Finances. The word alone can send a shiver up anyone’s spine. Keeping track of your, your family’s, and even your client’s financial lives can be stressful, complicated, and confusing – and that’s assuming it’s done right the first time! Dean Mauro set out to solve this problem with Financial Scrapbook, a digital management software that fully organizes years worth of financial records all in one place. Here, Dean tells us about his motivation for taking the frustration out of finances, their “take it behind the barn and shoot it” first prototype, and the importance of impressing yourself first.
Why were you inspired to start Financial Scrapbook?
I made it for my father. A while back, he had put together a guide for clients to record details of their financial lives, but it was in paper form and whenever a detail had to be changed, the entire page had to be completely rewritten or a section crossed out. What he found was that most simply stopped bothering to keep the records current, so he asked me to put it in a digital—and therefore mutable—format.
How did your business get started? From the good, bad and ugly, what was your startup process like?
I spent a summer during college writing the first version of the software and it was hellaciously bad—take it behind the barn and shoot it bad. So the next summer, with more experience and new technologies available, I did a complete redesign with an incredible graphic artist. Somewhere along the way, we had decided to distribute the software on these cool card-shaped flash drives that could be branded by businesses so the next step was to get in touch with manufacturers. I’ll be honest—I rushed in, picking a well-known company with good prices, and ended up with an order that was 85% defective. Unfortunately, I had to go through 4 other manufacturers before finding one that could guarantee consistent quality. I found a bug in one company’s very firmware and later found out they knew about it too. It’s very difficult to know what you’re getting before having the product in hand—you can always get your money back at that point, but the time spent learning lessons the hard way is gone.
What niche or hole in the market are you filling with Financial Scrapbook?
In most couples, there’s a family CFO so to speak, who manages all the financial matters. Not to be morose, but if one day they get hit by a truck, the rest of the family is in some trouble. The Financial Scrapbook is a way for the family CFO to leave behind a guide so the family doesn’t have to scramble amidst their grief to figure out how to manage their entire financial system.
How much has your business changed from day one until now?
I’m a one-man show still wearing many hats, so efficiency has been critical. I’ve tried to automate as much as I can at this point. An order comes in through the website and gets sent to my phone, where I can create a shipping label in seconds, automatically send a fulfillment email to the customer, and get the product in the mail. The payments are processed automatically, the accounting software is linked to my bank accounts, social media posts can be scheduled a week in advance. Everything can now be done more or less from one hub.
What are your biggest challenges in marketing Financial Scrapbook?
I don’t quite know where my resources will be best spent. There are so many advertising platforms from Facebook to Google Ads and countless content firms, but little info on what is most effective. It takes a leap of faith, it seems, to figure that one out.
What types of marketing are most effective for your business?
Word of mouth has brought in the most leads, but that may be because our online presence hasn’t been around that long. Since the sales actually take place online though, I suspect this will change—it’s simply more convenient for customers to navigate to your website via a click than the memory of a friend’s recommendation from earlier in the day.
What is the #1 lesson you learned since starting Financial Scrapbook?
That it’s going to take longer than I think. What’s ‘it’, you ask? Everything. The software updates, the compliance processes, the sales. We deal with real people who all have 1,000 other things going on in their lives and may not have my particular time frame in their mind—in fact, how could they really? The lesson learned is to set terms early on so everyone’s on the same page, factor in a buffer, and be patient.
If you won $50,000, how would you invest it in your business?
That would go-to digital marketing. When starting out, it’s necessary to wear many hats simply to get things movings, but—and this seems silly to even have to say—the best marketing schemes are not going to come from the engineers, nor the flashiest website from the salesmen, and so on. At some point, when the means become available, it pays dividends to empower the experts.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
Strive to impress yourself because once you do, you’ll have a ton of fun and confidence that nothing can shake. I once did a sales pitch on a Friday during which a potential customer requested a special print function be added to the software. Getting it done became a personal challenge and I hunkered down for about 17 hours/day working on it that weekend. Barely ate, slept a little, woke up, and got back to work in my PJs. I failed and had to scrap everything twice, but finally finished this beautiful feature and was able to call back everyone in the meeting that very Monday. I have no doubt it made an impression. Moreover, though, I had more fun in that frenzy of a weekend than ever prior and knew at just what level I could operate for the future.
Strive to impress yourself because once you do, you’ll have a ton of fun and confidence that nothing can shake.Click to tweet
What can we expect from Financial Scrapbook in the next year?
The Financial Scrapbook is quite simple by design, with most updates to the software now being stylistic, and I don’t want to lose that by overdevelopment. That said, I have two other product ideas in the wings—these targeted at the professional side of finance—that could be out within the next year. Stay tuned!
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