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My very first business
It's not what you started with but what you pivoted to
It was 2011.
I just left my last job in late 2010. It was a fulfilling and meaningful job in the social impact sector. I was doing well, on my first managerial position and on a high potential track. But I left anyway, because I wanted to explore the more creative and aesthetic side of my work. The job mined me for my meticulousness and organisational skills, but little on the creative side. I was hungry for more.
So I resigned, and started my very first business.
A presentation design productized service.
Why presentations? It all started with me wanting to get better at public speaking and presentations for work. I attended a Powerpoint design course, was enthralled by being able to design not just work slides but anything on it. It helped me in my job, but it also woke up the creative side of me. I had to do some sort of design work now.
So naturally, I started a service to design presentations. I was good at it, there wasn’t many people or companies doing it, and seemed like there’s a market gap for it.
Some relics of that business still exists on the internet:
Presentations to have popcorn with. Millions of presentations are given each day around the world. Every idea in every presentation, big or small, aims to change the world in its own way. We envision to help you do so, one slide at a time. PopcornPrez is a presentation design business which aims to be the ‘Pixar of presentation design’. We believe that design should inform & delight. At PopcornPrez, we design presentation experiences that captures the entertainment and excitement of movie-going with popcorn in-hand. We do this with our services in: 1. Presentation design 2. Web design 3. Design thinking
This was before the time of indie hackers and the creator economy. Social media was just starting. So I started distribution on these channels. It all looked like a great plan, but the presentation design business never took off. I didn’t know any companies that needed that service. Nobody knew me. I didn’t know how to market, cold call or cold email, or find out where my potential customers were.
Revenue was zero for months.
But one day, a friend asked me if I knew how to set up a website. I did, because I had to learn how to create my very first website using Wordpress, for my presentation design business. So I helped her with it, got paid, and like they all say, the rest is history.
Suddenly I pivoted to a web design business.
To say “pivoted” is giving me too much credit. Because it’s more like I was pulled along.
Friends started to know I did web design, and asked me to help them. They told their friends and their friends’ friends. It was all through word of mouth. After a while, I managed to earn at least $1k per month or more from it. It worked out fine since I was still single and no kids.
And thinking back, I really did follow my own path.
My web design skills was a by-product of starting the presentation design business, but the by-product ended being the main product. The classic “sell your sawdust” approach. The presentation design thing didn’t work, but look now there’s a web design opportunity, so let’s just go with it! I wasn’t hung up about sticking to the original product or plan. I didn’t have any baggage or preconceived notions of the right or wrong way to do business. No ideals and narratives of indie hacking, solopreneurship. There’s not much influencer influences in my life yet.
Just whatever it took to survive, as long as it’s still design work.
Marketing wasn’t about growth hacks but simply about helping others succeed in their business, doing a darn good job for them, and building trust. So much trust and satisfaction that customers are willing to recommend me to others.
And right now, after a decade being an entrepreneur, I feel like I’ve come back full circle.
Back to that beginner’s mind. Or rather, wanting to get back to that beginner’s mind. That purity. That singular openness.
It’s hard to be divorced from influences of social media and internet communities these days. But I really do want to go back to those early days where I was just operating off my innate instincts and reflexes.
It’s possible. It just takes discernment and mindfulness to filter out the noise.
Back to that quiet fire within.
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