Tag Archives: Funding

Your business is meaningless without marketing and sales

Marketing and sales go hand-in-hand and are the foundations of revenue for your business. Do not put off marketing because other activities are more important. They aren’t. If you’re not marketing and selling, you’re not:

1. Bringing in revenue
2. Getting on the radar of revenue-producing clients
3. Showing investors you’re serious about selling your services or products

And for 4 other tips check out this post from A Billion Entrepreneurs:

http://www.abillionentrepreneurs.com/what-are-the-5-things-every-entrepreneur-should-have-to-be-successful/?utm_source=Vocus&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=info%40abillionentrepreneurs.com&utm_content=ABE+Monthly+Newsletter

Are you a successful business?

Three of the most important things startups need to focus on / demonstrate if they are raising money, want to grow or just plain want to be successful:
1. Gaining customers (or if no proof of concept then a list of qualified customers)
2. Showing they know how to grow their business
3. Demonstrating profitability and ROI

These points may sound easy to achieve and you may be saying to yourself, ho hum, I need read no further.

Point number 1 – gaining customers is something that many startups and small businesses don’t focus on. They fall into my Lie #1 – If I build it, they will come. Investors (and actually the company owners should feel this way too) are looking to see where your market is – are you marketing? And startups, even marketing startups, often get lost in this space. Ask yourself: Would I invest in a company that can’t show me their market? The customers lined up to buy the product as soon as it’s available? A list of beta-testers? ANY INTEREST AT ALL?

More and more I’m seeing startups and small businesses flounder in this area. Forget for the moment Michael Moore’s crossing the chasm…these businesses aren’t even getting the early adopters. Take heed and show the market interest.

Here’s some interesting related points:
http://www.alleywatch.com/2014/02/5-red-flags-of-startups/?utm_source=AlleyWatch+Daily+Pulse&utm_campaign=c1ae92d926-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e01c347085-c1ae92d926-62886025

What’s the connection between marketing and intellectual property?

Here’s an important one:
Marketing, and branding are essential foundations for creating a successful business. That’s why it’s crucial to protect your intellectual property. Not just patents, but your name and your company’s name as well. That’s what goes into creating your company or your personal brand. It’s what tells your customers that everything that comes from your company can be counted on to deliver the same quality over and over, even if it’s a different product. You come to expect the same quality, service, and experience at every Starbucks you walk into no matter what city, state, or country. Can you imagine what Starbucks would have had to do to re-name, re-brand and essentially re-create itself if, say two years into the company, another company came along and said, “hey, we have that name. And we have it registered as a trademark three years ago.” That’s exactly what happened to a client of mine. After we created a beautiful logo, corporate ID package, website, sales sheets, a brochure, and convention panels, (all of which takes time, costs the client money, and wound up getting serious recognition for their brand) another company came along and sent them a cease and desist letter claiming their trademark rights. It turned out that my client, fortunately, had filed for their trademark before the challenger. Thus, it was the challenger that had to go through that whole long process of rebranding.

It’s a lot more time, energy, and money consuming to have to stop using a name or title, etc. than to do a trademark search to begin with.

Here are some other points of connection between marketing and intellectual property offered by Sharon Toerek:
http://blog.traklight.com/why-marketers-should-care-about-intellectual-property

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/159079107X?ie=UTF8&tag=holtzmacommun-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=159079107X

Equity Stakes in a Startup

Creating a new business structure around a partnership or multiple founders is one of the most single important aspects of starting a new business. Like a business plan, your corporate structure, how you allocate shares, profits and control of the new business will help determine the fate of your company as well as the company culture (anywhere from hostile to win-win). This is a relationship, or more accurately, a marriage (so the culture would be more like dysfunctional to loving). Like a marriage, I highly recommend looking to the end of the company or partnership as you create the beginning – like a pre-nup. Seriously. Have everything worked out to cover the end and you will be good to go in the beginning. Because you never know how the relationship(s), or company, will end – will you be bought out? Go public? Be taken over? Get investment? Change direction to one that not everyone wants to buy into? Dissolve? Will founders or partners or you have a change of circumstances that lead to a desire to end the relationship? Will someone die and you are suddenly stuck with a spouse as a partner? All this needs to be spelled out upfront, because once the horse has left the barn…well, you all know how that one ends.

When I speak to multiple stakeholders at the start of their company, I go around the room and point out a scenario where one person decides they want to take more control of the company – maybe because they feel they are doing more work, or contributing more value or whatever. And ultimately that leads to someone else being screwed. I’ve had co-founders come back to me later and tell me that the scenario I played out in the meeting was exactly what happened. So protect yourself and your partners BEFORE YOU BEGIN.
George Deeb in Alley Watch provides some helpful hints and considerations that should be taken into account about how to split up equity in a startup.
http://www.alleywatch.com/2013/06/how-to-calculate-equity-split-between-founders-in-startups/?goback=.gde_56766_member_249711906

Forget New Year’s Resolutions – it’s time to plan your marketing moves for 2014!

Actually you should have started in October but if you didn’t, then stop procrastinating and get to it.
The beauty of planning is that you know when opportunities (others or the ones you make for yourself) are coming up, you actually schedule them and you can prepare for them. If you can’t do this yourself, then find someone to work with who can. It’s not that difficult.

Janet Falk will be giving tips on media planning (for non-profits but these tips will work for you as well) on the radio. If you miss her live, you can still hear the broadcast.
Check out her blog:
http://us6.campaign-archive1.com/?u=c87b80819a244b029786430f7&id=dd4f8da0fd
Connect to the broadcast:
http://tonymartignetti.com/2013/12/nonprofit-radio-january-3-2014-media-strategy-2014-social-sites-watch-2014/
Why you should have started planning in October:
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229642

Sandra Holtzman is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

Got a TECH or SCIENCE idea? LEARN how to turn it into a BIZ

Got a TECH or SCIENCE idea?
LEARN how to turn it into a BIZ

ENROLL in FastTrac TechVenture!
FastTrac® TechVenture® is designed to help technology entrepreneurs turn ideas into a business. LEARN MORE / APPLY NOW …for January 9th Session

We are NOW accepting applications for the FastTrac TechVenture program beginning January 9th. If YOU or someone you know could benefit from the program, please share this with them.

FastTrac TechVenture is a FREE bootcamp facilitated by experienced entrepreneurs and designed to provide technology or science entrepreneurs with a proven framework and a network of connections to help grow your big idea into the next great innovation. The program consists of:

  • Seven (7) week days of intensive boot camp (scheduled over 4 weeks) to help you determine the viability of your technology or science-based business, including all steps necessary to launch
  • One-on-one assistance from experienced entrepreneurs who will help you review ideas, assignments, and business plan
  • Interactive presentations from successful technology entrepreneurs who can share their experience and insight on how to launch your own successful technology or science-based business
  • Wrap-up session to formally present the executive overview section of your business plan for maximum feedback
  • Connection to services that will help you start your business, including NYC Small Business Solutions to get loan facilitation, legal and hiring assistance

Learn More / Apply

What I learned from judging a $250K business plan contest… that might help you write yours

About a year ago I judged the Chase Manhattan and Living Social “Mission Small Business” contest. During that one week, I and other judges reviewed about 600 business plan concepts (about 70,000 responded.) There were 12 winners each receiving $250K.

Here’s what I learned:

First, almost all the plans fell into the middle range meaning they were good solid plans but didn’t stand out in some special way. There were a few that were just plain confusing so much so that in some cases the name of the business was never mentioned, or I was left guessing what exactly the business was/did. Those were immediately rejected.

The ones that stood out, however, made sure that they answered all the questions asked in the entry information. One of the key points that separated the winners was their passion which came across through the written word. Another was their story…storytelling is very important because it draws the reader into your world and let’s them experience it. Also important, and part of their stories, was how they overcame or were overcoming obstacles and their strength and tenacity to keep going no matter what.

One of the requirements was how the business contributed to the betterment of their community…and by that I mean not just writing a check to the local charity but actually having a positive impact on their local community. This included job creation, another very important factor. Each of the 12 winners had all of these elements. Entrepreneurs I work with incorporate all these elements into their plans as well.

A word of caution…no funder wants to hear that your use of proceeds will go to retiring debt. Unfortunately, no one cares about your past…they are funding your future.
So remember, when writing your business plan, make sure to include all these aspects – they will help you stand out from the pack.

Check out business plan startup competitions: http://grasshopper.com/blog/startup-competition-guide/
Most have expired but some have not and if they are yearly competitions, then contact the competition host directly for current applications.

When technology intersects with fashion – you benefit

There’s a new tech idea/website that’s been specifically developed for fashion designers (although other businesses can certainly use it). It seems to be a cross between crowdfunding/sourcing and market testing. Here’s how it works: A designer posts several new items from their upcoming collection – or variations on one item – for instance the designer could post one item in multiple colors to see which color is the most appealing. The customer, if interested in the item, makes a commitment to purchase it. When orders reach a minimum number designated by the designer, then the customer is charged and the designer starts production. If the orders don’t reach that minimum, then the customer is refunded their money and the designer doesn’t produce it. It’s a fashion variation on the crowdfunding theme.

But this idea is taken one important step further.

In crowdfunding, you go to a designated crowdfunding website and put up your idea. Then there’s a huge hurdle which people rarely discuss – marketing. You have to market like hell to get people to go to the crowdfunding site. So you are essentially doing double marketing – first for your own website (assuming you have one) and second to the crowdfunding site. With this product, you actually overlay the crowdfunding program onto your own website, thus driving people to your website only, which I think is a much more organic way to market yourself (although you will lose the crowdfunding site surfers who might be a source of revenue).

The concept sounds like a total win-win for the customer and for the designer. It’s a great way for the customer to be not only ahead of the trend but to actually influence the trend – and to be the first wearing a new style. Customers order their clothes in advance, and designers don’t risk wasting materials and manufacture for a product that isn’t going to sell well, thus avoiding excess inventory and cash flow difficulties among other issues.

So far, Voy-voy, a NY based clothing company, Feit, a shoe and accessories company, and Gustin, a jeans company are all using this new concept.

It’s called Mimoona – to learn more and hear testimonials, visit the site and see if it’s something that will work for you. http://www.we.mimoona.com/Projects/1443?share=true&reffID=4299

 

 

Your corporate identity…get it right the first time

Part 1: Focus on your logo

Every company should start out with minimal corporate IDs or branding – logo, name, tag line (value proposition), design templates and color palettes. There should be a template developed that shows how these items are used (in larger companies, a brand book is created that spells out exactly how sizes, placements, colors etc. are to be used ).

This is the core of your company’s identity. Like a skeleton, it supports your body.  Do it early, and do it correctly. And especially don’t skimp on the fees to get it done.  It’s a lot more difficult to correct a brand identity mistake or direction than to establish it the first time – to make a correction, you will have to re-ID your company, and then spend countless dollars and time on PR to explain why the company has changed its basic identity and to overcome confusion created by this change.

I’ve seen a lot of results from websites where designers bid for the logo work.  Some of it is okay.  Okay is not good enough for your company.  A lot of the results are derivative of other logos, and leftover designs an artist hasn’t sold. Remember, you are going to pay for the result.  Pay one time and get it right and it won’t cost you dollars and time down the road.

So invest the money into a designer or firm who gets you.

When it’s my money, I look for someone who is intuitive about what my client or my company is and what they are trying to do/say to the marketplace (how do you know they are intuitive?  Check out what they’ve done for other people…you’ll get a feel for if they have a feel for their clients).  My designer is one of my company’s secret weapons to success.

An interesting take on designers is expressed in this link:

Raise Capital Without Doing Jail Time

No matter what sector your business is in, if you’re looking for money, you’re experiencing firsthand how tough the environment is right now.  And right now with the passage of the JOBS Act, it’s even more confusing than ever (see New York Times article http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/24/s-e-c-advances-new-jobs-act-rule-but-not-crowdfunding/?_r=0).

So what’s a company to do?  Well, there are many options and you can hear about some of them Tuesday Oct. 1, 4-6 PM at the Entrepreneurs University where I, and my co-founder colleague David Schmidt, will be discussing Do’s and Don’ts about fundraising  (http://entreuniv.org/).

But for those readers who are impatient, there are two basic bottom lines or rules to follow:

  • If you are fundraising, make sure you have an attorney who understands the SEC laws and consult with that attorney BEFORE you go out looking for capital
  • Do due diligence on anyone you engage to raise money for you – they must, by law, be registered broker dealers if they are fundraising for you

What happens if you don’t?  See the attached article.  It’s not a pretty story.  But more importantly (yes even more important than the jail time some executives may get) is that if you don’t do fundraising by the book, when you get caught, the forward progress of your company stops cold and all attention is diverted to fixing the problem.  While you’re fixing the problem, your competition can be overtaking you or the market moves on –  not good things for the company.

A tale of how successfully raising capital leads to bankruptcy