Let’s be honest… we might fail

The title’s not lying, and neither am I. But before I get into that, I’d like to preface this post by saying that I believe in brutal honesty. The moment you can be honest with yourself is the moment you identify the opportunity to fix a problem. I questioned whether I wanted to write this and share these experiences, but I sense that at some point, somewhere, another entrepreneur my age will be in the same situation. I couldn’t help but feel that it was my job to provide some reassurance for their journey.

Without further ado, enjoy.

If someone were to come up to me right now and ask the question, “how’s business?” I would most likely respond with the usual vague response, “Pretty good. Currently going through a small pivot to focus how we can make our platform more competitive”. Yeah, that’s true, but it’s also a pretty big understatement.

As a quick refresher, my team and I launched The Storybook Factory in June of this year (2017) after about a full year of product development and beta testing. The general response to our product launch looked a little like this…

Week one: Product Hunt leads were coming through in bulk, local papers began to write their “19 year old student develops ____!” articles, optimism was at an all time high. Things were looking great!

Week two: Product Hunt leads died out, starting pushing email campaigns out to our subscriber list.

Week five: We pretty much don’t even exist. Product launch hype has all but completely died down. Sales slow to a halt.

Week eight: Amateur attempts at facebook marketing. (pro tip: you’re not as good at it is as you think you are. Find someone who is.)

Month 3: Panic starts to ensue. “WHY WON’T PEOPLE BUY OUR PRODUCT”. (Little did I know there were a lot of reasons).

Month 4: We recognized things were not going as planned and needed to make a desperate shift before it was too late (burning through our runway).

Around this time, we accepted the fact that what we had wasn’t working out as well as we thought it would. Our problems could have stemmed from a number of things, so we took it upon ourselves to do a hardcore examination of our competition, our current product offering, business model, marketing approach, and our current customer base to identify where the hell we were going wrong. Needless to say, it’s been a difficult past few months at The Storybook Factory, and it’s required a huge amount of brutal honesty and reflection from our team.

In our current state, we are undergoing a massive shakeup and difficult pivot of our mission, objectives, and product. There’s a lot of uncertainty for sure, but the one thing that hasn’t died has been our passion for providing unique reading solutions. In the interim, we are planning to keep the service up and available, and will continue to do so unless we finalize plans to do otherwise. Our publishers have been extremely cooperative during this time, and their continued support has been greatly appreciated.

To be completely honest, we aren’t sure exactly where this next iteration will take us, but dammit we are going to give it our best shot. We will stay focused on our mission of making reading exciting and engaging for children (and especially students), and are evermore excited for this next form that we hope will begin to take public shape early in the new year.

What we learned is that a great user experience is at the core of it all. A good product, or even a mediocre product for that matter, can thrive off having an incredible user experience. This involves how customer support solves problems, your level of engagement on Twitter and Facebook, how easy it is for prospective buyers to sign up on your site, can people understand your story, and how navigable your user interface is. In addition, we found that we can’t be the jack-of-all-trades. Our initial product offering was so feature-filled that it became immensely difficult to market and clouded the value we were trying to provide. In light of it all, a lot has been learned throughout our journey and we intend to grow from our mistakes by focusing our efforts on what we can do to make things better next time.

— Brad.