By Kylie Chenn, Founder & CEO of Acanela Expeditions
I founded Acanela Expeditions when I was 20 years old, a university student, and no money in the bank. My Boutique Travel Company now takes 1000+ people on trips around the world each year, and has doubled in Revenue each year for the past 3 years. Here are my Top 10 Tips on how I grow my business (and how you can grow your business as well).
1. Remember and Understand WHY you Started the Business
Many people start businesses for the money, which usually means you are starting it for the wrong reason. As the founder (or owner) of a business, you are going to spend A LOT of time working on your project - so you must be PASSIONATE about it. Not to mention there will be hard - very hard days, and remembering why you started your business will help carry you through these. There are some days where I literally get home from work, climb into bed, and try and shut out the world because the day was so incredibly hard - Or days when I say multiple times ‘I’ve had enough’ and want to give up. If you keep the vision of what you want to accomplish alive, even through these difficult days you’ll have something amazing.
2. Keep it Simple & Don’t Wait until your Product is Perfect; Earn While you Build
A mistake that I made early on in my career was waiting to sell my service (or products) until I thought they were absolutely perfect. One of the most important aspects of starting a business is making sure that there is actually a demand or need for what you are selling. The best way to find that out, is to start sharing (or selling) your product right away. If your idea fails, it is better to fail fast and move on to the next idea that may be more successful! The very first trip I made was not perfect, but the essence of what I wanted to build was there and so I stuck with it until the experiences reflected my vision.
3. Count the Costs & Be aware where you are spending
I started my business with $0 in my bank account, and I was able to grow the idea into a sustainable business. I did this by always being aware of what money was coming in and what money was going out. I tried to be smart about what I spent and how much and even IF I needed to spend anything at all. For example, a lot of people will spend money on marketing in order to get their business’s message out there - we didn’t spend anything on marketing for the first two years since we found ways for marketing to actually be profitable for us. Maybe we could’ve grown faster, but we wanted to be super cautious where we spent and only did so if necessary.
4. Set up a website, learn how to write, and provide FREE content.
Build a website & provide your audience with FREE content. Even if the product that you sell is content related, it is very important to draw people in with relevant (and quality content). Google is the largest search Engine - and it is best to take advantage of that! I am not the most talented writer, but I’ve learned so much from pushing myself to tackle these very important items.
5. Speak Up & Share What you are doing with everyone
I used to be shy about sharing what I created, and now I realize that by not sharing I am losing a large audience that would be interested in what I am doing! Be vocal about your successes (and your failures) and you’ll find people who want to learn more. This is also a great way to get feedback from others - not all of it will be constructive, or positive, or even helpful - but by speaking up you’ll find that more doors will open for you.
6. Build your Team & Invest in Creating Systems
Having a TEAM is so important. I used to think that in order to be successful I had to do everything myself (‘who else could execute on my vision better than me’ kind of attitude). I quickly learned that in order to grow you need help and finding the right people is a huge part of that. Sometimes you get it wrong and bring people onboard who aren’t fully invested, but if you’re committed to growing and making a difference - you’ll find the right people to join for the ride.
7. Listen to your Customers (or Audience) / Validate your ideas with Sales
If you think your idea is perfect and is immune to feedback, you’re wrong. Customer feedback (or even feedback from friends and family) can be helpful in really nailing the idea and finding that perfect product or service. Not all feedback is good feedback, so you have to learn to filter through the noise and identify truth. If you see an idea selling, its a good indication you’re on the right track.
8. Trust your Gut
Sometimes you can sit and spin wondering what it is you should do. There are times where you just need to take a risk and trust your instincts. You’ll develop an innate sense for what will work and what won’t. When I first started my business, I had no idea what I was doing (and I frequently thought I should just give up and quit)
9. Build a Community around you (Facebook Group, Events, Meet-ups, etc...)
Building a community is a huge part of growing your idea from a kitchen counter business to something much larger. Today (more so than ever) people have so many choices of what to buy, when to buy it, and where to buy it. Building community around what you do, being the face of it, and making sure that people are excited about what you do IS IMPORTANT. While building takes a lot of work & one-on-one time with a lot of people, it is worth it.
10. Share your personal story to create connections
In today’s world people do not relate well to arbitrary businesses or products - but what they do relate to is other people. For this reason it is very important to create a lifestyle around your brand - something that is shareable, and that people want to be a part of. I started small - sharing my story in personal vlogs, instagram photos, and my own blog posts, and since it has transitioned into features in magazines, podcasts, online interviews, and features on other people’s websites.
Building a business, creating a community, and following your dream is incredibly difficult. However, there will always be people willing to help you along the way. These tips were things that friends, family, mentors, business partners, and even customers shared with me and have helped propel what I’m doing to the next level - and I hope that they can help you too!