Monday, November 24, 2014
Editor's note: From the typewriter to the propelling pencil to our favorite, the world wide web, inventors and innovators from the United Kingdom have brought us brilliant advances that have changed the way we work all around the world. During Global Entrepreneurship Week, we’ll promote entrepreneurship in the UK through a handful of stories from early-stage disrupters and trailblazers who are using Google Apps for Work to overcome the challenges of starting a new company and inspiring others to start businesses. Today, we hear from Kiyan Foroughi, founder and CEO of Boticca, a curated global marketplace for original fashion accessories.
While traveling in Morocco in 2008, I met a jewelry maker named Myriam who commuted four hours daily between her village in the Atlas Mountains and the market in Medina. I knew there had to be a better way for talented independent designers to sell to consumers and share their stories with the world. I returned to my role in finance with my interest piqued in solving this new problem. After a year of research and planning I quit my job to start building an initial team and website. Since launching in October 2010, Boticca has connected global customers with high-quality, handcrafted fashion accessories, designed all over the world.
We built our website with the vision for a different way of buying: telling a unique story for each product, and shipping directly from the designer. By creating Boticca, I’ve learned how technology can connect a global community and overcome the challenges of building a company from the ground up. Here are four of the biggest barriers we faced in growing our business, and how we broke through them with technology:
1. Finding a cost-effective solution that supports our growth
In the early days, we had to move quickly despite the constraints of a limited budget. Our team of six used separate tools for email, calendars and document-sharing, but when you stacked them together, our Frankenstein solution cost up to £30 per user each month. In July 2010, we switched to Google Apps to bring email, calendar, docs and sheets together into a single product. Since we can pay on a monthly basis with Apps, we didn’t have to invest a large sum upfront or sign a binding contract, as is common practice with other vendors. I can add accounts for staff as they’re hired rather than buying 100 licenses but using only 40. Besides saving us money, Apps gives us flexibility.
2. Creating seamless workflows with freelancers and external partners
Before we built our editorial team, we relied on clusters of freelancers to outsource work. We wanted to give external partners access to our workflows, brand guidelines and internal information in an efficient way. Google Apps helped make the experience working with freelancers seamless. When we worked with a freelance editor to write the product descriptions on our website, we used Google Sheets to share product URLs and deadlines for each 100-word description. Our development team could open the shared Sheets to see the descriptions take shape as the writer typed them, and then use the content to populate the website right away.
3. Focusing on product and service instead of administration
One of the first balancing acts we faced as a new company was managing the administrative side of the business while building our product. We like to test our product, break it, then re-test something new. If we had burdensome IT concerns about our tools, we wouldn’t be so nimble. Fortunately, Google Apps is easy enough for us to manage on our own. It’s so easy to use that the technical team can focus on running our platform and addressing customers, rather than managing users. When a we hire a new person to their team, we have access to set up a new account in the admin panel ourselves.
4. Communicating effectively to build an inclusive culture
As we grow, we need to maintain a culture enabled by technology rather than hindered by it. Google Apps tools help us maintain transparency and inclusion through immediate communication and easy sharing. One of our style-hunters uses Google Slides to create weekly presentations about new brands she has found to join our website. People working remotely can follow along with the latest version in Google Drive without having to email her for the file. Effective communication is the first step toward empowering each person in the company to take ownership.
Customers love being surprised and inspired, over and over again. With this in mind, we strive to come up with new ways to fulfill our purchasing philosophy. Tools like Google Apps step out of the way and let us focus on consistently delivering these ideals to both our customers and designers. If we didn’t have the ability to work and communicate together so nimbly — both inside and outside the company — Boticca wouldn’t have been able to achieve the success we have today.