startup business

To create a successful business launch, Mark wanted to map out a business plan that would be a roadmap to success. He worked with Written Success to create a strategic business plan that could later be used for funding purposes. Due Diligence has paid off, and the business will be featured in the book How To Write an Exceptional Business Plan, available for pre-order in October.

Mark Lewis, Co-Founder of HelloCecil

Mark Lewis is a Los Angeles entrepreneur who feels he beat early odds with his newest venture. Having already started multiple businesses successfully, he knew that this undertaking – a brilliantly simple hiring software solution – would require him to collaborate with a great co-founder. Where most startups fail and partnerships dissolve at similar rates to marital divorces, Mark has already achieved a huge success in joining with co-founder Brandyn Morelli.

Mark: “I never had a partner in my earlier businesses. I wore every hat and was a jack of all trades. But having a partner in HelloCecil has been a huge plus for us and the business. In our first couple of months, Brandyn and I evolved our working relationship, learning about our synergies and ways of doing business, and developed ourselves into a true management asset.”

The Problem Being Solved

Mark and Brandyn worked together to develop a software solution for startups and small businesses. With businesses operating on a shoestring budget, the hiring landscape has shown some big challenges when it comes to interviewing and choosing personnel. The struggle of founders and small business owners is always managing finite time and resources and interviewing and hiring can often take weeks to properly conduct. Outsourcing hiring efforts is often too expensive for these businesses so the founder or hiring manager will try to sift through resumes and schedule candidate interviews on their own. This is time-consuming and not the best use of resources.

Mark and Brandyn created a simple solution that allows this process to be faster and more effective by incorporating an affordable automated (one-way) video interviewing component to the hiring process. While the solution may be simple,  Mark already sees the potential for the platform to become a huge game changer for many businesses and industries.

His Choice for Freedom with Entrepreneurship

Mark knew that his path into entrepreneurship wasn’t conventional. He admits, “The ‘why’ I became an entrepreneur mystifies a lot of people. I rose quickly through the ranks in the corporate world and had more goals in mind. Then my daughter was born and shortly after that, I went through a marital divorce.  It was time for me to think about my life differently. I knew I had to make a choice, even though I wasn’t totally ready. I made the switch from corporate climber to entrepreneur so I could be the kind of dad I wanted to be – present and engaged in my daughter’s life. The work-life change was dramatic, but at the same time energizing.  And it served me well.”

Mark admits that the decision to launch HelloCecil, his first tech venture following two brick and mortar service businesses, was one that had a ton of unknown risk and potential for failure. After all, the market has plenty of other providers who are targeting the same problem in different ways. Mark and Brandyn had clarity early on that they would likely need to pivot constantly to stay competitive. Instead of being intimidated by this reality, they instead planned for it from the very beginning.

Planning the Business

With clarity on the fact that this would be a business that would be unique from his previous ventures, Mark spent more time than most would on planning and refining the vision. He and Brandyn worked tirelessly on the concept and final product, working to make sure they were entering the market at the right time, talking to the right audience, and meeting the needs of startup founders and small business owners in the right way.

His drive to solve a clear problem was his #1 motivator. From day one, they viewed the situation from a specific perspective.

Mark: “Without an HR department down the hall, the CEO’s of progressive-growth startups, of small businesses and multi-unit small businesses, are still doing a lot of the hiring themselves or with hiring managers. And they don’t like it or aren’t really comfortable with it. That’s where we knew where the product needed to fit. Knowing our audience backed us into saying it should look like this.

Ultimately, this thought process shaped the direction for HelloCecil. The founders were actively trying to remain free of assumption as they researched their target audience, knowing they would need to solve the problem from a unique angle in order to be competitive in the market. They worked to identify the segment of the market that was underserved or not served at all and they focused on those businesses specifically. This helped them with a market entry strategy that minimized competition as well. With other providers targeting large enterprises, HelloCecil was designed to be a more accessible and affordable option for the smaller operator who had few other options.

When the founders first developed the concept for HelloCecil, they recognized that they could solve several problems in varying markets, including entertainment casting and student enrollment applications. However, they remained disciplined in focus. Mark and Brandyn decided to focus on what they knew would meet the most immediate need, and that is using the technology for startup and small business hiring. In this space, they could fill a gap that was huge and could stand out with clear differentiation. Later, other expansion plans into additional industries may come, after they have succeeded in this first target market.

As they finalized their planning, the partners questioned everything they thought they knew – even if they were 100% confident they were right.

Mark: “We aimed for the channels we think will work, but we always challenge ourselves not to simply follow what ‘we think’. Because if it’s wrong and it’s early and we can fix it, then we’re still in the game. The biggest mistake is getting further down the road and you have to un-build or un-plan, which means you’re doing more spending. And those are hard adjustments to make, particularly when you bootstrap and every minute and dollar matters.”

From experience, Mark knows how important it is for an entrepreneur to have a feel for the market. That feel usually leads to clarity on where a problem needs to be solved, and that is where successful business ideas are born. With HelloCecil, Mark and Brandyn knew that they could build this business, but they wanted to make sure it was something they should do.

Mark: “We really spent a lot of time in the beginning months looking for answers to why we should not be doing this. Because when you challenge yourself that way and think of all the reasons not to do it – that’s more enlightening than all the reasons why you think you ought to be doing it.”

Launching HelloCecil

Many entrepreneurs underestimate what goes into starting a business. Mark finds that he reads constantly about other entrepreneurs, if for no other reason than to try and learn from their mistakes and successes. He gains context from what others do well and tries to understand where he may be veering into failure-ridden territory.

Mark: “In other brick and mortar service businesses I started, It was clearer what I needed to do. But this internet-based business we’re building now is in an entirely different space, and that really changes the ballgame.  It’s helpful to know what others have done well and where they’ve run into challenges.”

By being proactive and analyzing every aspect of the business, the founders have created a solid foundation piece by piece and now have the framework to launch a successful venture.

They spent time planning and conceptualizing their solution from several angles and didn’t take any shortcuts. They changed parts of the concept, scrapped and rebuilt other parts, and created something that is meant to service customers in a very powerful way.

Learn More About HelloCecil

HelloCecil is automated video interviewing software designed for startups and small businesses. It was created to allow smaller business teams to execute talent selection and hiring without a robust HR department. HelloCecil is different from other options on the market in both its simplicity and friendly, intuitive interface. To learn more about HelloCecil, visit https://hellocecil.com.

 

Ashley Cheeks

Author Ashley Cheeks

Ashley Cheeks is a Business Plan Consultant. Her core business plan writer expertise is in designing business plans for bank and investor funding. She founded Written Success after years of being a professional business plan writer as a freelance consultant, and working for companies including GE and Fluor. She lives in Houston with her husband, daughter and son.

More posts by Ashley Cheeks