Categorized | Shoestring Startup

MyAutoTips:Starting a Business with Nothing More Than What Was in Our Heads

Our story: provides money and time saving advice for car buyers, car sellers, and car owners. We started our company because we were tired of people leaving money on the table solely because they did not have full information when making a buying or selling decision. There are plenty of websites that provide car buying, selling, or owning tips, but no sites that provide all three in an easy to navigate format. If you are buying a car we provide an easy 13-step roadmap that will help you secure the best price. If you are selling a car you can consult our 8-step roadmap. For car owners we provide 10 different tips that will save them money. In addition, we have sections of our site devoted to objective research and analysis of automotive trends, and helpful how tos.

Work started on the content and design of the website in November of 2009, and the website officially launched in May of 2010. We have made a multitude of changes since we launched, but the one thing we did right was launching the website before it was finished. We could have waited months for the site to look and operate exactly how we wanted, but if we had done that we would have missed many opportunities to grow our customer base. The site we launched had well less than 50% of the content it does now, but it has been a very easy process to add articles and re-design the site as we go. Meanwhile we can send weekly reminders to our twitter and Facebook followers to visit to check out the enhancements and updates. Deciding to launch when we did was a huge step for us not just strategically, but also psychologically because for the first month or so we suffered from paralysis from overanalysis. That almost killed our website before it was ever launched.

We currently have a staff of two, each in well-defined roles. My partner handles web design and any technical issues, and I handle the writing, marketing, and analytics. Since there is virtually no overlap between the positions we do not waste time making group decisions. Each person is an expert in his field, so the only time we ever have to make a group decision is when it effects the company in totality. At some point we will be employing people with overlapping roles, but until that happens the company runs most efficiently when we avoid group decisions.
My background is in new product development and economics, but because I had the knowledge about the automotive industry I became the de facto in house writer. The content I wrote early on was poorly written, but over time I have honed my skills as a writer. A big help was using the editors of e-zine sites and eHow to review my articles. For example, whenever I submit an article to eHow it goes through a four-step review process. The editors at eHow are very good at what they do, and provide great feedback.

Financials: I guess you could call the first year for MyAutoTips a labor of love, because if I was paid hourly I would probably be making less than minimum wage, but we are not in the red, and I never expect us to be in the red. Other than time, the website does not require much. We can invest as much or as little as we want in pay per click (PPC) campaigns, and we plan on testing certain keyword ad groups in the fall. The future success of our business will be determined by how well we optimize our site for organic search, and how well we do with our PPC tests. We know we provide a valuable service; now it’s just a matter of spreading the word about it. I am excited about the future because having worked closely on affiliate programs while I worked at Carfax I saw just how much revenue our larger affiliates made. When you consider that Carfax is just one of over 30 companies that we work with, the potential revenue we can generate is immense, especially when you consider that it is run by a staff of two. Once the website starts generating more revenue (and it will generate more revenue) we do not envision relinquishing control to another company. We do not waste time creating revenue projections, as trying to predict what will happen a year from now and beyond is a fruitless exercise, especially for a startup. There are simply too many variables that would impact any attempt at modeling projected revenue.

The Future of My Auto Tips: This site has been a dream of mine since my first month at Carfax. I envisioned would become a website where consumers would establish an ongoing relationship with the site — they would buy vehicle history reports when looking for cars, add service and maintenance records while they owned their vehicles, and then run the vehicle history reports when they were ready to sell their cars. That is what we are trying to do, but on a larger scale. We want visitors to come to regardless of their phase in the automotive lifecycle. If a visitor is ready to sell his car he can examine our selling a car roadmap. If you are selling a car, you are more than likely in the market for a new (or new to you) car, so we present the buying a vehicle roadmap. Once you purchase the vehicle we want you to come back over and over to read our owner tips. Things like: ways to save on auto insurance, why you should consider refinancing your auto loan, how to diagnose a car problem on your own, and seasonal car care tips to name a few. In addition, if you have a question about a major automotive news event we want to be one of the sites visited for complete objective analysis. For example, there is a fair amount of misinformation regarding the Chevy Volt. We want to dispel the rumors, and cut through what we perceive as biased reporting and present the facts.
A Parting Thought: If you are a budding enterpreneur, but are feeling overwhelmed about all the work building a business from the ground floor will entail I recommend just getting your hands dirty and getting to work. Do not think about what is in front of you, just think about what you are doing right now. When I was in graduate school my classmates would always panic during exam time because of all the work they had to do to prepare for the exams. Me? I didn’t waste time worrying because I knew I would get the studying done, and knew I would do well on the exams. I still apply that logic today. Whenever something appears too daunting I just put my head down and get to work. Once it’s over, I’m always amazed at how painless the process actually was.

Lowell Bike
My Auto Tips

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