do you need to scale?

In building a business, learning, Unreal Collective by Jay Clouse

I run a tiny little baby business.

It’s not a business for tiny little babies –  it’s just very small in scale.

Right now, I’m actively working with 15 members of Unreal Collective, 5 others have finished the 12-week intensive, and there are 7 people I work with individually (most of whom are members of Unreal). For you folks doing the math at home, that’s about two dozen people.

When I tell people what I do, the most common question I get asked is, “So how do you scale that?”

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At my previous company, Tixers, we served a few thousand customers. And the platform I launched in college, MarketOSU, still runs and has about 6,500 registered user accounts.

MarketOSU made almost no money (advertising and housing listings only) and Tixers only hit actual profitability post-acquisition near the end of my time with the company, despite doing ~$1M in revenue over that two-year period.

Order and traffic volume would literally break the product. Our best sales days were directly correlated with my most miserable and difficult customer service days. And for a period of about seven months, I was manually reviewing every order for potential fraud before kicking it off to our fulfillment partner.

We weren’t even truly at scale, and it sucked.

– – –

Startups seem sexy and glamorous. I’ll admit, I got interested in startups for many of the wrong reasons. Running a business, tech startup or otherwise, is no joke and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

But my tiny little baby company has been profitable nearly since day one. Not only has it been profitable, but it allows me to live a life completely aligned with my goals and desires. I’m not worried about hiring, I’m not worried about building a sexy software product, I have complete control over my schedule, and I determine who I work with.

That’s amazing!

I do see ways that I could scale Unreal Collective. Will I pursue them? Maybe, maybe not. I’m interested in scaling my impact (and sure, my bottom line) but right now I’m interested in maintaining my quality of life. If I find a solution that doesn’t put those things at odds, I’ll certainly consider it.

But do I need to be able to scale to make this a viable business opportunity? Do I need my addressable market to be massive? No, because I don’t want investment. It took some painful lessons to come to this conclusion, but right now I love not scaling my company.


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