5 startup insights from Lincoln’s top entrepreneurs

On December 9th Windstream and Inc. sponsored “The Power of Small” at The Grand Manse in Lincoln, Nebraska to discuss the ups and downs of starting a small business. The panel included Jennifer Rosenblatt, co-founder of MusicSpoke and Argyle Octupus, Stephanie Jarrett co-founder of Bulu Box, and Chris Davis, CTO of Travefy. The discussion was moderated…

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Lincoln’s entrepreneurs gather at The Grand Manse in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo courtesy of Windstream.

On December 9th Windstream and Inc. sponsored “The Power of Small” at The Grand Manse in Lincoln, Nebraska to discuss the ups and downs of starting a small business. The panel included Jennifer Rosenblatt, co-founder of MusicSpoke and Argyle Octupus, Stephanie Jarrett co-founder of Bulu Box, and Chris Davis, CTO of Travefy. The discussion was moderated by Burt Helm, Senior contributing writer, at Inc.

Here are our top 5 takeaways from the evening:

Be smart about being “lean”

Davis shared how Travefy decided to stay lean during its early days because the customer cycle is slow in the travel industry and they needed time to experiment.

“Early on our strategy was that we were going to stay lean, iterate quickly, and build, build, and build,” said Davis. “There came a point where being cheap and lean actually set us back.”

They discovered that hiring cheap workers that will work fast was actually slowing down their progress. They needed to spend more on talent to get longer term results.

“We were super cheap and lean and that’s why we’re still here,” said Davis. “But there’s a point where we needed to spend the money, and we were slow to do that.”

Go “all in”

Going from a full-time job into launching a business is not for everyone. It really comes down to your attitude about the risks involved.

“I think you know you’re in a position to take the plunge if you can be honest with yourself and ask, ‘If I take the plunge and it fails in three months, am I OK with that?'” said Jarrett. “If the answer is ‘yes,’ then go for it. If the answer is ‘no,’ then you’re not in the right mindset yet. You have to be OK with the chances of failing.”

Set and prioritize goals

According to Davis, the thing he worries about is making the right decision that will have the biggest impact six months down the road.

“[The question is] ‘Am I working hard on the right things?’ not just, ‘Am I working hard?'” said Davis.

Rosenblatt agreed that it’s better to have an end goal and then make sure what you’re working on is truly impacting the business.

“Sometimes we get wrapped up in being busy because busy feels good,” said Rosenblatt. “But busy doesn’t move us forward.”

Be prepared to reinvent your business model

When Jarrett started Bulu Box they thought that the sample box would be the big money generator for their business. They soon realized that was not the case. Then they started selling full-size products. Eventually, they focused on gathering data and selling it back to brands.

“Every sample we distribute we ask for feedback from our subscriber. We take all that data and do a whole bunch of regression analysis and put it into this really cool data visualization,” said Jarrett.

Now they see the box itself as a way to gather more data.

“If we can recoup our cost on the box, we are doing really great,” said Jarrett. “Now it’s about collecting as many data points as we can get.”

Build an intentional culture

As you build your team, it’s key to focus on growing your team toward the outcome you want.

“The key to an successful company is the people,” said Rosenblatt. “Invest time in your team and your people.”

Rosenblatt shared how she involved her whole team in workshopping Argyle Octopus’ mission and vision, which made people take ownership and feel invested in the company.

“Culture happens whether you’re intentional about it or not, and you can end up with something you really don’t like,” said Rosenblatt.

Special thanks to Windstream and Inc. for hosting the event!

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