After getting a taste of the startup landscape back in 2009 when she was interviewing fledgling startups like Waze and Shapeways for Contagious Magazine in London, Stacey Jacobs decided startups were where she wanted to be. Fast paced environment and technology… she was sold.
Stacey left her job to join a fashion tech startup before returning to Sydney to help to launch and build General Assembly Australia, before founding Tidy Me. In one year, Stacey has established Tidy Me in Sydney, secured $750K seed funding from Airtree and is currently building out the team to scale Tidy Me.
1. A lot of entrepreneurs spend months and even years planning before launching their business. You launched Tidy Me in one week. What advice would you give to people that are still in the planning phase of a business?
Not every business lends itself to such a fast launch, but I knew at the time of starting Tidy Me that given my limited funds, I needed to launch something that I could test and validate quickly. I didn’t take a traditional approach of months of planning or research. At the outset, I didn’t have a business plan or financial model – just an idea that there was an opportunity and some very basic economics around that.
I can only speak from my own experience, but I found putting very tight deadlines on decisions allowed me to move quickly and not get too bogged down in planning before validating whether it was even a problem that needed solving. I gave myself a day to launch the site with the name, logo and offering. Annoyingly, it took two. If I had given myself the luxury of additional time, I’m not sure that I would have had a better outcome, just a slower one. Launching fast allowed me to quickly get feedback on the product, pricing and offering and adapt it accordingly, based on real customers, rather than my own assumptions.
2. Can you suggest any tools to help people get their businesses up and running quickly?
There are so many tools! I wouldn’t be too worried about exactly which you choose. At the very early stage, it’s just about getting something up there and validating your idea. Just pick the tools that allow you to do so as fast as possible and manage all of the very CORE functions of what you need… when I launched, Tidy Me was a one page lander with a form and a payment integration.
Tools that I found very useful were:
Fast and easy way to launch a single page lander – their templates make it really easy to make the site look pretty decent, even without any design skills at all.
You can integrate payments in minutes with Stripe, they take all credit cards and have recurring payments. Stripe is actually the one tool that we still use.
Getting the forms right actually took the longest time; in saying that, by the end of day one I had integrated payments through Stripe with a live running total of the invoice and conditional pricing. It was a proud moment. I also use Wufoo for contractor applications and customer surveys following their clean.
3. You secured $750,000 in seed funding from AirTree Ventures. We get asked a lot about how to secure funding as a startup. How did you make Tidy Me stand out to investors?
I work really hard. I think that Airtree saw that and invested in the team as much as they did the business.
4. You’ve said before that you test everything you do. Why is testing so important and how do you adapt your product based on these tests?
Testing and experimenting allow us to apply data to what is important to our customers and the cleaners on the platform. It also allows us to implement some of the great ideas that the team come up within a structured way, without losing focus. It’s obviously easier for us to do on the platform, but we also run tests on the offline service side. Every week, we launch 2 new tests and run them for a week and then implement the results. Sometimes the ideas that you don’t have the most confidence in end up being the biggest success.
5. Can you tell us more about your vision for Tidy Me and your plans to scale?
Our vision is for Tidy Me to be the number one in home services in Australia. At this stage, we are just offering cleaning so that we can ensure that we nail it, but cleaning (literally), opens the doors to a world of opportunities!
6. A lot of our audience at the Unconvention will be in the early stages, say in their first 1-2 years in business and trying to gain some traction – what would be your advice to them?
I think you need to break down your immediate targets to allow you to focus on exactly how you will reach them. I broke down the process into our first 30, 50, 100 and 1000 customers and so on. For the first 30 customers, I took a very high touch approach, by driving to each of their homes following their clean and getting feedback as well as asking them to share their experience online. This not only helped us to build strong and lasting relationships with our customers but also informed future decisions in marketing.
As we continue to grow, it’s about listening to our customers and incorporating what is important to them. For example, communicating that we are a trustworthy service. To do so, we are completely transparent with our customers, we automatically publish all reviews directly to the site as we receive them. Being a two-sided marketplace, on the cleaner side, it’s about providing the best and easiest way for cleaners on the platform to have access to work. When you get the offering right, referrals will start to roll in.
7. What do the next 6-12 months look like for you?
Growth, in every way and continuing to build and deliver an excellent service.
Stacey Jacobs will be giving practical advice on launching a business quickly to entrepreneurs and startup business owners at the upcoming Entrepreneurs’ Unconvention in Sydney (5th September) as part of our expert Q&A panel.
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