Need a bit of help from my friends

I was informally notified last week that I was successful in winning a small grant to help pay for some of the marketing for a crowdfunding campaign. How much? I’m not completely sure yet, but it’s unlikely to pay for much more than the editing for a documentary I plan to make for the campaign.

It don’t have a lot of time to film this, and neither do I have any real film making experience or skills. In fact, I’m still working through the script and the scenes in my head which makes it hard to start scheduling the necessary interviews to make this story full and complete.

I actually love all of this creative work, but I am getting a bit stressed over the amount of stuff to do over the next few weeks. Furthermore, even if I make a great documentary, I also need to create an awesome marketing campaign to support it and ensure that it’s seen by as many people as possible.

Right now, I’m trying to raise $200k – likely the most money this particularly crowd funding platform has ever raised before. I admit that I’m incredibly nervous about the ability to achieve this goal, and I also know that there’s absolutely no way that I will be successful if I don’t get support from a good chunk of friends and contacts.

I hate asking for help. In fact, I usually try to pay for help rather than asking friends to do something for me. However, in this one chance, it will be make or break for the business. So, I don’t have a choice. I simply cannot go this alone.

Thankfully, I’ve already had a number of friends that have offered to help. I need more though, and that means putting myself in a position of asking more people and likely being rejected or ignored too which will hurt. Still, I know I have no other choice. Right now to be successful, I can’t be ashamed to say that I need a little bit of help from my friends.

Looking for a mentor in plastics manufacturing

One of the most difficult things about starting something completely new is when you don’t have a coach or mentor. While Google and YouTube has been decent in giving me an understanding of the recycled plastics manufacturing process, it hasn’t been so useful in answering my specific questions – like around pricing.

As much as I’ve asked around for the last few months, I still haven’t found a mentor or coach locally with plastics manufacturing experience. This is partially to do because I live in Canberra, Australia which is the nation’s capital. Here, most people work for or with the local and federal government rather than in industries like manufacturing.

So, I’ve expanded my network to outside of Canberra – first to Brisbane. Next week, I’ll be meeting with the CEO of a social enterprise accelerator who has already invested in circular economy type businesses like mine.

I’m more interested in meeting the other companies than I am in the program itself. It would be amazing to find a peer group of complimentary businesses all trying to do great things for the environment. With that type of network, I know that learning curve will flatten sooner too.

Fingers crossed.

The scary part about being Employee #1

I’m used to running fairly large organisations. Since, I’m not an expert in anything, it actually works out pretty well for my generalist skill set. Instead, my job is usually to figure out everyone else’s strengths, and then to get the best out of them to meet our company’s or organisation’s goals.

So now that I am a staff of one, it’s pretty scary. There are no redundancies in skills. There’s no one else to get my work done if I take the day off. There’s no one holding me accountable for schedule or progress. And other than friends and family I confide in or the market research I do, there’s no one to even tell me that I’m heading in the wrong direction.

Currently, I’m the inventor, the website designer, the market researcher, the procurement officer, the social media strategist, the IT support desk, the brand manager, the manufacturer liaison, the bank, the logistics officer, the head communicator and the coffee runner amongst all other things.

It’s a pretty heavy burden being Employee #1 when I’m used to sharing the load.

Right now, I notice it most when I don’t have any contractors doing work in the background. It doesn’t matter if they are designing logos, preparing manufacturing quotes or fixing issues with my website. Whenever, I’m the only one working, I get nervous (and fewer emails).

Of course, it costs money to hire others to do work. Therefore, I only do this for activities where I clearly don’t have the skills to do it myself. So far, taking this approach still means that I’m usually waiting on others to complete something before I can either make a decision or progress the company forward. Yet, in a weird way, I feel better knowing that I can work on something else in the meantime.

So while I’ll continue to march forward mostly alone right now, I hope to have a team working with me next year. For I know that this business will be far better off if I’m spending my time as a manager than trying to do everything myself. I just need to start bringing in income before I can do that.

The challenges of customer service as a sole trader

Thinking ahead – one of the challenges of starting this business on my own is the need to always be present to answer customer service calls and mail out orders. While this will be fine at the beginning, I will eventually need to take some time off – like to visit my family back in the US. I might not have enough sales at the time to warrant hiring someone though.

So, I was chatting with a fellow entrepreneur about this today, and he gave me some info about drop shipment companies that he considered. He just saved me a lot of research time. I still need to find a way to cover customer service though.

I’m still going back and forth with my designer about Product #3. Better to take the time in the design phase now to avoid unnecessary costs in the future.

Note: this is Sunday of a long weekend. I’m glad that work doesn’t stop for weekends while I am in the Start-up Phase. Each day is costing me money until I start selling products.

Found My Tribe

A few months ago, I spoke to a friend about my desire to do something in the circular economy. That is – turning waste like single-use plastic into something of value.

I’m passionate about keeping plastics from going to landfill and waterways, and I thought there was a business opportunity. However, most of my research at that point had been done via internet searches, books and conferences.

“How do I move forward?” I asked her looking for advice.

“We need to find your tribe,” she said.

She knew about an environmental idea hackathon where they needed mentors. She suggested that I volunteer. So, I did.

The hackathon itself wasn’t that useful for me though I do hope I provided some business value to the teams. They planned to announce the winners the following night at the organiser’s monthly networking event.

Even though my job was done the day before, I came along to the presentation. There, I ran into some of my old IT contacts and met other really interesting entrepreneurs that were excited about their work. I knew instantly that I wanted to spend more time with these people.

Last night, this memory came back to me as I attended the monthly networking event for this group again. We had just listened to a dozen or so entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and needs. These people were interesting. They were excited about their work and ideas. They were optimistic and moving forward. These were the people that wanted to change the world – just like me.

I’ve found my tribe!

Extra hands onboard

Spoke to my 17-year old cat sitter about doing some additional work for me in the future, especially since she graduates at the end of the year. She was interested. It’s good to have some people in mind for when I do need an extra set of hands.

Hired a young product designer

Met with a university student that a friend recommended for some design work. He seemed to “get it,” and he has previous experience by working with his father who is a metal fabricator. I think he’ll be great. I love working with young, hungry minds. I’ve asked him to start drawing Product #2 because I think it will be the easiest to manufacturer.

I’m desperate for design help

This product development stage is taking forever, and I’m the one to blame because I don’t know what I’m doing. I need local help, or it’s going to cost even more time and money!

I just begged a friend to help me draw out my product ideas. It’s clear that the manufacturers need pictures, not words. He agreed to meet tomorrow.