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Business Q&A

Lesson 7 from: Business 101: Start-up Considerations

Karen Okonkwo

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Lesson Info

7. Business Q&A

Lesson Info

Business Q&A

Wanna just go back to question about operating agreements. I am an LLC and it's just me. Is there any benefit or reason that I would write up an operating agreement if it's just me? Can you speak to that a little bit? Yeah, I'll speak to that. So, that's a good question. When I had first started a business and it was just me, and I was an LLC, I was like okay, do I need to do that? And then one day I had a friend say, "Hey, I'm looking to invest in a company. I'd like to join you." And I thought to myself gosh, I have no document to even show her. I have nothing to share what my percentages in my own business, I didn't have any of that. And so, I would say that there is a benefit in creating that if you see in the future, or even if you don't see, just to prepare yourself, if someone does wanna partner with you. Okay. When you form it and you realize you don't have what you need in op, is it easy to change the operating agreement later? Yeah, you can always amend your operating a...

greement. For example, if you have Rocket Lawyer, you pay for that. It's a subscription model, or you can pay for the actual document, you have that. You didn't file it anywhere, so it's yours and you can change it, for sure. So there's no. But if you make any changes and you have a partner, and of course you guys would need to amend it, and then make sure that amendment is associated with the actual agreement. It has to be mutual. I think there's a question right there, hi. [Woman In Audience] Hi, I was wondering what your thoughts are on trying to fit into a market that is oversaturated and where many of the competitors are not priced profitably. So you're saying that you wanna enter into a market that's already oversaturated. Photography. (laughs) What did you say? Photography? Yeah. (laughter) Oh, I was like, where are we going with this? But you feel like their price structure is not great, and can you define the way you mean it's not good? As in they undersell or oversell? Under. There's a lot of people who really kind of just toss out numbers and don't necessarily calculate anything. And it effects you, because you're coming in at a certain price point that you think is fair and people don't see the value in it. Is that what you were saying? Hypothetically, yeah. Hypothetically, okay. So in a situation like that where I find that my, um, that people are feeling like I am overselling to them I would argue and say that perhaps that's not your ideal customer to begin with. You know, there are people out there who their imagery is amazing and they sell that value on their quality and they don't budge. And sometimes they make you feel like oh gosh, no one's gonna take that price point from me, but they will. Because people know quality and people are willing to pay for that and if it means that you need to tap into perhaps a different market, maybe that could be something you could explore too. You know, if this market over here, let's just say it's animals, shooting animals. Um yeah I see you squinting. (laughter) You know if that's an opportunity for you to still exercise your talents and they're willing to pay you for that and it doesn't compromise who you are, then maybe that's a different avenue. Maybe the target audience that you think you have access to isn't correct for you. So that's how I would answer that. Thank you Yeah. So I have a question about market research. Okay. When I started, one of the photography companies I have is real estate photography, and when I just started I wanted to know what other photographers were charging, what kind of work they were doing so I pretend to be an agent. I e-mail a whole bunch of them because they don't often post pricing so I got their pricing. And I could also match it to their work and the quality, but one piece I couldn't figure out is what their market share is. How do you figure that out? I know, it's really hard. It's very hard to figure that out. Um, what I do too is I check and see if that is a corporation. Because a lot of those corporations do have to reveal their, uh, they have like statements of how they are performing quarterly so they have to make that public. So you really have to dig on their website to find that. And so, I've been able to look at some of our competitors and I can see what they're doing quarterly. Because I have to. So that's an avenue that you can take. Um, but you can also just create assumptions and you know, the assumptions just kind of give you, kind of a ballpark. Because it's really hard for you to understand really, fully what the market share is. So, you're just gonna have to create your own assumptions using a lot of those reports that I created. So for your specific arena, you said was real estate? I would. One of the companies. One of them, okay. Yeah, so I would you know decide how many people in this particular um, you know, region are buying homes and then you know, of that region who are you trying to tap into. Kind of just make it go from macro to micro and create your own assumption. Yeah. And I know it's hard. Question in the back row. I was wondering if you could speak on kicking your business plan into gear. Um, I feel like there are a lot of people who have ideas for startups and for example, so let's say Tonl right? You see this area of opportunity in the industry, but like you create this business plan what does it look like to actually get that going and get that to work because I think that's a missing link that a lot of people who do startups say. Yeah, the thing that I didn't talk about on here was also creating a marketing plan and your business plan like talks about your marketing strategy and so, what we did is we created a marketing plan that did it for 18 months. And, we have weekly meetings where we address okay so this is quarter, this is the quarter that we're in. These were the activities that we said we were going to do and we literally just check it off. Have we done this? Have we done that? Have we done this? Have we done that? And we're constantly editing that so we just we did it I think back in July, um, we were approaching our one year and so really to kick start you actually have to set dates and you have to make sure that everyone knows what their responsibility is. Or else it's honestly it's just a piece of paper. Somebody has to be the person that's being accountable to all of that and I can see how some people can get excited and create a business plan and then or a marketing plan and then they never look at it. It's like, you have to be strategical and you have to be consistent or else you're just not gonna see results. So, does that answer your question? Yeah. Okay, mm hmm. Karen, I have a question that kind of builds upon that. Okay. So you and your partner Joshua were named, from Inc. magazine, the 30 under 30 and you had only been in business for one year. With that particular business for Tonl so can you talk us through a particular, sort of mistake you made along the way and how you got through that or where you had to kind of shift and then maybe on the flip side also, talk about kind of a big win that you weren't expecting. Okay so as far as a misstep. So one of the things you wanna create is your infrastructure for your, where you're going to house the way that you reach your audience and for us we just started in stock photography so we don't know what people are using and so we did our best guess to use a particular platform, I won't say their name, but we used a particular platform that ended up not being congruent for stock photography so let me just say that for a long time I manually fill orders that's, that was the misstep. So I could be standing here right now and somebody would get a subscription and in the world we live in people wanted it yesterday. So when you subscribe to something and it says you're good, you are expecting that you're good. And so, occasionally we'd get an e-mail saying, "Hey, um, I got a subscription. What do I do?" And I'm like oh my god. And I run to my computer and I filled it, you know I fill the order and so that was something that we had a misstep with. As far as a major win for us, I think that we were just very surprised at the level of diversity that we, uh, were, or, the level of diverse people in companies that are reaching out to us. And a really big one for us, is actually recently, we just did a partnership with Nike. And, the reason why I call it an unexpected win is that sometimes when brands reach out to you they have a really big hidden agenda or they just have an agenda. And that is: I wanna sell this shoe, I wanna sell this product, I wanna reach out to you so then you can, you know, do that. And it was actually the reverse with Nike, or not really the reverse. It just wasn't that, it was: hey, we love what you're doing and we want to support you. So, we're doing a profile on Chicago Marathon runners. We want you to do it, we want you to choose the women and have fun with it. Make the collection free, don't worry about it. You don't need to tag Nike, in anything, any of the products cuz' it isn't about that. It's about the story, it's about, um, you know the people and the story. And so you're just finding that brands care more, like Nike, care more about the story that they're sharing rather than the product. But it all ends up coming in tandem. Because when you appreciate what that particular brand is doing, you naturally line yourself with them. So that was a really amazing, unexpected opportunity that fell into our lap recently. That's awesome, congratulations on that. Thank you. So, another question about networking. And, sort of as you're starting up, um, especially how would you approach or where would you approach people look to network and how important has that been for you? Yeah, networking is the reason why we have anything that we have. Because, and actually it's just funny because when I was walking here I was thinking about this dress that I have. And I was like Karen, you wouldn't know about this dress if you didn't go to a networking event. There was a woman who had this dress on at a work party started by Jacqueline Johnson she did this fun thing in San Francisco at dinner with Alaska Airlines and this woman had this dress on. And I loved it. And I thought to myself, when you put yourself in those opportunities, you would be surprised how much you gain from that. So not only did I get a dress, but I also got a contact from Alaska Airlines and so that allows me to then, you know, reach out to them and say hey what are your initiatives for diversity. And so, sometimes you may be too tired or you're socially exhausted, cuz' I can tell you that though I am an extrovert, I've reached a point of social exhaustion, but you're only, I think that you will find yourself in a more positive scenario if you're more intentional about the way that you maneuver. So I'm not just going to go to say a networking event where it's just all about um, you know, um, not really interacting. It's very like forced where you go into a room and you leave. It's like no, I'm gonna go to the room and I'm gonna listen, but I'm gonna work the room. I'm gonna pay attention to the things that I hear doing presentations and see how I can align with people. So, as far as where you find these particular networking events, well one of them is really simple, here and around the world and that's meetup.com. So, meetup.com has helped me foster a lot of different relationships. Some of them are more personal groups, but some of them are professional. So if you're just like I don't know where to start, go there. And then, on Facebook there are so many different pages that are catered to certain industries and those people are constantly sharing things like I'm a part of a group called F Bomb Breakfast and oh you are too? And you know, I think it's the first Friday of every morning they literally have somebody who comes and they sit in the middle of the room and they share a topic and then at the end of it everyone cuts into like a pod and they talk. I never walked away from an F Bomb Breakfast and not made a contact. Ever. In my life. Being in that particular group. But, it took me getting up early. It took me being intentional, very early, um and so yeah you just have to get into those rooms and be intentional. So hopefully that answers your question. Yeah, that's great. Yeah. So I have, uh, somewhat unrelated question about networking. Okay And working with clients. So, my other photography business is industrial. [Karen} Okay Industrial construction and those industries naturally tend to attract companies that are not often aligned, um, politically, socially with my views. Okay. So, then I, what I, uh, struggle with sometimes is whether do I take on a client, uh, whom support causes that I oppose. Right. And, but I also have to feed myself. Pay, you know, so what do you do in those situations because I've been struggling with that for the past several years and I don't know what, how to navigate that path. Okay so let me repeat what you said. So you said that you do stock photography for industrial buildings? So, no, I work with clients directly. So stock photography's kind of my side business. That's separate. Yeah, so. So this is something different? Working with clients directly. Shooting industrial construction, architectural photography. Okay, so in situations where you feel like you, you're compromising your beliefs that's where I try to create my own angle. I create my own avenue. So then, I can actually cater to an audience that aligns with me. It's twofold because if you feel very deeply that you're compromising who you are, I don't think you should participate in anything, ever. However, I also understand that we live in a world where there are varying differences and so therefore, I have to take my lens off of myself and think of who is my target audience in this particular industry? What are they catering themselves to? What do they want to see? And so for example, when it comes to political views, you know, when you're your own business you definitely have a little bit more flexibility. But say, if you decide to be a corporation. It takes a collective group for you guys to move the same way. And so, you, you don't have a lot of autonomy in certain situations like that. But if you're your own business, you can create what sort of autonomy that you want. You can create the type of people that you wanna work with. And if it means you have to remove yourself from that industry, then create your lane. Because diverse stock photography wasn't there and if it was there it wasn't done well. We created our entirely different lane and naturally those people will come in and attract themselves to you. But it all comes down to marketing. You have to market that and it's gonna take time. So, hopefully that answers your question. I just, I would if you ever feel like you are compromising who you are I would not ever participate in that so, yeah. Hey, so. Hey Say you've been in business for like five-ish years Yeah And you never wrote a business plan (chuckles) would you recommend like revisiting that or I mean probably? (chuckles) Yeah, yeah. No, I definitely and you know what don't feel bad about it because some you don't know what you don't know. So how would you know? We were never taught this in school. Even though I majored in business communication, we never were taught about a business plan. Um, so if I were you, you know, you can draw a line in the sand today and just decide you know, I'm gonna get structured with every maneuver that I make now. And I would highly suggest spending the weekend and creating a business plan. Just take it step by step. You're gonna feel so fulfilled after you do it, because you actually have a direction now. As opposed to just like throwing something and seeing if it sticks. Because that's probably how it feels, right? So, yeah. And I'm kinda restructuring a little bit because I moved and I have kind of I'm trying to increase my pricing structure. Yep. And just changing up kinda my clients so it might be good timing. Yep Okay, cool Totally good, that's perfect actually. That's helpful. Do you have a partner? No. Have you ever considered having a partner? = No, I mean I have a husband who I make help me when I need. (laughter) He's my tech my tech guru. So yeah, I haven't really. Cuz' I was just gonna say that one thing that I, you know, Josh and I we say that I'm the left brain, he's the right brain. Um, sometimes it just makes sense for you to just not worry yourself about, I mean, the business plan you should do with someone. I'm just saying in general there may be some things that you don't have to tackle, per se. You can you know, pass it on to someone who has more of an expertise or desire in that area. Okay, so you're saying I should enlist my husband to write my business plan? (laughter) He can help you, you should have the say in it for sure. Okay, okay cool. Thanks. Yeah I was just thinking of in general I was just thinking about sometimes we think that we need to do everything and. That one you should do just. Yeah. (chuckles) I had a question about the supply side of Tonl. When you were looking at the market, did you notice there was a lot of these photographs of diverse people out there already and they just weren't' being put onto these stock sites or did you have to do some supply side work, as well? Yeah, so when Tonl was started I actually didn't even, I thought that there were no diverse images because I personally in my world, I started off doing stock, um, uh, what is it called? The Surrey Secrets, it was a blog. And so we were creating our own content, but we were also finding it online and I just didn't see it. And that's actually what started the idea of Tonl was the fact that I didn't see it. But in doing our market research, we did uncover that there were diverse images. It's just that, for lack of a better word, they just were not good. Or they were not marketed well. Because the key to everything that I've learned is it's all about marketing. And so, when we uncovered the fact that there were some diverse imagery then we thought to ourselves okay, what is the reason why people don't know about them? Well we looked at their pricing structure. It was not flexible. It did not align with some of the competitors who had different varying levels. You know, it, um, the quality of the work wasn't really out there. It just seemed like they just threw something out there to solve a problem. And it's great to have a presence, but if you're not coming in, at, or above the level of your competitors it's gonna be a tough road to walk through so, um, we created all of our own imagery because we didn't feel like it made sense to align with those brands or take any of their images or have any submissions. So we don't currently do submissions, we supplied all of our own photos.

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Startup Considerations Worksheet