How We’re Bootstrapping a SaaS Product Side-hustle

enjoying the NC mountain living life

Caroline (my partner in life and business) and I have come to agree that our favorite weekend projects revolve around business building (I would like to call it empire building, but one step at a time here). So naturally, living out our best life here in the North Carolina mountains means it was inevitable that we would only spend so long sitting on our hands on the porch overlooking the mountains before building something new.

After our last business venture together flopped (Drift Camping — a network of campgrounds like WeWork for full-time RVers) before even getting off the ground¬† (a story for another day), we’ve been patiently letting the next fun idea hit us. Our only criteria next time around were to build something that didn’t require insane amounts of working capital (we were one signature away from buying a $650K campground) and we wanted to have full control (read: no investors needed).

Enter Morsel. Our official side hustle.

You can read about the idea for Morsel at your pleasure. In short, Morsel is the best solution to document, upload, share, and preserve your family recipes in an online cookbook. Duh, right!? I’m so sick of asking my mom every day for a recipe. Seriously! Love you mom, but not efficient.

old recipe card

Pulse check on the potential of our product being successful:

  1. An idea born of a REAL pain point for co-founders (not just pretend pain points) [CHECK]
  2. Unofficial research by way of mentioning it to friends and family and gauging their gut reaction [Overwhelming Positive Reaction]
  3. Pitching to colleagues in the startup/tech space [They started riffing on future feature sets — typically a good signal]
  4. Do the current solutions out there suck? [YES]
  5. Are the niche/industry/buyer personas all signal to a buyer mindset? [YES]
  6. Are strangers interested? [Currently getting 1-2 leads a day to our website pre-launch via Google Ads because I can’t help myself]

All signs are pointing to a need for this. The big question will be, how much of a need?

My process for spinning up a business idea:

  1. Do the above pulse checks pass muster?
  2. Write a 2-3 page business plan to get my ideas onto paper. I have a template for this by now because this is a great place to do a little number crunching and kill an idea before you get too deep.
  3. Make a list of competitors, audit what they are doing and where the gaps are.
  4. Build MVP go-to-market plan for product and marketing
  5. Spend more time than I’d like to admit on SEMrush.com looking to where the search intent of related keywords are and what competitors are or aren’t doing to grow.
  6. Guage how much of the business will be harvesting demand vs. growing demand. Neither is good nor bad, but harvesting is easier to get started in bootstrapping. Do I really want to be convincing people they need this to start or would we rather be the best at getting in front of people that know they have this problem already?
  7. Spend 1-2 days thinking through business names. Morsel took longer (2 weeks) because jesus, every name under the sun is taken nowadays for .com’s.
  8. Buy a domain, set up Cloudways, spin up yet another WordPress framework & use my go-to theme.
  9. Spin up a landing page with Klaviyo opt-in offers. Landing pages need to have as much meat on them as possible.
  10. Once I have a landing page that looks like we are a legit product, then I will spend 30 minutes getting Google Tag Manager codes setup, Google Analytics, Conversion tracking to success pages of opt-in triggering correctly.
  11. Setup Google Ads account with a laundry list of negative keywords and only exact match types to start time targeting the core of what problem the product is solving.
  12. Wait and see if we get traction. I would say 4-5%+ conversion is a good sign for us at the moment.

This is all a lot of marketing lingo obviously. But I think a lot of SaaS or tech founders forget that marketing is everything. Let’s all just agree you need a great product as a non-starter. The SaaS space is noisy so I don’t prescribe to the notion that a good product will always bring you success. Marketing gives you a little control over your feast or famine.

If you’ve made it this far in the article, thanks for reading. I’ll be periodically adding more stream of conscious articles like this to document the build of Morsel. Mainly for my own benefit so that in a few years I can look back and laugh or cry at what we tried. If this is interesting to you, would love you to follow along on the journey and also be a free beta tester of Morsel by joining our pre-launch email list.

Next article I’ll dig into the actual product building side of things.

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