3 Major Startup Trends We’re Ignoring -- and How It’s Helping Us Grow

Inc. magazine recently unveiled its 35th annual Inc. 5000 list, a look at the most successful privately held companies in America. We were beyond excited when The Penny Hoarder made its debut at #32 -- and when we thought it couldn’t get any better, The Penny Hoarder was recognized as the fastest-growing private media company, too.

Everyone on the team has worked hard -- really hard -- to get to this place. And while it’s been an incredible ride, it hasn’t always been smooth.

When your team scales as quickly as ours has, you face certain growing pains. While it’s a good problem to have, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the information out there on how to manage this growth.

In the end, you have to do what works best for your team. Sometimes, this means going against the grain and trusting your instincts.

Here are three ways doing business differently has paid big dividends for The Penny Hoarder.

1. We Established a Physical Office

I know, I know: It’s on-trend to move away from a traditional brick-and-mortar space.

But hear me out!

From 2012 to mid-2015, The Penny Hoarder was a remote operation. While I steadily brought on a team of off-site contractors to help with tech and create content, by 2015 I knew I needed a full-time team to take the company to the next level.

So why make the switch to an on-site office space?

I wanted to have employees under one roof to collaborate and work together in person. Technology makes it easier than ever to work apart. But I believe nothing compares to, or breeds creativity like, everyday, face-to-face interactions.

But I didn’t want just any office -- I wanted an office space employees didn’t dread coming to in the morning. I wanted a space that would feel like a second home to our team.

“Like the devices and software that power information businesses, office design must be viewed as a tool that we can leverage in the pursuit of productivity,” explains Ted Dhanik on Fast Company. So if office space makes you think of bland walls, fluorescent lighting and cubicles, it’s time to think differently.

At The Penny Hoarder, we have desks, but we also have couches, lounge areas and breakout rooms -- all for quiet time, privacy or collaboration, depending on the situation. We also have an abundance of natural light and exposed brick in the space.

That doesn’t mean everyone has to be in the office all the time. We allow employees to work from home one day a week, and remotely one week a year. When we’re off-site, we use Slack to communicate.

These little differences -- and, in my opinion, improvements -- make a physical space the right choice for us.

2. We’re Growing the Company in Florida

When you think of the media capital of the world, you think of New York City.

When you think of the leading startup hub, you think of San Francisco.

The Penny Hoarder is both a media company and a startup… and we’re located in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida, which, for the geographically challenged, is just outside Tampa.

St. Pete has a thriving art scene, a booming downtown, nearby beaches and a low cost of living. There’s also no state income tax in Florida, which is a great perk for employees and fellow Penny Hoarders! I’ve spent more than 10 years in Florida and have made St. Petersburg my home and the home of The Penny Hoarder.

Being in a smaller market hasn’t hurt our business growth. We’ve garnered lots of local press, and we’re able to film national appearances at satellite TV studios. If needed, I can also easily hop on a plane or video chat with anyone, anywhere.

We might eventually build out a satellite office, but for now, this location works for us. And it’s helped us save money to put back into the business.

Many think-pieces discuss where you should launch your next business. But don’t fall into the trap that you need to be in NYC or Silicon Valley; if you build something worthwhile, your zip code doesn’t matter.

3. We Aren’t Looking for Investors

From Vox Media to Arianna Huffington’s new project, Thrive, media companies have made headlines in 2016 for raising outside money.

A lot of it.

Raising investor money often seems like a natural progression for startups once they’ve reached a certain point. If you’re lucky, you’ll have big money thrown at you. It’s sexy.

It’s also not for us.

In the last year and a half, we’ve scaled quickly. We acqui-hired Socialexis, a boutique content marketing firm, last July, and have brought on more than 45 employees since then. We’ve paid for all of that with money we’ve earned through the business.

Bootstrapping has a lot of perks. We have the freedom to grow the company the way we want to, and take chances without answering to investors. This has allowed us to innovate quickly, which is essential in a fast-changing media industry.

By the same token, because we don’t have venture capital behind us, we don’t get as much media coverage. Bootstrapping might be effective, but it isn’t necessarily exciting. And without that extra media attention, it’s more challenging to spread awareness of our brand, which makes it more difficult to recruit top talent.

Still, it’s worth it to me to build the company organically and continue to grow on our own terms.

This is our way of life -- and business.

Are you going against any trends in the business world? How is it working out for you? Let me know in the comments!

Background image credit: Wild Pixel

Images in the story: Tina Russell & Heather Comparetto, The Penny Hoarder

startup lifeKyle Taylor