\"Erica

Erica Bell and Katie Finnegan, founders of Hukkster. A "huckster," is someone who peddles wares. Photo by: Hukkster

Always be pitching: Lessons from Hukkster’s Katie Finnegan & Erica Bell

\"Erica

Erica Bell and Katie Finnegan, founders of Hukkster. A "huckster," is someone who peddles wares. Photo by: Hukkster

Think ahead, but focus on realistic targets

Starting a company isn’t exactly a picnic, especially when the founding team consists of only two people. The long road ahead would be enough to spook even the most determined entrepreneurs, which is why Bell and Finnegan focused on the short-term targets – while keeping their larger vision in mind. “If you look at the six-month timeline in front of you, how could you even move forward?” Bell asked. “You’d completely run in the opposite direction. But if you break it down to just tiny, digestible goals, it’s much easier along the way. “

“We always say had we been very calculated about it, maybe we still would have taken the leap, but the fact that we didn’t really think about all the downstream impacts or the longevity of our decision ended up being helpful,” Finnegan agreed. “All the focus was just on each milestone, and each milestone was just a week, a month, that kind of thing. So we never saw this big, scary black hole of ‘You’re going to be broke, you’re going to be putting in all of your time and energy, you’re going to be newly married and never see your husband.’ Those conversations happened little by little and on our own terms.”

Friendship is no guarantee of professional compatibility, but it’s definitely a plus

A business partnership demands a different level of dependability than what's required than in your average friendship. Luckily, having worked together at J. Crew and A.T. Kearney, Bell and Finnegan knew they could depend on each other.

“It’s so important that you’ve seen each other in that professional, stressful experience,” Finnegan emphasized. We often meet people who say ‘Hey, I have this buddy from business school,’ or ‘I have this friend from college, and I’m going to start a company with him.’ Which may be great, but it’s such a different relationship from the one you have with your drinking buddy or your brunch buddy. You should do something really hard together like train for a marathon. That 5am wakeup call when you really want to sleep in – is that person going to push you to get up? Will you be responsible? That’s really what you need.”

A diversity of strengths helps, too. “We have the same professional work experience and we both had a liberal arts undergrad, but we both work very differently, and we recognize that and play off that.” Bell added, “It’s a little good-cop-bad-cop. Not to say we can’t switch roles, you absolutely have to be able to do that, but you also need to be able to complement each other.”

Next steps – leveraging data; hukking hamster wheels

How does a free tool that saves people money make money? So far, through affiliate and referral fees. But Finnegan and Bell see room to expand that by carefully utilizing the data they collect. “If you’re a guy who loves half-zip sweaters and has hukked a bunch, I can potentially tell you about more, which you haven’t hukked, but which we think you might be interested in, Bell explained. “That’s really valuable to a retailer or to anybody who’s trying to get in front of you, because we know exactly what you want. And it’s not invasive for our customers, because recommendations are tailored for them.”

They also see room to move beyond their current market. “Eighty percent of what we track today is apparel and accessories, but we do also track home goods, electronics and appliances. It’s not our core marketing message yet, but people are starting to figure it out on their own and our goal is to help educate consumers in the coming months and make sure they realize it’s a universal platform. People have started to hukk interesting things, like hamster wheels or toilets, but I guess they just want to get discounts on everything they can.”

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