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Story Tuesday: Off to a good start

So we ended 2014 in a rot and we did feel defeated and discouraged, but we used it as a motivator to hype us up for 2015. It was going to be our first full year and we had hopes of making the best of it. This is week 7's entry. Try reading up on the first six if you haven't so that this one could make sense.

Part 7: Off to a good start

We had decided to purchase a waste ink tank being that we would be printing a hell of a lot more, and that had caused the problem in the first place. Since we did not have a credit card we ordered the item through a shipping company (that no longer exists because it was blasted on Facebook countless times) and it was scheduled to arrive in mid January. When the scheduled day of its arrival came around, we found out that the company took our money, did not purchase the item and was giving us a hard time to refund the money. With tensions running high we managed to later collect a cheque for our refund to order the  item again. By this time Armando had figured out a way how to bypass  the error message from the printer.

The waste ink tank arrived at the ending of January and we quickly processed the orders that had been pending from December since a few people had agreed to wait for us to get the part. Since a lot of people didn't get their order in December, they came back in February for their case. It worked out great since a lot of people had gotten new phones over the holidays.

So we entered February with high energy, especially so because we got some unexpected attention. Municipal elections were going to be help in March 2015 and a lot of die-hard fans loved the idea of putting their political flag on their case or their Standard Bearer's name on their case. The idea spread like wildfire and political cases of all colors were being requested from all over the country. Cha-ching. It wasn't really our intentions to do political cases but it was a God sent. We needed the sales and they needed to boast about their party so it was a win win. It was very unfortunate that we have no real data of how many political cases we sold for that elections but I would want to go as far as to say that at least 80% of that month's sale was from political cases.

When election mode was over we did our best to optimize sales. Armando stayed home and worked on making the cases and I stole a lot from time from work to answer messages, create previews and compile orders for Armando to process. We posted a lot into buy and sell groups, and we got a lot of referrals in there and we were helpful.

In May of that year we had a Mother's day sale and it was the first time we experimented with "sponsoring" on Facebook. My friend Michael ( from Michael Palacio photography) was at the time working for an American company that paid him to an American account. He agreed to pay for our Facebook ads and we paid him cash in Belize dollars. Was a win win for both sides since he lived nearby. That access enabled us to experiment a lot and learn a lot from Facebook's boosts.

In August of 2015 we celebrated our first anniversary and to commemorate the occasion we announce our new logo. The logo we had for the first year was a logo I made in power point out of necessity so a new logo change how we advertised and promoted. That same month we came across a very unique opportunity to win money. We lost our opportunity to win the first challenge so we weren't going to miss this one. We registered for the BTL Entrepreneurship Challenge and was structured the same format as the Emprende Challenge where business advisers from SBDC had training sessions for the participants to learn about target market, value proposition, the problem the business was solving and more. Honestly, at the time we signed up I felt like we had it in our pockets but had forgotten the struggle it was doing the lean canvas and all the details that goes into the sessions. Nevertheless it was worth a shot. We took turns between Armando and I to go to the sessions and we prepared presentations to present to the judges.

We were not aware that the first submission of our presentation was sent to the judges. What we knew was that we did not like the presentation we had and weren't giving them that. I cringed every time we read our value proposition and the rest of the topics to cover were hard to understand The advisers weren't much help because they were just there to guide but didn't help us come up with the answers. Days before the final presentation we were so close to give up. I remember Armando called the BTL employee that was in charged and told her we were considering giving up. She begged us not to give up because two other groups had given up. When the call ended she called Omar, our business adviser that was also a part of the project and had him call us to discourage us from giving up. We still felt like we didn't stand a chance at winning. So the day before the final presentation to the panel of judges we decided to scrap everything we had previously been working on an start over. We knew it would be a lot of work and would require an all nighter but didn't think about all of that, we just started working. I worked on putting together the accounting for the past year (we had been functioning for 15 months) and gave a whole account of the break down of our sales. Then we began a whole new power point presentation that had the same content but with our own take of it. The eureka moment happened when we came up with our first solid Value proposition. Once everything was prepared we decided to print the entire report along with the accounting as one report and have a copy for each judge. It had to be somewhere around 3 or 4 in the morning when we finally felt contented in our printed report as well as our oral presentation of it. The next day we felt like a train had ran over us but the excitement of presenting to a panel or surprise judges has us on adrenaline. 

We were the last of the three presentations so seeing the first two teams come back confident in them doing their best was a bit nerve wrecking. Then it was our turn. I'm not normally nervous when talking in front of a crowd, but knowing the pressure on us to win made it a bit difficult. It was shaking, my hands felt cold and and I felt like I needed to lay down. But we just had to pull up our booth straps on finish the last part of this long journey. I'm not really sure what part of our presentation won over the judges but I just remember one saying, "this was not the level of energy or content I was expecting based on your first submission." and at that point I knew we had done great. We ended up winning the event, and winning $10,000 for the business. The level of excitement had me smiling even when my cheeks were tired. I was so happy and excited that I went back home and couldn't even sleep.

So you would think that we just got a cheque the next day and that would be that. Wrong. BTL had sent us a contract that they had wanted us to sign saying we would be restricted from doing certain things and saying certain things for a year. It did not fit well with us because it was not initially disclosed to us. So I forwarded the agreement to a lawyer friend to review to see if it was even in our best interest to sign. They also wanted to meet and discuss other issues in person, so we decided to take a friend with us as a business adviser to ensure that they didn't take advantage of us. At the end of it, we ended up getting our money with no strings attached. One small victory for the underdog.

That December we experienced our first Xmas sales. We were so excited to just be able to sell cases in December, we were even more excited when we were invited to the Xmas expo hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. 

Finally the Murphy streak had ended. Or at least that's what we thought. Next week's entry will be about our 2016 events and let's just say it was that pretty.                                                                                                                                                                                 

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