Startup Challenge, Week 4 – Startups are Hard

Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash

Previously on the Startup Challenge:

  • We decided that we would make a RedBubble store dedicated specifically to t-shirts called BDC (short for BOYS DONT CRY).
  • We decided that our mission statement would be to make designs for shirts as opposed to the popular notion of making shirts for designs.
  • We began to develop our marketing through a twitter account dedicated to BDC (@boysdontcryllc).
  • We decided that we would launch at the end of the fourth week, though things are about to change…

Now, for the newest updates:

A Small Delay

As work continues on the t-shirt designs, I’ve begun to realize I might not quite hit the launch milestone we were planning on after all. In response to this, I’ve decided on three different things: a) I’m going the lower the number of shirts released in Season 1 from six to four, b) I’m going to release all the new shirts at once, and c) Season 1 will be delayed by at least one week.

My reasoning for these moves is this: first of all, I want the release to be based more on quality than quantity; this is especially true if more seasons are planned for the future. I definitely need some more time with some of these shirts to make sure the concepts translate well (they often don’t!). As for releasing all the shirts at once, this is more of a personal decision. I think it makes more sense to release all of a season at once, then allow a couple of months to pass, rather than to consistently be posting new shirts.

This is really the only update I have for now. You might have noticed that the name of this series has changed from 30DayStartupChallenge to just Startup Challenge; that’s because this will no longer be within 30 days! Whoops, sorry Ben Tossell. However, I believe good things are ahead. At the very least, I’ll get these shirts out god damn it.


As always, you can continue to follow my progress by following this blog or my Twitter, which will be consistently updated to reflect new progress.

30DayStartup, Week 3 — The Ramp-up

This is an Unsplash image by rawpixel. For some reason, it won’t let me copy the source this time.

Previously on the 30DayStartup Challenge:

  • We decided that we would make a RedBubble store dedicated specifically to t-shirts called BDC (short for BOYS DONT CRY).
  • We decided that our mission statement would be to make designs for shirts as opposed to the popular notion of making shirts for designs.
  • We decided that our marketing would be through a new twitter account dedicated to BDC (@boysdontcryllc) and through my own instagram account.
  • We decided that we would launch at the end of the fourth week, which is now getting uncomfortably close.

Now, for the newest updates:

Design: Things are Rough

Things aren’t rough literally speaking (well, not yet at least); they’re rough as in the first few rough drafts of season 1 t-shirts are now finished! These designs still need to be optimized for Redbubble prints, but they’re successful translations from the concept art. As of now I have 3 shirts still in concept stage, 3 rough drafts, and 0 final drafts. This may or may not be good progress for launch (which is coming up now in two weeks), but I guess we’ll find out.

This has also made me wonder about how the season 1 launch should go in general. Should it be incremental, with say a new shirt arriving every week til the end of the season, or released all at once? Things to think about…

Marketing: A Slow but Steady Climb

As for Twitter, things are going… smoothly. I guess. It’s been awhile since I got my AG twitter (@astukagaming) up from 10 to 370+ followers. As far as I know, I’m following the same strategy and so we should be seeing some major boosts coming in soon. Will the boosts come in time for launch? Probably not… but I don’t think that matters. Besides, we still need to do the work of converting followers into buyers, which will be a challenge all its own.


So that’s about all my progress for this past week, and it’s what I’m focusing on. This next week will likely be dedicated to getting everything into rough draft form and beginning to convert to final, as well as keeping up the twitter work. As always, feel free to follow this blog if you wish to see more, or follow me on twitter (@astukari) for more updates on progress.


30DayStartup, Week Two — Design and Marketing

Photo by Lauren Fleischmann on Unsplash

[Didn’t read part one? Check it out here!]

Okay, I hinted at this before, but its official – I literally have no idea where I am in this challenge anymore. Pretty sure 30 days is relatively 4 weeks, so I figure on the 4th post we’ll just launch then.

As for the startup itself, we’ve been making good progress. Concept art for the season 1 designs are now made, and an early-stage marketing campaign has been started. So let’s talk about progress:

Making the Designs

For the season 1 designs, I wanted to focus on a couple of principles that would specify the type of shirts we were going for. The main principle is that we are making art for shirts, not shirts with art. A lot of what I’ve seen on Redbubble is just various pieces of art that are slapped onto whatever items they can put it on. Instead, I want my focus to be starting with the type of clothing (e.g. t-shirts) and making art specifically for it.

Another focus I want to have is in relatively minimalist designs. This should be a given, speaking that I have like zero experience in art and design. I also feel like minimalism is a pretty good style to use for t-shirt design specifically, as too much clutter on the shirt causes your eyes to be distracted.

Early Stage Marketing

In addition to setting up the first set of shirt designs, I also went ahead and made a twitter account for the store. I plan on primarily using the account to: a) market new season 1 designs as they come out (duh) and b) post/retweet interesting pictures that have the same sort of artistic style and “feel” that I’m going for in my shirts. I’m hoping that this helps develop a community that will both enjoy the shirts as well as showcase their own creativity with others.


For next week, I’m hoping we build some more followers/engagement with the twitter account, as well as start converting concept art into real, solid designs. If you want to continue following this journey (or look at last week’s issue), I’d recommend checking out my profile and following the blog. You can also follow my twitter – whichever one works best for you!

30DayStartup: The Beginning

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash. Business!

As promised, here’s my first post for the 30DayStartup challenge! This whole thing is already extremely messy; I wasn’t able to post last week like I had thought I would be and I’ve also already lost my place as to what day I’m supposed to be on this challenge. Guess that serves me right for jumping the gun and starting this challenge literally as school started. Whoops!

In this case, what you might end up seeing out of this blog instead is less of a documenting of the challenge itself and more of working my way through the ideas and business model of what I plan to create. That’s essentially short for this probably won’t be a 30 day startup after all – just a normal startup.

Then again, if I count correctly, we should still have 21 days until launch. So let’s get to it!

The Ideas Stage

Most of my time this past week and some change has been dedicated to the ideas process. Spoiler alert: I’m fucking terrible with ideas. I have an idea journal that I’ve kept for about a year and there’s only five things on it. And that’s not business ideas – that’s just ideas in general. Because of this, this was definitely the hardest part of the process for me. I ended up starting with four ideas before finally settling on one, but I’m just going to go ahead and reveal all four, because they either a) already exist and I’ve already made them, b) are way too vague, or c) I just want them to exist and listen someone more competent can make it for me if I can’t make it myself.

The first idea I had was that of a dropshipping site via Shopify. This one was pretty nice because you’re work is primarily in settling the business as the actual product work is done by another company via an initial capital investment. The downside is… there’s an initial capital investment. I mean, let’s face it, I’m a college student who has never had a normal job in my entire life. If we are gonna make a startup, we are going lean with it.

The second idea (also in the vein of fashion) was a Redbubble store. This was pretty easy – I already have experience in having a Redbubble store, and the product work is yet again pretty minimal – in this case, you’re not working at all on logistics like you would be in drop-shipping, but you do have to create the designs. And although I am terrible at art, I am decent at marketing and I’ve already gotten one sale from a few eons ago. The downside with this one is purely that it’s not in the spirit of the challenge itself. When you think side project, you’re thinking more of creating your own service or product – code or no code – and then setting up all the work for that manually. Using Redbubble just… feels like cheating in a way.

So, what ideas are “in spirit”? I had a lot of trouble thinking of ideas for mobile and web apps, but I managed to get a few mediocre ones. For a mobile app, I was thinking of a mentoring system that worked locally with connecting people who are farther along in crafts they wish to follow. In case this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. This “mentor app” idea has been made about a million times in hackathons, side projects, and, yes, even full on startups. Still, if it worked for everyone else, surely it could work for me – right?

And finally, there is the web app. Even though I do know HTML and JS (Thanks 100DaysofCode!) I did want to try out the functionality of nocode editors like Bubble and Webflow. Turns out, they are… uh… in very early access. Also, my idea for a web app was a Resume Editor, in which you could simultaneously edit work experience, education, etc. on all major resume sites – LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor, the works. One issue with this – although it is a great idea (someone please make it oh god), working with that many APIs (as well as trying to get advanced permissions for each one) would be an absolute fucking nightmare.

So, in conclusion…

…I chose Redbubble.

There’s a couple of difference reasons why – first of all, Redbubble has the clearest and easiest tools for the job. Since this is my first foray into really doubling hard on a startup, I want to do something that in a way eases into the process. Secondly, I couldn’t (at the time at least) find any hard cons against Redbubble besides the fact that it’s not really a startup and also I’m kind of a shitty designer. When it comes to dropshipping, I literally don’t have the capital required, and for the mobile/web apps, I literally don’t have any ideas – cons that are much worse.


So, now what do we call it? What shirts are we gonna sell? What marketing tools are we gonna use? All these questions, and more, answered on the next episode! Follow this blog (or my Twitter) to get updates on this process. Happy starting!

Five Takeaways from #100DaysofCode

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash. I don’t even use a Macbook. Also not sure if that code even does anything.

For the longest time, I’ve tried to code. From taking an AP Computer Science class in high school to trying to make a command line RPG in C++, I’ve always wanted to expand my knowledge of programming, understanding that it now plays a key role in our world. However, each time I’ve tried, I came out of the experience disappointed; continuing to see people discuss CS concepts that were far out of my league and witnessing people excel in the field ten times faster than I seemingly could have. So, when I found out about #100DaysofCode, I decided to take on the challenge with one simple objective: see what people are talking about, see what people find important today, and see what I want to know – then learn in that direction.

Today was my final day of the challenge. Overall, my experience was… mixed. However, I’ve found that I’ve learned a great amount – not just about coding, but also about learning principles and a few life principles as well. I’ve decided to use my last day of this challenge to write down five key takeaways I got from doing this challenge.

There’s a massive difference between learning to code and solving problems in code

This I think was my biggest mistake from earlier attempts, and I didn’t even realize it until halfway through the challenge. You can go through something like Codecademy or FreeCodeCamp tutorials, but all they really tell you is what you can do with a programming language. It teaches you semantics through a fairly trivial and easy set of problems – which definitely helps when you’re just trying to understand what you’re working with (and I think that’s the goal of these two sites), but they suck at teaching you how to code.

If you want to learn to code, you need to know how to use a programming language. HackerRank, LeetCode, and Project Euler are fantastic resources on this. If I could do it all again, I would say to spend the first one to two days learning about a language on Codecademy/FreeCodeCamp, and then spend the majority of the time practicing your knowledge through intuitive and challenging problems (and believe me, they are challenging).

Choose something and stick to it

I’m terrible at this. I really am. I’m currently reading six different books at once just because I get about 100 pages in to a book before I think “You know what? This book on AI is really fascinating, but tonight I’m feeling something more about design”. This escalates to a point where instead of reading 100 pages a day in one book, I’m reading like 10 pages from 10 different books and it totally stifles my progress.

A similar thing occurred while doing this challenge.

During my prepping for this challenge, I made an entire roadmap of different projects and courses I could do, when I’d start and end them, etc. I threw it out on the second day. From there, I went on to not finish things such as CS50, a Codecademy React course, FreeCodeCamp, and also Quantopian (to be fair, I plan on finishing that last one post-challenge). Now that I reflect on my completion of the challenge, I realize how much more I would have known by this point if I just stuck with my roadmap. My advice for the future: always use roadmaps. Design a path and stick to it. Don’t get distracted by the shiny things across the road; instead, if you must, save them for later.

An hour a day goes a long way

Not going to lie; I didn’t do the recommended one-hour session for #100DaysofCode every day. In fact, I did it very little. But the times that I took on the full hour, I realized just how powerful an hour of time is.

Optimally, you have about 16-17 hours in a day that you can fill up. One hour, in that respect, is a pretty small amount. However, one hour is also 60 minutes, or 3600 seconds; and that’s a surprisingly long amount of time. I try practicing piano for about an hour a day (well… tried). I played until my fingers got sore, and I got tired, so I got out the chair and checked the clock. Only 30 minutes had gone by. This happened a lot when I was doing the coding challenge as well – if you think you’ve “learned enough” within 30 minutes, that means that you’re learning 2x that much in an hour. Also think about how these hours increase over time – optimally, by the end of this challenge, you would have put in just north of 100 hours into coding. I have about 105 hours total in Guild Wars 2, and that’s felt like an eternity. Now imagine if I spent that time learning and practicing Python.

All coding languages can be very much the same (and very much different)

After doing this for 100 days, I feel certain of one thing: that all coding languages are pretty much the same thing. Just like real languages, they’re all an assortment of different ways of communicating the same thing.

However, just as Russian has almost 10x the amount of curse words as English, some languages have certain strengths for certain situations. You use SQL for databases. You use Assembly for low-level stuff. You use C# for software, and JS for web apps. However, the languages themselves typically stay the same; you can print, use for loops, make ints, etc etc. In this case, you only really need to learn one language; and then when you need to switch to another, you retain your knowledge and just uncover the small semantical differences (print vs printf, {} vs end, etc.).

Determination is one thing. Hard work is what counts.

And here I think is the probably my most important takeaway of the challenge – it’s that there’s a big difference between hard work and determination. To be completely honest with you, #100DaysofCode – for me at least – was less a challenge of coding and more a challenge of consistency. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything 100 days straight in my life. And even though I wouldn’t necessarily say I did the challenge for 100 days straight (there was a few hiccups here and there), I still completed the challenge, which is a big deal.

But as you can get from previous takeaways, there is still much to be desired.

Consistency is only half the battle.

I think I made good progress during this challenge, but let’s imagine the optimum path: if I had followed the roadmap, if I had done exact an hour a day, if I spent the majority of the time on solving problems, and if I had gone for 100 days straight rather than skipping a few here and there. I can imagine that, if this happened, my current knowledge of coding would be 10x what it is now.

Now, that’s not to say I think this challenge was a failure. At the end of the day, I’d say my coding experience with this challenge was much more positive than it has been in previous attempts. Focusing on my three views (what people talk about, what people find important, what I like) definitely helped me stay in the right direction. And now I know that I can apply these takeaways to future attempts at similar challenges, with which I know there are many coming… such as my next challenge, #30DayStartup, which I plan on beginning pretty soon (and also plan on documenting much more).

In the meantime, like share this post if you’ve found it relatable, or otherwise especially find it share-able. If you want to follow me on the next challenge, either follow this blog or my Twitter (@astukari) as I’ll be surely posting plenty of updates on both. ‘Til next time.