A Year Working On Afrocks: 10 Things I Have Learnt So Far Working On An On-Demand Natural Hair Marketplace Startup
Wow! Time flies by!
I still remember last year when I had the idea: we need to create the ‘Uber for Natural and Afro Hair!’ and I was like:
‘This is going to be huuuuuuge!’
‘I need to get the product out faaaast’
‘Wait wait wait I need to validate the idea first and find out if people really want the product’
That time…when ideas and you are so excited you can’t even sleep!
All I can say is the past year has been quite a wild and incredible journey full of ups and downs. Some days I would wake up completely depressed knowing that the product launch had been postponed (again). Then a couple of hours later I could feel like I was the King of the world because someone had just…returned an email.
In this post, I will share the top 10 things I learned so far. Hopefully it will help you. Or it’ll at least be a great read.
Build something useful first
Focus on building the smallest, lightest thing you can so that you can reach customers as quickly as possible, getting feedback (and revenue!). Often the temptation is to build and create a product that appeals to your own eyes without getting some sense of what the market needs. No need to hire an expensive tech team and pay thousand of pounds to build an app or a product if you are not sure about fit-to-market. Think landing pages or templates to start with and access your market.
Things change really fast and you should be flexible
The saying goes: ‘Change is the only constant (in a startup)’ and this is quite true, even more when you are by yourself or with a very small team. That creative brief you first drafted will never be the finish product and you should be ready to compromise.
Things never seem to work out the way you first planned for some reason!
“Starting a business (any) is hard. Creating an online startup – especially a two-sided marketplace – is incredibly hard. A very good friend of mine, CEO of Carfully in the Caribbean, told me one day as we were discussing Afrocks: ‘Think of something really hard you had to do for work. Got it? Creating a marketplace is even harder. It’s harder than you’ll ever think.'”
Be Surrounded by a great team
Starting a business (any) is hard. Creating an online startup – especially a two-sided marketplace – is incredibly hard. A very good friend of mine, CEO of Carfully in the Caribbean, told me one day as we were discussing Afrocks: ‘Think of something really hard you had to do for work. Got it? Creating a marketplace is even harder. It’s harder than you’ll ever think.’
This is why you need a great team, with great people around you. You need skilled people but you also need good people to cheer you up when things get tough. I think my cofounders hit the target and I am very grateful. I always say that if I can’t feel comfortable having a drink (or two) with you discussing our failures and successes…then it won’t work no matter how skillful your are. But that’s just me!
Learn, do, grow!
If like me you are bootstrapping your startup or business (meaning you started your company with little capital and try grow it from personal finances), then you’re in for it: ‘Definitely do anything and everything’.
With a very limited budget I learnt how to code to save money on dev work for instance. With a background in digital marketing I reckon it was easier for me but it shouldn’t stop you from learning, or at least trying.
Another example: I’ve become an expert in cold calling (something I genuinely hate) because I had to do it.
We are very lucky to have access to hundreds of online tutorials and courses in pretty much anything so let’s take it as an opportunity for personal development.
Love What you do! Do it for the purpose
Do it for the purpose, not for the money.
I didn’t start Afrocks for the money although I believe Natural Hair beauty is a great niche. I did it because I believed this was a much needed service. I have always been around women with natural hair in my family since I was a kid, my wife (bless her) has always been natural.
I remember – not so long ago – when I had to find a salon appointment for my locs…it all triggered the idea. I would have never got myself into a niche/industry I am not passionate about. To be able to persistently keep the determination, drive and vision, as an entrepreneur you need to realise the reason why you are doing this.
“Be grateful for the support you can get from fellow entrepreneurs!
As hard as starting a business is, being supported and encouraged by other entrepreneurs can something turn an awful day into a great one.”
Grow a thick skin
Be ready for hurdles and setbacks! Be ready to be rejected. Be ready to have many emails, calls or text messages unanswered…and don’t take it personally. It’s not about you (well not really). Ignore the hype you see about other startups or potential competitors in the media, resist the temptation to reconsider/question your strategy or your product because you’ve read an article about a successful startup in the news.
Focus on building the best product for your customers.
Be grateful for all the beautiful people and souls you meet along the road
Be grateful for the support you can get from fellow entrepreneurs!
As hard as starting a business is, being supported and encouraged by other entrepreneurs can something turn an awful day into a great one.
I am very grateful for the likes of SimplyMoiUk, Jamii, Cleva Collection or Xsandys sparing a retweet, a share or an email to support. It means a lot, especially when you start your adventure!
It also means I always try to help whenever I can by featuring fellow Black businesses
Take some time off
Running a startup is always about solving the next problem ha! And you can quickly feel overwhelmed, tired or even depressed. It’s easy to say but try to get enough sleep (lol), exercise and eat clean.
I am an absolute geek/nerd checking my mobile every 10 seconds but from time to time I like to take a day off all devices! When I come back I feel both excited and motivated to tackle any issues standing in front of me!
Now that we are finally live, let’s see how things will go. We know we have an immense amount of work to accomplish to get the platform running but we are getting there. Slowly, but we’ll get there. The website is far from being perfect and we launched 2 weeks ago with only 5 stylists available – hence why we are getting a bit of stick from customers who have waited so long. But at least we are here and we are working hard to improve user experience.
Onto the second year now!
Don’t be shy, visit our website and give us feedback! afrocks.com
By Herve Despois CEO & Founder at Afrocks.com