Meet internet pioneer Jeannie Novak, as she shares her story of starting Indiespace, a creative professionals consulting firm.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Indiespace focuses on managing projects, providing education/training, and marketing the work of primarily independent creative professionals (musicians, filmmakers, game developers, authors, artists, performers). Most projects are created in multi-user virtual environments with groups of employees and contractors distributed throughout the country. The exception is the highly successful Game Development Essentials book series, which is primarily a "tangible" product but contains digital components.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I was behind-the-scenes at a few major media companies in film/tv/music production, development, and artist management – while simultaneously composing and performing music.
Where did you get the startup money?
Funded out-of-pocket for the first 5 years – followed by angel funding.
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
Initially, IUMA, Music Blvd, CDNow and other online music retailers. Most of these companies are now out of business. We've evolved into more of a project management and marketing consulting company that focuses specifically on independent creative professionals; no major competitors in this area as of now.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
Since we were pioneers in the area of web-based business, we had to learn to be generalists and build everything from scratch. The phone company didn't even know what a T1 line was at the time and had to do a joint venture with a competing company in order to install one in my spare bedroom! I remember being surprised at how often I needed to speak in public at conferences and other events about what we were doing to people who had little grasp of the Internet; this prepared me for the company's later educational focus. We were also accosted by people who either desperately wanted to get involved in what we were doing (without necessarily understanding it) or who were threatened by the prospect of being "replaced" by the Internet. It has been a wild ride.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Since we were one of the only games in town in the "early days," we responded sometimes too quickly to perceived market needs by creating new business features and services (e.g., web hosting, custom products). This was highly reactive, and it diluted our vision.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
We maintain close, ongoing relationships with thousands of clients, customers, and colleagues. We are also experts at anticipating areas of growth in social media, as well as both online and game-based technologies.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Don't necessarily try to be first to market – even if you're actually the first. Make sure you analyze market needs and see if there are other semi-successful companies out there that are serving the market you want to capture. How can these existing business models be improved upon? Also, don't get over-zealous and use the "kitchen sink" approach when identifying your market and products/services. Focus on one product or service at a time and perfect your ability to create and promote it.
Thank you Jeannie for taking the time to share your valuable advice with Gaebler.com readers.