Monday, November 29, 2010

Minding Your Own Business

Starting a business can be an overwhelming endeavor. But it is do-able, and does not require being a Trump-esque organization with a board of directors, a team of attorneys and a 500-page business plan. Starting a business can begin with your passion, an idea, and the desire to do something that offers great reward.

1) Passion – The expression “love what you do, do what you love” is a basic truth. When you were a child, you often play-acted what you wanted to do or be when you grew up: a doctor, an actress, an astronaut – because it was something fun and interesting. Of course, not many of us go on to be those things we fantasized about as children, but the foundation is the same: we sought out something that would interest us. Starting a business should espouse this childhood role-play: do something you are interested in and would “love” to do for the long-term. I use the term “love” because there will be bumps along the way, and just as in life, if you love what you do, you will weather through the difficulties, objections, and any hurdles that your business may face.

2) Idea – The “idea” does not have to be a huge revelation or epiphany. Necessity is the mother of invention, and many times, a business idea stems from a need you see yourself fulfilling. Take the organization “Meals on Wheels” for instance. Someone recognized the need to deliver food to shut-ins in the 1950’s, and thus the current organization was born. But an idea is just an idea until it is implemented. 

Do it, and don’t over-think. Too often, a person with a great idea allows fear and doubt to crowd in: not enough experience, no funding, wrong (or no) education, this is “bad” idea, etc. are excuses that need to be banned from an entrepreneur’s thoughts. Ideas that come to fruition can turn into orchards if
seeded and nurtured correctly.

3) Desire – This may sound a lot like passion, but it is different. Passion is the heart of your business. Desire gives you velocity – forward motion, especially when the going gets tough. Being an entrepreneur is no cakewalk, and starting a company on a shoe-string budget takes a lot of creativity and humility. Be open to learn from other successful companies and individuals whom you want to emulate. Write down what you desire to see for yourself and your business, even if it seems over-the-top. There is something powerful about seeing your future on paper. It may not all happen, but when written the desire looks tangible.

There are, of course, more to starting and building a business than the passion, idea and desire. Take note that these 3 things are mind-sets, and the #1 key to success (or failure) starts in the mind. So don’t let the lack of what you think is essential deter you from starting a great business. “If you build it, they will come” – what are you waiting for?

Originally posted on Curvy Magazine, November 24, 2010.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How To Pitch Your Startup To The Press

Dennis Crowley Wired

Here's how most startups that never get written about approach reporters: 
Let's say you're working on a new payments system that is obviously better than PayPal in every way, and is therefore a lock to become a multi-billion dollar business within a few years. So, you punch 'PayPal' into Google News, and just like that, you have a list of people who have written stories about PayPal recently. Then you type up an email that starts with "I read your article about PayPal the other day. Very interesting! Since you're interested in PayPal, I thought you might like to know..." You paste in your standard pitch, then you send this email to everyone on your list.
The appeal of this system is obvious -- it lets you reach a lot of reporters in a limited amount of time. The trouble is that none of those reporters will read through this email. Don't waste your time trying to disguise a mass email as a personal one. Instead, use that time to identify one person you think should be interested, and actually write your pitch for that person.
Choosing a target
Avoid the temptation to pitch the person you'd most like to have write about you. Since the time you have to spend on this is so limited, you should instead focus on the person who is most likely to write about you. The way to figure that out is simply to read about your industry -- something you should probably be doing anyway.
Pay attention to who writes interesting things in your industry. If someone is regularly writing about your competitors, that person is presumably interested in what you do. When you are familiar with what someone is writing in general, you're much better equipped to pitch them then when you're referencing a single article.
Pitch a story, not your company
That your company exists is not, in itself, an interesting story. Your job here is to get your company into the news. But the reporter's job is to write things their audience wants to read. You know what sorts of stories this reporter writes. Think of a what a good story written by that person and involving your company might look like, and pitch that. (For more on that, this article by former TechCrunch writer Mark Hendrickson is well worth a read.)
The easiest way to do this is to set yourself up as an expert in your field. If you write interesting things about your industry, or provide interesting data, or are just available to say interesting things about it, reporters will want to talk to you and feature you in other things they write. That isn't as good as having a story written all about you, perhaps, but it gets your name out there, and makes your company and everything it does seem more newsworthy as a result.

Read more:

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Basics: Plan

This is a self-explanatory step that many people miss. In the rush to be part of the competition, many people skip the planning part and dive head-long into the fray. Just like a road map, your plan is your route from one starting point to the next objective. A plan sketches out your goals and helps to solidify your mission. Your plan does not have to be complicated - it can be as simple as outlining steps to get your business or product promoted. Will it be ad-driven? Or will you promote through word-of-mouth? How will you accomplish this? What steps will you take? A plan helps you to stay focused and committed to your business. Like a map, it is like a visual into the future of your business. And don't despair if you hit a few bumps on that proverbial road. Because you sketched out a plan, you, the map-maker can always make a few adjustments to get back on track. What is your plan?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Basics: Audience

I love Shakespeare plays. The language is so beautiful, the prose so elegant, and the circumstances grip your heart. Tragedy or comedy, one of the greatest things Shakespeare incorporated into his plays is when an actor speaks to the audience. This is always incorporated in a "soliloquy", and it is meant to pull the audience in and make them part of the action. This can be a fun element, because it may be a way to re-focus the audience to the stage, if perhaps they are drifting away. I am not an expert on Shakespeare or the theatre, but I do know that your audience can be a key to your success.

Know your audience - who they are, who you are addressing. Be familiar with them - know their needs, their wants. Customize your message to that audience, or your audience to your message. Kids' products will not garner attention if your target audience are tween-agers. Just like in my previous post on "Brands", setting up a tea and crumpettes booth at a punk rock show will only get you passers-by (and maybe a few snickers).  Focus on those who you know will want your product.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Social Media Rules (SMR's)

Social media has evolved into more than just chatting with an old college bud on the east coast.  More small businesses and entreprenuers are utilizing this mode of communication not only to sell, but to inform.  But the courtesies should be still observed. 

SMR #1: Be courteous, even when they are your real friends. Everybody will see what you write - everybody....

SMR #2: Keep the comment thread to the original subject matter.  If the discussion is about a recent movie all parties have watched, do not jump into the conversation and talk about your dog’s scratching habits.

SMR #3: If the original post was something deep and poignant, don’t try to be funny and crack jokes about the post, about others commenting on the post, or something completely random and inappropriate.  If this were a verbal conversation, such irrelevant comments would be considered “rude”. 

SMR #4: Promote those people in your network.  This lets people know that you are indeed “listening” to them.  For Twitter do @mentions, RT’s and re-Tweets.  For Facebook, “Share” links, “Like” comments, and post on others’ Walls.   This is social networking at its basic. 

SMR #5: Be positive!  Never ever make fun of another person’s blog, comments, business model, posts, etc.  Remember: you reap what you sow, so if you want to be positively promoted, do the same.  I think this is called “The Golden Rule”. 

Job stress raises women's risks | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Headline | National News

Job stress raises women's risks | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Headline | National News

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Basics: Goals

Goals.  We hear about them at school, on the athletic field, in a job performance review.  It's the target that keeps you moving forward, and measures your progress.  Your goal(s) are the backbone of your business.  It is the raison d'etre.  Is it to pay for your children's college education?  Perhaps the dream vacation to foreign lands to taste and see new cultures.  Maybe to simply be able to retire comfortably.  Keep in mind that goals do not have to be the end-all-be-all, gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow target.  It can be daily or weekly or monthly tasks that you check off and feel a sense of satisfaction.  But in order to "check off" each goal, make sure you write them down.  Visually seeing what you have set out for yourself is invigorating and renews your spirit, particularly when you have moments of doubt or fear.   

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stick to the Basics (sort of)

As a recent launcher, I am in the throes of learning from other uber bloggers and PR experts.  Whoever coined the phrase," the world is getting smaller" could not have imagined the trifecta of technology, communication and social media.  As I sift through what seems like tons of information on a daily basis, I wonder if there will ever be an over-saturation in media, marketing and PR.  Can I benefit from with the new modes of communication at this stage of the game?  How do I stand out from the crowd and get my message to my audience? 

It reminds me of my frustrations with algebra back in high school.  Whenever I came upon a formula or a problem that seemed impossible to solve, my teacher would tell me to start from the beginning, to remember the fundamentals.  This concept can be applied to media and public relations.  How do I reach my audience?  How can I get the media to perk up its ears?  How do I get the results I need for my client? 

Get back to the basics:
1) Goals
2) Audience
3) Plan
4) Execute

Perhaps these "basics" are not the basics for other entrepreneurs and social media pros, but they have helped me focus on my "to-do" list. 

Come back later as I explain in details these 4 "Basics". 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Every Girl’s Must-Haves

Like the “must-haves” in your handbag, these “must-haves” are what every successful woman should employ and embody. From friends to fashion, they are essentials  that help create a well-rounded, strength-boosting lifestyle that everyone around you will crave!

A fab wardrobe. I don’t mean a closet full of Chanel or de la Renta (though that would be fabulous). It’s about having low to high-end pieces that work well together.  Always remember that you don’t need to go broke in order to have a strong wardrobe. Key pieces that are classic and timeless hold a lot of staying power in your closet – shoes, jackets, jeans and a couple of LBD’s can do the trick. No Rachel Zoe? Look at stylin’ women around you, or leaf through your favorite magazine to get some ideas.

Sense of style. Maybe this sounds a little redundant, but have you ever seen someone wearing a cute outfit, that somehow doesn’t match him or her? I call it a mannequin-dresser – buying exactly what the store mannequin is wearing and putting it on. Developing your own sense of style is not just the clothes but it’s an outward display of your personality, taste, and, yes, style. I have a gal pal who styles accessories like a true fashionista. Put away those sweatpants and put together an ensemble that captures you. You are your own advertisement.

Value. I dare say that some women’s “confidence” is really just bravado in disguise. A woman who values herself carries herself with poise. Valuing yourself – your gifts, talents, and contributions – naturally spills over into your wardrobe, your style, your work habits, and into your key relationships. A woman who values herself exudes true confidence.

Girlfriends. One of the first things we experience as little girls is the slumber party. It was a time of bonding: we gorged on junk, put on outrageous makeup, talked about boys, danced, and talked some more. Women’s friendships with each other are unlike any other. In the circle of girlfriends we laugh, cry and find support. A woman with a girlfriend(s) becomes more encouraging, courageous, and selfless because we learn from each other’s experiences. Girlfriends bloom like roses – in beautiful clusters.

Alone time. Every woman should experience being a solo-girl for at least a year. A woman who experiences being “alone” gains so much confidence and esteem in herself and her abilities. Being a single girl, I have reached some pretty cool “milestones”. I have changed my share of light bulbs in high ceilings, explained the funny noise to the mechanic, hauled my own luggage on and off a spinning airport carousel, and put together IKEA furniture with my own set of tools. Not that we don’t need help from time to time, but knowing that you can solve, repair and take care of some of life’s needs without calling on a man (dad, brother, or significant other) and still remain feminine and fabulous is pretty significant in my book!

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