089: Bootstrapping a niche business – with Dejan Pralica

Dejan Pralica is the co-founder of SoleSavy, an exclusive sneakerhead membership community. In this episode, he joins Ward to discuss his experience bootstrapping his business and what to do (or avoid) while doing so.

✍️ Show Notes

📄 Show Transcript

This transcript is computer generated, please excuse any errors 🙂

Ward Sandler: Welcome everyone. Today, I’ll be talking to Dejan Pralica. Dejan is the co-founder of SoleSavy, an exclusive membership community that helps its members to find other true sneakerheads, collectors, and enthusiasts providing them with the right tools and resources to purchase the products they want for retail. 

Dejan, welcome to The Membership Maker podcast

Dejan Pralica: Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here. 

Ward Sandler: SoleSavy is a bootstrapped membership community. We bootstrapped our business, and we know that it requires a lot of hard work trial and error, all that stuff. What’s your advice for members out there trying to create a profitable membership without a lot of resources? 

Dejan Pralica: Start slow and small and build up, right? Start with one feature. One thing that you can do well, attract an audience and then build up from there, scale up from there. Reinvest the revenue you’re making to make a better product and just don’t feel like it’s a race. You don’t have to go. You don’t have to be Clubhouse. You don’t have to go from 0 to a billion dollar valuation in a year’s time. you can go slow and steady, especially as a bootstrapped company. Just take the path that’s going to really reward you for the hard work, right? And that just is iterating and being patient. Because if you don’t have a bunch of money at your disposal you have to be thoughtful about what you do.

Ward Sandler: Yeah. So in your case, and I think that’s, that’s good general advice though, what did you do in terms of your start small initial thing? 

Dejan Pralica: It started with an Instagram account. Just trying to build an audience first, and then once we felt like we had enough traction there, we pivoted to a paid subscription, which was literally a little WordPress website with a subscription plugin connected to PayPal, and then we just focused on content. And then again, we built up from there, technology, community, more content podcast. We just added features and increased our value proposition with time. As we learned from that audience. 

Ward Sandler: So you started with the Instagram account where you were, I assume talking about sneakers and just posting interesting content that other sneakerheads would like, right. And then you started a members only site, with a pay wall, a website with premium content. So again, at that point there was no revenue coming in yet until you launch the subscription side of it. So, what kind of content were you creating and how were you creating it? I would assume relatively cheaply, and what were you kind of charging when you were first?

Yeah, so 

Dejan Pralica: Yeah, so we always had the intent of launching a subscription service. So even on the, off the onset of it, all the idea was okay. At some point, when we launched the service properly, we will be charging for it. Because we feel to do quality content. There has to be a fee associated with that because I feel the old content model is broken through pages and all that good stuff, so really it was just, you know, the Instagram account was just starting off with. Posting interesting and original photography of sneakers, which was my collection, just so people could see there was adifferentiation in what was being posted through their feeds, for example, and then from a content perspective, it was really thinking about niche, things that people wouldn’t find elsewhere, right? So instead of writing for the masses, I was writing for 20 people who would see and go, Oh, I can’t believe someone wrote this, and I’m very much enjoying it. And then because that builds a sense of loyalty and interest that someone else will appreciate. 

So if you start stacking 20, 40, 50 here, that’s essentially where we got to the point when we launched in September, where we actually had 400 subscribers, the first day, I’m paying 30 bucks a month when all in support us for it, because we were building that loyal audience, you know, one article or one post at a time to show them that we can bring value outside of the norm, right. We weren’t trying to just contribute more content and just overall storytelling within the space. If it was the same as everyone else’s, that’s not going to stand out, right? So we really tried to find our niche and stick to that.

Ward Sandler: And what did you charge for that initial when you initially launched the subscription? 

Dejan Pralica: 30 bucks a month. 

Ward Sandler: And how’d you come to that number?

Dejan Pralica: A dollar a day. We feel like for the amount of value that we bring to people’s lives,sneakers is very unique. There’s five, six releases a week, it’s very busy. That’s 30, 40 sneakers a month that will drop and people will buy four or five if they can, right? So as a working professional, someone who’s busy to come home and have all the content you need packaged for you. So you can acquire that product and save you that time again for a buck a day. Not to make the coffee analogy, but you know, a couple cups of coffee a month will save you hours and hours of time. That’s excluding the fact that we can also save people money. So we just felt it was really good value proposition. 

Ward Sandler: Yeah. And I’m not a sneakerhead just to be clear, but I’m aware. And I appreciate, you know, just for sure, and I also am aware that many of them are expensive, like for sure, over a hundred dollars. Uh, 

Dejan Pralica: No, I have to laugh.  I don’t know anyone who’s buying sneakers under 150, right? 

Ward Sandler: [00:05:26] That’s the tea table. Stakes is 150. So for a product like that, where it’s like, yeah, that’s not cheap. Uh, that’s that’s many, many cups of coffee. Charging $30 a month I also think makes sense because the audience of people you’re talking to, these are not, these are people that have disposable income, right? By definition, if you are a sneakerhead, you have disposable income, otherwise you can’t be a sneaker or you have some other way of making money, but yeah, so I think that’s also smart. Like some people might say, Ooh, 30 bucks, that’s a little pricey. Maybe that’s too much. Maybe we should start simple, like $10 a month. Did you ever even debate that in your head or were you always kind of like, no, let’s start with a decent price right off the bat.

Dejan Pralica: Our initial go-to-market plan was $10. And then after about two hours of thinking it through, we’re like, Oh my God, the amount of work we have to do, then coupled with the amount of customers, we’d actually need to justify that work. That was going to put us at a disadvantage, whereas coming out the gate and saying, Hey, we’re a premium product. It’s a premium service. We understand the space. I think the value is, is fair, pay it because ultimately it’s, you know, a thousand, the customer is $30,000 in MRR. Versus if you were doing that at $10 a customer, it’s just, you’re fighting a battle to catch up now. Every space is different, And you know, I had the questions asked, well, why would I pay three Netflix worth of subscription for this? I’m like, well, if you’re passionate about this, it absolutely makes sense to you. But at the same time, how many times a month do you watch Netflix or how many hours in a given month do you watch Netflix? It’s an easy price and thing to forget about using maybe a couple of times a month for the average person. Whereas, you know, what we were building was very focused on community and replacing people’s needs for Instagram and Twitter and social media in general. So that this was a platform you were tapping into every single day.

So you have to be honest and realistic, but not afraid too. Charge a little bit more because you really believe in the product and what you’re doing and people will resonate. 

Ward Sandler: Yeah, would you consider charging more or increasing the price at some point? 

Dejan Pralica: We have, but we’re waiting for kind of the right time as a company where we add a substantial feature feature set to what we’re doing, whether that’s marketplace or just any new tools we’re still bootstrapped. We’re coming out of that bootstrap mentality in that phase where we’re not as polished as we’d like to be sort of, you know, we could say, Hey, maybe we do bring $50 of value per month, but it’s, we’re not there yet as a company.

So we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. And I also think we are in a sweet spot, right? So not looking to pricing is a definitely a difficult thing that you don’t want to mess with if you’re in a good place.  

Ward Sandler: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Dejan, we really appreciate it. Would you like to share any resources or recommendations for folks trying to learn more about SoleSavy? 

Dejan Pralica: Yeah, I mean, uh, please check us out on Solesavy.com, it’s spelled wrong on purpose because when we did this, you couldn’t get the two of these in the domain name and why not? So check this out! Solesavy.com, same thing on social, on Instagram and Twitter. If you’re a Sneakerhead casual or experienced, definitely give us a look.

Ward Sandler: Thanks, Dejan. 

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