The Happiness Planner is designed to help people live a happier and more fulfilling life by mastering the art of positive thinking, mindfulness, gratitude, and self-development.
Where did you get the idea for your business?
I started an inspirational blog a few years ago. Initially, it was just a place for me to keep all the inspirational quotes I came across. However, as the blog grew to attract a larger audience, my desire and passion to inspire people to live a purpose and passion driven life became stronger. I decided that I didn't want to just share other people's quotes anymore; I wanted to share my own voice. About a year later, my blog grew to the point where my articles were being shared in The Huffington Post, Addicted2Success, The Good Men Project and Thought Catalog, and being translated into other languages. I was receiving emails from my readers every day telling me how inspiring my blog was to them. So, I decided to ask my readers "If I could write about one thing that makes your day, what should I write about?" Many of them replied and said they wanted to learn how to be happier and more positive. I noticed that there was a lot of books and articles out there about positive thinking, but it's not something that you can magically change overnight. I believe that you need to practice over and over until your mind is trained. It's like picking up a new sport or learning a new language. We can't just change overnight. It takes weeks and months of practice until it feels natural to focus on the positive. So, I tried to come up with an idea for something that could be easily integrated into people's lives and help them shift their mindset and attitude to be more positive and grateful, and harness the power of their own personal development. Then I realized that a lot of people still use paper planners and I noticed a gap in the market for a pretty planner that focuses on personal development. So I gave birth to the idea of The Happiness Planner.
How did you get your business started?
1. Designing the product - wireframing and prototyping.
When I first had the idea for The Happiness Planner, my initial thought was to design a beautiful planner - something unique and elegant that didn't already exist in the market. I looked at the colour and fashion trends and when designing the pages I researched personal development and psychology workbooks.
2. Test the market. Forecast demand.
Once I got the design together, I started advertising to my blog readers and on Facebook. Prior to sending it to print, I collected over 1,000 emails from people who said they would like to buy it. The feedback was great. People loved the design and that gave me the confidence to invest a substantial amount of money in the first print - a minimum order quantity of 1,000 planners.
3. Find a great supplier.
It was quite scary at the time to figure out how to get things manufactured. I almost gave up initially because I couldn't find a supplier that could do what I wanted. But in the end, I found an amazing one. They have been extremely helpful with everything. I'm very grateful for having them as our partner.
4. Figure out the logistics.
I also had to work out the logistics - what warehouse company should I use to stock and ship our products. There were a few big players. I did a ton of research. In the end, I went with the company that has warehouses around the world. Our goal was to become a truly international brand. It was the most expensive choice but their technology and systems are very efficient.
5. Start selling.
We started taking pre-orders at the end of March 2015. Since we had over 1,000 emails of people who wanted to pre-order, we made a large number of sales on the first day. Then the sales slowed down a little but continued to grow around Mother's Day. The tipping point was probably when Benefit Cosmetics UK wanted to collaborate with us on Pink Day and a gift box was sent to top UK beauty bloggers. That really increased our brand exposure in the UK. It's been an upward journey from there.
How important for you has it been to have a mentor?
At the moment, I don't have a direct mentor. But I have consulted and talked to a lot of people especially at the beginning of the journey. I'm actually looking for a mentor in the e-commerce space because we're at the point where we have to focus on growth. But it's not that easy to find the exact mentor in your field. If you don't have a mentor, I guess you have the internet as your mentor. I highly recommend Quora. There are a lot of useful threads about startups. I found out about my fulfilment company through a Quora thread. Working on a startup can be lonely especially without a mentor. Make sure you attend meetups and events and connect with like-minded people. Co-working spaces are great. You may end up finding a mentor there too.
What are your top three tips for starting a business?
1. Know your customers.
When thinking about your customers, we have to think about not just what they would find interesting and might want to purchase, but also their day-to-day life, their lifestyle, hopes and dreams, fear, attitude, and life aspiration because this helps you understand what problems they are truly facing in their lives. They might not even be conscious of the problems they have. They probably don't even know that something could come in and make their lives better. Your job is to uncover the human psychology and help them move up the ladder of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
2. Focus on providing value
Focus on adding value to people's lives. Whether people think that your product is worth paying for or not is based on the value they find from using your product. Focus on building your unique value proposition. I never focused on making sales or advertising The Happiness Planner. All I focus on is how can I design better products that improve people's lives. I guess because our products are truly inspiring and beneficial to people, bloggers and the media want to talk about them and recommend them to others. All of our retailers contacted us first without us doing the hard sell. We focus on creating value - that is a "pull" strategy in marketing terminology.
3. Focus, be disciplined and persevere.
Starting a business is scary. It could go either way, very well and succeed or it could fail - it is all up to you and your own capability - and that's why it's scary. One of the main reasons people find starting a business scary is because it requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline, focus, and perseverance. This is not a nine to five job where you work on the tasks and report to your boss. You have to be extremely disciplined. You might not even earn money in the first six months of running your business and you may feel like giving up and going back into your full-time job. But if you believe that the idea will work and people truly want it, it's just a matter of time before you reach the tipping point. Remember, time is the only thing you cannot take back. You know what you truly want to achieve, focus on the big picture. Don't waste time on small things that do not contribute to your future goals.
Mo Seetubtim is a graduate of the RMIT Bachelor of Business (Marketing) 2015, she is willing to answer your questions about starting a new business. Find her in the Members section.
" No one tells you that you need to start working at 9am. Most people get distracted easily. They don't focus enough. They jump from one thing to another. So focus. If you don't think you can focus and be disciplined, I don't think you should start your own business." - Mo Seetubtim Founder and CEO of The Happiness Planner