Many of you who will read this know my journey.
You know that my wife and I have started a coffee business called MOLO Coffee Co., our 3rd official business in our entrepreneurial career.
For quite some time I have been pondering how, exactly, I would tell the story of MOLO in a way that would benefit the Modern Marketer audience. You all have asked many times before to show you exactly what I am doing to build a business from the ground up.
In fact, two of the most common questions I get on The Modern Marketer and ExecMindset social channels is “how do I build a business when I have nothing?” or “how do I build a business from the ground up?”
I hear you and this isn’t my first time doing this. So, here it is.
Not a blueprint.
Not a map.
But a journey.
This is the first installment of “The Ground Up Business Challenge,” where I challenge you to build a business with me. No, I dare you. I dare you to out hustle me, I dare you to out market me, I dare you to out perform me. Not because I think I am better than you, but because it’s healthy competition.
You and I both want to grow flourishing businesses, as I have done in the past, so let’s do this one together.
Here’s what the first 60 days of building our coffee business has looked like.
1. The Right Startup Mindset
Your mindset is everything when you are starting a business. However long it takes you to get your mind right, take the time. It’s worth it.
The first thing I do before hitting the ground running with a new business is center my mind. You have to mentally prepare for one of the most brutal and emotional journeys of your life. Every time.
Regardless of how many times you have done this.
So, I go in with the following thoughts:
- ‘Doing’ is better than ‘thinking’
- It doesn’t have to look pretty, it just has to get done
- I don’t need resources to start something TODAY
- It’s about speed to market
- The business comes before my personal agenda
- I DO NOT NEED A BUSINESS PLAN
- I am a storyteller before I am a business owner
- This will not work without content
- Take it one day at a time
It sounds simple, but it’s harder than it seems.
I’ve seen entrepreneurs (both young and grown adults) waste the first 12-24 months of their startup making mistakes that could be avoided if they understood the above mindsets. I see people wasting time:
- picking out logos
- arguing with partners and associates
- beta testing for a year
- spending thousands upon thousands on a beautifully useless website
- looking for investors
- waiting for the right time to go ‘all in’
- holding off on social media
- creating business plans (that they never use)
- having meetings
- not creating content
- trying to get emotional support from friends and family
- hyping themselves up in search of motivation
- flat out procrastinating, etc
Here is the thing.
There is nothing wrong with planning and strategizing, in fact, I encourage it. What I have a problem with is becoming stagnant because you want something to look a certain way, feel a certain way, function a certain way, process a certain way, and 1000 other unrealistic expectations.
Business is messy and it never looks how you intent it to.
So, the faster you can execute, make small mistakes, adjust and keep moving forward, the better.
Now, that your mind is in the right place, let’s get into what we are doing tactically.
Branding, Micro Content & Social Media
Branding is one of the first things you should execute before approaching any other public facing digital marketing initiative.
At very minimum, at least have a text logo in place before you start creating your messages, emails, social media and content.
The branding for us was a simple thing.
We wanted a clean logo that represented something of value and purpose.
As do most people.
Here is a trick for the modern entrepreneur/marketer. Don’t spend thousands of dollars branding and don’t spend months branding.
Use one of the following resources and have it done in 72 hours or less, no exceptions. If you are spending longer than that on a logo or branding in general, you are too prideful to admit you’re focusing on the wrong things.
Find something simple, find something that relates, find something that you love the FLAT version of, and move on.
Side-note: The flat version simple means the black and white version with no effects like gradients, colors, shadows, embosses, etc. If you love the flat version of your logo, you’ll love the other versions most likely.
For us, we chose a template on graphic river, changed the font and color and moved on to the rest of our brand identity.
We love this logo. We love this name. We love it all.
MOLO in latin means “to grind.” Grinding like coffee, and grinding like an entrepreneur. The emblem is a simple flat icon of a fox that is both memorable and representative of the audience we are reaching.
Our tagline is “awaken the doer.”
We are going to reach writers, speakers, bloggers, entrepreneurs, startup owners, stay at home spouses and parents, hustlers, grinders, executives, and beyond. Anyone who is actively pursuing their dreams and knows there is a deeper purpose to their daily grind.
MOLO is for them.
From there, we knew that we needed to get started on social media immediately.
What good is a strong message and brand like ours if no one knows about it (a common mistake in entrepreneurs—great vision and purpose, zero awareness.)
So, we took to canva and photoshop and started creating social graphics in preparation for micro content on social media.
Side-note: We also knew that we didn’t want to be EVERYWHERE on social media and that we wanted to master a couple platforms at most—at least to begin with. So we naturally chose Facebook and Instagram. Facebook because they have the best ad product on the marketing and Instagram because it’s still one of the fastest growing platforms with the most attention.
The goal with our social media branding is to raise awareness through value. To capture the mindshare of an underserved segment of a market. So, we came up with a few graphics and pictures that came together on Instagram like this:
For our Facebook brand identity, we kept it simple for now, like this:
Now at this point, you have to keep in mind, we are only 24 hours-ish into the process of start a new business from the ground up. And in less than 24 hours, we’ve got our branding down and we are already prepared to create content, publish and distribute.
Speed to market.
Did we have any CTA’s yet? No.
Did we have a website yet? No.
Did we have a product that they could buy yet? No.
We didn’t need all of that. We just needed to get out there.
Our thought was to capitalize on our unique value proposition—and for us, that is the skill to create communities around the brands that we own. I don’t need anything else besides the ability to create, publish and distribute content to build a community.
So, without getting another duck in a row, we’ve published over 200 pieces of content in under 60 days. And full pieces of content too. No just a picture with a “give us a like” or “double tap if you like coffee”.
Full content, every time, like this:
We created content from day 1 because the best marketers are salesmen and the best salesmen are storytellers.
The point is to create marketing so good that people want to pay you for it (that’s a Jay Baer quote.) And that’s what we are doing. We literally have people begging us everyday (no exaggeration) to let them buy our coffee.
Imagine, however, if we would have waited. It would have been a disaster. No awareness, no buzz, no warm audiences, nothing.
By acting quick with our branding, social media and content, we were able to get to the market immediately.
Not everything in business and marketing is about immediate ROI. Sometimes you just have to let your voice be heard. It’s how I built The Modern Marketer and it’s how I am going to build MOLO with my wife.
Website, Brand Voice & Messaging
After getting our branding, micro content and social media rolling, we’ve been working on our website.
At the time of this writing, we are less than 5 days away from launching that website and we couldn’t be more excited.
Simply put, I used WordPress.org as CMS (not .com, there is a difference.)
I believe, by far, it is the most well versed solution for managing a website. Sure, other platforms like Square Space, Shopify, Big Commerce, Wix and Weebly, are good “done-for-you” platforms, but they come with a cost—usually monthly.
I am only interested in low cost of entry and speed to market.
With a little R&D you can learn what it takes to create templatized WordPress sites without monthly costs, other than your hosting. With WordPress knowledge, a theme from Themeforest, a few wordpress plugins, and Godaddy or Bluehost hosting, you’re all set.
This is what the homepage of our website looks at the time of this writing (subject to change as we finish the site):
As you can see, it’s branded well, it’s fairly optimized and user friendly.
All you could ask for in a website.
There is still some dummy text on the page, as well as the menu from the original template (just to show you that I am not coding this from the ground up even though my team knows how to.)
To make it possible to launch a subscription based coffee business, we are using:
We are also keeping our website simple up front. Less than 10 pages.
Because it’s effective and it’s not 2008 anymore. We don’t need 50 page, complex websites to provide value and make sales. Dollar Shave club started from the ground up, a simple website and a few viral videos. Period. In 5 years, they sold for $5 billion dollars to Unilever.
Business Development and Market Strategy
Remember, earlier in the article when I said “the best marketers are salesmen and the best salesmen are storytellers”?
I meant it.
Your marketing is useless if you don’t execute your “biz dev” a.k.a. business development.
There are several things that I knew going into starting a coffee business. You can apply these same realizations to your respective businesses if they apply:
1) We don’t have the resources of household names like Maxwell, Folders, Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks
2) We don’t have the snobby cult following like Stumptown, Bluebottle or Deathwish
3) Even though the snobby brands are bigger on social media, they only make up 10% of the market or less. So, their bark is louder than their bite so to speak.
4) We do have marketing experience with over 800 brands
5) We do know how to create social communities better than 99% of people out there
6) There is an underserved segment of the market (or as Gary Vee calls ‘whitespace’) filled with people who love coffee, are tired of cheap, stale coffee from the big brands but not enthused by the snobby, overpriced coffee brands. People who want great coffee that isn’t stale, isn’t over priced and doesn’t feel like a scientist lab when they are making it.
7) B2B sales are going to sustain our growth in the beginning even though we are running a B2C subscription business model—this will give us the breathing room to make bigger decisions for the B2C side when we have great cashflow.
8) Influencer marketing is something that most of our competitors either aren’t aware of or don’t know how to execute on a high level
9) Very few of our competitors are creating content as if they are a media company first and a coffee company second (another Gary Vee strategy)
Because of these realizations, we responded with the following actions.
First, we created a list of the top influencers in the coffee space on social media.
We’re still reaching out and expanding this list, but it looks a little something like this:
We are reaching out to every single one of them with customized messages that have context behind who they are for specific opportunities. Things like co-branding, influencer marketing, affiliate marketing, etc.
Side-note: The reason I am not scare to show exactly what we are doing is because few people have the skills necessary to spark responses. Something that can’t be taught. You just have to have intuition and discernment.
The funny thing about influencers (if they aren’t already tied to a product of their own) is they know how to create audiences but they don’t know how to monetize and drive revenue. We can leverage that by paying for advertising, offering affiliate marketing, or co-branding.
This allows us to tap into nurtured audiences and skip most of the “awareness and consideration” stages of the buyer journey. That way, once we have a new audiences attention, our content will do it’s work in having valuable touch points and we can sell them coffee in the “decision” stage of the journey.
Second, we created a list of beta testers to try our coffee and review it.
We also brought it to all of our family holiday gatherings where we knew there would be friends and family from around the nation. This type of social proof (or “proof points” as we call them at DPA) is EXACTLY what we need to sell well in the beginning.
Launching with real reviews is priceless.
Third, I started meeting with packaging and distribution companies.
I didn’t just send out random emails, I acted like a human and developed real relationships.
I could have been straight to the point and had a selfish agenda (like most entrepreneurs) and simply sent template messages in mass quantities.
…but I made each person I talked to or met with, feel important.
This worked so well even our package representative gave us access to her list of clients from over 30 years to sell to. All we have to do is get a sample display together that she can pitch in her meetings.
Fourth, we created a spreadsheet of businesses within a 50-100 mile radius of where we live in NC.
It is/was tedious, but it’s what needed to be done.
By searching through directories, chamber of commerce sites and other local business listings, we were able to segment out a list of potential buyers for the B2B side of our business.
Then, I talked to one of my good friends who is a great salesmen about helping us land some business accounts and kicking him commissions on his work in his spare time.
Easy sales, no overhead.
Fifth, we created purpose behind our brand.
We chose to have a vision and mission of giving back through our business.
Not anything new. But, we’re doing it differently.
Not because it’s a checkbox that you’re supposed to do in business, but because we truly do care and want to build a legacy. People can smell fake from 10,000 miles away online and unless you are transparent and authentic, giving back doesn’t matter.
We are choosing to give 10% of our gross sales to improve the local community in NC, where we are headquartered. We’re partnering with 3 charities per quarter and involving our finances and our hands in their operations.
Beyond our own giving, we are allowing our audience a chance to get involved. They can do this by “pouring over” the cost of their subscription and one-off purchases to give into a pool of donation money. This pool of money will go to charity water once per quarter and provide clean water around the world to impact those in developing countries.
Just by reading this article, you can tell that there is a ton of stuff you can do without investors, resources or any outside infusion or opinion.
Far too many of you think you NEED things to get started.
Most of the above was done within the first week or less of launching a new business, and all of it was done in under 60 days. No, it wasn’t all easy to execute but it’s easy in regards to its simplicity.
There is no equation, no hidden secret, no fast track.
Only practical behaviors that lead to growing a business.
I hope you will stick around to catch the second installment once we have a subscriber base and can show you guys the sales side of our new business.