Founder and CEO Brit Morin is doing something most people only get to fantasize about: She took one of her favorite hobbies--DIY craft projects--and turned it into her day job.
The former Google employee had been hanging out at the DIY workspace TechShop, where she developed a serious obsession with making things. Even though she had been working on an idea for a health and fitness startup, she switched gears in 2011 to launch the DIY e-commerce platform Brit + Co, which has raised $27.5 million in funding to date. Morin told Fortune last year that the company had millions of dollars in revenue but had not yet turned a profit.
The move goes against a lot of the advice out there that suggests you shouldn't necessarily try to turn what you love into a full-fledged career. But Morin thinks otherwise. The so-called "Martha Stewart of Silicon Valley" says it works for her because she's learned how to be more strategic about balancing passion and productivity.
Morin sat down with Inc. Friday morning before the start of Brit + Co's annual conference Re:Make DIY summit to share some tips for entrepreneurs wishing to follow in her footsteps.
“I had to make sure that I visualized failure and what that could look like from the start,” says Morin. Major failure isn’t the only thing to consider. You need to be ready to deal with smaller decisions and strategies that just don't work out, she says.
Sometimes despite how much hard work an employee pours into a project, you have to kill the fruits of that labor and transition quickly to the next thing. Morin’s initial vision for Brit + Co was a series of applications to help users plan for weddings, cooking, decorating and so on. The startup did ultimately release a wedding planning app, but Morin says metrics on customer behavior revealed the Brit + Co crowd gravitated more to site content than utility applications. If you visit the company’s website, you’ll see it was the content that won out.
Choose three things.
A lot of people will say that if you turn your passion into work, you won’t be so passionate about it anymore. “I think the reason people feel that way is they get really burnt out,” says Morin. While in the first year or two of running a startup hours will be long and founders will be responsible for a diversity of tasks, subsequent growth in the company should allow a founder to hire staff and start delegating tasks.
That's when you need to be intentional about finding balance, something she did with advice from Randi Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg says the five things that matter in life are sleep, exercise, family, friends and work; entrepreneurs get to choose three to incorporate in their own lives.
Set specific goals.
One potential pitfall of turning your passion into a business is the tendency to fall too much in love with your own ideas--even when reality suggests they're not working. Brit + Co uses what Morin calls OKRs, a tactic she picked up from her time at Google. The acronym stands for "objectives and key results." An example might be drawing 20 percent more unique visitors to the website through a new content strategy. Making your goals concrete with hard numbers is key, Morin says. In general, she relies heavily on metrics to see what parts of the business are succeeding and what should be cut loose. She's also a big fan of A/B testing everything on the website.
Morin says startup founders should consider how to give back to the communities that support them, even before the company becomes successful. This is key for putting everything in perspective. Brit + Co launched the #IAMCREATIVE Foundation earlier this year to provide grants of $2,500 to $15,000 to aspiring crafters seeking to see their arts reach a wider audience.