How do you know you are winning with consumers? It's not as hard as you think. If you are building a startup, Urban Cargo founder Krishna Gullapalli, a Startup America member, gives us three clues in this interview we did with her this week. 

Urban Cargo delivers hair care and skin care products to men in a monthly subscription service. It's utilitarian,  handy and makes you look handsome. 

The Urban Cargo Team, with Krishna Gullapalli in the middle, smiling. Courtesy Krishna Gallapalli

What have you learned about managing a technological business that you would pass on to the next generation?

Krishna: One of the hardest parts of building a technological business is focus. There's so much that we wanted to build out with our company including algorithms and dynamic ecommerce tools, but the best strategy for us has been to strip away all that we want to be to focus on the highest impact tasks in the short-term. It's hard to stay focused on just 1 or 2 key objectives when you have this much broader vision of everything your company could be and all the cool technology that you want to incorporate, but we've always found the greatest return for our time and investment has been by keeping everything simple and digestible for our customers.

What signals from your consumers do you look for to signify that you are winning?

We're constantly talking to our customers to hear what they want to see and what they'd like to see improved. And we try to talk to them in a multitude of different ways including UX testing, product feedback surveys, and even just one on one conversations. We know we're winning when our customers are (1) recommending us to their friends, (2) coming back to us to buy more or (3) just straight up telling us they're happy! We have a great emphasis on customer service, so we want to hear directly from our customers when they're happy and more importantly when they're not happy so we can fix the problem. We also look closely at engagement metrics, such as online conversion rates, email open rates, frequency of visit, etc. to monitor that we're constantly relevant to our customer base. It's this combination of quantitative with the qualitative that we use to make sure our customers are excited about our company.

When you need to ask questions on your team, who do you go to? Who do you usually turn to outside of your organization to ask questions?

We've built up a network of resources that we turn to when we have questions. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and we believe that's true for start-ups as well. As a Dream-It accelerator alum, we've been fortunate enough to have different mentors to turn to whether it be investor questions, product development issues or even just general sanity checks. Beyond this network, we turn to our customers and our business partners as well, as they can provide the best product/industry specific knowledge. Ultimately, we turn to the experts within our own network or we look to find the expert when we have questions that we need answered.

What came first for your company – the product idea or your existence on the internet?

The product came first. I learned from my past start-up experiences that it's important to test if you have customers for the idea before sinking a lot of time into building the product. With Urban Cargo, we actually created the boxes and sold product while our site was still in progress. We had a very bare bones site that couldn't even accept recurring payments, because we wanted to make sure we had customers before investing too much into the tech. This has allowed us to stay lean and really focus on the customer and the product before building out technology that our customers don't want.