Six Tactics That Enabled A Business With An Investment Of US$15,000 To Secure Over $1 Million In Revenue In Three Years' Time
Within three years post launch, Izaak Azanei crossed the US$1 million revenue mark, becoming profitable after year one, while still being fully self-funded, without a single external investor.
Seven years ago, I embarked on a journey of creating Izaak Azanei, a contemporary womenswear brand that I launched from scratch in a competitive industry that I had no direct working experience within, no contacts, and no relevant qualifications towards. Equipped with five years of investment banking experience, and two of the best co-founders I could have asked for (who conveniently happened to be my sisters), we began this startup journey with an initial stock investment of US$15,000. Within three years post launch, we crossed the $1 million revenue mark, becoming profitable after year one, while still being fully self-funded, without a single external investor.
Looking back, the main reason for the success we saw with Izaak Azanei is, I believe, very simple- and that is because, as a business, we were incredibly lean. And now, as we embark on our second startup, building our spin-off company Little IA, a children's brand focused on personalized keepsakes and gifts for little ones, I am reflecting on those early days of creating my first venture and the lessons I learned then about building a lean business. Here are six of the key ones I'd like to share with you all.
1/ Being a jack of all trades is a good thing for an entrepreneur
The first lesson I'd share is accepting that, at the beginning, you are more than capable of wearing multiple hats. I think that far too often in today's almost sexy startup culture, we are seduced by the idea of having to very quickly build a huge team to have a company. However, not only are you the best initial person to sell your own products, but you also need to work directly within multiple roles of your business to later hold others accountable to do those said roles. The truth is, you can be a designer, a marketer, and a sales agent, because as a business owner, no one understands your business better than you, and so, no one is going to sell it better than you. Understanding this allowed us to keep the team extremely lean.
2/ Be wildly resourceful
Every customer and every company you are going to sell your product or services to is likely to be online, and most likely, their details too. Find them. Tools like LinkedIn allow you to connect with pretty much every retail buyer in the world, email addresses are freely online, and if not, you can find the person on social media, and, well, stalk them, in a non-creepy way, of course. In the early days of Izaak Azanei, I found myself acting as a part-time business owner and a part-time private detective, given my attempts to find the email addresses of the buyers of all the prestigious stores that we wanted our products to be in. I'd see what trade shows they'd be at, what agents they'd deal with, and then subsequently, make a plan to be there. You'll be amazed by how much free information is at your fingertips if you only dedicate time to it.
Roshni Khemlani Mehta with her three children, Riaan, Raiyana, and Reina, on the set of a Little IA Campaign, Image courtesy: Little IA
3/ Make the effort to get your brand out there
Today's customer is more conscious than ever, and to connect with a conscious customer, your brand values must be clear, and who better to convey your brand values than a brand owner? Tools like Canva allow you to create professional looking graphics in minutes, and when you've created a few templates that embody your brand, you can create ongoing content in mere seconds. You can also use social media to get in touch with press editors relevant to your brand. In the early days, we'd schedule time in the diary, the same way we would do a meeting, just to contact editors and buyers. If you make this part of your daily routine, the amount of people you can reach is huge. And don't be afraid to pick up the phone if you don't receive a reply- the worst someone can say is that they aren't interested.
4/ Invest in your online presence
If you think you don't have the resources to engage dedicated personnel or teams, there's no need to be disheartened- you can build your website yourself using platforms like Squarespace or Shopify. Such platforms ensure that you have a website that is professional, easy to use, without breaking the bank on developers. The maintenance cost is low, plus customizations are always possible to achieve exactly what you want.
Izaak Azanei co-founders Karishma Rajwani Khemlani, Roshni Khemlani Mehta and Deeya Khemlani, Image courtesy, Little IA
5/ Learn how to get close to your customers
Simple things like adding a Whatsapp button to your Instagram are a great way of ensuring customers reach out as and when they need to, which can increase the likelihood of sales for your business. We have also benefitted from actively reaching out to customers through a simple phone call or email, to understand their requirements, their likes, their dislikes, and thereby ensure that we create a customer experience that adds value to them.
6/ Be on top of your numbers (always)
The habits you cultivate when running your business at the very beginning will dictate the course of your business. Going through your numbers on a weekly basis from day one is an integral habit to ensure you have the necessary insight you need to understand where your main income comes from, and what fat can be cut.