Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello there! I'm Jasper Cyan, the proud founder of Plasfy, a remarkable graphic design software that was born out of my frustration with existing design tools. My journey started from a place of sheer frustration.
As a passionate solopreneur that did my own designs for our other products from our parent company Jasrati, I found myself bouncing between software options that were either too simplistic, limiting my creative freedom, or overly complex, leaving me tangled in a web of bewildering features.
That's when I realized there was a need for a design tool that struck the perfect balance, catering to both beginners and experienced designers alike. And thus, Plasfy was born.
Our flagship product, Plasfy, provides an intuitive and user-friendly platform where anyone, regardless of their design experience, can unleash their creativity and design eye-catching graphics. Whether you're an entrepreneur looking to create captivating marketing materials, a social media manager aiming to craft engaging posts, or even a student working on a presentation, Plasfy has got you covered.
Our target customers span a wide range of industries and professions, catering to both individuals and businesses who seek high-quality graphic design without the steep learning curve.
Since its inception, Plasfy has gained tremendous traction in the market, thanks to our dedicated team and the invaluable support from our passionate users. Today, I couldn't be prouder to share that Plasfy users have unleashed their creativity and exported over 200,000 designs, each one becoming a powerful tool for their marketing and business endeavors.
Seeing these designs come to life and make a real difference in the success of our users fills us with boundless pride and drives us to continue pushing the boundaries of what's possible in the world of graphic design. With Plasfy, the possibilities are endless, and I’m excited to continue pushing boundaries, enhancing our features, and reaching new heights in the realm of graphic design with Plasfy.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
One fateful day, as I sat frustrated with the limitations of existing tools, a light bulb flickered above my head. What if I could create graphic design software that struck the perfect balance?
A tool that empowered both novices and seasoned designers to unleash their creativity effortlessly. The seed was planted, and Plasfy started taking shape in my mind.
But how did I know this was the right idea to pour my heart and soul into? Oh, there was definitely an "aha" moment! Well, it all started with a realization that there was a target audience eagerly waiting for a solution.
You see, I observed that larger platforms in the market, despite lacking some of the essential features, had achieved immense success. This insight sparked a moment of revelation for me. I shared my vision with our email list, which mainly consisted of graphic designers (our parent company sold graphic design templates mainly for Photoshop), and received overwhelmingly positive responses, it became clear that I wasn't alone in my frustration.
The excitement and enthusiasm from my customers fueled my belief that Plasfy could truly be a game-changer in the industry.
This "aha" moment, combined with the affirmation from fellow designers, gave me the confidence to dive headfirst into the development of Plasfy. I knew deep down that I had identified a target audience that was hungry for a tool like Plasfy – one that would bridge the gap between existing platforms' shortcomings and the creative aspirations of designers everywhere.
To ensure that my idea was validated and had the potential to resonate with a wider audience, I embarked on extensive market research. I conducted surveys, engaged in discussions with fellow designers, and closely analyzed the pain points they experienced with existing design software.
The overwhelming consensus confirmed that there was a strong demand for a user-friendly yet powerful graphic design tool like Plasfy.
At the time, I had an existing customer base selling design templates and video assets which of course was incredibly helpful as a “push start” in ensuring that the software would be a success.
The passion burning within me gave me the courage to take the leap and fully commit myself to the development of Plasfy. I knew that the rewards would be far greater than any temporary setbacks I might encounter.
Looking back now, I can confidently say that every step of my personal journey, every frustration I faced, and every ounce of expertise I possessed led me to the birth of Plasfy.
It's been a remarkable adventure, filled with determination and resilience. Together, we're shaping the future of graphic design, one user at a time, and it's a privilege to be at the forefront of this creative revolution.
Focus on launching your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) as early as possible. In hindsight, this is a lesson I learned through my own experience with Plasfy.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
Building the first version of Plasfy was an exhilarating journey, filled with countless hours of hard work, collaboration, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. As a digital software as a service, my focus was on designing a seamless and intuitive user experience that would empower our users to create stunning graphics effortlessly.
It all began with extensive brainstorming sessions, wireframing, and prototyping. As I had some previous experience with development and UX/UI, I designed the initial features, user interfaces, and workflows, ensuring that Plasfy would be accessible to both beginners and experienced designers.
At the beginning, I had limited familiarity with user interface design. To address this, I immersed myself in extensive YouTube tutorials and gained hands-on practice with CSS, which is used for styling and arranging web pages. I personally handled every aspect of Plasfy's user interface. This not only saved tens of thousands from outsourcing but also allowed me to refine it exactly as I envisioned, thus saving time too.
In terms of time, it took approximately three months to develop an alpha version of the software, complete with its fundamental features. Following that, I collaborated closely with around twenty five of our most valued customers, who served as beta testers in a private Skype group.
Our focus was on addressing any bugs they encountered and implementing the enhancements they recommended. This phase took around three more months. At this point, the platform wasn't yet accessible to the public, but it was already outperforming competitors in terms of functionality.
My goal was to strike the perfect balance between simplicity and functionality, offering a powerful yet user-friendly design tool. As with my previous online products, I could not settle for delivering something mediocre to our users, even in its first release with our small budget, it had to be as best as possible.
Once I nailed down the formula for Plasfy's core features, I realized that there were certain aspects I personally wanted to include but lacked the capacity to develop on my own. One of the most advanced was the custom text and shape masking feature. It lets users easily put images into any text or shape in just two clicks. See the example below:
Another example was our folder and subfolder system with design management filtering features for users:
Additionally, designing tens of thousands of templates was a monumental task beyond my capabilities.
To tackle these challenges head-on, I made the decision to outsource this work to talented freelancers through platforms like Upwork and Freelancer with funds I had made from our previous products. Thousands of iterations were made, refining every pixel, icon, and position of every button to ensure a visually pleasing and intuitive experience for our users.
For software development, I collaborated with four skilled developers from different countries: Poland, Croatia, India, and Morocco. Instead of an hourly wage, these freelancers were compensated with a lump sum for their work, for instance, $x amount for the implementation of a specific feature. The reason is that I had a bad experience with paying by the hour. Some developers would intentionally stretch the work to earn more.
I worked with a team of ten professional graphic designers located in India to design the templates and secure licensing rights, allowing Plasfy users to create their own versions from these templates. Their location in India helped keep the pricing budget-friendly. If I had hired graphic designers from the United States or a comparable country, the cost would have likely been around ten times higher, if not more.
I understood that the platform required a range of templates across various categories (business, food, fashion, etc.), so I offered examples and outlined the minimum requirements for each template. They essentially managed the rest.
I managed and outlined all freelancers and the requirements of what they had to do, I ensured that their contributions aligned with my vision for Plasfy. Their expertise and fresh perspectives injected new life into Plasfy, bringing forth a set of unique features and beautiful templates that would cater to a wide array of creative needs.
The dedication and talent of these freelancers played a crucial role in shaping the software and ensuring that it exceeded users' expectations.
Here is an example of the Plasfy editor now in its current state:
Describe the process of launching the business.
For our launch, I wanted to create a buzz and offer an irresistible deal to our loyal customer base. So, I came up with the idea of running a limited-time lifetime offer for the Plasfy platform.
It was a no-brainer deal that our existing customers couldn't resist. The customer base primarily consists of English-speaking males, with an average age of approximately 38 years.
To spread the word, I leveraged the power of email marketing, directly reaching out to our highly relevant and targeted email list which we had built up over the past several years selling our initial graphic design bundles. And let me tell you, the response was beyond my expectations!
It's much easier to market to your existing audience than to a new one that hasn't yet interacted with your brand.
Here is a screenshot of some of our email campaign stats:
I chose to email the entire email list, even though it included numerous low-quality and disengaged leads. As you can see above our delivery rate and other stats could have been much higher if I had cleaned it better.
I also conducted follow-up email campaigns for users who had opened and clicked through to the special offer but didn’t purchase. I offered them a free trial (without needing a credit card), and this strategy yielded great results, successfully re-engaging many of these users and converting them into paying customers.
With a visually stunning landing page that I poured my heart into designing, we showcased the incredible capabilities of Plasfy. It was love at first sight for potential customers who landed on our page. The design and sales copy (done by yours truly) captivated their attention and effectively communicated the product's features and benefits.
It became the cornerstone of our launch strategy, driving conversions and attracting the first 1,000 paying customers within just one month of the launch. Each of these customers had previously bought one of my earlier products. It's much easier to market to your existing audience than to a new one that hasn't yet interacted with your brand.
What made this launch even more remarkable was the incredible support we received from those initial customers. They became our advocates, spreading the word about Plasfy and helping us gain momentum in the market. Their enthusiasm and satisfaction with our product fueled our growth and attracted a wider user base.
It's incredible to see how a well-executed launch strategy, coupled with a visually stunning landing page and the support of our early customers, propelled us forward. This experience taught me the importance of engaging directly with our audience, offering irresistible deals, and creating a remarkable first impression. It set the stage for our journey, and I am grateful for the enthusiastic response that has shaped our growth and success.
To finance the business, I took a bootstrapping approach and relied on personal savings. This allowed me to have full control over our finances and make strategic decisions to allocate resources effectively. With a keen eye on costs, I ensured that every expenditure aligned with our priorities and business objectives. By managing finances diligently, I aimed to build a strong foundation for sustainable growth.
One important lesson I learned was the value of hands-on involvement, especially in the early stages. Instead of outsourcing all business processes from the start, I took on various responsibilities, including social media marketing, customer support, website, graphic creation, etc, leveraging my own skills and expertise.
This approach not only helped save costs but also allowed me to intimately understand and connect with our target audience. As the business grows, I plan to gradually outsource certain tasks, scaling our operations as the budget allows.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since the launch of Plasfy, I have employed a combination of strategies to attract and retain customers, fostering continuous growth and building a loyal user base. Here are some key insights and tactics that have proven effective and ineffective:
Partnerships: One of our key strategies was to establish partnerships with leading marketplaces and websites, operating on a revenue share model. This was great as there was no up front investment required and we only paid the partner with each sale that was made. If you find yourself embarking on the early stages of your startup journey, I strongly recommend considering this avenue as your starting point. You can then leverage the generated funds to diversify into other ventures, broadening your customer base.
What made this partnership model particularly advantageous was the flexibility it offered. We were able to forge alliances with marketplaces and websites that catered to our target audience, ensuring that our product was promoted to the right people. This targeted exposure significantly improved our conversion rates. Overall, our partnership strategy played a crucial role in driving our business growth.
Giveaway Promotions: As part of our growth strategy, we forged partnerships with SAAS-themed Facebook groups and ran exciting giveaway promotions. It was an interesting experience to collaborate with these communities and offer a limited number of Plasfy Professional accounts for free, with the condition that users would give our platform a try. Little did I know that this approach would yield incredible results for our business. Here’s an example:
The giveaway promotions turned out to be highly profitable as they provided us with a unique opportunity to showcase Plasfy to a larger audience. We were able to capture the attention of potential customers who were eager to participate and try their luck at winning our product. The response was overwhelming, with a significant influx of users signing up and exploring the platform.
What pleasantly surprised me was that many of these trial users were so impressed with Plasfy's features and capabilities that they went on to become paying customers. The giveaways served as a powerful way to introduce our product, build trust, and generate sales. It was truly gratifying to witness firsthand how this approach effectively converted users from simply trying out Plasfy to becoming loyal advocates of our brand.
Referral Program: Initially, I introduced a referral program to encourage our existing customers to refer their friends and colleagues. Offering 40% commissions for successful referrals, I aimed to harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
However, this particular approach didn't yield the results I had anticipated. It became evident that our Plasfy users, despite their satisfaction with the platform, lacked the marketing expertise to effectively sell and promote it. Adapting to this feedback, I made a strategic pivot and transformed the referral program into an affiliate program.
Instead of solely relying on our existing customers, I extended the opportunity to our trusted partners and affiliates who already possessed the necessary marketing skills and networks. This decision turned out to be a game-changer, as the affiliate program began performing exceptionally well.
Our partners embraced the opportunity to earn commissions by promoting Plasfy, leveraging their expertise to drive sales and expand our reach in the market.
Free Trial: At first, we offered a limited seven-day free trial for Plasfy, driven by concerns about the potential costs associated with acquiring customers who were solely seeking freebies. However, we quickly realized that this approach wasn't generating the desired sign-up rate.
In response, I made a bold decision to switch to a lifetime free account option, completely removing the requirement for credit card information. This strategic shift proved to be a game-changer, resulting in a remarkable 500% increase in sign-up conversions.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I am thrilled to share that Plasfy is thriving and on a solid growth trajectory. We have always been profitable and continue to see huge growth in user acquisition. Let me provide you with a breakdown of some key metrics and our plans for the future:
Gross Margins and Cost Analysis: I have diligently optimized our product features, ensuring that even with a “heavy user” that uses the platform significantly, it will still result in healthy gross margins. By closely monitoring the cost of goods, the business has achieved a favorable balance between quality and affordability.
Customer Acquisition and Marketing: Our customer acquisition costs have been well-managed through a combination of targeted partnerships, Facebook advertising, social media campaigns, and organic traffic.
Plasfy has seen a steady increase in monthly traffic, with a substantial portion coming from our partners' websites. The landing page conversion rate and sign-up rate indicate a strong engagement with our audience.
Distribution Channels: Currently, the majority of sales are generated through directly selling access to the software through our website or through our partner's websites.
However, we are actively exploring opportunities to expand our distribution network. This includes exploring partnerships with social media influencers and scaling our ad spend on new platforms like Twitter and Linkedin to reach a wider customer base.
Future Plans: Looking ahead, we are actively exploring partnerships and collaborations to tap into different market segments.
In summary, Plasfy is in a strong position today, with profitability, healthy growth metrics, and a strategic roadmap for the future. We are excited about expanding our feature offerings, exploring new distribution channels, and delivering exceptional value to our customers.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Through the journey of starting and running Plasfy, I have encountered numerous valuable lessons that have shaped our growth and success. One significant aspect I learned was the importance of embracing mistakes and poor decisions as learning opportunities. I faced challenges and made errors along the way, but these experiences allowed me to refine my business strategies and improve the platform.
In terms of missed opportunities, I initially underestimated the power of strategic partnerships. As we progressed, I realized the immense value of collaborating with complementary businesses in our industry. By forming mutually beneficial alliances, we were able to tap into new audiences, increase brand visibility, and drive customer acquisition. This realization prompted me to actively seek out and foster strategic partnerships, resulting in substantial growth and expanded market reach.
The graphic design landscape is ever-evolving, and the ability to quickly adapt to changes and embrace new ideas is crucial. I applied these lessons by continuously refining Plasfy based on user feedback and market demands. I also prioritized staying informed about industry trends and consumer preferences, allowing us to anticipate changes and stay ahead of the curve; as we are working towards adding A.I features to Plasfy as soon as possible.
Another valuable habit that has served me well is cultivating strong communication and interpersonal skills. Effective communication, both with partners and with customers, has been instrumental in building trust, fostering relationships, and resolving challenges. Additionally, having a growth mindset, being open to feedback, and continuously learning has been essential in my journey.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Plasfy relies on a select few essential tools and platforms that greatly contribute to business operations. First and foremost, Wordpress and Woocommerce serve as the backbone of both the main Plasfy website and the Editor website. The page builder Elementor is used for all of our landing pages, this makes it easy for me to update and customize the page when needed. Cloudways is our hosting provider which allows scalability when needed.
For email marketing and communication, I rely on the powerful capabilities of Sendgrid. With Sendgrid, this is used to create engaging email campaigns, automate sequences, and segment our subscriber list for targeted messaging. Freshdesk is used as the support desk system, and Freshchat is used to handle live chat with users.
These are the main tools used in the business, there’s also a range of smaller and less important tools that each do unique tasks, Vimeo for our video hosting, Slack and Skype for business communication, etc.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
There have been several books and podcasts that have truly inspired me and had a profound impact on my business journey.
One book that has been instrumental is "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg. It delves into the science behind habits and how they shape our personal and professional lives. Understanding the psychology of habits has helped me in building effective routines and fostering a culture of productivity and innovation.
When it comes to overall resources, YouTube has been an absolute goldmine for me in learning the intricacies of product development, marketing strategies, business launches, and everything in between.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
One valuable piece of advice I would offer to aspiring entrepreneurs is to focus on launching your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) as early as possible. In hindsight, this is a lesson I learned through my own experience with Plasfy.
While we devoted almost two years to development and perfecting the product before its release, it inadvertently caused a delay in entering the market. Although this meticulous approach ensured a polished and bug-free product at launch, it allowed new competitors to gain a foothold and some of Plasfy's once-exclusive features lost their uniqueness by the time we introduced them.
This not only helps to establish a presence in the market sooner but also enables entrepreneurs to stay ahead of emerging competition and evolving customer preferences. It is crucial to strike a balance between perfecting the product and seizing the opportunity to enter the market and gathering early user feedback.
The key lesson here is to find the right balance between perfecting your product and reaching the market swiftly. While it is important to ensure a high-quality offering, it is equally important to consider the competitive landscape and the potential loss of unique selling propositions if the launch is significantly delayed.
By iterating and continuously improving based on customer feedback, you can create a stronger, more tailored product that meets market demands while maintaining a competitive edge.
Where can we go to learn more?
To learn more about Plasfy, you can visit the links below:
Feel free to explore these channels to learn more about Plasfy and join our vibrant community of designers and creative enthusiasts. I look forward to connecting with you!
Connect with Jasper on Linkedin.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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