This page is devoted to all things regarding Jamey’s business on the side, TypeTribe.
Yes, I’m starting a business. It’s called TypeTribe. What is it? I’ll get to that later (like, not today).
This page isn’t so much about TypeTribe as it is about the process I’m going through to start TypeTribe. I figure some of this will be useful to all the burgeoning entrepreneurs out there, and a lot of it may be helpful to me as a resource when I inevitably start another business in the future.
Keep in mind that this is a running list. For a while, I’ll be listing things I’ve already done in addition to things I’m doing. There is no correct order to any of this. It’s all just stuff that I’ve done, and for the most part I’d recommend you do the same. I’ll make a special note of everything that costs money (you’d be surprised how inexpensive it is to start a business).
- See If Your Idea Already Exists. Search Google, talk to friends, post on Twitter–see if your idea already exists. This is an excellent litmus test for your level of passion for the project. If you’re truly passionate about it (not in it just for the money), if you find out it already exists, you’ll be happy, because you know it’s out there for people (including you) to use. If it’s not already out there, suddenly the world is on your shoulders because it’s something you can actually make.
- Register Your Domain Name Pow! I’m putting this one right up front because it’s so important. If you’re starting a web-based business, your domain name is your company name. It’s really cheap to do this. I used Spirit Domains, but it’s a smaller company by comparison, which means there’s less information out there on the web about how to adjust your settings. I’d recommend going to one of the big players like Register.com or Go Daddy. Cost: $10
- Pick Your Company Name Again, this goes hand in hand with registering your domain name, but you have to have someplace to start. Here’s what I did: I took the idea I had for my company and thought of a bunch of short words that could connotate the mission. I went through a lot of them until I found one that (a) worked, (b) sounded good, (c) was easy to pronounce, (d) was easy to remember, and (e) had an available domain name. In fact, in the end, I narrowed it down to 3 names. I needed help. So I formed a Brain Trust.
- Form a Brain Trust Marketing guru Seth Godin suggests finding 10 people whose opinion you care for to ask for advice about any new business. I know way more than 10 people whose advice I really value, but I narrowed it down to 15 for the sake of my Brain Trust. I e-mailed them (BCC them), explained what I was doing, and I asked a specific question about the name of the company. Every single one of them replied with solid feedback.
- Get an E-Mail Address I went through Google because Gmail is awesome–they call this Google Apps for Business. The cool thing about this is that for no cost at all (for the standard edition, which is fine; premier edition is $50/year), you get an e-mail address with your company name as the extension, and you get the Google calendar and Google Docs along with it.
- Register Your Fictitious Name with Your State No, this isn’t your alias. This is the name of your company, which you just made up, so it’s not real yet. Fictitious. Go here to do it. In Missouri, I had to print and mail a document to the state capital for this to be finalized. Cost: $7
- Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) For tax purposes, your company needs a number. Kind of like a Social Security Number for your business. It’s fast, easy, and free. You can do it here. But first, you’ll need to decide what kind of company you’re starting (legally speaking).
- Decide What Kind of Company You’re Starting I’m not going to list them all here. Just go to this site to figure it out. If you’re like me, starting a web-based business by yourself, go with a sole proprietorship.
- Open a Business Checking Account You need somewhere for all the incoming cash to go, right? You need a checking account. I already have my personal checking account with Bank of America, so it was easy to start a business checking account with them as well. I’ll only incur fees on my economy account (for small startups) if I don’t make at least one payment a month with my business check card. Having this account is key, as it will allow me to separate my business expenses from my personal expenses. I can also use it to open a PayPal account under my business name, which is key for a web-based company. You’ll need a copy of your fictitious name registration to open a business checking acocunt under that name. Cost: $100 deposit
- Get a PayPal Account. Nothing beats PayPal when it comes to e-commerce. If you want to incorporate full e-commerce capabilities directly onto your website (i.e., accepting credit and debit cards), you have to add multiple levels of security to your site. Plus, you have credit card fees. With PayPal, if someone pays you via PayPal, there is no fee. It only takes a few minutes set up a simple business account.
- Get a Logo and a Wordmark. Your logo and wordmark (what your company name looks like when it’s typeset) are the face of your company. I highly recommend getting them professionally designed. I’d suggest coming up with a mission statement containing the core idea of your business before getting a designer, as they’ll need that information as a foundation. I’d also suggest meeting with or at least talking to the designer on the phone–they’ll have a lot of questions you won’t think to answer otherwise. Make sure you are clear about what you want the logo to contain, and create a written contract–even if the designer is a friend or a friend of a friend. Cost: $250
- Write Down Your Mission Statement and Core Idea of Your Business You’d think you’d want this from the very beginning, wouldn’t you? I beg to differ. An idea is different than what your business may actually become. So waiting a little while before you write down the mission statement gives you the chance to get some clarity on your idea. At some point, though, you’ll definitely want it on paper.
- Get Letterhead You probably won’t need a ton of this if you’re a web-based business, but you’ll still need some. I bought 50 sheets today in color from Hi/Tec Copy in St. Louis. Cost: $21
- Get Investors: Most people my age don’t have thousands of dollars laying around collecting dust. We need help from outsiders. Before you submit your business plan to your local angel investors, start with your family and friends. Write a compelling letter to them sharing your passion for the project and why you think it’ll work. Give people the opportunity to donate or invest in a startup company from the ground up–people aren’t asked to do this every day. Cost (stamps, envelopes): $22
- Prepare a Pre-Site Blog: You want buzz for your website to start well before it launches. I started a TypeTribe blog on WordPress to get the word out early. Check out that page to see what I mean–there’s not a lot going on, but that’s okay. The key is that you tell people what you’re doing and you give them an opportunity to sign up for launch notification via e-mail. I added a little promotion to make this more effective. Also, you can forward your real domain name (typetribe.com) to your pre-site blog domain name (typetribe.blogspot.com) so that people are taken to what looks like your site when they look for it pre-launch. Cost: $1
- Get an e-newsletter service: This is what you’ll use to contact people who sign up for launch notification. There are so many of these out there. I’ve worked with Constant Contact and liked it, and I’ve heard good things about Campaign Monitor (better for designers), but I went with MailChimp, which was really easy to set up and use. You have to trick WordPress into putting the signup on your sidebar; basically, you create an image file of the signup form, link it to the actual signup form, and post it in the sidebar.
- Twitter Pre-Launch Promotion: I want to get momentum going before the site launches, hence the pre-site blog (above). One way I’m doing this is using Twitter. I use a Twitter program called TweetDeck that lets me search for specific phrases that people are tweeting. I have the search parameters set for “writing group,” “critique group,” and “my book club.” So whenever someone on Twitter–anywhere in the world–writes about their critique group (“Going to my critique group tonight. Hope they liked my story!”), I see the Tweet. So I created two promotional messages, each geared toward piquing the interest of the two categories (writers and readers), and replied to each person who had tweeted about that subject. The phrases I used were: What if you could target specific readers for timely feedback? Customize a critique group at TypeTribe. http://typetribe.com and What if authors attended your book club seeking input before their book is published? That’s TypeTribe. http://typetribe.com. Twitter stopped me after 125 posts–I had about 50 more to go. That’s 175 tweets on those subjects over the last 5 days.
- Give Your Company Personality. You increase your chance of having people pay attention to you and/or trust you if they see that your company has a personality. You can use Twitter for this, but 140 characters is pretty restricting. I didn’t want to write much more than that, so I decided to write a short entry on the TypeTribe blog every day called “Should’ve Used TypeTribe” (SUTT). I’m going to make note of something written or something that originate from something written (like a movie) that could’ve been better if the writer(s) had created a customizable, targeted focus group on TypeTribe before finalizing their work. Nothing inflammatory, just a little tongue in cheek.
- Track Your Twitter Use: Today I was wondering how many Twitter users have clicked through my many Twitter posts marketing TypeTribe pre-launch. I can see how many people come to the TypeTribe blog, and I know that nearly all of them have come from Twitter, but I didn’t know how many times I had posted on Twitter about the company. So I found out about Tweetake, which allows you to import all of your Twitter posts onto a spreadsheet. It took about 10 seconds, and then I could easily figure out which posts were about TypeTribe and which weren’t.
More to come later…(including business plan, developer (vs. designer), funding, talking to experts (people who have started their own companies, venture capitalists), 37signals, case studies, mockups, screen captures, slogan, marketing, Google Alerts, and more!)