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Customer Stories

Very Online: How Damiano Raveenthiran Turned a One-Man Fiverr Operation into a Thriving eCommerce Agency

What began as a solo side-hustle is now a 40-person eCommerce firm (and counting). We hear from Damiano Raveenthiran on how he trained his team and built his sales funnel to drive a rapid-growth tech startup that shows no signs of slowing down, and how he called on Driven’s support to invest in overhauling his sales process.
Very Online: How Damiano Raveenthiran Turned a One-Man Fiverr Operation into a Thriving eCommerce Agency
March 22, 2022

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.

“I pretty much just started building Shopify stores for people online,” says Damiano. “Pretty soon, I had over a thousand five-star reviews.”

Bootstrapping a team means investing in growing their talent

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. 

“I didn't have a ton of money when I started, so I didn't go out and hire people for $60,000 or $70,000 a year. I would just be at a restaurant, notice that my waiter had good people skills, and offer them a job on the spot. I just started hiring people in my network like that. Friends, family, whoever was around.”

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.

“All of the people that started with me at the beginning basically knew nothing about eCommerce. So one of my early challenges was simply getting people trained, giving them the knowledge necessary to do a good job. It took a long time to get there, but all of those people are still with me, and if you talk to any of them today, they're experts in what they do.”

Investment in outside expertise can drive you forward

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.

“We needed to figure out a stronger lead generation strategy to maintain $150,000 worth of overhead each month. We needed bigger clients, more long-term clients. And that meant we had to start looking beyond Fiverr and the other freelance marketplaces.”

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.

“We got a loan from Driven at that point and invested it in hiring some of the best sales consultants in the industry. They came into our company and helped us set up lead gen structures. We now have an entire team of sales development reps constantly reaching out to potential clients and building relationships.”

Be careful how fast you grow

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.

“Last year we grew all the way to 60 before realizing that was maybe too much. We had let go of about 20 people, which was hard. I have a massive network of agencies around me, so I made sure to help everyone find other opportunities and give everyone good reference letters. But it was definitely tough. We don’t have investors, so we had to do what we needed for the business to survive.”

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.”

Become an expert in what people are soon going to want

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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