Bootstrapping a Business on Kale and Quinoa

Last Updated Oct 7, 2011 5:22 PM EDT

Years from now, Cheryl Yeoh, 28, will have an amazing story to tell her kids. She is the classic startup CEO: fearless, driven, blind to everything but her baby. But, this February, things were hardly upbeat.

Yeoh and her co-founder Jhony Fung had had to pivot from an earlier version of their company and were low on money as a result. Yeoh crashed in a friend's living room and put herself on a "kale and quinoa" diet in order to maintain her food budget at $35 a week. Dinner was free cheese and crackers at business events. "I was really questioning myself. Am I really happy doing this?" She decided to push forward anyway, "When it comes to survival mode, you have to be passionate, stick to your vision and believe in it."

With any luck, Yeoh's bootstrapping days are over. She's successfully raised $770,000 and is looking to raise even more in a Series A soon. Investors should be encouraged by the company's 35% month over month growth in users. (Yoh declined to give actual user numbers).

Like many smart entrepreneurs, Yeoh built CityPockets to solve her own problem -- managing the vast number of daily deals she was collecting. "CityPockets is a 'digital wallet' where you can store and manage the daily deal vouchers you are buying from Groupon, LivingSocial, Gilt City and other sites," explains Yoh. CityPockets manages more than 200,000 vouchers that are worth over $11 million dollars. Some people on the site are heavy users of such deals, collecting dozens and even hundreds of specials. CityPockets recently launched a marketplace where its users can buy and sell vouchers, too.

Yeoh may be new to the startup world, but she has quickly mastered the art of publicity. She's become a media darling in a matter of months, landing prime coverage in some of the nation's top business magazines and blogs, from TechCrunch to Forbes. Despite Yeoh's early PR successes, my co-host (startup expert Jennifer Hill) and I thought that Yeoh could still use an extra push in the marketing department. Here was our lively discussion around marketing strategy:


When Yeoh first started fundraising, she was advised to focus on raising small amounts of cash from friends and family. While Yeoh admits that she spent a lot of time running from meeting to meeting "just to land a $10,000 check," she was glad she did this. Hill and I argued for a more focused approach, targeting "smart money" investors who would be able to write bigger checks with less hassle.

Here's the full show:


Come back next Thursday at 10:30am Pacific / 1:30pm Eastern for another episode of "Secrets of Successful Startups."

Laurel Touby is the founder of mediabistro , the largest media community website in the US. Touby is an Internet pioneer, who started her company in 1996, took it to profitability, grew it to millions in sales, and sold it in 2007 for $23 million. She currently is an investor in and advisor to small Internet companies.

  • Laurel Touby On Twitter»

    >> View all articles

    Laurel Touby is the founder of mediabistro, the largest media community website in the US. Touby is an Internet pioneer, who started her company in 1996, took it to profitability, grew it to millions in sales, and sold it in 2007 for $23 million. She currently is an investor in and advisor to small Internet companies.