Now that the school year is in full swing and the kids are out of the house for a good chunk of the day, you may be toying with taking that passion project and turning it into a business. It’s an exciting trend we see every fall on 99designs âa surge of budding mompreneurs looking to hang a virtual shingle in the business world.
But whether setting up a consultancy, establishing an e-commerce shop, or finding a developer for that app idea you have, there are a few steps you’ll want to take to ensure your business and brand looks legitimate and professional right out of the gate. To command significant income and repeat business, creating the right image is essential to giving both you and your prospective customers confidence in your venture.
Based on a combination of my personal experience as an e-commerce entrepreneur and from my years working with small businesses on 99designs, I understand far too well the feelings of uncertainty that come with venturing out on you own.
Here are a few ideas to help you “fake it til you make it” big to overcome those feelings of uncertainty and get you on the path to success.
1. Get the Right Name
Start by choosing a memorable name and corresponding URL for your business, ensuring it’s unique and available. To that point, if having a website is a core part of your business be sure to check popular domain sites like GoDaddy.com or Namecheap.com for its availability. Don’t be afraid to get creative if you need to, (e.g., use a hyphen, put part of your business name in the URL, etc.). Poll your friends and family if you need to help selecting a name that fits you and your business.
2. Set up to Get Paid
Open a business checking account to keep business and personal expenses separate, and leverage free or inexpensive software-based invoicing platforms like Quickbooks for Small Business or Freshbooks that help you send track expenses, easily export Profit & Loss reports and allow you to easily invoice customers in a professional manner. If you’re pursuing a retail venture, check out Square or PayPal to be able to accept credit card payments. Nothing says “I’m a business” like being able to take payment for your products or services.
3. Get a Logo and Brand Identity
Once you have a name, create a logo, business card and corresponding online presence (website or social media page) that helps you stand apart from the competition.
Before enlisting a logo designer or a site like 99designs for a logo design, take the time to thoroughly think through the mission of your business and the differentiators you’ll be providing over competitors. Collect examples of colors, logos and even packaging whose aesthetics you like to provide guidance to the designer so he or she has some idea on where to start.
Some other principals to consider:
Pare down and look for a design that delivers a simple visual message that aligns with your company’s attributes.
The last thing you want is to be mistaken for your competitor. Opt for distinctive colors, shapes and symbolism.
Think about what’s appropriate for your industry and audience. Will customers be attracted to a logo that emphasizes strength and speed? Friendliness and approachability?
For a logo to do its job and provide long-term brand recognition, you need it to stick around as your business grows. That means avoiding trends.
An effective logo is easily recognizable on any medium that bears your brand â whether it’s your business cards, website, Twitter avatar, or packaging. Make sure it works in both full color and black, at any size so it renders well on a print piece or a digital device.
4. Get Online
Now that you have your logo, you should start thinking about establishing an online presence. For most businesses, a website is critical. Depending on the type of business you’re running, it may be easiest to start with a templated platform such as Shopify.com or Weebly.com that will be easy to manage on your own and look professional when you’re starting out. I recommend shopping around to find the resource that best fits your brand aesthetic and an interface that feels most intuitive to you.
In some cases, and depending on who your target customer is, at least in the earliest stages you may be able to get by with simply setting up a social media profile for your business, such as a Facebook page or Instagram profile. But either way, these pages should be aligned with your logo and brand look and feel for consistency and provide easily visible contact information for how to reach you.
5. Start Socializing
Creating profiles for your company and managing several social media channels can seem daunting, so start with just the one or two channels most relevant to your business â for example, LinkedIn for most professional services. Be sure to also update your personal profiles with links to your new business.
Send an email out to your network to let people know what you’re doing, and make sure to link to your website and company’s social profiles in all your correspondence to make it really easy for people to find and follow you. Don’t be shy about reaching out to follow “friendlies” in your network or industry and asking them to do the same.
6. Beef up your “staff”
Chances are you’ll be wearing more than a few hats when you first start out, but your customers and prospects don’t need to know that. Consider creating some email aliases to create the appearance of a fuller staff, e.g., “[email protected]” or “[email protected]” or using a virtual voicemail service like Grasshopper to set up an inexpensive business-only phone number.
What methods do you use to create a larger than life persona for your business? Let us know in the comments.
At Apollo Box, we help customers discover, collect, and share the worldâs most creative products. In order to accomplish this mission, we needed to build an audience on social media. Starting a successful business requires gathering a strong following to support your mission. As a new small business, gaining that initial following can be incredibly hard.
When we started in 2015, we launched our Facebook page as soon as possible so we could start to gain a following and get to know our target audience. From there, we worked on perfecting our content and interacting with our followers. As we grew and continued to improve, our followers continued to increase. Our Facebook page was vital in growing our customer base and bringing people to our store.
Here are a few tips on how we grew from the beginning until now.
Make Interesting Content
We learned early on that it was better to engage fans with our content rather than hard selling our products. Our post descriptions are meant to encourage discussion. We use pretty pictures and sometimes provide videos to help people learn more about the products.
We also have the benefit of having very interesting products. One of our early posts about our Creepy Baby Face candle with tears sparked a lot of discussion and craze around the product. That type of organic interaction really helps to boost our followers.
We started mixing in our daily blog posts later on. Our blog was initially set up to introduce future products from vendors that are still in the crowdfunding stages. These posts allow us to capture the imagination of our audience and keep them updated on the latest innovations in our field before they reach the market. We also write about our current products and the stories behind them.
We began running our Instagram in a similar manner to our Facebook. Once we did some initial testing and settled on a comfortable format for our posts, we needed to figure out the right times to post them. For both Facebook and Instagram, we generally send out two or three posts spread throughout the day to maintain a consistent presence on peopleâs social media feeds while not overloading them. This increase in the quantity and quality of our content also helped grow our Instagram followers from around 500 to over 4,500 in the span of three months.
Interact with your audience
As soon as we started, we knew that we wanted to add a personal touch to our social media pages. At the beginning, our founder would personally engage with the Facebook community and start discussions to keep people engaged. As our fan base grew, we scaled our interactions to retain our followers.
One of our first events was a promotion for our Levitating Speaker. We challenged our fans to try and make their own levitating device out of ordinary magnets for the chance at a free Levitating Speaker from our store.
People got very engaged and made their own experiments, which helped us to grow a lot of followers. These events really help our Facebook followers stay engaged with our brand.
The same can be said of other social media. We have been very successful on Instagram by engaging with our followers and answering questions and comments. On Twitter, keeping and growing followers is highly dependent on engaging with them via retweets and replies. Choosing when and how to respond to others on Twitter can make a big difference.
Itâs not uncommon to see negative feedback on social media. Negative comments should be handled directly, respectfully, and uncritically. We definitely donât want to delete them. If we are able to talk to the person in a friendly and honest manner, we might be able to turn criticisms into positive feedback.
Donât be Afraid to Fail, Be Patient
We had to try all different types of posts before we got a feeling for what works. Donât be afraid to fail. Sometimes, we set up a post and it wouldnât gain any traction for two weeks or even a month before it suddenly skyrocketed in popularity. Sometimes we needed to be patient to see results.
It took us a lot of trial and error before we found the perfect alignment for our Facebook posts. We needed to give enough information, but not so much that people wonât read it. We also had to make sure to include interesting visuals to keep people from scrolling past our posts.
Be Data Driven, Use Advertising Intelligently
Early on, we needed to use advertisements to drive our initial traffic. But we needed to ensure that our content was interesting enough to retain our audience and grow our organic traffic as well. If the posts are boring, even if they are boosted, no one will like it.
As you learn more about how to craft your content, you need to monitor the performance using Facebook and Google Analytics. Tracking the post performance helps to determine what type of content works best for your audience.
There are plenty of third-party tools for Facebook that can boost the reach of your advertising campaigns besides Facebookâs own Power Editor. The most popular of these is probably Ad Expresso. Other tools such as Owaya, Social Ads Tool, and Ad Stage all work similarly, but introduce different features and functionality.
Work with Social Media Influencers
We work with influencers across different media platforms. This helps us to reach out on platforms where we have less of a presence and bring together people around common interests. Influencer marketing is a great way to generate sales. Sales are often generated the moment an influencer mentions a product, depending on the size of the influencerâs channel and the length of the campaign.
When looking for influencers, we look for people who are creating original content and actively engaging with their audience. Their reach and target audience are important to consider, because it will determine the value they have for your business.
Influencers act as a link between a brand and market awareness. Influencers are unrivaled in the power they have to build awareness. They often rank far above traditional PR strategies, and are very important for gaining exposure in highly saturated marketplaces.
We have found a lot of influencers through YouTube, because people often want to know how a product works before they buy it. At Apollo Box, we let our influencers select products they are interested in reviewing. Once we establish the relationship, they become long-term partners who we share products with on a regular basis.
We are always looking for new influencers. Contact us if you are interested.
At Apollo Box we help customers discover, collect, and share the worldâs most creative products. We hand-pick every product from vendors around the world. Find unique gifts for your family and friends, and use augmented reality to virtually place them in your room before you buy them. With our curated AR shopping platform, a new era of online shopping is here.
Weâve all wrestled with the âCan I really have it all?â argument in our own heads. But first, you need to define what that means for you, personally; âHaving it allâ is relative.
Once I knew what I wanted, the second thing I did was make sure I made it happen. I am not oversimplifying an effort that certainly takes careful consideration, but, if you genuinely listen to your heart and pursue what youâre passionate about, you can make anything happen.
Or maybe you canât. You canât teach yourself to be an entrepreneur. I donât think you can learn an extraordinary work ethic either.
Without these pillars to support you, you should instead work for someone. Get a job and build a solid career as a member of an existing organization.
Growing a business requires a unique type of sacrifice â but if itâs in your DNA, itâs a sacrifice you welcome. Whether that intangible exists in your blood or you absorbed it from your environment, (for me, it is both), then you have the courage to change the things you can. Build that enterprise. Thrive.
Today I am a really good mom and successful business owner who contributes to my community. I am proud to make that statement. Here are some of the practical steps I have taken to keep the balls in the air and my sanity intact.
Have a Routine
The number one thing to balancing my business and family is to have a morning routine. I have found that the days I donât do my normal morning routine my day seems to be out of balance. I like to start off each morning exactly the same way. As a business owner, every day presents a different schedule once I arrive at my office; and a different set of challenges. If my day can at least start the same way, I am more mentally prepared for the one ahead.
I spend Saturday mornings planning my meals for the week based on the evening commitments I have for the following week. I take my boys to the farmerâs market each Saturday to buy those items I need to make meals for the upcoming week. Sundays I typically meal prep as much as I can to make the week go smoothly. Every evening after dinner I get lunches and items ready for work and school the next day. This allows me to get out the door quickly in the morning.
I block schedule my calendar to meet with all the important people in my work life and family life. Building in set times of your day to handle routine items will help keep you on track and focused. Also, it is vitally important to your organizationâs success to schedule set times to meet with all the heads of the departments you personally manage on either a weekly or a monthly basis.
This will drastically improve the communication within your company. Block scheduling goes for your personal life as well. Setting aside the time to handle your personal obligations in your calendar will help keep you balanced. This includes scheduling dates with your spouse!
Stay Physically Active
Participating in group classes or group exercises will allow you to release stress. I take part in the Beachbody programs for my workouts. These programs can range from one month to 90 days. I wake up in the morning, go into my basement where I have my fitness equipment and look at the daily calendar to see which workout I need to do that day. I watch the videos and follow along with the coaches.
Working out at home eliminates the need to pack a bag for the gym while having a video to follow can help keep you on track. This also allows your children the opportunity to see you living a healthy lifestyle, and they end up following your lead.
I utilize a few outside services to free up my time. I put all household groceries like garbage bags, diapers, wipes, cleaning and paper products on auto shipment from an online retailer. It avoids me running out of things at the last minute and eliminates the hassle of toting a baby and a four-year-old into the store to pick up a roll of paper towels! I also tapped into a cleaning service for my house.
I can easily handle the normal daily maintenance, but the full house cleanings can take much longer with two little ones. Not to mention I would rather spend those few hours with the boys!
Donât Stress Over Everything
I do my best to stay even-keeled. Running a business is stressful, having a family also has its own stresses. Staying calm in the midst of the chaos and not getting worked up over things really makes for a better life. When you get stressed, it creates a tense environment for your employees and for your children.
Each of these solutions resolved a specific pain point for me. Some of them may do you absolutely no good as they do not address your pain points.
We are all pretty good at making to-do lists, wish lists, bucket lists. But when you can look a list of stumbling blocks in the eye and figure how to take them on and move forward, thatâs when youâll see an influential person looking back at you in the mirror.
Define what feels triumphant for you. Use no one elseâs definition or standard. Apply the answers that support the happiness. And therein lies your balance.
It canât really be that much of a surprise, can it? That your productivity is directly influenced by what you eat? I mean, if you throw the wrong fuel in a car, then of course it is going to have less oomph when you press down on the gas pedal. The same happens in our bodies. Youâre going to get out what you put in.
Put in junk and your productivity will drop. Put in the right stuff and youâll get more hours out of every day, by remaining at peak productivity until long past when the cows come home.
But why is that? Thatâs what weâre going to explore today.
The release rateÂ
Not all foods release their energy at the same rate. Some food sorts â and here Iâm talking about pasta, bread, cereal and soda, give up their energy easily. That means that they give us a real boost for a little while, after which it will quickly drop.
Others like high-fat meats, in the meantime, give up their energy more slowly â which is good â but require a lot of digestion to do so â which is bad, as it means things like oxygen get diverted downwards instead of to the brain, which makes us groggy.
Weâve got a pretty good intuitive idea of this kind of thing, but this doesnât always mean we make good choices. Often when we go to have our lunch weâre at low energy, as weâve already used up our reserves from our breakfast. And so, we end up intuitively making choices that are going to give us a quick and easy bursts, like french-fries or mozzarella.
After all, these are often cheaper, get served up faster so that we can go to work more quickly, and â as our self-control is also dependent on our glucose level â are the go-to choice for most of us. They feel like the right choice, even though the advantages are short-lived, while weâll suffer in terms of productivity for the rest of the day (to not even mention what it will do for our health and life-expectancy).
What to doÂ
The first step is to realize that you canât just get more information and hope that that will change things. After all, weâre collecting more and more information about global warming all the time, and how much has that changed your behavior?
Instead, whatâs going to be far more effective is putting together an action plan.
The first step is to start making decisions before you get hungry. This means choosing what youâre going to eat for lunch in the morning, for example. If youâre ordering food, make sure youâve had a snack about 10 to 15 minutes before you do so. This will satisfy some of the sugar cravings youâve got, raise your self-control, and thereby make it far more likely that youâll end up making the right choice.
In fact, taking regular snacks is a very good idea. Donât wait until lunch. Instead also install snacks throughout the day. Again, itâs best to choose your snacks before youâre hungry. So, put a few things into your bag for the day.
And donât punish yourself with snacks that might be healthy but arenât very appetizing, as theyâll look even less so when youâre looking for a snack. Also be aware that granola bars might have managed to market themselves as healthy, but theyâre not.
Instead, aim for nuts, fruit and perhaps a few vegetables like carrots. These will keep you going for much longer and will help you avoid spikes and falls.
Good for the body and mindÂ
Yes, youâre right, itâs ambitious for you to take in fruit and vegetables to the office. That said, it really does make a big difference. If you can manage to eat more of these kinds of things this wonât just make you physically better off, but will also serve to make you mentally better off â in that they donât just make you focus better, but also make you happier and more engaged, which is just as important.
After all, itâs so much easier to work if we donât have to push ourselves to do so but instead are simply interested, motivated and engaged. Now if it is true that eating a few pieces of fruits and more vegetables will mean that we donât have to spend as much time fighting that inner battle, then that would be fantastic, wouldnât it?
Because when you do that, you can be more productive, keep working longer and make certain that you can do everything that youâre supposed to do, instead of being forced to look at top websites or considering taking on a partner so that you can get others to do the work you canât.
And that will mean youâll just have that bit more money to take home at the end of the month!
Putting the right fuels into your body is a matter of understanding that weâre weak when weâre hungry and creating a plan that makes it easier for yourself to make the right choices when youâre there.
A great way to do that is to make certain that weâve made the choice about what weâre going to eat before we no longer have the self-control to make the right ones. Another way is to make certain that we take in enough foodstuff throughout the day that we donât actually experience a massive crash and therefore donât have to worry (quite as much) about making the wrong choices.
If we can take these precautions then it will be far easier to avoid the wrong fuels and make certain that our engine keeps purring along. Now that has to be worth it, donât you think?
If you could ever label something as being a âdouble-edged swordâ that can work for you or against you, technology would be the perfect example.
Technology is interwoven into literally every element of our lives today. As a business owner, this creates both an incredible opportunity, and a scary scenario where the landscape has the capacity to change right under your feet.
Technology offers enormous value to any business owner. If you havenât already adapted, CRM (customer relationship management) software has redefined the way we interact with our clients and manage our new customer acquisition process.
Accounting and bookkeeping software has made keeping good books straightforward, and almost fun. Inventory management is now something that can be managed by a single person with a good system, and marketing has been completely redefined by the Internet, social media and other technology platforms. In some ways, itâs leveled the playing field which is very exciting.
One hundred years ago, very few business people had the means to compete with larger entities at any level. Everything was just too expensive. Now, you can start a business online, you can register your company with the state or Federal Government without leaving your bedroom, you can market to get new customers from your computer screen; the possibilities are literally endless.
By staying on top of technology, spending the time to research and getting to know what tools are available for you, technology can be leveraged to grow your business and build fantastic opportunities.
Kodak is an interesting story. If you are over the age of 20, you probably associate Kodak with the biggest brands in the world, Coca-Cola, Ford, Nike, etc. would all be in this category.
How could it be that a mega-giant of a company like Kodak could have completely failed the way they did and filed bankruptcy in 2012?
Simply put, they failed to invest and listen to technology, and the market changed right underneath them. Mooreâs Law was first developed in 1975 when the founder of Fairchild Semiconductor, Gordon Moore made the profound statement that technology would double in computing power every two years.
The power and speed of the evolution of technology make this issue even more profound.
Kodak knew about digital cameras, they had many of the patents for the technology and the cameras and were in some ways ahead of the curve. What Kodak didnât realize was that the digital cameraâs capacity was evolving so quickly that the technology would allow for extremely high-quality pictures from a small device in a much shorter time period than they had anticipated. This really rapid change in photography took a 100-year-old company to complete failure in a matter of about 5 years (1997 â 2012).
So what does this mean for us, regular, small to mid-sized business owners who use technology but certainly wouldnât be lumped into a category with Kodak? Pay attention to technology.
Some of us, myself included, are just not very technologically adept. I can turn on a computer and use the system after someone teaches me, but Iâm not skilled in writing code or understanding the intricacies of a database. So if youâre like me, have people on your team who can be at the forefront of this and support you in making better decisions when it comes to technology.
The good news is that with the web and constant access to new information, there really is no shortage of ways to stay on top of the technological evolution. There is one thing that is for certain, technology plays a pivotal role in all of our lives.
Take a step back and look at your own house for a moment, I bet you’ll be surprised at how many devices you actually have in your home. The average American owns 3.6 devices, so a traditional home could feasibly have 10-20 total without much effort.
We are more connected and technology driven than ever before, and that trend doesnât look to be slowing down at all. âšâš
You and your business need to be aware and understand how this impacts your business model so you can avoid being the next Kodak.
Niche discovery is one of the most important aspects in business branding. Youâve got to know who youâre talking to.
You can say all the right things for all the right reasons, but if you’re talking to the wrong people, it will never matter. Click to Tweet
So, how do you create a customized, right person profile, one that allows for growth and expansion, all the whileÂ retaining and honoring your existing client base?
Customers don’t want to be sold to, they want to be inspired. Click to Tweet
Potential customers have landed on your page because they have a need or aÂ goal in mind.Â Itâs your job to understand what theyâre looking for and let them know how you can help.
Take note, that while theyâre visiting your site in search of a solution, you have mere moments to convince them that they should care about what youâre offering and that youâre their best option. With so much competition customers know they have a choice- plenty of choices. Thatâs why itâs so important to show them that you get it -you getÂ them-Â by speaking in a voice that resonates.
The second a potential customer lands on your site is when their relationship with your brand begins. Itâs up to you to decide how the rest of the story goes.
Here are nine things to carefully consider when shaping your most-likely-to-buy persona.
Theyâre among the same questions I ask clients when they come to me withÂ niche discoveryÂ issues. Dig deep, be honest, take your time. Your answers will help funnel the masses into a pretty little niche thatâs just perfect for you.
1. | DEMOGRAPHICS
Whatâs their age?
2. | THEIR STOMPING GROUNDS
Where do they hang out?
Locally? A house? Alone? A camper? Within your country? And does it matter?
This meansÂ both online and in their communities.
Forums? Facebook? You Tube? Twitter? Concerts? Coffee houses? The mall? With friends?
3.| THE PERSONAL CONNECTION
What aspects of your life will they most relate to?
Parent? Education? Style? Age? Location? A mutual taste in Pins?
4. | THE PROFESSIONAL CONNECTION
What aspects or facets of your work with they most relate to?
Reputation? Referrals? Testimonials? Body of work?
5. | THEIR NEEDS
What are the pain points that bring people to you to seek help?
What goal do they need to meet or need do they want to fill?
6. | YOUR SOLUTIONS
What sorts of solutions are your right people seeking?
Tangible? Intangible? Be specific.
How can/do you fill current marketplace voids?
7. | YOUR QUALIFICATIONS
What do you offer that the competitor does not?
Why canât they do it themselves?
Why are you the best person to help them?
How are you qualified?
8. | YOUR WRONG PEOPLE
You canât work with everyone. And you shouldnât want to. Remember: Quality trumps quantity.
What are the warning signs of your wrong person?
9. | YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL
Finally, figure out what the ultimate compliment a client [or potential client] could give you in regard to your business. Then, work to create that experience in all you do. You’ll create a loyal customer base who comes back again and again.
How do you define your right person? Let us know in the comments.
Reselling is a broad industry filled with enticing opportunities for savvy business leaders, and its recent rapid expansion makes it even more exciting to explore.
What Is Reselling?
Reselling is a general term that applies to many industries. It involves the purchase of products or services directly from a distributor or manufacturer and selling them again at a markup to businesses and/or consumers.
Undoubtedly, you’re already familiar with retail, which is the largest form of reselling, as it enables buyers to purchase a quantity of goods and resell them to customers through digital or physical shops.
There are other types of resellers, including:
- Drop shippers. Like retailers, drop shippers purchase products from manufacturers and resell them. However, drop shippers usually do not manage their own inventory; instead, they sell items (typically online) and convey orders to manufacturers or other retailers for distribution.
- Channel partners. Exceedingly large companies, like Cisco and Microsoft, tend to ally with smaller regional businesses called channel partners. Though channel partners are smaller, they are better equipped to sell goods, while the larger manufacturers focus on innovating and producing.
- Value-added resellers. Most popular in tech, value-added resellers (or VARs) improve upon the items they resell to benefit their customers. In addition to certain products, VARs might provide useful services, support, or complementary products from other vendors.
How Do I Start Reselling?
Reselling is safe and legal as long as you follow the proper laws and vendor guidelines. For individuals, once you purchase an item, it is yours to do with what you wish. Thatâs why no companies are trying to shut down thrift stores or prohibit garage sales.
However, there are a few wrinkles when you decide to resell as a business. Unless you operate as an official reseller â one who has secured the knowledge and consent of applicable vendors â you cannot sell original warranties on products or use trademarked logos or names to advertise. Doing so will undoubtedly result in costly legal battles that will stall your reselling business before it starts.
Thereâs a better way to break into the business of reselling that doesnât entail covert ops or potential lawsuits. As with any business, reselling requires research and planning to execute successfully; here are a few steps to get you started:
- Draft a business plan. Above all else, your reselling business is a business, which means you will need a plan to guide your decisions. Learning about successful resellersâ strategies might be useful.
- Find your product. Resellers donât resell just anything; every reseller has a niche, and most do business with specific types of products. You should look for products or services that pique your interest, that you already know a substantial amount about, or feel comfortable becoming an expert on.
- Find your vendor. Not all vendors (or manufacturers) are created equal. No matter what, you should seek professional counsel while you review potential merchant agreements to ensure you can tolerate the terms and conditions.
- Learn about your channel. Often, you will become a member of a broader regional reselling network, which can help you stay organized and connected during your early years. Channel partners usually have some agreements regarding competition that you should learn before you begin attracting clients.
Why Does Reselling Work?
Reselling works for companies who want to make a profit without having to develop or manufacture products of their own.
Unbeknownst to many, manufacturers of some of the most popular items don’t have sales departments of their own. Major tech companies, in particular, are too focused on developing new technologies to have time to dedicate to managing in-house sales and marketing teams, and juggling the needs of customers from all over the world.
These vendors will instead partner with regional reselling businesses that have the time and resources to provide exceptional customer service. In this case, all three parties benefit as vendors see their products distributed around the world with no marketing or sales costs, customers receive the attention they want and need, and resellers make substantial profits.
Itâs a synergetic relationship that works wonders.
Note from The Mogul Mom:
For more on getting your business retail ready check out these resources:
What are the good habits that make a business successful?
What are the bad habits?
How do youÂ eliminate bad habits and embrace the good ones?
Many of these may be obvious, but we all need constant reminders on what habits can make or break any business. The habits to follow are applicable to any kind of business whether big or small, online, retail, service, or any other.
While entrepreneurship is promising, a lot of start-ups and even established businesses fail along the way. Thus, it is good to step back regularly and evaluate the way business was done in the past in order to make the necessary adjustments, if any.
Here are some areas where business performance may be evaluated.
Businesses, no matter how informed, must always take risks. It’s a risk to start a business, a risk to add a product, a risk to improve a product, a risk to diversify. Business growth is impossible without taking risks. Of course, one can manage risks through using a well-developed business plan, but there are always going to be things beyond your control like natural disasters, crime, and economic downturns. Business owners need to have persistence to achieve significant results. Good planning will help to minimize these risks.
Planning and research
These are key components of any business. Having a set plan brings not only focus, but also ease in implementing your business strategy. It’s a guide not only for the owner, but for the employees. A plan allows your business to be pro-active by making use of up-to-date information vis-Ă -vis the business goals. It’s then easier to amend the short or long term plans in response to new trends or opportunities that may arise. Your plan helps you manage time as it provides a measure to evaluate whether the business is doing well. You should create both a short and a long-term plan to direct your company’s growth.
It’s true that a business owner has to take care of a myriad of functions. However, it’s counter-productive to try to do all sorts of things at the same time. Micro-managing your business takes away valuable time that may be used instead for big-ticket items such as strategizing or planning. The truth is, most people are not designed to multi-task. It’s more efficient to do one task at a time, while sufficiently dividing your time in a whole day to do a fair amount of work for every urgent task. The key is planning, which determines what tasks are urgent and significant compared to non-urgent and simple ones.
Furthermore, it’s always good to inspire employees, train them and then delegate tasks to them so that you can focus on keeping the company profitable and competitive instead. More heads are always better than just one. Assigning tasks to other employees empowers them by making them aware of the trust given to them by their boss. Moreover, not all decisions should be made by just one person. That’s not only a waste of time for the business-owner, but that set-up is also prone to delaying operational tasks.
Start-ups can sometimes over promise things and go too far out of their way for the customers. With proper research and planning, you can understand your business’ capabilities to know what to highlight and sell to the customers, without over-selling or over-delivering. You can market something and be convincing, but miserably fail when the customer buys a product or a service and discovers the description was embellished. Businesses must remain realistic in offering solutions appropriate and necessary to their chosen niche. Only promise what you can delivery.
Business owners invest not just money but their own tears, sweat, and blood into putting up a business. Nevertheless, your business is not the be-all and end-all. It’s good to give it a high level of priority but not to the extent of wasting away your health or family life. Happy people tend to be more productive. Stressing too much on the job may even lessen your efficiency, which is bad for the business and your health.
Data, data, data
We’re at an age where there’s a huge amount of information available. It’s every business owner’s responsibility to make use of available data to guide business decisions. Businesses are geared more towards being algorithmic; that is having a formulaic method of approaching the business with readily available data. Information is now more accessible and more affordable to process because of the numerous interconnections between businesses and consumers nowadays. Learn where to locate your data so you can harness the important feedback it gives you, and build your business around what it’s telling you.
Most businesses are now online and interconnected. At times, security is given a low priority and budget because the benefits are not as tangible as, say, a products’ new packaging. However, the benefits of data security should be seen in the light of cost savings in preventing very expensive data breaches, avoidance of damage to business reputation, and the trust gained from customers. In this Information Age, cybercriminals are likewise expanding operations and gaining more knowledge. It’s imperative for all businesses to focus on security.
What can we add to the list? Tell us in the comments.
If you’re a freelancer or self-employed, chances are you’ve been in at least one murky financial situation â “Was that a work lunch or a personal lunch?” and “Did I forget a deduction?” were questions I found myself asking too often last tax season.
If you have certain expenses that can be separated and deducted as a âbusiness expense,’ opting for a business credit card is an easy and efficient way to do so, while simultaneously earning rewards on your purchases. Consider some of the many ways that you could benefit from having a business credit card:
1. Managing Cash Flow
Keeping your personal and business expenses separate can increase your deductions and make your business tax returns easier to manage. It can also help you keep your tax documents in order, should you ever get audited by the IRS.
[Side note: The Mogul Mom recommends Quickbooks for Small Business to help.]
2. Building Credit History for Your Business
One of the most valuable things a business credit card can do for you is to build a credit history for your small business, and do so without hurting your personal score. Although your personal credit guarantees the card (meaning if you default on payments, you’re still liable), your usage of it for your business expenses won’t affect your score.
If your business grows and you’re looking to apply for a loan for larger expenses like real estate, banks will look to your business line of credit to determine your loan rates. Therefore, the sooner you start building credit for it, the better your rate will likely be in the future.
3. Business-Specific Rewards Categories
If you get reimbursed as a freelancer for out of pocket expenses like supplies, look for cards that offer points for every dollar spent on office supply purchases. Commute for clients or entertain? There are plenty of cards that offer a ton of perks for gas and dining out. If you fly for business, you can take advantage of perks like VIP airport lounge memberships and passes, as well as hotel reward loyalty programs.
4. Higher Purchasing Power
If you’re not working regular hours, or get paid at irregular intervals, a business credit card can keep you safeguarded for a month until you get a payout, minimizing the stress that can come with paying out of pocket.
If you land a big client, a high line of credit can help you make the necessary investments for your business to expand quickly. The most important thing to note here, however, is that you have to exercise self-restraint and charge only what you will be getting paid for, or what you can afford to pay off. Otherwise, unfortunately with great perks come greater interest rates, and you could end up paying huge fees.
Next Steps: What You Need to Apply for a Business Credit Card
If your business is brand new, you may need to submit documentation such as your articles of incorporation or your profit/loss statements before you can get approved. On the other hand, if your business already has a line of credit, applying for a new card can be a seamless process. Either way, keep following information available when you apply:
Employer Identification Number (EIN) and Social Security Number
If you don’t have an EIN, you can apply online at IRS.gov. Otherwise, if you’re a sole proprietor, your SSN should suffice
Your card issuer will need your business name, address, and how long you’ve been in operation. If you’re a freelancer and operate out of your home, you can use your home address.
Be sure to know how much profit you made in the last year.
If you’re self-employed, a quality business credit card can help your business earn rewards, build credit, and keep your personal and business expenses separate, thus saving you time and money when tax season rolls around.
For more strategies for maxing out rewards, as well as recommendations for which business credit cards can help take your freelancing career or small business to the next level, check out this article from The Simple Dollar.
How do you use credit to build your business? Let us know in the comments.
Fear. It’s the four-lettered feeling that as entrepreneurs, we need to get familiar â better still, friendly â with, because it isn’t going anywhere. From elevator pitch to breaking million-dollar deals, you’ll be bombarded with fear at every stage of your business journey, and sadly, no amount of exposure will build up immunity to its initial sting. But after a few years in the game, and a few failures of my own, I know that the remedy lies in how you respond.
Here are the ways I’ve found to smile (and succeed) in the face of the typical fears every entrepreneur will endure.
1. Fear of not being good enough
As an entrepreneur you’re going to hear a hell of a lot of no’s and the sound of many a slamming door, so having an unwavering, tenacious and insatiable self-belief is crucial â scrap that, it’s everything if you want to eventually succeed. But, it certainly easier said than done. Take comfort in the knowledge that even the most successful among us started as non-believers. Author Elizabeth Gilbert, who I admire on so many levels, certainly did. Long before penning her first best-seller, Eat Pray Love, she would moan that she was talentless. “Defending my weakness? That’s seriously the hill I want to die on?” she wrote in her latest book Big Magic, citing the saying: “Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them.”
Stop with the negativity and consider this: most of the world as we know it was created by people no smarter than you, with no more hours in the day than you. You are no different, no lesser than or less capable of changing the world than the likes of Oprah, Nelson Mandela or Steve Jobs. If you take that on, fully absorbing its power, you will be relentless in your pursuit.
2. Fear of launching empty-handed
Here’s the thing. Most new product launches fail (the stat on the street is 80 percent), so you don’t always have to sweat for months over a hefty business plan or dish out dollars on prototypes and digital fodder in preparation for launching something if you aren’t even sure it will fly in the marketplace?
I’m a big believer in the âback-of-the-envelope business plan.’ When an idea hits, I get scribbling â jotting down an overview, indicative model, potential markets and suggestive marketing â just enough to have something to shop around with potential partners and drum up some pre-sales or consumer interest. If I get a bite, I’ll go in guns blazing and elevate things to the next level of strategic planning. If not, I’ll kill it and move on to something else, and quickly.
There is a place for more thorough, careful consideration of a new venture, but I’ve found that for the most part, entrepreneurs simply need to begin. Not having a polished product isn’t something to fear, it can be favorable, and leaves wriggle room for tweaking (or a total 180-degree turn) when the market says, “ThanksâŠ but no thanks.”
3. Fear of not having enough money
Nothing thrills me more than breaking a deal, and it isn’t always money that’s on the table. In my early (cash-poor) days in business, I quickly learned the importance of putting a value on everything you have and do. Everything from your product, content, venue, public speaking prowess, networks, social platforms… whatever is in your hand that could be valuable to others. You can leverage it all by partnering with non-competing, like-minded people or businesses who share your audience. Then, you simply need to get creative.
The arrangement you settle on can be multi-layered, or simple and linear â created in any number of clever iterations. Promote me on your product and I’ll pop it in the goodie bags at my event. I’ll attach my brand to yours for a clothing collaboration in exchange for exposure in your stores. Style my shoot and we’ll give you the photos for your site. These types of arrangements can save you $5000 or $200,000 and in the early days of business, they can be the difference between survival and success. And don’t be afraid to reach out to big brands (Uber delivered shelter kittens â do you remember?).
4. Fear of failure
I’ve failed. Many, many times. Once, my publishing business sent a client’s book off to the printer with duplicate pages. Another time, that same vertical of the business screwed up the color matching on a cover, rendering its author a very attractive hue of an Oompa Loompa from Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Don’t worry; we didn’t screw up the majority of our projects, but those two were big, costly fails. Even still, I didn’t begrudge them or the staff responsible, not for a second, because they pushed our company forward with knowledge and wisdom. They also reminded us that we’re only human.
Failure, historically, is a filthy word, but it’s also an essential element of business. As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says, “The biggest risk is not taking any riskâŠ In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” The key is to fail fast, and well. Those âback-of-the-envelope business plans’ ensure a steady stream of speedy fails, leaving energy, time and money for the gems. And when a blunder sets you back, financially or otherwise, learn to move on from it quickly. That is one of my biggest personal pieces of advice, don’t get too attached to the outcome of your pursuit.
As the business has grown, there have been bigger issues (read: failures) that have tested this rationale, but I have managed to stay grounded in this belief, to work with staff for new solutions (rather than berate them) and to let the situation move us all forward.
5. Fear of success
It may sound obscene, but this is actually a thing. Just ask author and philanthropist Marianne Williamson, who famously observed, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
The other side of success is unchartered territory, riddled with unknowns. What will happen if you finally get there? What will you strive for then? Will you call it quits? But fear not, success. Your definition of it, much like the horizon, recedes and redefines with each win. Ask any successful entrepreneur if they’ve made it and you’ll hear a resounding “no!”.
And if your fear is based on becoming a sell-out, or a changing as a person, simply come back to your core values. Write them down and keep them at hand to refer to as each decision arises. Make peace with the idea of positive progress, right before you get back to work!
What are your biggest entrepreneurial fears and how do you handle them? Let us know in the comments.
The business landscape is changing, and with change comes new opportunities for women-owned small businesses to launch and thrive.
How can you know which industries are worth pursuing â and which are just a flash in the pan?
You can never be 100-percent sure. Thereâs always a mixture of research, educated guessing, and gut instinct that go into crafting a winning business plan for an emerging industry.
Our infographic on rapidly growing industries shows endless possibility for new and returning entrepreneurs. Some of these emerging business areas are especially ripe for development by busy, working moms with valuable skills and a need for flexible work schedules.
A few highlights from our research:
- Opportunities for home health aides are expected to grow by 48 percent by 2022. Mompreneurs who are both nurturing and hyper-organized are a natural fit to lead in this growing field.
- Corporate fitness, to include consulting, fitness programs and software to track wellness, is expected to grow 8.4 percent annually. The best part about consulting for corporations? Their employees might work late, but you wonât; offer your programs during the work day and preserve evenings for family.
- By 2017, more than half of Americans will have used their smartphones to make a purchase. If youâre tech savvy, get on the mobile-shopping train and make life easier for busy shoppers like you!
- Green construction is expected to generate more than $303 billion over the next three years. Project management, innovation, and accountability are key for success in this field.
- The global market for translation services and language technology will hit $49.8 billion in 2019. Do you speak a second (or third!) language? You could find a niche for your small business.
- Americans already spend nearly $20 billion per year on pet care, a trend Millennial pet owners are expected to maintain. If pets are more like your fur babies, find an angle (dog walking? grooming? specialty feed recipes?) and put it to work!
Looking at industry growth isnât the sole way to choose the right area of business for you to enter. Youâll also want to consider the target market, not only for the industry youâre eyeing but for the specific area (location or niche audience) you plan to serve.
A business idea can be fantastic, but unless there are people willing to invest in its products or services, the idea may fall upon deaf ears.
Youâll also want to consider your competition. Is your hometown already flush with one of these emerging industries? You may have better odds of success if you stay out of that popular industry and instead serve one adjacent to it.
Need a boost of encouragement before launching your own small business? Take our free, on-demand webinar: Raising the Next Generation of Women Entrepreneurs â Starting a Business at Any Life Stage.
Thank you emails are of massive importance in the business world. Sometimes, they’re what allows the receiving party to see just how serious we are. Whether you’re sending the email as a follow up after a job interview or as a token of appreciation to a client or another professional who has provided you with valuable help, the way you compose the email is almost more important than the email itself.
Here are some tips on how to craft the perfect thank you email.
1. Treat Your Email like a Handwritten Note
Handwritten notes have fallen out of favor in recent years. Nothing beats the ability to send something instantly and directly to a recipient. That’s why we use emails instead. The reality of the matter is that many professionals still enjoy receiving handwritten notes, even though this isn’t always a feasible option. A great compromise is to treat an email the same way you would treat a handwritten note. This means no abbreviations, and certainly no emoticons. To help conceptualize an email with the qualities of a handwritten note, start by writing a rough draft on paper. If it looks like something you’d send by traditional mail, type it up into an email.
2. Play Your Strengths
If you’ve already spoken to this individual in person, you had your chance to make a powerful first impression. Your email should be in line with the impression that you made. Choose a few points to reiterate that highlight your strengths. For example, as a thank you in response to a job interview, mention the things that your interviewer appreciated. “I’m confident that my experience working with X Company will be greatly beneficial for your projects.”
3. Make Sure Your Email is Original
A quick google search for the terms “thank you email” will generate hundreds of templates. People actually use these templates to send thank you emails. This means the person you’re sending the email to will notice that it’s similar to other notes they’ve received in the past, making you seem less genuine. If you use a template as a style guide, make sure you compare the finished product to the template. You don’t want the template to be recognizable in the final draft of your email.
4. Avoid ClichĂ© Phrases
Every word of your email should have real meaning. If it doesn’t, you’re wasting your time as well as the recipient’s time. Overused phrases and professional clichĂ©s don’t convey anything â they’re just filler words that make an email appear longer. You want a thank you email to come across as genuine.
If you write it as a formality, it will read like a formality. If you want the person on the other end of the screen to remember you, your email should distinguish who you are.
5. Don’t Overdo It
It’s always a good idea to send a thank you note. While the thank you email itself is the perfect gesture, bombarding someone with follow up emails is not. If you’re waiting for a business decision, allow the individual responsible for informing you of that decision up to two weeks to get back to you before sending an inquiry. Send one follow up, and if they don’t get back to you, move on. Frequently emailing someone hoping for a response can feel overbearing, and that can send important people running in the opposite direction.
Always make sure to double (or triple) check an email for spelling errors or grammatical issues before you hit send. You can’t take the email back, so you need to be positive that all is well before you click a button that can’t be unclicked.
What strategies do you use when sending thank you emails? Share in the comments.