It was late summer of 2017. gooWee’s biggest project to date – and only project at the time – was winding down sooner than we’d expected. We had put all our eggs in one basket, and now that basket was about to go away. gooWee was less than a year old and we hadn’t made much progress on establishing sales or marketing efforts yet. Those things were in the back of our minds and we often paid them lip service. But now, we were slapped with the sudden realization that we needed to ramp up fast.
Driving home from one of the final meetings of the big project, Juan had a violent epiphany. He started to explain what would become our new sales strategy. “We’re going to go on Google maps and find nearby businesses. We’re going to look at their websites and figure out who needs our services. Then we’re just going to email them, one by one.” Then we continued talking about all the other ways we were going to start marketing gooWee: meetups, networking, advertising, and social media campaigns.
The next morning, Juan pulled up Google maps and picked the first business. He viewed their website, noting that it was outdated and not mobile responsive. Then he wrote them an email that began, “Hello neighbor!” Then we wrote several more. By the end of the week, we’d received a few responses. Some of them were positive, and some of them were not. A few asked to be removed from our list. Our list? It was then that we realized we needed a tracking spreadsheet.
Meanwhile, we started hitting meetups and networking events like crazy. We joined the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and went to their events. We went to startup meetups and tech meetups, which often blurred together. At one coding meetup, the organizer suggested we start our own. We discovered that there was not yet a meetup in Boulder for our core technology, React. So we signed up as organizers and started the ball rolling.
By then it was well into fall. We’d been hitting the streets and shouting from the rooftops, but there was no new business in sight. Interest yes, but no bites. We were going on two months without any business or revenue, and things were getting stressful.
We continued to ramp up our efforts even more. We rebuilt our website. We hired a marketing firm to make cold calls. We did a practice project to keep our skills sharp, and establish new best practices. We pushed ourselves to attend up to four events a week, including the one that we were now organizing. In all of this, despite the stress of not having work, we were keeping ourselves productive and having a blast.
By the beginning of December, our emotional ups and downs were getting a bit out of hand. When we were engaged, we were having the time of our lives. But on a daily basis, when given a few moments to reflect on our situation, we sunk into a murky despair. How much longer could we keep this up? The possibility of jumping ship was not one we wanted to talk about or even consider, but we both knew it was our last resort.
Then, we got a bite. It was a small website, but it was our first new client in many months. We were elated, and jumped on the project with disproportionate enthusiasm. It was finished before the end of the month. Meanwhile, several more fish were swimming closer and starting to nibble. And at the same time, a friend was hinting that he might need extra help on a new project. By sheer coincidence – an overheard conversation – he’d learned that we were available and specializing in a needed technology that he did not know.
As December progressed, these developments unfolded like a blooming flower. By New Years, we had several more proposals out the door, and we’d signed on with my friend’s project. The new year was shaping up not only to turn our situation around, but to cause a very different kind of problem with the sheer volume of work coming our way. And sure enough, the first half of 2018 inundated us with business!
Ultimately we learned the value of sticking with it as entrepreneurs. Through the dry spell, our faith in the future had been steadfast, though at times it made each of us question our own sanity. When the business landscape dries up, it takes a certain amount of craziness just to convince yourself to hold on day after day. But when you finally reach an oasis, you’ll know it was all worth it.