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Forbes EQ BrandVoice: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Launching A Startup With No Business Experience

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Forbes EQ BrandVoice: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Launching A Startup With No Business Experience

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Written by Rajiv Fernandez, Co-founder, Historicons

“If you build it, [they] will come.” The immortal (and often misquoted) line from Field of Dreams is meant to inspire action, and if you do the essentials, everything will fall into place. I’d like to update that line to “If you build it, work harder than you ever have before and plan for a nervous breakdown because selling a product comes down to marketing, then they will come.” (My therapist was on speed dial.) Having no prior business experience, I thought simply creating a great product would sell itself. Wrong. Overnight successes are pure luck, or they don’t actually exist. Here are five things I wish we knew before launching our startup.

1- Your business is not a product, it’s an idea.

When we started Historicons, we set out to educate and empower kids in their identity, and that’s always been at the core of our mission. The educational toys, which parents told us they craved, were just a tool to disseminate our message. In our attempts to let people know about our tools, we called ourselves a toys and games company, but that’s not what we were selling. Ideas and experiences are what resonate with your audience. We’ve seen the proof in our high engagement on social media posts that talk about representation of marginalized voices. Our products are the tools to create dialogue among adults and kids about identity.

2- It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

When we came up with the idea for Historicons in summer of 2020, we were anxious to get our puzzle games in production because the themes they covered like LGBTQ+ and Black Rights were such important, timely topics. We decided to do a product test of a very early prototype. We saw a lot of shortcomings, such as our prototype being too flimsy, the content we were teaching not going deep enough, and mostly the experience just wasn’t as fun as it could be. So we decided to be patient and rework the design and functionality until we were really proud of it. We were creating something we had wanted as kids, so a few extra months on top of 30 years wasn’t going to make or break us. If we want to succeed, it is imperative we make informed decisions.

3- Innovate, don’t imitate.

Like most startups with clever ideas, we decided to launch the new fashioned way – with a Kickstarter campaign! We followed a formula we read in books and blogs for crowdfunding campaigns, and after our initial launch, we were like “Where are all the sales?!” This taught us a few things: what works for one may not work for another; success stories are sometimes marketing ploys (they’re not always telling the truth, shh); and you have to set yourself apart if you want to be seen. We got creative with our marketing strategies to take our Kickstarter campaign across the finish line, from using a Halloween costume as a marketing tool, to hanging “Missing [from history textbooks]” posters in our neighborhoods, to even using dating apps (you’ll have to follow us to get the juicy stories). Whether these ploys are successful or not, it sets a precedent to be unique, and people like shiny new things.

4- Talk about it to everyone, but sales pitch it to the right people.

Historicons mission has always been to increase diversity representation for kids, and that’s something most everybody can get behind. We’ve been told, “We love this idea!”, “I have to get one for my kid’s classroom!”, and our personal favorite, “You should go on Shark Tank!” Then, they smile and walk away. It’s ok, we understand spending one’s money on our products is a personal choice, and these experiences have helped us hone in on who our target audience is to improve our marketing and sales. By sharing my personal connection as a queer man to the LGBTQ+ story we were telling, I was able to resonate with fellow LGBTQ+ people who also sought that same representation. We made sure to reach out to a specific audience that would see the benefit of our idea, and then the sales conversion became an easier task.

5- You can’t do it on your own.

This venture has been, in a way, like a baby, but at a certain point we need to let others help the baby grow. Not to be cliche, but it really does take a village. We come from different professional backgrounds (my co-Founder in child development and myself in design), and we thrive when we contribute in those respective fields. Also, take advice from non-traditional sources. We used storytelling tactics learned on TikTok that allowed us to communicate with a younger demographic. It’s ok to relinquish control and let others help nourish what you put your heart into. This also allows us to take time for ourselves to be effective leaders. Teamwork makes not just our products but our mission more well-rounded and allows outside perspectives to be heard – just exactly what we advocate for.

Not having any prior business knowledge doesn’t have to be a barrier to launching a startup. We are constantly learning and making adjustments along the way. Mistakes are merely just opportunities for growth. Finding and trusting like-minded people who support your mission who can use their expertise, as you do yours, will lay the groundwork for a successful business. And it will save you from more visits with your therapist.



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