Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey, y’all! My name is Anebi Agbo. I am the Founder and Chief Strategist of Eikon Labs - a web design consultancy. We work with brands that make the world rejoice and seek to only take on meaningful projects.
Most small-business leaders struggle with building inspiring designs for their websites, apps, and marketing. We help them determine what to build. Then design everything—from concept to completion. So they can build trust & credibility in readers’ minds to grow their business.
The idea for Eikon Labs was birthed during my altMBA in 2019. I was working in corporate America at the time and began to have the itch to pursue entrepreneurship. altMBA was a perfect catalyst to help get started.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I'm a first-generation immigrant from Nigeria. I moved to the United States about 8 years ago. My older brother was into computers and got me interested in technology as well.
Growing up, I’d wake up to the sound of my brother furiously punishing the keyboard as he programmed. I also still like the sweet smell of a soldering iron as my brother worked on a lot of hardware repairs as well. This early introduction to tech got me hooked.
Although I never really thought of it as something I would pursue eventually as an entrepreneur, I was pretty certain that I wanted to work with technology for the rest of my life.
I have a soft spot for small businesses as both parents owned their small businesses. Therefore, after spending some time working with different companies in data analytics, product management, and cyber security, I started to yearn for the opportunity to work directly with small businesses again.
I decided to start a web design consultancy because I felt that I could have a positive and direct impact on the bottom line of small businesses if I could help them build better websites, apps, and well-designed collateral for marketing.
I have had a variety of business ideas over the years and have an ever-growing backlog, however, Eikon Labs is unique in the sense that it brings together different skills I have picked up over the years and allows me to directly impact the businesses I work with.
The big aha moment and impetus to get this going came during altmba when we worked quite a bit with the business model canvas. All of a sudden, I had this light bulb moment as I realized that I had been sitting on my hands waiting to launch after the perfect business plan. Well, the Business model canvas threw all of that mindset out and asked the question “why wait for the perfect plan when you can have a live canvas that you can continue to fine-tune as you get more data?”
Validating the idea
After registering Eikon Labs in August 2019, I spent months interviewing different businesses and talking with those I worked with to validate the model I had. I spent (and still do) a lot of time being a sleuth on Discord servers, Linkedin, Facebook groups, and Slack workspaces (using slofile.com) to learn more about the pains founders and small businesses faced. I wish I could say I had a more methodical approach or formula.
Financial and career situation:
When I started Eikon Labs, I had an awesome job working in cyber security and loved working with my colleagues. I had also been married for a year at the time. So, I was a bit wary of jumping all in when my ideas for the business were not fully fleshed out. I was essentially still working with a lot of hypotheses. To ease into doing Eikon Labs full-time, I did it as a side hustle for another year before jumping all in February 2021. Yeah, I know. Who leaves a full-time job in uncertain times like a pandemic?
Take us through the process of designing your initial product.
I eased into running Eikon Labs by offering fractional consulting to companies for product strategy, project management, and operations strategy. As I consulted with them, I identified key problems they had and pitched creative services offered by Eikon Labs’ contractors. To keep my costs low and to stay as lean as possible, I have no full-time employees and work with a team of contractors paid per project. I am beginning to consider hiring some employees as we scale though.
There are many times you will find yourself distracted by many different paths. This endless barrage of rabbit trails and seemingly endless ‘opportunities’ can spread you thin and ineffective.
My process has been very iterative as I work to continue to fine-tune operations at Eikon Labs. In all honesty, I made the mistake of trying to offer every service and quickly realized that it was not sustainable, and made us yet another ‘Cow’ to look at in a field of many Cows (Check out Purple Cow book by Seth). To stand out, narrowing our service offerings served us well and I am still going through this winnowing process.
Startup costs and legal stuff
I bootstrapped the business as I was wary of taking on more depth than was necessary. I also wanted to be able to call myself an Indie Hacker because it sounds kind of cool. I did not keep track of every possible thing that went into it at the beginning but will place it in the ballpark of $1500 to get this going (you can do this cheaper). I used Legalzoom to incorporate and got quite a few deals through my makerpad membership.
Describe the process of launching the business.
After completing my altmba program in 2019, I officially registered with Eikon Labs in August 2019. The plan was to do it as a side hustle until I was ready to jump all in. I did a few projects in 2019 and 2020. I began to take the business seriously after doubling down on Webflow and getting a glimpse of what it could help us do. Once I started offering web design work in Webflow, we started getting more clients and I saw that we were onto something there.
I vividly remember the day I decided to go full-time with Eikon Labs. I knew it was coming but was still a bit hesitant to go all-in with it as I had a good consulting gig with an amazing team at the time and was a bit wary of moving too fast. On a cold January morning earlier this year (2021), it suddenly hit me that I could not keep doing this on the side and expect to see the kind of growth I was looking for. I had this ‘knowing’ that it was time to jump all in.
I had discussed it with my wife earlier and she knew it was happening but did not expect it that soon. I called my boss and put in my 2-week notice. I then talked with my wife about it. In hindsight, I should have reversed that order. At the time though, I worried that she would talk common sense into me.
The prospect of going solo with Eikon Labs was at once exhilarating and scary. I was finally doing what I had wanted to do for a long time but was also going to have to hunt my food now too - haha, alright, alright, wait for what? I had a barrage of questions going through my head like did I jump too soon? Maybe I should have grown MRR to a certain amount first etc
When we started seeing clients
Once we started doubling down on using Webflow as a primary tool for web design work, I started getting more clients. Initially, we focused on building a lot of websites directly for clients or white label - to get friggin’ good and become a Webflow superpower (we recently became a Webflow Professional Partner by the way!).
I did not spend a lot of time in the beginning focusing on online presence as a lot of our clients were referrals or people in my network already. I grabbed the social handles on the main social media platforms and held on to them for when we started utilizing them.
Landing Page screenshot while the site is being worked on.
The business is completely bootstrapped, as I wanted to be able to reinvest profits back into the business and grow at a sustainable pace. I may be open to taking on extra external funding later on if it makes sense. I used a mix of my income and credit cards to cover operating costs. Typically, cost includes subscription payments for software tools we use and contractor pay. We are a fully distributed remote team, so I don’t pay for office space.
Lesson from starting
As I reflect on starting, the biggest lesson that I have learned from the process of launching a business is the fact that at times it's easy to wait so long because you're trying to perfect your formula or perfect your business model before going on but what I've learned is even really good business models are subject to further customizations. The market is constantly evolving, so it is a fool's errand to wait till things are perfect.
My biggest advice just starts! Having a plan in place is worth it, but don’t be so married to that plan that you are unable to adapt. Also, I learned super fast that it is a lot easier to put things down on paper and learn a lot of theoretical applications than it is to execute in the real world haha. One of my bosses would always say, “progress not perfection.”
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launch, I have focused on things that don’t scale to help us grow on a more solid footing. Paul Graham’s article on the subject has been instrumental in helping me think through this. I have focused on leveraging relationships I already have, directing referrals, and reaching out directly to businesses.
I have been less worried about acquiring more customers than I have been about delivering exceptionally well for the customers we already have.
All our customers have been through organic channels and we have not spent money on ads yet. I have also gotten clients from Linkedin, altMBA alumni network, and a variety of Slack workspaces that I am on.
I spend a lot of time cultivating relationships with our clients because it is pretty important for me that it goes beyond just a transient transaction and we are both off on our separate ways. I want our clients to know that we give a darn about them. I build what I would like to call a “business friendship.” I wrote a short piece on this recently. Seeing reviews like what we have on Clutch warms my heart and I hope we can continue to keep our customers at the very center of the services we offer.
Our customers tend to stick around or bring their friends along so it has been fun to continue to grow our circle of business friends.
That said, I am beginning to work more on improving SEO and having a budget for paid media.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We currently have about 15 contractors distributed across 5 continents (I haven’t hired in Antarctica and Oceania yet). We are profitable and the gross margin is typically 40 - 50%. Except for a few key roles, I pay all contractors per project they are involved with. This keeps us running lean and reduces overhead. That said, I am building out our competency in UI/UX design and due to increased demand, I’ll probably convert some folks to full-time to serve our clients better.
I am finally beginning to invest in advertising and just onboarded someone to help lead those efforts at Eikon Labs. I don’t have numbers on the ROI for that yet but will update you in a few months.
We also have a wonderful social media manager, Karen, at the helm leading our social media strategy at the moment. The idea is to keep nurturing and growing our social media accounts with relevant content that ultimately connects well with our audience.
Tools like Asana, Slack, Harvest, Loom, and Deel are very integral to helping me run operations at Eikon Labs. Slack is increasingly important as our main hub for communication internally and as a result, I am always integrating more tools into it.
My vision is to build Eikon Labs into a customer-obsessed creative services company and also a hub for launching a variety of SaaS tools (some things in the works).
In the spirit of experimenting with different ideas and offerings at Eikon Labs, I offered a new service offering to some clients for custom google slides and PowerPoint presentations. I decided to roll it out as a core service offering after one of our clients went on to raise over 1 million dollars with the pitch deck we built for them.
My first benchmark for Eikon Labs is to grow MRR to $50,000 and then scale further from there. I’ll reassess once we hit that goal.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
There are a million steps to success and sometimes it is not as clear cut as it is made to appear. To get to where Eikon Labs is right now, it has been a series of steps and micro-optimizations that are not necessarily linear. I have gotten clients who were referred to me by the friend of the friend of someone I met up with for coffee. Some of the connections are so out of my control that I could not have made it happen on my own in a million years. I have found out that it is pretty important to be diligent, show up consistently to do the work with finesse and this will take you places.
Success Graphic Fantasy A --> B;
Success Graphic Real Life A --> B;
The next related thing to that is the importance of mentorship. I have a variety of mentors for different things I would like to learn and this helps the growth process exponentially. If you think about it, a veteran entrepreneur has been in the trenches and can help you avoid some of the same pitfalls they came across during their career.
The cool thing is you don’t need to meet someone to have them mentor you. I have never met Seth Godin in person, but I’d consider him a mentor. I have read his books, go through his altMBA program, and actively follow his blog.
It is not an easy journey and there are a lot of things in life that breed pain, uncertainty, and chaos. However, remembering why you started in the first place and also taking the time to cherish the journey will make it worth it.
I can not overemphasize the importance of strategic partnerships with others who can help support your business (and vice versa). I am part of quite a few business groups, creative collectives, and founder groups. I try to add as much value to these groups as I can. I also reach out to marketing agencies for partnerships and have gotten some good deals and collaborations through such agreements.
I am a voracious reader and researcher. This has been super helpful in helping me stay up to date on learning to apply to the business.
I do have technical competency from several years of working in tech. However, my penchant for building relationships and rapport with people has been super helpful. I believe what are commonly referred to as ‘soft skills’ go a long way to help build trust with others and ultimately success in many areas of life - including business.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Zoom (virtual meetings)
- Asana (project management, team management, messaging)
- G Suite (storage, email, and office apps)
- Harvest (time tracking, invoicing)
- Quickbooks Online (accounting)
- Deel (HR & Payroll)
- Hubspot (CRM)
- Loom (video messaging, how to videos)
- Pandadoc (beautiful proposals)
- Slack (team and client messaging)
- Zapier (connect apps and automate all the things)
Main work tools:
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? By Seth Godin (book)
- Purple Cow by Seth Godin (book)
- The Art of Possibility by Ben and Roz Zander (book)
- Side Hustle School (podcast)
- State of Charge (podcast)
- Makerpad (website)
- Indiehackers (website)
- Faithtech (website)
- Yesphx (website)
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
It is important to understand what you're getting into beforehand and to have a plan in place. However, be careful not to spend too much time trying to craft the perfect plan. This can become an excuse for inaction on the guise of ‘planning.’ Many times, the best thing you can do is just start and optimize things from there.
The ability to focus and follow-through will go a long way. There are many times you will find yourself distracted by many different paths. This endless barrage of rabbit trails and seemingly endless ‘opportunities’ can spread you thin and ineffective. You need to constantly reassess the reason you started so you can be on course. Why did you go on this journey? What is the mission? This exercise will help you stay focused and say no to distractions along the way.
It is not an easy journey and there are a lot of things in life that breed pain, uncertainty, and chaos. Craig Groeschel outlines this well in his talk at the 2021 Global Leadership Conference. However, remembering why you started in the first place and also taking the time to cherish the journey will make it worth it.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am always on the lookout for talented webflow developers, UI/UX designers, project managers, and content producers to bring on for projects.
Email me if you are interested or just want to say hi.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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