I look back at early 2014, I was 23 years old and I had just – somehow – been able to enter into a mortgage on a small one bedroom apartment with my boyfriend at the time. I was working three jobs; a full-time job in marketing, a weekend job as a waitress and an after-work job as an highschool english tutor.
I had the idea for Collabosaurus at around 2am one morning in 2014, after my time working in both fashion publicity and small business marketing, frustrated at the difficulty of securing great brand partnerships. I thought a ‘dating site for brands’ was genius, and that I was going to be the next Mark Zuckerberg – ha!
I was, of course, not the next Mark Zuckerberg, and building Collabosaurus to attract over 6500+ brands such as ASOS, Olay, Porsche and Sofitel has been a seriously tough, long journey through which I’ve learned a LOT. So, here are some of my top lessons, of which I hope you can learn from, too!
- Creating opportunities is one of the most effective ways to grow
The most successful people I know, along with some of the proudest moments in my own career to date, have come from getting out there and creating opportunities. My B&T award, our Microsoft partnership, MAC or ASOS signing up to the platform – these weren’t things that just landed on my lap! All resulted from a series of efforts to put myself out there, hustle, network, build ideas and create opportunity.
Of course, behind-the-scenes there were plenty of rejections, mistakes and failures, but at the end of the day if a handful of strategies make it through, those opportunities were worth hustling!
- Get contracts in place, and make sure they’re iron-clad
Oh boy, have I learned this lesson the hard way, more than once. I’ve found myself in expensive, emotional and time-consuming legal situations a handful of times over the last five years because I trusted too easily and counted verbal contracts as gospel.
Startups have a habit of taking risks and worrying about the consequences later, but let me tell you from the other side of those consequences, I can say you need to get iron-clad contracts in place. You’ll turn your nose up at the ‘expense’ of a lawyer now, but just wait until you’re in a sticky situation because you wanted to avoid a few hundred dollars!
- Resilience is one of the most important skills
Want to know how many times I’ve been rejected by potential investors for Collabosaurus? Easily 70+ times. Or, how many missteps I’ve made, money or time I’ve wasted or plans that didn’t pan out? A whole lot.
‘Overnight successes’ are never what they seem to be, there are more often than not years of trial and error behind these businesses. I can honestly say that resilience is one of the most important skills you can learn in business, and I am so grateful that the tough times over the last five years haven’t been severe enough to end Collabosaurus altogether. Keep moving forward, don’t give up too early and build that resilience (you’ll show ‘em)
- Do it your way
I’m much more of a night owl than a morning person, so I don’t believe that ‘waking up at 5am’ every morning is the ‘secret weapon’ for successful people. Sure, it might be for some people, but you need to do things your way – after all, isn’t that why you started a business in the first place?
When I started Collabosaurus, the first few years was getting caught up in doing things because I thought that’s what I should be doing, not necessarily what was right for me and the business at the time. Now, I know what hours in the day are my productive ones, where my time is best spent and how I work best with my team.
- Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to another person’s highlight reel
At the very end of 2018 I nearly shut up shop for Collabosaurus after a failed funding round, returning from San Francisco totally broke, deflated, full of self-doubt and seriously low on customers. I’d given Collabosaurus 3 years of my life at that point, and continued to hit roadblocks that stopped us hitting success.
Want to know what our social media looked like while I had a small breakdown, spending 2 months agonising over a bruised ego and the probability that Collabosaurus’ doors would close? It looked amazing. It looked like we were growing at a rate beyond belief, that we had successfully launched in the US, that a successful capital raise was about to be announced – nope.
I’m so glad I pushed on through 2019 and clawed back customers, improved tech and hustled our own partnerships with $0 in the bank, it ended up being one of our best years in business. When I posted on social media at the beginning of 2020, reflecting on that 2018 almost-decision about closing the doors, everyone was shocked. It’s true that social media is a highlight reel, don’t get caught up in it!
Women Love Tech would like to thank Jess Ruhfus for her story.