This week Series W spoke to Hanh Nguyen, the founder of Stuff N Style, a closet catalog app that generates outfit ideas, and Monokera, a consultancy that builds MVP apps and websites for startups.
Give us a brief description of Stuff N Style & Monokera.
Stuff N Style is an app that helps women catalog their closets & get outfit ideas.
Monokera is a startup that creates apps & websites for startups.
How did you develop the idea for Stuff N Style & Monokera?
I created Stuff N Style to solve my own problem of not knowing what to wear. I thought I was the only one who struggled with this problem until I started working for Rent the Runway, and realized that pretty much every woman has this problem. The market is huge, but not many people are working on this problem because it is a very woman-specific problem, and most people in tech are men. Being a software engineer who loves fashion, I knew I was the right person to work on this idea.
Monokera started very organically. A lot of my friends knew that I had an engineering background and asked me to match them with teams that can build MVPs for their business. I did it on the side for over a year and realized that there is so much need for this that it could be a business on its own.
How did you make the decision to take the plunge and start your own company?
I didn’t quit my job right away. I explored the ideas and built the MVPs while I still had a full-time job. I took the plunge to quit when we had great traction/feedback from the users. It helped me minimize risk because the “exploring” phase can take a very long time.
How did you fund the business? What do you spend most of your funds on? Knowing what you know now about how to raise and spend funds, what would you have done differently?
In the beginning, I bootstrapped Stuff N Style with my savings. Monokera has been profitable from day 1, so it helps me run Stuff N Style without having to fundraise. We are very lean; most of the funds are spent on building the product.
I wouldn’t do anything differently regarding to fundraising. It worked for me. However, it might not work for everyone. Someone who is very good at pitching can choose a different path (i.e. getting VC funding, etc.) When it comes to funding, you need to do whatever works for you and gives you enough capital to run your business (e.g. the AirBnB guys sold cereal to fund AirBnB!).
What has been your greatest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge for us is to keep improving. A lot of the time we feel like we’ve hit a wall and cannot be better, but the current state is not good enough. It can be very discouraging. However, something better always comes up when we keep pushing. We just need to keep pushing!
What has been the most exciting moment so far?
There is no one particular exciting moment. Every day I wake up feeling excited about what I’m working on. For me the journey (including the ups and the downs) is exciting.
What resources have been most helpful to you in starting up?
I’ve been part of this group called Dreamers and Doers. It’s a group of female entrepreneurs who support each other technically as well as emotionally. I have learned so much from other members in that group.
Tell us about how you’ve learned about your customer base?
How different users’ opinions are! In startups, we are taught to learn as much from our users as possible. Talking to users is not the hard part – learning from the feedback is the hard part, because each user is so different, and they all want different things, and sometimes they don’t even know what they want.
If you could give an aspiring entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
Just get started. I think sometimes when we try to create the perfect plan, we never get to it. This is one of my favorite quotes about getting started:
“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”― Hugh Laurie