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Vocabulary of a Start-Up

August 2, 2020, my partner Dawn pitched an idea to me. “Hey – I have an idea,” can either be a beginning to a fun adventure or the start of a horror movie plot. The jury is still out on which way this will go! 

In the summer of 2020, I had been looking at PhD programs around me, to get myself motivated to stop being insular in the time of Covid-19 and to try to invest my time in something worthwhile while we waited for things to ease up a bit in the world. During this period, my brother – in – law had a relapse of an illness. June and July were taken up with worry, trips outside of our own Covid bubble and ultimately he passed away. I had helped to care for him in his illness in 2018 so it was and is a heavy loss. My husband Michael and I were feeling this this loss deeply and I began to feel that I needed something along the lines of graduate school or an equally intense distraction to help me along. Who knew a distraction would turn into a start up? 

Start ups have a vocabulary all their own. The words I have been learning have some meaning to me that maybe not be what they actually are. Let’s take a look at some of the words and terms I have been learning in these first months:

Funnels: Fraternity parties in the 80’s had this fun activity where you would have a funnel, a hose attached to it and someone pouring an alcoholic beverage down it and into a person’s mouth. Of course . . . I was never involved in such a depraved activity. Shhhhhh Don’t you judge me. I have learned recently, that funnels in our start up are more based around getting you all to this website and hopefully will get you to a place that will catch your interest. Hope you are thirsty! 

Driving traffic: When I lived in China, our driver, Mr. Chen had limited English . . . but he did know the brilliant and descriptive phrase “very traffical”. Driving traffic in the biz is just leading people in a variety of ways to your site where they can buy courses. We would like it to become very traffical, please. 

Monitization: The reason start-ups start up. It is how they make money and ultimately offer freedom and fun to their start-uppers. However the road to get there is NOT filled with freedom, but we do have our share of fun. 

Relaunch: I thought we would launch the business and make tweaks along the way to adjust as we grow. Turns out that is not how it works. We have been in business less than 3 months and we have had to redo our website (thanks Heather!) or change the place it lives twice! This had more to do with volume, the ability to scale-up, and the goals of our marketing firm than the quality or design of our first site. It was a big surprise!

Woo Commerce: I went to high school and my undergrad in a small Massachusetts city named Worcester. We call it the Woo – which we always say like “woooooooo!” (Shout out to Holy Name ’83 and Clark University 87 wooooo!). Every time Heather or Dawn talk about Woo Commerce, I silently scream WOOOOOO! to myself. It is also the place that processes the payments for courses . . . so it is where we make money – so clearly, my “WOOOOO!” is appropriate!

Incubator: Living in the country a bit outside of Boston, we of course, jumped on the home-chicken-coop craze and we actually owned a real incubator. So, despite its business meaning as a place where start-ups can sort of safely scale-up, it makes me think of cute and fuzzy baby chicks. We don’t have a safe place to scale-up – we are out here on our own, but if anyone knows any incubators to help us hatch into a bigger chicken, we would love to hear about it! 

Pivot: People in my age and a bit younger can only see the mental image of Ross, from Friends screaming, “PIVOT!” as they tried to bring a sofa up curving and bending stairs. It does make me privately giggle a bit. Look it up. Really. You’ll thank me. Pivoting in business is the ability to quickly contort one’s self or one’s organization to face in a different direction. It is a valuable thing to be able to flip, flop, or twist as the winds-of-change in growing a start up start to blow. Dawn, Heather, and I are the QUEENS of the pivot

Google Meet: The first place we held classes. It was free and worth just about all of that price. Google Meet is also the reason we now pay a handsome price to hold our courses on the Zoom platform. Google Meet is also the reason Zoom’s stock price is through the roof. That’s all I have to say about that. 

Optimization: This doesn’t have anything to do with optimism. Although my partners and I have optimism that this idea will have legs and will have great success. Optimization is making the most of what you have in reference to our business and our writing on the site. Optimization is finding the simplest solution to a challenge. We face these optimization challenges with optimism. 

Bootstrap: I always think of Laura Ingalls Wilder when I hear this. She is the writer of my favorite childhood stories – the Little House on the Prairie books. Does she actually ever say that maxim, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps?” I don’t know – but her family certainly did as much as they settled out in the prairies with nothing but their wagon of goods and their wits. Bootstrapping as it applies to business is funding your start up among the partners. It’s what we are doing. Our investors are US – with our own money and our own sweat! We are out here settling the in the wild with our wagon of ideas and our wits. 

There you have it — a bit of a vocabulary lesson and a peek into the dark recesses of my brain where free association can be fun.

Did you learn anything new? Let us know in the comments.

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