Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?
Hi everyone! I’m Mai An, the co-founder of MixBloom. I started the business 3 years ago with my husband Pietro while I was in a transition phase from full-time employee to running a business. After we got married in 2015, we decided to put things in place to be able to travel around Asia for a few months and for me to finally take the leap.
Mixbloom went through many iterations of since we launched but today, we primarily offer white label social media management to agencies. The focus was initially to help start-ups but with my experience in agencies, MixBloom naturally became a good fit for digital/SEO/marketing agencies that aren’t big enough to have a team in-house and who could use a white-label partner.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
My journey started as young as 12 years old. At that age, I was offering lawn care services to my neighbors during the summer. I would ask around who needed help cutting grass ahead of the summer season, make them a nice offer for my service and then hire some youngsters in the area to do the work.
It’s important to be able to recognize what you are good at and what you should be delegating to be more efficient and learn to ask for help.
I finished school and went to university studying fashion, marketing, and advertising. Luckily, I’ve always worked for family businesses that knew how to feed my desire for autonomy, creativity and most importantly, they were open to my ideas to improve their business.
I also took many leaps of faith during my early career by moving around the world from Vancouver for a sales position to London to study Branding. Along the way, I met incredible people, feeding myself with new ideas and new perspectives.
Forward to 2016, my desire to start a business was always there. MixBloom was simply born from the frustration of not being able to successfully outsource social media management.
We started looking at how we could help fix that problem and explored what was on the market. It ranged from finding people on websites like Upwork, hiring a social media agency or to do it yourself with scheduling tools. It wasn’t exactly fixing the problem for our target market from a pricing and execution point of view.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
When we first launched MixBloom, it was meant to be software rather than a productized service. It was a library of content where the user would pick topics they were interested in and get access to curated content on those topics with pre-written posts ready to go out to social media.
As clients started using MixBloom, they all started asking if it was possible for us to help them write a post that was more specific to them with their tone of voice, trending hashtags. The market pushed us to add a plan in our offering which would include social media writing and it quickly became our best selling plan.
Like all service businesses, it’s always hard to know if you are offering the right level of service for the price you are charging. There was a lot of trial and error to figure out our pricing plans. Our team of writers is native English speakers and that has drastically improved the quality of our offering.
We also needed to figure out an onboarding process to allow the client to share information about their brand and it needed to be in a way that was scalable in the long run. With that in mind, we decided to put in place an onboarding process that would include three steps 1) Fill a form 2) Get on a strategy call and 3) Sharing a social media strategy.
My entrepreneurial journey was a steep learning curve. It was about learning how to run a business, how to hire and manage people, how to find the right tools to make my life easier, put in place processes and so many other things. Luckily, I had a partner (my husband and business partner) who had experience running his own business and he was able to support me through that.
Today, it’s about improving the process at MixBloom, working on sales and growth and being able to give even more value to our clients and our team.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, we are in a place where sales are growing at a good rate because we’re able to get signups weekly. Our main acquisition channels are Linkedin and through the agencies we serve. The ambition this year is to go strong on ads.
In terms of operations, we have our first full-time team member for 2020 and looking at hiring 20-25 more freelancers by the end of the year. This means we will need to refine our work process and have in place the right resources to support the team.
To better support our clients, we will also need to start expanding our offering to include: engagement, blog writing, and ads, all things we plan to look into in the second half of this year.
We are currently only offering our service in English but the ambition would also be to also be able to offer our services in Spanish, French, and Portuguese in the future.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One of the hardest things to accept was that I can’t do everything by myself. It’s important to be able to recognize what you are good at and what you should be delegating to be more efficient and learn to ask for help.
I started MixBloom while I was traveling around Asia for 6 months and it was hard to focus on the business whilst planning each week our next destination at the same time. In hindsight, it would’ve been easier to freelance and then start a business once we were back to Europe, the transition would’ve been smoother but hey, now I know!
The other challenge was to run MixBloom in 2018 with a newborn. Many women do it and I have so much respect for them, the lack of sleep and the constant learning curve both as a mother and as an entrepreneur was hard at times but I’m so grateful to be able to have the opportunity to do both and not feel like I need to compromise one dream for the other.
Having a growth mindset and being resilient is important. It’s a journey that forces you to really look at your habits and always work on improving them to improve your business.
The few things that have helped me embrace the journey are reading, having a coach and getting support from a network of other entrepreneurs particularly my fellow female entrepreneurs.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Here’s a list of my favorite tools:
- MixBloom App - This is our software where the team creates content and also where clients review their content.
- Buffer - Once content is approved inside our MixBloom App, it’s sent here for scheduling to all social media accounts.
- Trello - This is our project management tool.
- Intercom - This is where we manage communication with clients.
- Slack - This is where we manage our daily internal conversations.
- Linkedin & Sales Navigator - This is great for leads and sales.
- Pipedrive - This is what we use as our CRM.
- Zapier - This is wonderful for automation.
- Clarity - This website is where you can book calls with experts in their field and bounce ideas off them and get clarity.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
In the last few years, I’ve been reading many autobiographies, mainly of women like Sheryl Sandberg, Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Michelle Obama or stories of brands like for Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. They all inspire me because, in adversity, they were able to shine and live their true self. The latest one I really enjoyed reading was Keep Goin by Austin Kleon, it’s a quick light read and a great reminder on how to stay creative.
A podcast like ‘How I built this’ is also a great one to hear the story of how businesses started. And with my background in branding, I love storytelling and podcast like these are wonderful:
- Oprah’s masterclass
- Pretty Big Deal with Ashley Graham
- Work in Progress with Sophia Bush
- The Tim Ferriss Show
- Tropical MBA
- Akimbo by Seth Godin
And Carrie Green’s YouTube channel, she started the FEA in the UK and has a network of female entrepreneurs and share tons of tips on how to start a business and how to grow it.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Talk to people about your ideas, don’t be shy to get feedback and test the viability of your idea fast otherwise you will end up spending time on preparing for launch and never actually do it. It’s ok to start selling and then hustle in the background to put in place a process and refine things once you get traction for your offering. There’s no perfect timeline for launching your service, you will run into bumps and need to adjust...constantly.
Never stop learning, read books, blog posts, listen to podcasts, be part of forums on Facebook and part of the conversation.
Where can we go to learn more?
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