Startups Anonymous: How a sole-income earning, non-tech, thirty-something (with kids) started his company
In the summer of 2011, I had an idea I could not get out of my head. Something I thought about every waking hour of the day. The thought of what it could become put me to sleep with a smile on my face every night. I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than making this idea happen. I know that if you’re reading this, you can probably relate.
At the time, I was working full-time — because I had to. I had/have a wife that stays home with our three kids. That means that I’m the sole income provider and, almost more importantly, my family is relying on me to have health insurance.
That meant I was stuck at my job until I could figure out a way to either: 1. Turn a profit, 2. Raise money, or 3. Convince my wife it was worth the risk without 1 or 2.
Here are the challenges (not excuses) in each of those scenarios:
- Turn a profit: This takes a product. That’s fine if you have the skills to build a product, or have the money to hire someone to help you. The problem was that I didn’t have either. On top of that, it wasn’t a product that was going to turn a profit quickly.
- Raise money: Well, again, that takes a product. Then, that product needs traction and dare I say, a team. Then, you need to pitch those investors — a lot of investors. That takes time, most likely time during the day. Again, I had a job to maintain.
- Convince the wife: Let’s be honest. I don’t care what anyone says, this is a bad decision even without asking my wife. Yes, entrepreneurs need to take risks, it’s a part of their DNA. But, there is careless risk and calculated risk. When your family is at stake, that’s careless, IMHO.
So, what did I do?
Well, as someone in my mid-thirties, my biological clock was ticking, so to speak. There was no way in hell I was going to let this one pass by.
I stopped thinking about it and figured it out.
Here were the steps I took:
- Figured out which of my friends knew how to build things.
- Bugged the shit out of those friends until they were convinced of the idea and willing to help.
- Promised those friends that they would only have to do the minimal amount of work until I could establish some traction.
- Built a WordPress site: Signup page and How it Works page — that’s it.
- Hit up every piece of press I could possibly get. Started with less known publishers and continued to upgrade by leveraging the previous write-up.
- Looked for any and every possible partnership to increase our distribution.
- Took phones calls over lunch and after work in my car (praying to God that they wouldn’t ask me if I was working on this full time).
The results of those efforts were nothing but spectacular. Inside of three months, while still working full-time, we were able to attract nearly 20k sign-ups. Not only that, but we had been featured in everything from Thrillist to USA Today. And, we were finally having discussions with investors. This, mind you, was all before we even had a single line of code — not one.
A few months later, I was able to finally quit my job and move right into a salary (and insurance) with the company I had only previously dreamed about starting.
I’m sharing this story because there are plenty of people who are non-technical, have families to support, are maybe longer in the tooth and are stuck in a job.
Don’t give up on your dream. Don’t wait. Don’t let the challenges stop you.
Just starting doing.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pando]