Here, they share with us a bit about their journeys, their inspiration, and what they believe it takes to get a startup off the ground.
11 Studio is a creative agency redefining digital marketing, set up by Business Administration graduate Richard Liu Shi. After helping out with the online side of his parents business, Richard developed a passion for design and web development. He was proactive in teaching himself the basics, worked hard at university, and now splits his time between Spain and China running the company.
Anci Chen, who goes by Elisa in Spain, always had an eye for fashion and upcoming trends. Like Richard, Elisa studied Business Administration at IE University and soon after she set up her own jewelry company with some friends. The business, called Minma, offers fashionable jewelry and accessories for every occasion, valuing itself on its distinctive designs and impeccable customer service.
Tell us a bit about your startups.
Richard: 11 Studio is a creative agency focused on producing high-quality websites with exceptional performance and designs. We combine consulting services, marketing, and digital strategy to offer our customers an extraordinary user experience. We’re also developing our own ERP system which will allow us to offer a more seamless service.
Elisa: Minma is an import company specializing in silver jewelry and fashion jewelry. We seek to offer the latest trends in jewelry and accessories through online and offline sales channels, focusing on both wholesale and retail distribution.
Where did your inspiration for each startup come from?
Richard: In my second year at the Bachelor in Business Administration, I put my career on hold for a year and a half to help out with my family’s business. I worked on the website and online store, which was led by a freelance developer who taught me the basics of design and online development. Even back then, I wanted to develop and implement my own designs and ideas, so I decided to learn to code. When I returned to IE University, I continued to learn the necessary skills and finally perfected how to develop websites. Then, after graduating, I set up my own creative agency.
Elisa: The idea for Minma initially stemmed from the ease of setting up an online store at no cost. Using our previous experience, my team members and I analyzed various sectors and niches required to create an import company. In the development of an online store, shipping costs are a huge factor, so jewelry was an obvious choice because of its small size and weight.
What is your role at your startup?
Richard: My role at 11 Studio is to plan and manage all of the company’s current and future projects, defining the main digital strategies and the creative plan. I also make designs for clients.
Elisa: My main role in Minma is to define the company’s strategy. We’re constantly studying consumer behavior, forecasting trends for the coming season, and creating unique styles.
What has been the biggest challenge in your journeys and how did you overcome it?
Richard: I find that the greatest difficulty at 11 Studio is defining the scope of the project. Often, clients don’t know the most effective strategies to make their websites engaging and impactful. They tend to want to implement their own ideas, which results in having to repeatedly re-design projects. Now, we define the scope of a project before we start. Another major challenge is data protection—avoiding data leakage both inside and outside the company is very difficult.
Elisa: The hardest part is understanding market trends and offering the right products at the right time since we can’t always predict the future. It’s also a struggle to effectively coordinate with suppliers—arranging manufacture, transport and preparing product campaigns—due to the time difference with Asia. But above all, we aim to keep our stock in check so we don’t miss out on opportunities to make a good profit. We’re continually improving our relationship with our suppliers. And of course, it’s always very important to have a thorough business plan before every season.
How do you raise awareness about your businesses?
Richard: Well, every single one of our projects has a direct impact on our visibility, so we treat them as our portfolio. We rely a lot on word of mouth and when we’re ready to take on large numbers of projects, we’ll start to develop our SEO and SEM strategy.
Elisa: For Minma, we rely mainly on the offline side of things. We participate in lots of fairs and events to spread the word about the business. When it comes to our online presence, the organic search is extremely important. For the site to have a good positioning on the web, it’s all about SEO optimization. Finally, digital analysis allows us to access information that helps us improve our content, services, and products. Right now, we’re preparing our social network strategy which we hope will have a huge impact.
What makes your businesses unique?
Richard: 11 Studio creates professional websites with proven strategies and marketing, built on a secure foundation with an orderly structure, instead of using the typical page-builders offered in the market. So, overall, we offer innovative websites with dependable strategies which add value to our customers’ brands.
Elisa: I would say our biggest strengths are our omni-channel approach, trend-setting designs, distinctive differentiation, unique personality, smooth purchasing experience, and creative marketing.
What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
Richard: I think it’s really important to add value to society. In my opinion, the Chinese population, even the general population of Europe, is lagging behind in terms of digital transformation, so our idea is to give them the push they need to maximize their potential.
Elisa: Having the ability to offer your own designs to customers is very satisfying. Creating trends and seeing people wearing your products increase your confidence and your company. So, for me, entrepreneurship is seeing your own company grow, meeting people who share your dreams, building your own team, and continually learning.
What tools/resources at IE University were helpful for you when launching your startups?
Richard: IE University provides an environment where you can grow as a person, experience new things, meet new people, and acquire knowledge that will help you in the future. It’s an international, inspirational, and pragmatic environment, instilling you with a global perspective and a basis for developing your ideas.
What is your advice to anyone who is considering a career as an entrepreneur?
Richard: Be niche. Focus on a thing or skill you like and then find your audience. Make sure you really develop your ideas and always seek to offer value to your clients. There’s nothing better than working on what you like without anyone limiting you.
Elisa: Perseverance is the most important thing—you have to trust yourself, even if others don’t believe in you. The very beginning is always going to be difficult but don’t stop and don’t think twice—just do it.
Best of luck to Richard and Elisa in developing their companies. With a robust business plan determination, and a lot of hard work, this could be you!