Growing a Bootstrapped Design and Branding Tool with Zero Funding

Founder: Hua Shu

Product: Typogram

Tell us a bit about you and your product.

I’m a graphic designer based in NYC. I create branding, logo, and custom typefaces for fancy clients like Macy’s and Google. I love design and creativity. My co-founder, Wenting Zhang, is a passionate designer, engineer, and toolmaker who had previously worked at Adobe.

We are both extremely passionate about design, typography, creativity, and making those things accessible. After talking to many entrepreneurs, side hustlers, and small business owners about their pain points of creating branding and logo when they start their companies, we decided to build a beginner-friendly logo design tool for founders, Typogram.

Typogram makes it easy for founders to create unique, custom logos and brand kits while making them feel confident and creative and allowing them to learn about design and branding.

Why did you pick this product specifically?

First, we are both designers, and we are passionate about making design more accessible.

Second, we met and talked to many entrepreneurs to discover their pain points around design. When founders start their companies, one of the first things they think about is branding and logos.

But they often don’t have good experience creating branding because they lack simple, beginner-friendly tools designed just for custom logo creation to DIY. Sometimes, they go to a website like Fiverr, and it can become a tedious, time-consuming process that brings frustrations and bad results.

We’re passionate about this problem, creativity, and design, and we want Typogram to enable entrepreneurs to create unique logos and brandings while making them feel creative and confident. We hope our tool can show them that the branding process can be fun and get them excited about the company they’re about to create.

Are you completely bootstrapped or did you raise any funding?

We are completely boostrapped and didn’t raise any VC funding.

Are you advertising to find clients?

We haven’t spent any money on ads. We find users through organic marketing using the content we create. We both write a lot of content for our product –– there are two different types: design knowledge and build-in-public.

First, I write plenty of design knowledge content, a blog on Typogram, and a newsletter called FontDiscovery, both focusing heavily on the design part: typography, branding design, logo, marketing, and visual design. It’s like a design 101 course in newsletter format for people who want to learn more about design. I think design should be more accessible for people who have not studied it.

My co-founder, Wenting, builds the product as the designer and engineer, so she has a lot of insights into the building process. She writes a build-in-public newsletter that shows people behind the scenes of our startup, the technical aspect, and the day-to-day –– Essentially, our startup journey! So, in conclusion, our content strategy has two sides: how to design and build a startup, and we attract users to our app that way.

How many subscribers do you have currently?

We have over 4000+ combined subscribers to our design knowledge and build-in-public newsletters.

How do users access your product?

Users can go on Typogram to sign up for an account to play with all our features using the free project.

What kind of hurdles have you had to overcome?

Finding time for and being consistent about weekly content creation - I’m so proud that we haven’t missed sending a single issue for both newsletters (We just sent out issue 115 for FontDiscovery, and Week 78 for Build-in-Public.). They have been super helpful in bringing new customers, users, and supporters to Typogram.

What other channels do you use?

Our channel with the newsletters is excellent. Our earliest adopters came from there. They have been perfect tools for getting the word out and converting people to try our product.

Reddit is also a fantastic platform. It’s a lot of communities, but compared to the other platforms, it’s tougher to market because every single subreddit has different content policies. So you get flagged for spamming if you don’t read the rules correctly. Generally, I find it helpful to share my journey and lessons of building the product and growing the newsletter on Reddit. This information is helpful to others, and if people find it useful, they will check out your product.

What's your go to your go-to tools or software that you can't live without?

We use Notion a lot. It is a second brain to us and manages every aspect of Typogram, from the technical to design content and sales management. Another thing I use a lot is Make for automation and Tally forms for collecting user feedback. I also love that you can set up automation easily between Tally and Notion.

Do you have books or podcasts that have helped you?

First, Atomic Habits because a big part of all this is building working systems for habits allowing for grit and consistency.

Second, the Startup Owners Manual, which is a playbook for building a startup, with fantastic chapters on identifying pain points, building MVP, talking to users, and customer discoveries.

What do you wish you would have known at the outset?

It is a good idea to build an audience for what you are doing.

Before Typogram was even up online, we built out the whole product with paper, and later Notion, and had users come onsite to user test. Those people were our earliest supporters, and I wish I had done a better job of keeping in touch and keeping them in the loop.

If you want to build products, you should think about how to get people interested in what you’re doing. Not all of them will eventually be a user of your product, but it’s important to have people who support you.

What are your plans for the future?

​​We’re planning a grand launch in a few weeks, which is exciting! We recently soft launched to our pre-order customers and received many positive responses. Our customers love what they can do with our design tool. They are excited about where this is going, which gave us confidence in the grand launch!

Where can people find you?

At my weekly newsletter, FontDiscovery!

We also have a build-in-public newsletter, sharing our weekly journey of building our startup, Typogram. I am also on Twitter at HuaTweets, sharing design and startup things. Lastly, you can go on Typogram and make an account to play with all our features.

Typogram - Next-Generation Logo Design Tool for Startups and Small Businesses
Try our beginner-friendly logo design tool for startups. Typogram allows you to create a unique logo for your startup while helping you learn essential branding and marketing knowledge. No more random logo generations, DIY your unique logo and be in charge from day one.