Last year, I wrote this blog post on the eight things I learned in my first year of running our business. It seems only fitting that I share my learnings from this past year because WHAT A YEAR it has been. One thing I won't touch on though is the impact the pandemic had on our business because we haven't been forced to pivot as much -- yet. Everything I said last year still holds true, so be sure to read that first, if you haven't already.
1. DELEGATE - During the first year, it was just me and my brother -- and in many ways, it still is. In the past year though, we've finally been able to hire an Office Manager (oh BTW, we have a teeny tiny office now!) who helps fulfill orders and some admin work. This was really crucial for our growth because my brother kept getting bogged down with the minutiae of orders, but having help allowed him to focus on more strategic level work. Whenever you delegate work though, it's equally important to communicate your expectations early and clearly to avoid disappointment. (Remember, no one can read your mind besides you). And believe me, I KNOW how difficult it is parting ways with your baby that you know inside out, but once you realize how much it frees up your time and mind, you'll be more inclined to trust others to take on even more work.
2. QUALITY OVER QUANTITY - During my first year, I was somewhat hyperfocused on ensuring I was posting content on a semi-regular basis. That changed in the past year for two reasons: one, I just didn't have that many photos to share. I do one professional photo shoot a year and I get a couple dozen great shots (if I'm lucky) because working with kids is always challenging. Secondly, more importantly, when I posted genuine quality content (be it photos, screenshots of DMs, user generated content, etc.), it always performed better than something I felt forced to post for the sake of playing into Instagram's AI.
3. GIVEAWAYS SHOULD BE MEANINGFUL - I've done six giveaways in the past eight months, but no two were truly alike. While one sought to raise awareness for IVF, and was specifically meant to benefit women undergoing the difficult journey, another giveaway was designed to spotlight small businesses founded by South Asian men, in honor of Father's Day. My most popular giveaway to date, however, has been the one in collaboration with an artist who created a replica of our Baby Krishna using unconventional materials (wood, nails, and string). The success of a giveaway is measured on the number of valid entries you receive, which is only feasible if you offer something that truly gets people excited to win.
4. GIFT YOUR PRODUCTS THOUGHTFULLY - I keep a running list of people I want to gift our products to because word of mouth is the quickest, and often the most effective, form of marketing. But I don't necessarily reach out to everyone all at once. Think about gift recipients in terms of the timing in their lives -- did someone just have a baby or announce their pregnancy? Did someone just move into a new home? Does someone have a big event coming up? If they don't have a use for it themselves, might they be able to gift it to someone else instead? Think about ways in which your product/service could become useful during these times for them, and thus, more likely to genuinely share it with their followers. And speaking of followers, don't just focus on the big influencers with tens or hundreds of thousands of followers (I'm lucky if they even respond to me). They will likely spend no more than 10 seconds giving you a shout out, compared to smaller account who will put much more care and thought into presenting your product.
5. PAID ADS - They work! I have the data to prove it. I didn't begin doing paid ads until late Summer of 2019, and didn't begin understanding how to REALLY run them until Spring of 2020. I just never took the time to optimize them until recently so don't do what I did, unless if you like learning from mistakes the hard way. I have some ads that are "always on" and some that I switch up depending on select holidays so that the copy/imagery better resonates with the time of the year.
6. GO BEYOND YOUR PRODUCT - I touched on this in my blog post last year as well, but this concept became really concrete for me this year with the launch of the #TheologyThursday series. Just as our brand takes a really playful approach to introducing the Hindu religion to children, I wanted to extend that same lightheartedness and accessibility to adults as well. This series allows me to deliver content that's "on brand," yet completely unrelated to my products. People are innately curious; the key is to tap into that curiosity with interesting content they deem to be both educational and entertaining.
7. IT'S A DOG EAT DOG WORLD - This is going to sound harsh but I'll say it because perhaps many won't: no one truly cares whether your business fails or succeeds. (And by no one, I mean no one besides you, your family and your loyal customers). Everyone else is primarily focused on their own growth, their own well-being, their own priorities. People will use you when they need you, but you and your brand are not above anyone. Ultimately you, and only you, are responsible for the success and/or failure of your business.
8. DRAW INSPIRATION FROM ALL INDUSTRIES - I love seeing what brands in unrelated industries like beauty and fashion are doing to market themselves, and pivot in times of the Coronavirus. Even though our products are completely different and we cater to a different set of needs, I love being able to see if I can apply any of their successful methodologies into my own business. For example, I recently saw Live Tinted sending their products in PR boxes, which made me think our approach to creating our own PR boxes. Your competitors may be limited to a single industry, but your inspiration should never be.
9. DEMONSTRATE DIFFERENT USE-CASES - Before I shared photos like this and this and this, people may have never thought to dress their babies up in a crochet set that matches their beloved Baby Ganesh or Baby Hanuman (and soon, Baby Krishna). Look, I didn't invent the concept of newborn shoots, or the idea of dressing them up in cute little clothes. But when you begin envisioning your product in these common behaviors, it's easier to gain adoption for your product. Similarly, when multiple people shared their personal stories of how Baby Ganesh or Baby Hanuman has accompanied them or their loved ones during medical visits or hospital stays, it served as another use-case for our product that extended well beyond the playroom we always envisioned.
I can keep going but I'll wrap it up for now. I have a feeling this list is going to keep getting longer and longer each year I do this. I can already tell year 3's learnings is going to involve dealing with inventory management and warding off copycats.
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Modi Toys is a children's brand of toys and books inspired by ancient Hindu culture. We exist to spread joy and to spark curiosity in the next generation through our innovative soft plush toys, illustrated children's books and free learning resources. Our weekly Theology Thursday series covers a wide range of topics rooted in Hinduism to help us better understand the origins of traditions, the symbolic meaning of rituals, and the stories behind Hindu holidays and festivals. The more we can understand "the why" behind this 4,000 year ancient religion, and make sense of it in this modern age, the greater we can appreciate and preserve our rich Hindu culture. While we take great care in thoroughly researching the information presented, we may occasionally get some things wrong. We encourage a healthy and open dialogue so we can learn together. Please leave a comment below or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to address any concerns.