daph-blog

When to drop those $$$ when Starting a Business: Free and Not so Free Essential Business Resources

Daphne Benzaquen

Being a one woman show at daph. (for now), I have quickly realized that I can NOT do it all! There are certain resources I need that allow me to focus on my designs, color choices and more, rather than figuring out things like how much sales tax I owe and all “the administrative stuff”.

As a startup, keeping expenses low is one of the top priorities that is always on my mind. However, another top priority is the successful management of my company, so it is important to realize where to invest those dollars and take the time to research resources you need that might be free!

Below are my top resources and investments so far. Of course, each ranks differently in importance depending on your own company and its goals, but I recommend you explore them all. As a reminder, I don’t get paid to write about any of these resources, they are just my personal favorites.

 

Apps:

Privvy: You know that “annoying” popup that you get after about 20 seconds on my site? That’s Privvy, I love it. Not only is it a unique surprise for the visitor, but it also, you guessed it, gets people to sign up for my newsletter. Since creating a Privvy campaign (for free) my newsletter signup has increased by 150%, yes that’s right! Best of all, the Privvy platform is so easy to navigate and set up and their customer support is great. You can personalize your pop up to include your logo, color palette and brand font. They also connect nicely to my email marketing tool (also free) Mailchimp!

 

The pop up not only allows me to collect client or future client information, but also provides them with a Thank you message and in the future, a discount on first purchases and more.

 

Mailchimp: For anyone who is trying to grow a business, they know that email marketing campaigns are a MUST. Everything is taking a digital turn, so if you want to reach your customers and stay on their radar you must constantly remind them of your products, new releases and sales! I’ll admit, all this takes A LOT OF TIME but having a service like Mailchimp to help you design, schedule and maintain your subscribers makes the process much smoother.

For those of you who have signed up for my newsletter, you will notice that it is very simple and straightforward. Clean messages and images, maybe a video. I know you have to sift through tons of these things everyday, so I might as well get my message out as quick as possible.

Like I mentioned the Mailchimp version I use, less than 5,000 subscribers is free, which is great! But it also comes with its woes. There is NO CUSTOMER SERVICE, except during the first week of using the service. There are ways to get by without it (besides creating different accounts with various emails and using the service a week at a time) like Googling and using their FAQs, which are decent and include videos. Sometimes I even reach out to the services I do pay for like Shopify (whose Support is AMAZING by the way) and ask them to help with issues related to Mailchimp and my store. Their formatting of newsletters and other materials is also pretty limited but since my theme is clean and to the point, I don’t run into many issues with its capabilities.

 

Planoly:  Two words. SOCIAL. MEDIA. I mean who is not on “the gram”? Or my main form of communication with my extended family, Facebook? Lets not forget about the Tweet, Tweet, Twitter or the white ghost of Snapchat? And who doesn’t love Pinning!? With social media growing faster than one can master each new platform, choosing the right means of interactions with your clients and audience is important. Managing it, posting, liking, commenting is KEY.

 

When I first launched daph. I tried to be on ALL of the channels possible. I quickly learned that unless I hire a social media manager I could not handle them all and chose to stick to two, Facebook and Instagram; two forms where visual posts are very important and allow for your products to be the showcased. It helped that they are linked, so ads can be shown on both. Since I am a planner, I discovered apps like Buffer, Unum and Planoly that allow me to schedule and plan my Instagram feed ahead of time. These were life savers! Buffer is pretty great but involved, in my opinion, a large commitment of time. Unum was also great until the glitch it has with IPhone X’s interfered and delayed my posting. That brought me to choose Planoly, which is free, fast and allows me to plan my weekly feeds in about 30 minutes. As with any free services, there are restrictions, like the amount of pictures you can “plan” every month and how far down your feed you can see. So, around the 20th of every month planning gets a little bit complicated and I turn to regular Instagram for draft posts. Best of all, Planoly gives you an analysis of your best performing posts, best times to posts, post interactions and impressions which help with future posts and helps you curate your future contact.

 

Playable: This one is new to me, but with the whole video content taking over social media, I decided to try it out and I don’t hate it. You know when you get a video within an email and click on the image and a Youtube window pop ups? Well this service allows the video to run within the email itself instead of straying your customer from your original email. It’s pretty nifty, and FREE!

 

Services:

Accounting:  Now unless you are a CPA yourself or have a passion for filing taxes and know all your state’s tax regulations, I highly recommend you finding your company an accountant. How much you interact with your accountant is dependent on what kind of business entity your business is registered as. Seeing that accounting was my least favorite class in business school, finding an accounting firm I could partner with was essential for me. And I do mean partner. I interviewed about four firms and realized I didn’t just want to be another billable client. I’ll admit all firms billing is centered on hourly billing charges. But I was looking for a firm that would not only do my taxes and ensure I was compliant, but also help me plan for the future and growth of daph. and remind me to set aside a certain amount to make sure I wouldn’t be broke come next tax paying period.

All firms I met with were professional and very knowledgeable, but it was the firm that I ended up going with that was the only one which really was invested in learning my brand and story behind it along with learning about my goals and future. That conversation and their interest in my product and learning about daph. really sold me and made me confident in my decision. It also helped that they have a dedicated startup division focused on entrepreneurs and the local startup ecosystem with a bounty of resources.

 

Lawyer: While I wait for my sister to finish up law school, this is another resource I am still on the lookout for. Small businesses have to comply with laws and I’m curious to learn more about any implications on contracts with manufacturers abroad seeing that all my products are handmade in Peru. Knowing this resource will cost a pretty penny for their hourly guidance, I’ve put this off until daph. reaches a new stage… but I am open to any suggestions!

 

Friends with Benefits:

Yep, you read that right, I mean what else are friends for? Picking my friend’s brains has helped so much. Whether it be bribing my boyfriend with snacks for his editing skills on my blog posts or discussing a men’s line over tacos on a Friday night, my friends inspire me and are a great FREE resource. Of course, I repay them with my famous cookies and eternal friendship but learning about what they like or don’t like (brutal honestly at times) only gets my creative juices going. They have also allowed me to connect with other local designers, local boutiques and a growth group, which only contribute to the positivity.

Listening and asking my Instagram followers allows me to get real time feedback on designs and colors for future collections, I mean who else better than potential customers for feedback? And you already know they are interested in your brand so you’ve got nothing to lose!

 

Overall, each investment decision is important and essential in growing your brand so each should be evaluated in great detail. But if you can find the same resources for free, even better! More funds to invest in other areas of your products and brand to continue your growth!


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