How to kick off your startup while keeping your day job

Starting your own business is never easy. I can certainly attest to that after a failed business venture I tried to get off the ground eight years ago. No one likes the feeling of failing, but just because you fail, doesn’t make you a failure. It’s what you learn from your mistakes so that you can do it better the next time around. Besides, any successful person has failed at some point in their life. Look at Steve Jobs, he got fired from Apple, but he came back to make the company bigger and better than ever.

What I learned from my experience is that keeping your day job is key to starting a side hustle. That way, you’ve got a steady stream of income coming in while you work on your dream project.

Seeing a gap in the market

As a sales and marketing professional, I never foresaw myself working in the promotional products industry. There I was back in 2016 working as a business development manager for a major stationery brand where I witnessed an industry that was ready for disruption. 

There was a staleness about the industry. The products were lifeless, they weren’t catering to customers who wanted customised designs or ideas and it wasn’t keeping up with millennials who were looking for products online.

I also noticed middlemen were pocketing along the supply chain, which was not fair to the supplier producing the products or to the end customer purchasing them. I decided a change was needed to create an open and transparent marketplace that connected suppliers, brands and end users. 

While I was excited about my idea, I wasn’t sure how this was actually going to play out in reality.

Plan for success and prepare for risk

This was where staying in my 9-5 corporate job came in handy. I was about to continue earning an income, use my connections within the industry and start to see my idea come to fruition. 

When I wasn’t working at my regular job, I spent all my spare time and energy building my own digital promotional products marketplace. I spent countless hours doing extensive research into all aspects of the promotional products industry including the supply chain networks, the products and what customers were looking for.

As with any industry, it’s imperative to not only understand your industry but know your competitors inside and out. I looked at what was happening overseas in the industry that was new and fresh, which I could use as a template for what I wanted to see in Australia with our unique twist.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from my failed business venture all those years ago was tripling the capital requirements in case a big unforeseen scenario happened. This proved vital when COVID-19 hit.

Fast forward to today

At the end of 2019, I launched my start-up Promopeer and I couldn’t be happier. Although it’s still being developed, I learned that it’s important when building a tech-based product to launch your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) as fast as possible. If I had waited for it to be perfect, I would probably still be waiting to launch it now. I still work at my day job but I’m constantly improving Promopeer and it’s becoming closer to the dream business that I envisioned in my head years ago.

Business Lessons Learned

Here are my tips for other entrepreneurs out there:

  Keep your day job while you create your dream start-up company

  Learn new applications that can support your business

  Build trust with stakeholders by meeting them (face-to-face, if possible!)

  Make sure your contract with your web developer is tied to a ‘Proof of Concept’ document

  Marketing is just as important as the product itself

  Expect delays in the process

  Don’t get hung up on launching with a perfect product but get something out there

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