Greg Stallkamp founded Holosfitness.com in 2008 in Chicago.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Holosfitness is a social networking website focused on fitness. The site features a wide array of health, fitness, and nutrition-related information. Our free online fitness tool helps individuals get in shape, stay in shape, and lead healthy lifestyles. Holosfitness.com features hundreds of exercises posted with step-by-step instruction, video demonstration of many workouts, blogs posted by fitness professionals, a tracking system to monitor the progress of individual's workout routines, a social networking platform to provide support and motivation, and much, much more.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
Prior to launching Holosfitness.com I worked in the finance industry, in various investment banking and financial consulting positions. This is my first full-time entrepreneurial effort, however, I have been active in many side projects.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
If an entrepreneur is looking to raise outside capital than a business plan is an absolute necessity. The business plan should concisely communicate the idea and how the entrepreneur expects to execute on that idea.
In our particular case, we do not have a defined business plan. While we started off crafting a plan, we found that this plan needed constant revision and modification. The downside of a business plan is that it can limit your freedom to modify your concept and strategy. Outside investors and stakeholders can hold you to your initial ideas and be unwilling to let you try a new course. By staying nimble and exercising the freedom to try out new strategies, we have allowed ourselves to be more successful than if we were just to blindly follow our original business plan. We have only been able to do this because we did not seek initial outside financing.
What outside resources were helpful for you? Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, ….
Civic and regional business resources such as the chamber of commerce, SCORE programs, and local trade groups are great tools that any entrepreneur should utilize. These resources are free and widely available. They will nearly always result in at least one good lead, idea, or point of contact.
Webinars are another great way to become up to speed on topics and network. While conferences and seminars are helpful, webinars are much cheaper and more direct. Webinars provide immediate tangible help for struggling entrepreneurs. Webinars are run by many of the aforementioned groups (chambers of commerce, SCORE, and local trade groups), in addition to several media outlets, such as PRWeb.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
I believe the current economic climate is an enormous opportunity. Most of the major costs associated with starting and running a business have never been cheaper. Outsourced workers are readily available, and often at significantly discounted prices. The same holds true for office space and office supplies.
In an environment like this, the best cost saving tip is the art of negotiation. At a time when the balance of power favors the buyer, feel free to negotiate on every cost associated with your business. You should feel confident that no matter what you are procuring, you can likely get it cheaper somewhere else, so use this as a point of leverage.
Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?
Outsourcing is a very tricky situation. On the one hand it is the most cost effective way to do business. Employees are often the biggest expense at a business, and hiring contract or outsourced workers is a great way to minimize this cost.
On the other hand, outsourcing workers cedes a certain degree of control. A problem I have encountered in the past is that if I only use workers when I need them (on an irregular, part-time basis), this doesn't guarantee that they will have future availability. Several times I have wanted to start a large project, but the resources I have used in the past are suddenly busy with another client. If they had worked for me full time this wouldn't be a problem, so you must be cognizant of this trade-off.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
We market exclusively through social media networks. At first our effort was primarily trial and error. We tried a lot of things, including Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, and YouTube and made many mistakes. More recently we have found that the only way to conduct a successful social media campaign is through a coordinated effort. It is necessary to have a single message that you are disseminating across multiple platforms.
As an example, when we are introducing a new workout on the site, or promoting a new video, we create a single marketing plan and then leverage that plan across all social media networks. We promote the same content on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube (at the same time). The effect is that each of these outlets help to reinforce our message. Instead of spreading a small message to one outlet, we are spreading a larger message to multiple outlets. The effect is seen not just in our social media presence, but also in search engines results. We have seen a significant increase in our search engine placement since we conducted this type of coordinated campaign.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Financial planning is the most important element of starting a business. Individuals need to make sure that they have adequate capital to fund the business, as well as the necessary financing to support themselves while the business is not making money. Businesses nearly always take longer than expected to get up and running, so entrepreneurs need to make sure they have an adequate cash cushion that can keep them going.
Excellent advice, Greg. Thank you for taking the time to share it with our readers at Gaebler.com.