MyCreativeShop founder Jason Frueh on his business journey with CHILI publish At SPICYtalks18 we put Jason Frueh on our stage to talk about his business success. He candidly shared how a business of just 2 people managed to make a living and then some, just by learning through failure. An entrepreneurial marvel that to this day resonates with those he inspired in Amsterdam. We get a lot of questions from others looking for their sweet spot, so we asked Jason to share some additional insights in his story. You can watch the presentation here:
Jason Frueh: When I started MyCreativeShop, it was less about the specific idea and more about the challenge of becoming a successful entrepreneur rather than an employee. Some parameters for my business idea were that it had to be scalable, automated and with little to no physical inventory. This concept of online design seemed to fit the bill so I went for it. I didn’t know anything about the design or print world, but I felt that there was a spark there that we could run with.
Today, that spark is kept alive by seeing all of the possibilities. In the online space, you have the opportunity to compete for customers worldwide, taking on the biggest and smallest players all at the same time. It’s really fascinating to think that a small company of two people can try to compete against a company of hundreds - and sometimes win! The challenge of trying to stay small, super-efficient and very profitable - while still growing rapidly - is something that still drives us. Loving what we do daily and still aspiring to do more by what inspires us – that’s what keeps us going.
Like any business, we’ve had our fair share of highs and lows. Technology-wise, our success has been building on the foundation provided by CHILI publish (and I don’t say that lightly). We often comment that we couldn’t be as efficient and as profitable if we had to worry about the development of a design tool from the ground up as well. Having that support behind us and knowing that the CHILI publish team is always working to improve their product, which is one of the cores of our business, is just awesome. We hit it off instantly with the team, product and the whole community, and we keep evolving in the same direction. To have a tech partner with such a vast knowledge pool at our beck and call, is very reassuring to us. We’ve become one big team, without us having to invest in more people. That’s what extends the service into a community, not just a partnership.
Business wise, our biggest success arose from failure, to be honest. It came to us through understanding the correct business model to deploy. We’ve experimented with nearly everything ($5-$15 PDF downloads, $5 monthly subscriptions, $49 annual subscriptions, not offering print, trying to primarily offer print, etc) and some of these failed miserably. The importance of having the correct business model can’t be overstated.
Our biggest lesson? If you are going to try to be super small and efficient, you better know everything about your business and not rely too heavily on outside help. After all, nobody will ever care more for your business than you do. For me, that meant becoming the developer instead of outsourcing development or even hiring it internally. Hands down, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that having the ability to move really fast is critical to success. We recently worked with a large SEO firm and they commented to us that what we got done in three days something that takes a lot of their customers four-to-six weeks to complete. To me that’s the best validation of all the energy, dedication and commitment we deliver daily.
Question is, would I do it all over the same way again? Most of the dumb things we’ve done came with a good lesson that was worth learning. Right now, I’d be more decisive in determining what to outsource vs what you do yourself. If it’s key to your small business, becoming an expert in something might pay off more than you can imagine.
This was what we wanted from the start: to stay small and efficient with very little overhead cost. It came at the expense of sometimes having to grow a bit slower than we’d like. But it still feels right.