Molly Quarles founded SproutLaunch in 2009 in Richmond, Virginia.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
SproutLaunch is the only online source for good deed inspiration that rewards its users. When a visitor completes a good deed, he or she can fill out a brief form to be entered into the weekly random drawing. Each week, five or more good-deed doers receive a gift card or other prize, provided by site sponsors. Users can also submit their own good deed ideas and earn rewards if their idea is featured on the site.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I decided to launch SproutLaunch in December 2009 in an attempt to encourage kindness in the United States. I think we all seem to get wrapped up in our own lives and forget that we can each do one good deed every day to help focus on others. This new goal of completing one good deed each day has changed my life. I have a new drive to help others and a new happiness within myself that I didn't realize I could find. The fact that I have been able to turn this passion into a business far exceeds any dream I had about being a business owner.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
This is my first business, and I currently maintain my other full-time job as Director of Operations with Madison+Main, Advertising & New Media.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
- Research, research, research. You can do many things yourself without having to spend extra money. It will take more time to teach yourself, but it's worth it in the end when you aren't staring at a pile of bills you can't pay. That way, you can focus on the important things about getting your business started versus how you will pay the bills tumbling in the door.
-Utilize social media, but make sure you aren't just blasting your message. You need to engage and target people who will benefit from your business versus just blasting it to everyone (that's just plain spam!).
-Sign up for HARO, it is free and offers plenty of chances for you to get your business out there in front of people.
-Smile and take a deep breath. You are going to be very busy so make sure you jump into something you love, not just something to make money.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
Yes! Social marketing has been the reason of my business has had success to date. All SproutLaunch visitors have come to the site through free online sources such as Twitter, Facebook and Craigslist. In addition, social media such as Twitter has introduced me to many reporters who I have been able to contact to discuss public relations opportunities. I would never have met them if it weren't for social media! As an extra benefit, I have met many like minded individuals that I never would have met without social media. I can confidently say that without social media, my business would not succeed.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
Being customer-service oriented at all times. I respond to each good deed-doer individually, thank them for their participation and send them back a personalized response based on their submission. Originally I had planned on auto-responses, but decided against it because I am a firm believer that people appreciate the personalized contact. I also make sure to include that I am always looking for new ideas and feedback. I want anyone who comes across SproutLaunch to know that it is a work in progress that can always be molded to be better.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I realized it would be hard work, but I never thought it would be this rewarding. I know people aren't specifically doing good deeds because of SproutLaunch, but the fact that I get daily submissions about good deeds going on out there in the world makes me feel a bit spoiled!
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Go for it! Being that my business is a bit different from the typical, if anyone else out there wanted to start a similar business to encourage kindness, I would highly recommend it. The other piece of advice is to do your research before you pay lots of money on items you can do yourself. I started my business for less than $1000 and am so thankful I am not starting out in debt. As your business grows, your needs will too. Trying to have everything top of the line when you start out may just dig your business into a hole too far to come out of so early in your business venture.
Well Molly, you did your good deed today sharing your business experiences with aspiring entrepreneurs. Thank you!