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Startups: A Story on Giving 

 March 15, 2021

By  Mila Chervenkova

I’m 27 years young and one month into my new role as a growth lead (marketing diva) for a brand new Bulgarian startup called Flow-e. The office atmosphere is vibrant; I am deep into my thoughts, figuring out how to grow our product with zero cash for marketing.

As many of the previous days, this day isn’t much different. It’s noon, and like clockwork, my team is going for lunch.

– Mila, we are going for lunch, are you coming or do you want us to bring you a sandwich?

– A sandwich, thanks.

– The usual?

– Yeah, the usual.

They know the drill.

And I am left with my thoughts and the rest of the introverts in the office — that’s another colleague of mine and me.

I vividly remember that Product Hunt was the sexiest place to launch your product during that time (these days not so sexy), and we were preparing for a launch. Also, Bram Kanstein, an early-stage startup expert, has built the most upvoted product of all-time on Product Hunt — Startup Stash.

I thought, let me take a look at the website and check out the featured products. Click here, click there, open this category, open another category, click here, click there. What I’ve noticed is that in each category, there were many products that no longer existed. Many, many products were gone. But then, for each category, I could instantly think of at least three products, which were live and working.

Then I thought, you know, I can help Bram fixing all the 404 links to non-existent products.

I’ve put another Kanban card on Flow-e’s Kanban board, and I’ve presented my idea at the next day’s stand-up meeting.

– I have to go through 400+ products and substitute the non-existent one — that’s what I told em.

– And then?

– And then I’ll send the list to Bram.

– And then?

– And then, if he replies, he may thank us and ask us, “Let me know If I can help you with anything.

A few minutes later, high on caffeine and adrenaline rush, I went back to my desk, pulled the Kanban card from to-do to in-progress. Three days later, I’ve emailed the list with products to Bram.

Hi, Bram,

My name is Mila, and as I was checking out Startup Stash. I’ve noticed that many of the mentioned products no longer exist. I’ve created a list of products, which you can use to substitute the non-existent websites. Here is a link to the list.

Have a great day,

Mila

And I didn’t include Flow-e’s website in that list. It was just a pure attempt to help. Nothing more.

24-hours later, Bram replied. He thanked me for the help and ended his email with, “Let me know If I can help you with anything.”

When I read the email, I was ecstatic. The fact that the “giver’s approach” worked and Bram replied added credibility to my name, which allowed me to gain authority and lead the product’s growth in a very democratic way.

Yes, I talked to him about the product, asked some questions, and received his answers. In the end, I gained more than I have given.

Initially, I planned in today’s newsletter to talk about anchor texts. However, this morning I decided to tell you this story. I am seeing a growing trend where people want something from you (receivers) without first contributing in any way to your life (givers).

Every day, I receive at least five emails where someone asks me to link back to their article just because they think their article is incredible. But not a single one offered me any help. No one ever said, “let me know if I can help you with anything.” No one.

And I think that this is becoming the norm. To receive, before you give.

In no way, this story should be seen as a moral lesson. I am not here for morals. This is simply a story about how an unfamous person got the attention of a well-known person by offering help and not mentioning anything in exchange.

End of story.

🙏 Enjoy my Donuts about Marketing newsletter. I’m always open to feedback and suggestions. I also share my struggles and success on TW, IG, LIN.

Mila Chervenkova


Marketing Diva, Extra-preneur

Own Your Future

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