Mango Innovation · Derrick Boddie

From high school dreams to $10K MRR: How Derrick built Mango Innovations into a thriving web design business

June 21, 2024
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Table of contents

What's your backstory?

A little bit about myself: I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur, even when I was in high school. However, I decided to pursue some education first. Therefore, I attended college for computer system technology and obtained an advanced diploma. During my studies, I gained knowledge about building and repairing computers, as well as understanding hardware such as RAM, and software like Windows and networking. Additionally, I acquired skills in Linux, PHP, JavaScript, Java, and shell scripting. It was during this time that I developed a fondness for Macs, particularly because of their user-friendly nature compared to Linux and Windows.

After that, I landed a job at Adidas. It was an amazing experience to work for such a renowned brand, expand my knowledge, and be part of a dynamic work environment. I had the opportunity to travel, receive free clothes, and experience all the perks, which was really exciting. Moreover, it was eye-opening to witness the inner workings of a corporation of that scale, from marketing to accounting. However, I soon realized that a corporate setting wasn't the perfect fit for me, as I still harbored the dream of becoming an entrepreneur.

I made the decision to return to school to pursue a degree in business technology management. This degree greatly enhanced my understanding of marketing, management, human resources, and finance, which in turn provided me with valuable insights into how businesses operate and how to start one. This educational experience was pivotal in my development as an entrepreneur.

Before starting my degree program, I attempted to launch a business with some colleagues. We worked hard to build it up, create a pitch, and develop a marketing plan. This experience also helped me design one of my first websites for that business. After completing my university degree, I ended up working on another business which was a festival that took place in Toronto. I also built a website for that business, which turned out to be visually appealing and highly engaging, and significantly improved my web design skills. The website received great feedback, helping us attract major sponsors.

Despite the fact that many of the businesses I started did not achieve great success, each experience was a valuable learning opportunity. I learned how to do certain things right and how to avoid certain mistakes, which has made me a better web developer and client advisor. All of these experiences have helped me become a better entrepreneur, and I wouldn't trade them for anything, as they have truly shaped me into who I am today.

What does your company do & how did you come up with the idea?

We specialize in web design and web development for medium to large businesses. The idea for our business, Mango Innovations, came from my experience working on websites for others and myself over the years. I noticed the increasing need for businesses to have an online presence and wanted to help them create beautiful, effective websites. I enjoy the process of bringing each client's unique story to life through web design, whether it's a simple or complex narrative. Our goal is to help clients reach new customers, showcase their services, and raise awareness for their initiatives. Creating websites is my passion, and I'm dedicated to helping businesses succeed online.

We provide web design and development services on demand, allowing our clients to make unlimited requests on a monthly basis for a fixed fee. Clients can subscribe to a monthly plan and submit their requests one at a time. This approach offers great value to clients, as they always know their monthly bill and can request as much work as they need without worrying about additional costs. We offer continuous support and flexibility, allowing clients to pause or cancel anytime. Our service is more cost-effective than hiring a full-time developer, and we are available to assist clients whenever they need us. We tailor our service to meet the changing needs of our clients.

How did you get your first 10 customers?

Getting our first 10 clients involved a combination of word-of-mouth referrals, showcasing our previous work, and network referrals. Many clients were referred to us by others who had heard about our previous projects, especially the work we did for startups. Impressed by our work, some clients reached out to us asking if we could build a website for them. As more clients saw our work, they noticed our credit in the website footers and reached out to us as well. This mix of word-of-mouth, previous work, and network referrals helped us to reach our goal of acquiring 10 clients and laid a foundation for further growth.

What did you do to confirm that your product/service matched what your customers needed?

We found it relatively easy to understand our clients' needs because almost everyone requires a website. Many clients already knew whether they needed a website or not. The challenge was to determine the specific type of websites they required and how we could best serve them.

Our previous service model involved clients paying a monthly retainer for our services. However, we have now introduced a new monthly unlimited web design and web development plan which offers the same level of service as the retainer but with more flexibility in terms of value. Under this new plan, clients can make unlimited requests for a fixed monthly fee, eliminating the restrictions of hourly retainers. This predictable billing and added value have been well-received by many clients. Additionally, clients benefit from Same-Day Onboarding, the option to Cancel Anytime without long-term commitments, the ability to Pause Anytime and only pay when they require our services, Lightning-Fast Delivery of completed tasks in a week or less, Satisfaction Guaranteed with revisions until the client is 100% happy, as well as Ongoing Maintenance & Support.

How did you reach and acquire your first 100 customers? 

We haven't reached 100 clients yet; we're close to around 35 clients. Most of our clients have come through word of mouth. Some were referred to us by previous clients, and many found us through links on the websites we've worked on. They clicked on the link, saw our work, and reached out to us. 

Google searches have also been a great way for clients to find us. They reviewed our portfolio on our website and contacted us directly. We've also gained clients through job ads on LinkedIn. When people posted ads looking for web design and development, we reached out and found a good fit for their needs.

Recently, we've been utilizing social media platforms like LinkedIn to post content, interact with clients, and build our presence. This has also led to clients reaching out to us. Additionally, we're listed on resource sites for various communities, such as a black community group that supports entrepreneurs. Being part of these communities and showing our support has helped bring awareness to what we do.

We've also posted content on platforms like Product Hunt and Reddit, which has brought awareness to our services and driven traffic to our site.

What distribution channels did you try that were crap and didn't work?

We tried email marketing, but it didn't work well for our web design and web development business due to the saturated market. Despite sending out 14,000 emails, we only received eight leads, none of which were a good fit for us. While Google ads and Facebook ads did work to some extent, the saturated market and high costs made it challenging to see the desired results. We didn't hire an agency to handle our ads, which may have contributed to our lack of success. In summary, both email marketing and online ads were not effective distribution channels for our business. We are now looking into other approaches that seem more promising, but it's still too early to gauge their success.

What tools, software, or resources have been most helpful in growing your business?

Some of the tools and resources that have really helped our business grow include the CMS platforms we use to build websites for our clients. We specialize in creating websites using WordPress and Shopify. WordPress has been particularly beneficial for us, with many clients choosing our services because of our expertise in this platform. Its user-friendly functionality allows our clients to easily manage and update their websites after we build them. The customizability of WordPress, from basic to complex websites, has been a key factor in our success. We have completed a variety of amazing projects using WordPress.

For our e-commerce clients, Shopify has been another essential platform for its capabilities and customization options. We also appreciate WooCommerce, a WordPress plugin that adds e-commerce functionality, for allowing us to integrate e-commerce features into existing WordPress sites while maintaining the same level of customization.

Key plugins that have been beneficial to us include Elementor, a fantastic page builder that enables us to create beautiful sites, and WPBakery, another excellent page builder. Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) is another essential tool we use, which allows us to add custom fields to WordPress, enhancing site functionality and making content management easier for our clients.

In terms of resources, YouTube has been invaluable for learning and improving our web design and business skills. It's a great platform for gaining new knowledge and staying updated with the latest trends. Additionally, we find value in keeping up with tech websites and reading relevant content to help us gain knowledge and grow.

How did you make the transition from a side hustle to full-time founder?

My experience transitioning from a side hustle to a full-time business was somewhat unique. Since I was already working as a full-time web developer, the only difference for me was transitioning from working for someone else to working for myself and my own business. What I had to do was secure high-paying clients to cover my personal expenses and bills. This meant consistently building my portfolio with different projects.

My advice to anyone considering this transition is to first determine the amount of money you need to make. It's important to understand how much money you need to feel comfortable moving from a part-time hustle to a full-time business. In my case, it took several years to achieve this financial security. It's crucial to build up to a level where your business income can replace your full-time job's salary and provide stability. Additionally, there may come a point where managing both your job and your side hustle becomes unfeasible, signaling that it might be time to make the switch.

For me, the motivation to become an entrepreneur and be my own boss, combined with feeling financially secure and confident in my business, led me to take the leap into full-time entrepreneurship.

What advice do you have for founders in the earlier stages?

For founders in the earlier stages of their business, my primary advice is to work hard on your idea and get it out there. It's better to fail fast than to fail slowly, in my opinion. If you truly believe in your idea, go all in. If you need to start part-time, that's fine, but commit fully to your vision.

One of the most important things is to take action and not give up. I’ve had great ideas that never happened because I didn’t do anything about them. Conversely, some ideas I did pursue, but some worked out and some didn’t, but the fact is I did something, and I’m glad I took the risk. The difference often lies in taking action. When I have a new idea or strategy, I do research and go for it. This proactive approach is crucial.

For anyone in the early stages, it's essential to try different things. Test your ideas and new strategies. Some will work, some won't, but the key is to keep trying. Running scenarios in your head isn't enough; you have to take action. You might be surprised by your success, but you won’t know unless you try.

“Stop thinking and start doing.”

What drives you to do what you do?

I am driven by my desire to be successful and achieve specific financial goals for myself and my family. Financial freedom is what I strive for, and it ignites my ambition, motivating me to continually push for the next level. Reflecting on my achievements humbles me and motivates me to keep moving forward.

My clients also play a significant role in keeping me motivated. I am committed to not letting them down, so their trust in me drives me to meet deadlines and deliver quality work. This mindset helps me avoid procrastination and ensures that I maintain a high standard of service. I understand that failing to deliver could result in losing clients and business, so I use this as motivation to stay focused.

Interestingly, while I used to procrastinate as a student, running a business has changed that. I now prefer to stay on top of things and be proactive. This approach helps me manage unexpected challenges and maintain efficiency in my business operations.

Setting and pursuing goals is crucial to my drive. Every day, I evaluate whether I am doing enough to achieve my goals and consider what more I can do. This involves researching new techniques, improving marketing strategies, and finding ways to make my business more efficient. I break down my goals into actionable steps and constantly seek ways to get closer to them.

My drive comes from a combination of personal ambitions, the responsibility I feel towards my clients, and the continuous pursuit of improvement and success. This blend of factors keeps me motivated and dedicated to achieving my objectives.

What an unpopular opinion you have about entrepreneurship?

I have an unpopular opinion about entrepreneurship: I believe that failure is incredibly valuable for an entrepreneur. Many people don't talk about it much, but I think failure is critical for understanding success. It offers opportunities for growth and skill development, teaching you where you went wrong and how to adapt and improve.

I've faced many failures as an entrepreneur, and they have made me better. These experiences have prepared me to handle similar situations in the future, enabling me to adapt and avoid previous mistakes. Many successful entrepreneurs have failed numerous times on their path to success. They needed those failures to improve, and I agree with that perspective.

I think failure should be more celebrated in the entrepreneurship community. Sharing failures can help others learn and understand that some failures aren't as catastrophic as they seem. By sharing, others can offer advice or insights that might turn a perceived failure into a stepping stone to success.

Failure humbles you and helps develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. When you encounter issues in a successful business, your past failures help you navigate them more effectively. I've found that my previous failures have given me the resilience and skills needed to tackle challenges more confidently.

I believe failures are essential for becoming a better entrepreneur. They should be highlighted and embraced more within the community. While it's not popular to talk about failures, focusing solely on success overlooks the valuable lessons that failures provide.

What do you do to keep sane being a busy entrepreneur?

What helps me stay sane as a busy entrepreneur? Oddly enough, it's finding time to relax. I enjoy being an entrepreneur, but for the sake of my sanity, it's crucial to find time to unwind. Sometimes, after putting in long hours, I take a break to de-stress. This could mean watching a movie, spending time with my wife, hanging out with friends, or attending family events. I try not to work on weekends, especially on Saturdays, which I reserve as my no-work day. Even though I might work on Sundays, I always ensure to have at least one rest day after six days of work. This rest day helps me recharge and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

As I've grown older, I've come to recognize the importance of savoring my successes. It's vital to appreciate the life I've built and not solely focus on work. I make it a point to engage in activities that bring me joy, such as taking walks, going on trips, or simply driving my sports car. These moments of enjoyment help me stay grounded and stress-free.

Living in the present moment and being thankful for what I have is another practice that keeps me centered. It's important to pause, appreciate the present, and not let the demands of work overwhelm me. This approach helps me stay balanced and ensures that I derive pleasure from both my professional and personal life.

Who are some recommended experts or entrepreneurs to follow for learning how to grow a business?

Brett @ Designjoy

Any quotes you live by?

- Stop thinking and start doing.
- You don't know till you try.
- Fail fast. They fail slowly.
- Another day, another dollar.
- Work hard and play hard.
- You only know once you try.
- Never take no for an answer.

Your links + socials

- Linkedin
- Facebook
- Twitter
- Linkedin

Any promotions you would like to add for Founderoo readers?

10% off for the Founderoo readers community.
Coupon code: NLLGC7

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