Editor’s note: One of the great things about editing Women Grow Business is that it puts me in touch with intriguing people from all over the world. When I came across Eva Missling (pictured above with her team behind her), founder and CEO of 12designer, I suspected she had some smarts to share … and I was right. Here’s a Q&A with this young entrepreneur making waves across the Atlantic.
What decisions have best enabled your company to endure the current economy and excel?
12designer is a young portal where entrepreneurs with textual, graphical and/or audio communication needs can meet a multitude of creative professionals ready to create the right solution for their project, be it naming, slogans, logos, websites, multimedia clips, and many other possibilities.
So, considering what we do and given the economic scenario of 2009, all that worked in the company’s favor.
In times of crisis, entrepreneurs are always forced to find more efficient alternatives to keep their businesses running. And it is exactly what 12designer was created for: to make creative work available in a fast and efficient way. What I discovered was a European demand eager for a service like that, exceeding growth expectations.
What most influenced you to launch your business?
After 8 years working as a design manager at large internet companies in Germany and mediating the communication between customers and designers, I realized that this process could be much easier and certainly more direct if done on a platform placed on the web. It is about making the whole process more dynamic. Brainstorming with work colleagues allowed me to refine the idea and go forward to make it happen. Similar portals had just started operating in the beginning of 2009 in Germany, assuring me that it was the right time to go for it.
What key strategic and operational tactics helped your business first get started?
As a good idea with no financial support does not go further, the first concern was to look for financial means. Grupo Intercom, a leading Spanish incubator, responded positively to my business proposal, and I’m really thankful that they believed in the concept and supported me.
Having that secured, the best way to engage people in trying the new portal would be offering services free of charge, for a limited period of time.
Let me to tell you what happened with the language versions. The first idea was, of course, to launch it in German only. The feedback received was so high, though, that we felt compelled to offer English and Spanish as options just three months later. In Spain, 12designer became the market leader almost instantly. That encouraged us to launch Italian and French versions soon after, which are also developing very well, especially the Italian.
To have Verne Harnish, an international reference for entrepreneurs, saying something like, “What an absolute delight to use the 12designer website (…), I’ve already recommended the service to several others,” can only prove that it is going in the right direction.
In addition, establishing partnerships with other portals was another important way to lend trust to the company.
What failure or missed benchmark proved a good business lesson, and why?
The most challenging issue to an internet company like ours is the fact that speed is often more important than perfection.
What I mean is that you cannot wait to have everything perfectly set to start moving.
Here’s a concrete example: already by the start of our business, we wanted to give customers the option for creating a private project, as we were also interested in attracting bigger clients than our usual start-up and SME targets. However, it took 3 additional weeks to build it. So we ran into Christmas break and had to delay the launch of our website. In the meanwhile, competitors with a simpler portal stepped into the market.
Looking back, I would have gone on with a not-so-elaborate version.
When you launch a portal, it takes a while until users get used to it; also, you won’t have many of them checking out every detail from Day 1. On the other hand, you have to be prepared to identify potential demand and be able to add new features according to it.
To keep pace with innovation yet still offer good services in the online environment will certainly provide you with tensions to be resolved constantly. At 12designer, what we make sure to do is to encourage daily communication on the platform.
Transparency, honesty and forthrightness are our most important tools for achieving recognition and respect of customers and creatives.
How do you use social media for your business?
As the use of such media is mandatory for any company with internet roots, we are definitely present in important networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. We also have a blog to keep customers and designers updated with new features, projects and opportunities made available by our partners.
Where do you envision your business in five years?
Well, so much can happen in 5 years! I hope 12designer will be consolidated in the European continent and have a respectable presence in North America, with more languages available and more users taking advantage of our services. But most of all, I hope we keep the level of satisfaction we have reached so far, which, in other words, is a confirmation of the delivered quality of our services.
What’s your preferred question not asked here?
There’s none right now, but if somebody has any “burning” question to ask, I will be happy to be in touch and answer it. I always love to talk about my business.
- Guest contributor Brenda Harris on 3 qualities women entrepreneurs need to succeed in a man’s world
- Regular contributor Amanda Steinberg says profits come from models, not ideas
- The State of Small Business Report, which you can find over at Grow Smart Business
Images © 12designer, used with permission
Eva Missling is the founder and CEO of 12designer GmbH, a young company based in the heart of Europe: Berlin. With more than 8 years in the design industry, Eva uses her experience to grow a business that positioned itself as one of the leading creative crowd sourcing platforms in that continent in just one year. 12designer is an online marketplace where customers with design demands meet the right creatives to get the job done; it doesn’t matter if it is about naming, slogans, logos, websites or multimedia clips. Quick facts: more than 6,700 registered creatives, 1,000 accomplished projects, 250,000 € business volume and available in 5 languages: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Contact Eva at firstname.lastname@example.org.