent 3 days designing the slide deck, preparing infographics, reasearching data and adequate images, and practicing my speech. No special effects though (such as people jumping around or kids playing with my product – these were applied by my competition ;)).

I did very well in the morning while pitching in front of the jury but I didn’t expect to be chosen as one of the 5 finalists at the end. The reason being my project was very much different from all the others (I’m building an online social platform while others are doing more tangible business, such as carpets, bags, apparel or coffins – yes, you heard me :)).

So when we all gathered in the evening for the final Elevator Pitch contest where 5 finalists were supposed to picth in front of the jury and various guests and my name was announced I almost fainted. Seriously, I didn’t see that one coming… I was totally lost, till the point I forgot how to start my presentation. All the folks were laughing… I can imagine my confused face 😉

But I made it. I pitched and said everything I wanted to say. 3 minutes is not much to present the whole idea of your project nevertheless if you focus on the main aspects you’re able to explain what it’s all about.

I got the 4th place. Which is absolutely AWESOME. The jury said everything was well thought and planned but the project is in its early phase (agreed!).

It made me really happy and gave a boost to continue my work. I know that thanks to hard work and patience I will be successful one day. It is just the beginning of my start-up journey. As a reward, I got Waterman pens (see the picture above), 8 business English classes and accountancy services for 2 months.

I’d like to tell you one thing. I got my prize earlier than that: it was the knowledge gained during the workshops and trainings, contacts and relationships I managed to build throughout all these weeks. This is something I value more than anything else. And this is the main reason why I wanted to take part in this competition.

Thanks to everyone who made this experience so special. Big thanks to the organizers and the creative group. And a very special thanks to my brother who works with me on the project! You guys rock! 🙂

Also, something special to share with you… a trailer of my project. Feel free to share any feedback you’ve got. Thanks! 🙂

Start-up? Whazzz that?

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In fact, most of us have brilliant ideas. Some of them are indeed innovative, some have the potential to change the world. We just lack the courage / time / resources to start implementing these ideas. And after a while we discover that the solution we have thought of already exists or that someone is actually working on it. How come? Damn it!

Well, it’s simple. The ideas flow. If you think you are genious because you have invented an incredible product / service / solution, bear in mind there is at least one person who is thinking about something similar. So… start doing it! But only if you feel strong enough though. Work your butt off to get it done if you think it’s worth your time, money, effort…

Don’t be afraid to talk about your idea with others. You may be surprised how useful it is to gather people’s feedback (your potential users / clients / brand ambassadors?). Most probably you’ll change your concept ten times before you start implementing the plan. And then get ready to do it far more often… No worries, it’s ok. It is even better to verify your idea no. Better sooner than later! The later you gather the feedback and comments, the worse. Why? It will cost you money. Oh, you haven’t spent a $ so far? Well, you have spent your time and time is money. Think about it. Remember that nowadays everything happens faster than 2, 5, 10 years ago. We have to be agile, flexible, responsive. 6 or 12 months of “doing nothing” may cost you. It may cost you lossing the opportunity of doing awesome things simply because someone will soon introduce the same product / service or because it will no longer be needed on the market!

So act quickly! Put a landing page in place. Collect e-mail addresses of users interested in your service. Prepare your MVP, a prototype, you will show to your potential customers. Ask them to test it and get the feedback. Improve the service or pivot the idea. Sometimes 180° changes are necessary. Once happy, launch your product (app or web service… whatever it is). If you need (additional) funding, go and seek investors / business angels. Actually, do it no sooner than your prototype is ready.

Now… Don’t build your start-up, if:

  • you haven’t done any market research and you don’t have any figures in front of your eyes – we all think our idea is bright and that it will change the world, but seriously – will you have clients? that’s what it’s all about after all, isn’t it?
  • you are not convinced that it will work – well, if you don’t believe in your own idea, how will you convince your team / clients / investors?
  • you do not feel motivated – working on a start-up means a lot of work, sleepless nights, weekends away on some start-up events, such as Startup Weekend, various barcamps, Startup Sprint etc.
  • you’re too busy with other projects – as I’ve mentioned, in the fast paced environment it is extremely important to pay attention to all the changes around you and start acting quickly, a start-up project needs your focus
  • you’re alone – unless you are rich enough to outsource the components you need, such as web or app design, graphic design, marketing strategy, project management etc. Believe me, a one-man show in this case is not going to work. Moreover, the investors will never invest in a single person. They want to see a motivated team with all the necessary skills to run a start-up and complete the project. After all, you guys will be doing it all, not the investors… Find a co-founder, if you are on your own. The other person greatly helps. Get someone you really trust though.

So why am I doing all this? Simply because I believe in my idea with all my heart and I have verified my solution to a global problem with hundreds of people from various countries. They are waiting for me to implement it now 🙂 What’s more, I’m ready to sacrifice my time and effort and work on my own enterprise (in fact, I’m already doing it). The good thing is that I’m working with my brother (IT brain) whom I trust and who supports me and tells me whenever my ideas suck. I attended a startup weekend event some time ago where it all started. Since then I’ve been gathering feedback and comments, thanks to which I have modified the concept many times. I am conscious there is A LOT to be done but I’m all excited to go ahead and make sh** real! Oh, and one more thing. I am not afraid to fail 😉

If you’re willing to help from the graphic design or marketing perspective, let me know! 🙂

Enough for now. I’m getting back to working on the landing page…