Happenings and learnings for my startup and family on 2016

Talking in SF PyLadies about Circuit Prototyping in 2016

Fulltime on GreenSprout

I quit my job at Oracle after 15 years(!) then I became fulltime on GreenSprout site, http://greensprout.co. I have met many people many times being rejected, very few times being accepted. I made mistakes and learnt them hard way. Here you go.

Failure 1. Coupon code sharing

The summer camps are major part of my business. I became a fulltime in Jan. 2016 but Jan. is when people start looking for summer camp ideas. Building all the features that I wanted like administration, better search, planning tool etc. need more time. So, I decided to go with coupon code sharing first.

The feature took 1 month and half to finish. I reached out mother’s group to promote my site for sharing coupons for summer camp. Sadly, hardly anyone came. I was the only person updating coupons.

Also, I visited elementary schools and posted flyers for my site at bulletin board. Still there was no traffic generated. Still no response.

I learned 2 things here.

First, if I want to make a go-to website for something, many people have to know, which means more work in marketing is required.

Second, I talked to a few moms about this feature. They all said that will be helpful. But when it was built, they didn’t come and use it. I am puzzled. That lead to my failure 2.

Failure 2. Not good at interviewing customers

I am suck at interviewing customers. I have met parents in my area to find out what they want. I asked if they are happy with their solutions, they said it could improve but they know how to navigate them around. I was not good at getting signal right.

This still puzzles me. It took me a lot of time to analyse the options and make a decision on planning summer for kids. Why can I book summer camp like we do for hotels? Why isn’t it so easy? They did not seem urgent.

I have stayed in local library and met moms there. They said it will be nice to have but not so eager to find out more. This isn’t what I expected. Why?

My conclusion is maybe most of the moms that I interviewed were stay home moms who can meet friends more often offline. They exchange information in chat and share more actively. I think this may not be my target audience. Like myself before, both working parents have less chance of meeting people so they are more desperate on finding this information. That is my assumption.

Failure 3. Not focusing on what I believed

Helping working mom was always on the back of my mind. My take on that issue was easy planning tool so that you actually don’t have to go back and forth of many web site. But I settled on easy wins like coupon sharing.

Like I mentioned in failure 1, even if it looks easy to build, bringing more customers are always hard work. I definitely underestimated that part. Given my lack of resource, I should have focused on what I really believed, which is helping on working mom to make decision better then focusing on marketing. Also, if I don’t believe in the feature, my marketing sucks because I don’t have a big faith on it thus, there is not enough passion to herd people to what I built.

Failure 4. Hiring has overhead

I hired an intern this summer. It was not successful, that I wrote in How Not to Hire. This itself wasn’t so much issue but in order to make it proper, I decided to setup a structure as LLC to start. I didn’t know that this is going to take so much work out of me.

I hired a lawyer from UpCounsel after toying legalzoom, which had made me super uncomfortable about their options. I know that I was not paying a lot for the service. But, there was not enough hand holdings for newbie like me and I still need to study what they are myself to save money. Let me test your legal knowledge about setting up business.

  1. Tell me what is Registered Agent
  2. What is registered state and foreign agent?
  3. What is franchise tax?

If you failed to answer these 3 questions, welcome to business setup bureaucracy! The information is scattered and always red acted with ‘Consult your lawyer’ that scares people so that we don’t know who is talking truth. I wish I don’t have to know this but I wanted a protection from employee issue thus I opted to go for structure. But, I feel this was overkill. I hope there is better way to handle hiring temporary workers. If I missed some alternative, please let me know.

Personal Success

There are setbacks in business and I could see personal success. Here are some.

Success 1. Humble

I was probably too snobbish and had an illusion with star developer making everything. There are many tools out there enabling entrepreneurs. However, it still takes time to find which one works. It is more competitive than ever so expectation is higher than ever. I am more humble to see my limits. But, this is good thing for me because I will listen to people more.

Success 2. Quality time with family

As I spend full time on my project, I was able to find time for my kids. When I was doing this as side project, the time outside of my job went to the project and left little time for my family. Now, I can sit down with them more to find out what is going on really.

My younger son told me once that mommy always says later but she never comes to me. I was heartbroken. I was lucky that my kids have grown well and I didn’t have to concern about them.

But, the time is also limited with them. If I am missing in my family constantly in their critical age, will they be ok? Though I believed in being a role model to my kids and still does, sharing same value and fostering them needs communication and attention, which takes time. I can say that this year, I was able to learn about my kids by spending more time with them. I feel grateful for them definitely.

No sugar coating but

Sorry, there is nothing much to hide that the business side is not much success. However, I understand that it is part of journey and I should actively learn about it. I hope that I can keep motivating me and everyone to move forward.



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