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Tips for success from San Francisco-based business owners

People start their own businesses for lots of different reasons. Some to pursue a lifelong dream. Some to escape a career that’s no longer what they want. Some to create their own opportunities in a market where they had none. But whatever the reason, founding your own company is a labor of love that can be all-consuming whilst deeply rewarding. Regardless of the industry, there are common lessons to be learned from all founders. 

Zadarma understands the challenges entrepreneurs face when starting their own business. For small and medium sized companies, Zadarma is the VoIP provider that delivers flawless telephonic communication at low or no cost with premium routing and 24/7 customer support. Zadarma provides companies with unified voice communications from virtual phone numbers to Cloud PBX and website widgets at an affordable rate.

Zadarma’s mission is to simplify the challenges of founding your own company. That’s why they implored us to meet with founders to discuss their tips for success.

We sat down with three founders, across the film production, branding, and retail industries, whose businesses all depend on technology in various ways. They told us their founder stories and the key lessons they learned along the way.

Luke Tate

Pocket Pictures is a full-service production studio started by San Francisco-based director Luke Tate. Luke got his start producing video at an ad agency in Indianapolis before he moved out west to pursue freelance video work. He saw a need in the market for companies to tell human-centered stories through their advertising to better connect with consumers. 

Luke’s heart wasn’t always set on starting his own company, but the opportunity crystalized once he went freelance. One opportunity led to another and he soon found himself fulfilling the role of a full-service studio. He created Pocket Pictures so he could bring all those services under one roof and deliver a more cohesive service. Today, Luke’s business is concentrated in San Francisco and New York, and his clients include Adobe, Salesforce, and Ebay.

Find the right people

From the start, Luke’s biggest challenge at Pocket Pictures was finding the right talent. At first, like many founders, he tried to do everything himself, which limited his ability to take on new business. Learning to hire good people and trust his new employees was the hardest but more important challenge. The videos produced with his team helped Luke understand the importance of collaboration, and how giving employees more ownership often leads to a better result.

Build and nurture your network

A strong network is key to running a healthy business. Nurturing that network will help move you forward, whether it’s through connections that lead to new business, hires, or even mentors who can provide insight and advice for when you face uncertainty.  

You can find Luke’s work on his website and on PocketPictures.video.
Image of Luke (left) courtesy of Cliff Englert.

Martin Justesen

Martin Justesen moved to New York from Copenhagen in 2014. That’s when he started his graphic design business. Back in Copenhagen, Martin worked as a graphic designer for the branded content division of a Danish publisher. Having worked in the world of marketing and branding for 10 years, he took an interest in brand development. While still employed at the publisher, he took on a side project developing the brand identity for Evil Twin Brewing, a nomadic brewery that found massive success amongst craft beer lovers around the globe. The success of Evil Twin helped launch Martin’s career in branding, exposing him to new clients. Each opportunity led to the next and soon his own branding studio was taking form.

Since relocating, Martin’s client base has grown to include media and tech ventures as well as hospitality companies. In 2019, Martin relocated again to San Francisco to continue building his business on the west coast. He’s passionate about pushing the boundaries of branding and helping brands effectively communicate while giving them a distinguishing edge through design.  

Be adaptable

10 years ago, Martin never would have thought he’d be running his own branding studio. Throughout his entire career, Martin remained open to change, taking new opportunities as they presented themselves, even if they demanded learning something new or stepping into uncharted territory. Saying yes to change has helped Martin expand his abilities and client base, giving him the chance to grow his business.

Think globally

Sometimes your customer isn’t in the same city, country, or even continent as you. Although Martin finds most of his clients through word of mouth, many of them are based in different places across the US and Europe. This allows him to service various markets, bringing his obsession with communication-centered design to new customers across the globe.

Check out Martin’s website and Instagram to learn more. 

Miguel Lopez

In 2006, Miguel Lopez opened Sui Generis, a tiny vintage shop in San Francisco with his partner Gabriel. The shop 8’x12’ shop saw massive success and soon relocated to a bigger space. There, Miguel sold vintage items as well as luxury goods through consignment. He soon outgrew that space as well, and is now has a men’s and a women’s store, each exclusively offering consigned luxury items.

Two years ago, the Sui Generis began to do a significant amount of sales online. Now, about 30% of the store’s sales are made through their website (or other sites they use like Ebay, 1stdibs, and Tradesy). Selling online has helped the brand attain a global reach. Because Sui Generis is a local business, before they went online, they relied on returning customers to meet sales goals. But with San Francisco being such a transient city, sometimes those customers who Miguel and Gabriel relied on would move away. The website now allows loyal customers to continue shopping with the brand no matter where they are.

Understand your niche

The world of retail is in a constant state of change, with new competitors springing up on what feels like a daily basis. Luxury consignment ecommerce sites like The Real Real definitely pose a threat to brick and mortar shops like Miguel’s. Miguel believes one key to facing your competitors is to understand your product differentiators, and what you provide that they cannot. In his case it’s curation and high quality customer service. 

Visit the Sui Generis men’s store at 2231 Market St, the women’s store at 2147 Union St, or online.

Businesses are built on communication and relationships.

Zadarma understand how integral communication and building relationships are to businesses at every stage. That’s why they developed a VoIP solution built for your business needs. The Zadarma VoIP project enables you to setup your business telephone system without the heavy hardware and wiring expenses.

When it comes to managing customer relationships, Zadarma has you covered with ZCRM. This free cloud customer relationship management system can assist with automating all the main processes without the extra costs. The system is fully integrated with Zadarma telephony and PBX, it is suitable for businesses of all sizes and — most importantly — is absolutely free, regardless of the number of employees in your company. 

Get started with Zadarma VoIP, Cloud PBX, or ZCRM for FREE today.