Songhua Hu and Richard Lim will tell you that they are future serial entrepreneurs…and anyone who meets them absolutely believes this.
The two co-founders of Dezzia, a social-media couponing site, are good friends who graduated from Kellogg the same year and became passionate about starting a business together. They both took full-time jobs, but spent nights, weekends and waking moments figuring out how they could disrupt one of the many industries in which they were interested.
They landed on couponing.
Songhua and Richard spent some time with MBAsocial to talk about Dezzia, their new business, why social media is the future of couponing, and their best advice for doing what they did: launch a company in their spare time.
What does your company do?
Dezzia collects and shares coupons from premium brands by leveraging social media. We got the idea by observing the intersection of the coupon business and technology.
Coupons have probably existed as long as any kind of commerce. Traditionally, coupons were delivered to people’s doorstep in print, and the way to target was based on geography and mining of consumer behavior. The Internet has really transformed the coupon business. Coupons started arriving in digital format, and the way to target was based on search intention (SEO, pay-per-click, etc.) With the emergence of social media, we believe that coupon business is up for another disruption. In the future, coupon will still be delivered in digital format, but the way to target is through networked individuals and groups. The power of social media is yet to be fully explored, and we are here to push the envelope towards a future we believe in.
Dezzia’s core technology is a “Like Gate” that locks the curated coupon code until customers “Like” the coupon. When a customer unlocks a coupon, they broadcast the coupon to his/her friends.
What’s the future for Dezzia?
We see the company evolving in three stages:
- Establish a large fan base by curating attractive coupons via social media
- Negotiate with major brands for exclusive deals with the power of a large fan base
- Help small businesses to make more sales via coupons and establish a foothold in social media by extending Dezzia’s fan base
Did you know you two know you wanted to be entrepreneurs before you started business school?
Songhua: I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur of some sort. However, I did not have any actionable plan to get to that point before business school. Kellogg provided me with three key ingredients: 1) a variety of start-up classes and competitions that turn my startup dream into an actionable plan, 2) a large pool of student entrepreneurs that serve as my role models, 3) a group of close friends and partners that I can always turn to in formulating the business.What was the best advice you received while at business school?
Richard: It’s cliché, but too important not to mention. The most important advice I got was to follow your passion. Life is too short to do something you don’t want to do, and this is even more important when it comes to starting your own business. There are so many roadblocks, disappointments, and risks involved that if you’re not truly passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll most likely quit.
Songhua: Be world-class in anything you do. It is an anti-“follow your passion” advice. Once you commit, never just go half-way.
What is your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs or MBA applicants interested in entrepreneurship?
Richard: Be bold. It’s easy to come up with ideas, very difficult to execute them. One of the realizations we had was that we had never failed…and yet we never had a business to call our own. I feel like MBAs sometimes over-analyze…I have that same problem. But if you never fail, then you can’t iterate and make it work. So my advice – make sure you’re passionate about the idea then just do it.
Songhua: Do not do it alone. The path of entrepreneurship is lonely and full of self-doubt. You need someone to sanity-check your vision, provide moral support and help you execute. If you get to a point that you believe nobody else deserves to (wants to) be your business partner, it is time to doubt yourself.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Richard and Songhua are business classmates from Kellogg. Both have tons of ideas but this is their first execution. Dezzia is the first, but will not be last. Stay tuned for more. We are always looking for advisers and business partners. Please feel from to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured photo courtesy of Kyz (Flickr).
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