A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Launching of INDIEgu

After being in business nearly a decade, launching new business “departments” has become fun for me. Having said that, it's still a challenge, and by no means easy. I realize that starting new business segments does not come naturally to everyone, so I am going to use my blog to share a behind the scenes look at the launch of the newest INDIE department: INDIEgu. We're just a little bit proud of our new logo, as you can see.

The INDIEgu logo is colorful and fun — a perfect statement about our customers. The hands reflect how the products we offer are made by hand, by our INDIE “Makers,” with a personal touch. They encompass many colors, because our Makers come from all walks of life. The hands overlap, because we are all connected. The typeface selection, especially the first “i” in INDIE, picks up the font in the existing INDIE logo (see the top of the page). We love the slogan: “Surround yourself with goodness.” It captures the authenticity, warmth and downright goodness of the products we offer.

I got the idea for INDIEgu a few years ago. I purchased Handmade Skin Care.com to sell handmade skin care products made by members of IBN.

We created a lovely website, but got stopped cold because my back office structure was not prepared to handle the volume. We never launched the site. I wish we had saved it so I could show you how it looked, but I never thought it would be important.

At the time, I thought I had wasted my money. I even called it a “failure.” Today, years later, I see how the experience prepared me for this moment. Now, I can lead my team into waters I have already stepped my toe into. My “failure” paved the way — which means it was not a failure at all.

So, it all started with an idea. An idea to create an online destination for people who enjoy buying products that are made with a personal touch, and to connect with the INDIEpendent business owners — the Makers — who make them.

INDIEgu is as much about the people behind the products as it is about the products themselves. Here are the first things we did, after “failing,” to get the ball rolling:

  1. Assemble your team. My business partner husband, Sophia, Kim (our programmer and website designer), and I make up the team at the moment. I think we will be hiring again soon, but for now, we have everything we need. Assembling a team first was vital. We are forming the INDIEGU vision together, and we will execute its mission together. Each of us has specific responsibilities. Teamwork and accountability are critical to success.

  2. Plan. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. We've all heard that before, and it's true. One things that makes our planning process a bit easier than most is that the planning has been going on for many years now. It started with Handmade Skin Care.com, and it never really stopped. Each time I met an INDIE or welcomed a new IBN member, my mind churned with ideas about how to make something like this work. The financial projections are a bit more challenging, but we know what our costs are and we have an idea of what to expect because we've done quite a bit of market research.

    We could analyze forever, but you know me. When it's time, it's time. Our back end office set-up and database is being customized especially for us. We have specific objectives, and we have a plan to meet them. We're ready for the challenge. It's time.

  3. Choose a brand name. This is often difficult, but I think people often make it harder than it has to be by choosing names they have an emotional connection to. They also choose generic names that are not distinctive and are too suggestive of the products they sell to really set them apart. We made up the word “INDIEgu,” and had the logo custom designed from scratch. It contains no third party design elements. INDIEgu means nothing, apart from the meaning we give it as we use it to brand our products. We are also confident in the strength of the name from an intellectual property perspective.

  4. Claim the name online. Once we chose the name, we reserved it as a .com and also at the major social networking sites, including Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube, UStream, Tumblr, and Posterous. (Did we miss anything?) When we got 25 “likers” on FaceBook (this took about an hour, thanks to the support we got from the INDIE community), we snagged the vanity URL.

  5. Start spreading the word. It saddens me when people launch a website to a ghost town. That's why as soon as the INDIEgu logo was finalized, we set up a FaceBook Page and invited people to join in the fun. After a few hours, we had enough people to claim the FaceBook vanity URL. Today, we have increasingly interesting FaceBook discussions with people about our plans, our mission, and our values. Our friends are participating with us, giving us ideas, referring people to us (as partners and customers), and having fun connecting with other like-minded people.

    It is neither fun nor sensible to launch a new business with crickets chirping in the background. We are thrilled that the day we open our e-commerce doors, we will have friends there to walk through them with us.

So far, so good. We'll keep you posted on our progress. My next report will tell you about some of the Makers we are partnering with, how we are going to use video, audio and other new media tools, and how we will work together to bring you the most amazing selection of products and inspiration anywhere in the world.

Join us on FaceBook, and feel free to tell your friends who would like to see a start-up in action to subscribe to the blog and join the fun and sharing. We can work work this thing out together!

Question: What would you be doing differently at this point? What are we doing right? What are we leaving out?

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.