In our humble opinion, and that of many of you who were there, Spark.ME 2019 was the best one ever! 🙂 The dynamics that Spark.me crowd brought on by its passionate involvement and positive energy, all within a beautiful backdrop that is Porto Montenegro, is beyond compare. Plus, not only that participants were amazed by the quality of the speakers, but the speakers themselves were thrilled with Spark.me atmosphere, being present most of the two days and taking part in the conference beyond their respective talks. What more could we possibly ask for?!
Another important part of the conference is the Spark.me Startup Competition, and we can certainly credit the amazing startups that presented at Spark.me 2019 stage with some of the ideas we are brimming with. The winning startup got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – a ticket to TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019, and the chance to present their idea at their TC Disrupt Startup Alley, the biggest startup exhibition space in the world. Maybe you have heard of them, maybe not, but let us introduce you to *drum rolls* the mighty Boostowski!
The Boostowski startup is a maker of software that helps you develop your salespeople and track their performance. Its creator is my idol – a woman who wanted to make some difference in the world! Biljana Ždrale had shown that it doesn’t matter who or how old you are – it’s never too late to start your own thing! This article brings you her story.
Sometimes it seems like creating a startup is mission impossible. It takes a lot of effort, sweat and even tears. But, with a lot of hard work, good role-models and a little bit of luck – you can create miracles! To help you with that role-models part, we have put together six things you can learn from Boostowski and their path so far.
1. The first step is to recognise and understand the problem.
Before creating Boostowski, Biljana Ždrale’s spent 13 years working in sales as a consultant and a trainer. She had a good job, everything seemed perfect, but some deeper meaning was missing! She was the “external trainer”, and as the years went by, she got more and more dissatisfied with the way the sales training in general works.
One day she woke up wondering: “Is it possible that technology has progressed so much, that the world is constantly changing, yet the sales training is done the same way over and over again with no results? Everyone knows that after 7 days of training, people remember only 5% of the content…” So she started to think – “What if..? What if every salesman had a coach, an individual that, just like in sports, could help him achieve his daily and monthly goals?”
2. Do your homework. Ask for feedback. Test and review.
That was it! The idea was born!
Boostowski wouldn’t be here now if Biljana didn’t start exploring as much as she could about start-ups and ways of creating the app! She wasn’t an IT expert, and she knew nothing about the tech industry, so she did the only thing that was left for her to do – start digging. She started working with Startit a Serbian non-profit dedicated to growing local startup community and encouraging innovation in the IT sphere. She was exploring, learning, talking about her idea, asking for feedback… and that is how she got her friend and current co-founder involved with Boostowski! Together, they created the app that behaves as a sales manager, tracking and analyzing the sales data in order to facilitate and improve training for employers in the retail sector.
The app was launched in March with Boostowski’s first client and their 4 stores. They were aware that, to evaluate the app, they needed to test it in the real world and observe the outcome. The testing period lasted for 3 months, in which they compared sales performance with those from previous years. Boostowski found that they recorded a growth in sales in all three months, and they modified their approach by shortening the period of training for new employees from 3 months to just 1 month. This meant enormous saving for the company since employees reach their full potential quicker!
3. Your team is your most valuable resource.
The best thing about startups for me is – you don’t have to do everything alone! Also, to be honest, it is impossible to do everything by yourself! You need professionals in your team. Most importantly, you need someone whom you can trust. Biljana wasn’t an IT expert; she was a psychologist who worked in sales for more than two decades. Her expertise was invaluable for starting Boostowski, but she also needed a partner in crime, which she found in Đorđe Filipović, a Computer Science graduate from Syracuse University, USA and the CTO of Boostowski.
By combining their different perspectives and specialities, they are able to constantly improve Boostowski and make it better. Her advice here is to make an analysis of what it takes for your idea to come to life. Biljana says we need to know which skills we need our team members to have, so we can find those people and make them a part of our vision.
We agree, with the right team and powerful vision, you will be unstoppable!
4. You have to know your target audience.
Now that you have an idea, a trusted team, and research done, you need to focus on your target audience! You have to be aware that not everyone is buying what you are selling! In other words, you need to know which problems are you trying to solve and who is going to find your product valuable! For example, Bootsowski started with retail chains (non-food), which have the so-called assisted sales, where the seller continues to actively participate in counseling and sales. Boostowski decided to target retail chains of at least 20 sales facilities, and they grew their brand in that niche little by little.
To identify your target audience and know how to approach them, you should start with creating buyer personas, which is a fictional representation of your target market. Use your website analytics and other data resources that tell you who has been interested in your service so far! Of course, that is just a beginning. Pay attention to what your competition is doing as well and have a chat with experts in the industries and markets you want to enter.
5. Don’t let your ideas float in a cloud, work on a business plan.
If you have thousands of ideas just floating around in your head, you need to start writing them down! You can’t start a company without a plan! After all, if you don’t know where you are heading, how do you know if you are on the right path to get there? So far, Boostowski is based in Serbia, and they used direct sales and existing contacts to sell their service, but they plan to expand to foreign markets as well and they need a solid plan for that. According to Biljana, their long-term plan is to keep investing in their product and app and to start expanding to other European markets through brand ambassadors – established sales trainers in those countries.
To sum up: Write down everything you want to achieve, and break it down into small goals!
6. Never, ever, ever, ever, give up!
For us, at Spark.me team, this sentence became almost our mantra over the years. And it is never more important to keep it in mind than when building something new from scratch.
Did you know that Boostowski didn’t get selected into Spark.ME 2019 Startup Competition semi-finals straight away? They were runner-ups who got a place when one of the original 10 dropped out. In the end, they were the winners! The team behind Boostwoski said that this set of circumstances showed them how unpredictable can the future be and how you have to be ready for anything.
Spark.me conference exists to empower people to take their lives and careers into their own hands and shape it according to their own taste – Boostowski took that chance! Spark.ME 2019 was a great chance for Boostowski to introduce themselves to the media in this part of the world. And, if we are talking about how important it is to take a chance once it presents itself, as a result of participating in the competition, Boostowski already got in touch with one investment fund representative interested in investing in their startup.
Sometimes life is one big butterfly effect. For Bustowski, it all started with filling out the application for a startup competition in Montenegro, and now they are on their way to TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019 Startup Alley. We can only hope this butterfly effect continues and brings them a lot of success in the future!
Now that you know what it takes to get a startup up and running from a first hand, it’s your turn! If you have an idea or just a broad vision of it, give it a shot. Start researching, find people that will help you, and join us for Spark.me 2020!
It is now up to you to leave your mark on this ever-changing world! We are cheering for you. 🙂
Image Credits: Sergej Zabijako