5 Startup Lessons Learned from EcoBold

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By Steffany Boldrini (Founder, Ecobold) My startup Ecobold is the “etsy” for natural, non-toxic and sustainable products. We highlight one seller a day with a large discount.

I always wanted to build a marketplace where people could find the best products for their health. It shocks me that so many things in our shelves have ingredients that can cause cancer, autism, ADD, developmental toxicity, in between other things. I knew that there were sellers out there making fantastic products that are safe for our health and our families, so here we are.

I’ll share five tips that I’ve learned while building Ecobold and how it all started.

Lesson #1 -- It takes time to find the right co-founder.

It’s a problem that people think they’re the only ones going through, but it’s a common problem. It took me about 8 months to find mine, I met over 40 people, I could have “settled” with 5 of them, but I knew it wouldn’t be the right fit. Also, when you think that you found someone, work with them for at least a month before settling into anything. It’s normal to take 6 months to a year to find the right co-founder.

Try this: Focus on meetups specific to where your ideal co-founder would be, if you’re building a gaming starup, try to find them at a gaming event or meetup. Also I’ve seen a few founders post short term contract jobs on Craigslist. Once the contractor worked with them and started believing in the product and the person they’re working with, they became co-founders.

Lesson #2 -- N-e-v-e-r give up.

This might sound cliché but it’s so true. I have had hundreds of things happen where I could have easily given up, but that’s not how any successful company deals with hurdles that will inevitably come your way. Ecobold was supposed to be a marketplace from the get go, but after months looking for a co-founder I realized that finding one wouldn’t be easy, I cried for one night, then thought about how I could do this on my own. I decided to start doing video reviews of the products. I paid someone $200 to build a WordPress site, found a guy who had a camera and wanted to edit videos as practice, asked some companies if they wanted to send me samples and it all started.

After shooting about 20 videos over a three week period, the video guy said “whoops”. I said “oh no”. He had lost it all. So I bought my own camera, tripod, learned to edit videos and started doing my own videos. The site started getting some traction, manufacturers were now coming to me asking to be highlighted on the site, the Huffington Post wrote up a story, I then pitched at the co-founder meetup and finally found a co-founder.

Try this: When things are going wrong, take a break and think “How can we get over this?” instead of “Why is this happening to me again?” you’ll be amazed at the ideas you’ll come up with.

Lesson #3 -- Welcome the opportunities that knock in your door.

Coming in to Hacker Dojo one day, (my now friend) Larry Maloney tells me “You’re here all the time, you should apply for Founder Institute, I will recommend you, the application is due tomorrow and you’re coming with me to the Founder Showcase tonight.” I said “Ok that sounds great” (I had no idea what the program was, but it sounded important). I was traveling to China the next day at 8am, I hadn’t started packing and had a million things to do. I went to the showcase, Larry introduces me to Adeo Ressi and his wife Cindy, they say “you should apply”. I spent the night applying and shooting my application video, finished it at 5am, packed my stuff and went to the airport. No excuses. I got accepted a few days later.

Try this: When someone asks if anyone has any announcements to make at the end of a meetup or event, always go say something. You will be shocked at the number of people who will remember you, who will come talk to you and the things that will come out of that simple move.

Lesson #4 -- An incubator is a must.

After graduating from the Founder Institute, I highly recommend that anyone serious about their startup joins an incubator. You will learn what you’d learn by going through 2 or more startups. You will also meet fantastic mentors and have a great network of entrepreneurs going through the same things you’re going through. I warn you that this is not for everyone, it’s a lot of work. But as they say, it’s nothing harder than running your own company! Try these: Founder Institute, 500startups, AngelPad and, of course, Y Combinator.

Lesson #5 -- Being a woman doesn’t make a difference.

Once someone asked Kim Polese if she has ever felt that there were problems or discrimination throughout her career because she was a woman. She said something like “as long as you do your work, you won’t have any problems”. I agree with her 100%.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Steffany Boldrini is the Founder of Ecobold, a marketplace for natural, non-toxic and sustainable products. Steffany writes for the San Francisco Green Living Examiner, interviews companies at the Green Festival for the last three years, and holds a Climate Change Action Certification, among others. Steffany was recently called the "Rachel Ray of Green Living" by The Huffington Post. Follow her startup at @ecobold.