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Khobaib Chowdhury: 4 Lessons From 4 Years Of Styline

We have celebrated our 4th anniversary at Styline last month. It has been a whirlwind journey full of challenges as well as deep gratification. Not only we have changed as a company, but these four years also have a transformational experience for me. These are some of the hard-earned lessons from the journey so far.

Early growth doesn’t last forever

There are always early adopters and they will buy anyway what you offer to them - no matter if your product solves their problem or not. These people are curious by nature and they always try new things. But remember these people also leave fast apparently for no reason. After this happy period of time, if you don't have a plan ready, you will see your growth curve is not there anymore though you are doing nothing wrong. Knowing the answer to this question is super important – what is working (and not working) behind the growth. If it’s not planned, probably you won’t be able to replicate it.

Always focus on building a loyal customer-base who feel your product is solving their problems and you take good care of those customers. And for this you have to be a visionary, go to the future and have to be able to look back to connect the dots. You always need to be innovative to grab next 1000 customers, and if you are in the fashion business by any chance, always keep an eye on existing customers, otherwise, they won't come back.

You need to build process to scale

After the initial fun part of growth and running startup, comes the time when you need to focus on scaling, and suddenly it makes you not profitable anymore. At that point you have to spend on building the process to make a scalable and sustainable system; so you need managers and leaders, suddenly your cost goes up and you need money to invest in different areas such as technology, human resource development, training, etc. This phase is somewhat not exciting as we don't see the growth curve anymore, but still, we have to carry on. And then, this won't bring results overnight. This is a time to brainstorm, experiment and research. This struggling time is one of the biggest challenges for startups and if you can’t focus, it will be tough to survive.

Find hungry and ambitious people

And make sure they can deliver. A startup means you are running against money, human resources and time. There is no place for ordinary performance because you have to disrupt if you want to succeed. For this reason, you need hungry and driven people who are disruptive enough to grow with the company in a fast pace environment, can learn anything and everything to build process and, can deliver.

For a startup, finding the right guys might be a bit challenging as you don’t have a lot of money to onboard them. But what you can offer is selling your vision and let them feel the ownership. It’s like a marriage, to be a partner of the business. You can’t just ask random people to marry you. First, show them your vision and see if it excites them. If they feel passionate, they will jump in.

Events and meetups won't give you growth

Startup is a buzzword now. A lot of events are happening around to utilize the hype, we sometimes fall under the false perception that it could give us recognition and growth. Of course, you need good connections to build the business and make partnerships but don't spend all days and weeks for this, rather spend some good hours in brainstorming on business development, training potential people and solving real problems.

You would not find a single successful founder who achieved growth by showing his face at all events because building a company is hard and it takes time. If you are spending your time in doing unnecessary shit, it would not take you far. At first, it might look tempting – taking a chance to talk to a crowd or meeting some market leaders, get some fame but the question you must ask yourself before investing your time into something: is this going to add value to my business?

Khobaib Chowdhury is the Founder and CEO of Styline, a fast-growing modest fashion and beauty e-commerce marketplace based in Dhaka. He can be reached at [email protected]

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