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EXECUTION Business on the side and burning out

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hyster

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Apr 30, 2019
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Hello folks,
I have been working on a side business with colleagues for almost 2 years now. It's a very long time and we have gone online only last month. The service is a marketplace connecting parents with tour operators selling summer/winter camps for youth and children. Our business model is to collect commission fee from a sale through our site. We have convinced a couple of tour operators, one of which is a medium-sized operator. All of them put their offers on our site. We are doing small marketing campaigns on FB as well as Google Adwords targeting parents. Since our start, we have had 0 sales. The traffic on our site is dropping according to Google Analytics.

I have some ideas what we could do about it, although most of them require cash. Also, I have no idea about marketing and this kind of stuff (I'm doing mostly the technical stuff, even though we make all decisions together). One of us is a professional marketer and he drives the marketing campaigns, and I must say he works a lot on that, although apparently without results. I would like to focus on increasing (or having any at all) sales at all cost, but my colleagues prefer to add new features for tour operators to convince them to join us for the next season. Honestly, I don't know what's the best approach.

I'm feeling totally burned out. I don't think I believe in this idea anymore and any thought of writing code gives me chills. I have been feeling this for a several months now, and despite that I was working through it. I don't want to quit, because I know every one has doubts, but it's hard anyway.
 

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MrTrash757

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I'm going to break down each of these points in little chunks.

Hello folks,
I have been working on a side business with colleagues for almost 2 years now. It's a very long time and we have gone online only last month. The service is a marketplace connecting parents with tour operators selling summer/winter camps for youth and children. Our business model is to collect commission fee from a sale through our site. We have convinced a couple of tour operators, one of which is a medium-sized operator. All of them put their offers on our site. We are doing small marketing campaigns on FB as well as Google Adwords targeting parents. Since our start, we have had 0 sales. The traffic on our site is dropping according to Google Analytics.
Sounds like there is a value/product misalignment with the prospective market. 2 years and no sales is a long time in my eyes...

I have some ideas what we could do about it, although most of them require cash. Also, I have no idea about marketing and this kind of stuff (I'm doing mostly the technical stuff, even though we make all decisions together). One of us is a professional marketer and he drives the marketing campaigns, and I must say he works a lot on that, although apparently without results.
I'm not a marketer myself, but having worked with wise people in the industry, this is a red flag. Why haven't things changed if there are no results?

That is one of the first things I learned with Marketing Ops-> If your campaign isn't effective, thats a sign something is wrong with it and its time to change it up.

I would like to focus on increasing (or having any at all) sales at all cost, but my colleagues prefer to add new features for tour operators to convince them to join us for the next season. Honestly, I don't know what's the best approach.
Has there been any survey of existing customers to see if these new features are needed? I think surveying the market to see what the value/need is a much better way than just throwing features at a wall, hoping they stick. It sounds like your team in this is misaligned with what the market wants.

Increasing Sales should be the focus also, but since there have been none in 2 years, that will be a uphill battle.

I'm feeling totally burned out. I don't think I believe in this idea anymore and any thought of writing code gives me chills. I have been feeling this for a several months now, and despite that I was working through it. I don't want to quit, because I know every one has doubts, but it's hard anyway.
Take care of yourself first. It sounds like you know the answer with this, its time to kill the idea and move on to something else. I went through this with a VR/AR Fitness app idea I had. The planning stage was fun, but as time wore on and I got bsed by VC firms, I began to believe in the idea less and less, and eventually quit, having launched nothing.

I have a terrible track record of doing that, but its taken me forever to find something that clicks with me. And even with that idea (aquisition entrepreneurship), I go through low and high days because of my starting position.

Fail fast and then go on to something else.
 
OP
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hyster

hyster

New Contributor
Apr 30, 2019
12
12
16
Thanks for the feedback.

Increasing Sales should be the focus also, but since there have been none in 2 years, that will be a uphill battle.
We have been developing the app for 2 years, but went public and started sales only month ago.

Has there been any survey of existing customers to see if these new features are needed? I think surveying the market to see what the value/need is a much better way than just throwing features at a wall, hoping they stick. It sounds like your team in this is misaligned with what the market wants.
Some of the features were proposed by the bigger tour operators, they even mentioned that without one specific feature they won't be able to use our marketplace (automatic offer synchronization from their own systems).

Take care of yourself first. It sounds like you know the answer with this, its time to kill the idea and move on to something else. I went through this with a VR/AR Fitness app idea I had. The planning stage was fun, but as time wore on and I got bsed by VC firms, I began to believe in the idea less and less, and eventually quit, having launched nothing.
I totally understand what you're saying but it's hard to tell whether the idea to quit is a valid and justified one or just simply an internal laziness and I just need to work through it.

I mean, it really seems like the market of youth and children camps were a bit chaotic in my country and bringing an ordered, UX-friendly and secure way to buy camps was a good idea. Tour operators are certainly willing to pay for every person we bring to them. It's just parents don't want to buy from us (yet) :D It's hard to tell at this point whether it is a dead end or our mistake (either technical or marketing one).
 

dario

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Nov 14, 2012
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The service is a marketplace connecting parents with tour operators selling summer/winter camps for youth and children.
What is the added value you're giving?
You should give parents a reason to browse your website first of all. Make it more informative adding some reviews of the camps and writing some interesting contents for doubtful parents:
  • What are their fears?
  • What frustrates them?
  • What’s their current world view when it comes to summer/winter camps?
  • What keeps them up at night when their kids are away?
This would help them decide to buy a camp, on first place.

Also I hope you added a retargeting pixel on your website to create a list of people who may be interested in your products, otherwise you may have wasted your PPC ads money.
 

Odysseus M Jones

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It's just parents don't want to buy from us...
Get your marketing guy outside schools to interview parents, find out why.
And if he gets arrested, no Biggie, his campaigns don't seem to work & you could make a play for control of the company.
Two birds one stone.
 

Stargazer

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As Odysseus mentions, someone should be asking parents for quick feedback.

One month is nothing to worry about too much. Especially due to the current situation.

In the UK this would be peak booking time for summer activity camps, just a few weeks until summer school holidays.

However I suspect not many parents this year are thinking of sending their kids off for a week or two.

Parents will be wanting to 'control' the environment their kids are in which means if they do go on holiday it will be a family holiday.

I like your idea in itself though. What is your website and what country are you in?

Dan
 

kleine2

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Coming from a developer background myself I agree with you.
Sales need to be made now. Until sales are made no more development.
Take a break. You can come back later when there is some traction.
If there is real value for tour companies and they want to pay also great and then you can develop more.
But imo, do not shut down or give up. Just make a choice to take a break for a set time or until sales come in.
 

MrTrash757

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Thanks for the feedback.



We have been developing the app for 2 years, but went public and started sales only month ago.



Some of the features were proposed by the bigger tour operators, they even mentioned that without one specific feature they won't be able to use our marketplace (automatic offer synchronization from their own systems).



I totally understand what you're saying but it's hard to tell whether the idea to quit is a valid and justified one or just simply an internal laziness and I just need to work through it.

I mean, it really seems like the market of youth and children camps were a bit chaotic in my country and bringing an ordered, UX-friendly and secure way to buy camps was a good idea. Tour operators are certainly willing to pay for every person we bring to them. It's just parents don't want to buy from us (yet) :D It's hard to tell at this point whether it is a dead end or our mistake (either technical or marketing one).
This provides a bit more color. TO other posters points. Sales before devlopment!
 
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hyster

hyster

New Contributor
Apr 30, 2019
12
12
16
You should give parents a reason to browse your website first of all. Make it more informative adding some reviews of the camps and writing some interesting contents for doubtful parents:
We were planning to add reviews and grades by previous participants of camps bought through our site, but firstly we need some of these :D We even thought of scraping some grades from google to fill some space in the beginning but eventually dropped this idea.

Yes, corona came in a very unfortunate time for us. In our country sales for summer camps start December previous year, we wanted to start in February (because before that we were still developing), and then corona started :D

But anyway, the situation undoubtedly influences this market globally, so low sales may be justified. On the other hand, some of our partners have some camps fully booked already :p

I like your idea in itself though. What is your website and what country are you in?
I'm from Poland. I will send you the link in a PM
 

Cyberthal

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Apr 14, 2020
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There's no reason to tolerate burnout if you're not getting paid. People tolerate burnout for the fat paycheck. You can probably find something you enjoy that pays, but you can certainly find something you don't enjoy that pays.

Also, your startup strategy is backasswards. It's not your fault since you're the technical cofounder, but one of your other cofounders needs to read some startup theory such as The Lean Startup. It takes zero development to validate the idea. Successful startups manually do the business process using e.g. Excel spreadsheets and then automate it with code if it proves profitable.

So it's a good idea to bail out since it seems the business side doesn't know what it's doing.
 

100k

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F*ck me man, I feel for you.

You invested 2 years of your life trying to build something WITHOUT getting any sort of confirmation from the market that they want your service.

It shouldn't take you more than 1 month to prove there's a demand with an MVP.

Next time build an awesome, but simple MVP landing page that sells your offer - and ask people to leave their telephone number if they'd like to book an adventure/experience of a lifetime for their child.

You give them a ring, build a quick connection, proceed to find out what they want, find out WHY they want it, then give them a recommendation and tell them the price then shut up and see what they say.

Damn bro, damn, damn, damn :(

Live and learn.

You're supposed to build out the app and automate things AFTER you've proved there is a demand for the service. First do everything manually.


View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPVec5eupTY
 

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Last edited:
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hyster

hyster

New Contributor
Apr 30, 2019
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16
Thanks guys for all the feedback :)
I totally agree with you about the fast approach and I think I will do my best to try it next time.

In this case, we spent a huge amount of time on preparing the functionality for the tour operators to register and publish their offers by themselves. I was trying to convince my partners that we should drop this feature and any other related to tour operators, we could easily insert their offers directly to the database by ourselves. They were reluctant to do so and we eventually end up developing this feature.

Now, I don't want to sound like a know-it-all in business (I'm far from that) or that I blame them or something, but if I have a next try in entering the fastlane, I would prefer to go alone, without any shareholders :D Even though I'm an introvert and totally scared of marketing and talking to people or sales, at least I could do things my way, instead of the majority of shareholders... and later regret it. And even if I fail I can adapt much quicker.


Fun fact:
Our biggest tour operator agreed to work with us only if we would insert their offers to our systems, and we did.
 

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