Please introduce yourself (any co-founders) and your startup?
My name is Francis Lee and I am the founder of UnicornGO. UnicornGo is a graphic design studio that offers unlimited graphic design requests for a flat monthly fee. There are no contracts and all design requests comes with unlimited revisions.
Traditionally, graphic design is charged on an hourly basis and only a limited number of revision is provided free of charge before additional hourly charges are stacked on top. UnicornGo removes this expense sink hole by capping design fees to a flat monthly rate and as there are no contracts, businesses can pause their subscription with us at any time providing much needed flexibility.
How did you go from idea, to MVP and launch?
I was frustrated by the process of hiring new freelance designers and hated by the idea of getting a massive bill after making a few design changes. I kept thinking why there wasn’t a flat fee service for graphic design like Netflix, this is when I saw a in the design industry. My core background is in digital marketing and having worked on a few small businesses, I saw a massive need for an unlimited capped fee graphic design service and thus the start up was born.
The concept of unlimited graphic design service is not new, and businesses have been hiring full time designers for a long time.
What makes UnicornGO! unique is that we are able to complete any graphic design job that is requested without restrictions.
Most competitors offer to only work on designs that can be completed in less than 30 minutes. Now I don’t know about you, but as an end customer, I have no idea what 30 minutes will get me when it comes to graphic design.
I already had a list of designers I have worked with an also had the knowledge of where and how to hire more. So I decided to hire my first designer, use him to design my logo, website and other collateral and started selling.
Being completely bootstrapped, I started selling by contacting my network and just pitching the idea. This lead to many referral sales which lead me to my 2nd and 3rd hire. Over time word of mouth increased, the UnicornGO website started ranking as we gained more and more links back and we have seen a steady growth with zero marketing spend.
What challenges did you face during this period and how did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacle is sales, or business development, this is largely due to the fact that I am currently running both the account management and the sales side of things. UnicornGo also lack the marketing budget of larger design agencies and as such, I rely heavily on word of mouth. This coupled with the fact that the business model is so new in the industry, it becomes much harder to market.
I am traditionally not a sales person, but I quickly realised, the difference between a successful business and one that fails, is the ability to sell your product.
Sounds cheesy but the reality is that having a good product is not enough, you need to sell, and to sell, you really need to pull up your sleeve and start hitting the phone and your existing network.
My first sale actually came from a referral provided by the person whom I sold my ecommerce business to. Then, after providing amazing service, that person told their friends and so on and so forth. I also reached out to previous contacts via Linkedin and reached out to see what I can do to help them. Most turned down the offer, but eventually, people started meeting up. Pitching the product was easy, the hardest part is getting them to listen.
During this journey to build and launch your startup what is one thing you look back on with a sense of achievement?
My biggest achievement, besides building a design studio which is growing month on month and is profitable from day one, is that I overcame my fear of selling. As I mentioned before, I am not a sales person, but once I decided to get out of my comfort zone, and just started pitching I realised that I could actually do it.
Honestly speaking, the worse thing that could happen is they say “No”, which really means you are one step closer to a “Yes”.
Realising that I had grit to keep going out and pitching every day, over the phone, in person or on email was a massive achievement for me. Keep in mind, that UnicornGo is going against massive million dollar design agencies with awards and all that fancy stuff. Yet we still hold our own and are able to win contracts with blue chip companies and multi-nationals that wouldn’t normally speak to startups.
Offer us one insight, tip, marketing strategy or growth hack that has worked really well for oyu and your startup?
Concentrate on the service / product of the business before hammering sales and marketing. Getting your unique selling proposition and address the “Why me” of your customers will make it much easier to sell. With a clear differentiation point, the product or service largely sells itself.
Beyond this, concentrate on addressing the possible “risks” that your customers might have in buying your product/service. For example, we have a 14 day money back guarantee which is unheard of in the design industry, the reason behind this is that the key risk of hiring an unknown design agency is quality of work. By having a 14 day money back guarantee, the customer will literally have nothing to lose in trying us out. By doing this instead of pushing marketing, it will mean that by the time you do spend money on marketing, it’ll be much more effective and significantly cheaper to run.
How is your startup going and what do you aim to achieve in the next 3, 6, 12 months?
Beyond growing my existing client portfolio and continuing to deliver amazing work, I am currently working on adding an optional unlimited development package which will tie in with the design aspect. This means that, as an optional extra, my clients can design websites or email templates from scratch and we can also launch it as a perfectly coded website. In addition to this, I am also looking to build out a marketing package as an optional extra.
By end of 2017, I hope to have UnicornGO a full service creative / marketing agency whilst keeping our flat monthly fee and no lock in contracts.