5 Surprises in Starting a Start Up
There are many do’s and don’ts in starting a business, but this article isn’t about that. This is about the things we didn’t expect would happen as we started Campertunity, an online peer-to-peer marketplace where landowners can list their land for campers to book for short term stay. Campertunity’s goal is to get people outside and build community. My co-founder, Nora, and I started this venture, and here are the five surprises that we came across in our first few months in business:
1. The freedom of owning time is priceless
I didn’t realize what freedom meant until I could drop my daughter off at school in the morning and not worry about being late for work, or I could spend an entire month in the hospital with my dying dad without the fear of being fired. A start-up requires you to put in more hours than you would at a 9–5 job, but it’s a schedule that you get to choose and decide around your life.
2. It can cost way more than one might think
Yes, it does! Even with a business plan outlining financial projections, our expenses far exceeded what we thought by a few thousand dollars. This isn’t the case for all founders but it was for us, mainly because we had to outsource the coding for Campertunity (I recommend finding a co-founder who is a coder because it will save you money. Or, learn to code yourself). Even making little changes to our website requires us to pay someone else. So, when our expenses in outsourcing and marketing started to rise, we had to get creative to make Campertunity grow, which brings me to the next point.
3. It takes a lot of creativity
Think, think, think. That’s what we are constantly doing when it comes to ways to market Campertunity, improve the website, advertise it, network, find funding, and find mentors. We had to research to identify our product market fit, and then figure out how to reach it. In our case, campers and landowners. How do we reach landowners when they are in rural areas and sometimes cannot be contacted by social media? This is just one major challenge. Everything from what to post on Instagram to how to retain our current users, the creative brain must constantly pump out ideas.
4. It’s a slow start no matter how great an idea is
Our idea is a noble one. We want to get people outside because connecting with nature make us happy. Like many startup founders, we thought our idea is so great that once it launched, everyone will want it and by the end of the year, it will be a success. That didn’t happen. We had to learn the hard way to not pressure ourselves or not feel down when our expectations weren’t met. Remembering that Airbnb and Google had slow starts made us gain some perspective. There can be a few factors as to why a launch isn’t as successful as one would think. Figuring out what it is (possibly timing or lack of product market fit), adjusting the strategy and trying again pays off. You’ll learn that your idea is either sink or swim.
5. There is a ton to learn
My background is not technical or business related, which makes starting a tech company a learning process. Even if you do have the education you need, there are things you learn along the way, like the tax benefits of incorporating your business versus not. This might be obvious for some people but if you think you know everything, you don’t so keep yourself open to learning, find mentors, and listen to them. Learning may sometimes feel like a burden but it’s a great feeling when you understand something new.
Some surprises are good, some are a shock, but they are better to encounter than to never know it at all.
Learn more and find a campsite!: https://campertunity.com.