ICYMI: Conversations With... Bulletin COO on NYC Entrepreneurship Event Recap
On Wednesday evening, we teamed up with Bulletin to discuss the ins and outs of entrepreneurship in the city that never sleeps. Bulletin and Love Squad have a lot in common: we’re both women-run and women-founded; we both champion diversity; we’re both based in New York City; and we both want to facilitate important conversations to make important information accessible to all women. When we were planning this event, we knew we had to collaborate.
Ally Love, Founder and CEO of Love Squad, sat down with Ali Kriegsman, a co-founder and the COO of Bulletin, to share some insights and experiences on how to start and build a business. Here’s what we learned:
What is Bulletin?
Bulletin is a New York-based company with the aim of helping female-founded, female-focused brands that are born online access physical space.
The co-founders, Ali Kriegsman and Alana Branston, wanted to build the Etsy competitor, knowing how cumbersome and confusing it can be for brands to build online. They wanted to help small businesses unlock this very powerful commerce channel, and now that they have three brick and mortar locations (two in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn), they can help the brands on another level.
This all-women team also offers free programs in the spaces because they believe in the importance of helping women have these conversations without having to pay a high price tag for them.
Tips on Co-founding
Trust in your partner.
Ali and Alana were close friends both working for a software startup in New York and wanted to be more creative and have a less monotonous day to day work life. Their idea started as a side project, so money and equity weren’t the driving forces behind the relationship – they were a common goal and mutual respect. According to Ali, the two of them have a very “symbiotic relationship” where they don’t micromanage each other; they stay in their respective “lanes” and just have complete faith that the other is going to tackle the things she said she was going to get done.
Know your strengths.
Ali and Alana know what they’re each good at and they play to their strengths. Ali is a strong writer and has a knack for marketing, so she handles branding and pitching. Alana is great with logistics and optimizing every aspect of the business; she handles all of the real estate, legal research, outsourcing, etc. Ali sums it up this way: “She’s the ‘if we build it’ and I’m the ‘they will come.’”
Check your ego at the door.
You can’t be too stubborn or proud; if you’re going to have a business partner, you have to listen to and work with one another. “We’re all about listening to our brands, listening to our customers, and reacting together,” Ali stated about their relationship with their business. “If you’re not listening to your business, then you and your part will always have tension, because your customers are supposed to guide you and what you’re building, not the person next to you.”
Money, money, money. MONAYYYY!
Ali likes to be as transparent as possible about Bulletin’s early financial strategy because it’s a little more unconventional, proving that every small business has its own journey to success. Bulletin started off as a side project and Ali and Alana were positioned to fully fund it themselves. They were both earning quarterly commission checks from their sales jobs, and they stashed all that money away and when they hit $70,000, they felt ready to produce their first digital issue (because it was originally a digital platform) of Bulletin. Knowing this money wouldn’t last them too long, they also applied for a small business grant (one that doesn’t exist anymore), on a whim and got it! Every business has a turning point, and Ali called this the “turning point” for Bulletin.
It is important to stress the reality of circulating any money you make back into the business to help it grow. Ali likes to interview the creatives Bulletin works with to learn how they started their businesses, and she shared a quick story with our audience about the artist behind Made Au Gold – one of Bulletin’s best-selling brands. Lea, the artist, was a French immigrant and invested her own revenue into her brand. She had designed everything for her wedding from the invitations to the menus and people started to ask if she could help with events they were hosting. The only way she could sell these designs legally was on Etsy so she made an account. However, she couldn’t afford paper; she sold access to the PDFs so her customers could print them out themselves. Once she had enough money, she bought paper; then, once she had more money she bought a gold foil press. She had to invest her profit back into her business, so the gratification was delayed, but it helped in the long run quite a bit.
At the end of the day, you gotta do your research. How have others built their brands financially? Are there third parties you can reach out to for help? Read as much as you can; how your business is funded affects how your business grows, but there is no perfect way to do things, because every startup has a different background. Like Ally said, “If you’re looking for information, then you’ll find an answer, and it’ll lead you down a path to get you to where you would go, where you’ll start to write your story.”
What do you like to do and what are you good at?
Ally discussed all the hats she wears and how she decided on what she wanted her career to look like: “I sat down and jotted down what I am good at and what I love to do and figured out where they intersect.” She knew she was good at talking and connecting with people and loved being in front of an audience, so she decided to become a host. She took hosting classes and then emailed every single person in her Gmail contact list, most of whom she didn’t even know, telling them that she was now hosting events and to hit her up if needed.
She took time off from dancing and modeling and someone reached out and told her the Brooklyn Nets needed a host. This was a position she didn’t feel ready for, but she took a leap of faith and accepted the offer. She knew what she loved to do and was determined to find people that would pay her to do that thing.
At the end of the day, time is money. Yes, we all want to work on something we are passionate about, but we got bills to pay! Something to keep in mind: when you have your own business, the return on your time spent working on that idea most likely won’t be immediate; it’ll be a delayed return and that’s OK. There is a lot of delayed gratification in the startup world.
Ally recommended setting aside three hours a day, at whatever time of day you work best, to work on your craft. She read in one of the million books she has her nose in that three hours is the most time we can stay efficiently focused on something, so between two and three hours a day is your sweet spot. If you spend two fantastic hours on your craft, that is time well spent, so it aside and get after it!
Don’t be afraid to get vulnerable.
Think about every time you’re walking down the street and someone tries to give you something or sell you something. A vast majority of people don’t pay attention or say no like it’s a reflex. People don’t like when people are too salesperson-like, because often times it seems forced and impersonal. So break down that wall and be a human. Ali discussed going to other retail stores and asking other brands to beta test or offer feedback on a business model she and her team is working on. People like to be helpful and feel like an authority and be flattered, so it’s important to engage - look the other person in the eye and tell them why you are asking them to help you out on said project. Make that human connection, because when people fall in love with the people behind a brand, they’re that much more inclined to support that brand.
Ally discussed the same idea when it comes to promoting and pitching Love Squad partnerships. Love Squad is about the people: “It’s not necessarily just women empowerment; it’s the women and men who are empowering it.”
Both Ally and Ali admitted social media can and should be a whole other event, but it was discussed briefly on Wednesday. Bulletin and Love Squad are both based in New York so Instagram is the best platform for offering the brand experience to those who do not have access to the physical spaces or events.
You need to be where everyone is, and frankly, everyone is on Instagram. Providing the accessibility is a game changer because you can connect with people you can’t connect with otherwise. So engage, respond to comments and messages, and do everything consistently.
Good things come to those who wait.
Lastly, it is so important to be patient. We know, it’s a heck of a lot easier said than done. We want the product made and for people to start loving it as soon as possible, but again, there is a lot of delayed gratification when it comes to entrepreneurship. If you believe in your product and work hard towards your goal, it will come.
We are fed the anomaly all the time. There is always a new feature on a new incredible founder who built an empire from the ground up in no time at all. Don’t compare yourself! That is not typical. If it’s taking long, don’t get too caught up in that timeline. Have faith in yourself and in your brand.
Thank you to everyone who came to this event. We are still on a high from how inspiring it was and in awe of how extraordinary you all are. Thank you to Bulletin for providing the most aesthetically pleasing and welcoming space to have this discussion in, and to Ali for sharing her boss wisdom with our audience. We are eternally grateful for every amazing squad member and every partner; without your love and support, Love Squad wouldn’t be Love Squad.
Best of luck with all of your future endeavors. Now, go boss up!
See you next month! *wink wink*