Applying the Five Steps to Finding an Audience

Software Social listener Rossveth Lopez joins the show. Michele and Rossveth workshop her business together, exploring where she decided on an idea and what she's working through.

Michele Hansen  0:00  
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Michele Hansen
Hey, everyone, so we're gonna do something a little bit different this week, Colleen is moving. And so we decided that was an opportunity to bring on one of our listeners to workshop their business challenges this week, and hear all about what they're working on. So I am so excited to have a guest with us today. Do you want to introduce yourself?

Rosssveth Lopez  1:29  
Yes. Hello, everyone. I'm Rossveth with. I'm from the Philippines. So I'm really, really excited to be here. And it's an honor to be on your podcast.

Michele Hansen  1:45  
I'm so excited to have you. So can you tell us a little bit about what you're working on?

Rosssveth Lopez  1:50  
Okay, so actually, it's been just the several weeks that I've started. So I've had this idea, or maybe a little bit of a background. I've always wanted to bootstrap a business. And I, like, signed up for blogs, you know, the money making bags, and I stumbled across selling, selling printables, like digital designs on Etsy. And so I ventured in that. And being a non graphic designer, like art is not my main thing. So I can come up with designs, but it really, it takes me a while to even select fonts. So it's one of my pain points. And I, and I figured you know, this could be improved or my process could be more efficient. So I researched, like, font viewer tools. I guess some of you have seen, like, the famous ones, web apps, but I feel like there's something more that could be done. So I've used those tools, actually. So I select the fonts that I like, but then when I go back to my design, I still think that I need to do, or I need to select a few more. So, I keep going back and forth, and, and that's, that's when I thought of this idea. Like I could do a font viewer, but it would be more. So it would be you could preview the fonts, but it would be against your background. So you would have your, your background or your design and you have the selected fonts already, like five or 10 of these. And you can see it in one place. So, and then in like, in an instant, or just for a few seconds, you can already see how the font, like, would look with your design. And then you can select from there. So all the tools I'm saying, Oh, it's only been, like, plain texts.

Michele Hansen  4:03  
Gotcha. So just to recap, so you, you had an Etsy store where you were selling printables, like custom printables. I think we were talking about this earlier, and I bought some Christmas ornaments, for example for family members who had lost pets last year. And I was able to customize them with the text on it, but I wasn't able to see what it looked like. And so basically your idea is that if Etsy store owners can have a tool on their shop to show customers or themselves just what one of those custom pieces would look like before they purchase it that maybe people would buy more from their shops or it would simply be easier for Etsy store owners to make proofs for their customers. Is that right? 

Rosssveth Lopez  4:55
Exactly. So, so my plan is the basic one would be it would be for the sellers, for the sellers themselves, the ones who do the design, it would help in their process with the designing. And then that would be the added feature when you can share that design or share your customized designs with your, your customers, your clients, so they could see that, so they could see it themselves. I actually came across several sellers who had experiences where their customers wanted a refund, because they did not like how it turned out. And yeah, so it, that's one, one, like, problem that that can be solved. And I, I’ve tried to research. They, some stores, each had their own websites, just to put the, their designs and with the fonts that they like, that they were offering. So they created their own. And I thought like why not, you know, offer this as a service. I've seen services like you do the designs on their platform. And you could share that, the links, but this, what I'm thinking of would be different. It would be your designs, you can create them from anywhere. And then you just display the fonts that you offer. So, yeah.

Michele Hansen  6:30
Yeah, that makes sense. I guess we should probably back up a little bit and talk about your, your background a little back. So you're a developer, right? 

Rosssveth Lopez  6:38
Yes, yes I am. So.

Michele Hansen  6:38  
Yeah, how did this come about? 

Rosssveth Lopez  06:45
Okay. Well, I've been in the software industry for like, 14 years or something. I recently resigned from my corporate job about three years ago, after I had my third son. So it's, it's been a goal that we had as a couple that we would, like, we would stay at home, take care of the kids, but then pursue also a business. So I've just been stuck with finding that idea, that $1 million idea to start to work on. And it was only like very recently that I learned about indie hacking and bootstrapping. And so the blogs that I signed up for, those were just like the ways I wanted to get ideas how to, how to start my own business. And, and that's, I've never heard of Etsy before. And like you could sell printables as a passive income you created once, and then you can sell it forever. And so I was like, amazed with the idea. And, but when I, like I, I also stumbled across tech Twitter and how the people left and right, were creating businesses, like simple projects, and they were making money. So that really, really amazed me.

Michele Hansen  8:16  
It sounds like that was really like a lightbulb moment for you.

Rosssveth Lopez  8:19  
Yeah, yeah, exactly. I don't know, growing up, I've always wanted to start a business. But you know, you compare it with, like, tech giants, like, like the big companies being famous all around, having these great ideas impacting the world. But I never really know, or maybe I did not come across it in my, like, experiences or with my colleagues about just, you know, starting a business, starting a bootstrap business that you can do it on your own. 

Michele Hansen  9:02  
How long ago was it that you discovered the idea of bootstrapping?

Rosssveth Lopez  9:06  
I think it was like, late last year, probably. October, November. Just very recently.

Michele Hansen  9:13  
Awesome. And so you are, you're hitting the ground running. And so I want to, I want to dive in a bit more on this idea for this sort of, I guess, what, what do you call it? The, the principles preview tool, what is your name for it?

Rosssveth Lopez  9:31  
Actually, like, I already have a domain, like, I bought it in December.

Michele Hansen  9:38  
Ok. Buying domains is like, the first thing, like, before, we've talked to any customer, written anything, like, done any sort of research on it, it's like, hold on, let me buy a domain first and then, and then we all have, we all have a closet full of domains.

Rosssveth Lopez  9:54  
So I don't have a specific name for it. I know it’s a font viewer, but it, it's more, more than a font viewer. I asked, actually also planned to, to include like a font storage on a cloud. So they upload their fonts. And they could organize it as part of their account.

Michele Hansen  10:18  
So someone could use this, like, to run their business like, repeatedly, like that kind of like, sort of keeps, that sounds like that would be sort of a sticky feature feature that would make them come back to using this tool, but also sort of creates, you know, the need for this to be an ongoing subscription. If they are, you're basically hosting something for them. And then whenever they get new clients who want to preview what they've ordered, they go back to the same tool, and all of their fonts and maybe images or whatever are already, like pre-loaded for them, basically. Does that sound right? 

Rosssveth Lopez  10:57  
Yeah, exactly. Yep.

Michele Hansen  11:00  
So it sounds like you've talked to a couple of people about this, or you, you came across Etsy sellers who were encountering this problem, can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Rosssveth Lopezer  11:11  
Actually, it's more of a passive, passive research. I've just been stalking Facebook groups, learning about their problems, and I looked at their stores, how they were managing it. So I saw, I saw them, like, hire people to create the website specific for that, to showcase their customized designs. But yeah, yeah, they actually hired someone, because,

Michele Hansen  11:40  
Like, they went and hired a freelancer to build them a website for what you want to make as a service. Oh, that's interesting.

Rosssveth Lopez  11:48  
Yep. Because most sellers, like, especially during the pandemic, there were really new ones who went into crafting. And, and they're, they're not, I mean, they're, they're excited with the idea, but they're not familiar with all the technologies yet. So. So, so, so, so.

Michele Hansen  12:12  
Oh, that’s so interesting.

Rosssveth Lopez  12:13  
Yep. Yeah.

Michele Hansen  12:15  
It sounds like you're taking the approach that, like you know, Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman propose of the sales safari, where you're going, looking at places online. Arvid Kahl is also a champion of this approach, specifically with Facebook groups. It sounds like you've been doing a lot of research to try to figure out what their, what their process is, and also experienced it yourself, too.

Rosssveth Lopez  12:39  
Yeah, exactly. Actually, I will be using this, I mean, for my business as well. But I really think that the, that this niche is very underserved in terms of, in terms of this aspect. There are, like, tools for Etsy sellers for, like, research and SEO, but I haven't seen a lot, like, on design-specific and customized things. So last week, I actually posted on Reddit, also, like, I was telling them about my problem, how it took me, it takes me so much time selecting a font, like, does anyone, could anyone relate to this problem? And I had very good engagement there. So yeah, yeah. So it was fun. Like, many people were, were, could relate, like, and they also do the tools themselves. I didn't propose my idea yet. It was just getting feel of what they were trying to achieve, how they solved it. So.

Michele Hansen  13:51  
So did you come across other people who are also paying to solve it? Whether that's like, having a freelancer build it or, or something else? Or just simply with their time?

Rosssveth Lopez  14:02  
No. I, I only found a few of that. But I haven't, like, reached out to them directly yet. I just, like, saw them post on message groups.

Michele Hansen  14:17  
Are you planning to reach out to them?

Rosssveth Lopez  14:23  
Yes. Yep. As soon as I have this up and running, or maybe, I don’t know. 

Michele Hansen  14:31  
Do it before. Because that’ll help you figure out, like, how to price it. And I think it would be, it'd be really interesting if you can kind of quantify either, like, how much time people are spending on this, like, it sounds like it is fairly time consuming. And so being able to speak to, you know, save hours of, you know, managing and selecting fonts, or someone paid a freelancer for this and they spent a couple 100 or $1,000 for that website, right? Like, that's a really, really interesting signal. And it could kind of help you figure out like, okay, what, what are the features I have to launch with versus what can come after?

Rosssveth Lopez  15:16  
That's a really good suggestion. Yeah, I’ll look that up again, the ones I encountered. I’ll reach out to them.

Michele Hansen  15:24  
So from this Reddit thread, it sounds like that, like, went well. And like, other people were saying that they had this problem. I'm curious, like, was there anything that came up in there that surprised you?

Rosssveth Lopez  15:36  
Um, not really. I think what I got there was like, people were just, like, satisfied, like, like, they were just, they acknowledged a problem. But they, they were not looking for ways to improve it. But they acknowledged that it was really a pain, like it was time.

Michele Hansen  16:06  
So they, basically, they, it has not occurred to them that there could be a way to solve this another way. Except for their time.

Rosssveth Lopez  16:15  
Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Michele Hansen  16:18  
Yeah, it's kind of interesting thinking about this market. Because I wonder if, in this context, Etsy sellers are more like, B2B, or B2C? Which like, like, do they behave more like consumers or more like businesses? And like, how could we find the Etsy sellers that are, you know, behave more like a business? You know what I mean?

Rosssveth Lopez  16:43  
Um, yeah, I haven't really thought of that yet. I see them more as some, like B2B. I know several are willing to, to subscribe to tools that would help their stores. Like, like, there's SEO tools, writing tools. There's websites that you can purchase fonts, which is a monthly subscription, fonts and graphics. Yeah. And they, and they, and they spend, like, they spend money for those. 

Michele Hansen  17:28  
Okay, okay. So that’s a good sign. So, so you said, like, in the last couple of weeks, you're kind of getting closer to launching it. And, of course, you got the domain first. So, so talk to me a little bit about, like, you know, the, the process of building it and trying to get towards something that you can launch.

Rosssveth Lopez  17:46  
Okay, so, um, so I'm a developer, but I've always been, like, with Java or Android. So that was my previous job, mobile applications. And the tool I'm creating is web, web-based. And I haven't had much experience of that. But I've always wanted to learn about it. So I've, I've done some courses. I'm using React, and a bunch of other tools. And so far, I've been loving it. But that is one of the challenges I have right now. So web is, like, basically new to me. I mean, I know programming, I know development. But web is entirely different, like platform. So I am still getting the ropes. But I think I plan to just provide an MVP, like the simplest product I can launch because I want really want to validate if, if people will use this, and if they are willing to pay for it. So I have started with a framework already. I have the app running, but I still have some problems with font management. So I'm working on that, that part, but I think, oh, I hope I hope to be ready in a few weeks earlier.

Michele Hansen  19:22  
It's challenging, you're not only building a business and trying to figure out whether people will pay for that, and what that product should have in it. And then also learning a, you know, a new set of tools to build that.

Rosssveth Lopez  19:40  
Yeah. So, so, I mean, I’ve read that you should be able, I mean, you should start somewhere where you're familiar with, but I felt like the mobile approach is, is not a good fit for this idea. So, although I plan I have other ideas, I have other projects that are mobile based. And, but yeah, I really, I guess wanted a challenge.

Michele Hansen  20:17  
You are familiar with the Etsy seller side of it, though. And, you know, I think the, the valuable thing that also brings here not only some customer understanding and ways of finding those potential customers, but is also that you probably have some familiarity with running the business side of it too, just in terms of the sort of operational things about, you know, accounting and the, you know, those more things that that can also be sort of an unexpected challenge and a new skill for people to learn.

Rosssveth Lopez  20:54  
Yes. This would be hard for me if I didn't know about, like, running an Etsy shop, or, or the ins and outs of having a printable business. So having that shop really gave me that insight, as well as being involved in the groups, like, knowing their, their behavior, how, like, what are the issues that they have, and that I've experienced as well in my own shop. So, so that's why this idea, I, is something that I, like I'm really close to, I actually did Arvid Kahl’s Finding an Audience for your Side  Business. He had, like, this step by step guide, how to select your niche and identify your projects or ideas for that, and this came out, came out on top. So, so that was what like, like, a sign to me that I should push with this.

Michele Hansen  22:02  
Oh, so you had other ideas that you were working through, and trying to figure out which of them you should pursue? And then Arvid’s guide helped you do that? Can you say? Like, like, what are, more about that?

Rosssveth Lopez  22:16  
Yeah, I can't, sorry, I can't remember all the steps. But he had five steps. And it's on his blog in the Bootstrap Founder. So you identify the different niches. And then you, you give a score, like, which ones are willing to pay, which ones have, like, problems that are solvable, and which ones that you would be, like, be able to provide value more. I think there, there were five, but, but like those steps, and reading and having the score, and then you rank them, and the overall score, you get the top, and then you, you, you, you select the, the idea that comes out on the top. 

Michele Hansen  23:19  
That makes sense. Something you were saying earlier, I would be so interested if you could get this in front of someone from those Facebook groups, like maybe the, you know, the people who are already paying for things for their business. Like if there's some way that you could either like, screen share with them, or just get them on a quick call and do some of that validation work while you are also working through building it.

Rosssveth Lopez  23:47  
Oh, that's interesting. Yeah. Yeah, maybe I can do that. And get their insights beforehand, even before the, okay. I’ll add that to my list.

Michele Hansen  24:06  
And, you know, asking people like, how much they would pay for something is always challenging. Because I think when we're, you know, there's always a sort of this, this feeling, it's like, it's a kind of a social situation, and you say, oh, would you you know, pay, you know, whatever for this. And people may not want to disappoint us by saying no. But I find if you ask, like, what are they currently paying for this, like that person who hired someone to build them a website for their portfolio of different options, or they're, you know, they're paying in terms of their time, and their time has value and especially when they're, you know, crafters and they may only be able to work on one item at a time. It like, like that, that their time has a real cost to them. And so seeing if you can somehow quantify that, and seeing, well, what are they charging for the item? And then if you can save them a half an hour per item, you know, what is that worth to them in terms of other sales they can make? And like, coming up with your pricing that way?

Rosssveth Lopez  25:18  
Yeah, yeah. And those are really good points. I haven't even thought about my pricing, pricing yet. So yeah, I’ll take note of those.

Michele Hansen  25:29  
Pricing is a complicated and tricky topic. Like I think it's, I think of it as one of the hardest parts of having a business and trying to figure out, okay, you know, there's, you know, you can go the approach of, well, this is what it costs us, and then let's put a markup on that. But it's really, it's like, Okay, what, what is the value someone is getting out of that? And then how do we use that to inform what the, what the price is? I think trying to see how much, how much time they're spending, or if they're hiring other people to do this right now could be a starting place to give you some ideas. What else are you still trying to figure out?

Rosssveth Lopez  26:13  
Well, um, one of my challenges would be the payment merchant, the, the gateway. So I'm still researching what's best. I really wanted to go with Stripe. Unfortunately, it's not yet available here. So yeah, that's one big challenge. They have a program if you are from outside the US, but I'm still trying to figure out if the cost would be, I mean, I can handle the cost. So.

Michele Hansen  26:54  
Oh, that's challenging to, yeah, I feel like stripe is kind of the default for everyone, us included. But if they're not in the Philippines yet, then that is a problem. Oh, interesting. So it sounds like there isn't. 

Rosssveth Lopez  27:07  
They have what they call a Stripe Atlas, where you pay them so they can create, like an LLC, or, I'm not sure if it's an LLC, a company in the US on your behalf.

Michele Hansen  27:32  
Oh, yeah. So there's also, you can also use Firstbase. Yeah, Firstbase.io, yeah, to incorporate in the US. And so I guess if you were incorporated in the US, and you took payments in US dollars, could you like, could you use stripe? And then like, would you still have a way to transfer them? I guess yeah, you could probably just put them in a US, you need a US bank account, which I guess Stripe Atlas gives you, and then you just use TransferWise to get it out of your US Bank Account to the Philippines. Which is one of those weird, like, we're dealing with this too. It's like dealing with exchange rate risk like this, which is normally something that you know, only like large international corporations who, like, deal with exchange rate risk, right? Like, it's like, no, like, small businesses dealing with this.

Rosssveth Lopez  28:23  
Yes. So yeah, I've looked at Firstbase as well. I think they can also create a bank account for you. But yeah, I haven't dug deeper on that yet.

Michele Hansen  28:39  
Yeah, that's, that's complicated.

Rosssveth Lopez  28:45  
Yeah, cuz it would be a bummer if I can’t like, I mean, I could put that as a call to action. Are you interested, but then I can’t, like, provide them the payment service. So. Yeah, yeah.

Michele Hansen  29:02  
Yeah, I mean, the other thing, if like, you know, sort of, from a product perspective, like, if it's ready, like, I mean, you could kind of do like a free trial period, for, you know, like, just like, have a sort of beta period, basically, and get a couple of people using it. And, you know, getting feedback from them while you're dealing with all of the sort of administrative stuff to get the payments set up. And then you could, you know, get more feedback. And, but, but not be sort of actively developing as you are now, which sounds like that's, you know, you're using a sort of a whole new set of tools, and so that requires a lot of mental energy. And all of this sort of administrative stuff also requires a lot of mental energy, but in an entirely different way. And I'm wondering if it might, if you could kind of stagger those and use that as an opportunity to get more feedback and also, you know, build some like early you know, happy users who could champion the product to the rest of the, you know, creator community. Maybe that could work.

Rosssveth Lopez  30:11  
Yeah, yeah. I've thought about that, having a beta first. And, but yeah, right now I just really need to work out on the development side. So I could have a product back and I can offer us a beta.

Michele Hansen  30:39  
Yeah, so, I'm curious, like, Is there anything that you were hoping to ask me that we haven't covered?

Rosssveth Lopez  30:52  
Let me see. So I signed up to your newsletter, but I haven't gotten to them yet about the customer aspects stuff. So I might, I mean, if it's okay with you, I will, I would love to go deeper on that. Like, because that's one of the topics you're really master with. So, right now, yeah, I haven't read a lot on it, on it yet.

Michele Hansen  31:21  
That's okay. I've, I've had a couple of people tell me that they are kind of like saving them and would rather like, read them as a PDF, like as a book. It makes sense to me. And that's kind of my little bit of my thinking is, it's like kind of writing a book. But if I tell myself, I'm writing a book, it's going to feel overwhelming. So I was like, I'm just writing a blog, it's fine. It's whatever, like, it's not a big deal. And then I'll probably sort of slap them all together into a PDF and send that to people whenever I've gotten through this, like, burst of writing. Like, cuz I'm publishing two or three a week right now. And I think once I get everything sort of drained out of my head and onto paper, that I won't be writing nearly as much. So that, like, that totally makes sense to me. I think, I've, you're not the first person who has said, like, you know, I'm saving them to read them all in one go.

Rosssveth Lopez  32:15  
Okay, so, so while you were saying that, I actually thought of a question. So you and your husband are, are bootstrapping your business, and been doing for years. Any tips on time management? It's one of my, like, challenges right now. I only get like, one to two hours a day, I wish I could do more. My two year old, they're all boys. I have three boys, and it's just crazy. So yeah, any tips to time management?

Michele Hansen  32:57  
So we launched Geocodio when our daughter was four months old. So, I, I definitely sympathize with you on the time management thing. You know, I found that, you know, the thing about having a young child is that you, you really only have an hour or two to yourself a day. And so, I found that that made me more motivated, because I was like, okay, if I only have an hour to myself a day, like, I need to get the most out of it. Um, and for me, that meant working on side projects. Now, I'm not gonna say that everybody should do that, or if that was necessarily, like, mentally healthy at all times. Um, but that I mean, that definitely is a challenge and finding that space and I think as long as it's something that you're excited about, that you enjoy looking forward to, I think you'll find the time for it. But it's, it's, it's possible to start a business working on it an hour a day. Like, we did it, I don't know if everybody, like, it would work for everybody and um, you know, I can only speak from my own experience, right? Um, but you know, we did it and I mean, it took a long time like for that to become a full time business like, it was, it was three and a half years later that I went full time. Like, that was a long time and we had full time jobs so we could be sort of patient with it. And not everybody is in that position of having a full time job and being able to be patient with it. I mean, something that did help is what we would trade off with each other. And so, you know, on Saturday mornings, I would take our daughter to an art class or something and then take her to the grocery store. So we were out of the house for three hours so my husband could get some work done and then you know, in the afternoon he would you know, they would go on these long trips to like get an ice cream at IKEA, which was an hour drive away, like, just so that like I could have time like, to work during the day? Um, I mean, it was definitely a balancing game, and I don't, you know, it was not, I don't know if it was always easy or healthy. And I don't know if this answer is at all helpful for encouraging you. Um, I mean, I think that's why I'm so, like, passionate about getting involved with things like Earnest Capital that helps people go full time faster. Because it's like, it's it's hard, like making that jump from having a side business to a full time business is, is hard and finding the hours for it is hard. And it's mentally and physically taxing. Um, I guess my, I guess my advice for you is that you're not the only one who finds it hard. And I don't know if that brings you any comfort at all. But that it is normal to only be able to work on it an hour a day. But there are businesses that are, you know, quote, unquote, real businesses that were, that were launched and run on an hour or two of work a day.

Rosssveth Lopez  36:10  
Thank you. Thank you for sharing. So, yeah, I really need to have that focus. Yeah, I'll be improving more of that, especially now that I've started with my project already. So I need, I need more of that.

Michele Hansen  36:26  
Sounds like you have a lot on your plate, so I will let you get back to it.

Rosssveth Lopez  36:33  
Okay.

Michele Hansen  36:35  
I really enjoyed talking to you today.

Rosssveth Lopez  36:38  
Thank you so much. It's really been an honor to be on your podcast. Thank you.

Michele Hansen  36:44  
So when it's launched, whether that's the beta or the full launch, definitely let us know. And we will happily share it out. And similarly, if anybody else listening is, you're launching something or you've already learned something like, just, like, let us know and we're happy to, you know, retweet you and help you get the word out in our own small way. So, thanks so much for listening. And Colleen will be back next week. So we'll talk to you then. 



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