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Name: Frank DeBlasi
Company: Hoopla Doopla
What are you building, and who benefits most from it?
Hoopla Doopla is an online shopping portal partnered with over 5,000 internet retailers. We offer dozens of categories, including travel, clothing, electronics and appliances, food and beverages, and much more. We pay online shoppers money for shopping through these merchants, sharing our profits with them.
What is one of your startup’s most impressive accomplishments?
Hoopla Doopla has been in business since 2009. We launched our site in the midst of a down U.S. economy and were featured nationwide on Fox News as a way to put money in people’s pockets when shopping online.
What has been the biggest challenge so far, and how did you overcome it?
Our biggest challenge has been marketing. My co-founder Tom and I are website designers and developers by trade, and that’s just what we did. We built the site. With no startup funding and little to no marketing experience, we decided to build a referral program for our site. This allowed our members to earn residual income for everyone they sent to us that became a shopping customer.
What tool or app could you not live without and why?
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Our product being a website, the tool we depended on the most was the Adobe line of creative software. It allowed us to not only put our site together but also eventually collaborate with other designers and marketers to create our email and social media campaigns.
What marketing strategies have worked for you?
In addition to the custom-built referral program I mentioned, we have sent out press releases, which got us media coverage on everything from network television and radio to news websites. Once revenue started coming in, we were able to hire a marketing team to run our social media and email campaigns.
Can you share any financial data about your startup?
Since our initial launch, we have partnered with over 5,000 online retailers and acquired over 50,000 members in our database. Loyalty programs contribute to customer retention, and I highly recommend them for any business. (Reported on July 04, 2023.)
What has been your biggest business failure to date? What did you learn from it?
Our biggest failure to date was not having a business plan from the start. We launched our product and got media attention right away, which forced us into a “maintain the site” routine without thinking of our next steps to scale.
What’s the best specific piece of advice you have for other entrepreneurs?
Even though I am a driven and passionate person with a lot of experience in what I do, I am not afraid to ask people around me for help and advice. I’ve learned more about entrepreneurship from talking to people who have failed than from people who have succeeded the first time around. They told me what NOT to do, saving me time. Don’t try to be an all-in-one hero: Do what you do best, and ask other experts for help when you need it.
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