I sat down with entrepreneur and founder of Proposa, Brian Onorio. Brian shares his business insight and tells us how he got his company off the ground and how to give a good business pitch!
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I started in business very young. It was a couple of years out of college when I started my first company, a marketing advertising agency Walk West. The company started as a freelance business when I was 24. I grew and scaled that to about 35 people and just recently as of this year started a brand new company called Proposa. Proposa is a software application that helps individuals or teams build stunningly beautiful proposals in half the time.
What makes you passionate about that?
Business has become my passion. Although, I didn’t realize that was what it was going to be.
From a very young age, I was at growing teams, growing individuals, even helping folks that were my senior. It was really a trying experience, trying to fit in the business world as a young person. But, that career progression made a more experienced individual and business person.
Is that progression what gets you out of bed in the morning?
It is… but mostly it’s my two children. And they get me out of the bed pretty early.
Most mornings I can’t wait to get back into the office. I know it’s another week full of twists and turns and unpredictability.
I love Monday morning. It’s my favorite day of the week because there is so much potential and the unknown is exciting!
Can you tell us a little bit more about the Proposa and what it’s for?
Proposa was a concept that we had at Walk West. At Walk West, we were sending our proposals just like everybody else, in a PowerPoint deck. We were selling a lot of digital services and websites at the time to built our prototype, we used that to take those PowerPoint decks and make them digital.
The company started with building a little engine that spit out a proposal on kind of a landing page. Then, we experimented with it and we started seeing our win rate climb up. We were winning seven out of every ten bids that we were sending.
Because we were different. Doing things differently. We were selling websites and we were putting our proposal on a website as a kind of the last point of validation.
That was 2014. Our clients liked it so much that they were asking what software solution we used and where they could find it. In the summer of 2017, we heard that comment for the last time and we decided that we had to do something about it. It was clear at that point we were seeing customer demand. So… we invested some money in research and development in 2017 to build the application and today it’s publicly available.
How can a creative entrepreneur use Proposa to their advantage?
Any creative person, creative team, creative individual that sells a service can use this to their advantage. It’s important to be different and showcase your creativity. You can only do so much with PowerPoint before it starts to lose its luster. When it comes down to building proposals, even for a freelance business, how do you set yourself apart from anybody else? They may be interviewing your prospect, you have to be different. Showcase that you think differently about problem-solving and you have a creative mindset about each problem.
What is the hardest part about getting this business/ idea off the ground?
Building something to be market-ready. People can log on and build a proposal without having an extensive learning curve. We really had to concentrate on the user experience. We want to make sure that anybody from a junior or senior or mid-career can log on to Proposa easily. A lot of time was spent really concentrating on the user experience with this application.
When we first went live, a person went to the website, put in their credit card number, and bought the application. Within an hour they had built a proposal and they had not reached out to us for support a single time. That was a big point of validation. There were some issues here and there that we’re working through. Largely, the principle, the philosophy of why we built it in was pointed in the right direction.
Can you talk about issues you faced and some of the struggles?
I think that it’s easy to come into an application thinking you’ve got all the answers. But, your users will tell you very quickly that you don’t. It really comes down to answering their call. Where are they having trouble? Do we have the right tracking mechanisms to understand where people are getting lost, where they may become upset with the application? There are some very intuitive ways to track and measure that so you can kind of go back. It’s almost like watching game film after a football game. What did we do wrong and how can we get better? And you can’t do that without putting it out there and actually having people respond.
Any advice, tips, or tricks that you have for a creative entrepreneur?
Be different. People are looking for differences in an industry that’s becoming commoditized. There are lots of applications out there that build a creative solution, but that’s just a tool. How do you think, and what makes you think differently? What makes you special? It’s not the actual creative pitch or process. Regardless of the tools that you use to get there. It’s how you approach a problem. And how you go about doing that in a unique way.