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Inspiring / Startup

1000 Days of Building Monkey Baba An Education Startup From Home By A Solo-Mompreneur

 

Yes. You read it right.

 

It’s the 1000th day today since Monkey Baba was launched. This milestone may not be of great significance to Monkey Baba from a business point-of-view, but personally, it is one of my proudest achievements.

 

The day I ended my contract with an education institution in the UK in 2011, I had only these things on my mind:

 

– Help students explore various courses and institutions before deciding their best fit
– Follow my passion for education without any biases to any education institution
– Set up a platform to cater to the above two objectives with as low a cost as possible
– Build on the idea for at least three years before developing it aggressively

 

If you know anything about me, the last bit has been the most difficult one to endure. I am notorious for my need to be actively engaged in activities that demand mental labour.

 

Be it sports, work, or my personal interests, I thrive on working towards a goal. So, obviously, persevering through this somewhat idle period was a big challenge for me.

 

Nevertheless, I was certain that I needed, this time, to understand if I had what it takes to go through the rigorous drill of being an entrepreneur — not swing between ideas but to focus only on the one thing that really mattered to me.

 

 

The thought behind the name Monkey Baba was to reflect the two sides of our mind and the mental process of decision-making – confused, and clear. The intention was to create a platform that would help learners see past the confusions and find a solution to their education-related dilemmas.

 

How I went about it

 

Phase-0: Understood the pain points behind student education decisions and concluded that the lack of information or, specifically, the lack of access to credible higher education-related information was one of the greatest hurdles in such decisions.

 

Phase-1: Analysed the available solutions and pondered whether I could offer anything different, and devised a rough draft of a business plan.

 

Phase-2: Developed and launched the first version of Monkey Baba.

 

Through all this, I kept having this vague feeling that something was amiss. I was so overwhelmed with what all I could offer that I failed to understand what all I must do to get there. I received plenty of feedback (read criticism), but I was not offended because that is exactly what I needed at the time.

 

I needed validation, for my ideas, for my work thus far.

 

Phase-3: It was evident to me that there is a need, a market for what I was trying to offer; all I had to do was to present it well.

 

So I took the website down and began redesigning the content to narrow our focus to providing learners a comprehensive list of the courses offered by education institutions worldwide.

 

Did it work?

 

Well, it did. Since the revamp, there has been a steady flow of traffic to the website, and in the past one and a half years, we’ve never had a day when we had zero visitors.

 

Wow! That was greatly motivating, considering I spent only about Rs.10,731.75 in the past 1000 days towards promoting Monkey Baba through our Facebook page.

 

While site revamps was in progress, I kept the page alive with regular updates and education & career related articles.

 

Phase-4: Friends, well-wishers, students and mentors helped me analyse my business case. They provided valuable suggestions, which called for plenty of research and rework.

 

The idea was to strip down past versions, narrow the focus, and rework the website to represent this realignment.

 

The in-between phases, other than the ups and downs of a business cycle and the usual travails of being an entrepreneur:

 

– I had another baby girl who is now 1.5 years old
– I met some wonderful people who helped me regain sight of my career’s direction.
– I had my fair share of not-so-positive experiences that disrupted the development efforts, though only temporarily.

 

Questions I get asked

 

Why haven’t you joined hands with a co-founder yet?

 

Honestly, I haven’t approached anyone to be a co-founder yet. Primarily because, until recently, we were still in the experimenting phase. Now, I am open to partnering with a co-founder(s) who would share my passion for being a part of the education industry and for helping students make well-informed education decisions.

 

Why has the website development been slow?

 

This has been intentional. The only asset I have in my hands is time, and I make the best use of it by experimenting with my ideas gradually.

 

Where is your team operating?

 

Virtually. Monkey Baba doesn’t own an office space or a suite of employees. We’re a virtual team of like-minded people. I work with freelance service providers as it is more cost-effective than assembling a physical team and investing in infrastructure for a business that only recently completed the validating phase.

 

Are you a programmer?

 

No, I am not a coder. I never really had the interest to develop my coding skills. Nevertheless, I am blessed to have found people who take ownership and work to the best of their abilities to build precisely what I’m looking for.

 

Is your venture funded?

 

We’re still a bootstrapped company.

 

I will seek funding when the business is crying out for the growth and expansion that only money can offer. Right now, I am happy being a self-funded company with its own flaws and flavours.

 

Moving forward

 

Of all the things I have been told, the one that always left me thinking was the suggestion to change the business name. People have gone to great lengths explaining the disadvantages of the name Monkey Baba and how it is not even remotely representative of my business objectives. Some kind-hearted souls even sent me a list of alternate names to consider :)

 

I did not give in to this suggestion for a very long time until one day I realised the need to detach myself from the name and see it from a business perspective.

 

It did make sense.

 

Monkey Baba doesn’t sound business-like, so after a lot of deliberation, not to mention the rigorous research process with students, I renamed my dream project ‘Lurnable’.

 

Hope the word ‘Lurnable’ resonates in your mind as something to do with learning and education :)

 

Next steps

 

Step-1: Launch Lurnable.com in May 2016.

 

Step-2: Focus on growth. Having learned enough lessons over the past three years, I am confident that now is the time to grow the website’s usefulness to students, and, to expand the user base for the business.

 

 

Lastly, why am I sharing all this?

 

Two reasons:

 

One, there is strength in being vulnerable and honest about my endeavours. I get motivated when I open up to people as it helps me through one of the most challenging pursuits of anyone’s life: entrepreneurship; in my case “solo-mom-preneurship”. In return, people talk to me about their achievements and failures, helping me see the truth beyond the glitter, the years of hard work behind their hard-earned success.

 

Two, if in spite of all the odds, I have found a way to keep my dream alive, I am confident you can do it too. I wish this gives hope to those of us who want to pursue this path and motivates others who are still contemplating trying out their ideas.

 

Entrepreneurship is not a fancy job. Self-doubt gnaws at your determination every day. Oscillating between doubts and dreams, an entrepreneur’s journey continues.

 

Even today, I am not sure if this journey is going to take me to a destination that the world coins as a success, but I am thoroughly enjoying the process of creating something, hoping that it will have a meaningful impact on a student’s life.

 

Thank you for all your support.

 

Godspeed,
Nithya Prabu
#Lurnable

 

To connect with me: @nithyaprabu

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9 Comments

  1. i got goosebumps reading this nithya! in fact while i was reading it i was admiring how well you bare yourself! and then i came to this part 

    “Lastly, why am I sharing all this?

    Two reasons:

    One, there is strength in being vulnerable and honest about my endeavours. I get motivated when I open up to people as it helps me through one of the most challenging pursuits of anyone’s life: entrepreneurship; in my case “solo-mom-preneurship”. In return, people talk to me about their achievements and failures, helping me see the truth beyond the glitter, the years of hard work behind their hard-earned success.”

    you are such an amazing person nithya! i’ve always admired how you keep going strong building monkey baba (now lurnable – which is also a great name!) despite having your hands full with both kids! 

    more power to you! will look fwd to the may launch! good luck!!

    since you’re in the education space, you might want to read priyadeep’s latest – http://therodinhoods.com/forum/topics/why-do-edtech-startups-fail

  2. ps: i quite liked the logo of lurnable 🙂

    (yes i went to your site and had a peek!)

  3. Dear Asha.. you are the best 🙂 many, many thanks for  your kind and encouraging words. Thanks again, Nithya. 

  4. Thank you very much 🙂

  5. Hi Nithya! Really nice article – would love to know more about how you got your first paying customer…I am in that phase where I want to start looking at the revenue generation options..And the part about having a few ‘in between changes’ – you have really just stated it, but would have taken a lot of energy and self motivation to get out of that phase. Congrats on emerging from it and taking Monkey Baba this far!

  6. Good on you Nithya. Thanks for sharing your story. I took the lesson of persistence from your story.

  7. Hello Lakshmi Ananthamurthy, thank you. It is a web portal and our initial revenue model was through online advertisements so we did not have any external paying customer. Having said that, our next version would be different from our earlier ones. I will share the experience with you on the  same hopefully very soon 🙂

    Hope this helps.

  8. Thank you, Tejas. 

  9. Hi Nithya loved the story and perseverance.I always say that if you could stay with your business idea for 1000 days no one can stop you from succeeding in the same so you have already passed the 1000 day test 😀😀 

    Choosing education in our country is still pretty unorganised and messy and therefore I must say that your have positioned yourself perfectly in the Eco system. Fortunately now the customers for the services you would be offering ( Yes our customers and consumers are different, our customers are parents and consumers are students ) are internet savvy and are constantly visiting Internet to seek solutions. There isn’t a single platform around us which can solve career related riddles. I’m working in the field of Education Technology for past decade and I may be able to offer some insights to you to shape up your business/revenue model. Let’s connect whenever it’s convenient to you to take the discussion forward. 

    Wish you all the best in your endeavour and wish you all the success My contact coordinates e Mail me@mandarjoshi.com contact number 9890817339. Looking forward to connect with you

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