Sell To A Customer

Posted by Devin Miller on

The Inventive Journey
Episode #352
Sell To A Customer
w/ Russel Karim

What This Episode Talks About:

How To Manage Business & Self

"Don't sell a product, sell to a customer. There's difference between selling a product and selling to a customer. If your just building a product your not studying why the customers are buying, who they are, more details of the audience. In a lot of cases if you really learn how to sell something to a customer then you will do better building a business. You will understand the in's and out's of the customers, what they want, how much their willing to pay for it and what are the changes they want to see. Really sell to a customer, don't sell a product."


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What Is The Inventive Journey?

Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.

ai generated transcription

uh don't sell a product uh sell to a customer so i think there's a difference between like selling a product or selling to our customers uh because you know if you're just just building a product you're not really more in depth understanding why these customers are buying it who they are more details of the audience that you're building so i think as long as a lot of cases uh if you really create a community if you really learn if you sell something to a customer i think you will really do better uh building a business really you understand uh ins and outs of these customers what they want how much they're willing to pay for it and you know what are the changes they want your product so i think really kind of focusing the customer than the product that's what we know i think that's definitely uh [Music] everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host evan miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours just go to grab some time with us to chat we're always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast russell karim and uh russell was uh born in bangladesh and moved to the us at age 17 family was always involved with businesses and uh after high school i wanted to take an adventure away from home so i went to college in idaho iowa which i don't know why iowa was an adventure but why not let's do it started a business during his first year of college did it for fun but didn't really go anywhere it was fun but didn't necessarily go anywhere started another app development business built an app for himself doing i think ordering food in stadiums exited that business in 2015 after graduation took a job or took a job at the college and and abandoned startups for a period of time then started doing a side hustle called food runner those at night sold out in 2019 and did a bit of other work for some i'm helping clothing brands um and now is building that up uh doing or with a team of uh 13 people and a couple offices in the us and bangladesh so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast russell thank you so much thanks for having me yeah that was quite the mouthful so i appreciate the intro absolutely i i i try and take a much longer journey and condense in the 30 second version of it so now with that let's unpack it just a bit so yeah tell us how your uh journey got started you know originally uh being born in bangladesh and then uh moving over to uh the us at 17. absolutely so obviously i mean now pretty much half of my first life i kind of you know born and raised in bangladesh and after high school just wanted to go somewhere different as i said you know i wanted to really have a go somewhere that was outside of my comfort zone um so applied about 17 university across the world and i end up in iowa which is very ironic uh but you know really small town uh midwest uh came to uni university of northern iowa uh did my undergrad there uh and right away you know i think uh wanted to start a business i think entrepreneurship is something that in our involving the family and that's something i think we learn in our dinner table that you know this this is how i wanted to do so i started a company called uh in my freshman year uh you know i have seen there is a knowledge gap between the elders and the young generations who want to create a space for them how they can pass their knowledge to the younger generation so it's called sauber pedia all the young generation they can ask questions and the elders and the scholarly writers they can write about it um as i mentioned it didn't go far but you know we got innovation of the year in the state and then you know just still the journey the experience that you know went through uh from there start another company building mobile applications uh and web application in the midwest uh built quite a few local applications i actually end up building the app for the university that i was studying so that really helped paid for some of my college um and yeah then started another company called jump over just like you jump there went through a couple quick so maybe just back up just a little bit so while you're doing these startups in college what were you studying or what was the degree you're going after yeah so uh when i was you know obviously building this app uh in the college uh the goal again i think i wanted to be involved in the startup is really the part of that kind of getting involved uh uh in the journey uh amazing uh there were quite a few opportunities at the university available we actually had an entrepreneurial center at the university uh which is like a mentorship center that kind of walks you through so you know part of the goal was really getting involved with the community getting involved with this kind of startup community we had uh we would host a lot of events in the community and i was involved so i think uh part of the goal that i had is building the next big thing you know obviously as a startup we always wanted to do that uh and i think this just kind of give me the balance with the studying and also running something uh while i was studying so i think uh that's kind of the visions um right away uh i think with that uh there's a quite a few learning you know i think uh one of the learning and the pitfalls is like if i didn't start that solarpedia i wouldn't go to the next stage right so it's just like you know i think one thing is steps uh for the next step that i'm taking the next big jump i'm taking so uh it was an amazing experience just building uh and when i built that and i mentioned that the second thing um i built was the app for the university so part of it i feel like real quick i'll just circle back to my question i still don't know if i heard an answer so you know as a good attorney i can't leave the answer unanswered so while you're studying all these or doing all these startups what was the degree you're studying oh yes uh so sorry i just totally missed that um so i was uh you're saying like what i was studying and can you repeat that question again devin yeah what was the degree you were studying in college yes okay so uh my degree was computer science so i was actually studying computer science and entrepreneurship so my major in entrepreneurship um minoring in entrepreneurship so it's really the perfect balance between i think what i was trying to do uh and yeah so that's that's kind of really um kind of paved the path as of studying because some of the app i was building really that also class project that they could use it so it really worked perfect for that uh but interestingly interestingly i think i want to mention a little further on the app that i built for the university which really showcased so what i have done is i have i actually work for orientation like for university orientation and i have seen that university they're spending over twenty thousand dollars building some physical books that they give out to the students and the students they would like you know uh they're expecting the student to keep this book for it's called traditional challenge where the student will go to the university tradition they go campanile go to the games they take a picture on the book and you know take a picture and paste on the book end of the graduation they're supposed to return to the alumni and get a like medallion for their like living like a panther right so uh it didn't make sense to me and being a problem solver i'm like there is a better way to do this and i think the question of there is a better way to do it that's that's really drove me like hey i can do a better way this so what i did i actually wrote a business plan and a a contract uh with the alumni i didn't have an app back in the day so i just really write i mean you're a lawyer probably understand i really wrote a contract really wrote this scope what i was trying to build and you know they have seen that i was kind of involved in the app i took it to the university uh and talked to the leadership that hey i can build it as an application that would track the student they'll can download the app we know how much activities they're doing all those details right away they actually believed me and they signed a contract pay for the service and with the service fee that i got i actually put together a team to build the app that i wanted to build so it was really expensive like instead of selling the product right away i sold the idea to them and with the idea i was able to sell i was able to actually make that idea come true with the resources i have got so i think that was just really right away amazing experience that is possible that even i was like you know sophomore in college i was able to do a contract with the university and sell or sell a product where you know thousands of student at the end of the day like i think we had 2 000 students using the app uh when i was graduating so it was it was a really good feeling of like you know providing something and you know showcase that anything is possible as long as we put our mind to it um so that was great um from there i think i jump into as i mentioned uh i built a company called four axis it solution uh usa where we're building mobile applications web apps maybe just one or one question before that so yeah um so you did a couple apps while you're in school the first one you know kind of built it it was fun didn't go anywhere the next one you know you did uh did it with the school and you built that out now as you're building that out before graduation what kind of happened with that after this school keep using it did you sell it to them and you have no idea what they're doing now kind of what happened with that that second business that you end up doing for the with the university absolutely so yeah university you know they keep using the app and we keep supporting that application to the university um and uh what we decided that actually university uh went to uh largest conference and actually showcased the app that hey this is possible to about like few hundred uh colleges so there's like a conference it's called i think case uh conference for like alumni's install engagement uh conference so they showcased our app uh actually there's a quite a few universities they're interested to like hey we want to do this and that and there's actually other company uh who we're trying to sell application to these universities so they actually approached us to buy our company at the time uh so you know it's like hey we wanted to buy the app uh by the uh applications uh then actually i decided to kind of go through the due diligence and everything uh i thought there's a bigger opportunity for us to even you know sell it to other universities who didn't really go to the acquisition acquisition for ourselves um then we started we actually tried to sell this application to other universities so that's kind of the little mini approach that we have taken to kind of build it for other university uh then actually i got wrapped up with other apps and really kind of planned to kind of shut that like approach of selling to others and just kept it to that uh one university we sold so that's kind of where it's really gonna end it uh at the end of the day we just kind of gave all of the application to the university and they were managing and running it themselves so uh as i kind of exited from that so um yeah so that's kind of what happened uh the journey with that uh but you know looking back and i think there were opportunity but again as a young entrepreneur there's a lot of things that i didn't know there's a lot of things you know i think we would have done differently but i think uh it is at the end of the days about the journey that you know we take and learn from this uh and again i think it's a young age negotiating with some really a big company with the app and really making sure what clouds we give what we don't give so there's a lot of i think i think yeah maybe i needed devin miller back then so you know the lawyer to really help me out but i was trying to do a lot of myself uh you know and i think there's a lot um i would have done differently sure that makes sense and you know there's it's always a bit of i think a learning experience and learning curve as you're um you know figuring things out with the business what makes sense what do you want to do what are the opportunities you want to chase when to sell when to hold on to and what that looks like and so now as you're saying okay you've done some of these startups you're graduating you're coming out of school and you know did you go work for someone else did you decide to go work for yourself do another startup or kind of now as you're graduating you know you know no longer to degree have the security of being a student you know there's always a bit of a difference and i started my first startup when i was a it was in graduate school as a student and you know has a much different flavor when you're still doing student you're on student loans or you're having you know scholarships or anything else you don't have to have some of the real world pressures of hey now i got to make a full-time wage and i don't have that protection of students so now you're coming out and so how did you kind of make that transition or what did you kind of land on as you're coming out of graduating from school absolutely uh i think you know there's a few factors for me i was you know i'm an immigrant entrepreneur so there's a lot more legality that comes with it that as well so as actually i was graduating uh from college i think one of the big part of is really making sure that keeping the status uh active like you know i don't know the audience they know for international students there's a lot more paperwork that you have to do while you are you know either legally work at the in the states or uh you know work on startups so there's a quite a few approach to you can take uh for me is really making sure that i can keep that uh status active still continue to build uh my vision that i have uh so for me actually uh i had i was building my uh the four axis company as a student you know then i was i actually got a job offer no actually right away uh from the university and university also offered to help me with the paperwork because it's actually when you work for the university uh your paperwork is more streamlined because we consider the more scholarly employees where you know the government paperwork is a lot more easy and uh streamlined uh for university faculties and the staff so i decided to just take that because i was just really gonna help me my big vision so i think at the end of the day it's really the big vision what i wanted to do so i actually right away took the job at the university as a programmer for the university um i got involved with a lot of uh data analytics uh for the university and you know working with some of the big data processing really making a lot of data meaningful for the university leadership and i think uh that really uh that was really helpful because i was always involved in the college a level when i was at the university so right i already knew a lot of the people that i would be working so it was really kind of easy um transition to kind of working for the university as well where you know supporting my alma mater and you know also um you know kind of working on my bigger bigger vision that i have so that makes sense and especially you're saying hey makes it a little bit easier to stay in the country and deal with the you know the different whether you know green cards or whatnot or citizenship and all those issues and so you stay with the university for a reasonable period of time and now i think is while you're working with the you're graduating working for the college you also started a site hustle and i think you mentioned it was called food runner is that right kind of starting that on the nice weekend type of a thing as you're as you're doing the full-time job yeah absolutely so you know as i think entrepreneur we're always entrepreneur right is the lifestyle we live uh so obviously i was bored at night so like you know there got to be something different i need to do uh one of the problem i've seen in the midwest live in the midwest we didn't have a lot of options for food uh especially you know uh in college towns uh and we didn't have back in the day we didn't have the grava we didn't have the ubereats uh none of the options the only option we we had was for food delivery where pisa and chinese i'm like you know there's a better way to do this and again it's coming down there is a better way and you know wanted to build solve that problem so we built a company called food runner uh where three of our friends actually college friends i brought to other friends and started this company so we were actually delivering food from uh over 100 local restaurants uh in in the community so we just started very small right away you know we made some partnership with kind of core businesses or partners that we had then actually we made it to the tv local tv it just took off uh we had so much demand then uh you know we grew to like uh 50 drivers uh in the community which was really a big uh big for us we brought in uh about 1.2 million dollar uh uh for uh revenue for the local restaurants within our uh first year so it was just an amazing journey that you know just started with nothing uh and built uh put together applications and that took off uh we're able to employ a lot of uh locals our students and local drivers uh and also made an impact uh in that uh economical impact for those restaurants that we have in in the community so uh yeah that was that was the journey but i think there's a few thing happen i think that really helped us to accelerate the business fast um as a looking back you know one of the thing was at the time we're building this company that uh the city decided to re rework that pretty much the main street the street uh main street reworked that so there's a lot of construction going on because of this whole construction going in the city a lot of people they couldn't get access to this food and like you know how to navigate all those like roads are being like taken away so it's just you know our service was right on time uh on the timing and it was just really well accepted by the community so that's i think those are the two things really work or helped us accelerate faster for our business oh makes sense and i said i think that you know that's a lot of what you now have today which is ubereats and some of grubhub and other those that are kind of offer additional food services or options to people and i think that sounds like you know you were on the cusp of and anticipating that and seeing that as a problem as well and i think as we talked about before you ended up selling off that business in 2019 and then started focusing what it on what the current company is and uh definitely feel free to share but what made you decide to sh or sell that business and how do you decide what you're going to be doing or relying on what you're doing today absolutely so i think you know that's something i'd love to share uh is as we're you know 2019 we're continuing to grow the business we actually expanded to three other cities our business our company so really expanding but we have seen that there's a lot of competition coming in so now this is the time like grubhub ubereads uh than other like you know partners uh they're trying to get into the market so as you said this is a learning moment is like hey we know how this big player gonna crush us with the marketing budget that they have or we try to find the exit so we always had an exit strategy on our mind what are the exit like ideal exit look like right away actually before like we know that they are gonna come in about a year ahead we are already talking to some of the our competition who's trying to come into the market we're approaching them and trying to have those discussion so we actually at this we're negotiating with two competition at the same time and trying to understand what are the offer they'll give us if they have to kind of buy our asset by everything and what actually they're buying us what they're buying for what they're paying for this uh it was interesting because those companies are coming in they're really venture backed have millions and millions of dollars in their bank uh they try to go 10 to 20 cities a month every month they're trying a new cities so they call it hatching they try to hatch 10 or 20 eggs and at the end of the day they want to only hatch five to six eggs if the that hits the matrix they want to keep it for six months they'll stay on the city other than that they're gonna move on so they they decided to you know they have this kind of startup cost that they invest in a city so we decided to kind of uh now you know you kind of look at the competitive landscape to say okay this is one where they're going to have a lot bigger dollars they're going to do they're trying to enter things in it's going to be hard to continue to compete so with that is kind of the backdrop and you said okay i'm going to sell the the business then you know where did you land on or what was the next phase or how did you land on what you're doing today yeah absolutely so as we you know negotiating this two company we actually got uh back and forth offer from both companies and at the end of the day you know uh what we decided to go with the company that kind of matches with our values uh because you know at the end of the day we build so so many relationships with local restaurants these are really small mom-and-pops restaurants they depended on some of the revenue that we brought in so we cannot of actually interviewed those people they're buying us as well and at the end of the day we matched the company that giving us really good offer on the stock and the cash that we got so kind of went with the company but also really looked for the value that matched our value and the local values that we're operating as well so that's kind of how we decided to exit so we exit the company in may 2019 then right away you know i wanted to do something different so uh the goal i had is uh as i'm you know earlier in the interview i mentioned that i grew up in bangladesh um which is the second largest clothing expo in the world uh so if you wear a lot of clothes devon you might have a label essay made in bangladesh a lot of people don't know uh with we export about 35 billion dollar worth of clothes uh clothing every year uh just from bangladesh about uh 4.5 million people actively work in the garment industry in bangladesh so it's a huge thing and this is something you really grew up with you really learn uh all the hoops in this space uh then as i'm living in the u.s and a lot of my startup friends they're also building clothing businesses what i have seen that this small to me clothing brand they're also struggling to source their product effectively easily uh from this manufacturing a lot of cases they work with middlemen from la and new york or the local communities they have they don't really have access to this direct production or the transparency in this space and right away i know this is a really large opportunity because you know april and the clothing is a trillion dollar industry but it is still very old technology old system they're still running everything so there needed to be a technology innovation in this space uh and that's what i wanted to bring so with that we right away i interviewed about 300 brands and the manufacturers uh start doing this how they're doing the business right now uh what they do uh you know what are the processes what are the problems so really can we dig in i put together a team to do an in-depth market research in this space uh what did our competition landscape look like what are the people doing right now and right away we knew that there needed to be this kind of technology uh you know um interjection in this space so we built a company called it's d h a k e i dot com uh which is a marketplace that enable small to meet says clothing brand to go from idea to a finished product ethically sustainably and with 30 cost saving through a single technology platform so pretty much what we are we're like a shopify for clothing supply chain what shopify is doing to help brand to sell their product easily or help you launch a website we allow those same brands to source their product easily so that's kind of a little bit of story with that uh my current startup that i'm working on awesome no that was definitely an interesting journey and uh certainly fun to hear so now as a as we kind of catch up to where you're at in the present and where your journey is taking you it's a great time to transition to the two questions i always ask the end of each podcast so first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made what'd you learn from it yeah i think uh the worst uh business decision decision probably um i made uh is uh you know not hiding actually uh like the accountant or financial analyst right in the business uh for one other reason or just a financial expert into the business in one of my company for food runner uh the reason uh i think uh we as a startup we tend to do a lot of things ourselves or you know we we really grind to like we're doing the legal we're doing the financials we're doing the business plan we're doing the pitching you're doing pretty much you're owning every house but i think at this at some point you have to replace yourself yeah and really bring those resources or put about like a individuals or resource that's better than you or have the expertise in this space and i think uh really i wish we we put a better financial process uh in our food runner business uh that would have helped us even further because you know i think the type of uh traction we have made would have been able to raise a lot more money and grow a lot faster uh but you know because of some of the financial mechanism we didn't understand what's happening in the business because really day in and day out we're in the business not working on the business uh i think that kind of took that our mindset of not seeing the bigger picture so i think that's probably i would say worse because one of the worst is one of our drivers stole some money and the manager stole some money from the business uh which was really interesting experience to kind of go through like what do you do now like well someone stole some money from your business and you know kind of going through this whole legal process and i think having those like you know better financial process to that uh that would have you know really helped us early on but again you know we're young back in the days we didn't know and the journey we went to now we know better now we know you know uh you know how to overcome those struggles that we have so i think obviously i think that's something the takeaway i have really uh like you know bring financial expert to your business right away as you're growing the company so they can actually support you and help you uh build a better business and grow your company faster makes perfect sense so now second question i always ask is talking to somebody who's just getting into a startup or small business would be the one piece if i should give them uh i think one piece of advice uh i'll give to entrepreneurs trying to start business is uh don't sell a product uh sell to a customer so i think there's a difference between like selling a product or selling to our customers uh because you know if you're just just building a product you're not really more in depth understanding why these customers are buying it who they are more details of the audience that you're building so i think as long as a lot of cases uh if you really create a community if you really learn if you sell something to a customer i think you will really do better uh building a business really you understand uh ins and outs of these customers what they want how much they're willing to pay for it and you know what are the changes they want your product so i think really kind of focusing the customer than the product that's what we know i think that's uh definitely a great piece of advice and there's always a lot of wisdom and focusing on the customer sometimes to get too caught up in the product or some of the cooler things and the features and focusing on the customers a great takeaway well as we wrap up but people want to reach out to they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you or find out more so anybody is interested to reach out they can you know email me uh russell r-u-s-s-e-l at doc i d h a k a i dot com uh and they can also find more details more information but on our website uh but you know linkedin and the email will be the best way uh for me uh to connect with potential investors or uh customers or anybody looking for a you know advice or anything or any way we can add value to them happy to connect awesome well i definitely encourage people to to reach out contact and support a great business so with that thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast we'd love to have you just go to apply to be on the show a couple more things listeners make sure to click subscribe share leave us reviews we want to make sure that everyone finds out about all these awesome episodes and last but not least if you ever need help with your patents or trademarks or anything else in your business just go to grab some time with us to chat we're always here to help well thank you again russell for coming on the podcast and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thanks thanks evan appreciate it

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