Starting Small: Maximizing Startup Success

by Stu Minshew

On the topic of ‘maximizing BAM success factors’ we’ve invited guest authors to highlight what they consider key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. But what if you are a startup? What if you have a business idea and want to know how to maximize your success from the get-go? We asked entrepreneur and CO.STARTERS trainer Stu Minshew to share what he’s learned about maximizing startup success in this five part mini-series.

Part 4: Starting Small

In my last post, I focused on the importance of living out your Kingdom values by loving and serving your customers. This allows you to sustain and grow your customer base as you deepen your relationship with those you serve. However, before you can get customers, you need a product or service for them to buy. The sooner you can get your product or service to them, the closer you are to making money and creating a sustainable business.

Dream Big, Start Small, Grow Smartly

Earlier in this series, in the post titled It Starts With You, I talked about the big dreams that motivate and inspire us. Often times our big dreams cause us to do too much or take on too much too fast. This can be overwhelming and result in a failure to do anything well. Or, it can put a large financial burden on our business too quickly. Neither of these is helpful as you are seeking to create sustainability.

Dream big, but start small.

To be good stewards of what God has given you, I encourage you to find the quickest and easiest way to get your product or service in front of your customer, while continuing to communicate the unique benefit you offer. This means you may not be able to offer everything you envision to your customer at first. By simplifying your long term vision to focus on the first step in achieving your dream, you will define a way forward that looks much more manageable. This allows you to serve your customer NOW, instead of someday, and helps you make the customer an important part your startup journey. 

As you get your product or service in front of your customer, their feedback will help you quickly determine if you have something they really want. If not, it gives you the opportunity to make changes. These early opinions will help you create the best product or service possible for your current and future customers.

How Small Can Your Product Go?

One of the questions I tend to get is, “How small should my product or service be to get started?” This is a great question because if you start too small, you may fail to communicate the benefits offered by your business, inadequately solve your customer’s’ problem, or garner inaccurate feedback. On the flip side, starting too big may waste a lot of time and resources building something your customers don’t want.

To help you get the idea, here are some examples:

  • Rather than build a working iPhone app, make a PowerPoint presentation that simulates the user experience. Show it to customers and update it as they give feedback before building out the actual app.
  • Instead of developing a full production process for a new type of jacket, have someone hand-make a sample first and get customer opinions.
  • Before building out a restaurant, host an event that showcases your style and menu to find out which parts work for your guests.

Keep in mind that the right size for your product or service is the shortest timeline to your first customer interaction, while still solving your customer’s problem and helping you enhance your solution through feedback.

Who to Start With?

As you start small, getting to the right customer base is important. While many people may be interested in utilizing your product or service, begin by working out which customer wants or needs it the most. By starting with this group, you’re setting yourself up to successfully grow within this community before you need to branch out to other groups of customers.


  • Who do I know that represents my ideal customer and are they willing to try new and even imperfect products?
  • How many potential customers are part of this group?
  • How many can I actually reach?

Once you have determined your target group, it is time to get your product or service into their hands so you can start collecting feedback. You need to determine which of two possible distribution options will be the best for your company. You can sell directly to your customer yourself or you can sell through someone else.

Reaching Your Customer

As always, keep your customer center-stage as you decide who will distribute your product. The way you choose to sell your products or service must make sense to them. In my last post, I encouraged you to consider what a day in the life of your customer looks like. As you think through your customer’s day, week, month, or year, consider what is the best time and place to put what you are selling into their hands. For example, if your customer spends little or no time on the internet, an online strategy might not be your best choice.

If you decide that it is best to sell through someone else, it’s important to recognize that this person or business also becomes one of your customers. Make sure you set your business up to gather feedback from them and provide them with excellent service. They can also assist with gathering feedback from the end user of your product. No matter which way you choose to sell your product, be mindful of your business model to ensure you are able to maximize your profit and serve your customers well.

Next Steps…

Over the next few days, I encourage you to think about how to start small or scale back from what you are currently doing. God has gifted his people with incredible minds and the ability to dream big. By intentionally starting small, you will be better positioned to attain your bigger dreams in time. Starting small will allow you to be a good steward of your resources while you see if God is directing your business in the direction you thought it would grow. Many times, it doesn’t end up looking exactly the way we originally thought it would. While this can be hard to understand, we can often see God’s hand in it as He orchestrates a better plan for our life and business.

Consider how you can quickly create the first version of your product or service into your customer’s hands, allowing you to quickly collect feedback from your customers. In my next and final post in this series, we’ll discuss what to do with that feedback.

< Read Part 3: Understanding Your Customer

Read Part 5: Iterations Through Feedback >


The CO.STARTERS Canvas tool goes a long way toward helping you test your assumptions and determine if your business model is worth pursuing, before you begin looking for ways to make it more efficient.

CO.STARTERS has not only created the startup canvas but has also developed curriculum around it, and has been training a growing community of over 5,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners globally since 2013.

Be equipped for the startup journey: take the CO.STARTERS Canvas tool with you!

Download the CO.STARTERS Canvas for free here.



Stu Minshew is a facilitator for CO.STARTERS, a program that equips aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their passions into a sustainable and thriving endeavor. He is also co-founder of Mission Studio, created to help entrepreneurs explore the intersection of faith, business, and community.  You can connect with him online at, where he helps expats across the globe achieve freedom of lifestyle and create positive social impact through entrepreneurship. A serial entrepreneur, Stu has previously started three other businesses, two located in East Africa and one in the United States. He mentors, trains, and consults with entrepreneurs and startups globally.