Hacking growth with Zoe Mustafa of Growth Hakka, London

Hacking growth with Zoe Mustafa of Growth Hakka, London

Zohe Mustafa is the founder of Growth Hakka, a growth hacking consultancy based in London, UK.

Zohe talked to us about the way he works and shared his personal story about his entrepreneurial adventures.

My Story

Academically I did both a Computer Science Degree and Business Management Degree straight after. I was unsure what I wanted to be when I grew up, plus I wanted more time before going for jobs. After my 2nd degree, instead of going for a graduate job I started my first business.

My first startup was a “Freesheets” publication before the Internet had really taken off in the days of dial-up connection. The idea was to give it out for free in London [London has quite a few freesheets these days] and to make money from advertising. I did everything myself. Design, copy, photography, editorial, ad sales, relationships with PR managers and even distribution.

When it came to the distribution I came to the awful realization that I was too embarrassed to stand on the street and give out my free magazine. I was literally mortified. Doh! The startup failed miserably…

Having failed my first startup and with pressure from my parents, I was unable to stave off employment and working for someone else. I got a job in the Information Technology team at what was then Cable and Wireless. But even that job did not come easily! I made over 300 job applications in about 8 months. With each rejection and my mother’s taunts about how incompetent I was ringing in my ears, I kept going until I got a breakthrough. Various Information Technology skills I had learned at University and in my startup eventually paid off!

I worked for about 3 years earning very good money for my age at the time and eventually got to a point whereby I could not cope with maddening corporate culture and politics. I quit and founded another startup which was an e-commerce start up.

E-commerce Startup went a bit better than the 1st one. I worked on it for 7 years and achieved hockey stick growth. Then, however, I made the classic mistake of growing too fast and most importantly growing and diversifying product range too fast. This resulted in me not having enough cash to stock hero products that had provided the hockey stick growth in the first place! Next thing I knew debts were growing and the diversified stock was not shifting fast enough!

Before the debt for the E-commerce startup really got to a level which I could not control I decided to shut down the business and tail between my legs I returned to the corporate world of being an employee!

I ended up working for large corporations like QVC, Virgin Media, Nokia and Accenture on large digital and marketing programs with HUGE marketing budgets in the millions. I was like a kid in a sweet shop. For my e-commerce startup, I had to apply multiple hacks with a limited budget. For the corporates, I was spending millions on Search, Display, Affiliates, Social, Partnerships and more. The hacker in me couldn’t help applying many hacks I had learned in my start up to the corporate world.

In 2011 I could not take much more at the most soulless job of all at Accenture and started Growth Hakka.

Since the earliest days of my career to now, I have worked for or consulted for over 40 companies both enterprise and startups. I have built up a wealth of cross-industry experience that I now apply to new clients.

The aim has been to Bring enterprise level marketing skills to entrepreneur level firms and making them successful

How I started growth hakka?

With Growth Hakka when I started it in 2012 the biggest challenge was that most people had no idea what “Growth Hacking” was. Now, there are literally 100s of Growth Hacking agencies. Whilst it was challenging for people not really knowing what growth hacking was it was not impossible to generate awareness.

I did all the standard things, build the website, optimize for SEO, share on social, some paid ads, useful links and comments on high PR sites, a growth hacking group on LinkedIn etc. As business came in and we were running growth campaigns for clients it became even harder with the resource I had to run campaigns for Growth Hakka.

Time is always a challenge and there is never enough time in the day. New competitor agencies have also provided a strong challenge as awareness grows about Growth Hacking.

 The awareness of Growth Hacking also presents a challenge in that every client no matter what the product is thought growth hacking is the holy grail of viral growth. Poor products cannot be growth hacked and we are great believers in Product as Marketing.

If your product is flawed no fancy marketing or clever growth hacks will bring exponential growth. Growth Hacking for a SAAS is a lot easier than for Matcha Tea for example. Most of the big growth hacking case studies online are for SAAS and tech companies and every prospect comes to us with dreams of achieving similar growth. In that case, we really need to manage expectations. Hiring and finding good people is a HUGE challenge especially at an affordable price.

Way I work

I work with both corporate and startup clients at the moment. First thing in the morning will be to check my notifications on my S6. If there are no major overnight crises then I won’t actually go into anything until getting to work. Once at work I will go through emails, Slack messages, and updates. 

At the same time on a separate screen, we have all our client’s dashboards rotating using the Revolver Chrome app extension. I will look for any spikes or anomalies and have a deeper dive if anything stands out. 

As we get more clients it’s getting more difficult for me to be hands-on in campaigns but still, at this stage, I still have a major input into all client work.

Success mantra

I’m working for myself on cool projects and campaigns with a diverse set of clients from multiple industry verticals. No day is the same. No challenge is the same. Intellectually nothing is cooler than being presented a growth challenge and finding ways to grow that business.

Tools I use

Slack, Gmail, Evernote, Analytics suites, Excel, Buffer, WordPress, Sumo Me, MailChimp, Whats App, Skype, IFTTT, NordVPN, ChromeCast, Revolver, Hubspot Sales, Snag-It, Clearbit, Built With, Awesome New Tab Page, Eyedropper, SEO Quake, SEMRUSH, SimilarWeb, The Great Suspender, Canva and so many more depending on the client.

Growth advice

Believe in yourself, never give up. Anything you do or create put yourself in the shoes of the end user or consumer. Nothing is impossible, there is a solution to every problem. Keep Calm.

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