ERIC: I’m so excited to have Christina from a startup called Little You. Thanks for joining today.
CHRISTINA: Thank you for inviting me here.
ERIC: I’m delighted to hear more about your story. Let’s dive in from the early days, how did you go about even thinking about starting a startup?
CHRISTINA: I graduated from OCAD university back in 2015 and Little You was actually my school project. I wanted to build my own brand of those characters. Let people design and as a designer, I did all the designs by myself and I just wanted to create a brand of this.
After I get the idea ready, I pitched to an incubator, and then I did some digging and realized it’s not a problem that is worth digging. So I went after what’s needed for the market and started my first company, which is a marketplace for game companies to purchase 3-D printed toys.
After four years of running my first company, I realized that’s not what I really want. So I went back to school at the University of Waterloo decided this is really what I want to do. So that’s why I continue with my journey with Little You.
ERIC: Tell us a little bit more about Little You?
CHRISTINA: Little You is a rewards application for kids to design, purchase and share 3-D printed toys. Basically we have pre-decided templates and they can customize the character by changing colors, size, position for different things to create their own unique avatar.
And again, share with their friends on social media. They also have the option to 3-D printed the toy. I actually have some samples. A little characters in. We are bringing in new materials this month and then we will have other material coming up. So it is an exciting product that we are bringing to the market.
ERIC: How was it like in terms of validation and then finding out could this could be something that people are willing to buy?
CHRISTINA: In the early days that we did validation through survey by actually approaching thousands of people and asking about what do you think about 3-D printed toys.
And then we also did one-on-one interviews with target customers, parents, and teachers to find out if this is a market that they need. Um, the other thing that we did. We talked to people in industry, um, like professionals in the gaming industry or education industry to get the feedbacks and advise for our company.
ERIC: How did you go about the steps after?
CHRISTINA: Since I have some experience with startup, this time I decided to just go right into this, just like hire some agencies to develop the application. It took me about six months to develop the whole project together. I find the early days we should just make it work, make the minimum viable product and just bring it to the market and to see what the customers or the audiences say about it. I just went right away into product development.
ERIC: Any tips when it comes to like developing the product?
CHRISTINA: At first I think design is very important, as a designer with that background, so that you have a simple aesthetic looking website. And after that, I would say do some user experience group to actually test out with customers and get feedback from whoever is.
I sent out to teachers and parents to ask for they advise and see if this is clear for people to play. I think validation with customers again is very important even though at the development stage.
ERIC: What kind of questions did you ask for the interviews?
CHRISTINA: I would say I’ll ask them politely. Sometimes we give them samples to actually see the physical products. When you send a cold email, make sure that the title is very catchy because nowadays people skip on temails. Also makes sure that you get your points early in the email.
We don’t want to read a long email. At the end to make sure you have a follow up call or a discussion say, “would you be interested to discuss further next Tuesday?” So you have a specific day to discuss further about this project, rather than just saying, “would you be interested?”
ERIC: How did you go about getting the word out?
CHRISTINA: So I would say we are still a very early stage company, we actually just launched last month. So it’s a pretty new company. What we did first, we sent out a press release, talked about how we’re coming to the market. And then we did social media, marketing, influencers marketing. And right now we are in the middle of forming a partnership. Partnership with a global supplier to bring new materials to our customers, and we’re also talking to other communities about collaboration with school and art teachers. Those are the sorts of steps that we’re currently doing to market our product or get more exposure.
ERIC: Do you have any tips for our audience that are just starting out like?
CHRISTINA: I would say follow your passion, especially for young entrepreneurs is important to try it out at an early stage and do it fast.There’s a quote that says“fail fast”. you have to try it first and see how that goes. If not working, then pivot. Just do it then you will learn so much when you start a company.
ERIC: Any tips for pivoting?
CHRISTINA: That’s a very good question. I think it’s just a reality once you realize that the market needed something else rather than the thing you think the customers would want. So it’s often a hard decision and yeah, it’s also hard for me when I closed my first company. I decided to pivot and go back to school. I think it is a hard thing, but I would encourage whoever in that process be stronger and make the decision faster. Once they know for sure that’s not the product the customer wants then do it.
ERIC: How do you balance things out? Because as a founder, oftentimes we love our startups, and working 24 seven maybe. So how do you keep it together?
CHRISTINA: I balance my life between startup and my free times, like equally, because I have a lot of hobbies during my free time. I think it’s important that we keep our hobbies at the same time we’re running our startups and I find, maybe do some painting or do some musicComposing really helped me release the stress from the startup. I think it’s very important to actually do the things at work and also separate it. You can spend some time with family.
That’s actually the reason why I started Little You because its mission is actually about do whatever, be like be whoever you want. You can customize the character in any way you want.
So there’s no constraint like limiting yourself to one career one style or so that’s why i designed Little You, and can have like multiple careers and I can just be whoever you want to be.
ERIC: I think that that is very good advice because I think in this world that we live in, you’ve got to be yourself. I always ask founders what’s the best advice you have gotten?
CHRISTINA: I have a story. I think a couple years ago where I did a competition and it was pretty challenging. Then at the end, I got into the finalists, but I did not win. One of the judges actually came to me and then he saw that I look disappointed and then he told me that idea is great and the product is great. At the end he told me one sentence, which I don’t think I can ever forget. He says “your pitch was good, but not great”. I think I always remember this because at first he told me that the company is great and then comfort me. He also gave me the space to improve because I want to be great, not just good. There are more space for me to learn.
ERIC: Aim for something bigger, right? Because I think as a startup founder, there’s always ways to improve on things. That’s very important to always take feedback, but at the same time, you know, where that feedback is coming from? Are they credible? Are they another founder? Take the feedback, but always take it with a grain of salt. For our audience that want to learn about Little You, how can they get in touch with you?
CHRISTINA: They can just visit our website www.littleyou.ca or they can find me on LinkedIn. If they have any other questions they can just contact me there.
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