If you’re considering starting a business, one of the best ways to learn is by getting advice from those who have already gone through the process. They can tell you what went well, and what went wrong so that hopefully, you don’t make the same mistakes.
Here are stories from 6 experts who are willing to share their secrets about how they went from startup to success:
“In 2002, Bonnie Laiderman was stretched thin as a working mom and caregiver for her terminally ill mother. To her surprise, she learned that as the widow of a wartime veteran, her mother was eligible for a little-known VA benefit to offset the cost of her mother’s care. Sadly, Bonnie learned about it too late.
Through this tragedy, she uncovered an unmet need in the community. Before her mother died, Bonnie promised her she would start a company to fill this void. Her mission was to help others navigate the VA system to access the benefits and care they deserve.
In 2003, she launched her solo enterprise and the niche she discovered grew into a unique national home care company with unparalleled expertise in Aid and Attendance.
Bonnie was never afraid to ask questions and seek out experts. ‘I always say surround yourself with people smarter than you,’ says Laiderman.
Strategic partnerships with home care agencies were another key to success. Initially, the company’s client base came from referrals from home care agencies, senior care social workers, or other satisfied clients. Today digital marketing tools have been added to the marketing mix. Yet these B2B relationships continue to help Veterans Home Care and their network of home care providers grow.
More importantly, outreach among senior care professionals is a win-win that ultimately benefits seniors who need care.”
- Janet Jennewein | Senior Marketing Communications Director, Veterans Home Care
“Partnering with someone who has a complementary set of skills can help you bring a business to the next much faster than you could have done so alone. In early 2020, I learned about accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which are small homes of 400–1200 sq ft on residential lots with an existing primary residence.
ADUs – also known as guest houses, casitas, or granny flats– are a hot topic in California and the country more broadly. I was excited about the concept of more efficient housing as an option for enabling intergenerational living or for generating rental income. All my professional experiences to that point had prepared me to understand how to develop, lead & grow a tech-forward construction company that could serve this new increased demand for ADUs.
But I wasn’t going to do it alone. Within a month or two of researching ADUs & thinking about how to make an entrance into construction in San Diego, I was sitting in a coffee shop working. I overheard a conversation between two people who were clearly in development, and they also mentioned ADUs. They left before I could muster the courage to introduce myself, but when they walked by again 20 min later, I knew it was time to step up.
One of them later introduced me to his good friend Mike Moore, co-founder of Snap ADU. We joined forces to focus on getting extremely good at meeting the increasing demand for well-designed and value-oriented ADUs in Greater San Diego.
Innovation doesn’t have to be flashy or new or exciting. It can be just as impactful to run an extremely efficient operation and focus on a niche that is underserved.”
- Whitney Hill | Head of Business Development & Innovation, SNAPADU
“I started my company, Intelus Agency, as another smaller company, Chris Mitchell Marketing, which later evolved into a LinkedIn marketing agency. My marketing journey started back in 2011 as an affiliate marketer, advertising other people’s products for a percentage of the profits. After years of doing that, I naturally developed the skills necessary to run a digital marketing agency.
For years, we struggled to scale as a full-service agency since we offered a wide variety of complex services. In 2018, we decided to become a niche agency and started calling ourselves Intelus Agency because of our data-driven approach to LinkedIn marketing.
After systemizing all of our processes and staying consistent with our own marketing efforts, we’ve been able to scale due to our simplified sales process, which is similar to that of a SaaS company, where we offer a free trial of our services, our prices are listed on our website, and the packages are a subscription model, with billing through Stripe.”
- Chris Mitchell | Founder & CEO, Intelus Agency
”I spent the better part of a decade working in-house for various companies in predominantly marketing-focused roles. I always loved the agency side and knew that soon enough I would find myself in an agency role once I felt accomplished with an in-house role.
While I was interested in a role with an agency, I quickly saw how these businesses were operating and asked myself, ‘why couldn’t I do this?’ The first step to starting my digital marketing agency was defining my 4 Ps of Success > People, Processes, Products, and Profit.
I decided which key roles I would need to fill and how those positions would grow over time (People); I put processes in place like time tracking, a CRM, and various communication tools; I defined the services (Products) we would offer to clients and finally, I placed an emphasis on Profit to ensure the business would grow positively over time.
Defining each of these areas is critical to the success of a new business and this should occur early on in a company’s inception, usually during the business planning phase.
From here, it’s been about growing profitable areas of the business and focusing on enhancing processes. We’ve been in business for 2.5 years and there’s no looking back.”
- Jeff Romero | Founder, Octiv Digital
“Zero & Zen was a small startup family business that was opened in October 2021. We, as a family, love the environment and wanted to write about things that we are passionate about, and for us, that was an Eco Lifestyle Blog. As long as you are writing about things that you are genuinely interested in, your passion will shine through and keep your visitors interested and hopefully returning.
The reason we decided to set up a blog is because blogs allow you to have a voice and be heard and you can share your story with the entire world. To own a successful business will not happen overnight. You should stay focused on the quality of your writing, helping other people, sharing your great ideas, earning their trust, and trying to be a familiar figure. Do not give up when you hit your first hurdle.
If you are currently an employee of another company, then starting your own business is a total lifestyle change and scary. Do not make the mistake of assuming it is a way to get rich quick. Starting your own business is hard work, long days, and many sacrifices, so it requires a lot of determination and learning, and only will only pay off in the long term if you keep going and learn from any mistakes you make along the way.”
- Dawn Somers, Founder Zero and Zen
”We went from being a hobby to being a 25+ person company in just a few years, and it was by accident. I felt that a PM-focused podcast would be a great idea, so I started it. It let me channel my love for project management into a platform useful for others. Today, I consider myself more of an educator helping people to learn more about project management and helping PMs to prepare for and pass their certifications.”
- Cornelius Fichtner | President, OSP International LLC