When Roger Jin launched the international snack subscription service Treats, he drained the $5,000 in savings, put his personal expenses on his credit cards and worked seven days a week. He went all in.
When Treats started growing, he was thrilled. He was also, however, busy beyond any reasonable measure. And, looking back, his biggest mistake in getting Treats off the ground was in not hiring staff soon enough, he says.
Compelled by determination and momentum, Jin tried to do everything himself.
"Initially the company grew so fast that it caused other problems. For example, in the first six months we had already grown from zero to several thousand subscribers," says Jin.
Jin launched Treats in July 2015 and, in 2016, the business hit seven figures in revenue. (He declined to be more specific.) But even when Treats was taking off, Jin didn't have enough cash on hand to buy the inventory to ship to customers. He took business and personal loans to finance the early growth.
Jin now says his biggest mistake was not bringing in help. He had a few contractors he would hire for specific jobs, but he had no employees.
"I waited too long to hire more people! Even after our explosive growth, I was still the only person handling everything from customer service to warehouse operations to marketing and I think that slowed us down," Jin says. There is only so much that any one individual can do, even if he does nothing other than work.
"As soon as I hired more people I immediately saw the benefit (it allowed me more time to focus on what I'm good at) and wish I had done it sooner."
Now, Jin has four full-time employees, two part-time and an intern. He works out of his apartment in San Francisco. The staff works remotely from their respective apartments. Jin subcontracts the assembly of boxes and inventory management to Good Source, the fulfillment operation of Goodwill.
Jin hired his first full-time employee off of Craigslist on September 23, 2016, more than a year after he launched Treats. That first employee recommended his second and third hires and, that winter, Jin hired his fourth employee, whom he also found via Craigslist.
Craiglist may sound old-school for a start-up, but the 27-year-old entrepreneur is a fan.
"Craigslist is actually a great channel for finding talent. It's quick, easy, free or relatively inexpensive to throw up a post, and most importantly it still gets a huge amount of traffic from people browsing — even to this day," Jin says. "I'm a huge believe that we're all surrounded by people of talent, it's just a matter of finding the right talented people to work with!"