Embracing The Lean Startup Philosophy

Embracing The Lean Startup Philosophy

Our Founder, Annie Shafran, was recently featured in 512 Tech about how she was able to lean-ly launch Bellgray.

Check out this article for a behind the scenes look at how Bellgray was created from an idea to a reality.

No money? No problem. Startups are adopting the 'lean' philosophy to launch their businesses

Startups find they can get going quickly and with little up-front cost or overhead. 

Posted May 26th, 2016

She wanted to start her own e-commerce company that sold clothes tailored to women in conservative-dressing industries, such as law or finance, where jeans are out and suit jackets are in. 

Her first step? Reading a book called "The Lean Startup" by Eric Ries

Following the advice espoused in this book, which favors getting your product into the marketplace as quickly as possible while spending little money, 25-year-old Shafran was able to go from idea to full-fledged business in six months. Austin-based Bellgray launched in mid May. 

All together, starting her company cost less than $20,000 and her monthly recurring expenses are $160, Shafran said. She has no employees, no inventory, and didn't seek any outside investment. 

Shafran is one of a growing number of Austin tech entrepreneurs embracing the philosophy of lean startups.

Rather than spending months or even years perfecting a product and trying to sell it to investors, lean startup founders focus on releasing a product as soon as possible. "The idea is to try to invest as little as possible before you launch and then learn your lessons before you raise any money," Shafran said. 

Tapping in to existing tools

The lean approach can even help people with non-tech backgrounds launch a tech startup. 

Shafran, who still works in finance for UBS Financial Services while running Bellgray, said she found ways to accomplish the tech side of her business while also saving money.  

Instead of hiring a web developer to build a site from scratch, Shafran used an existing template from Shopify and hired a developer to help her customize it. 

She interviewed 30 developers before she settled on someone who would not just build the site, but teach Shafran some basic coding skills so she could run it herself. 

"A lot of people have web developers that do it for them but I'm doing (the coding) myself in the spirit of a lean startup," Shafran said. Shopify also provides transaction processing. 

Shafran also found a way to populate her site with clothes without ever having to talk to a single retailer or handle inventory. She uses a company called Varinode, which offers turnkey e-commerce software.

Using this software, Shafran selects clothes to display on her site from department stores, with well-known brands such as Diane von Furstenberg, Theory and Tory Burch.

She also paid a retail strategist to help her on the fashion side. That turned out to be a smart move - it was that strategist who first recommended the book "The Lean Startup." 

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