Here’s one of the best things about being an entrepreneur today: you don’t need a whole lot of capital in your pocket to get your business off the ground. If you have a cool idea, a compelling story, and some marketing chops to boot, it’s entirely possible to raise all the money you need through crowdfunding.
But fundraising is just the first step of your entrepreneurial journey. Some might even argue that raising money is the easy part, and the real challenge comes once you have the funds and need to build your business.
And while there are many steps to successfully growing and running a business, most would agree that the tools you use in your company play a key role. That’s why it’s a must that you invest in the right software or platforms.
The question is, which tools should you adopt?
To shed light on this, we caught up with a couple of entrepreneurs who are running crowdfunded businesses with the help of various types of software.
We spoke with Elyse Kaye, the CEO and founder of Bloom Bras, a line of activewear for well-endowed women that promotes comfort, breathability and aesthetics using state-of-the-art materials and patented technology. Bloom Bras ran a Kickstarter campaign in 2016 and reached their funding goal of $20,000 in 82 hours. They then went on to raise a total of $32,186.
We also connected with Olav Balandin, the CEO & Founder of DiggEcard, a solution delivering gift cards as a service on mobile platforms. They crowdfunded their venture through SparkUp, a platform that helps startups, asset managers, and small caps raise money through crowd and equity funding.
Here’s a look at the software and tools they’re using in their companies.
1. Web or e-commerce platform
These days, it’s nearly impossible to run a successful venture without an online presence. For this reason, one of your first orders of business should be to find the best web platform for your company.
There are various website builders in the market, and the right one will depend on your products and business model. For instance, if you’re selling physical goods online, then you’ll need an online shopping cart. In the case of Bloom Bras’, their platform of choice is Shopify.
2.Sales and marketing software
Both Kaye and Balandin said that choosing a robust sales and marketing software is essential — and for a good reason. Having a platform on which to run your sales and marketing initiatives will enable you to connect with leads and customers.
At Bloom Bras, Kaye said their software helps them stay on top of various business relationships. They use HubSpot, and according to her, “between, press, sales and, influencers, I have been able to manage relationships, follow-ups, and future engagements.”
Accounting software is another tool that you need to consider early on. Keeping your finances and books in check right from the get-go will save you a lot of headaches when doing your taxes or when it’s time to conduct a financial inventory.
Balandin said that they use a web-based accounting solution, and here at CUE, we suggest that you follow suit. Web-based accounting has excellent security and can be accessed from anywhere. Also, you can save time by integrating other tools like payment processing or inventory management.
Getting paid is a critical aspect of running a business, so find a provider that lets you process payments with ease. Whether you’re selling online, in-person, or on-the-go, there are numerous payment processors to choose from.
Bloom Bras, according to Kaye, utilizes Shopify’s payment gateway for online sales, and they use Square for offline events and sales.
5. Order fulfillment
Order fulfillment systems are incredibly important if you sell physical goods online. Your choice of software will primarily depend on your shipping workflows and your couriers (e.g., USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.).
Bloom Bras’ Kaye mentioned that they use Endicia for their shipping needs, and added that “it’s been fantastic for postage and tracking.”
CUE also recommends using ShipStation as their product is specially designed for small businesses.
6. Internal communications
Do you work with several employees or freelancers? Then be sure to look into internal communication solutions so you can efficiently transmit information and keep everyone on the same page.
At Bloom Bras, Kaye’s team of contractors and interns use Slack for their internal communication.
7. Project and team management
Running a business often involves managing projects, timelines, and all sorts of initiatives. To stay on top of everything, get yourself a solid project and team management solution.
According to Balandin, their project management and collaboration systems have been invaluable for their planning and execution.
“For us, the most important tool has been a good collaboration software that we can use for daily planning. We use Monday for everything from long-term planning to weekly tasks. We even used it when doing crowdfunding, keeping track of the flow of emails and paperwork.”
Information can come at you fast, which is why it’s handy to have a note-taking app that lets you record everything from meeting summaries to random business ideas. Kaye said she uses Evernote, a cloud-based note-taking app to do just that.
9. File storage
File storage is indispensable for any business. You and your team need a centralized system for storing and accessing documents, photos, multimedia, and any other relevant files.
According to Balandin, they use the online solution Dropbox for their files, and we suggest you do the same. Storing your files in the cloud allows you to access them from anywhere with an internet connection.
10. Social media management
Are Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter part of your marketing mix? Then be sure to shop around for a solution so you can schedule posts and track social media mentions with ease.
11. Email marketing
If you communicate regularly with leads and customers (and you totally should), then you’ll need an email marketing solution for collecting addresses and sending messages. Ideally, your email marketing software should be integrated with your e-commerce site so you can track conversions and other metrics.
Bloom Bras uses MailChimp for their email marketing, and according to Kaye, “it is very simple to use and offers a lot of extra tools for when we scale.”
- Reporting and analytics
Speaking of which, knowing your metrics is crucial, so invest in a good business reporting and analytics suite. In the case of DiggEcard, Balandin said they use Klipfolio for tracking their key performance indicators (KPIs).
To find the best reporting software for your company, first, identify the top metrics or KPIs in your business. Would they include website traffic and conversions? What about sales or annual recurring revenue? Figure it out, and then find a platform that can surface those numbers for you.
Next steps: finding and choosing the best business software
Shopping around for software is a vital task for any business, which is why you shouldn’t do it alone. One of the best steps you can take when evaluating solutions is to ask other entrepreneurs.
For instance, when Kaye was searching for software to use in Bloom Bras, she got a lot of help from her entrepreneurial network. Being a member of several female founder groups on Facebook, Kaye said she received a lot of recommendations (and in some cases even discount codes) by asking group members for software suggestions.
Once you’ve gotten some good ones, do a bit of online research using CUE’s comparison pages. We’ve done all the work for you and synthesized it for you to save you time.
And if you need help at any stage of the process — whether you’re still searching for software or are ready to implement it — know that CUE has you covered. Head over to the CUE Marketplace to access unbiased software recommendations, reviews, and exclusive deals. Need additional assistance? Get in touch, and we’ll point you in the right direction.