Ali Allage founded Boost Labs with his best friend in his basement. Today they are a premier internet marketing firm.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Boost Labs is a web marketing firm. We help clients build/redesign their website and help them promote on the web to earn new business.
How did you come up with your business idea?
In 2001, my previous business partner and I got into creating online community forums (bulletin board type). Neither one of us thought this would create the movement that is now social media. With the success of the online community forums, the way we monetized was selling advertising via banner ads and forum participation. Once we saw the success we provided for our advertisers, we realized that we could provide the same results for others using various web marketing techniques. We were passionate about the web and marketing. This is what gave us the idea to start Boost Labs.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
In the mid 90's I had another consulting company that focused on Web development and I had a small automotive parts business only. Both of which sold and/or closed down.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
To be honest, no not initially. We were sort of cowboys in that respect. However, I did realize the importance as we grew. A lot of people that start a business get trapped in a slump of the "unknown." Meaning they don't where they will end up past the current week. Once we realized we had no direction, we decided to write the plan. I believe that plan is what actually saved our company from failing.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
Lawyers and Accountants were the professionals we hired. It is almost critical to obtain the services of a Lawyer to make sure you setup the legal structure of your company the correct way. Also having a good accountant can save you big time $$ later on.
What outside resources were helpful for you? Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, ….
I joined business groups with people who I knew were successful in business to help guide me. As a business owner, it is always helpful to have business mentors who have the experience to teach you, because there is a lot to learn. When it came to getting more business, local Chambers and good web marketing helped us get more business.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
Yes, initially. We worked out of my basement. It really wasn't ideal. There were too many distractions and limitations when working from home. For one, your family doesn't do a good job of leaving you alone when you are home, even though you are trying to work.
Did you have a partner when you started your business? How did you select a partner?
Yes I did. We sort of choose each other. He was my best friend for 20 years prior. We realized we had a great synergy working together and made the decision to start the company.
Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?
Initially I outsourced some of our work, but it became difficult to find someone reliable. Outsourcing has helped us, but at the same time it could have destroyed us. Finding reliable help is very difficult and unfortunately you won't realize it until it's too late. Always have a backup vendor list in case you need it. As we grew, I decided to move away from outsourcing and hire in-house staff.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
It's challenging because you are faced with many different things in different areas. For me, I love the challenge. I love the chance to be exposed to different areas and learn how to improve things.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Not really. I feel everyone has to go through mistakes in order to learn. If I didn't have my experiences then it wouldn't have made me the person I am today.
Thank You Ali for taking the time to share your story with the folks at Gaebler.com.