Throwing in the Towel: The Lessons I Learned as a Failed Entrepreneur

Shutting down my business was not an easy decision. My partner and I invested a lot of time and money into trying to make our business dreams into a reality. The problem was, that reality consisted of us being very good at setting up our business, but not so great at expanding it.

I learned a thing or two about myself throughout this experience:

  1. I’m great at setting up a business.
  2. I’m terrible at selling, particularly cold sells.
  3. I love coming up with marketing solutions.
  4. I hate dealing with customer’s complaints on a retail level.
  5. I can be both detail and big-picture oriented.
  6. I can really become demotivated by working completely on my own.

There are probably a million others but I don’t want to bore you with them all. The point is, that for every victory achieved and every mistake made, I learned something very valuable about myself. Although, I came out a net loss financially, I probably learned more in this experience than in any other in my life.

That said, one of the most important lessons I learned was when to throw in the towel. If you’ve ever invested in anything you have to have an exit strategy, no matter what the investment. Having invested in the stock market, both winning and losing, I knew that there was a point in time in which we had to pack it in if it wasn’t meeting our expectations. Here are a few of the indicators:

  1. First and foremost, we weren’t profiting off of our venture.
  2. Both my partner and I had lost the enthusiasm we had when we started out.
  3. Neither of us were willing to invest further into our venture.
  4. No one else was willing to invest in our venture.

I still believe in our business model, but without the proper motivation and funding, nothing was going to happen.

I would like to thank everyone who took the time to help us out, supported us, and gave us the opportunity to launch our company: Jeeves Valet Dry Cleaning. Everyone of you, and you know who you are, have been an inspiration to this humble entrepreneur: Thank you!

That being said I would like to turn the page to the future of my career in web and e-commerce analytics in the startup business world. I will be changing my blog focus to discuss topics in these areas and I would love for all of you to join me in these discussions.

Until we meet again, entrepreneurship!

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Group buying sites actually work?!?! Who would have thought!

I just finished my second group buying promotion with Teambuy.ca. We had our first with LivingDeal.com, but that was a total flop so I wouldn’t even count it (only 3 vouchers sold). This latest promotion so far has been a success. We were hoping to sell 50 vouchers and we ended up selling 75. We didn’t sell so many that we find ourselves drowning in customer requests thereby limiting the quality of our service, and we didn’t sell too few making the process worthwhile.

Great! So how did this become successful in the first place? Why did we choose Teambuy and why did it work where the other one flopped?

It is extremely important, as with everything, to shop around when it comes to group buying sites. Although, they all do the same thing, they do it in different ways and some of them are less trustworthy than others. The most important part of shopping around is getting a Merchant Agreement in your hands (or on your screen) and never agree to anything until you read it 5 times over. I’m serious! At least 5 times! Many of these websites assume that the merchant will not read the agreement thoroughly, so they insert all sorts of clauses that not only give the group buying site more legal weight, but could also seriously harm your business.

Here are a couple of examples that I believe are the most dangerous clauses:

a. From the Effective Date until 90 days after the Offer Period, the Merchant agrees it will not make, directly or indirectly through third parties, any other online offers relating to the products or services that are the subject of or associated with the voucher that provide a greater discount than provided in the vouchers.

b. The advertiser agrees to be featured on Group Buying Site at least 4 times per calender year solely at Group Buying Site’s discretion. Group Buying Site also reserves the right to set and structure the deal according to deal market valuations and will determine the structure price and services for the advertisement.

This first clause really limits your ability to market your company. They are just trying to protect their own deals but 90 days is way too long. The deal site for the second clause stated that they would absolutely take it out of the agreement or change the wording to both of our discretion’s. If you ask me this is too much, they are taking advertising control away from your own business!

When looking to take on one of these types of promotions my advice would be to take your time, talk to lots of group buying sites, read through their agreements, chat with their sales people (they might even call you up first), remember to always bargain, and never be pressured into doing something that could potentially harm your business. After searching long and hard I feel that I found the right site in Teambuy. They advertised our business with the right language, they answered customers questions diligently and accurately, their merchant agreement language was by far the least intrusive (in fact, not intrusive at all), and they were extremely patient with my questions the entire way through (even when I asked for the agreement to be changed four times). Probably the major reason the other one flopped was likely due to it targeting Mississauga (this one targeted Toronto) and maybe Teambuy’s customer reach.

Now the questions that remain are: What kind of customers am I getting? Are they just here for a quick deal or are they really interested in our service?

Now comes the really hard part in keeping these customers coming back without a big deal.