Recently a young, bright college student and aspiring entrepreneur, Leon Gogiqi, reached out to me on LinkedIn asking about my story. I thought I would share our conversation for other aspiring business owners to see if it may help anyone in their own journey.
I actually want to build a company of my own someday. So I'm curious, how did you start out Clairant Services and what steps did you [take] for it to grow?
It's a long story :) I'll make it short.
I spent years as a marketing executive at different companies and realized my passion was for the startup world. I had many opportunities come my way that I had to turn down because I had a corporate job and no time for anything else. I really wanted my cake and eat it too but the time wasn't right. I had fear of starting my own business for many reasons including, economic pressure and fear of not knowing enough. As the years progressed I educated myself with business books, paid attention to the best practices and mistakes of my leaders and finally took the leap and promised myself I would not be fearful. I didn't look back and I would move forward with the knowledge I had, keep learning and ask if I need help. So far so good! Clairant is growing and taking off at a rate faster than I had hoped for!
What would you say has been the hardest thing about making that jump into the startup world?
My biggest challenge right now is the feeling of not knowing what's ahead. When you rely on clients to stick around to pay your bills it's tough to stomach the fear of one or more leaving. Another challenge is that I am growing so fast that the work is starting to pile up. I am getting the business and I am also doing the work with some help of some amazing contractors right now, but soon I will need more help. So it's making that decision to hire someone when you don't necessarily have the steady revenue coming in but you know you will soon need it. I don't have any investment capital so I rely solely on my revenue which is a huge challenge. But I like the challenge and the desperation makes you work even harder. It's a rush and it's so much fun. It's also a great problem to have and a sign that Clairant is growing.
How did you decide marketing was the service you'd want to offer?
Because I love watching companies grow and succeed and I love understanding and watching my behavior affect that success. It's a rush to see your clients moving in the right direction and meeting all the goals they dreamed they would some day meet. Also the last decade of my life has been in marketing so I had the experience and knowledge to back me. It's also a very positive atmosphere which I need in my life and love being apart of.
Where was your first big breakthrough in terms of running a business? Like where you knew this company was going to last?
Well I think we never really know that it will last but you just keep doing the best you can do to run it efficiently and improve every day. But I think if I had to choose one moment it was when I got my second client. The first one was great but the second one proved that if I could get 2 then I could get 3 and 4 and so on. And so I kept at it, and used the same methods that previously brought me success and that kept getting me more clients.
Have you ever changed the methods for finding clients or has it been the same ever since?
I test campaigns on different channels all the time but so far networking is the most lucrative way to get new clients. Also referrals! Word of mouth is huge.
Is there anything specific you lead off with when getting new clients?
When I engage with people I am always more interested in learning about them than I am talking about myself. I always show an interest in their companies and I ask them a lot of questions to learn about their brand and their offerings. I am genuinely interested in how each individual company operates and promotes themselves. They later ask what I do and then it naturally goes from there. No need to sell anything... We are building relationships.
If you have any other questions about my journey as a new business owner or about marketing, please leave them in the comments below.
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Desirae Haluk is passionate about marketing for startups and small businesses. For the last 15 years she has held marketing executive positions for organizations both large and small. She realizes that her true passion is helping establish, grow and evolve startups and small businesses to make them successful and help achieve their goals.