It’s been over five years since we launched Aisle Planner. In that time, we’ve grown from an idea born in a garage to becoming a real company. We started with one customer. Now, we have thousands of planners, venues, florists, caterers and photographers using our software. They're managing their businesses and planning and executing events and projects of all kinds. It's been an amazing journey for us to see our vision come to life and become the thriving ecosystem we had envisioned when we first started out. From the very beginning, we felt confident that we had a great idea. Like most new ventures though, we were a bit unsure of what it was going to take to make this dream into a reality.
Tina and I both had experience working for others and for ourselves in the course of our careers. We hadn't worked together, however, other than the occasional cameo at the each other's events. Choosing to start a business together, much less a tech company of this scope, was completely uncharted territory for us personally and professionally. When we made the commitment to go all in, we quickly learned that taking this vision and converting it into a real business was going to be a bit more complicated and challenging than we had anticipated.
Work with What You've Got
Like many entrepreneurs, we had limited resources to counter or solve for what seemed like unlimited expenses and issues. It’s one of the biggest problems in starting a business, plain and simple. It was like being on a real-life version of Jeopardy. The difference was, the questions were all tied to your business and or personal life with dollar signs attached to each one.
Balancing Joy and Purpose
Beyond the balancing acts between income and expense, and solution to problem, came the insane workload. It’s easy to visualize the romantic notion of being your own boss dictating your own pace day to day. Until, that is, payday comes and you don’t have the money to write yourself that big ol' salary check. As many of our hard-working, entrepreneurial pros know, starting your own business means that you'll work harder than you've ever worked before. You'll do the things you love better than ever. You'll do the things you hate because you have to. And, you'll teach yourself to do the things you know nothing about. You'll push through every demoralizing failure and delay. Then, and only if you're lucky, you might get a paycheck.
Performance Comes from Within
From the very beginning, we knew that for Aisle Planner to succeed, it was going to need a solid foundation. One that would ultimately allow it to become bigger than the two of us. One that would give it the wings to grow and mature with an identity of its own. This meant we would need to invest the limited resources we had into more than “the pretty things” that have come to define brands these days. We would need to invest in those often overlooked aspects of business. As someone who favors a wrench in their hand bent over the fender of my latest automotive project, these are the things "under the hood" that define true performance over simply looking the part.
Values and Vision
One of the first things we did was to invest in creating the business. This meant incorporating the company and taking steps to protect our intellectual property so there was something tangible behind the brand. It wasn’t that expensive, but it was certainly confusing. There were a lot of options, which added costs and complexity. When we took a step back from the process and layered our values and vision for the future into our decision making, arriving at answers became that much easier.
Operations Up Front
One of the most frequently overlooked aspects of a successful business, we dove into setting up our operations next. But we did so only when we were confident in the corporate framework of our business. We spent weeks reviewing different programs and applications that would help us to manage our payroll, accounting, health insurance and taxes. We knew these elements were key to building a strong operational foundation for the company. They would help us attract the right team and ensure we stayed compliant. As we grew, programs like these would save us hundreds of hours per year and help us centralize our records in the cloud. In the event we needed them, they were just a click away.
Throughout all of this, we were elbows deep in the core of the Aisle Planner ecosystem: our technology. The sheer number and complexity of decisions in this area was mind-numbing. We were fortunate enough, however, to have put the foundation first in launching our business. This allowed the business to operate in the background so we could dedicate time and resources toward developing the technology that would solve the problems of an industry and translate our vision into what would become Aisle Planner. All of this happened before our first logo was designed, or before our first styled shoot took place. Before our first business card was designed or social media account went live.
This should give you a sense of the importance we placed on having a good foundation to build on. And since that time, we've made some incredible progress and we've seen your businesses thrive. We're far from being done, you can be sure of that. Because we made the right choices to focus on foundation first, we're more confident than ever. We're set up to meet every opportunity that lies in our path head on. And, we can do it with purpose and the clear vision of our Power of One.
Hero photo courtesy Pura Soul