© onur kocamaz |
© onur kocamaz |

Have you gotten scrappy?!

Recently, Jody and I were having a lovely meeting with startup founder, Kathy Taylor, on the roof of our office building. Kathy, a Harvard MBA with a boot collection to die for, has worked in the sports retail industry for many years with large budgets and data-intensive plans and has started a social-shopping website for women involved in fitness called Attagirl.

We were reminiscing about the days when we all worked for big companies or firms with big budgets to build a brand and spread awareness – life was amazing when we had large budgets….

Now that we are all in the startup space, and no budget in sight – it’s time to get scrappy.
As we swapped stories about the scrappiest things we’ve done to get the word out, Kathy said, “Boot-Scrapping!” boot-scrapping indeed.

So here are some of the top ways that we’ve “Boot-Scrapped” along with some other boot-scrappy ideas I’ve heard along the way. In the comments below, we want to know some of the scrappiest ways you’ve put your business on the map.

We use HARO. HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out – 3 times a day, you receive a text email of reporter queries looking for sources or quotes to supplement stories they are going to write. Here’s the key: When you are a startup, you don’t really have much to talk about in the beginning. That’s ok! Find stories that you personally might be a fit for and figure out a way to plug your new startup. I did this just a few months after Chic CEO launched. I saw a query for a Wall Street Journal reporter who was looking for someone who got their MBA, started a business then went back to work. BINGO. I sent my materials and plugged Chic CEO as many times as possible. I saw another one that was looking for interesting ways people used their game show winnings. You guessed it – I sent in my info and plugged Chic CEO. In the beginning, try to find indirect ways to market yourself and let your startup piggy back from that.

We wear our logo. Cliche right? Why do we do it? Free advertising. Jody made cute/sporty jackets that have our web address on the back and we wear them EVERYWHERE. We have a pact that we will always wear them to airports. It’s a great way to get our web address in front of lots of different people from a lot of different cities.

• We have promo material on us at all times. We have fun magnets that we always include in the check sleeve after we pay for a lunch or dinner. We put a stack of them on the front counter at a cute boutique (of course we ask first). We always have our branded postcards and stamps with us in case we run into someone cool and want to write them a quick ‘thank you’ note. No opportunity is missed to make a connection.
• Laptop and cell phone covers. We used to create laptop covers that have our logo and web address. We are so mobile that we might be at a meeting in a coffee shop, a restaurant, an office space, darting through an airport or working from a hotel lobby. On more than one occasion, I’ve witnessed someone writing down our web address while I had my laptop out.

• Just ask. One of the scrappiest things we do is ask. “Can we have that venue for free?” or “Can we knock that price down by 50%?” or “Can we partner on this?” there are a million different ways to work without a budget if you are willing to ask for it. Negotiate everything – in the startup phase, you can’t afford not to. ASK.

Scrappy Superstars:

• Sara Blakely – the founder of Spanx, and youngest self-made female billionaire, used to run into Neiman Marcus and when the sales people weren’t looking, she would set up quick counter display at all of the check out stations. (Very valuable real estate as you can imagine) and run out of the store. She’d then get a call the next day that security cameras caught her and to stop doing that.
She would buy all of her inventory from a department store so that product would “fly off the shelves!” and create demand.
She would set up a display in Nordstrom wearing her white pants to demonstrate how much better they looked wearing SPANX. She had a before and after picture to entice women to buy on the spot.

• Noah Kagen – founder of AppSumo and one of the first employees at, tells us how he started AppSumo with $50. (By the way, one of his tactics was to get in touch with one of the founders of Reddit. Can we say just ASK?)

• SEO Moz – one of the largest and most respected websites on SEO, created target ads on LinkedIn/Facebook to be shown to only a handful of investors. When they’d reach out to these investors all they would hear is, “You guys are awesome, I see you everywhere!” Very little money, big impact.

Tell us below how you’ve been scrappy!
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