From Operating 7M+ Orders To Launching A Successful Startup Brand: The #1 Most Important Business Lesson I Learned
Hey Shopify merchants!
It’s Mladen, the founder of MelioraWeb, and I’m here to share everything I learned about building a successful business and launching a startup brand.
I’ve faced super exciting challenges in my professional experience, such as dealing with over 7 million orders and serving approximately 50,000 products on a daily basis.
I’ve also spent over 10,000 hours as a business founder myself.
And today, I’m going to give you my recipe for success (secret ingredients and all!)
Let’s start with the basics! What is success?
Success can mean a lot of different things for different people.
For me, personally, success means that you are fulfilled with what you're doing.
It also means that your brand is recognized in the niche you have chosen - that’s an important part!
So, I think the first step towards having a successful business in general, is choosing your niche and defining the audience you’re going to serve.
And, to serve that audience properly, you need to define what they’re looking for in companies that they work with.
You also need to be aligned with them on a more personal level, meaning you should be aligned with their vision and how they see the world in general.
Because you’re going to spend a lot of time with them - you’re going to be serving their needs and wants. And if you’re not aligned with them as people, then you’re going to have a hard time.
And that’s exactly how I started MelioraWeb - the company I’ve been building for the past four years.
First, I started with the niche…
I chose Shopify merchants.
Now, I’m going to give you some context to explain why I chose that niche in particular.
Before MelioraWeb, I was in one of the biggest e-commerce businesses in Bulgaria. It’s called Remix Shop.
At the time when I was there, there were 600 employees working for the company, and we were serving around 50,000 items per day in 10,000 to 15,000 orders.
So, as you can imagine, the traction was huge!
I also had the chance to work with some amazing people there! This helped me develop the right skillset and find the audience of merchants I would like to serve.
And for me, that’s crucial to how I measure success - if I’m happy with the way the business is structured, and the audience that we serve is happy with the results we deliver, then I'd say that's a success.
Then I started thinking about my customers...
MelioraWeb is the first business that I have started.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. I also did a ton of learning from those mistakes!
Back when I started my business, I didn’t start the brand right away. In fact, in the beginning, I wasn’t thinking about the brand at all.
Instead, I focused on customer success and serving my target customers as well as possible.
And I believed, and I still believe that having the success of your clients as a top priority is the way to build a solid brand identity.
In a way, afterwards, the brand itself will serve as the baseline - the foundation on which you can build the next thing on top of what you had at the beginning.
So, I didn’t start with the branding itself, but started with serving clients first.
Building a customer-centric business is how I approached brand building. It was the foundation, so to speak.
But it wasn’t intentionally. It wasn’t a part of a bigger scheme or a bigger plan. It wasn’t a step in a step-by-step guide I followed.
I was learning on the go… I was learning the best way to approach things, the best way to do things during the time of actually doing them.
So, I defined my customers as my top priority. And from that point on, being customer-centric has always been my priority. And I took it all from there.
Then, it was a process of trial and error… “Yes, this works. Yes, this too… Oh, this doesn’t. I need to make some adjustments…”
All this led me to the next step, and the next step, and so on…
Until I finally had my personal step-by-step framework.
And these steps weren’t exactly outlined in any particular way. Mainly, what I did, was follow my gut and do a ton of learning!
So, the way that I have approached doing business, is first to find people that are doing the thing that I’m trying to do.
So, I focused on finding something like a mastermind and other entrepreneurs who were doing something similar to what I was doing.
Then, I focused on surrounding myself with smarter people than me and people who are better at certain things I needed to do for my business.
A little context here!
So, the first thing that I started doing after launching my business, was lead generation and then sales.
I think that’s the ground zero for every business - first and foremost, define your target audience. Then, find the best way to approach your audience, and then come up with an effective way to convert leads into customers, which is, ultimately, a sale.
And talking with people who have done all this before, people who have started their business from zero, was my goal, because I knew they could help me adjust my approach and my CTR strategy.
And also, what really worked for me, is letting them outline what would be the best way to approach things, instead of me trying to figure it out on my own and going through a series of trial and error (which could cause a delay into having a successful business).
Because, ultimately, you might end up with a not-so-successful-business if you make a lot of errors on the tries.
So, if you want to launch a successful business (and, subsequently, a successful brand), it’s really important - essential, I’d say, - to be eager to learn! To be eager to learn from other people, to be eager to learn from other merchants… to be eager to learn from your mistakes!
And, ultimately, if you can find trustworthy resources, or a place where you can learn from other people’s mistakes or wins, that would help you a lot! That would help you skip or fast-forward towards success, so to speak!
Back when I started my business, I remember I was like a sponge - I tried to consume a lot of information from a lot of resources.
If I have to name one particular book that really helped me set myself up for success, that would probably be Atomic Habits (by James Clear).
It’s a great book to start with! It teaches you that small things matter, and if you compound the small things in life in general and in business in particular, then you’ll achieve a steady growth.
And there are no shortcuts! Shortcuts will, ultimately, lead to failure.
And this is the kind of lesson that I learned early in my life - the concept of reward versus risk.
And it’s an interesting story!
I happened to learn this while playing poker, while participating in professional poker games and doing tournaments.
So, in poker, risk versus reward is, ultimately, something that you have to figure out constantly while you are playing.
So, if you know the odds and you know what kind of a bet you have to do, and if you know how to do your calculations in the long run, then you can have a steady, steady gain.
And if I have to summarize everything I just shared and prioritize the steps I mentioned…
The first thing you should do is define your niche and your target audience.
Then, find what their needs are - define a particular problem they are looking to solve.
My recommendation is to join communities such as Facebook groups, forums, Discord channels, Slack workspaces, or other online places where people with common interests and business goals gather.
See what they’re discussing and what kind of problems they’re facing.
Then, the next step is to try to solve that problem through a product or a service.
If you are a merchant, then you can tailor-make some sort of a solution for your target customers. You know, start with the sale before you have the goods, so to speak.
And if you start that way, then the risk is minimal, because if you start with the goods first, you have to invest maybe $20,000 to $30,000 at first just to have the initial stock in place.
However, if you start with the sale, then you’ll know for sure what would be worth to try.
Of course, there's no 100% security in anything, but this way you’re going to at least minimize your risk.
So first, find the audience, then continue with the problem they have, find the solution, and then try to sell your solution to that audience, wherever you have found them. And if they buy your solution, then scale.
For example, create a landing a page, a Shopify website, and so on.
And then bring your audience to that website.
And there are many ways to bring people to your store. In the long run, it’s either going to be PPC (Pay Per Click), or organically through SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
And then it’s a funnel - you can upsell them, cross-sell them, et cetera, et cetera.
And one thing I forgot - once you have found a problem, try to create an offer that is very specific to your target audience.
Consider what their lives look like right now with that problem and how their lives would look like later without that problem.
And then pitch your solution.
And, ideally, if you have some testimonials, use them… if you don’t, reach out to people who have used your product… then, use that social proof to create FOMO and peer pressure, so to speak.
Finally, I want to share with you the most important business lesson I learned on my way to launching a successful business and a successful startup brand.
Again, I want to stress that brand and business are not the same thing - and that’s a really important distinction.
Brands can change within a single business. So, you can have multiple brands within your business, which is, for example, what Coca-Cola is doing - they have multiple brands, but, ultimately, the business is one. And the way they structure their business is, ultimately, the same.
So, if you find a formula, such as the one that I have outlined and repeat that formula, then you’re going to have multiple streams of income, multiple brands that are going to work for you.
So, here is the most important business lesson I’ve learned so far. It is also the single piece of advice I’d give to the version of myself starting his own business (and to anyone else starting a business or launching a brand right now):
Instead of trying to figure out everything initially, try things first, measure the results, and then iterate again.
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