Like many startups, CloudPeeps was born out of a personal need.

In 2013, I was based in New York bootstrapping my first company. As things took off, I realized I needed some extra people power to better scale our operations. I was spending so much time running the business that I didn’t have the time or energy to step up and grow the business.

I didn’t have the resources or a consistent revenue stream to hire someone full-time, thought agencies were for big brands, and I’d never consider hiring someone for $5/hour on existing freelance marketplaces. I felt stuck and often alone. It’s amazing how isolating the early days of entrepreneurship can feel.

The good news was that I had amassed a rather large network of professionals through my work and online channels. Many were freelancers looking for work. I started to put call outs on a blog and share it on Facebook, going on to hire five or six people throughout the year. Not every relationship worked out perfectly but I started to get excited about building CloudPeeps—an idea I’d parked in 2011, and thought it’d be intuitive in light of this experience. 

CloudPeeps went on to take a few iterations (check out our design history here) – and throughout the journey, I’ve continually used the site as a paying customer. I was our first-ever customer (and a demanding one at that!), and continue to test out new product launches first. I’m getting married this year and have even considered looking for an online event planner via the platform. There really is no limit to, what Tessa from our team calls, me “shopping for Peeps”!

Eating your own dogfood

Using your own product or service is an effective way to develop empathy for your users – to better understand their needs. It creates an opportunity to find new use cases for your product, and how to educate your audience on them. It’s also a proactive approach to catching bugs before releasing your product or features publicly.

This practice is known as “dogfooding” in startupland. Yes, it doesn’t sound appetizing. 

Dogfooding is a simple concept and certainly isn’t new. Joel Spolsky, Founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software wrote about in importance of dogfooding back in 2001.

The CEO of Germ.io put the benefits of dogfooding into a brillaint perspective on Reddit:

“As a startup CEO, the only way to keep your energies and motivation up is by knowing to differentiate between your “critical mode” and “optimist mode”. You need to be your product’s biggest user. You need to be your business’ first advocate. You need to be the light at the end of the tunnel for the rest of your team. You need to Eat your Dogfood every day – for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You need to be the eternal optimist.”

In this post, I wanted to breakdown a few of the ways we’ve built CloudPeeps using CloudPeeps.

1) To build community early on

From day one, community has been engrained in everything we do at CloudPeeps. My background has been in helping businesses and startups build communities, so this was something I really wanted to get right. 

We started by working with Seattle-based Peep Carrie Jones to help build our internal online community focused on Peep engagement. We created a Facebook Group and later expanded to a Slack channel. Carrie strategized and executed with us on the best way to engage our early community.

With an initial goal to get the conversation going, we engaged our community members with topical questions, quotes, inspirational images and company announcements. The result was a tight-knit community, where members ask each other questions about client relationships, invoicing, marketing, productivity, social media tools and more.

2) To manage social media channels and curate content

We also engaged Berlin-based Peep Kat Loughrey to curate a consistent flow of content on our social channels. This helps us build brand awareness among Peeps and customers, and acquire new users.

Effective social media sharing requires consistency and momentum. Curating quality and interesting content helped us establish thought leadership in the industry. Kat’s perspective as a Peep and freelancer allows her to pull together relevant links while genuinely connecting with our community.

Seattle-based Peep David Hathaway worked with us as a growth hacker to increase our social numbers. We have been blown away by the results (like many of his other CloudPeeps clients – check out his reviews!).

3) To write blog posts

While building our blog’s audience (yes, this very place you’re reading now!), we wanted to maintain an editorial calendar that focused on quality and a healthy frequency to help gain traction.

To supplement the content our team was already creating, we worked with Bay-Area-based Peep Christina Morales to write a post a week. She brainstormed topics with us and wrote each post from the perspective of a freelancer. She added a relevant and fresh voice to the blog and helped us to maintain a consistent flow of content.

4) To begin PR outreach

As we begin to look at how we can reach more people and share our story to a wider audience, we brought on a PR Peep with lifestyle media and tech experience to compose some press pitches for us. LA-based Peep Keisha McCotry made a great start on this.

5) To take care of day-to-day tasks

After the Kickstarter for The Fetch was funded, I needed help managing the community and operations while I focused on CloudPeeps. For this, I brought on SF-based Krista Gray, and she has been amazing.

She’s taken care of a variety of tasks including:

  • Managing our curator community
  • Managing partnerships, inbound requests and our sponsors
  • Creating content including a weekly reading list newsletter and building our global social media channels

Needless to say, she’s a ninja. As a result, we have a smooth-running operation that is attracting new curators and buzz among the business community. 

6) To organize and build an offline coworking community

We recently launched a new global coworking community called Freelance Friday. Once a month, freelancers, entrepreneurs and creatives meet in person to cowork. It’s in eight cities and growing.

Like The Fetch, Freelance Friday required some extra help to organize the running of it. Since Krista had done such a kickass job running The Fetch’s community and operations, I engaged her to help with Freelance Friday related tasks as well. She also built our beautiful site on Squarespace, designed our logo and assisted with the overall community strategy and guidelines. Krista is a great example of and testament to the diversity of high-quality skills Peeps offer.  

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Conclusion

Not only has CloudPeeps saved my time to address day-to-day business needs – it’s also helped us grow as a company and me as a founder. I’m no longer stuck and certainly don’t feel alone!

I’m so grateful for all of the incredible freelancers I now get to work with. While I have led marketing departments in the past, the industry is changing so fast now, that it’s nice to leverage the experience and expertise of Peeps in each area.

Dogfooding as a customer has really helped me to understand the perspective, needs and experience of the hundreds of other clients successfully growing their businesses on CloudPeeps.

I’ve also just started dogfooding on the freelancer side. We’re testing out some new service packages that launched last week and I won my first job in the form of a One Hour Marketing Consulting Session! I now have a list of product tweaks for the Peep side of our marketplace. See, it never stops! 

Have you dogfooded your product? How do you keep up empathy for your users? Leave a comment below!

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Kate Kendall

Kate Kendall

Founder and CEO at CloudPeeps
Founder and CEO of CloudPeeps. Created The Fetch and Freelance Friday. Writer. Lover of chai tea, building communities and working remotely.