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In Her Own Words: 13 Things I Learned From Running An Organic Startup

I am sure many of you harbor dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, being your own boss and doing something you love. What’s more, you aren’t reporting to anyone but yourself. However, there are a few doubts keeping you from giving life to your own startup. I had doubts too; doubts about my own ability, doubts about product feasibility and doubts about business scalability.

But, one fine day, circumstances and mindset aligned enough for me to start my own business. I targeted cannabidiol or CBD (a compound that can be derived from hemp or marijuana), whose market is touted to hit $22 Billion in another 4 years.

To be honest, I never considered the amazing growth prospect of this market, before getting into it. My reasons were different, closer to home, but there is no harm in actually taking a good hard look at market prospects before you start your business in earnest.

Having said that, I want to share a few things I learned while running an organic startup. The idea here is to try and get rid of some of the doubts you are having and which are preventing you from approaching your startup at full throttle.

1. Target Emerging Industries.

I have already told you my reasons for getting into the CBD domain were a little different, but luckily, I entered an emerging market. I encountered an even playing field where smaller players like myself, could compete against the big boys. Also, the market isn’t as saturated and you have time to get your bearings right, establish a foundation and grow your business, before some other enfant terrible enters the fray.

The learning here is that if you are thinking of starting a business, venture into a domain/market that has not fully matured, isn’t saturated and the competition isn’t as tough.  

2. Understand The (Organic) Industry, Pain Points And How It Functions.

Never get into an industry without getting an in-depth understanding of how it functions. E.g., I got into this industry, because of my quest for natural solutions for chronic pain and sleeping trouble.

While I learnt about the benefits of CBD, I also realized a harsh truth – most of its products fail to do their job. This was the pain point I addressed. I analyzed why these products weren’t working and what could be done to develop better, more effective CBD products.

The idea here is to understand what makes a particular industry tick and its lacunae if any. Focus on these, tap into them and find a solution for them, fill these lacunae.

3. Convey Product Understanding To Key Stakeholders.

Once I had clarity on what I wanted to do and the product I wanted to target, in this case CBD, I had to ensure that key business stakeholders were as clear about the product as I was.

The key here was to get a more comprehensive understanding of CBD, CBD oil, how does CBD work and more. It is imperative that people who are going to handle key business functions are convinced about the product they are selling. This conviction comes from product understanding.

In Her Own Words: 13 Things I Learned From Running An Organic Startup - Lioness Magazine
Joy Organics owner Joy Smith.

4. Passion For Your Products.

For me it was organic products, for you it could be something else. The point I am trying to make here is you must have an intrinsic passion for the products you are selling.  You must be thoroughly convinced that you are selling the right products and your target customers are missing out, if they are not using your products. This passion comes out in all its glory when you are trying to convince them to try out your product. That is half the battle won.

5. Aim For Product Differentiation.

One of the key product differentiators of the CBD products sold by Joy Organics is our proprietary extraction and solids separation process. This ensures that all the beneficial compounds in hemp such as terpenes, flavonoids and phytocannobinoids are preserved, thus ensuring the final product offers a slew of health benefits.

Some, Joy Organics’ products also go through another processing step, wherein we use a proprietary nanoemulsion technology to ensure raw hemp oil transforms into nano-sized emulsion. This process makes our formulas three times more bioavailable than oil-based products and four times more bioavailable than other water-soluble hemp-based oils.

As a startup, your products or services must have certain attributes that make it different from the competition. Otherwise, they will get lost in the crowd. This is essentially the product USP, that can be the focus of all your sales and marketing efforts.

6. Plan For Negative Feedback.

Not everyone is going to love your products, so brace yourself for negative feedback. Remember, customers have huge expectations from a startup and your product or service must be able to meet these expectations. Any slipup, and you have angry customer reactions coming your way. So, have a strategy in place to handle this feedback.

7. User Education.

Often, negative feedback isn’t a result of a problem in the product. Like in our case, customers were either not using the product properly, not using it in appropriate quantity or just not using it long enough. Here, user education was of paramount importance, wherein we had to make considerable effort in explaining proper product usage to them.  User education should be an important aspect of your business strategy as it drives business growth.

8. Disagreements Happen.

Approach disagreements constructively. If other business stakeholders are as passionate about the product as you are, they will have strong opinions and will express the same. Understand that all of you want the same thing – a profitable business.

9. Communication Is Key.

Poor communication can ruin your startup. I never really gave communication a thought early on as I thought it would happen organically, after all, most stakeholders in my startup were family and friends.

However, I soon realized that there were certain tasks that weren’t happening on time or weren’t being handled the way they were supposed to be because of miscommunication or lack of communication. The result was mismanagement.

I then worked with everyone to chalk out a communications strategy that improved engagement, boosted productivity and ensured everyone was fully aware of the goals they were expected to achieve.

10. Digital Marketing.

Did you know 14 percent of startups fail because of poor marketing? While this might not look like a big figure, there are plenty of other reasons as well that contribute to startup failure, so why not get this particular bit right?

Your brand needs to stand out from competitors and it is only a sustained, innovative and focused digital marketing strategy that will help you achieve desired results.

Digital marketing is critical to the promotional endeavors of all startups as it helps level the playing field. If you are smart, you can ensure you digital marketing spend can deliver the same results as the marketing spend of the bigger competitors in your niche.

So, make sure you get your digital marketing absolutely bang on.

11. Unified Vision.

Now this might sound like a no-brainer but do you know if you and the top leadership of your startup have the same vision for the startup?

Of course, you might say, but make sure this is the case.

Or else, very soon you will find yourself working at cross purposes with one another. This can spell death knell for your startup. So first up, carefully chart out your startup vision, get a buy-in from various stakeholders and take steps to bring that vision to life.

12.Top Quality Product.

When I decided to begin my organic startup journey I had a single point agenda – to ensure my product is organic in every sense of the term – I didn’t want to fool my customers or myself.

I therefore chose my partners very carefully. I did extensive due-diligence and partnered with the largest grower, manufacturer and distributor of hemp-derived phytocannabinoids in the United States.

Also, the proprietary processes earlier helped develop products that deliver better results.

I am just underlying the fact that you cannot take your customers for granted. They expect and deserve products that meet the highest benchmarks of quality. Meet their expectations and demands every step of the way.

13. Keep At It.

And finally, success won’t come in a hurry. It is important that you believe in yourself, your startup, your product, the stakeholders and even your target customers. Keep making sure that you keep giving your best and yes, make sure you enjoy doing what you do.

These aren’t just the only things I learned while running an organic startup. Learning is an ongoing process and challenges will just keep coming at you. When you have addressed them, you would have learned something new.

Joy Smith is a speaker, mentor, and entrepreneur. After trying a number of poor quality CBD products, she teamed up with her family to develop an organically grown, full spectrum hemp oil to help people suffering from several ailments.

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