Meet Nathan Chan. Founder of Foundr Magazine, which is a monthly digital media publication and brand focussing on entrepreneurship. This is his entrepreneurial story.
Where did you get the idea for your business?
I’d always wanted to start a business but I didn’t know where to begin. I’d read a lot of business books and business-related magazines, like Entrepreneur, Fast Company and Forbes. But I found it difficult to relate to those magazines. So, I thought: what better way to find out what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur than to create a publication about entrepreneurship?! That is, to really tackle the need that I felt was in the marketplace, I had to create something that I myself would really want to read, and which I’d identified as not currently existing. There wasn’t a single publication in the entrepreneurial space for early-stage startup founders, young entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners. And that’s how I got the idea and just fell into Foundr. It’s evolved ever since.
How did you get your business started?
I started by purchasing off-the-shelf publishing software that allowed me to publish Foundr. That was the first step that I took: I made an investment in not only starting the business but also in myself. I knew that if I purchased this software I wouldn’t want to waste a couple of grand because I didn’t actually have that much money at the time. So, I threw my hat over the fence: I made myself financially accountable to get started by purchasing this magazine publishing software. Then, I started to form a global team around the world: editors, writers and designers. And from there, I launched our first issue.
What lessons have you learned so far on your business journey?
There have been so many with Foundr. One day I’ll have to write a book about it! Probably the biggest ones that come to mind include:
- Focus. This is extremely important. If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you have to be so focussed on solving that one problem.
- Be the best. Whatever marketplace you’re in – whatever niche or group of individuals you are serving – you have to be the best. You have to bead in on your craft and become so damned good that people will buy your product or service.
- Product and marketing. You want to spend 90 per cent of your time on your product/service and marketing. You want to find leverage, however you can, to focus on these.
- Urgency. I’ve learnt along my business journey the importance of urgency. In everything I do, I’m trying to move as fast as possible. Not to the point that I put crap out into the marketplace. Because Foundr is a content powerhouse, I never put out crap. I have high standards for the quality of work that we put out there and the content. But, I’m always trying to move extremely fast, and I’m always trying to ship or launch or test.
- Testing. Testing is massive: you never know if something’s going to work until you test it. So, I’m always running tests. For example, when we launched our new website I was testing the home page call to action above the fold. Do we give away a free Richard Branson issue? Or do we ask for people to sign up for our newsletter? We split tested the Foundr site with 2 variations depending on where you came from. Testing is massively important.
How important for you has it been to have a mentor?
Having a mentor is a game changer. If it wasn’t for my mentors, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m very, very privileged that I’m always learning from my mentors. This has really helped me accelerate Foundr. These aren’t mentors who are going to say: “What you are doing is great, but you need to do this”. They are actually very real with me and say: “Nathan, you’re running a cottage business, and this is what you need to do to take it to the next level”. So, they are very direct. Sometimes, you just need to be pushed to take things to the next level. That was the big takeaway that I had about a year ago when I caught up with one of my mentors. You want mentors who will push you in the right direction and who will challenge you. I think that’s the most important thing about mentoring.
What are your top three tips for starting a business?
- Validate the concept before you’ve even launched. You can do this in many, many different ways, including crowdfunding on Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
- Look for a problem to solve. Then get out there and ask people about how to best solve it for them. Don’t just think up a business idea and assume it’ll be the next best thing since sliced bread. You really, really have to find out if it’s something that people want. You can only do this by speaking with people and being very focused on the problem.
- Don’t worry about funding. If you’ve never started a business before and think that you need funding or capital to start your business, then you’ve already lost. I’ll say it again: don’t worry about funding. Just try to get out there and get something into the marketplace like I did with Foundr. And read The Lean Startup. That book is a game changer. Once you do, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
The website that was most influential in your journey towards launching your business?
Website: Smart Passive Income
Reason: Smart Passive Income is a great place to for beginners. It’s got heaps of valuable content and a great podcast.