About 9 months ago, my friend Edaan Getzel and I started working on an idea: a subscription business delivering curated portable coloring books for adults. We wanted to learn how to run a small business and figured the coloring book trend sweeping the nation was a good wave to ride, despite the fact that it puzzled us quite a bit. We also picked this idea for its feasibility, as it required no large starting capital, no full time commitment (we both have full time jobs, compounded for me by a busy travel schedules) or elusive tech cofounder to help us two “business” people.
I put together a basic e-commerce infrastructure by piecing together third party services and worked to create the actual product: a coloring book.
In the last days of February, we launched http://chroma.club but also learned that Edaan would leave for Shanghai to participate in the amazing Chinaccelerator program (that also turned his 90 days trip into… well he’s still there today) so I ended up a solo founder after all. If you’ve read my post about the 100 first days, you know that it took off (at least by side-project standards) and quickly reached 150+ customers and profitability, the learning experiment became in effect a real, albeit tiny, business.
Over the past 8 months, Chroma Club reached $10,000 in revenue ($1,500 MRR over the past 3 month, generated from an average of 2,500 unique monthly visitors) at nearly 60% gross margin. And shipped roughly 2,000 coloring books to a total of 700 customers in 6 countries. More importantly, I learned a ton, about e-commerce, about social media marketing and influencers, about technology, about commercial publishing, and about running a small operations that includes actual production of a tangible product.
The end of Summer was a bit of a tipping point and while starting to work on yet another venture I came to the realization it would be time to move on from Chroma Club.
The learning curve has flattened a bit now, and my personal and professional situation has evolved (5 weeks straight on the road in Europe, 10 more to go, part time MBA program just started) to the point where I can’t focus even the limited time and resources needed to properly run the business.
I decided to part with the business. As a profitable business with a recurring revenue model I figured it would be an attractive asset, so i set out to find the perfect buyer. Someone with similar values (treat customers, suppliers and artists right) and desires (learn first, have fun second, profit third) who could have as much enjoyment out of it as I have, and that would take care of the people who entrusted me with putting a charge on their credit card every month.
I’m happy to say that I found just that, and as of November 1st, Chroma Club will be operated by a new leader. He may or may not choose to put his personal profile forward so I won’t expand on his identity, but I trust that it’s in good hands.
My bank account shows a nice little return on the invested capital, probably less so if I properly accounted for the the countless hours I poured into it, but more importantly I feel proud to have built something from scratch that went from idea to MVP to business to profitable business to an “exit” in just 10 months.
Hopefully the next one does even better…