You know the old saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun”, well time sure has flown since launching zoodi one year ago this month, but I can’t say it has all been fun. Don’t get me wrong, becoming an entrepreneur and product inventor is something I never dreamed I would be. However, this is the path my husband and I are traveling on and like everything in life, it has had its ups and downs.
Here are some of the things I have learned over the last year:
Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight
Most people that know me really well, know that I don’t have an abundance of patience. If I want something, I want it now. Please don’t make me wait, because I will nag you until I get it (just ask my parents). The first hard lesson I had to learn is that to be an entrepreneur, you must have a healthy dose of patience.
I guess I thought when my husband and I finally shared the secret that over the last several years we had been designing the first hands-free iPad case that the sales would start pouring in. What actually happened was we got a few sales immediately after our launch, and then realized that it was going to take a lot more work to generate exposure and interest in our product to yield customers.
Over the last 12 months, I have sent out thousands of emails to potential customers, distributors, product reviewers, and anyone that might use an iPad for business or pleasure. I have increased my social media presence 500 percent, which is funny because I am a publicist, but an old school, send out a press release and pick up the phone and call the media type of PR person. I have been told “no” more than I expected or wanted to hear that word. When people say an entrepreneur works 24/7, they really aren’t kidding! However, each day I wake up ready to accept the challenge of owning a business and increasing my sales!
You are Held Captive to the Timing of Others
As you know, modern technology has conditioned us to want instant gratification. However, when running a business, sometimes your pace doesn’t match the pace of others. What I’ve learned over the last year is that persistence is the key. Just because someone says they love your product and want to work with you, doesn’t mean you are shipping out hundreds of cases to them the next day. You may find yourself waiting weeks or months after an initial conversation for things to progress. Just because you haven’t heard from them in a while, doesn’t mean they are not interested. They may be too busy with existing clients or perhaps there are staffing changes that have put the process on hold. The key is to be persistent and keep you and your business top-of-mind through emails, phone calls, or a handwritten note (yes, some people still find this to be a viable form on communication). In the words of the late, great, Jim Valvano – “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
People Genuinely Want You to Succeed
One of the best things I discovered after bringing zoodi to market is that most people genuinely are excited for you and want you to be successful. When we announced our invention on social media, hundreds of people that I have met throughout various stages of my life in different parts of the country and across the globe sent me kind words, business prospects, as well as purchased a zoodi. I have to admit I was quite nervous after four years of hard work to share it with the world, but feel extremely lucky to have been blessed with some amazing people throughout my life that want zoodi to be a success! I guess the lesson here is to surround yourself with good people that want you to be happy and have a good life. If you find people telling you it can’t be done, then it is time to move on and find people that tell you, “Yes you can”!
This past year I've learned so much. And isn’t life about continuously learning and growing? With all of the hard work, struggles and wins, I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t need to tell you that life is too short, we all know that to be true. If there is something you have dreamed of doing, today is a good day to start on that journey. Don’t let fear win! Accept there will be challenges, because nothing worth having comes easy!
Running a business can be challenging on its own, but embarking on a startup with your spouse adds an extra layer of stress and anxiety that takes some extra effort by both of you to make it work. Here are five tips to building a successful business with your life partner, while reducing stress in your relationship:
1.Evaluate your skills and assign responsibilities
Before launching your business, make sure you sit down with your spouse/life partner and identify the skills you each bring to the table so you can assign responsibilities for a successful go-to-market experience.
With my husband’s manufacturing and IT background and my public relations and marketing experience, tasks were pretty easy to identify and own based on our skill sets. While my husband and I were equally involved in the design and development to the zoodi iPad case, my husband managed the manufacturing of zoodi, as well as built our website and is pretty much all things computer related. Since he is also the left-brained one in our relationship, we decided it was best for him to deal with the accountant and all things having to do with numbers.
As the creative, right-brained half of our relationship, my role was to manage the brand identity, logo development, color selection for the tablet cases, marketing materials and packaging design. Although the brand development of zoodi was in my wheelhouse, it was important to include my husband in the process and ask for his opinion on certain creative elements.
Communication is key when it comes to personal and business relationships. It plays an even more important role when your business partner also happens to be your spouse or life partner. To avoid over communication, set aside certain times throughout the day where you sit down and discuss business initiatives or challenges and work together on solutions.
Although the entire product invention process was pretty fun and exciting, there were times when my husband and I clashed on ideas and business strategies. The best advice I can give is to listen to each other. If there’s a disagreement over a business strategy, it is important to take a pause and listen to the reasons for the concern, so you can reduce tension down the road and not play the blame game when things go wrong.
4.Learn to Compromise
Throughout a marriage or romantic relationship you will experience many situations where it is just better to give in a little to keep the peace. Same goes for running a business together. I can recall a few disagreements on certain design elements of zoodi where we each gave up something to keep the product design process moving along. In the end, we are both pleased with the final design of our hands-free iPad case. Don’t be afraid to compromise with your partner, because you may end up with a better product.
5.Carve out “business free” time
When you own a business, it is difficult to not focus on it 24/7, but when you are in business with a spouse it is important to find time for what’s important – your relationship and spending time with each other and your family. My husband and I make it a habit to pick at least one day on the weekend where we try not to do anything business related. Sure, I may send out a tweet or post something on Facebook, but we save the big business conversations for the work week.
The key to making your business together a success and not end up damaging your personal relationship is to recognize that every business hits a few bumps along the way. You must stick together and remember why you embarked on the entrepreneurship journey, and if you work together toward the goal you set for the business, you’ll be successful.