It’s nice to offer a service that almost everyone wants. In 2017, building eCommerce websites was just one of those services.
At the time Damiano Raveenthiran was working as an eCommerce manager for a Toronto-based company called Atlas Tools & Machinery, when he realized that on the side he could also be helping other companies make more money from online sales. Within a few months of joining Atlas, Damiano logged onto the freelancer platform Fiverr and started offering those same eCommerce services as a side-hustle. In a matter of months, he was making more money than his full-time job. And so Startup Slang was born.
This rapid success was not just simple luck. Damiano had a hunch about the market, and that hunch proved correct. By 2019, he was doing so well he decided to pursue it full time, even taking on his former employer as a client. But with early growth came his first big challenge: adding skilled team members.
A good option when you’re scrappy and short on cash, but one that has its downsides. Without the funds necessary to source top talent, Damiano had to develop that talent instead.
Today, Startup Slang is 40-people strong, proudly Canadian, and run predominantly by women and people of colour. Of course, talent is just one half of the equation. While growing his team and getting them up to speed, Damiano also had to make sure there was enough on the demand side to keep everyone busy—and paid.
Their first strategy was to go international. But then COVID hit, and their plans went up in smoke. “In 2020, we were planning to travel the world,” says Damiano. “We were going to be in a different country every month to open up our reach in different markets. We also wanted to go into brick-and-mortar stores across downtown Toronto and build relationships with business owners on the ground. All of a sudden, you can't do either.”
With COVID impacting their sales approach, Damiano had to pivot, and quickly.
The strategy worked: Startup Slang generated half a million dollars in revenue in 2019, $1 million in 2020, and $2 million in 2021. But even with the new lead gen strategy in place, balancing revenue with expenses is a delicate act, and Damiano will be the first to admit that they may have scaled too quickly.
Despite the company’s growing pains, COVID also required many brick-and-mortar businesses to begin selling their wares online, marking an uptick in demand.
“COVID has hit local businesses really hard. We’re fortunate to be able to support many of these merchants in setting up and growing the eCommerce side of their business.”
As with where he began, Damiano believes the secret to their future success is to become an expert in something that people want—or soon will.
“We want to be at the cutting edge of emerging technologies. We want to be the first Web3 eCommerce agency in Canada. So right now, we're focusing a lot on delivering eCommerce experiences that use blockchain technology, NFTs, and so on. Technologies that people still don't really know much about.”
As a token of Driven’s thanks for agreeing to tell his story, we asked Damiano to name a fellow local business he would like to support — he chose Montreal restaurant Joe Beef, where Damiano will enjoy a meal compliments of Driven. Like many entrepreneurs, we see the value in paying forward success, and bringing the hustle back to their communities one small business at a time.
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