How I Launched A Startup From A Third World Country
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is SumanJung. I am 25 years old. I am from the third world country Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world. Unseen by many, Nepal has tremendous business opportunities to those who want to utilize them. I co-founded the company called DesignPac which provides dedicated web experts (graphic designers, web developers & digital marketers) for rent. A productized service the world has never experienced before.
DesignPac rents out well-experienced & skilled web professionals on a monthly/hourly basis. It is a simple concept of hiring tech people when you want to create something online or need ongoing web support but have tight budget and limited resources. We provide a full-service web service agency, much like think creating your perfect meal from a restaurant menu. Custom design your service from a selection menu of designers, developer, and marketers, all ready to serve. By providing a full-service menu, we remove the hassle, expense, and headache of purchases these services individually through multiple providers, while our clients also enjoy the savings they incur by utilizing the global workforce. Sign up for DesignPac and an entire team is at your fingertips. We have an easy and convenient on-boarding process offering various options in billing terms (monthly/hourly/semiannually). Not only we rent the web experts, we also have our own project management tool to handle our client’s task and projects. An expert will be assigned to the client promptly after signing up. Our dashboard enables our clients to add additional web experts to their team easily with a few simple clicks.
All of our experts have been strenuously vetted. Only the most qualified are selected to join our team. Because of the currency exchange rate we are able to pay out team well above industry standard, giving us not only a competitive edge in the market but also in our ability to hire only the best. The majority of our clients are startups, small businesses, and agencies. Our company profiting by using a global workforce, enabling us to keep our service prices below industry average. A blessing for those who are frustrated with their unreliable freelance teams or for those with startups and low budgets. Anyone with a dream should be able to see it fulfilled. With DesignPac anyone can start a business.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I never dreamed that I would be what or where I am today. I wasn’t born into a life with many resources or options. I was raised by my grandparents in a remote village after my dad lost his job and the financial state deteriorated. I spent my youth in poverty. From a young age I had determined I would raise myself out of poverty.
I grew up in a non-English speaking country, yet today the majority of my clients are English speaking. I had to practice to get to this point. Sometimes you will stumble, sometimes you will fail, but the important part to remember is to keep getting back up.
I came to Kathmandu (the capital city of Nepal) for higher education with the help of my mom. But times were tough and so was college. I dropped out the college to support my family and joined the army training school to fulfill another dream, being in the British Gurkha Army, a well-reputed profession in Nepalese society as well as a means to support my family. I still vividly remember the moment I was rejected and returned crying on my way back.
My elder brother Pujan at that time he was searching for ways of making money online using his graphic design skills. I also thought to give it a try and joined him. We only had one laptop, which was borrowed from an uncle. My brother used it during the day and I used it during the night. I’ve had spent many sleepless nights. I learned to live on little rest. We discovered crowdsourcing sites like Designcrowd, 99designs along the journey. I started participating in design contests these sites hosted. I was learning as I went. After 9 months, I finally succeeded in winning a business card design contest with a prize of $90 in June 2014.
Winning the contest boosted my confidence. Then after I worked with many clients as a freelance graphic designer. The jobs began to roll in, I even worked remotely for a Swedish company named Stidner as a Lead Designer. I started making a very good amount of money from my home.
But it was not enough. I didn’t stop there. I wanted to create something more.
My First Business Venture
My brother and I realized that we were making money sporadically. We wanted to make money consistently, so we formed the company Cinqsnipe Technology. We started to provide branding, web & mobile app development services to local and international clients.
We did door to door marketing to get clients. We got the chance to work with some renowned and reputed companies. However, lacking experience running a business, it soon failed. Although the original concept seemed promising, the logistics were not there yet. We needed a sound strategy.
A New Idea
One day, a friend of mine suggested me the idea of Unlimited Graphic Design for a monthly flat fee. It was in late 2016. I still didn’t have experience in running or building a business, but the concept was to good to dismiss. I liked the idea and thought to start it. I purchased a WordPress theme, bought the domain designpac.net and launch the site in the first of January, 2017.
Here’s a look at the original landing page.
The site was very simple stating what we do, how it works and pricing packages. There were only 4 or 5 competitors back then. We didn’t have our own portal where clients could login and manage the task so we used Trello, a prefabricated app instead. Being a Nepalese company we didn’t have access to widely accepted global payment processors like Stripe or 2checkout, we sent invoices by hand, and accepted payment through Paypal.
The landing we used was not optimal. It was a template for a Medical business. We offered a free trial which got lots of traction from the business directory site F6s.com. We couldn’t convert any leads because everybody was coming to get a free design only. I feel that people didn’t like our website until we redesigned it in March, 2018.
Processing payments had become a problem at this point. The business was going good this time but the problems of my own country was limiting us to grow. I wasn't happy with the process we were following to bring in the money from clients. Paypal was not supported in Nepal. A friend of mine outside the country was kind enough to accept the paypal payments and then wire transfer them to our business here in Nepal. This was expensive and time-consuming. Despite the huge potential of growth due to the demand in the market, our circumstances were again limiting us. I was desperately looking for any solution which could take us out of these problems.
Then suddenly an opportunity presented itself. The Sqwash, a US based started up, showed an interest in a merger for mutual benefit. After much deliberation and negotiation, the contracts were signed together in Delhi, India December 2018. The best part was registering as a US business, and setting up an FDIC accredited bank account. We now had everything we needed to compete in the global market. By this time, there were many competitors in the market also providing flat fee unlimited graphic design services. To maintain our competitive edge, we decided to expand, adding development and digital marketing service using the same business model of subscription-based services. This was a new concept and the marketing for such a service simply did not exist. So we came up with our renting model - Rent dedicated web experts!
Take us through the process of building the product.
It was a long process building this productized service. This time everything was in order. We had detailed our operational agreement, had all the necessary and secure payment processing needed, and we had a team of designers, developers and marketers who were working for us. We changed our pricing many times, as well as our service menu, finding the sweet spot of profitability while maintaining affordability and value for the client.
It was very difficult to categorize and fix the prices. I wanted to make it easy to understand and easy to use. These were new service concepts that were difficult to explain to someone outside of the industry.
Most people fail not because their dream was unachievable or unneeded, but because they fail to detail how they will get there. Be prepared for the unforeseen disasters and be prepared to take them one at a time.
While finalizing the pricing and plans, our technical team were busy developing our own dashboard where clients can create and manage their tasks. I wanted to be as Trello because it has been super amazing tool to assign, comment and manage the tasks. We followed the same model of the Kanban board that Trello had had such success with. The process of completing a task has a 4 phases breakdown - Request, Result, Revision & Handover. The client creates a task and an expert will move it to Results Added section when he/she adds completed the task. If there is a revision the task card will be moved to Revisions column or it will be moved in to Handover column. The experts provide all the files in the requested format.
We used PHP Laravel for the backend of the dashboard and integrated Stripe. It was quite difficult to integrate Stripe in the same platform when you have both subscription and normal products. Experts can be rented on an hourly basis also. It took us nearly 6 months from start to finish to take the dashboard live.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We didn’t plan a specific launch date. Our site was live with the unlimited graphic design service and we changed it over time as we continued to perfect our branding, services and business model. We notified our existing customers who were using $300/mo design service. The pricing of renting a graphic designer was kept the same so the changes in our services didn’t affect the existing customer.
At first we launched as a ‘Subscription based web services’. It was very difficult to explain the services we provide. There were separate services; Design as a service, Development as a service and Marketing as a service.
We tried to portray each services individually. I remember an epic moment Haha! We had the first lead who wanted to make an app for his cab business. “Hey! Your website is very confusing. I didn’t understand anything. Can someone help me?” It was the first message we got from him. We welcomed the feedback and started rethinking the service name.
We again detailed our branding and our sales pitch. My brother came up with the word ‘Rent’. I loved the word. It was new and easily understandable. We discussed in the team and created the slogan ‘Rent Dedicated Web Experts’. So far our target market seems to understand this concept.
We emailed our client base about our launch, posted on our social media pages, and posted our launch story in IndieHackers, Reddit & HackerNews.
I remember, it was 5th or 6th day after a launch, I received an email from Stripe which was a ‘Congratulations Email’ for getting paid. An anonymous client had purchased our hourly design service for $150. It was the first sale. We made $1.6k in the first month. All of our customers were the owners of digital agencies.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Before launching the new service on Feb 13, 2019. I was completely focused in learning result-oriented marketing tactics while the website and dashboard were being built. I’ve learned much since the days we started the business back in 2014.
I made a comprehensive marketing plan before we launched. I believe in organic ideas of advertising in B2B business model. We had not planned to budget for paid advertising initially. We posted articles regularly in our blog section and update social media. It’s been almost 2 months since we launched, I am trying different organic ways which are working and attracting customers as far as our data is showing.
Reddit/ IndieHackers/ Quora
I am an active user in these platforms. I do knowledgeable post on a daily basis targeting entrepreneurs and small business owners. I interact and talk with people who just started a business and share knowledges/stories/achievements which gives my business exposure as well. I answer their questions as well. Sometimes, sharing your business story such as revenue growth, experience with clients, hiring new staff etc. helps your posts get traction.
Be it client, marketers, or partners I am finding them from these platforms.
This is the most working method for B2B business. We on boarded 7 clients so far and half of them are through affiliate marketers. We provide 10% commission for each sign up. We have our own dashboard which provides an affiliate link after signing up. For those, who don’t want to use our service but want to make money by way of commission sales, fill up the form in this page.
I collect the email of companies which have job openings for the designer/developer or marketers and sent pitch emails. Eventually we created a template for this. I am not sure if this is really working as we are in trials with this effort. We are also discussing the cold calls.
I have experience using paid advertising though. We were spending $50/week for the premium package to promote the business in Startupranking.com which turned into failure. I didn’t get any leads or sales.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I am still not sure where we are today. It’ll be too early to judge. We are getting amazing responses from the people and friends. We are meeting monthly sales targets and expanding.
We are working to expand sales, as we make our profits in volume. We are using a different strategy when we reach certain milestone which will turn it to heavily profitable business. Almost every business is online these days. We continue to grow our social media and web presence.
We haven’t tried PPC or other types of paid advertising so I can’t talk about return on ad-spending. We don’t have enough data to calculate everything in this stage of infancy. Right now we have around 2K monthly visitors in our website and doing $4.2K in MRR. Not profitable yet! I want to scale that up to $10k/mo. in 2 months.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
There are so many things I’ve learned since starting this business. I’ve learned to dream big and aim big. I always try to be thinking global, to continue to see where we want to be as a company. The most important part of that is taking each needed aspect one step at a time.
I grew up in a non-english speaking country, yet today the majority of my clients are English speaking. I had to practice to get to this point. Sometimes you will stumble, sometimes you will fail, but the important part to remember is to keep getting back up. Eventually something will work, and you will get better.
The second thing is to continue to educate yourself and stay current within your industry. Everyday I spent time reading articles and watching Youtube to learn about entrepreneurship and business. Entrepreneurship is not only about making money by solving problems. It is about learning and innovating just as much as it is about providing a product or service. First i was in the web development business, I innovated many things on the way and finally created something I can feel proud of myself without losing my passion of working in Information Technology & Services. I don’t just make graphics and apps, I help people build their own businesses.
Stay focused, stay motivated, don’t let hard times keep you down, and just keep pushing. If you use this sort of force and determination in your business, or your life, then you will be unstoppable.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use several tools in our day-to-day operation.
- Freshdesk: Customer support
- Wave: Finance
- DP Dashboard: Task Management
- MailerLite: Email Marketing
- Stripe: Payment Processor
- Paypal: Secondary Payment Option
- Slack: Team Communication
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I read The Lean Startup, and Rich Dad Poor Dad and those publications really impacted me.
I listen to audiobooks on Youtube. Patrick Bet David, Gary Vee and also Dan Lok have inspired me. They are my go to channels in Youtube to learn.I enjoy reading and can’t express enough how beneficial reading has been to not only my growth a business owner but as a person.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Before starting out you must be clear and form a specific detailed strategy on what you want to do and what you will achieve it. The more simple the business the more simple the process, but your process is your blueprint to success.
It must be replicable and profitable over and over again. Once you are clear on this, nothing will stop you. Most people fail not because their dream was unachievable or unneeded, but because they fail to detail how they will get there. Be prepared for the unforeseen disasters and be prepared to take them one at a time. Figure out the worst case scenarios that can happen with your business and plan for it.
A clear visualization of the processes will save your business. Before starting, make a comprehensive plan of everything. Don’t only make a roadmap of the business and the revenue prediction, plan to tackle the situation of negative revenue. Many people see only positive parts of running a business and don’t see the downsides. Spend time on making plans, and get comfortable with fails.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always looking toward the future, including expanding our staff. Interested parties with experience in sales who can work on commission-based can contact us. [email protected]
Where can we go to learn more?
- Website:** ***www.designpac.net*
- Facebook Page : DesignPac
- Twitter: @thedesignpac
- LinkedIn: DesignPac
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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