A Tiny Test

A while ago, I wrote about leaving a startup and taking advantage of in-between time. Since then, I’ve shifted into work mode, primarily consulting on brand strategy with awesome small-to-medium size companies, while also trying to leave space to meet smart people and explore interesting ideas.

It was a combination of those two activities that led me to concept and test a business idea this past December. The idea came, as many good things do, out of a coffee-and-cookie date (side tip: Untitled at the Whitney makes an unparalleled chocolate chip cookie).

From that first cookie to the end of the test, Maria Lambert, my partner-in-crime, and I did everything fast and efficiently. And we learned a ton. It may be the seed of something new, or it might end up just being a test. Regardless of the future, I’m excited to share the play by play—both because I’m proud of how tightly we scoped it and also because others might be able to learn or take a similar approach for whatever cookie-induced ideas they might have.

Maria and I had been set up as two recent startup refugees who were obsessed with health and wellness. As we talked, we realized we were curious about the same problem: While there are a zillion healthy food, fitness, mindfulness, vitamin, you-name-it companies, consumers have little guidance in navigating all these choices and options. Put another way: How to pick the right healthy habits for you—and make them stick?

After a few more work sessions, we landed on a simple framework that would allow us to test some ideas around health and goal setting. We called it Tiny Tweaks.

Our approach was based on our personal experiences and philosophies. As someone who has spent her entire career thinking about content, I knew we needed an appealing voice and strong point of view. I’ve also spent a lot of time working on connecting with customers and getting messages out in an efficient way — and because of that, was really interested in exploring non-email, non-social channels…namely, SMS.

Maria brought a deep knowledge of behavioral science and had the personal and scientific proof that painfully small goals are the way to lasting change. She also, thankfully, brought her project management and operational skills skills to bear on our project, which ensured that we went from idea to action in record time.

The Tiny Tweaks concept was fairly straightforward: for $10, we’ll help you set personalized daily, weekly, and monthly goals, and then provide text-based support for 30 days. We also snail-mailed our users a printed goal tracker and cute Muji pen because we’re suckers for paper goods and digital-meets-physical companies.

One of the key components of our test was finding a partner who could help facilitate the the messaging side of things, and we were lucky to team up with Bottle, an Atlanta and Chicago-based duo, whose software allowed us to message with our users, with cool capabilities like scheduled messages and auto-replies.

Once we outlined the test, we moved quickly, setting up email and Instagram accounts, and inviting 50 friends and former colleagues inviting them to participate; we had 20 people signed up within a week. They each took a survey that helped them take stock of their overall health by rating how they were doing in six different dimensions (ex. nutrition, fitness, mindfulness, relationships). Then, we guided them to set daily, weekly, and monthly goals that aligned with their focus areas. Each goal was small and manageable — think “Do 10 jumping jacks daily,” not “Run three miles daily.”

Throughout the beta, we sent members daily texts that ranged from timed reminders (“You said you’d like to meditate this morning — can you make time before breakfast?”) to inspirational images, recipe and workout ideas, and more. We also mailed them their goal trackers and invited them to share pictures of them with us.

At the end of the test, here’s how we netted out: 80 days from start to finish; average of 12 hours a week; 23 users; $230 of revenue; $272.10 of cost; 1480 text messages sent; 1131 text messages received; 122 gifs. Starting something can be daunting but putting something out there is also the best way to kick the tires and see if your ideas have any legs.

As for what’s next: Maria is taking the lead on Tiny Tweaks and leading a second 30-day beta in January, and we’re continuing to noodle about the best ways to impact overall health and wellness. I’ll be sharing our learnings in a future post but if you’re interested, take our goal-setting survey, download our goal tracker, or sign up for the next round of Tiny Tweaks.

January 2017 Update: We shut down the Tiny Tweaks website and are both exploring other things, though we’re still very into the idea of tiny changes, big rewards!