How I Went From Unemployed to Running a 6-Figure Business

June 11, 2014

Connect Member

Adda designs and teaches classes on digital job skills

Step 3. Test Your Idea, Gather Feedback, Refine and Do It Again!

My company was born as an idea about a chick-lit book on technology.

At the time, making an online education company was NOT the idea.

Since writing a book would take forever, I decided to start with a “cheat sheet” of sorts (it felt like  reasonable proxy for a book). I figured I could make the cheat sheet look pretty and see if anyone cared to read it. My collaborator (and eventual Skillcrush co-founder) convinced me that instead of making a cheat sheet we should make a deck of cards. We named it the “Digital Diva” deck and illustrated a set of about 15 cards, each one of which defined a tech term — like HTML or JavaScript — in a fun and relatable way.

Did we think this could make money? Not much. Did we plan to build this into a business that employs seven? Not initially.

But the Digital Diva deck became a conversation starter, as well a test. I could show it to women I met and gauge their interest. Did they like the way we defined the terms? Did they appreciate the illustrations? Did the cards make technology feel more accessible?

And sure enough, I started this very conversation with one woman who it turned out had been thinking a lot about this same idea: making fun, accessible, online tech education targeted at women. She brought the business savvy and we brought the tech and design talent, and boom, Skillcrush was born.

But that was not the end of my experimenting! Once we decided we were going to build a company, I kicked the experimentation into high gear because I knew that now we really needed to figure out whether this idea had teeth.

During one experiment, I pounded the pavement at SXSW with my two co-founders, convincing women, one by one, to sign up for a newsletter that explained tech in an easy to understand way (we figured that if women at SXSW weren’t into it, no one would be). Soon the newsletter took off — it started getting shared, more people subscribed and it got covered in the media! With the success of the newsletter, I tried launching a downloadable ebook. Then a tutorial. A fun, fresh class on learning technology. And hundreds of people signed up! 

Just over a year later, we offer four classes, two career blueprints and a unique learning community that helps people learn to code the way I wish someone had told me to learn years ago! And our team has grown to seven.

The takeaways? No one wakes up one day and has a six-figure business, but that’s a good thing. Time and hard work do pay off, so start by equipping yourself with the hard skills you need to be successful. As you go, be on the look out for a problem that needs solving. When you think you are onto something, start testing the market and the product right away.

Adda Birnir is the co-founder of Skillcrush and a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.

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