Start Small

Start Small

Start Small

Amy Shick
Devin Miller
The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs

Start Small

Start small and start with a minimal viable product. It does not have to be perfect when you launch it. It does not have to cost a lot of money. Even if you have to do it manually to see if you can get traction, interest, and an audience, then you are on to something. I feel like there is so much talk today about these startups. And you have to raise all this money and hire this team and build out this product. I would just say start really small and think hyper-local to get it started. Then you can grow from there.


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.

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start small and start with a minimal viable product um it it doesn't have to be perfect when you launch it and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money um just even if you have to do it manually to see if you can get some traction and some interest in an audience then you're on to something i i feel like there's so much talk today about these startups and you've got to raise all this money and you've got to you know hire this team and build out this product um and i would just say say smart start really small and just think hyper local to to get it started and then you can grow from there there's always going to be iteration always [Music] hey everyone this is devon miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups and seven eight figure businesses as well as a ceo and founder of miller ip law where we focus on helping startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help on yours feel free to go to and are always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast amy schick and to give you a bit of a background on amy so she uh said that she you know in her words she's a military spouse um you know bit makes it a bit hard when you're moving around all the time or with them or with the military to maintain a career but nonetheless uh started a career as a paralegal for an internet company um all there's and then they also got into real estate a bit kind of each place that they moved around bought a house kind of use that as a source of rental income and an investment and then started to get a lot of questions on kind of how do you do this how you've been successful how have you managed it and i decided to create a bit of a business around that so did that for a period of time did some mergers good things bad things about mergers and talk a little bit about that and then her sister i think approached her on about a medical device that she created so got into medical sales for a period of time we had to exit that and and talk a little bit about what that exit might look like and how that went and then spent some time um enjoying the family and then after that got into a bit of the the business which which is what she's doing now along with continuing to do rental properties so with that much as a quick introduction welcome on the podcast amy thank you so much devin i appreciate having this conversation with you absolutely glad to have you on so with that i gave kind of that quick run through you know your journey but let's go back in time a bit kind of starting out as a as a military spouse kind of what you are doing and kind of what your journey is and let's chat from there uh yeah so i left um a really great job in san francisco is a corporate paralegal um when my husband commissioned into the army for the first time i left california the state i grew up in and moved to georgia which was quite a culture shock um but then as we also sold our first house um that we lived in in california and um we realized that the process wasn't as scary as people made it sound to be right people would say oh buying a house is one of the biggest things you do in your life and it was a big deal like the first time and then we thought oh this this really isn't that difficult um to buy and sell properties so um once we got to georgia we were there temporarily and then we moved to washington and we bought a house um now in the army based on my husband's job we move like we're running from the law so we spend on average two years at each location which is not a lot of time however we thought how can we take this lifestyle and uh create a way to you know basically build wealth around it and so we came up with a plan of buying a home at each duty station and then when we left turning it into a rental property and then hanging on to it um so that's what we did for years um so we have owned homes in washington louisiana georgia florida california um and now again in washington so um it's been an interesting journey um but a lot of military families don't purchase right because they're here for a limited amount of time so then when word got out um that this is what i was doing and then i also had a friend that was doing um basically a similar um process people started asking lots of questions so we got together and we decided let's write a book right and just like with any idea right it's there's typically a need behind it um and instead of to having one-on-one conversations we thought well we could write a book explaining what we do and why we do it and how other people could do it so um but this is the thing that's so beautiful about like partnering with someone and then also i'm just being really flexible in mind is that that idea to create a book um turned into two books um and we self-published them online so they're digital books to keep costs down um but originally we thought if we create this book then people will know how to buy real estate but then we thought but we're only giving them part of the solution so we thought now we need to tell them how to be a successful landlord right um so then that one book turned into two um and then as we were writing the second book um we realized you know these families are buying homes we're teaching them how to buy homes we're teaching them how to rent homes but they're going to be leaving again and how are they going to successfully rent these homes when they're not available so that's when the idea for a scout network came about um and that was basically to use our community of military spouses all over the country um to be that person that's there and available um to either take updated photos or to unlock a house to get appliances delivered when the house is vacant um to do a sight unseen tour for somebody um so then we started thinking of all these ways that military spouses could help other military families so that's how we created the scout network so um which is really cool because we didn't set out to create that right and that's the part about being very flexible in your mind is that when you start to build something you start to really think about it uh byproducts of that original build and idea um start to form and they may not be byproducts that you want to necessarily um pursue or i guess kind of develop um you know at that time but definitely keep a journal and keep those ideas because you never know when you want to circle back and where those ideas may be viable products or services that you could offer um down the road as you build out a business so i thought that was really cool you know that it just kind of happened spontaneous like that for us um and i feel like most um businesses have byproducts but you really kind of have to find them and look for them at times um so once we developed the scout network um i was actually moving from georgia to alaska which is like you couldn't get any further right in the united states um maybe one quick question kind of on that so you're building the scout network you you know you have the other person that you're kind of working on it with you guys are partners did you guys do that you know kind of remotely before zoom was cool so to speak because you guys are both i assume during this period of time still moving around with the the military and that so are you guys at the same location you're doing it remotely you're kind of how did you run that when you guys are moving around and trying to do all of that oh absolutely so at the time um lauren who is my friend um obviously former business partner and really business mentor still today um we were both at the same location in georgia so what we were doing is we just created a plan for writing and we would wake up at 5am and we would call each other to keep each other accountable are you up right and um and then we would just um plan out sections that we were going to write on in the book um and she would take sections i would take sections and it really depended on our experience and our strengths and our weaknesses um what we wrote on um and then we had and then we got together for several editing sessions um and then we also reached out to other friends to edit the book for us the books actually books for us um which was super helpful um and at this point we hadn't spent any money it was just time um but since i had a legal background and she had a tech background she was doing all the tech to self-publish us and to create like a social media um campaign and then also like a website platform where they could purchase the books and then i was also doing the legal side which was forming an llc and getting our business licenses um setting up like an accounting software things like that um so we definitely were capitalizing on each other's strengths for sure um once i moved to alaska then and she was still in georgia then absolutely we and this was back in 2014 so we started working remotely um and most most of the time we would just have our morning meeting uh and we would connect and then we would just kind of share what we were working on and what progress we had and then we would go our separate ways for the rest of the day and work on our part of the project and then we would um come back together or you know shoot each other a text and so it was constant contact but um we also tried to be very supportive of each other's time because now we were had a four different four hour difference um in time zone um so that created a little bit of a challenge but um really not too much we just kind of both worked on things when we could um and really set up times to deliver products uh to each other projects to each other um and it worked out really well um you know in the beginning there's not a lot of traction right and whenever you create a new service um there will be people who say they love it and then there'll be people who downright hate it and bash it and you know like you know and and uh come to you with different perspectives on uh and opinions on their product and especially with social media people really feel free to share what they really feel about your product so we really listened to that and we really listened to what people loved about it and we listened to what people didn't like about it and we didn't um pivot just because people had negative things to say we knew that we weren't going to please everyone and that um there were going to be some people that just didn't care for our service um now now maybe just diving in just a bit so you did that you know so you figured that out you did that for you know a period of time and then i think that you guys um looked at you you were approached by another company and looking at doing a merger and kind of getting together with the founders was that kind of the the next step or the next phase of the business yes so lauren um got into contact with another um another company that was young and new um and it was ran by two veterans and but what they did is they had a like a realtor referral service and they referred military families to realtors who were veterans military spouses um so that they would understand the lifestyle and understand what military families needed when they were moving um so lauren started that um conversation and that relationship with them um and then as we you know just talked more and more about what they were offering and what we were offering um that's when they approached us with acquiring our business which is super difficult when you don't have um you you don't have a lot of assets you don't have a lot of income and basically you're trying to negotiate what is a fair price for your business without like hard numbers right and this is what i learned in the process nobody has the formula for it right so it is if they say they have a formula i would be very leery because unless you have those data metrics in revenue or traction they're basically buying your potential and also what they really want is they want the people the team that founded your business so they really saw what lauren and i built they liked what we built and they really also wanted us on their team so it's it's a little bit of both right um they they want the ingenuity they want the the work ethic um they they do want the audience that they you've built they do want your products and services um but they but they really do look at um you know having those founders on their team as well so so now so now you guys merged together and you know with all that as an understanding you got into the relationship and kind of you know how did that go was it a good relationship a bad relationship did you last around or you kind of or you know what did that would look like as it turned out yeah so i would definitely recommend um based on my experience and i'll get into that a little bit more um forming a partnership with someone that you don't know well um is something that should not be taken lightly um and it's something that you really need to get to know those people before you like you know lack of a better term jump in bed with them because a business partnership is a very intimate relationship you're going to disagree you're going to have flat out arguments over things um there's going to be uh so you really want to sit down and get to know those people get to know what their vision is for the business what your vision is for the business and then you want to really create a partnership agreement i highly highly recommend that because that's going to create parameters um when the unknowns pop up right now now taking that and i think that's great advice now taking kind of to your your own journey how did that work with your merger and your partner we didn't really do that right and this is where like the lessons learned um you know i had certain expectations that you know um i would have a certain place as a founding team member within that business and that i would be making executive decisions and i would really be um i guess shaping the development of the business as a whole but once we got into it you know i kind of got funneled into develop you know continuing to develop the scout network which was great that was my baby but i felt like i was just kind of pushed off to the side as far as major business decisions go and i i really didn't like the fact that like i did not feel involved in major business decisions as far as you know investment money as far as the direction we were going as a business the things we were focusing on and once you kind of get pigeonholed it's really hard to then i guess kind of re-establish that role as like okay i really want to be a part of these bigger conversations so that was a mistake that i made um that i would highly recommend that um if you are thinking about partnering just you know really get to know that person really get to know what your relationship is going to look like and put that in writing um you know before you enter that relationship so i mean it was fine at the time but looking back of course you know hindsight is always 20 20. so now so kind of just continuing on your journey just so we can you know make sure to give you the give it's full due so you you know you get did the merger you learned the lessons it didn't necessarily work out exactly how you'd want so you said okay after sticking around for a period of time decided to move on and i think that's when you kind of got in or got in partnership or worked with your sister for a period of time on some medical devices is that right yes so what happened was um i was continuing to work on it and build the scout network which i i mean i really did enjoy doing and it was you know my baby um and then it with my sister approached me um and so she had developed a product um so she was a surgical tech in labor and delivery um and she you know of course when you are in a certain work environment you see how things are supposed to work and then you'll also see how things could work better so what was happening was there was an increase in babies being dropped or falling out of mom's arms when when moms were breastfeeding them and then like falling asleep um in the hospital um and so she thought this is a huge problem and people don't seem to be addressing this and they don't seem to be sounding alarms um as to this problem right it's a huge risk for moms um and for babies so she set out to develop um a wrap that wrapped around mom so imagine a tube top that zips on the side um and then baby would securely um lay skin to skin on mom's chest um during that time so if mom was kind of propped up in the bed she could have baby um on her chest secured by this wrap and then if mom needed to stand up and walk around there was an additional sling that came up and over your shoulder and then that would give added support if you were walking around with baby and that would optimize the amount of time that moms and babies were skin to skin which is what's recommended which i thought the product was brilliant and it is a brilliant product um the lesson that i learned in this particular situation which obviously you can tell i've learned a lot of lessons through like failure or just not knowing um was that i thought the product would be a perfect product to sell um as an e-commerce product directly to consumers directly to moms or to other people to gift for moms where my sister felt that no this is a product that should be supplied to moms from the hospitals so i i felt like a you know and this is just being naive um and you know kind of jumping before doing enough due diligence was she knew the product she knew the problem and the problem set and how to solve the problem which was brilliant but the part that she didn't have experience with is how do you sell a product to hospitals so trying to figure out how to sell a product to a hospital turned into a massive amount of work that we just were not prepared for and also frankly didn't have the money for um and so it's um you know i ultimately left because our you know i guess kind of ideas as to how to best market and sell this product um we started to drift apart in those ideas um more and more um to the point where it was a conflict you know there wasn't a lot of traction um then we were trying to pivot to ambulances and sell the product to ambulances for safe transport um so maybe so and maybe to summarize that so that you know differences of opinion kind of the ways that you would necessarily approach it or how you market the business and so ended up you know i think when he chatted before ended up walking away or just deciding you know that that wasn't going the relationship when with the business and everything wasn't the best avenue to take the business so kind of walked away and then i think you said you know you continue to be in the military move so now bringing us up to kind of where the visit where you're at today tell us a little bit about what you're doing today and kind of how you landed on that yes so um we've continued to invest in real estate along the way so um we actually have identified um a property that we're going to buy for our rental um here in washington so we try to maximize our time so i've continued to do that and then just i've been continuing to explore other um like business concepts that i would love to build out um and then how can i build those out and again build them out in a bootstrapped way where i can use online resources to create a minimal viable product to to test it out so what i look for in in a business is what problem can i solve so while i'm still continuing to do real estate and acquire properties and you know turn those into um rentals because that's something that i know it's something that i feel like is can kind of be on autopilot if that makes sense um while i work on other business concepts um to build out and explore how can i build these out and how can i test them in the market um so i again i go back to what problems can i solve and i look at what problems am i facing so one of the problems that um that i guess my family faced was um two years ago my daughter was applying for colleges and as a military brat when you've moved around and you've gone to 10 schools um in you know your 12 you know year process um and then you've had three high schools it's really hard to maintain those gpas and um really show these colleges how you shine as an individual when you don't have the data metrics of grades and sat or act scores um so i i what i'm working on now is building out a platform through a no code service to create an online portfolio for students to really show what they have done the challenges that they've overcome the character that they've developed the grid that they've developed through an online portfolio that could be you know quickly and easily viewed um and they could add photos and video and include their story of why they should be at that college and why they can be successful at that college um because it's it's it's not just uh students that um you know have 4.0 and have you know uh 34's on act scores and have done all these great sports and have had all these great things you know grit and determination are built in other ways there are students who um you know have had to help raise their siblings and have had to work part-time to help pay for bills um and maybe just kind of kind of with that so that brings us up to where we're at today and kind of what you guys are working on yeah um you know there's always more things to chat on than we're ever gonna have time to chat but i always want to save room for the last couple questions i asked you to emery at the end of each podcast so maybe we'll jump to those now and just talk with those for a minute so as we as along your journey as you went through your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it um i think the worst business mission i ever made was to go into business with family and the reason why is because those family relationships are really important and when things like business and equity and money um are on the line um it's just not worth ruining a family relationship over business so i would say that that is the worst business decision i have and people there are many people that are successful at it um going into business with family and um you know generational businesses and that's fabulous but i just think that um there's a difference between parents um bringing children up in a business versus siblings um joining together to start a business so yeah and i think that there's you know there's some some truth to that in the sense that you know there's a different dynamic between having good relationship with family you're doing that versus on the business side and when you put those together can certainly add that additional layer of stress and additional you know complexity relation of some people works well together others it just is you know it straight strains the relationship too much so yes yes now so now as we jump on to the second question which is if you're talking to someone that's just getting to a startup or a small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them i think the one piece i would advise that i would give them is start small and start with a minimal viable product um it it doesn't have to be perfect when you launch it um and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money um just even if you have to do it manually um to see if you can get some traction and some interest in an audience then you're on to something i i feel like there's so much talk today about these startups and you've got to raise all this money and you've got to you know hire this team and build out this product um and i would just say say smart start really small and just think hyper local to to get it started and then you can grow from there there's always going to be iteration always no and i like that and i think that you know there's certainly a lot of wisdom figure out a way to get started get it going whether or not it's you have a lot of money bootstrap but whatever i think the biggest thing is just take that step and get it started well as people and just give people heads up we are going to do the the bonus question and talk a little bit about intellectual property after the main episode so if you want to stay tuned and you can hear a little there's a little bit of discussion but otherwise if you're getting ready to tune out before they do if people want to um find out more about kind of your businesses what you have going on connect up to you they want to be an employee they want to be a they want to be an investor they want to be in a customer the customer they want to be your next best friend any role of the above what's the best way to connect up or find out more um that would be just to find me on linkedin amy schick um at linkedin um or just email me i am i am i'm all about the um just email connection i i that's the other thing i've learned just reach out to people so i totally welcome um people reaching out to me just on my email and that's amy.shake it's the best email to reach me at well awesome well i definitely encourage people to reach out find out more and utilize the knowledge you've gained on a lot of different areas well as we wrap up i want to first of all and we'll get to the bonus question but thank you for coming on the podcast and for all those listeners um if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast feel free to go to apply to be on the show also if your listener make sure to click subscribe so you get notifications as all our awesome episodes come out as well as leave us a review so new people can find us last but not least if you ever need help with patents and trademarks just go to and sign up to be a guest on the podcast or sorry not or sign up to be uh or to chat for bid on your patents and trademarks so with that now that as we've wrapped up the the normal portion of the episode we'll dive right back into the bonus question which is for you to you know what would be and you're going to turn the tables a little bit in the sense i'm usually the one that asked questions but now you get asked me a question which is what is your top intellectual property question so my top intellectual property question has to do with timing um and how aggressive you should be in your ip portfolio so i know that's a big question and it's a lot to unpack um so my question is you know there's a lot that pertains to your ip right domain names trademarks um you know patents so copyrights so my question is is when you're beginning and you don't have a lot of money you don't have a lot of resources what is the most important elect intellectual property to protect by trademark or patent and then at what time in the business journey do you pursue that yeah so there's a few things to unpack i'll give you kind of a the shorter or shorter form answer to it um you know really when i look here whenever you're looking at intellectual property i would first say what is the core of the value of your business meaning is it your brand and are you building a business is really a great brand you didn't create a great widget it's not a product but it's a great brand and a lot of companies do that you think of pepsi coke eminem starbucks apple all those have great brands and that's where a lot of their value is vice versa are you you know so are you creating a brand are you creating a a new widget or a new product or a new invention and that's where the value of your product is because it's really going to flavor where you focus a lot of your and sometimes it's all any or all the above right sometimes if you're an apple you create great products you also create a great brand so you may have both of those aspects but when you're kind of trying to decide what is the where do i focus intellectual property if i need it think about where the value of the business is and maybe it's if it's you know creating great inventions then you focus more on patents if it's creating a great great brand and a great reputation you may focus more on trademarks if you're creating a book or you're creating something that's more in creative nature a book a you know a movie a tv show or a sculpture or painting then it's going to be in copyright so i say the first thing you do is to figure out where the value of your business is and what you'd want to protect and then kind of with that in mind you're going to then go to okay what do i want to protect and how quickly do i need to protect it so on a patent you know simple answer is is the maximum once you start putting it out in the public you have a year within which you can file a patent on it meaning once it's out in the public if you don't file within a year you're basically donating to the public you're no longer able to pursue you've missed your window on a trademark that's a bit more of a an open or an open-ended question in the sense that trademarks you don't have a specific window but what you don't want to do is if you're if your intention is to build build a big brand you don't want somebody else to come along get that trademark or start using that name and register it before you do such that as you're building that you're not here you're going to um if somebody else gets a trademark first it's going to hurt your business so both of them are generally the general question is figure out where the value of their business is earlier on as a better and then probably beyond that for a specific business you're better to even go talk with a an attorney we offer strategy meetings you can tell by the podcast go to but whether it's us or somebody else you're really better at that point just now go down sit with an attorney strategize more specifically with your businesses to exactly what that timing might look like so with that is the answer to your top question we're going to wrap up the podcast there it's been fun to have you on the the podcast amy it's been a pleasure and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last yes thank you so much devin i appreciate [Music] it

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