How I Created a Business During the Weekend: Step-by-Step Process

Enrique Iturriaga
September 4, 2020
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For the last couple of years I've been obsessed with stoicism.

Stoicism is a philosophy designed to make us more resilient, happier, more virtuous and more wise–and as a result, better people, better parents and better professionals.

One of the most important practices that the stoics recommend is Journaling. Any kind of journaling can be very helpful. I've journaled for the last year or so. I found a couple of books and articles with Stoic journaling prompts.

These journaling topics have been a game changer for me. I journal first thing in the morning and it really sets me up for having an amazing day.

After a couple of months journaling, I ran out of journaling topics and I had to find new prompts every day. I managed to get more than 350 different journaling topics like:

  • Are the pleasures I'm chasing actually worth it?
  • Am I cultivating the virtue that makes adversity bearable?
  • Think of someone you admire. Write yourself advise you think they would give you from their point-of-view.
  • Think of 12 year-old you. What “secrets of life” have you acquired that you would want to share with yourself?

I shared some of these journaling topics in a private Facebook group and people went CRAZY about them. That's when the light bulb turned on. That's when I knew I was in front of a possible business idea.

As you might have read in other posts, I'm a big fan of Lean methodologies (taught by Eric Ries in the Lean Startup).

I believe in ideating, testing and validating as a process for creating anything. I'm always aware of the risk of assuming that my ideas are better than they are.

Stoic Journaling Topics: There's a potential business idea here!

So... I went ahead and decided to test my idea. I created a plan. The plan goes as follows:

  1. Create a system to validate my idea
  2. Create an MVP (minimum viable product) with the only purpose of validating my idea and its real potential
  3. Test the MVP, and measure the results.
  4. Based on the results make a decision:
  5. Iterate and create a full version of the product and a monetization strategy
  6. OR
  7. Abandon the project

1. Create a system to validate my idea

On this step, I laid the rules I was going to follow throughout this validation phase.

I decided that I was going to create an MVP of the product and I wasn't going to invest any money before I was sure that people would be willing to buy my idea.

At this point I am not even thinking about how to monetize and make a profitable business with the idea. I just have an idea and I want to put it in front of potential customers just to see their reactions.

If people get super excited about the idea and interact with it, I can go ahead and invest in developing a real product out of it.

It's important to decide beforehand, what a successful validation would look like.

In my case I decided that I was going to create a website (in just a couple hours, nothing fancy) and if within a month the daily traffic wasn't going up and had at least 50 visitors per day, the idea wasn't passing the validation exam.

I also set up an email list and decided that after a month I needed at least 50 subscribers to consider the idea valid.

Email subscribers are an awesome indicator for validation. Not only you are validating that people want something from you (or your idea), but you are also opening a communication channel with your potential customers for the future. If you manage to validate your idea and create a monetizable product, you'll have a list of people to sell it to.

It's worth to mention that I can do all of these things without spending any money.

I can create a 100% custom website with Webflow for free in just a couple hours.

I can set up an email list with Sendfox for free.

2. Create an MVP (minimum viable product) with the only purpose of validating if my idea has real potential

In this step you need to be very careful in not investing too much time or money into creating the MVP. You still don't know if the idea is any good. I recommend creating a free website and a free email list with the sole purpose of validation.

Think MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT. What's the minimum amount of time and money you need to invest in order to create a version of the product that will let you validate the idea. No more, no less.

My preferred tools for this are:

For web design: Webflow

For email marketing: Sendfox

For my idea, I created a website with webflow where I posted every weekday a new journaling topic. I automatized everything so I only had to input the prompts on Mondays and every day at 8 am the website would update. I used integromat (free version) to create that automation.

I spent less than 3 hrs creating this MVP. You can check it out here:

3. Put the MVP to test and measure the results.

In this step you need to be very aware of your biases and assumptions. Be as pragmatic and honest as possible. It's normal to want the idea to pass the validation test, but you should always remember that it's better to fail validation than to create something that no one wants because you didn't hear or saw that people didn't want what you offered.

It's very important to decide in the fist step what a successful validation would look like. That way you can't lie to yourself

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool".Richard Feynman

For my idea, I got a great start (50+ subscribers in the first day), but the traffic to the website stopped completely after a week.

I posted the website in a couple Facebook groups and in my personal social media. People seemed excited and engaged at the beginning and It would've been easy to accept that as validation, but thankfully I had already set the rules for what a valid idea would look like.

I had to fulfill the validation requirements I had stated in step one in order to consider the idea valid.

4. Based on the results make a decision of:

After analyzing the results, you need to decide if you're going forward with the idea or not.

Your 2 options are:

  • Iterate and create a full version of the product and a monetization strategy:
  • Abandon the project

If you decide to keep going with the project, you'll have to invest more money and time into it.

After more than a month of testing my Stoic journaling idea, it didn't pass my validation test. The first days were great and I got a lot of traffic and subscribers, but after that, the traffic stopped and I didn't get a single subscriber after week 2.

I decided not to further pursue the idea as a business before it took more time from me.

I've kept it as a passion project because I enjoy it. You can check it here.

If I would've validated the idea, I would've started to invest in creating a sellable product with it. Maybe a book with prompts, maybe a premium newsletter, maybe a SaaS product.

Remember that idea validation protects you from yourself.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.Richard Feynman

If you follow this framework, you'll be safe. It's very common to think that we need to commit and go all in when we embark in a new adventure.

But the truth is that creating a new business is hard. And, failing is natural at the beginning. If you “fail” in the validation process, you can consider it a win.

If on the other hand, you manage to succeed in the validation process, you'll start your new business with much more knowledge and understanding of your market and you audience.

Remember... NEVER ASSUME, ALWAYS VALIDATE.

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