Six Personalities You Need For Your Startup
Apr 20 2014

The following is a guest post from Bernd Schoner. Schoner was the founder of ThingMagic, LLC, a garage-grown RFID technology company led by a small group of MIT Media Lab graduates. Young and fresh-face, Schoner guided his company through the ups and downs of a start up that ultimately sold to Trimble Navigation, a multi-billion dollar, multinational tech company, where he currently works as the VP of Business Development.

According to Bernd Schoner, author of The Tech Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide: How to Bootstrap Your Startup, Lead Through Tough Times, and Cash In for Success
The Tech Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide (Amazon affiliate link) (McGraw-Hill, May 2014), assembling your founding team is a make-or-break move that every business faces. In fact, he says that it “determines the path and outcome of a new venture more than any decision in the life cycle of a company.” In his new book, Schoner sheds light on the six core roles needed for a new tech start up.

  1. The Primadonna Genius: Not surprising, technical expertise is the one skill a high-tech founding team can’t do without. You need to have a genius or two to get your team off the ground. The genius’ competency can be highly specific. Let’s face it– your genius is your diva. They will ask for things you’re not sure how you’re going to get done. They will potentially ask you to take a chance on them and look you down with that passion in their eye that compels you to say “yes.” If you’re lucky, your genius will not only bring technical expertise to the table, but also a set of commercial contacts too– an entourage of sorts.
  2. The Leader: Running a new company in a consensus-driven democratic process has its limits, especially when hard decisions need to be made that affect everybody’s lives. Consensus usually requires compromise, which is not necessarily in the best interest of a new tech venture. A founder group with a clear leader in its midst has it easier. Being the leader doesn’t mean more stock or equity, nor does it mean the leader will necessarily be CEO. It just means that the co-founders trust one of their own and are willing to follow, if indeed there is conflict and controversial decisions need to be made.
  3. The Industry Veteran: Any competent marketer can study an industry, get quick insights into how it works, understand who the key players are, and identify products that may prove lucrative for a small venture. However, it takes a long immersion in the marketplace to call yourself an insider, to understand the subtleties of the competitive landscape, to recognize people as true assets (oftentimes despite their titles), and to look through the propaganda of technical collateral and PR campaigns. That’s why the industry veteran is helpful.
  4. Sales Animal: Young high-tech companies are at constant risk of forgetting that they actually need to sell the wonderful technology they invented. A Sales Animal on the founder team helps to contain that risk. The combination of technical insight, founder authority, and sales experience is a hard-to-beat advantage in the competitive marketplace.
  5. The Financial Suit: Professional controllers and CROs are readily available for hire to fill the financial gaps on your team. Remember, though, that financial talent often has its own agenda. Understandably, they are trying to build a career, or make money quickly, or own as much stock as possible by the time your venture is readying itself for an exit. If you can put a skilled co-founder in charge of overseeing the finance function, you may enjoy a little bit of extra peace of mind.
  6. The Superstar: In the midst of silly little problems like ordering office supplies and keeping the office network running, it is easily forgotten how glamorous the role of high-tech entrepreneur can be. The world wants to think of tech founders as superstars, who are doing what the average man or woman cannot. Groom the superstar on your team and you can use her as the backbone of your marketing, recruiting, and PR strategy. Fortunately, almost any combination of eccentricity, nerdiness, and charisma qualifies a co-founder to become a star.

Every start up is different, but the roles he mentions make sense to me.  I think one of the most important roles that some companies overlook is the role of client services.  After your Sales Animal has closed a sale, it’s critical to keep customers happy and feeling cared about.  Turnover in customer’s is hard on any business, but even harder in a start up where resources are scarce and energy to find new customers is limited.  Customers in a technology start-up may be called to serve as references for other potential customers or investors, so in my opinion they should always feel like you are doing your best to do the right thing by them.

What do you think?

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Groundhog Day – February 2, 2013
Feb 2 2013

groundhogHappy Groundhog Day!  According to the Washington Post: Groundhog Day 2013: No shadow for Punxsutawney Phil, so spring is around the corner.  It feels like it’s been Spring in Austin, Texas for a while now.

Like the main character in the movie Groundhog Day (wikipedia), I find that February 2, 2013 has some de ja vu elements to February 2, 2012.  In others it’s completely different.  I think I have grown & learned a lot since last year but apparently I, like many others, still have much to learn.  Guess that’s what makes life worth living: the new & unexpected adventures around the corner vs. being trapped in the same day-to-day experience unable to even drive yourself (while holding a groundhog) over a cliff to escape.

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3 Quirky Business Ideas That May Just Be Brilliant
May 2 2012

Following is a guest post by Amanda Green.  Amanda writes extensively on the subjects of business and personal finance.

3 Quirky Business Ideas That May Just Be Brilliant

Great ideas come from anywhere. You can be standing in line for ice cream and voila—new business plan. That’s part of the glory and excitement of entrepreneurial thinking. It’s like magic sometimes! Lately, I’ve had a few quirky little ideas pop into my hopper that I think may actually be borderline brilliant business models—sorry if that sounds arrogant. The following are my latest offerings to entrepreneurial readers looking for inspiration:

Vending machines for zines—I’ve always loved zines, those little nostalgic holdovers from the 80s that just don’t seem to go away. Many traditional zine makers now operate online, the new village square. With the rise of the Internet, I actually see a niche for a return of physical off-line zines that could make for a good business. I could see it operating out of a vending machine, which could be customized in any number of ways. It may be time to contact 1 800 Vending before someone steals my idea. Although I guess I need to think about how I’m going to get all those zine publishers on board too…

Place based messaging app for parents—Parents use technology too. In fact, stay-at-home moms are some of the newest early adopters of helpful smartphone apps. The success of location based media apps like Foursquare and Gowalla also demonstrate many openings for innovation in this field. I suggest a place-based messaging app specifically designed for parents on the go, offering specialized discounts for check-in’s at parent-friendly venues and businesses. This app could also offer a GPS-like service that may behoove a soccer mom with a minivan full of screaming children.

A parent-friendly Internet radio service—Pandora and Last.Fm are great. In fact, I use them all the time, as do millions of other Internet users. But the problem for a parent is that you can never be sure whether something inappropriate will sneak into your playlist. Sure, they claim to have filters for that, but the reality is parents should be able to have total control over the content they expose their children to without resorting to guesswork. I think there would be a huge market for a parent-friendly internet radio service that operated similarly to Pandora, but with an algorithm that specifically eliminated any untoward subject matter from playlists.

Alright, truth be told, these ideas might require a little start up capital. And some brilliant marketing! But I think with ample time and effort they could catch on and appeal to certain niche markets.

Note: Consideration was received to review, edit and post this article.

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, guest post, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Tillamook Cheese Brings Cheesy Fun To Austin
Apr 3 2012

I just thought this was cheesy fun so I’m sharing the info.  I was trying to see if I could get a group of friends together to meet up at one of the restaurants, but with all of our busy schedules and disparate locations in Austin, it’s proving to be more challenging than I thought.

tillamook® cheese makes austin melt

Local Restaurants Grill Up Tillamook-Themed Sandwiches

Celebrating the Arrival of the Tillamook Loaf Love Tour and National Grilled Cheese Month

WHO:   Tillamook, the 103-year-old, farmer-owned cooperative from Oregon with a reputation as one of the nation’s premier natural cheese makers and 6 partner restaurants in Austin, Texas.

WHAT:     To celebrate the arrival of the Loaf Love Tour, the third annual cross-country mobile sampling tour dedicated to bringing tasty cheese to the people, Tillamook has partnered with a select group of top Austin restaurants to host Tillamook Grilled Cheese Week. Kicking off during National Grilled Cheese Month on April 7th, each restaurant has created a unique grilled cheese featuring Tillamook all-natural cheese slices to honor the sandwich so beloved it has its own month.

Participating restaurants include: Noble Pig Sandwiches serving a Pimento Grilled Cheese made with Tillamook Sharp Cheddar, sweet red peppers, pickled jalapeno and crispy bacon ($8), Max’s Wine Dive serving a Smoked Duck and Tillamook Sharp Cheddar Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions and Watercress ($14), Austin Daily Press featuring a Tillamook Black Forest Ham Grilled Cheese made with a blend of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar and Tillamook Monterey Jack cheeses served with Spicy Ranch ($6), J.Black’s Feel Good Lounge, serving an Open-Faced Grilled Cheese BAT with Tillamook Sharp Cheddar and Tillamook Monterey Jack, Niman Ranch Bacon, Local Texas Tomatoes, Arugula, and Lemon Aioli ($8), FoodHeads, grilling up three specials including a Grilled Tillamook Monterey Jack with Turkey, Jalapenos, Cracked Black Pepper, House Slaw & Honey Dijon on Nine Grain ($7.95) and Hopdoddy Burger Bar offering their version of a grilled cheese in the I Love Lucy Burger, a “Hopdoddy style Juicy Lucy” featuring Angus Beef stuffed with Tillamook Sharp Cheddar ($8).

While rolling around Austin from March 30th to April 18th, the Loaf Love Tour will visit grocery stores and special events, educating attendees about Tillamook products while sampling their all-natural cheeses made with the highest-quality milk from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones*.

WHEN:  Saturday, April 7th to Saturday, April 14th 

WHERE:                  Noble Pig Sandwiches, Max’s Wine Dive, Austin Daily Press, FoodHeads, J.Black’s Feel Good Lounge and Hopdoddy Burger Bar

 To see the tour’s full & detailed schedule of stops in Austin, please visit: LoafLoveTour.com

ABOUT TILLAMOOK:     Established in 1909, the Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) pride themselves on their commitment to providing families with the most consistent, best tasting, highest quality dairy products made in the most natural way possible. The farmer-owned cooperative is famously known for its award-winning, naturally aged cheddars and is quickly becoming one of the top dairy brands in the country. Tillamook offers a variety of cheese, ice cream, butter, sour cream and yogurt products. For more information, please visit Tillamook.com 

* The FDA has stated that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST treated and non-rBST treated cows.

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Why Every Small Business Should Have Inventory Management Software
Mar 8 2012

Following is a guest post by a writer for Ordoro, a company I used to work with while I was at the Austin Technology Incubator.  When she reached out to me to see if I would accept a guest post, I chuckled and thought what a small world it was.  I like the team at Ordoro.  They are doing great things and making a difference for small businesses.

Carolyn is a guest post writer on the subjects of small business management, small business tools, and inventory control. She believes that the right software is an essential part of what it takes for startups to succeed.

Why Every Small Business Should Have Inventory Management Software

Inventory will hog all of your company’s cash if you allow it to do so. Think about it. You pay your suppliers, and you wait for them to ship goods to you. Then you wait for your employees to turn those goods into finished products you can sell. Once the products are ready to sell, you have to wait for customers to buy them. As you may have noticed, turning inventory into cash involves a lot of waiting. That’s why it’s essential that you do everything you can to increase your inventory turnover rate as much as possible. When it comes to inventory control, one of the most effective tools a small business owner can take advantage of is inventory management software. Here’s what inventory management software can do for your small business:

  • Inventory control software helps you identify what you need to order from suppliers at any given time. This kind of software gives you a clear picture of your inventory levels. If your bestselling product is almost sold out, it’s probably crucial that you order more of it as soon as possible. If you aren’t using software that allows you to monitor your inventory levels easily, it’s much more difficult to order what you need when you need it.
  • Small business inventory software helps you identify slow-moving products. If you analyze the data provided by inventory management software, it will be more simple and efficient for you to identify products that are slow-moving. Once you know what isn’t selling, you can order less of it from your suppliers and ultimately have more cash freed up to purchase other inventory that is selling well.
  • Tracking inventory shipments from multiple suppliers can be difficult, and inventory management software can help. It’s crucial that you know when inventory is going to arrive, so you can plan your sales efforts accordingly. Inventory management software is probably the best tool to use if you want to track your orders and shipments from different suppliers.
  • If you’re an e-commerce merchant, inventory management software like the software offered by Ordoro will help you keep track of your inventory across multiple webstores. It’s no small feat to keep track of what’s being sold where and what’s in stock overall as a result. That’s why it’s generally a good idea for e-commerce merchants to enlist the help of some quality software, especially if they’re trying to run a small business without much help from anyone else.

Inventory management software is hardly ever expensive, especially when you consider the ROI. With this type of software, you’ll be able to increase your inventory turnover rate by ordering what you need, halting orders of what you don’t need, getting the most out of your relationships with suppliers, and staying organized no matter how many stores or webstores you own. So, why make things harder on yourself without this integral software tool?

 

Author: | Filed under: austin technology incubator, blogging, entrepreneurship, FYI, guest post | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

Kiva launches Kiva.org/women and Partners with Dermalogica to Give Away $100,000 in Loans
Mar 6 2012

The following is a guest post from Kiva’s press team:

Kiva launches Kiva.org/women and Partners with Dermalogica’s joinFITE to Give Away $100,000 in Loans to Women around the World

Kiva LogoKivaFor those of you who have made loans on Kiva.org in the past, this will come as a piece of good news. For those who haven’t – it’s a double whammy: you’re being introduced to Kiva AND finding out about their newest venture!

First, here’s what Kiva does, in a nutshell: Kiva.org is the world’s first and largest microlending website where anyone, anywhere can help alleviate poverty and empower entrepreneurs across the globe through loans as small as $25. Lending through Kiva creates a ripple effect in a local economy because with as little as $25, you enable an entrepreneur to build their business and bring goods to their community. As these businesses grow, so do other opportunities: to employ other members of the community, or to make enough money to send their children to school and learn to perhaps become business owners themselves one day. So your $25 loan might help lift an entire village out of poverty!

The best part: When the loan is repaid, you can choose to re-lend your money to help another entrepreneur, maintaining a growing cycle of progress. If you want to read some wonderful entrepreneur stories for yourself, check out how Flaura’s photocopy business, Kumri’s sewing shop, Glory’s goats and Grace’s peanut butter came about or reached their potential thanks to Kiva loans.

The latest piece of good news from the folks at Kiva is that, in honor of International Women’s Day, they are launching Kiva.org/women on March 7, 2012 to help empower women and create sustainable change.

To kickstart it, Dermalogica’s joinFITE program is funding a $100,000 Kiva Women free trial program. What does this mean for you? Free money! You’ll be able to make $25 loans to a female borrower of your choice without fronting a single penny (for as long as the Dermalogica money lasts).

Just for the record, Kiva has already been helping women around the world: since its launch in 2005, more than 80% of the loans funded through Kiva have been to women borrowers in 60 countries including the United States. Kiva has connected more than 600,000 women borrowers to nearly 650,000 lenders, crowdfunding more than $200 million in loans to women.

Because women have proven to be such massive agents of change in impoverished communities when given a minimum of resources, this program is designed to focus specifically on them.

Check out the press release on the topic or go ahead make a loan through Kiva.org/women as soon as you have a chance.

Author: | Filed under: diversity, entrepreneurship, fundraising, FYI, guest post, parent stories, working mother | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Experience is Training – How I Got Involved with the Free Dental Project
Mar 24 2011

Following is a guest post by Hannah Daniel.  Hannah manages a blog about dental health and is passionate about making sure people have access to oral care. She also wants to remind everyone to brush and floss every day!

I studied journalism at The University of Texas, but am I a reporter now? Of course not. Isn’t that how it always works?

You may not be exactly where you intended to go in life, but sometimes what you learn is only training for where you are meant to be. You never know where life may take you. Teachability is the key – you must find lessons and be willing to apply them to your current situation.

I chose to major in journalism because the concept fascinated me. How else can you learn so much about so many things and have the ability to share it with others? I even created a complete 100+ page business plan for starting a new magazine myself. Have you ever poured yourself into a project only to shift directions right after you finish? Now imagine all the valuable skills and lessons you learned from the experience!

That’s what happened to me when, quite by accident, I was introduced to the world of brand visibility and marketing, and it fascinated me from the start. I watched the people around me and gained a broader view of the field. I took a job with a company that sells discount dental plans called 1Dental.com. As a brand visibility manager, I have an important part in promoting the company and expanding its online network.

Then my experiences took yet another turn – philanthropic projects. 1Dental is dedicated to helping people have access to low-cost dental plans, but over the years of business, our team has run into many people who cannot afford discount dental plans for even $75 per year. We wanted to do something to help, since our normal business cannot meet these needs.

Even though it’s not in our normal line of work, we recently created a unique Free Dental Care Finder to help people find free or low-cost dental care in their specific area. It has been a long process, but we personally contacted each of these clinics to verify the information in this tool. We even included Google Maps information with street views of each clinic to help pinpoint the location. The project has been fully funded by 1Dental.com, and our hope is that we can help make dental care more accessible for those who can’t afford it across the nation.

Every day I strategize ways to network with people and help people learn about the Free Dental Care Finder. We’ve made a free widget that anyone can put on their own website so people can find free dental care without even leaving their page. I gather information. I write. I publish relevant content. I was specifically trained for journalism, but everything I learned applies to the career in which I now find myself. You never know how your training will help you in the future, even if it seems completely unrelated. Your experiences could actually be classrooms in disguise.


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How to Raise Young Entrepreneurs: Teaching Tips for Parents
Mar 17 2011

The following is a guest post by Alexis Posharo. Alexis is a stay at home mom, freelance writer and representative for Home Security where she writes about security cameras, wireless systems, and other methods to keep your family safe and sound.

As you read about and experience the current economic crisis, it’s hard not to worry about the future and what your children will be able to do with it. Some analysts say that our country’s economy is suffering from a “creativity crisis” – the absence of new, marketable ideas and products. Wall Street needs a breath of fresh air. Will your child be the one to provide it?

If your child is old enough to be in school, he or she is old enough to start learning how to be a successful entrepreneur. Teaching your child how to implement good business skills and creativity will be immeasurably helpful in the future, where these skills will be valuable resources. Of course, not all children will be interested in entrepreneurship, but giving your child the opportunity to discover the world of business early in life is a wise and lasting gift.

You don’t have to know everything about entrepreneurship in order to teach your child the basics. Starting a business requires an individual investment in the process of figuring out the best way to do things for a specific idea. You can provide the tools to do this, but it will be up to your child to do the rest. The following tips will help you stock your child’s entrepreneurship toolbox with valuable skills that will be applicable in the world of business and beyond.

Earning Allowances: How to Use a Chore Chart

If you want to teach your child the reality of personal finance, it’s a good idea to require him or her to earn an allowance rather than simply giving it out each week. To do this, you can set up a chore chart by date with the specific work involved in each chore, the amount you’re willing to pay, and a blank for your child’s initials. For example, next to the date column, you might write “empty the dishwasher” with “compensation” at $0.50. If you have more than one child, this is likely to incite competition – but that’s a part of entrepreneurship.

When your child works for his or her allowance, it’s more likely that he or she will develop good personal finance skills, which are essential to learn before embarking on entrepreneurial efforts. Your child might start comparison shopping without even understanding the concept, simply because it makes money go further. This kind of self-discovery is one of the best ways to learn what it means to be an entrepreneur.

Playing Disney’s “Hot Shot Business” Game

In this online game, you can help your child learn the basics of entrepreneurship. The premise is that when a comic book company leaves town, the local kids are worried that jobs will be lost. They’re eager to solve the problem, but are unsure what they should do – until you come onto the scene. Your first decision is to either start a comic book business to replace the first company or to start another business that would utilize the same resources and keep the same jobs filled. The game is entertaining for kids and it causes them to ask questions, think about potential solutions, and make decisions based on their own knowledge of the situation and predictions. It’s a great way to teach your child how to think like an entrepreneur at a young age.

Playing the “Just for Clicks” Business Game: Online & Offline

The innovative website TeachingKidsBusiness.com has a variety of resources and games for young entrepreneurs, but its “Just for Clicks” game teaches the most real-world skills. Kids from age 8 to 18 can play it both online and offline, and the “game” is to create a business that stands up to peer scrutiny. Your child can start by developing a business name, creating an information product, and naming that product. The game then progresses into assigning a price to the product, creating an advertisement for the product, and “playing” with others to find out how the new business stacks up. Kids can let each other know what they think of business ideas and products, giving feedback and making suggestions. It’s a very basic formula, but it can spark creativity and inspire your child to learn more about entrepreneurship.

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, guest post, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

5 Solid Tips for Marketing Your Small Business Now
Feb 20 2011

Following is a guest post by Maria Rainier.  Maria is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online universities, and what an online degree means in an increasingly technological world. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

As the only employee of an entrepreneur who has recently started renting space for her growing business, I know how important marketing can be. She’s still at the small business stage and wants to keep it that way, but her increased sales can be traced directly to recently implemented marketing strategies that every small business can use. I have been responsible for the majority of the marketing ploys we’ve been using and would like to share the top five with you. Even with a low (or nonexistent) marketing budget, you can still use these tips to generate more sales for your small business.

1. Get a Professional Logo & Letterhead

You might already have a logo in mind, but consulting with a graphic artist is the best way to ensure that you start things off well. You don’t want to use a half-baked logo that ends up being changed a year or two down the road. Commit time and energy to getting the perfect logo and letterhead designs because this decision will pay off for years to come. If you don’t have enough of a marketing budget to hire a graphic designer, try bartering. Talk to friends to see if they know any graphic artists who could use your services in return for theirs. You can even post an ad on Craigslist to see if you get any takers. No matter how you make it happen, having a professional logo and letterhead is an important priority.

2. Start and Regularly Update a Business Blog

A blog is one of the best marketing tools a small business can have, but like most online marketing strategies, it requires regular attention if it’s going to be truly successful. It’s pretty tough to update a blog too often, but many people make the mistake of updating too infrequently. Let your readers know about you, your staff, your business, and even your life philosophy. With small businesses, it’s all about being personable and putting a face (or several faces) on your products and services. Include regular photo updates, write a few survey posts to find out how customers are reacting to your products and services, and request topics from readers so you can write about what they want to know. You’ll be surprised at how well your membership starts to grow.

3. Use Social Media Consistently

Get a Facebook page, start using Twitter, and add yourself to LinkedIn. Spend a few minutes every day on each of these so you can connect with users, let them know that you’re available to answer questions, and update your status or send a quick Tweet to get some attention. Increasing your visibility on these sites can encourage existing customers to interact with you, purchase more products and services, and recommend you to others. It can also attract new customers who search for you on these sites or see your activity on friends’ pages.

4. Send a Monthly Newsletter with Discounts & Special Offers

You can use any email marketing site to do this, but in my experience with Constant Contact, I’ve been impressed with the quantity and quality of newsletters and other emails I can send to customers for a low membership rate. You can try it free of charge for 60 days to see if you think you would use it on a regular basis. If not, there’s no commitment. The most inexpensive plan, which is the one I use, costs $15 per month and lets you send emails to a maximum of 500 contacts. Simply put together a monthly newsletter, preferably with at least one photo and a special offer or coupon code along with an interesting bit of news about your business, then send it to your contacts. To build your contact list, collect email addresses and permission to send a newsletter when customers place orders with you.

5. Synthesize and Brand

Now, connect the dots. Use that logo and letterhead to brand the banner of your blog and website along with the top section of your newsletter. Use the free ColorCop tool to pull the exact colors from your logo so you can use them in HTML for your blog, website, and newsletters. These details really do matter and will increase the likelihood of recognition for your business based on a certain color palette and logo. You should also link to your social media pages from your blog, website, and newsletter so current customers can easily find and “follow” or “like” your business. Finally, create an email signature with links to your social media sites, your website, and your blog. It’s also a good idea to insert a link that takes customers to a sign-up page for your newsletter. These strategies will generate new revenue as well as increased profit from existing customers, so get started today and do something great for your small business.

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, guest post, marketing | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

Bootstrapping Your Start-Up Business with Little or No Money
Jan 26 2011

The following is a guest post by Bill Hazelton, Managing Director of Credit Card Assist, a leading credit card resource site for consumers and small business owners and Sell It! On The Web, an e-commerce and online marketing blog. For other local bootstrapping resources here in Austin, check out the Bootstrap Austin site.

In periods of high unemployment, many of those having a hard time finding a job consider starting their own business as an alternative.  The thought of being your own boss could never be more appealing when you’ve been unemployed for awhile.

Typically, the biggest challenge for most new business start-ups is capital, or more specifically, the lack of capital.  The reality is that traditional sources of financing a new business are a long shot at best, especially in the new economy.

That’s the bad news.  The good news, however, is that many new start-ups are launched with very little money at all.  Michael Dell started his company, Dell Computer, out of his college dorm room for less than $1,000.

There are a countless number of creative ways that you can finance a start-up.  Here are just a few tips on bootstrapping your new startup that I have found particularly beneficial from my own experience:

Outsourcing

Many start-ups don’t have the financial means to hire full-time employees early on so business owners are left no choice but to bootstrap their operations by outsourcing.  Three primary areas in any business that you can effectively outsource are computer programming, web design and software development.  Eventually, my business grew to the point where I needed to hire several full-time employees, but outsourcing was the keystone that provided that opportunity.

Barter and Trade

Instead of paying cash for products and services, bartering can be an extremely effective bootstrapping tool.  Bartering involves trading products and services between complimentary businesses, which is probably more suitable for service-oriented businesses but if you are selling tangible products, there are still opportunities to barter creatively as well.

Partnering with a Complimentary Business

Another effective bootstrapping technique you can use is partnering with a complementary business. Any business in a non-competitive but complementary industry would qualify where you can share costs on facilities, equipment, employees, rent, and advertising.

Internships

Local colleges in your area are a great place to find internship programs that are loaded with students looking for opportunities to earn school credit and gain experience in their field of choice.  Interns are highly motivated laborers and they’re willing to work for next to nothing but they can do more than just save you money.  Internship programs have started to play a much bigger role in transforming smaller businesses.

SCORE Business Counseling

SCORE, also known as “Counselors to America’s Small Business” is a nonprofit association partnered with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) whose mission is to educate entrepreneurs and small business owners, helping them start and grow their companies.

SCORE has 350 offices nationwide that are staffed with more than 13,000 mentor volunteers with extensive business experience and a wide range of business skills.  The mentors are retired business owners and corporate leaders who share their experience and lessons they have learned in their careers.  The advice offered by SCORE’s mentors is free and confidential and has provided guidance for more than 8.5 million small businesses.  You can choose your own mentor, attend free online workshops and get advice online or in-person.


Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship, guest post | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Helping Young Moms Go To School
Jan 22 2011

Here’s a guest post about getting your degree when you still have kids at home by Lisa Darling.  Lisa is a twenty something internet consultant and freelance writer.   She has two degrees in marketing and creative writing.   She loves watching sports, golfing, traveling and supporting the arts.  In her free time, she designs jewelry and spends time with her family.

There Are Options For You!

An article about helping young mothers earn a degree.

As a busy mother I totally understand the obstacles we face when deciding to continue our educations. If you are a working mother like me, you are probably asking yourself, how will I find the time? Who will be with the kids? Can I afford school, plus full time daycare? There are tons of questions that come to mind when you are trying to decide if you are ready to continue your education. These questions aren’t only difficult to answer, but they require you to map out your future life. We, as busy moms, put many things on the back burner, education being one of the main things. It can be a really big step to make.

Now for the good news!

With the advances in not only distance, but online educations as well, we as mothers can now get our education on our terms, in our free time! Sounds too good to be true, huh?  I will admit, I was skeptical, but I have done my research and am here to share my findings.

When my daughter was younger I attempted a campus education and managed to make it through one semester. It not only took me away from all of her newborn moments, but also made me feel like getting things done at home was impossible. It was a stressful situation and adding work on top of that was almost unbearable. So, after that experience I decided to better explore my options and check out what other opportunities were out there for working mothers. What I found was a great outlet and opportunity that I believe every working mother should take advantage of.

Being the skeptic I am, there were plenty of questions that I had. I wanted to know if my degree would hold the same value, what are the requirements, are the prices the same, etc. I’m sure some of you have the same questions, the great news is I have answers!

First is the value of the degree or certification that you receive when earning your education through an online or distance program. This really all depends on the school you choose, which is a very important aspect of earning your education. Finding a school that is nationally recognized and accredited should be first on your check list. You can find tons of information online and can even contact the schools if you have more questions. I always checked the FAQ pages and a lot of my questions would be answered there. When you choose your school, if you choose an accredited school your degree will hold the same value, some well known institutions are even offering some of their programs online. What is so important is that your degree will be just as recognized; the only difference is in the way that you earned it.

Something else that is so important, and is sometimes the reasons that we as mothers don’t take the next step towards a continued education, is the price of tuition. The tuition prices can be more than overwhelming, and trying to find not only the extra time but the extra money is hard. With online and distance education you will save a ton of money. Not only on the schools tuition itself, but also on the money you would have spent traveling to and from. Most online educations are much cheaper because they don’t include some of the campus fees, for recreation and organizations, or even on campus eating. Not to mention, of course, the gas money and other traveling expenses. I was pleasantly surprised at the difference in price between a traditional campus education and an online education.

There are many advantages to earning your education at an online university, and some disadvantages as well. Finding the school that suits you depends of course, on your own personal requirements. I was excited by my findings and wanted to share them with other mothers who may have had the same issues as me. I have since started a distance education program and thoroughly enjoy it! I work at my own pace, on my own time and that is something as a busy mother that is crucial. I hope that this information answered some of the questions you may have had, and sparked your interest in a continued education. In today’s working world it is coming increasingly important to have a college education, and we as mothers deserve the same opportunities as everyone else. Taking advantage of these new opportunities was an easy decision for me, but may not be as easy for you. I do hope that you will find a school that suits your needs and take your education to the next level. Do some exploring and find the education path that is right for you, you are sure to be surprised at all of the opportunities!

Author: | Filed under: guest post, parenting, working mother | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Posts In Progress
Jan 17 2011

I know it’s been a little while since I’ve posted. I have a few mulling around in my head and a guest post waiting to be published that I haven’t had time to review. In case you are interested, here are the potential titles of those posts: “Signal to Noise – What Really Is Noise?” and “Everything In Moderation – What Really Is Moderation?” and “Helping Young Moms Go To School” and “Something About Entrepreneurship (well, that’s not really the title but I guess it could be!).”

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Are Your Children’s Identities Safe?
Nov 16 2008

The following is a guest post by a friend and fellow entrepreneur Julie Fergerson.  We met several years ago while each of us was in the middle of our very own first high tech start-up.  Julie is currently a VP at Debix.  Debix provides services to help you monitor your credit.  My husband and I signed up a while ago, and we recently signed up our kids.  We were at her daughter’s 5 year old birthday party that she mentions below.  We just got the results back for our kids who were part of a batch of 83 kids that were evaluated.  Thank goodness our kids are safe but 3 of those kids had compromised credit.  Check out Julie’s post below to learn more about how to protect your children’s identities.

Are Your Children’s Identities Safe?

Hi, my name is Julie and I am a mother of two little kids, age 2 and 5.  I am also an executive at Debix, the Identity Protection Network, and have been chasing criminals and stopping fraud over the past decade.  Recently, I helped design a new product to protect children’s identities.  As usual with any new product launch (July 28th, 2008), I asked my friends at my daughter’s fifth birthday party to enroll and give me feedback on what they thought. 

I was stunned to find that two of the fourteen children at the party (age 4 and age 9) had someone else using their identities.  This hit so close to home that I decided to research the size of the problem.

So we scanned 500 children who were under the age of 18, and found that 1 in 20 kids (5%) already have someone else using their social security number.  To put that in perspective, that means about one kid in every classroom in the US is a victim of identity theft.  Worse yet, the average child victim had over $12,000 in debt and 12% of the child victims are age 5 and younger – shocking!

To ensure the results were accurate we hired Javelin Strategy and Research, a top-tier analyst firm to analyze the results and report their conclusions.   You can download the research report here: www.debix.com/research.

You can hear stories from the parents about their children being victims at (http://news.debix.com/index.php/categories/child-victims/).

As I talk about this problem with other Moms, the first question is always, “what does it mean that their kid is a victim of identity theft?”  It means the child will not be able to use his credit when he needs it for things as important as college loans, first apartments or even a first job.  As part of my research I met Lindsey, a college student at Texas State, who is living this problem.  When she applied for her first internship competing against 400 other candidates, she was thrilled when she got the job and received the company welcome gift.  Unfortunately a few weeks later, she received a letter rescinding her job offer – she was told she was not hirable because someone else was using her social security number.  After what she calls “a full time job” of working to clear her name for six months, she was able to restore her identity and get the job.  

The next question I get is “how can this happen?  Surely companies know the social security number belongs to a kid.”  The answer is no.  There is no system in place to warn companies and the Social Security Administration does not publish a database of social security numbers with names and ages of kids.  The social security administration has a formula for issuing a social security number, but you can’t tell the difference between a number that was issued to a 39 year old immigrant to the US and a newborn.  About all you can tell from the number is the year and location it was issued (check out SSA Algorithm for issuing SSNs.)

It is our job as parents to protect our children and give them every possible advantage when they become an adult.  We have to protect our kids as best we can so when they start out they have a clean record and aren’t starting adult life at a disadvantage.

The solution I built at Debix finds the problems and restores the child’s identity for $20 per year.  While we try to keep our pricing affordable, we also took the time to publish the steps a parent would need to do if they wanted to protect their kids on their own at www.childrenscreditcrisis.org

I also worked with the FBI to produce a webcast to teach parents how to protect their kids from Identity Theft.  Feel free to pass this information along.

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Do you have any stories to share about identity theft either from personal experience or a friend’s?

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneur, FYI, guest post, parenting, working mom, working mother | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Household CFOs – Take Charge of Family Finances
Sep 14 2008

All of us managing households during these challenging economic times, should read Mechel Glass’ guest post below.  Mechel is Household CFO’s Director of Education. 

On top of the other things I do, I manage the finances in our household, and I can appreciate the time and thought it takes to make sure your finances are in order.   It’s even more important when you have a family and kids to plan for.  I can’t say that I’m an expert at it and I’m sure I could do better if I had more time sit down with my husband to think about it, but we do the best we can.  Thankfully, I had a mother, who like Mechele, taught me the value of saving, budgeting, and not overspending when I was young.  I also had the inner drive to work hard, be independent, and support myself.  So it wasn’t so hard to live within my means as I got older.  Thanks Mom!

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My daughter, Sarah Amirah, has had a piggy bank since the day she was born. Of course, it took a few years before she was aware that it was filling up with coins and bills. But now that she’s four, she’s on her second piggy bank and is somewhat aware that she is accumulating some serious coinage with the change I let her have from trips to the grocery store. 

Her first piggy bank is one of those old-fashioned ceramic ones that you can’t sneak into. I think the only way to get at the cash is to smash it. Smash the pretty gift from her grandmother to get the cash? That won’t be an easy decision! 

Although it may seem like I started financial education very early with Sarah, I think there is no reason to postpone teaching children little lessons about saving. Truth is, many adults these days are putting themselves at risk because they never developed savings habits. 

Through my position at Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) of Greater Atlanta, I talk to people everyday who are so overwhelmed with handling day-to-day finances like paying bills and managing bank accounts and credit cards that they can’t make plans for unexpected emergencies or long-term needs. Adding even more stress is the increased cost of groceries and gas, which has led many of these families to the verge of financial crisis. 

The reality is two in three “Household CFOs” – those primarily responsible for the household finances – do not have an emergency savings account, putting them at financial risk in the event of a crisis. Our recent national survey also found that nearly one in three households has not prepared a will, purchased insurance of any kind or made other preparations for a significant life-changing event. Yet, almost half of those surveyed have already experienced some sort of financial setback within their household in the past year.

In response to our survey findings and the current economic conditions, we are launching a national financial awareness campaign, “Household CFO” and enhancing our CredAbilityU online education program to offer free on-demand courses, interactive webinars and financial management tools. Through this program, we hope to provide tangible solutions that real Household CFOs can use in today’s economically challenging times. 

At CredAbilityU.org, online classes are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on a variety of topics – from homeownership to money management to dealing with bankruptcy. Live webinars on special topics are also scheduled throughout each month. You can also sign up to receive the Household CFO Report, our free newsletter, which offers monthly tips and advice on how to take control of family finances. 

But don’t stop at CredAbilityU.org; there are a host of free resources available that offer practical information and helpful tools, including:

  • Ÿ Consumer advocate Ilyce Glink’s site, www.ThinkGlink.com
  • Ÿ Credit score-reporting site, www.MyFico.com
  • Ÿ Free credit report site, www.AnnualCreditReport.com 

And, don’t get discouraged – it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but there is help out there and it won’t take long before you feel more capable and confident in your role as the chief financial officer of your household.

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