CappaWork struggled in its first year. Should I shut it down?

Year 1 of CappaWork just ended.

It was much more difficult than I expected! 

My name is Nate Pinches and I’m the founder of CappaWork, a company that helps ambitious Christians build better businesses. I started it after long wishing there was a business planner that would help me be more productive at work and keep me on the path spiritually. There wasn’t one, so I made it. I designed, printed and sell the CappaWork Planner. Bottom to top, I made it, own it, and am growing the business that will let me share it with others.

Since officially founding CappaWork in June of 2021, CappaWork has made $45,123. The business went from $0 a month revenue up to $12k a month and all the way back down to $0. Not a high-flying success if you ask me. I made roughly 1/5th of my former corporate salary this year, which is far, far below what I need to make to support my 5 kids.


So, should I shut it down? Pack things up and go corporate again?


No. I'll keep on. Let me explain.


Looking back on year 1 I wish I had a model for a completely bootstrapped small business, one that didn’t have outside funding or a large social following to start with. I never found a model. If I had one I would have done some things differently. So with the hope of helping others in a similar position, I’ve decided to become the model I wish I had.

Taking inspiration from John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneurs on Fire, (go Friars) I’ve decided to publish my failures and successes along the way, including financials, when they’re good and not so good.


The Good, the Surprising, and the Ugly.

The Good-

CappaWork works

The year all told was a struggle, but there is a lot to celebrate. I started! Starting a business is a lot like becoming a parent. There’s never a good time and you’ll never be fully prepared. So you have to do your homework and then just go for it.

What did I learn? I learned how to not run ads. I *think* I learned how to run ads. I learned how vet contractors. I learned how to work with influencers and make my own reels for the gram. I learned a lot, which will pay off in spades in the months to come.

Besides that, the Planner works very well!  I thought it would. When I was designing the CappaWork Planner I worked to decrease the unknowns about it by using reviews for competitor products to shape my design. Since I didn’t have budget to multiple product versions, I looked at competitor planners on Amazon and scraped their reviews. I used a bot to copy and paste all the reviews into a spreadsheet. Then I categorized these by sentiment and topic. This helped me avoid some of the early bumps, so the launch was with a product that essentially had already been beta tested on thousands of people. Feedback on the planner has been overwhelmingly positive. Only Five-Star reviews baby! A couple of changes are coming, but nothing significant.

The Surprising-

Moving across the world

This time last year, our family was on what we thought might be a 6-year timeline in coastal Virginia. We’d just bought a dream house on a huge plot of land. We were thinking about getting chickens. And we were in the middle of a big renovation to make it perfect for our family of 7 and many guests. My wife is active duty in the Navy, and we were on 3 year orders with a potential to extend to 6 years. But at the end of January 2022, she got a surprise change of orders to Okinawa, Japan. 6 months later we were moving to Japan, where we will now live for the next 3 years.

I had been working on CappaWork full-time for 5 months at that point. I immediately took off my founder hat and put on my hardhat to finish up the construction on our house. Four rooms needed to be finished in 4 months so we could rent it out. With lots of help from family near and far, I laid 10,000 tiny tiles in a new bathroom, made a few hundred board feet of trim, and put in two new hardwood floors. All the while, we had to figure out how to move across the world with 5 kids, ages 8,6,4,2, and 8 months. It was a saga!

In June all our things were packed and put on a ship. In August we took a very long plane ride to Okinawa, a tropical island about 400 miles south of the largest islands of Japan. We now live in the Mizugama area of Okinawa, and I get to go for runs along the seawall.

If we were offered the choice of moving to Japan 10 times in a row, we would have said no every time. But we didn’t have a choice. We do however have a choice to be happy and embrace the adventure, so we’ve done that. Japan is beautiful and everything’s coming up Milhouse.

Since January though, I’ve had very little bandwidth for CappaWork and it obviously had a big impact on this year’s performance.


The Ugly-


Before founding CappaWork, I chose to create a product focused Direct to Consumer (D2C) business. You could create a niche product for a pretty small group of people and then target those exact people on Instagram and Facebook with ads. The business could run like clockwork, in large part because we share sooooo much data that targeting subgroups was incredibly cheap. 

In September of 2021, Apple launched iOS 14 which allowed users to opt out of data sharing. If users aren’t sharing data, you don’t have the thousands of data points for each user to train an ad algorithm. And if you can’t train an algorithm, the ad needs to be shown to far more people than it did previously to connect with someone who needs it. This means that while the ad may be showing to the same number of people as before, the percentage of folks who will find it valuable dropped significantly.

If you had a big budget and were doing brand awareness ads (CocaCola, Bud Light) nothing much changed. But if you had no budget, it suddenly cost $10 per clickthrough up from a few cents, which made you rethink a lot of things. I stopped my ads.

Hoping that an agency would be able to get better results, I worked with an agency who did all-inclusive work: creative, targeting, launch and analytics for a reasonable agency rate. But after spending $3,500 with them, only two customers converted. Total sales from those ads? $51.20.

I stopped that too.  


The Facts and Figures


Over the course of a year CappaWork welcomed 122 unique customers. One of those was a bulk order, so could count as multiple uniques, but there is not attribution to prove that. Those 122 Customers collectively bought 420 Planners. That means repeat purchases (and a bulk order) which is good.


Average Order Value

This is skewed because of the bulk order but is instructive. Generally new customers tend to order 1 Planner for $32. Bulk orders drive AOV up considerably. Higher AOV is good. More on that in the next few weeks.



Customers return 15% of the time to order a second or third planner. This is unprompted because I never completed the email reminders to go out when you’re nearing the end of a planner. Relatedly, I am unclear on how many customers actually use the planner. Early this summer I learned that the hurdle to get started is larger than I anticipated, but can be overcome by a quick coaching session from me. I plan to make this coaching in video format to immediately follow a purchase. Once users get over the hurdle of starting and just start, they tend to like it. 


Low reach + unclear messaging > Low customer volume > Low revenue.

Moving to Japan was the most difficult personal challenge this year, but marketing was the most difficult business challenge. Reading a book about writing good copy and actually writing good copy are two different things. Add this to the difficulty of creating and launching an effective ad campaign on Facebook Business and a very small social following and you have a low reach.

Financially, CappaWork is back at the beginning. The year started at $0, ended at $0. All revenue in was spent out on my salary, which totaled $31,100 or the same salary I made 12 years ago as a new graduate.


While CappaWork is becoming known for its only product, the CappaWork Planner, less than 15% of the revenue came from product sales. 86% came from consulting work I did as a sub-contractor for wonderful former colleagues. The work was executive level strategic planning for a leadership group in a federal agency. No connection to a planner to help ambitious Christians build better businesses. However, this is proven success at a service offering. I now see that services are easier to price higher and spool up faster. Products are easier to scale without increasing variable labor cost. I had erred on the side of product, but now understand the cashflow value of services, so will be launching one very soon. See the forthcoming strategic plan for more.



So, after one year, where are we?

Should I shut it down?

Will CappaWork continue its downward trend?

Was it a good try, but not meant to be?


The answer is simple. I have shifted my identity. I am an entrepreneur now. There is no Plan B, just a rapidly shifting Plan A. I will not be stupid; if I need to support my family by working some other way, I will do it. But I will not retreat.


CappaWork moves onward. The vision is for this company to one day soon gross a million per year, create stable jobs for others and become an accelerator for ambitious Christians who want to build better businesses and make earth as it is in heaven. I’m here for that. And I'm here for you to not make the same mistakes when you start as I did.  

Talk to you next week!

Much love, 



1 comment

Tyler Hallenbeck

Thank you for sharing the good and the bad. I’m thankful for what you created!

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