How Croissant Built & Grew An App to Find Workspaces On The Go
By: Carli Evilsizer | July 25, 2018
Nisha Garigarn, alongside 3 other cofounders, built Croissant after experiencing the pain of trying to find a great, easy workspace where they wouldn't feel pressured to buy another coffee (or croissant!). Since they've launched, they've expanded across the world and are constantly improving the platform. So what can you learn from Croissant's success?
Nisha was kind enough to share how they built their brand and how they've grown the company despite a bootstrapped marketing budget. We've covered everything from naming the company, ways to market your bootstrapped startup for free and Croissant's biggest marketing wins that you could easily implement as well.
Branding, Marketing & Growth Tips From Croissant Co-Founder & Marketer Nisha Garigarn
Croissant is a monthly coworking membership that gives entrepreneurs, freelancers, remote workers, and digital nomads access to hot desks at the best shared workspaces in cities all over the world. Croissant makes it easy to find workspaces on the go!
Co-Founder & Head of Marketing
Nisha Garigarn is one of the founders of Croissant, the app for accessing inspiring workspaces on the go. She is LA-raised but currently resides in NYC. She loves journaling in pretty coffee shops, taking photos of buildings, and reading reviews of arthouse films.
1. I’m so excited to feature you and Croissant today! Can you tell us about your background?
"Thanks so much for featuring me! I grew up in Los Angeles and my parents are both immigrants from Thailand. My dad was a database engineer and his knack for tech rubbed off on me from an early age. After college, I started my career working in marketing at various agencies analyzing + managing mobile, email, FB, and Adwords campaigns. I accredit these first internships and jobs as giving me my base knowledge of the marketing ecosystem."
2. How did you come up with the idea for Croissant?
"My cofounders and I were actually working on a completely unrelated, different startup idea at the time. We all lived in different parts of New York City and would arrange to meet in Manhattan to work and collaborate on the weekends and evenings. We ended up wasting a lot of time running from one Starbucks to another trying to find a table. And even if we did find a table, there’d be other issues: no bathroom, spotty wifi, and constantly having to buy coffee and croissants because we felt guilty for staying there for hours. It was very frustrating! We thought there should be an easier way to find workspace in New York City, but we couldn’t find anything like that out there. So we made it!"
3. People have compared Croissant as the Uber and Classpass of co-working. How does it work?
"When you become a member of Croissant, you get instant access to any coworking space in our network. We currently partner with 350+ coworking spaces in cities like NYC, SF, LA, Chicago, Boston, DC, Berlin, Barcelona, and more. On the app, you’re able to see exactly how many seats are available at each coworking space. All you have to do is ‘check in’ on the app when you arrive at the space, and ‘check out’ when you leave. We tried to make it as easy and possible to access inspiring workspaces."
4. This sounds perfect for freelancers! Do they make up your entire customer base or is there anyone else who uses Croissant?
"We definitely have a lot of freelancers who use Croissant - but our customer base is much more than freelancers. We have grad students who are sick of working from crowded libraries. We have job seekers who want a more professional environment to job hunt in. We have consultants who need a space to work in-between their meetings around town. We have startup teams who don’t feel like spending hundreds of dollars on an office. Remote work is becoming more and more common and it’s exciting to have a customer base that is on the forefront of the future workforce!"
5. Also, I love the unique name by the way! What was the process of building the Croissant brand?
"Croissant was the first name that popped into our heads because we were inspired by working from coffee shops. We love the simplicity of the name, and the comfortable, delightful, casual everyday-ness of it. In the beginning, several people strongly advised us to change our name to something more practical. I think someone literally suggested SpaceBooking.com - but we thought that seemed so lame."
"We did a bunch of workshops too to brainstorm new names, although we never came up with something we liked more than Croissant. We are super happy with our decision to keep the name, as it’s a memorable name. There are quite a few other startups in the coworking industry with “practical” names along the lines of SpaceBooking... and I can’t say I’m jealous of their names!"
6. Do you have any tips for a bootstrapped startup to build a strong brand presence?
"We took inspiration from a lot of other brands that we really like, such as Casper, Mailchimp, etc. We never hired a “branding” person, and we were lucky enough to have the skills to design our own assets, so that worked for us. I would say that it’s quite important to have that type of designer or creative person on the founding team of a bootstrapped startup."
7. I know you’ve been growing steadily while bootstrapped yourself. What is it like overseeing marketing on a tight budget?
"It requires a very different kind of strategy. We can’t just dump a bunch of money on ads and go back to coding. We instead need to spend time networking and creating relationships with target groups, bloggers, affiliates, and influencers. This is in addition to just creating a really awesome product that, at the end of the day, relies on word of mouth growth."
8. What are your most cost-effective marketing strategies?
"Besides free word of mouth, we invested time and energy into improving the SEO of our website. At the beginning that included press of our launch as well. A few months after we launched in New York City, we were lucky enough to get picked up by Forbes, which then provided a steady stream of new visitors for months."
9. What has been your most successful marketing campaign to date?
"Switching to offering a 7-day free trial has been amazing for us, and I consider it one of our biggest marketing wins. Before we switched over, we had no trial and people were much more hesitant to try out the product. Yes, we lose some money, but we chalk it up as marketing costs."
10. I’ve heard about Croissant a ton in NYC! Can you tell me more about your localized marketing approach?
"NYC is our biggest city since this is where we started and where we understand the ecosystem the most. When approaching other cities, we look at how we can optimize our SEO for that city, and which influencers, communities, and events would be good to target. But one of our favorite ways to kick off marketing in a new city is hosting free coworking days. It’s a great way for folks to learn about our app and showcase one of our partner coworking spaces."
11. You also mentioned word of mouth has been your biggest source of new members, how could another startup replicate this success?
"One thing you can do is prioritize building features that encourage word of mouth growth. For example, we made it super easy for members to bring a friend or colleague with them to a coworking space via guest hours. Guest hours are baked into our membership plans so we encourage members to be social with Croissant."
"We also try to have excellent customer service. We take a lot of time to train our support team to respond respectfully, personally, and quickly. It may not seem like customer support is tied to marketing, but for us it really is. When someone has a great experience with our support team, they are more likely to recommend Croissant to their friends."
12. What has been the hardest part about building and growing Croissant?
"There’s so many things we could do, and so many directions we could go. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s great to have many opportunities at our fingertips, but it can be distracting. For example, we regularly receive feedback from our members and they request new features all the time… with each idea being better than the previous. I want to do them all! But the reality is that we have limited time, energy, and capital, so we can’t. It’s been hard to figure out the optimal way to allocate our resources most effectively. We’re all really excited about the potential for the company and we have been trying to better organize and structure how we approach new experiments, partnerships, features, etc."
13. And what is your top marketing tip for a founder who is just starting out?
"One thing that I learned about marketing early on is you get rewarded most when you do stuff that other people aren’t doing. Every single startup out there is running Facebook ads, so you can’t realistically expect to throw up some ads and have your startup rocket ship. You have to be more creative than that. For example, one unique thing we do is encourage our space partners (vendors) to help spread the word through a referral program."
Thanks for the great chat and tips Nisha! If you are just launching your startup, be sure to have someone on the team with a marketing edge like Nisha. It is so important to ensure you are building a strong brand from the start and will be able to continue growing the brand right when you launch. If you solve a problem in a fun, new and easy way like Croissant is, you will experience success!