With 2013 about to begin, we are taking a look back to check in with a few of the entrepreneurs we talked with in the past year. Perhaps some of their successes will help inspire new ventures in the new year. Here’s what the entrepreneurs we caught up with had to say:
The business: North Star Games, a board game publisher and maker of Wits & Wagers and other titles.
The original question: “We are having a difficult time figuring out how to grow while maintaining our entrepreneurial spirit. We want to both give structure to our operations and give our employees the flexibility and authority needed to be creative and excel at their jobs.”
The advice: Create an incentive structure that rewards creativity.
Since we talked to Dominic Crapuchettes, founder and co-president, in November 2011: “Our revenue growth has slowed down, but it will still be over 25 percent this year. This year’s revenue will be $3 million compared to $1.9 million in 2010. A large part of that growth was launching Wits & Wagers Party, our latest version of history’s most award-winning party game, into Wal-Mart this year. We hired five people last year, doubling our staff. That has given us the ability to take advantage of new opportunities, and forced us out of my basement and into an office. Lastly, we signed a contract with a major publisher to turn Wits & Wagers into a hot mobile game for early next year.”
The business: Seva Call, an online directory that connects consumers to top-rate local service providers.
The original question: “How do we make sure we’re striking the right balance of scaling up, marketing and keeping investors happy?”
The advice: Use your capital efficiently, stay lean, test customer acquisition strategies before overspending and stick to your plan.
Since we talked to Manpreet Singh, president, in February: “We added two employees to the team and have had nearly 20 interns from around the country. They all have contributed immensely and have helped us multiply our Web traffic and user base. We are looking to launch in our ninth city on the East Coast, and we are putting finishing touches on our smartphone applications. We recently surpassed our 100,000-call milestone.”
The business: Activity Rocket, an online portal for finding activities, classes and camps for your kids.
The original question: “As we take our [Montgomery County, Md.-based] hyperlocal site to other counties nationwide, what are the strategic marketing tactics that will ensure quick adoption by new local communities?”
The advice: Work with organizations or local chains that have a presence in other regions and want to reach the same market you do. Offer your partners exclusive benefits and rely on them to help you roll out to new markets.
Since we talked to founder Lisa Friedlander in March: “We have expanded into D.C., and Northern Virginia, with more than 300 activity provider partner businesses listing their schedules on our site as well as more than 50,000 site visitors, growing daily. We crafted partnerships with local and national brands who also have products or services and serve families with kids ages 0-18. In 2013, Activity Rocket will launch an updated site, including a new design and key functionalities like shopping-cart purchasing and common activity registration forms for parents and premium listing and subscription services for businesses.”
The business: 10G Systems, a transportation and logistics management provider.
The original question: “What is the best approach to grow 10G Systems — should we focus on the software we provide or our transportation management services?”
The advice: There’s no right answer, so pursue both tracks until the best avenue becomes very clear. Keep evaluating and don’t take on business that isn’t profitable.
Since we talked to CEO Geoff Milsom in August: “The transportation management side of our business has grown quickly. Our customers’ shipment volume is increasing, and our margins are improving fast. Those outcomes are the result of a couple of factors: We better understand our customers’ needs, and we are ‘buying’ better; and we have top-line and bottom-line growth on many of our customers. In light of these improvements, we’ll likely be pivoting and marketing our services around what we do best and most profitably. The system implementation portion of our business has been slower to grow due to the slow sales cycle and operational strain from the transportation management side. We are okay with that as we have solid momentum entering 2013.”