Who doesn't want to be The Wizard of Oz? Sure, it's fun to lollygag down the yellow brick road with Dorothy and her crew--but the Wizard? Total boss. He isn't even in that much of the movie, but everyone is always talking about him. By the time they get to the Emerald City, it's just kind of accepted that the Wizard can solve everyone's problems without showing any case studies whatsoever. Did you ever sit there and wonder how he ever transitioned from being a sideshow magician who sucked at hot air balloon travel to having a monopoly on an entire city?
The only logical answer, of course, is that he was an expert entrepreneur. Like most entrepreneurs, he saw a need: the people of the Emerald City needed a wizard. Then he truly defined the phrase "fake it til you make it." By the time Dorothy showed up, he had a gatekeeper, hundreds of vendors, colorful horses, and pyrotechnics. Though he was running a much larger operation, he was simply one man behind a curtain. No one really got to see all the scrambling that must have gone on behind the scenes!
That is the mark of most successful entrepreneurs: making your startup radiate success, even as you endure the ups and downs of opening a business. Baker's Edge is a great example. Known for its innovative bakeware, the company has been featured on Shark Tank, Oprah, and The Today Show, among many others and is currently raking in about $6 million in annual sales. The best part is: The company is operated by just two people, husband and wife team Matthew and Emily Griffin.
How'd they do it? By looking like a big company from the very beginning. Or in other words, being the Wizards of Bakeware! Here are their expert tips for those just starting out:
1. Spend Money on a Great Website
This is your front door. No amount of SEO and advertising dollars can make up for a bad first impression of your website. Make it secure, so that that folks will feel OK making a purchase. A clever website will be your leg up on the competition. As a smaller startup, you can move faster and be more edgy than your larger, brand-anchored competition.
2. Sell Directly Via Your Website
A lot of startups sell on sites like Amazon or Etsy. Selling direct via your own domain boosts your credibility and gives you a great margin on sales (which you are going to need). You will also learn a few things that will be handy if you ever decide to scale up.
3. Don't Skimp on Packaging
Packaging is relatively cheap. but is often overlooked by web-based companies. Imagine trying to sell to a consumer with your packaging on a shelf (where the customer sees it for only a few seconds before moving on, or stopping to look more). When your product arrives to your customer, they should be reassured that they would have gladly bought it if they had seen it in person. Make them love what's inside, before they even get there. This is also the place to show them your other products, Twitter handle, and Facebook address. Your packaging is an advertisement for future sales.
4. Don't Underestimate the Power of Email
Get real email addresses that contain your domain name. Nothing looks more sloppy or fishy than an @popmail (or yahoo, gmail, hotmail) extension. Have multiple emails (that will likely all go to you and your few partners at the beginning): customerservice@, sales@, media@, returns@ and so on. From the outside world, it would appear you have a whole slew of folks working in a big office.
5. Team Up
Work with larger companies, and then brag about it. Also, sponsor an event or charity you are passionate about. It doesn't have to cost a ton. Showing that your company looks beyond itself, and has a culture, goes a long way.
6. Get Press!
Always be looking to be featured in the media. You are an expert at what you are doing--be someone's source. Having a growing "featured in" resume makes you look like a big shot. Subscribe to HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to receive daily emails listing what reporters are currently looking for.
These great tips can be used as a guide, but let them inspire more ways for you to think and act like a big company. Be the wizard of your own industry! Just stay away from hot air balloons.