Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Adrian Tobey, founder and lead developer of Groundhogg Inc., based in Toronto, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
CRM and Marketing Automation Tool for WordPress users. Our customers are small and medium-sized businesses that use WordPress. We also cater to agencies and DIY'ers.
Tell us about yourself
My parents are entrepreneurs. My father is a jazz pianist. During the height of his career, he contracted severe Tinnitus. To make matters worst, that was compounded by a severe bout of tendonitis in his arms and hands. The Dr's told him his music career was close to over. My mother was his agent/publicist. They worked together all of their lives. At the age of 40, my Dad had to reinvent himself. He happened to be good at making websites and email marketing. So he paid for training to become certified as a trainer/speaker. He was very good at it. Mom organized the production of events, and Dad sold digital marketing courses from the stage. They made their first million in year three. I was seven at the time dad was reinventing himself. I grew up involved in their business. I was helping them at tradeshows. I eventually was old enough and good enough at WordPress I was on their payroll helping their clients. As things progressed, I sold their courses. Got certified as a trainer and even trained their clients. As a result, I was certified as an Infusionsoft consultant by the age of 18.
I built hundreds of sales funnels and saw the same problems over and over again. I eventually told my parents of my idea to build a CRM /Automation tool within WordPress. They were supportive, but I don't think they thought it could be done without 1-2 million investment money. I resigned from the family business and incorporated Groundhogg Inc. I built it and deployed version 1 within three months. Within six months, it had generated its first 100K in revenue and had clients around the world. I was 21 years old. That felt pretty good to me, so I kept going. I trademarked the name, kept building, and every day I keep learning.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I'm 24 now, so I think I have time to grow into my biggest accomplishment. But we hit a few milestones like the 2021 Gold Stevie Award for Best CRM in Small Business and the 2021 Nomination for Young Entrepreneur Award by CanadianSME National Awards. If I had to choose, my greatest accomplishment so far is surviving years 1 & 2. I had lots of arrows coming at me. Some were not pleasant. But staying grounded is key, and I am proud I came out the other side.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
For me, and this is not the case for everybody, but for me, it was communication. I tend to be direct and to the point. That doesn't necessarily pan out well when you are front-facing customers. For example, I could say "no" to a request. The customer really needs to hear, "thanks for that request; we will bring it to the attention of the team." No isn't a satisfactory answer to a customer, but it seems both reasonable and functionally the right answer to me. So, learning that soft skill was a rocky road for me. It's a personality thing I perhaps didn't naturally acquire as an only child. This skill is more of that nuance with siblings...that perhaps I didn't really acquire as an only child. Where my "no" may work in boardrooms, it certainly doesn't work in customer delight situations. So, this kept coming up for me in painful ways. It continues to be a learning curve for me.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- You will have naysayers before you start, off the starting line, and during mile 1. These folks can deter you. But once you commit, deeply commit and put blinders on when it comes to naysayers. If they are not taking the risk with you, they don't get a say.
- Try to get at least six months of runway money before you start. If you feel that your business will cost you 10K a month to operate (including your salary), then try and line up 60K in runway money. It gives you a little breathing room to make things happen. Start with family and friends funding if you have to. If you don't want them as partners, make it a long-term loan. Get creative with how you pay them back.
- If you are not selling, you are dying. So figure out how you will be selling your products and services. Will you be doing tradeshows, cold calls, door to door, paid google ads, podcasts, youtube, etc. You may try everything once to see what works best for you until you find the one that gets you the best ROI. It may be a combo. Whatever it is, get a clear marketing plan that includes a CRM and marketing automation tool like Groundhogg. It's as necessary as cash flow.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
A lifestyle business is a business that supports the lifestyle that you want. These make good businesses like a plumber, digital marketer, or even an online tarot card reader. But these are not necessarily businesses you can sell unless you set it up to sell - where the business can run independently of you. There is money in setting up these little businesses and selling them for 100K+ etc. This becomes interesting in today's economy that lifestyle businesses can be sold. And there are more online avenues to sell these right now. I'd encourage people to start thinking of doing this. Some people gravitate to MLM's and stuff like that. That is okay for some folks. But if you have more business muscle than that, then set up a business you can flip - like real estate. Digital businesses have proven to be a "safe" economy during COVID. It's less risky than owning a restaurant or a brick-and-mortar store. So, if you have the wear with all to set up a good online landing zone with a checkout, even for services like coaching, training, learning, tutorials, etc., then look into that.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.