DesignPac - Overcoming the Odds to Launch a $20k a Month Startup!
At the end of 2019, we were fortunate to meet SumanJung, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of DesignPac. SumanJung’s road to entrepreneurship is one of the most motivating and emotional that we’ve heard since launching Growth Rocket.
SumanJung was raised in a remote Nepalese village by his grandparents. He grew up experiencing poverty and scarcity, in a non-English speaking country with very little access to technology. Despite these disadvantages, SumanJung was determined to succeed and raise himself out of poverty. A self-taught graphic designer, he’s overcome numerous obstacles to launch his marketplace providing digital services to clients all over the world.
What SumanJung has achieved with DesignPac is both sobering and incredibly motivational. That someone is able to start with so little, in a country where you can’t have a Paypal account or take international payments, and go on to achieve so much is the most infallible proof of what you can achieve if you pour your heart and soul into it.
With so much passion and determination, we're certain that SumanJung will continue to be successful.
Can you describe DesignPac in a single sentence?
DesignPac provides experienced and vetted web experts on low monthly or hourly rates.
How did you come up with the idea for DesignPac?
I never thought that I’d be where I am today. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in mouth. My grandparents raised me in a small village after my dad lost his job and our family’s financial state deteriorated. I spent my youth experiencing scarcity and with very limited resources. Those experiences gave me the determination in life to achieve everything I dreamed of when I was young.
I came to Kathmandu (the capital city of Nepal) for my higher study with the help of my mom, but I couldn’t make it. I dropped out of college and joined the army training school to fulfil my dream of becoming a British Army Gurkha, a well-reputed profession in Nepalese society. The British government has been recruiting Nepalese as Gurkha in their armed forces for more than 200 years. I still vividly remember the moment they rejected me and I returned to my home in tears. They later listed me as an unfit candidate so there was no chance of trying again. After this, I was left slightly broken because I’d dropped out of college and lost my chance at wearing the Ghurka uniform, a dream I’d had for so long.
At that time, my elder brother, Pujan, was searching for ways of making money online using his graphic design skills, and I decided to join him. In fact, I felt compelled to learn graphic design, and dedicated myself to this task.
My brother and I shared a single laptop which we’d borrowed from an uncle. My brother used it during the day, and I used it during the night. This arrangement has given me countless sleepless nights.
We discovered a few crowdsourcing sites such as DesginCrowd and 99designs along our journey. I also started taking part in design contests. It felt great to be learning and working at the same time.
After 9 months of rigorous learning and competing in the contests, in about June 2014, I finally succeeded in winning a business card design contest worth $90. This gave me a huge confidence boost as the client picked my design from 80 to 90 entries. After this, I never looked back, eventually completing projects for dozens of clients. I even worked remotely for the Swedish company, Stidner, as a Lead Designer. I started making very good money without having to leave the house.
I didn’t want to stop there. My brother and I realized that we were making money only when we worked. We wanted to find a way of making money while we slept. So we formed a company, Cinqsnipe Technology. Our aim was to provide IT Solutions both locally and internationally. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well. I’d jumped from working for clients to running my own business. I had literally zero knowledge of business because I’d had no experience of it, there weren’t any businesspeople in my family that I could learn from. We’d been running our agency for a year and it gave me mixed feelings. I was quite happy to be working for myself but disappointed because the business was not going as well as we’d hoped. I wanted find a more sustainable business model. In the latter part of 2016, a friend of mine suggested the idea of Unlimited Graphic Design for a monthly flat fee. I really liked the idea and decided to start working on it. Although I’d gained some experience, I was from being a business expert. I just tried to learn as much as I could along the way. I purchased a WordPress theme, bought a domain designpac.net and launched the site on the first of January, 2017. The site was very simple, just listing our offering, how it worked and the prices of our packages. We only had 4 or 5 competitors back then.
We didn’t have our own portal where our clients could login and manage their tasks so we used Trello instead. As our company was based in Nepal, we couldn’t access any global payment processors, so we had to invoice the client every month, requesting that they transfer the funds via Paypal. We couldn’t have our own Paypal account because it’s not supported in Nepal. I had to use a friend’s Paypal. He lived in another country, one where you can have a Paypal account, and had him transfer the funds via bank transfer. This complicated setup was incurring huge fess, and was far from ideal. The business was going well this time but being based in Nepal was causing problems and limiting our growth. I was desperately looking for someone who could help us with this problem.
Fortunately, one of our clients from US, The Sqwash showed an interest in acquiring part of our company. We discussed and finalized everything before signing an agreement in Delhi by meeting company representatives in person. The best part for us, was that we now had a registered company in the US too, which unlocked everything we needed to compete in the global market along with a reliable payment processor. By this time, there were lot more competitors in the market who were providing flat fee unlimited graphic design service. To enable us to keep growing, I deviated from just being design service only. I wanted to add development and digital marketing services too but in a subscription-based model to make the business predictable and sustainable. So we came up with our renting model - Rent dedicated web experts!
Can you tell us about how DesignPac went from an idea to a functioning business?
Building our productized service was a long process, but worth it so that everything was set and ready as I wanted. We had a team of designers, developers and marketers who were working for us. First of all, it took me a long time to plan and design the models. We could follow the same model for designers but the developers and digital marketers models became a bottleneck. It was very difficult to categorize and fix the prices. I wanted to make it easy to understand and easy to use. Finally, I came up with the idea of renting on a monthly and hourly basis.
While finalizing the pricing and plans, our technical team were busy developing our own dashboard where clients can create and manage their tasks. I wanted to emulate Trello because it has been such an amazing tool in assigning, commenting on and managing the projects we’d worked on already. We followed the same model of a Kanban board. The process of completing a task is broken down into 4 phases - Request, Result, Revision & Handover. The client can create a task and an expert will move it to Results Added section when he/she adds completed the task. If there is a revision to the task card, it will be moved to the Revisions column else it will be moved in to Handover column. Finally, the expert will provide the files in the requested format.
We used PHP Laravel for the back-end of the dashboard and integrated Stripe. It was quite difficult to integrate Stripe in the same platform when you are offering both subscriptions and normal products. Experts can also be rented on an hourly basis too, which is like purchasing a certain quantity of product. It took us nearly 6 months to go from scratch to live.
DesignPac launched in February 2019, how’s it going so far?
It may be too early to judge, but we are getting amazing responses from our customers and friends. We don’t have much of a profit margin because our prices are ridiculously low. However, we will use a different strategy when we reach certain milestones which will increase our profit margins. These days, almost every business is online these days which has created a vast market. When businesses have an online presence, they need someone who can maintain their online presence by managing their social media accounts or creating eye-catching graphics or fixing bugs in their website/app.
Many of the entrepreneurs we talk to find it difficult to win new customers. How have you been spreading the word about DesignPac?
Well, before launching the new service in February 2019, I was completely focused on learning result-oriented marketing tactics while the website and dashboard were being built. I’ve learned so much since I started the business back in 2014.
I used this knowledge to create a comprehensive marketing plan before we launched. I believe in the organic ideas of advertising with a B2B business model. I’m not planning to spend on paid advertising initially. We post articles regularly in our blog section and regularly update our social media. I am always experimenting with different organic ways, and some ones which are working and attracting customers so far are:
Reddit/ IndieHackers/ Quora: I am an active user on these platforms. I interact and talk with people who have just started their businesses and share knowledge/stories/achievements which also increases my business exposure. Be it clients or marketers or partners, I am finding many of them on these platforms.
Affiliate Marketing: This is the most effective method for B2B business. We’ve onboarded over half of our clients through affiliate marketers. We provide a 10% commission for each sign up.
Cold Emailing: I collect the email of companies which have job openings for designers/developers or marketers, and send a pitch email. I am not sure if this is really working yet, I’m still in a testing phase. We are also looking at starting a cold call campaign.
What advice have you got for anyone thinking of launching their own start-up?
Before starting out you must be clear on what you want to do and what you want to achieve. Once you are clear about it, nothing can stop you. Most people fail for not being clear on their dreams. And be prepared for unforeseen disasters. Figure out the worst-case scenarios that can happen with your business, and plan for it.
A clear visualization of the processes will really help you; the process of getting clients, on boarding them, marketing your business, etc. Before starting, make a comprehensive plan of everything. Don’t just make a roadmap of the business and the revenue prediction but plan to tackle the situation of negative revenue. Many people see only positive parts of running a business and don’t see the downsides. Spend time making plans before you start so that you can avoid getting tangled later.
Is there another entrepreneur that you find particularly inspiring?
Not specifically, but I do follow Elon Musk & Jack Ma. I think we can learn and be inspired from everyone.
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