FRUGGL was the first business I’ve ever created. Now that FRUGGL is officially dead, I wanted to take some time to reflect on my experience.
FRUGGL was my first foray into the world of entrepreneurship. A social coupon website, FRUGGL offered college students discounts to local shops, or restaurants every week. It was created before all of the deal website hype. Groupon was only in a handful of cities.
It sprung out of a desire to help the failing newspaper industry. The original plan was to leverage the papers local influence to promote deals and drive revenue. Unfortunately, that concept never took hold. Somewhere along the line the model changed, and I realized there was an opportunity to give deals to college students around the country.
It all began the summer of my junior year, I was working an internship with V3 Media Group doing copy writing, seo and social media stuff. During that time I discovered several startup blogs such as Mashable, TechCrunch and The Next Web. Every morning that summer I woke up and devoured every new story on those sites (yeah, I know that is a lot of reading). I was addicted.
Eventually I began experimenting with my own ideas. When I was home I was reading, researching and crunching numbers. It was during this time that I became what my friend Andrew Sims calls a “Chronic Idea Man.” I was loosing track of time and staying up until 5 a.m. putting together my ideas. When I did manage to get to sleep at a decent hour I would often wake in the middle of the night and start working.
After running through several ideas, I decided that FRUGGL was going to be my first company. The business model seemed simple , and I thought I could I could make it work. The next step was to raise money.
As talks about raising money and finding investors began to surface, I started to become worried. I was still afraid to take that step into entrepreneurship. What if I failed? That is when I consulted my father.
“What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll have a great learning experience at a fraction of the cost of your education,” he said.
My father was right, but I came away with more than just a learning experience – I came away with appreciation for entrepreneurship and a fascination with the startup culture.
Although FRUGGL was a failure, it was the most successful failure I have ever had.
What I learned from FRUGGL.
Fail Cheap, Fail Quick. Do not spend $30,000 on a project if you don’t have $30,000 worth of customers emailing you asking when it is going to be available. I did not spend near that much, but I have talked to entrepreneurs who have. My advice to first time entrepreneurs is see what businesses you can create for $1,000 and do the best you can with that. I spent several thousand developing a user login system that was not necessarily. To date I have spent less than $100 on BISON BOX, my newest project, a custom computer startup.
If you build it, they won’t come. Startups are not about putting a great “idea” out there and then finding a way to market it. Big companies can afford to do it, but you can’t. It is about solving a certain problem for a certain group of people. Your “idea” is just your hypothesis for how to solve that problem. If the “idea” is wrong, pivot and find another way to solve it.
Do not write a business plan. I spent 4 months writing my business plan for FRUGGL. It was a huge waste of time and 20 pages. Once again startups are not large companies. I should have been out talking to businesses, and getting sign ups. Just a week after the official launch I was already making major changes, not to mention there is no way to forecast sales and revenue. It is all just a well-researched guess. If you are thinking of starting a business think Lean Canvas, more than business plan.
Selling on two fronts is like fighting two wars. For FRUGGL to work I had to sell to two markets. First, I had to go out and sell restaurants and local vendors on hyper-local marketing. Then I had to sell college students on the deals. It was extremely stressful, especially while I was a full-time student, and working for The Auburn Plainsman.
I am extremely critical of our education system. I was a much better student before starting FRUGGL. The more I worked on my business, the less time I had for class. I also began to take note of how little college classes actually taught me. I read every availible article on the internet’ to teach myself how to effectively run Adwords and Facebook Ads campaigns. These were such valuable tools. Why didn’t we have a class about MailChimp or Analytics? In management class we were memorizing definitions and learning useless information like Six Hat Theory.
I love startups and startup culture. It was not until I began to wind down FRUGGL that I discovered this fascinating world. It was full of ultra-ambitious people who loved new ideas. They were not always the best students, but they are always the most curious. I realized that what entrepreneurs really do is create value, jobs and wealth for themselves and others.
I can only encourage others to go out and start work on their ideas, once you are done reading this start thinking about how you can bring your idea to life. Sell jewelry on Amazon, build websites for others, start a blog, write a book – all of these are things you can begin today for next to nothing.
Many people think that you have to be a genius to start a business. Just be obsessively curious about the world.
I have compiled a valuable collection of resources for entrepreneurs. If you are a first time entrepreneur please read my Startup Articles post. It is a collection of the most valuable reads for first-time entrepreneurs on the web. Just because I had a successful failure, that doesn’t mean that you should have one.
Most importantly I came away from FRUGGL knowing I had great, supportive friends who mean more to me than most of them know.
To everybody that helped and supported me along my journey – Thanks.