Introducing Sweetcards

Late last night, while the east coast was snug in their beds dealing with the after effects of Juno’s much-publicized winter wrath,  Brennan and I both turned the keys to mutually authorize our company’s launch into the world. After 24 non-consecutive hours over five days, Sweetcards is officially live and ready to serve up Los Angeles-themed greeting cards to Los Angelenos everywhere.

There was much rejoicing.

Though it is with some tongue in cheek that I say we finally launched, since we each spent a total of 24 hours on the project (inspired by Richard Lazazzera’s guide to building a t-shirt company in 24 hours), I am sincere in my feeling of accomplishment, especially since it did take twice as long as we initially estimated. We are both still amateurs in the art of project length estimation, it seems.

On that note, I was listening to Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less a few nights ago and the author Greg McKeown makes the point that humans are just terrible at estimating, whether they are trying to figure out project lengths or running errands, so I’m not alone in my weakness. McKeown’s rule of thumb is to always take your original estimate and add 50% to it. Even if we had we done that, we still would’ve been about 6 hours short of our original goal.

Still, his point is well taken, especially since I’d just lived through the results of estimating poorly, and would prefer it in the future.

The final tally of the hours spent on this endeavor, and brief list of what happened when:

Saturday (10 hours):
+ Brainstormed card ideas for every neighborhood in Los Angeles
+ Settled on eCommerce site (Shopify) and drop shipper (Printful)
+ Decided to abandon original 12-hour plan and adopt a much-improved 24-hour plan

Sunday (3 hours):
+ Created the 400+ product pages on our Shopify account, and filled out the static pages

Tuesday (7 hours):
+ Created the 400+ card designs

Wednesday (4 hours):
+ Coordinated all of the product pages on Shopify with the corresponding items on Printful.
+ Futzed with the website designs, created mock-ups and tested order forms

We front-loaded our creative work, then slogged through the bitter repetitions of clicking and connecting design documents to the various online services serving as our store front and drop shipper, waited through uploads and did battle with various WiFi catastrophes.

All in all, it feels great, but it doesn’t feel done.  It’s a complicated feeling, because if we were just to call it a day at this point, we’d have accomplished the original task of launching a greeting card company. Having gotten this far, though, we don’t think that’s enough. Ending the project with a launch feels hollow, so we’re extending our efforts.

We are going to commit two more weeks to marketing Sweetcards, testing several different social media strategies, implementing Google and Facebook Ads, bugging bloggers, and imploring friends to make us their go-to for lovely Los Angeles-themed greeting cards.

I’m not entirely sure what to expect at this point. We should probably set another goal. Breaking even is a decent one. So is selling enough cards to take Sweetcards to the next level in quality, or to fund another endeavor entirely.

There’s probably not as much worth in navel-gazing when that energy could be dedicated toward promoting this project. And with Connect A Book coming down the pipeline in a few weeks, it’s best to treat this all as a great, practically risk-free experience, and apply the lessons learned toward the next, slightly bigger endeavor.

So here are four things I learned by launching Sweetcards.

+ Estimate at least 50% more time than you expect. Make those estimates for each individual task and add those together, rather than lobbing one estimate about the project as a whole. Yes, all you Thinking, Fast and Slow fans, that means using your System 2 to break it all down and not succumbing to the easy way out.

+ Internalize your purpose beforehand. Our purpose was to launch a site. Though we added to that purpose a 12-hour limit, it didn’t take away from what we wanted to accomplish. Having that guiding purpose was invaluable in helping us decide to focus on quality, and we still reached our goal in a ridiculously short amount of time.

+ Do work. Work as smart as you can (taking advantage of Shopify’s import products feature saved us hours), but realize that it will be work.  If you have someone who wants to do work with you, that’s all the better. I feel very lucky to have a partner-in-crime who was just as willing to knock out a crazy amount of card designs and do the same amount of dirty work that I was willing to do.

+ Maintain momentum. The first day was great for setting us up with momentum, and when we oriented our sights toward a Wednesday launch, we were able to move toward that. That being said, momentum can be a finite resource when you’re in a sprint. Push deadlines for too many days, and the work suffers, and the spirit drops. Finding a way to monitor and display progress is crucial.

And with that, we shift gears and move onward.

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