Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Beth K., a busy mother of 5 and owner of BingoCardCreator.com. This SAAS (software as a service) online business provides a custom software solution for the creation of custom bingo cards. Most of our customers (about 60%) are educators while the other 40% is comprised of clients using our service for their business or for personal purposes.
This mainly passive income source earns on average $1200 per month.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Once upon a time, I was an elementary school teacher with a growing family. During this time, my husband and I were considering ways that one of us could be at home to meet the increasing demands that a family of four growing children needs. I loved my job as a teacher but the inflexible work schedule was becoming unmanageable. As fate would have it while on maternity leave, I started looking at a couple of services that were referred to me by a friend that also owns an online business: FE International and BizBuySell. I signed up to receive emails from both. After personally corresponding with one of the brokers at FE International explaining that I was looking for something education-related, I was given early notification of BingoCardCreator.com. I relate this process very much to knowing you want to move to a new area, calling a real estate agent in that area, and then the agent gives you the heads up as soon as something pops up that they believe will be of interest to you.
When I first got wind of BingoCardCreator.com, I was actually quite surprised because up to this point of about six months of actively searching, I had seen nothing in my education niche. So when I received word from the agent at FE International that the education-focused site, BingoCardCreator.com was for sale- I actually had a subscription to BingoCardCreator.com as a teacher- I was really excited. My first offer was originally rejected leaving time for another offer to come in. Not wanting the opportunity to slip away and considering the fact that the asking price was still in the threshold of what we were willing to spend, we decided to come in at a full price. Once the seller accepted my offer, FE International took over the process making the sale and transfer easy.
It has been quite a journey ever since. Never having any business experience, I had to learn everything: The world of digital marketing, business finances, not to mention understanding the technical aspects of the service we offer. To do this, I read as much as I could from experts like the folks at Digital Marketer or from Perry Marshall. As I quickly learned, however, most things business-related require a lot of money and take up a lot of time which are two things I did not have much of. So I took the approach of just taking it one day at a time, and letting my small successes like adding a new blog post, bingo cards, or making contact with a developer on Upwork, to keep me moving forward. Given my lack of money for proper training, I would use any free resources I could find on YouTube or blogs, to help me figure out what my next step would be. Often, I find that by just starting with a simple question like, “What was my organic traffic the past three months?” leads me to figure out what I need to do or learn, next. I have made a lot of mistakes and at times I was completely overwhelmed by what I did NOT know, but by plugging away at the day to day, ultimately I find that the answers come and I believe the journey has been worth the risk. Although the income is modest, it has allowed me to contribute to my family’s finances with complete flexibility. I work when and where I choose. Not only that, I have a whole new skill set from which to draw from that gives me the potential for future endeavors.
Starting out is that slow and steady wins the race. I find it is easy (and often expensive) to get caught up by all that is out there or by run-away ideas.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I had been toying with the idea of buying an online business for some time but only if I could find one in my realm of expertise in education. When BingoCardCreator.com was put up for sale, it truly was and has been the perfect opportunity to take my creativity and enthusiasm for fun and learning and turn it into a business that I could build over time and on my schedule as a busy mother of five.
I purchased my business using the online business broker, FE International which was recommended to me by a friend. While start-up costs are similar to purchasing a car or a house, the main benefit is that I was able to purchase an established business that was already generating revenue. This meant that not only did I start earning my first day, this also gave me a relatively safe space to learn the ins and outs of running a business while still generating income.
Since purchasing the business in 2015, I was able to overhaul the website design, email integration, and software features such as the ability to create bingo cards with pictures. I was also able to create a social media presence using Pinterest, YouTube, and Facebook.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Since I purchased an already established business, I had the benefit of not having to launch and started receiving business on day one of the official transfer. However, this did require having to pull together the financial resources to purchase.
Unlike buying a house or a car, financing is not as readily available. My husband and I used savings as well as tapping into retirement plans to get the amount agreed upon for purchase. The broker we used made the process very easy. In addition, we were able to work in the sales agreement a month of training from the previous owner to ensure that I had at least some basic understanding of the ins and outs of running the business. In addition, the customer service independent contractor agreed to stay on which was a huge help as I learned my way around.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
It has been quite the journey since I purchased the business in the spring of 2015. As I mentioned, I had no previous business experience so the learning curve has been great but also very rewarding. My biggest advice would be for someone purchasing an online business without previous experience is to take it slow and really understand the customers, numbers, and traffic sources before making any major changes. I made some key decisions early on that I believe, if I would have spent more time gathering and analyzing data and less time trying to make changes to the website or software features, I would have saved myself many a sleepless night. That being said, I have had great success building my email list using API as well as through my newly created blog.
As for my traffic, I find that when people get the idea to create custom bingo cards, the key is to be in the Google rankings. And oftentimes their search is very specific such as “Emperors of Rome Bingo” for, say, a history teacher. So part of my sales funnel includes pre-made cards to help in the long tail approach to gaining traffic. In other words, I can create a custom set of bingo cards on the backend called Emperors of Rome Bingo which automatically generates a page with that bingo card and integrates into my sales funnel. While my number one source of traffic is organic (about 55% on average), another 30% comes from these custom premade bingo card pages. The rest of my traffic comes from backlinks, Google Ads, Pinterest.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I often refer to my business as a teeny tiny online business for the general fact it is more of a side hustle than an all-out business. After about three years, we were able to generate enough revenue to recover startup expenses. However, once again time is money and my personal goal was to generate enough income to help supplement our family finances while at the same time not taking away from my family. This flexible solution certainly does that. BingoCardCreator.com is consistently profitable in August through May. Given 60% of our customers are teachers, we typically break even in the summer months when school is out.
As for the cost to run the business, I find it is growing increasingly more expensive. Server, developer, web hosting, and email are some of my biggest expenses. I am constantly looking for ways to do things as cost-effectively as possible. Learning to analyze using Google Analytics has taken time but has been well worth the effort.
I also use spreadsheets to track month to month expenses, Analytics data and email list growth. By routinely tracking this data every month, I find that my decision making has improved tremendously from when I first started. For example, when I first started, I was convinced that I needed to create new features and whole new web design and pricing structure. I did this all at once resulting in a messy, rather unfocused redesign that led me right back to where I had started only with a nicer looking home page. Had I understood my data better, I probably would have done this a lot slower and in different phases.
I also didn’t understand the power of Google and how they change their algorithms all the time. In 2017, I suffered a huge drop in organic traffic due to a Google algorithm update of which I am just now starting to recover. I find that trying to keep tabs with what Google is updating next has helped me make smarter decisions around new development with the Bingo Card Creator software.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I have several favorite tools. The first is Google Analytics. This is my go-to for tracking my traffic data and for decision making as far as advertising and software development goes.
My next favorite tool is Upwork. Finding independent contractors for everything from website design to Pinterest creatives can be achieved quite simply here.
I also find Google Voice a great inexpensive solution to receive customer support phone calls and text messages.
Finally, I am very happy with MailChimp for my email list management and campaigns.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My best advice to anyone starting out is that slow and steady wins the race. I find it is easy (and often expensive) to get caught up by all that is out there or by run-away ideas. By grounding myself in the data, not only do I shed light on my areas of challenge that help bring focus to my work, but I also find areas of celebration that keeps me going.
Even the murkiest of waters, I find that my initial reason for wanting to do this in the first place, bringing creativity and fun in learning, is what inspires me and keeps me moving forward.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I would love to talk to a prospective “teacher-preneur”: An educator interested in partnering up to create new content and training videos for classroom use.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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