Hello ! Who are you and what are you working on?
Hey, my name is Zoe Chew. I'm a product builder in tech and design. My app has been featured on Product Hunt #1, Lifehacker, tech blogs in 7 countries, and 6x Hacker Noon's Noonies nominations 2020.
I'm working as a consultant with startup clients across the US/APAC remotely. I help early-stage teams, post-product tech startups in product communication and user base discovery.
At the same time, I'm starting a NewCo, building Product2kit, and running a newsletter related to "building & launching" startup MVPs & fast prototyping.
Previously, I started as a digital marketing consultant in paid Ads, content marketing and online strategy.
What motivated you to get started with? How did you come up with the idea?
One of my biggest motivations to get into entrepreneurship is being able to create values in the marketplace using our skills and to create opportunities for ourselves and others by building something people are willing to pay for it.
Since I'm working on multiple projects, I would like to break down the inception of the business idea for each project.
Consulting business—I started doing remote consulting with tech companies across the West and Asia after I was approached by startup founders who are reaching out (based on my Product Hunt #1 result) asking if I can help them with product and community strategy. This business was started based on the inbound feedbacks and I realized there's a demand in the tech space where companies need help in communicating better in product marketing and finding user base/go-to-market in the early stage.
Product2kit—I started this business as a weekend experiment. The idea came from my "Zoe's Build & Launch" newsletter that shares step-by-step product building processes from ideation, problem, solution, building, and launching. I turned this newsletter idea into a productized business model. That's when I started designing no-code apps and sell them as digital products. In addition to the product line, I have also productized consulting calls where customers can request 1:1 session and I'll help them map out the product building process using no-code tools.
Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?
I pivoted my solo founder career in 2019 from selling digital marketing services to non-tech SMB locally to building tech products and working with remote and globally distributed startup clients.
It all started with my decision to get into tech, learn to code, build an app "I Lazy to Read", launched on Product Hunt #1 and Lifehacker. That product launch has become my door opener to start a product-focused consulting business and Product2Kit that sells cloneable no-code templates to build startup MVP and app.
What has been your biggest failure or struggle?
The biggest failure in my entrepreneurial career is not knowing how to position myself in the marketplace. One of the biggest mistakes, when I started my 1st consulting business in 2016, is to act as an agency when I'm just a solo founder myself. I was trying to be an all-round expert and offer multiple wide-ranged marketing services. As a result, I was struggling to close client deals because they were confused by the jargon-filled value proposition and non-specific targeting.
And what has been your biggest achievement or success?
Here's the breakdown of my success for each project
"I Lazy to Read" app—Launched on Product Hunt #1 with 600+ upvotes in one day, featured on Lifehacker and tech blogs from 7 countries.
Consulting business—Spent $0 on advertising and closed all client deals through inbound leads and content marketing.
Product2kit—First $282 sales in total as a weekend project (by hyperlinking this site on my personal site) even before announcing and launching the idea to the public.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
For both my consulting business and Product2kit, I have stacked these components for my go-to-market strategy, i.e. Content, Audience, and Community.
I write content around my product building expertise and share it on Medium, Twitter, LinkedIn and Substack. This type of content has worked well for me in getting potential clients and build the audience base who share a similar persona for Product2lkit. It's also important to maintain an active online presence and build a social community on Twitter.
As for retaining customers for the consulting business, it's important to maintain quality service as a consultant, strategize a pricing structure, build positive client relationships, and master synchronous and asynchronous communication when working remotely with far time zones.
Describe the process of launching the business.
In most project launches, I prioritized building an audience, finding out what I can offer and meeting the customer needs, nurture the audience relationships through content creation, and announcing the launch through social media posting.
Here are some of my primary marketing channels: Twitter, Medium, LinkedIn and Substack newsletter. I also build a personal brand using my personal website to establish social proofs and authority where potential customers can fact-check before any business transactions.
Did you use Betalist or PH or other Startup Launching Platform for Launching? How was that experience?
I have used Product Hunt to launch my side project "I Lazy to Read" that got ranked as Product Hunt #1 with 600+ upvotes within one day. As a follow-up event, I later found out my app has been featured on Lifehacker. For a prototype project like this, I didn’t spend months building the audience before I “feel” ready to hit the launch button. In fact, I launched my app to the public right after I deployed on Heroku. For more backstory, I have documented my in-depth Product Hunt launching stories.
What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
Service business model. My consulting business with US/APAC startup clients is primarily in the service business where I offer strategy and implementation services such as content creation, B2B sales, copywriting, market research, and user interviews.
Digital product model. Product2kit is a business that monetizes from selling no-code templates (mobile app and website landing page) and video courses.
Productized service model. 60 min 1:1 Product Session is a productized consulting call and it monetize through providing tailored advice about building products using no-code and the service is delivered through 1 hour Zoom call.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? What are your goals for the future?
It took me years to understand the difference between aiming for goals you really want to achieve vs. chasing after goals you think you should achieve—because it's "hot" or it makes you look cool if you do X. It's important to avoid chasing after an entrepreneurial path that is imposed on you by society, other people's opinions, or social media. In the end, playing your strength and passion will amplify your success rate than copying from someone else.
My goals for the future is to raise capital from customers with the current business, reinvest these capital to build a small team and work with people for a new startup project after validating the idea with product market fit. I want to be able to "graduate" my entrepreneurial career from being a solo founder handling tactical tasks (design, copywriting, coding) to an executive role working on high-level vision, strategy, negotiation and closing deals.
Let’s talk about your marketing strategy -- how do you market Product2kit and grow the service?
For my consulting business, I have used a personal website, content marketing and Twitter to generate inbound client leads. My process is to build a personal brand, showcase my work (portfolio, notable track record) and communicate clearly and specifically what kinds of companies I work with and the values I can offer to help them achieve their goals. I also write blog posts on Medium and share it across on social so that my work is discoverable to my potential clients and they know how to reach out to hire me. Fun fact: I never put my email online and only use a personal Gmail address for business communication. None of these has prevented me from running a profitable consulting business.
As for Product2Kit, I have relied on building a newsletter, growing an initial 1,500 email subscribers, and a 4,500 Twitter following. My process is to build an audience, create a brand around building startup prototyping, and use content marketing to offer my digital products. This business is attached to my personal brand, therefore, I also leverage my personal website to share some social proofs based on my past work and drive traffic to the Product2Kit website
Do you have a model to get product feedback? What’s your favorite way to get product feedback? Did product feedback help you get the results you hoped for ?
One of my favorite ways to get product feedback is to talk to users directly through 1:1 call and user interview. This has worked well for me throughout the product development stages: pre-product/ideation, prototyping and post-product. Some of these user conversations are related to understanding their challenges, how often does the problem occur, how they are solving using existing solutions, whether they have recommended the product to their friends recently, etc. Other product feedback mechanisms including survey forms and polls in email marketing campaigns.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
As someone who started in consulting and service business, one helpful tip I have learned about selling and closing deals is that you want to treat your prospect as a human and not a commodity. In other words, successful selling is NOT about persuading with facts and data. It's about helping and educating customers to make the best purchase decision. For example, you educate your prospect through content marketing, listening, and understanding—before you jump into offering your solutions.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Here are some of my go-to platforms that I use to run my business:
Meeting— Zoom, Whereby, Google Meet, Google Calendar
Collaboration— Notion, Miro, Google Drive, G Suite
Messaging— Slack, Gmail, Telegram
Nocode—Carrd, Glide, Airtable, Zapier, Google Form, Gumroad, Stripe, Loom, WordPress
Tech—Python, Django, Heroku, Rapid API
Analytics — Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager
Email — MailerLite, Substack
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I love reading books and it's always a wonderful feeling when you come across books that have helped you make decisions in life, work, or business. Here are 3 books that have shaped my career:
Without Their Permission by Alexis Ohanian. Some of my product building thought-processes came from this book. For example: ideation, ship MVP quickly, build something people want, and market your product to customers. I also learned the importance of building content, audience, and community on social and started using Twitter—this will amplify your marketing for your personal brand, product, or startup company.
The Dip by Seth Godin. This book has shaped my decision to quit projects or businesses that are no longer serving the purpose of my North Star or moving towards the long-term direction. I've learned that you have to be courageous to quit things that don't work and free up resources and energy to focus on projects that matter. As the book mentioned, however, you need to know when to persevere and don't quit when things get hard and rocky. It's about finding the balance.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I can't recommend enough this book for folks who are working as a maker, freelancer, creator, and innovator. This book has inspired me on how to access creativity and inspiration through affirmation and removing mental blocks. I've realized that creativity is the biggest component in helping me to make great content that gets shared; marketing campaigns that stand out from the noise and building product ideas that take off.
What’s your advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneur who are just starting out?
Learning by doing. The best way to get started is to start doing something—anything. For example: research, find inspiration, backlog business idea, list out people you want to learn from or start writing things that interest you. Do the same when you're stuck. It's better to build momentums from small wins than to wait for inspiration.
Figure out how to figure it out. Once you have a crystal clear direction or niche you want to start, find ways to hack things together in the fastest and cheapest way. For example, I use Carrd, Gumroad, PayPal, and Substack to build a digital shop in 3 hours. I put together the product, offering, landing page, and payment gateway without spending months coding it.
Ask, ask, ask. Reach out and ask to get your first paying customer. I got my first paying client for my remote consulting business by reaching out 1:1 over email, communicating my interest to work together, and pitch them how I can help them with their company goals. Don't fear asking for opportunities especially when you're just starting out and have limited marketing budget.