Top Tips

Best Business Advice from your Sister CEOs

Author Brazen Global Published January 31, 2018
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Sister CEO

We know that sometimes it might be hard to follow your own great advice, especially when you’re running a business and have a million other things to think about. And listening to the well-intended but misguided (or even clueless!) business advice from your great aunt, third cousin, or man behind you in the grocery store checkout line? Forget about it!

 

But what about taking the advice of other female entrepreneurs who are in your shoes? They’ve been there, done that, and have similar experiences with enough differences to provide a new perspective.

 

We’ve asked some female entrepreneurs for their best piece of business advice and compiled them here to share with you. Maybe you already follow some of these pieces of advice, maybe you’ve heard some of them before, or maybe some are brand new, but we think learning from a network of other women entrepreneurs is invaluable in growing your own business. Got some good business advice of your own? Send us a tweet with your favorites!

 

“Don’t under price yourself.  I used to tell other small business people this all of the time, but it is still very difficult to take my own advice.” Cyndi Demick, Owner and President of Mamakea, Inc.

 

“Take 25% of every sale and set it aside for taxes. I wish I had followed this advice. I would have saved myself a lot of pain.” Susan Stewart, Owner of Perfectly Placed.

 

“Be productive, but don’t forget to have fun.” Katy Thomas, Founder of GiG{a}BiT Rocks.             

 

“Don’t give up. So simple, but so necessary to remember.” Chrissy Fogerty, Owner and Designer at Fauxgerty.  

 

“Fake it until you make it.” Kim Moos, Founder of Cotton Cuts.  

 

“Believe in yourself. I have to remind myself of this one upon occasion.” Lindsey Obermeyer, Founder of LBO Studio.    

 

“JDI (Just do it!)” Ronke Faleti, Founder of Korede

 

“Hire for talent that is better than the business needs right now.” Mary Jo Gorman, Board Member and Interim CEO, TripleCare.

 

“Build yourself and your business model for longevity.” Lindsay Austin, Founder and CEO of TapePlay.  

Tool Kit

Is My Idea Any Good? Questions Entrepreneurs Ask Themselves

Author Aimee Dunne Published January 24, 2018
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“You don’t need an idea, you need an I-did.” — Scott Ginsberg, author and strategist.

 

We all seem to know someone who’s constantly coming up with ideas, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into business success. Having the knowledge, resources and gumption to turn your idea into an enterprise is what makes the difference between a creative idea generator and an entrepreneur. Maybe you’ve decided to get moving in the new year, but how do you know if your idea is any good? 

 

Begin with a feasibility check:

 

Product/Service Feasibility: Can the product you have in mind actually be created?  Is the service something that can be delivered?

 

Market Feasibility: Is the product or service something the market needs?  Will it be accepted by customers? Is there demand?

 

Financial Feasibility: Do you have the resources to develop your idea?  Can you find partners to support you?  How much would it cost to develop?  Can you make enough revenue to be profitable?

 

Just as there is a difference between an idea and a product, there is a difference between an innovation and a scalable business.  Something might be interesting, and even needed, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got a business.  Imagine an app that goes viral with many $1.99 downloads in the first few weeks but doesn’t get much traction after that.  Cool, but not a company!

 

Brazen Growth Group Member Zoe Scharf was bored with sending impersonal well-wishes to friends and family, so with her cofounder Joe Fischer helped create greetbl, a company that helps you send personalized, affordable, three-dimensional greetings.  These unique gifts are certainly a design innovation (and really cool-looking!), but greetbl would not have been a viable and successful company had Zoe not thought carefully about feasibility, learned what it would take to turn her idea into a business and made adjustments as the market required.

 

Once you’ve run your idea through these “feasibility checks”, the next step to seeing if the idea is actually a business is filling out a Business Model Canvas, originally developed by Alexander Osterwalder.  This tool helps you focus your idea and test its feasibility by answering questions about your value proposition, customers, activities and outcomes. It’s a living document, so you can adjust it as you learn.  

 

Checking the feasibility of an idea will take time and research.  The practices of gathering information are just as important at the idea-stage as when you’re getting ready to launch.

 

We’ve shared some tools for determining if your idea is a good one, but don’t underestimate one simple way to get feedback on your idea – talk about it!  Here are a few questions you should ask yourself and others as you turn one of your great ideas into a business:

 

– What is the problem your idea solves?

– How is your solution better than what’s currently on offer?

– Can you clearly articulate the benefits of your product or service?

– What else exists in the market? Has it been tried before? What’s worked and not worked?

– How will you generate revenue?

– Will people buy it? For how much? Is that enough?

– What resources do you need to make it happen? Do you have them? Can you find them?

– What feedback have you gotten from potential partners and customers?

 

This might seem daunting, but let’s return to the “I-did”.  You are the person with the good idea, the persistence to pursue it and the tenacity to ask good questions.  You may have a million ideas, but don’t get lost in the plenty.  Start with one.

Tool Kit

Get Moving in the New Year

Author Aimee Dunne Published January 11, 2018
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Do you have an idea that has been pestering you? Can’t get it off your mind? Do you think about turning your idea into a business but don’t know where to start?  It’s the beginning of a new year which means new goals and resolutions. We want to help you focus on your idea this year and finally take the next steps. When 2019 rolls around, we don’t want you just thinking about your business this, we want you doing it!

 

Although studies show that only about half New Year’s Resolutions make it past the first month of the year, we think this is one worth going after!  The start of 2018 is as good a time as any to get focused on your business and start moving it forward.  Entrepreneurs often have so many ideas that it’s difficult to pick one and get started.  But the upside of that entrepreneurial spirit is that you are tenacious and driven towards your goal. So go for it!

 

Here are some thoughts to help you turn all that thinking into doing:

 

Get talking.

Up until now you’ve probably kept your idea mostly in your head, on the back of napkins and in a few notebooks. You might feel like you don’t know enough, or have a good enough plan, to start talking to people about it. That is a mistake. You’ll only be able to move your idea forward if you’re open to sharing it with others.  If having a well-constructed elevator pitch will make you more comfortable, google “elevator pitch” and start building one.  If practicing will get you ready, grab a friend, your dog, or your neighbor and try it out on them.  Record yourself and see how you sound. Watch videos of successful and terrible pitches. Just get talking! 

 

Get needy.

Whaaaat?  You’re a smart and tenacious entrepreneur who’s not supposed to need anything, right?  Wrong!  Along with talking about your idea to other people, you should also be asking them for help.  No one knows everything, and certainly there are parts of building a business that you’re not an expert at.  Maybe you’re a great product designer, but don’t know squat about intellectual property law.  Maybe you’re great at the books, but don’t know how to promote your venture.  Think about what you don’t know, prioritize those needs, and ask for help. At the very least you’ll get some feedback on your idea and the steps you’re taking.  Hopefully, you’ll get some good leads and introductions.  But how will people know what you need if you don’t tell them?

 

Get specific.

You’ve already started networking, and that’s great.  By now you have a feeling for what resources are available and where startup people congregate.  But as you start to grow your business, you’ll quickly learn that time is your most limited resource and you need to be thoughtful about where you spend it.  We would suggest finding a few networking events that offer both really good content and the connections you need – you can’t go to everything!  Or, find a startup program or educational opportunity that will keep you on track.  Some days, you’ll have to be heads-down reviewing a spreadsheet or updating your website.  Some days, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with a potential client or attend an event where you can run into people you need to know.  It’s a bit of an experiment, but start to learn where your time is best spent.  And getting connected with the right people on a regular basis will help with that “lonely entrepreneur” feeling!

 

Get moving.

Above all, just start.  No secret formula, no excuses, no delay… just go do!

Tool Kit

Marketing for the Entrepreneur: Doing More With Less

Author Kate Ewing Published January 17, 2018
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Determining the most effective use of marketing dollars can be a challenge for even the most experienced marketers. Female business owners face unique challenges.

 

report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) shows that 29 percent of America’s business owners are women, a 3% increase since 1997. While female-owned businesses are rising, a pay gap still exists. Data from the Economic Policy Institute shows women-owned businesses make only about 25 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn.

 

This can translate to less dollars to put towards marketing and make navigating potential marketing and advertising decisions even more difficult.

 

Here are four tips to help female business owners dive into the world of marketing.

 

Understand your brand and buyer

As a business owner, you can be certain you’ll meet sales and media reps from a variety of outlets. Knowing which outlet is best can be intimidating. Before making decisions about your marketing budget, it’s important to be sure you are reaching the right audience. To do this, you need to understand your brand and your buyer. I recommend defining your brand’s voice and values, and creating user personas to better understand your buyers. Personas will give you a better feel for who your ideal client is and what their day to day is like. Understanding your brand and your buyer will help you to choose media outlets that best align with your audience.

 

Know your value

Don’t get stuck in the “exposure” trap. When working with job seekers and recent graduates, I often hear of instances where they are asked for free photography, design or product in exchange for exposure. The same is true of entrepreneurs.  As you start, you’ll receive countless opportunities (or “opportunities”) to showcase your product or service for free in exchange for visibility that may or may not resonate with potential buyers.

Value your brand and offerings from the beginning. If you launch with giving too much away, you’ll have a tougher time convincing buyers you are worth your asking price.

If you are offering products or services for free, make sure the opportunity aligns with your brand and would make sense to your targeted buyers.

 

Define your expectations

Whether you are considering a sponsorship, a print ad or a boosted Facebook post, ask yourself:

Does this medium align with my brand and buyers?

Will it showcase my value?

What do I expect the result to be?

If you can answer yes to the first two questions, realistically define what you expect the outcome to be and how you will measure success.  If the expected outcome matches with your overall goals, the marketing activity may be a good fit.

 

Analyze your results

As with any business decision, it’s important to analyze the results of your marketing efforts. Be flexible with your plan. What worked in the winter may not work in the summer. By having re-determined expectations, it’s easy to see if your marketing efforts met those expectations. If not, it’s time to look at why. Perhaps your message was off and could be tweaked a bit, or you promoted an offer that was confusing to your audience.  If slight adjustments don’t work, it may be time to move onto the next outlet. If you aren’t sure where to turn, ask your customers! A quick survey asking your customers where they shop, what sites they browse, what they read and what they watch will help you see patterns in consumer behavior. It can also spark ideas to make your next campaign more successful.

 

While marketing and media consumption are ever-changing, you know your brand the best. Keep fine tuning your activities to get the most out of your marketing dollars, and always be bold!

 

Kate Ewing joined Mueller Prost in 2016 as the Director of Marketing and Practice Growth and brought with her over 15 years of marketing experience in a variety of different industries. Ewing’s primary focus is to drive business results through developing and implementing marketing, communications, and business development strategies for the firm. Kate also directs media relations, branding, advertising, social media, and web development and oversees sponsorships and contributions.


Ewing is an adjunct marketing professor for Webster University. In addition, she is very active in community and professional organizations, serving on several boards and acting as a mentor to other professionals. Researching current marketing trends and challenges is a priority for Kate, allowing her to provide the firm with intelligence and perspective that is key to sustaining our growth and branding.