Essay on Entrepreneurship – Abhishek Garodia’s journey.
Entrepreneurship can mean different things to different people, for me it was an idea and my passion to see it come to life.
During mid-2011, while still studying for the MBA, I was in Philippines for an internship and later in Australia for an exchange-term. It was here that I saw how it was difficult for me to join a fitness studio as a temporary member – even if I wanted to take one KickBoxing class, I’d have to enter into a lengthy contract. Interestingly, at the other end, these same studios were struggling to acquire clients.
It got me thinking, if we could book a flight to another country so very easily or book a seat at a restaurant with a few clicks, why couldn't one do the same for fitness classes?
In wanted to validate this pain-point quickly. I asked my classmates, my friends and of course fitness studios. I also ended up participating in a startup competition where the feedback and validation was so positive that I never looked back. Thus was born PlayEnable – enabling people to play, no matter where they were.
So there I was, no team, no idea about eCommerce, not enough money, and certainly no idea about the fitness industry, especially not in UK. But that didn’t stop me because I had the desire and passion for to make things happen.
I got moving – I solicited the help of a techy classmate and hired a programmer in UK to start working on the project. At the other end, I put on a sales hat to try and speak to studios and get them on board when we would launch our platform.
I quickly found out that the industry was extremely resistant to change, especially the larger operators and so, I took this as an opportunity to start working with the smaller studios where we found our niche. At the other end, I was quickly running out of the money – a very frustrating and distressing situation for any entrepreneur. I explored every avenue possible until finally, I raised money via a small crowdfunding round. This entire ordeal turned out to be a blessing in disguise because, not only did I raise a bit of money but I also had on board a number of crowdfunders who later on helped my project both as customers and introducers.
Despite all this, we continued to have constant technical problems, issues with payments, issues with the team and difficulties raising the next round. But again this made me work harder, seek advice and meet some very interesting people along the way who I would have never met had I continued down a white-collared path. Every action that I took contributed towards making the product better, delighting the customer and improving company.
Over time, as the momentum kept moving, I was suddenly starting to get some interest from people who wanted to join PlayEnable, - classmates, people I didn’t know - All curious about startups but weren't quite sure what to do. We also got on board excellent advisors who have helped us tremendously with our journey.
Finally, I worked hard to get our sales efforts going and over the next year we were able to get more than 200 studios advertising on the platform and to get them to use out booking system. We now have five full time staff and four part timers – and it all started with just an idea.
My advice to other entrepreneurs:
1. Keep extremely simple goals and stick to them: If the goal today is to make $100, you will figure out all the ways to get there. It might be an invoice that is due or a potential customer who might convert if you give him/her a discount.
2. Your team is super important: You have to love to work with them and learn to see things from their side. Are they feeling like it is their project too? Why are they not pulling their weight? What can I do to empower them - these are questions to ask.
3. Many challenges are actually opportunities in disguise. When I found new competitors in the market, I decided to extend the olive branch to them and got them on as partners instead of wasting time competing with them.
4. Be genuinely kind to your customers and learn to go the extra mile, they are your greatest asset. A happy customer will brag about you, talk about you and will refer you to others.
5. Never be shy of asking: The only thing you might get is a no, but your upside is really high.
6. Don't sacrifice your personal and social life: Entrepreneurship can be very lonely - if you sacrifice this, you risk losing your supporters and indeed your source of motivation.
7. Finally, don't lose sight of your vision. You can pivot and change the path that will lead you there but never forget why you started in the first place.