It has been 3 months since we told you about our grand plans to document our successes (and epic failures) in our attempts to start up a business while traveling.
Our goal is to not only generate enough monthly income in the next 12 months to free ourselves from the corporate life, but to also show you in detail the steps we are taking and have taken to get there.
We see this as a win/win for you. If we succeed, you get a great blueprint and chronicle of how anyone could carve out their own business. And if we fail? Well… then you get to at least see what NOT to do :).
We spent the entire month of May batting around ideas and having legendary brainstorming sessions. We even shared with you some of our best takeaways on how to have a successful brainstorming session.
But after all of that brainstorming, we had to pick an idea and actually test it out. That’s where things got scary.
But now that we have 3 months of work on the idea in our rearview mirror, we are finally able to share with you what we’ve been doing, what we’ve learned, and our next steps.
For today though, I want to introduce you to our business concept and the initial steps we took to test its viability.
Turning A Skeleton of An Idea Into A Business – Our Concept
The idea of what constitutes a blog has matured in the last decade and you are now seeing people carve out sizable audiences for themselves and their passions.
These blogs have created powerful brands that have loyal audiences, but monetization of these sites is still fairly limited to digital products like webinars, ebooks, and online courses, or stock physical items like t-shirts and posters.
But this is starting to change. People are beginning to realize the powerful place content creators (i.e. bloggers) are putting themselves in and their potential to drive physical sales.
The problem with physical items though, is that creating something unique typically requires a large upfront investment for the blogger and/or a high price for the consumer. Additionally, there are few ways to gauge demand beyond stocking up on inventory and saying a prayer. Because of this difficulty, we feel that the strong brand capital generated by blogs is currently being underused.
This is where we come in.
A blogger with a strong brand would come to us with an idea for a customized product they want to sell to readers.
Maybe it’s a food blogger who wants a cutting board with their 5 keys to healthy cooking carved into it or a travel blogger who wants to create a leather bracelet engraved with their favorite quote. Whatever they imagine would be a unique and interesting item for their brand and we would work to create it.
The idea isn’t to sell any old product, but products that are unique and actually enhance their brand.
We named the concept Soovees, as in short for souvenirs. Since souvenirs are items purchased that have personal value (as they relate to a place or event), Soovees are what you purchase because of their connection with a personal brand you follow.
Once the idea for a product is chosen, we would handle negotiations with suppliers to create a mockup of it and get an estimate of the order size that would enable discounts.
The Big Idea
Because the product has not been produced on a large scale (only a mockup), there is little upfront investment required.
With estimates in hand for the order size required for a discount (let’s say 100), we now enable the blogger to put the potential product up for sale on their website.
Their readers can buy it by just clicking on the “reserve” button we place on their blog, but nothing is purchased until the minimum order is reached (similar to how Groupon works). We record the payment information and contact info, but no one is charged until the sale is on.
Readers who reserve the product will share it on social media, as they need the minimum order to be reached in order to receive the product they desire. If the sale is activated (100 reservations), they also receive the discount associated with a group order.
For the blogger, they not only make money on a successful sale, but are able to generate a list of 100 readers who are willing to buy something from them (very valuable). They also could potentially have a list of the readers who tried to buy but weren’t in the first 100 orders. These readers are then great leads on other product ideas or even a second run of the blogger’s initial product.
Beyond being an additional revenue stream for a blogger, this is an opportunity to give offline value to their audience as they will be sharing a physical item with their readers that should be unique and beneficial.
We had many assumptions in our business model, but a few big ones were:
- Bloggers are interested in selling physical items
- Audiences are interesting in buying physical items from bloggers
- The main resistance from bloggers to selling physical items are the upfront productions costs and uncertain demand
We set out to either prove or disprove these assumptions while spending as little money and time as we could. It’s all about efficiency!
You do not want to build the entire product from scratch without getting customer feedback, so we set out to get customer feedback as quickly as possible.
Our first task was to identify blogs that had built strong brands.
We judged these brands not only on Alexa rankings or page views, but on metrics which hopefully are more indicative of an active and engaged audience: average comments per last 10 articles, size of email subscriber list, and social media presence (# of Twitter followers & Facebook likes).
After generating a list of 50 blogs that we felt would be a good fit, we then set out to refine our message.
We emailed a draft of our introduction letter to a few friends with large blogs and whose opinion we greatly valued. Based off of their initial feedback, we tailored two separate emails and sent each to 10 different bloggers.
Why did we email two different versions of our pitch and why didn’t we email all 50 bloggers?
Because we are big believers in testing everything. By only emailing 40% of our list and sending out two different emails, we were able to track our response rate to each email. This led us to radically change our message over time and improve our response rate as we continued to iterate our pitch.
So now you know what we have been working on and the reasons why we think it is important.
Next week, we will take a harder look at how we tested our messaging and adapted our pitch based on feedback. We’ll also show you some of the tools we used to make our business website and to track initial responses at no cost.
We have learned a lot in the last few months about how to communicate a business idea and how to test feedback, so we hope you are as eager to hear our results as we are to share.
Now we need your help!
Do you think our concept has potential? Do you think it could be changed for the better? Do you think it is a total flop and that we should go back to the drawing board?
Be honest and please share your thoughts in the Comments section below!
Quit his job to try actually following his dreams for once... and is currently loving it. He is working hard to to make this life-style permanent by writing about his adventures and brainstorming money making opportunities with his partner-in-crime, Meg.