Founder of Hobbiamo and All Photography Courses platform
An entrepreneur, digital marketing expert, design-thinker, concept-tester, and startupper.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY COURSES
Stephan started cooperation with Anadea in 2018 when he came up with an idea to develop a platform to find and book workshops and courses on hobbies.
Over time, Stephan revised his approach and idea and transformed the initial Hobbiamo platform into a website to study photography - All Photography Courses.
It works as a part of the brand and concept of Hobbiamo.
In the interview, Stephan shares hacks on successfully changing a launched product, choosing a profitable niche, and accomplishing the first IT project with no experience.
Let's start with a piece of history. We know that now you’ve got the All Photography Courses platform. And we also know that you started with some other idea. Please tell us how it all began.
I have two daughters. At that time they were much younger than now and they started to look for their first hobbies. First, they wanted to do
piano, then they wanted to do gymnastics or some other kind of thing. It was really annoying that the only way to find out what's available is
through other parents because all the websites with people offering those courses were pretty bad and with limited information - no way to book
So it was all through word of mouth and I thought, “Well, I could make that easier for people, as there must be more people looking for an easier answer to it.” That's how it started and that's why the platform first was really broad, focusing on every category of hobby you can imagine.
But then somehow it's transformed to All Photography Courses.
I was busy when we first developed it. I started to get in touch with more people offering those hobbies - I was talking to a lot of violin
teachers, to people doing gymnastics, to photographers… And then I found out that although it's all hobbies, they are quite different in the way
they work, business structure, and so on. For instance, if you do a violin lesson, in the majority of cases, you’ll find a teacher and if you
like them, you stick with them for maybe 10 years or until you get bored of learning the violin. It's quite a long period. And it's the same
with football. You join the club and then that's it.
For my platform, I had to get more transactions. My revenue model is transaction-based and a photography course is a great option for it. It’s quite different from those based on long-term cooperation with a teacher or a coach. You take a six-week course, you learn the skill, start practicing, and then maybe try something new. For example, I started with landscape photography but now I'm really interested in portrait photography, so I take another course, making more transactions on the platform. That's why I concentrated on photography courses. Also, the approach with all those different courses would take too much time for me.
We see that you adapt your ideas and change them very rapidly. You don’t stick to one idea, instead, you transform and develop it. Why did you change the whole thing rather than changing, for example, a revenue model?
Design thinking is one of the methodologies I tried. From the start, I was talking to a lot of people to find the pain point of not only the
students looking for something but also of the teachers. The pain point I identified was solved with the first broad version. But it was too
broad. I wasn’t satisfied with the revenue flow. In the next step, I looked at the different business models and considered if I could leave the
platform broad and then for instance make revenue out of advertising. But to make a profitable business out of that was very challenging - you
needed a really enormous platform for an advertising revenue model, the one with a lot of visitors.
So I believe more in adding value, in making a personal connection. And that's, I guess, is also one of the parts why the platform is working. We really focus on making human connections instead of just web scraping, adding courses, and doing ads. Focusing on ads, you're just not adding a lot of value to either side. And I understood that the ad-based world wouldn’t work. Besides, I have another full-time job, so I'm doing both at the same time. My All Photography Courses Team is only two people as managing the platform is not that difficult.
What was the purpose of talking to all of these teachers in the first place?
My background is really in marketing - I'm not a teacher of any hobby. I really wanted to understand what was driving them to be a teacher and
what was annoying to them. What was the friction I could solve with the platform?
The good read’s role in entrepreneur stories of success
If you started the same project now, what would you do differently?
When I got started, there were a lot of people giving great advice on what you should do, and then there were a lot of inspirational books about
people telling you what entrepreneurs should be doing. But in the end, I only found one book that was
really helpful. It's Disciplined Entrepreneurship by Bill Aulet. Basically what it is saying is that you should take certain steps,
make a certain analysis, and be very disciplined. A lot of people say, being an entrepreneur is taking
risks, but I believe it means limiting those risks by taking the right steps and making the right analysis. You're limiting your risk
and by testing a lot, you learn every step of the way.
So, I think, in the beginning, I had a big idea which we developed with Anadea to put it live.
But if I would do it over, I would do smaller steps - not develop the entire platform at a time. That was the shortcoming when I started All
Photography Courses. Now it would be much smaller steps, trying approaches, and if it failed, change again.
So instead of trying to think, “Okay, this business model will work,” just put it live and see what
You can figure out a lot through analysis. You can find out where the issue is for the customers, where the issue is for the teachers. So there you have your magic on both sides. Then you have a look if there is any competition you can learn from. And is there enough revenue and how it is made - these are quite like specific steps that you can take one by one.
What about concept testing? What is it and how does it work?
For instance, one of the tests I was running was the business name, the URL. I spent a lot of time just thinking about names, and All
Photography Courses came to mind. I bought Facebook ads and just thought about five different names for the platform. I had the exact same ad
with different business names and then just observed which one was clicked more. There was also a landing page behind it asking if you were
interested in offering your photography courses and suggesting leaving your name. So I was also already collecting people who would be
interested in the platform once it really would go live.
I think looking back what I did was develop the product first and then do the testing. That was with the first platform. With the second one,
I did it more simultaneously because we already had the basis. I could do the testing and then immediately make the needed changes. So I think
I first did it completely wrong and then I learned my lessons. I learned from my experience how to implement this concept testing the right way.
Can you please share your experience with the team?
With the Anadea team, it was really nice cooperation. What they really helped with is all this IT stuff I’m not that great at. They explained
everything from the tech point of view making complex stuff clear for me. Also, It was good to have one project leader. I had a daily call with
her on updates, so I got a vibe of the work. I can also mention the vendor’s inner tools for collaboration and project control.
It was very handy to see the progress and I could make very clear pricing agreements, because especially after the first version - and I had to
change it - my budget was very limited. So I needed really good cost control and that was possible with the project lead. Also, I actually went
to meet the team in person. I think that was really helpful just to get a better feeling of the team and how it was working there.
Right now, you've got a great product that’s out on the market. As a non-tech guy, how do you understand the code of the product you get is high quality?
Yeah, for me estimating the code quality is really difficult. Actually, I got referred to Anadea through a friend of mine who also set up a
website through Anadea which is very successful.
He took his business further and hired his own developers who were happy with Anadea’s code. That's how I knew, “Okay, these guys do know how to do it.”
What are your further plans for the platform, how will you grow it?
Right now, we are working in New Zealand, and next, bringing it to the UK. Basically, my dream is to expand it to all over English-speaking countries, and then, there are two options - either grow it in non-English speaking countries, which would take more development effort, or change the platform and move it into a different category.
First, I think I'll expand it to more English-speaking countries and then either add different languages or different categories. Hobbiamo will be the umbrella brand while there will be others like “all violin lessons dot com” under it.
That's really smart. Could you please share some valuable lessons that you've learned during your journey as an entrepreneur with someone who’s just starting?
The most important lessons are connecting with people on every level. If you have an idea, which for me was photography, go speak to
photographers. During the execution of the plan, it's again about making a connection. You can make very nice software and websites but in
the end, it's always about connecting somebody to somebody else. There's a lot of human interaction through technology.
Sometimes people only focus only on the technology forgetting there’s always a human behind the technology that makes it valuable. And it's he same with the development team. That's also one of the reasons why I went to meet the Anadea team - to make a connection, to know the people who are working there to have a better understanding of what my project would be like.
How would you describe Anadea in just three words?
They are knowledgeable, personal, and professional.
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