#SelfStarterStories: From being a fiction author to becoming the founder of a book app
This week's #selfstarterstory features Lucy Cruickshanks, Founder of Bookaxe.
Bookaxe creates detailed preference profiles for every reader and only shows you ratings and reviews from people with similar tastes.
#PickYourselfUK caught up with Lucy to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey.
What was your last job?: I was a fiction author, twice published by Quercus. My debut novel was shortlisted for the Author's Club Best First Novel Award and peaked at Number 6 in Amazon UK's bestsellers.
It was my experiences as an author - and my frustrations with how antiquated publishing is - that led me to found Bookaxe.
When did you choose to PICK YOURSELF instead of waiting to be chosen by someone else?: Because if you can't stand up and shout about the strengths of your business, how can you possibly expect anyone else to do the same?
What was the most challenging part of starting a business?: Prioritising. There's an overwhelming amount to do when you're just starting out and being able to prioritise what's most important can be tricky, but it's essential to do if you want to succeed.
What is your favourite business book and why?: Black Box Thinking by Mathew Syed. It teaches you that failing is an essential part of the learning process.
Do you do everything yourself? What do you outsource?: My co-founder, Scott, and I have done everything ourselves so far, from designing and coding the site to marketing, to dealing with publishers. It's been busy and sometimes challenging, but highly rewarding.
What is your favourite marketing tool ?: Hootsuite is far and away the most useful tool I've used to help us organise our marketing channels.
How do you market your business?: Our target audience is primarily millennial women as they're the biggest readers, and social media is the perfect way to reach them. We use a variety of channels to keep them engaged and start conversations, as well as running a regular Bookaxe Bounty Hunt through our site which has proved extremely popular and has helped with our organic traffic.
Users solve a series of increasingly difficult bookish clues over the course of a month in order to win prizes, but the competitive elements and incentives for inviting friends have been great for word of mouth marketing.
When you first launched, how did you get your first paying customers?: Networking our socks off in the publishing industry, but it's worth saying that Bookaxe is free to our users.
How did you get your first traffic to your website?: When we first went live with our beta website last year, we invited friends and family to become our first members and give us the feedback that would help us improve. Traffic since has been driven by a combination of SEO, hard graft on social media and word of mouth.
Nominate one person/friend who believed in you from the start, and what would you like to say to them today?: My co-founder and husband, Scott. We wouldn't have been able to do this if we weren't a team. When one of us is having a wobble, the other is always there to pick us up (and march us back to work!)
What would you say to someone who is toying with the idea to start a business but haven't yet?: Be sure you are solving a genuine concern. In my experience, the businesses that thrive are the ones that are driven by the desire to solve a specific problem, not the ones where all-singing, all-dancing solutions come first.
You need to be sure there's a market for what you're doing; that people are frustrated enough with the status quo to seek an alternative, and to pay for it.
If you could have dinner with one entrepreneur, who would it be and why?: Jeff Bezos - Amazon's founder and CEO. Amazon are the biggest players in books and also own Goodreads, by far and away our biggest competitor. I'm sure we'd have plenty to talk about!
To stay up to date with Lucy's entrepreneurial journey, please find her on Facebook below:
Lucy Cruickshanks has qualified for the #PickYourselfUK Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year award 2018. If you'd like to enter yourself or nominate a small business entrepreneur for this award, please submit your story below.