Hello ! Who are you and what are you working on?
Hi, I'm Alina Sava. My current projects are Fonts Arena and Brutalist Themes, but I also joined Sergio Mattei at Makerlog and Cowork, where I've been an active contributor since January 2019.
What motivated you to get started with? How did you come up with the idea?
For me 2018 was a year of peak burnout and dissatisfaction with my work. So much so, that after 11 years of web I decided to completely transition to gaming.
I started preparing and sold almost all my projects, but two passion project ideas I had for a couple of years kept creeping up in my thoughts triggering FOMO episodes. So my decision changed to "transitioning + making 2 side projects" and I actually started working on them.
Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?
I made both projects out of personal interests I wanted to explore, so my focus wasn't on monetization.
For Fonts Arena the focus was on content and organic growth. Long hours of research and article writing, plus a fair share of constant improvements from design tweaks to performance optimizations. Right now it has ~700 uniques/day weekdays, and makes a very small revenue of about $30/month from a few affiliate links. I'll have to think about better monetization options, but I'm excluding ads from consideration.
For Brutalist Themes the focus was on good client support, constant theme updates, and keeping open for use case feedback and feature requests. Though BT is my fourth theme shop, it was a different experience in the best way possible.
What has been your biggest failure or struggle?
My biggest failure was marketing myself and my projects. I still fail at that.
And what has been your biggest achievement or success?
Going on my own full time. Sure, along the way there were moments of glory and small victories that matter a lot, like tweaks that led to better sales, finding a perfect client to sell my project to, or learning something to name just a few.
But none of this would've happened without me quitting my job.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Offering good support and a "Black Friday prices every Friday" deal.
Describe the process of launching the business.
My current projects didn't have proper launches. I simply released them in the wild. :)
Did you use Betalist or PH or other Startup Launching Platform for Launching ? How was that experience ?
I haven't used Betalist at all, and for PH there was only one very odd submission, a purposefully botched submission for Fonts Arena. I freaked out that one of my friends wanted to hunt it when the project was less than 3 months old, and I thought at that stage it wasn't good enough to show off. So I submitted it myself at the worst hour possible (Friday late afternoon) with some rather crappy images and description. It got a whopping 6 upvotes.
But the project grew a lot since then (8 months ago), I made a lot of changes and I'm thinking about a proper launch for 2.0.
What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
Though not focused on monetization, Fonts Arena has a few affiliate links and also BuyMeACoffee and PayPal donate link. Revenue came as organic traffic grew.
Brutalist Themes is a shop with 3 commercial and 1 freemium themes. Revenue grew from existing clients recommendations mostly. I also set up and affiliate system recently.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? What are your goals for the future?
Working alone and shipping in complete professional isolation. It might not seem like much of a challenge to overcome, but if you do it for 6 years it has repercussions. No matter how objective you try to remain, you need some form of externalised accountability and challenge, otherwise you derail without realizing it.
In January 2019 I ended my isolation and joined my first maker community, Makerlog. I'm happy to say I found some amazing people, an unexpected collaboration, and also changed my mind on transitioning to gaming.
For future I have just a handful of ideas and two constants: learning and helping whenever I can. I keep my plans open.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today I'm planning 4 new projects and thinking of moving to another country next year. I'm also part of a team of 4 that will participate to 2019 Fixathon, building Ecovillage List.
But I have no idea how the future looks like. Things happen, so whatever hypothesis about my future I have now, I’m sure it won't be accurate.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Your time and your mind are the most valuable things, limited and non-refundable. Please think n times (where n ≥ 2) on what you spend them.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Illustrator and Sass/scss are my best friends.
My toolkit also includes Photoshop, Sketch, PHPStorm, WebStorm, Notion, WordPress, a bit of PHP, Easy Digital Downloads and of course Git. Whether we like it or not, WordPress has some almost unfair SEO advantages, and it's still one of the best solutions for content or self-hosted ecommerce websites.
Also did my first bit of React recently and I'm learning Lightroom.
Who’s your most inspirational CEO or founder?
There's not just one, for me all founders are an inspiration. In good ways or bad ways, there's something to learn from every person and every founder.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Sci-fi books. I feel refreshed and with a good mindset after reading.
What’s your advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneur who are just starting out?
Don't try to imitate other people's success stories. There is no recipe. Things are random and everything depends on so many factors that it's impossible to establish something guaranteed to work.
Instead learn from everything you experience or read, and develop your own way. A way based on your mindset, your skills, your rhythm, your location, and your circumstances. It might sound a little corny, but try to make the best of what you have.