You may know this situation well: you’re spending time in a job that doesn't make much sense to you, and you’re thinking about what you could start on your own. But then you decide that it’s too big a risk and that you should get back to reality. Or maybe you have a great job and you're about to start a new project, but you're not sure if your users will like it.
Over the last year, I've attended a number of design sprints, client tests, hackathons, but most importantly, I went through the Social Impact Award summer accelerator where I worked on my own project with a friend. That's why I would also like to share my insights with you.
The book Atomic Habits has started a wave of building new habits, but also a step-by-step approach to working where you dedicate even just 15 minutes every day to a new activity and the results will come very soon. This method can work for activities where you really need time and it's not good to overdo it right at the start - for example like running. But for other activities where you need results really quickly, this method wouldn't work at all.
I'm not a fan of multitasking, and for the last year, I've been learning essentialism - focusing on what’s key and saying no to other things. That led me to the idea that it's good to do things in so-called sprints - or to focus on only one thing for a short period of time.
These so-called design sprints, accelerations, hackathons or even other formats are examples where you will be shocked at what you have managed to do in such a short time when focused on only one thing.
If you're thinking about starting your own business, founding a startup, or are just starting a company project, I have some advice to help set up your project for success.
In the next five steps I will present the theory using my own project, Beggis - a platform for shared kids’ fashion:
1. Listen to your future customers
Did you know that according to CB Insights, the second most common reason why startups fail are poorly identified client needs? Are you really not just building an extra mobile app? What client needs do you want to address? Ask them in the beginning, before you even start thinking about anything.
Right at the beginning we selected about 6 representatives from our target group and we conducted hour-long interviews with them on the topic of children and clothes. We found, for example, that a big problem is hoarding and getting rid of clothes, because children grow very fast.
2. Don’t reinvent the wheel
Do you know your competition? Can’t you think of anyone? Then take another look. Maybe you missed it, maybe you didn't look at international markets, or maybe there is only indirect competition. Ask your clients what service/product they use most often for the need in question which you also address. And if you find it, think carefully about what it is that you want to be unique in. Why would the client choose you instead?
We decided to address the topic of circular fashion for children. But when we started looking
abroad, we found that there was already competition there.That was an impulse for us
to study how it works abroad and to get inspired by some of the things that are happening. All we needed to do was a bit of googling.
3. Surround yourself with experts
If you have the opportunity, don't try to figure everything out on your own. Take advantage of various mentoring, acceleration or new project programs, where in most cases you can get experts’ advice for free or for a reasonable fee. Spend your time on what you’re best at.
We registered our idea in the Social Impact Award accelerator, where we received a bunch of
of free expert consultations. For example, we had planned to start by setting up social media,
but the consultation made us realize that we wouldn't need to spend as much time marketing, because we would only need to test the idea with a few parents we could get
through direct outreach. This immediately gave us a little more time to focus on the important things.
4. Create a prototype
You know what your clients want, you know your competitors, and you've taken advice from experts in areas where you still had questions left. It's time to put your solutions on paper. Draw, use powerpoint or even Figma. Again, work on it, but don't waste too much time.
In our case, there was no need to build a ready-made website. It was enough to use Shoptet (an e-shop hosting platform) and try and test the idea of "renting children's clothes" with the first parents. Again, this was a solution that was ready in a few hours.
5. Go and ask your clients again
Now you can go back to your future clients/users. Present your idea to them, listen and observe how they react. Don't be afraid to reach out to strangers, they are the ones who are most likely to give you an honest opinion. Was it a success? You're ready to start implementing. Not a success? I'm sure you got some great insights on how to improve or maybe even do something completely different.
This step still awaits us - we are about to show our prototype in Shoptet to a few parents. By doing this, we want to address all their important questions and launch the website as soon as possible.
A great book by Jake Knapp titled Sprint - How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days describes how manage all these steps in just one week. Head here for tips on how to ask questions and get the right insights from prospective customers. And if you want to try a design sprint for real in a few hours, check out Google's great free workshop.
And if you have any questions, feel free to contact me (you’ll find my LinkedIn profile in my author’s bio), I'd be happy to help.