My 4 hour startup :: tweetmytee.com

Last weekend, I launched an online business. In 4 hours. From idea, to a live website … and all within the comfort of my bedroom. I’m not telling you this to show off. Anyone could have done what I did.

OK sure, I started an online T-Shirt business, not a Nanotechnology business. But nonetheless, it’s incredible how much you can do these days with an internet connection, a laptop, and an idea.

The idea? Users submit memorable / funny / interesting Twitter posts, or Tweets each week. The best Tweet submitted each week is then turned into a real T-Shirt, ready to be printed and ordered online. I figure with the massive growth of Twitter at the moment, it was potentially a good idea.

I had the idea quickly, so wanted to implement it quickly. It was about 11:30 on a Friday night. I ran the idea past my wife. She didn’t look at me as though I was a complete lunatic. So I set myself a challenge to get the concept up and running before I went to bed that night.

(Yes, this post is also an admission that I’m often a Friday night computer nerd, but that’s another story)

I got started. I registered a domain name (http://tweetmytee.com) and a matching Twitter ID (@tweetmytee). I signed up from an account on Spreadshirt, the DIY T-shirt community site. I came up with a design for the T-shirt. I threw a logo together. I chose the T-shirt styles and colours. One style, 3 colours. Keep it simple. Keep moving quickly.

With a short deadline, I found myself in a strange rhythm. I deliberately made decisions in a split second:

How much to price the t-shirts for? How about $2 less than at Threadless.

What colours? The first 3 that spring to mind.

What does the logo look like? How about a simple bird design.

Has anyone done this idea before? Don’t know, no time to check right now.

And within 4 hours, I had the site up and running, with the first set of T-shirts up for sale. And I’d spent a total of $25 US (on the domain name) to make it happen.

indefensible
So, my key point here is … that it’s easy to get a business started? It’s best to move quickly? To launch any idea that springs into your head?

Well, they’re part of it. Regardless of whether this idea will take off, it was a real learning experience to do something like this. To completely avoid planning, and to just jump in head first is definitely worth a try. And to make the most of the fact that it has never been easier to start a business (especially an online business) as it is now.

But my key point, I guess, is that you can’t just launch a business quickly and expect it to take off with only 4 hours of labour. If I really want my idea to gain traction, I have to nurture it like any other business.

I’m now finding myself spending more time than I’d initially planned to get the word out, to generate submissions for the next T-Shirt. Regular readers will know that I have a full time job AND another business, so perhaps I’ve bitten off more than is chewable. If entrepreneurship’s like a rollercoaster, this has been like the Mad Mouse.

And it isn’t easy. It hasn’t become a viral success like I imagined it might. I learnt that others have come up with similar concepts before. I’ve made a couple of major mistakes. And I haven’t sold a single T-shirt yet.

But you know what? It’s been fun. And it sure beats any of the crap on TV on a Friday night, anyway.

The 3 Sentence Strategy

I sat down to write my ivoteforart.com business strategy tonight. You know, really write it. I’ve had most of it in my head, but I really needed to actually document it. Even if just on one page.

I soon realised something. you don’t even need a page to write your strategy. You need just 3 points. In fact, you can only have 3 points.

Here are my three points:

1. Without arists, there’s no website

2. But then, you also need visitors

3. Once you get visitors, treat them right.

That’s it. That’s my strategy.

If I don’t have any new artists on the site, I have nothing. The very first thing I ever did when deciding to start ivoteforart was to contact artists. If there was no art to display on the website, there was no website. But also, good artists beget good artists. Whenevcr I add a great artist to the site, it makes it easier for me to attract more great artists.

My second point, about needing visitors, is the next step. Obviously I need to let potential visitors know about the site. And then visit the site. An then re-visit. And re-visit again. And maybe one day, make a purchase.

And once they do buy something, I’ve got to do whatever I can to make it a great experience for them. And hopefully then they will tell others about it, and the ultimate – word-of-mouth – kicks in.

Sure, mine is a pretty simple website. The content-traffic-customer service business model is fairly straightfoward. But whatever business you’re in – if it takes more than 3 sentences to describe your business, something’s not right. It’s not simple enough.

Forget business models. Focus on ideals.

So the next time you hear an old dude banging the business model drum, or worse, the sounding the “monetization” bullhorn, let him know the 20th century was yesterday. Today’s challenge is building a better economy – not hawking the same old mass-produced, toxic, self-destructive junk slightly differently. Challenge him with this: you’ve got a business model. But do you have any ideals? Because without the latter, the former is worth about as much as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, or Detroit.

Why Ideals are the New Business Models, by Umair Haque. Via my latest favourite Something Changed.

Rentoid :: A Recession Proof Business

Not many of can safely say that our business is Recession Proof. My friend Steve can.

rentoid

Steve runs a little website called Rentoid. Rentoid is like the ‘ebay of renting’.

Instead of buying a lawnmower that you use once a quarter, to mow your dining-table-sized lawn, you can rent one for a day on rentoid. And instead of having your drumkit sitting unused in your shed 363 days a year, you can list it on rentoid (and make some money).

It’s a simple idea. Definitely a good one (Disclaimer time – I worked with Steve on Rentoid in it’s infancy).  And one that’s going to strengthen even further, given the state of the economy and the environment.

It’s great to see a lot of businesses finally getting their act together, and making greener products for us all to buy. But rentoid goes a whole lot further, by challenging ‘consumption’.

As the recession kicks in, people are starting to think harder about how much ‘stuff’ they actually need. At the same time, more and more of us will realise that we need to pull the reigns on climate change too. That’s why rentoid.com is the sort of forward thinking business that’s going to suceed; it turns our over-producing, over-consuming capitalistic world on its head. I’ll drink to that.

Anyway, the purpose of this post was supposed to be to give you a link to a cool video that Steve and his team put together to promote rentoid. But as soon as I start thinking about Steve’s business, and it’s potential, I just go off on one. It’s truly a recession-proof business idea.

Here’s the vid:

On ya bike

Cycling has become my exercise of choice in the last year. Cycling is environmentally friendly. It's cheap. It keeps you fit. It's fun. It's a better way to see your world on the way to work too. It's a no-brainer.
Springwise, my favourite place for new business ideas has posted today about various city bike rental schemes around Europe.

As fuel prices rise and people go green, we're going to see more and more people getting on their bikes. There's never been a better time to launch a bike rental business in your city.

Our food is more travelled than we are

travellingfood.jpg

An article in The Age last week talks about the distance your food travels before arriving on your plate.

Here are the key facts about food transporation in Australia:

Every year more than 167.3 million tonnes of food is transported around the country, totalling 2.5 billion kilometres. About 85 per cent of this is by road. And road transport accounts for 13 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.

In other countries the facts are similar, if not worse. Why, You ask? Because the big supermarkets have trained us to believe that we need access to every fruit and vegetable 365 days a year. And we've become used to it.

Locally sourced food is better for the local economy and the environment. We don't want all-the-food, all-the-time so badly that we need to source our carrots from over 3,000 kms away. We really don't. I'm old enough to remember a time when you could only buy fruit and vegetables locally. No problem – You just bought the stuff that was in season. In fact mandarin season was another of life's pleasures to look forward to.

A locally sourced food delivery business could be a great idea. You would only source from local producers from within a radius of, say, 50 km. And you only would deliver fruit and vegetables that were in season. The way it used to be. The way it was meant to be. Fresher, better tasting food that is more environmentally friendly. That supports local farmers. Without the excessive packaging. Delivered by bike or hybrid car. To your door.

This sort of service creates a story worth telling. What would you prefer to tell your friends? That you buy your tasteless tomatoes from Tesco? Or that you pay a little extra to buy fruit and vegies that taste the way they're supposed to.

Rising fuel prices will make food transportation less and less viable. I'm optimistic that far travelled food will soon be a thing of the past. In the meantime, who wants to come and work with me?

(Thanks to Treehugger for the link)

To be online and offline

Back during the hazy days of Internet 1.0, offline retailers rushed their brands online to get involved in the action. flickercam.jpg

Before too long, we'll start seeing Internet 2.0 brands go offline. Imagine, if you will, flickr branded digital cameras, last.fm branded wifi stereos, Goowy branded PDAs. And as internet ubiquity emerges, the lines will blur.

Sites like Stylehive are taking brand-building to the next step. Stylehive, the social-shopping site, have even tried their hand at promoting their brand in Second Life, the fascinating-but-massively-weird metaverse. As well as having a virtual Headquarters in Second Life, they've cleverly hosted a fasion-show there as well.
High fives to Emily Chang and her team for jumping in head first.