1 year ago, I was sitting down with my $800 Dell computer (which I still use), writing the first paragraphs of what was to become the business plan for TalentEgg– Canada’s online career hub for students looking for meaningful career opportunities. Looking back on that original business plan, I feel a big, fat mixture of excited, proud, hopeful…and stupid.
While SO MUCH has been accomplished in the past year, and there is so much to feel excited and proud of, it is not even close to in-line with my predictions and projections.
I’d like to take this opportunity to recount TalentEgg’s successes, but also to share a more personal story, which is my personal start-up experience, and hopefully impart some lessons from that experience:
1 year ago, I had just finished working for Expand Consulting, a boutique consulting firm in London, England. I was moving back to Canada and, inspired by a website that had helped ME transition into the workforce in London, decided I was going to attempt to bring that business model to Canada.
It took 2 weeks to choose a web development company to launch the first version of the site. It took 2 weeks to write my business plan and financial projects. It took It took 1 month to come up with the name ‘TalentEgg’.
- It took 5 months to get the TalentEgg website launched, and it took 3 months to convince 35 high-quality Canadian employers to participate in the launch.
- It took 7 months working on my own to come to the decision to bring on a team.
- It took 8 months to bring on our first paying client, and 2 months to bring on 15 more.
- It took 7 months to spend $12,000 to launch TalentEgg, and 3 subsequent months to spend several times that amount to keep it running, and eventually launch TalentEgg 2.0.
TalentEgg has been featured in the The Sun, The Metro, 24 Hours, The Globe and Mail, The Financial Post, and on Breakfast Television. We’ve also been featured in several campus papers and in a handful of prominent blogs, like StartupNorth.
As an advocate for students with Arts degrees, we’ve been published in the Canadian HR Reporter, I’m speaking at 2 upcoming conferences (one by the Conference Board of Canada), and I even spent an afternoon speaking with recent immigrants at a high-school in Richmond Hill.
We regularly get calls and e-mails from students, and even though it’s not really what we do, we do our best to respond with tips on transitioning into the workforce, usually from our own experience.
Two iterations of the website have successfully launched in time for two major PR exposures. 2 Million disasters occurred in the days leading up to both of those launches.
All in all, it’s been a ride. So, what have I learned?
- Everything takes longer than you think it will
- Money is important
- Jim Collins is a genius
- Good friends/support is extremely important
- A ton about myself
When I first set my sites on launching this career hub that connected students with high-quality Canadian employers, I projected that I’d have 50 paying clients by July, 2008. My first instinct, when reviewing those numbers the other day, was: WHAT WAS I THINKING?!
But then I stepped back, and I realized that while I was perhaps naive, there was absolutely NO WAY for me to accurately project the successes and failures, obstacles and helping hands I’d encounter along the way. And while it’s easy to say ‘If I were to do this again, I’d…’, I’m not going to say that, because maybe TalentEgg is what it is today because of that ‘blind vision’- the conviction that it would work and would be successful, without truly understanding the processes involved.
But maybe not in the way most people say it is.
Money is an issue that has come up SO MANY times in the building of TalentEgg. At first, I thought I could do it all on the bonus I received from my job in London. Then I needed a little more, and CYBF came to the rescue not only with money, but with support and mentorship.
And then things got even more serious, and there was talk of investment. And it forced me to do some real soul searching, and to decide whether I wanted to stick with my gut (and focus on profitability rather than rapid growth) or go out for some major investment.
At the moment, that’s still not 100% decided, but one thing I’ll say for sure is that I’m absolutly positive that TalentEgg can never compete with money. There are players in the online recruitment market that are well-known and that can fly blimps over every university in Canada if they’d like. What TalentEgg can compete on is being special, and that will always be our strategy as long as I’m involved.
But then something funny happened. I couldn’t get the ‘lessons’ out of my head.
I’ve been analyzing and applying them since.
The most important concepts to me: Get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off, and the Hedgehog concept.
I’m a pretty emotional person. Anyone who knows me knows that. Which I think is one of the reasons I suit running my own business. When things are going well, I’m having the best time. When they aren’t, I feel sick. My emotional personality also means that I can be a bit impulsive. What I’m suggesting here is that, in the past, when things haven’t been going so well, I’ve considered quitting.
In this respect, my support network has been absolutely critical. I’ve been reminded why I started the company in the first place, of the company’s successes, etc. I’ve also been yelled at. All in the interest of forcing me to be rational- to stick with it.
While I’m on the topic, good friends are also important when they’re super-geniuses, and my support network just happens to have a few of those in stock :). I have friends who can answer my HR questions, my PR questions, etc. As well as people who just always seem to have the answer.
I really can’t say enough about this one. From the kind strangers who agreed to give me business advice when TalentEgg was just an idea, to my closest friends, family and especially my partner, who have bared with me as I gloat about press coverage and whine about…everything else :)…Not to mention the fantastic people who have worked at TalentEgg over the past several months.
I originally thought I could build and code the website myself, and I was very wrong.
I thought I could do this all myself, and I was wrong.
I thought I was a really bad sales person, and I was wrong.
I thought I would hate ‘selling’, and I was wrong about that too.
I thought I’d like marketing, and (surprise) I was wrong.
I thought I’d be good at keeping track of all the numbers, and (don’t tell my economics professors but) I was wrong.
I thought I was only interested in the business, not actually in the HR concepts behind the project…I was wrong.
Overall, this year has been a tremendous challenge, filled with many ups and downs. I’ve only just scratched the surface here.
At the end of the day, TalentEgg is a growing community for students that are looking for meaningful entry-level career opportunities. Our vision and our values have remained the same- untouched- from Oct 2008-Oct 2009.
EVERYTHING ELSE has changed…and I think that’s kind of awesome.
I am- of course- always thinking about the future…What’s next for TalentEgg? If this past year was unpredictable, what will next year bring? It’s both scary and ridiculously eggciting 🙂