Planoly is Brandy Pham’s first tech startup, but not her first venture. That’s probably why the app for Instagram users already has almost half a million accounts since launching last year. “I’m still on a learning curve, but I definitely applied what I had figured out the hard way when starting a jewelry line,” says Pham, whose rings and necklaces were available at stores such as Henri Bendel and Anthropologie.
In fact, her app evolved from her jewelry design business. “We had shifted our focus to e-commerce and noticed that sales went way up when I posted on Instagram,” Pham recalls. “It was a lot of work, though, taking photos, editing and captioning them, plotting them out for the week and then posting three times a day—on top of designing the jewelry and arranging for its manufacture.”
Then she had a baby, and just about lost her mind. Her husband, though, thought they could design an app that would help her—and together they realized they had something that other small businesses that marketed their brands on Instagram could also use.
Since then, Pham is mainly focused on building Planoly. But she took time out from her hectic schedule (literally pulling over her car to talk on the phone) to share the five things she would tell someone thinking of taking the entrepreneurial leap.
#1. Learn on someone else’s dime.
“If you first work for someone in the same business, you’ll save yourself a lot of money by not making rookie mistakes—plus, you’ll know where and how you can do things better than the competition.”
#2. Iron out who you are and what you want to achieve before going out on your own.
“There are going to be tough times ahead, but they’re much easier to navigate if you know what’s important to you and are guided by your vision and goals.”
#3. Don’t rush the hiring process.
“Take the time and effort to find the right people. They should be qualified, share your passion and fit your team culture. That’s who you need to grow and thrive.”
#4. Be prepared to make personal sacrifices.
“Everyone knows that building a company takes commitment. But I don’t think they fully realize what that entails. You may not see your family for a year. You may not go on vacation for several years. You may age 10 years and get gray hairs.”
#5. Find your inner cheerleader.
“Spreading the word and selling your brand is all on you. You may get shot down or cut off before you’ve even finished your pitch, but you can’t take it personally. You have to stay strong, be confident and believe, believe, believe.”