This is a follow up story for Payment for Stripe. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
The main product is an iOS app for collecting credit card payments. It’s built on top of the ever-popular Stripe payment platform, utilizing their Terminal devices and Connect accounts to unlock in-person payments for over 70,000 businesses worldwide.
A year ago, I wrote an interview for Starter Story detailing how I was making $60K per month on payments as a self-employed, sole owner. In that interview, I publicly set a goal to be making $100K per month by the end of 2020. Unfortunately, the global pandemic played a huge part in missing that goal entirely and I’ve been playing catch up since April 2020.
Factoring in the amount I was making, the historical and average growth rates over the last 5 years, and losses during the pandemic, my expected 2020 revenue missed the mark by over $200K.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
The world has changed quite a bit the last November when I was interviewed for Starter Story. At the low point of COVID-19 in April, the volume processed by Payment had dropped to 50% of its high the month before -- from $15K per week to $7.5K per week. With worldwide shelter in place lockdowns, merchants were not able to sell their goods in person. When a merchant is unable to be around others in person, it’s obviously impossible to collect card-present payments. Honestly, it was an incredibly uncertain and frightening time -- not just with the pandemic, but also when factoring in the future of the business.
Stick with it. It’s not always easy. But also, be patient. Results take time -- if they didn’t, everyone would be an entrepreneur.
In late April, I sampled the entire user base to see how much the business was impacted. I thought this would give insight into how the recovery may happen, and just how bad it might get. Also, I wanted to get a better indication of what the economy looked like for the specific card-present merchant segment, as the stock market isn’t generally a great indicator of the economy. Not surprisingly, a majority of businesses saw their income drop by more than 75%. Most of these businesses also felt that their income would essentially bounce back.
Thankfully, the business has recovered to 90% to the previous highs of early 2020 and has continued to recover week over week. Surely this winter will bring even more uncertainty as the pandemic rages on.
I’ve continued to invest and built build on the product focusing on features that create stickiness within the app and ultimately solving problems where users would have to visit other websites or apps to perform functions. New card reader functionality was launched in Canada, France, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The app also supports WeChat Pay and Alipay payments, which are additional payment methods used around the world.
I had originally planned on a pretty big year of SEO and marketing, however, due to budget constraints, we scrapped that entire plan.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
I felt relieved that I did not have any employees that I was responsible for. This has solidified my belief that I will never hire an employee in the future. Realizing that so many businesses had to make these difficult decisions and were still faced with an enormous financial burden is heartbreaking.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
The next year, I’d like to focus back on the SEO and marketing push I had previously planned for 2020. To date, Payment’s growth has always been organic, but it could be way better. I recently redesigned the main marketing page, fired up a blog, and started writing content with prospects in mind. I’ve seen a good uptick in traffic, but as always, it could always improve.
Five years is way too far out to predict. I’ve already achieved employer and financial independence by having a bootstrapped become extremely successful. I suppose this is the place where readers are wondering why I wouldn’t take venture capital (or sell the business)? Here’s the truth: I’ve been approached to sell the business a handful of times over the years, but have never sought venture capital. Being beholden to the wrong investors feels like being an employee again and I’ve spent the last 6 years trying to get away from that.
To say I wouldn’t sell the business wouldn’t be entirely truthful, but it’s not something I’m actively pursuing. It could happen or it might not -- I’m fine with either.
Additionally, I did pursue the idea of selling a minority stake in the business to de-risk myself as the 100% owner. I explored three different avenues:
- A like-minded entrepreneur
- A capital investment fund
Have you read any good books in the last year?
No time to read while watching cable news 24/7 covering the pandemic and the election.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Stick with it. It’s not always easy. But also, be patient. Results take time -- if they didn’t, everyone would be an entrepreneur. Instant gratification isn’t guaranteed (nor possible) with entrepreneurship.
I’m always asked for this type of advice, and I tell everyone the same thing: learn from your customers. Handle all of the support inquiries. Reach out to customers, perform surveys, ask users why they’re canceling. Sometimes the smallest nugget can be the most helpful.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Payment doesn’t have any full-time employees (besides myself), and thus no open positions. Also, I’m sort of in a holding pattern right now to see what happens with the pandemic over the holidays and into the winter. I sort of considering it survival mode instead of growth mode.
Where can we go to learn more?
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