3 Lessons We've Learnt from our First Days of Trading

by Rob Arnott July 15, 2015

It has been a busy time at Okapi Home HQ over the past couple of weeks as we’ve soft launched our first product range at two London markets. As promised, we wanted to share some of the key things we’ve learnt so far. We hope these reflections may prove useful to others thinking about launching their own business and at the same time, give our customers a sneak peak at what goes on behind the scenes at Okapi Home:

1)      Sell before you are ready

We’ve been lucky enough to have the “start before you are ready” mantra drilled into us by a number of our mentors and it has proved to be absolutely the right approach. Okapi Home was conceived as an idea in March 2015, became a formal company in May 2015 and we started selling on Saturday 4th July 2015.

Was everything exactly as we wanted it before we opened for business? No, of course not.

Has that mattered? No.

In fact, when speaking with customers, we’ve included the fact that we are a brand new business in our conversations and actively asked for feedback on our concept and products. This has helped us to develop a relationship with customers and has been invaluable as we start to develop our plans for our online “formal” launch in November.

Ultimately, the insights we’ve collected would have been impossible to gather from desk based research alone.

2) Engage with your target audience in real life situations

We thought we had a pretty good idea of who our target audience is, based on online research and small focus groups. However, it is one thing knowing who these people are, but a very different thing actually finding them and then engaging with them in meaningful ways. Tackling that challenge is going to be a big focus for us at Okapi Home in the coming weeks and months.

Our advice to any business starting out would be to take it further than online research or even focus groups, which can be overly controlled and produce misleading feedback. You need random sampling and in the case of Okapi Home our market presence has been invaluable in helping us understand who our core customers are likely to be. This will prove essential as we’ll shortly be moving to the next phase of our planning – establishing our launch product portfolio – more on that soon.

Nibble Bowls

3)      Building an audience is tough

Our ultimate ambition is to be a primarily online business. To do that successfully, we’ll need a significant online audience, obviously. So, whilst we are focusing on the market side of the business, behind the scenes we are busy establishing our online marketing strategy.

One of the best pieces of advice we’ve picked up along the way may seem rather obvious now, but was from Derek Halpern of Social Triggers, who talks about the 20/80 rule. That is, you should spend 20% of your time creating content and 80% promoting it. We’ll be trying to adopt this philosophy as it is so easy (and we’ve certainly been guilty of it!) to spend time creating blogs or other content and then simply publishing it, posting on your various social channels and think, job done. Our focus, using the 20/80 approach, is to start engaging with new people, outside of our existing network in meaningful ways.

If that’s you, we look forward to getting to know you!

We don’t profess to be experts in any of this, but that’s the idea. We want to share our journey in an effort to show other aspiring entrepreneurs what’s possible. We’ll of course make mistakes (and hopefully have some successes along the way!) and we look forward to sharing these with you.

Rob Arnott
Rob Arnott