• Madeleine Bonser

Spotlight on Chris Makara

We put the spotlight on Chris Makara, founder of Bulkly who talks to us about his setbacks and how he overcome these.

A background into you and your business?

I first got started online back in 2003 while I was in college. A friend and I wanted to create an e-commerce site where we drop and ship bowling supplies. The reason for bowling supplies is that we were both a part of our college bowling team and it is a sport I had been doing since I was about 8 years old. So we had a pretty good knowledge of the products and industry – just no idea about anything regarding a website. I was tasked with building out the site, marketing it, etc. while my friend handled fulfilment and customer service. Since everything was new to me (and not many resources available like there are today), I self-taught myself everything through trial and error. This included everything from design, coding, SEO, SEM, analytics and more. You can learn a bit more about me here.

Over the years, I have built and sold multiple sites, provided various freelance services to many local businesses, was part of a startup offering eco-friendly multi-purpose products and created Bulkly – all while holding down a full-time job at a publicly-traded company.

What has been your biggest challenge or setback during your career?

When I graduated from college, I earned a degree in Architecture. In the United States, it takes 5 years of college to earn this degree. While I was in college, I really enjoyed architecture. It allowed me to be creative, troubleshoot and apply project management principles. Once I graduated I worked for a few architecture firms. At first, I enjoyed it. But after a few years, it was nothing short of 60+ hour work weeks and not so great projects that I was working on. There wasn’t a whole lot of my creative side that was being used. I felt like I was stuck.

However, while working in the Architecture industry I still did websites on the side which helped me stay interested and fulfil what I was missing from my day job. I knew I wanted to make a change but was hesitant after spending 5 years in college and an additional 5 years working in the field. I was struggling with the feeling that I would be “throwing away” and essentially abandoning my college education.

How did you overcome these setbacks?

While I did struggle with the decision, I knew it would be best long term to make the change. So I started looking for opportunities to get my foot in the door doing something around websites. I interviewed at a company that appreciated the self-taught journey I was on and hired me to do SEO.

Over 10 years later I am still at the same company where my role has expanded to include many areas of digital marketing. Areas like analytics, paid search, external vendor management, CRO, social media and more.

It’s also how I came up with the concept for Bulkly.

What is it that gives you the drive and determination to succeed?

For me, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I think part of that spirit is that I’m wired to always want to grow and do more.

What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?

There have been many lessons over the years. I’ve always been a fan of setting goals. Without them, it’s hard to gauge whether something was successful or not. So I like to set both short term and long term goals in order to stay on the right path. Basically, I start with the end goal and then work backwards to determine what goals along the way will help me reach the end goal.

What three tips would you give to those starting their careers?

The first tip would be to set yourself up to track and analyze your efforts. If you’re not doing this, it’s hard to know what is or isn’t working. The goal is to figure out what is working and do more of it.

The second tip would be to make yourself diverse. I mean this in regards to your skillset. In today’s digital marketing world, there is so much overlap in job responsibilities. For example, if you’re into analytics, it makes sense to learn basic code (PHP, Javascript, etc.) so that you can better leverage tools like Google Tag Manager. It doesn’t mean that you have to be a developer, you just need to understand how things work. It will make you more marketable and helpful throughout your career.

And the last tip is to be flexible. This is more about knowing when you like (or don’t like) what you are doing. If you’re not happy with the direction things are heading, it’s never too late to pivot to something else.

What is your advice to people who are wanting to start a business?

Don’t do it based purely on money. Sure money is nice, but there’s no point in going down a business path that you won’t enjoy doing. Find something that you are passionate about while also finding a need that needs to be filled with a solution/service. When you can intersect these two things, you’ll be headed in the right direction.

What would your advice be to someone managing a team?

Managing a team isn’t easy. I think the biggest thing is to be relatable. I mean this in that you shouldn’t look down at your team members because you are above them on the organizational chart. Instead, you need to be compassionate, empathetic and truly listen to what they have to say. Let them know that the whole team is working towards the same goals and everyone’s role is important.

What’s the best part of your job?

For my day job, one of the best parts aside from working on things I enjoy is the work-life balance. They are really flexible. For example, if I want to take an early lunch to go to my kid’s school it’s not a big deal. While it may seem minor, flexibility like that can go a long way.

The best part about Bulkly is that it allows me to get into some things I don’t necessarily get to do with my day job. There is definitely a lot of overlap, but I get to do things like deciding on what topics should be covered on the blog, how the site design should be, etc. Since it’s only myself, I don’t have to get approvals and buy-in from others in order to push things forward. It allows me to move quickly when making decisions.

To what do you attribute your success?

This is a difficult one to answer. I guess it’s just how I tick. I like learning, growing, testing, etc. and as I am able to learn and evolve it provides an opportunity for success to happen.

What does the future look like for your business? What are you working on right now?

The future of Bulkly looks good. This past year I have really put more of a priority in growing Bulkly. I know it solves a huge pain point others have when it comes to scheduling social media updates. This is evident in that there is a very low churn rate in those that use it. So in addition to polishing up some things within the platform, I’m working on focusing on more of the marketing side of things in order to help promote it better.

How has your business adapted to deal with such uncertain times?

Bulkly hasn’t had to change much during these times. It’s always been a bootstrapped project that I fund through current subscribers as well as freelance work I do. Since it is myself and a development team who I’ve worked with for years, we were already completely remote. So for the most part, there wasn’t any major change that took place.

Thanks so much for chatting with us Chris, it’s been great to learn more about you and Bulkly. To learn more about Chris and Bulkly, head over to his Twitter today.

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