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A Startup Wasn’t the Plan: Enji

A Startup Wasn’t the Plan: Enji

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A Startup Wasn’t the Plan: Enji

Tayler Hollman said she never planned to become an entrepreneur.

“Plans don’t always play out as we expect,” the founder of San Diego-based marketing firm Enji said. “I found myself needing to accept that spending my career teaching in a classroom wasn’t going to happen.”

She didn’t immediately turn to entrepreneurialism, though. Like many other small business owners, inspiration found her.

Hollman was running an after-school program for the YMCA and needed to learn about marketing to promote it to the community. A conversation with a parent led her to a job at a marketing company.

It was her first time working in the field at a service-as-a-service (SaaS) company, which allowed Hollman to dive deeper into marketing and technology and discover her passion for the field.

She also learned, like many others, that a corporate job wasn’t for her.

“I needed to find somewhere I could work fast, think outside the box, and break things, so I decided to leave,” Hollman said. “I had no idea what I was going to do next.”

She took an internship at a local company, and that led her to her first marketing client, a florist.

“They introduced me to the founder of a startup, and that’s where everything came together for me,” Hollman said. “The most important part of this story is that the path has not been linear. Being open to exploring opportunities and taking some risk is ultimately what landed me here.”

That was nine years ago. But at a certain point she started to wonder if there was a better way to operate.

“After years of helping clients solve their problems with ‘done-for-you’ services, my husband and co-founder got me thinking about whether there was a way to take what I do as a consultant and turn it into software that anyone could use,” Hollman said. “It took a while to figure out what that could look like, but eventually, I started to see the possibilities pretty clearly.”

Enji Founders

She decided that simplifying marketing for her clients was the path forward. Business owners, she said, are constantly putting out fires, which often pulls their focus away from marketing their products. When they do have the time, they either don’t know what to do or don’t have the tools to do it consistently.

That’s where Hollman saw her opportunity and founded Enji.

“At my marketing firm, my most popular services weren’t just something people were asking for; they were (addressing) systemic problems in the world of small business. Enji is about solving (those) challenges… and not having a brand that’s not too tech – being approachable, intuitive and empowers people to become better marketers through education.”

She spent two years building a product that helps guide owners and provide them a roadmap for growth.

“Enji maps out the tasks they need to do in order to make progress toward their goals and their strategy, so they don’t have to come up with everything on their own,” Hollman said. “It’s very rare that I meet a business owner who feels like they’re keeping up with marketing, and that’s a major problem because consistent marketing equals consistent visibility equals more consistent sales.”

Enji Marketing Dashboard

Her hard work paid off quickly – Hollman said she got her first client the day she launched.

“I didn’t know if anyone would get what I was doing. I wake up every day excited to do the hard work it takes to build a startup, but I do that with a sort of numbness to protect myself from the very real possibility of failure – which is ironic because you simultaneously have blind faith in your startup will become something awesome,” Hollman said.

She’s learned a lot of lessons along the way, but said there are three things she tells anyone considering starting their own business:

  • Some people won’t understand what you’re trying to do, and that’s okay. Learn what you can from those people and move on.
  • Surround yourself with people who will challenge you. That is, don’t hire yes-men. Honest feedback is the best way to ensure your company and your product are as strong as you think they are and as strong as they need to be to succeed.
  • Sometimes there is no right answer. Hollman said when it’s your business at stake, you can easily fall prey to the pressure to make the best decision and lose sight of the big picture.

“In my experience, oftentimes what you’re really looking for is just what you want to do. I am often reminding myself of this when my cofounder and I are talking about what features to build,” Hollman said. “Sure, there might be ‘bad’ decisions we could make, but finding the ‘right’ one is more of an exercise of continually working toward your goals and mission.”

Ultimately, you have to be okay with making mistakes. Every business owner has to start somewhere, and no one has all the answers.

Your Turn

Life is full of opportunities waiting to be discovered, but you have to be open to seeing them. Just like Tayler found her calling in marketing after taking a job outside of education, you might find yours in the unlikeliest of places. Stay curious, explore new avenues, and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.

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A Startup Wasn’t the Plan: Enji

A Startup Wasn’t the Plan: Enji

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