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Bootstrapping: Starting a Small Business with Minimal Capital

Rocket Referrals grew to more than 6,000 users from over 1,500 companies from just a handful of customers in its early days. Co-Founder Torey Maerz speaks about the Greater Des Moines (DSM) startup’s success.

Torey’s Startup Tips

  • Hold off on marketing in the beginning. You don’t need fancy marketing to start out. You can do things yourself!
  • Focus on customers. Know clients better than you know yourself.
  • Create an eBook. It’s not about the revenue. Creating an eBook helps create connections.
  • Don’t create ideas, solve problems.

Find out the problem. Customers don’t buy ideas, they buy solutions. One way that Rocket Referrals did this was by creating a founding member program which led to Torey work in the insurance agent’s office. By doing this, Torey was able to hear and see the goings on and sub-problems of the agent firsthand.

Don’t sell what you build, build what you sell.

Validation is having customers before you have a product. Customers were paying for the product and that revenue allowed Rocket Referrals to fund their development. Essentially, the customers were the investors.

Know who you are.

Coming up with three core beliefs, Rocket Referrals understands who they are as a startup and business. The best software fits perfectly into real life without asking customers to change. Great software should be affordable. There is greatness in everyone. Rocket Referrals wanted to build software that helps people state their greatness. Torey touches on the importance of knowing who you are as a startup and being able to state that in a simple way.

Focus like you’ve never focused before.

This is one of the hardest things for startup founders to do! Don’t get distracted by loud customers who will end up being more expensive.

Treat employees like your partners.

Be transparent about goals, revenue, number of customers, etc. It will pay off with loyalty!

Learn about financing resources and hear the stories of other small business and startup business owners in the community in The Partnership’s Small Business Resources Hub or sign up for the NAME TBD newsletter to stay connected for information about upcoming events, other resources and the latest announcements in the small business community in DSM.