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KikScore Technology Acquired – Service Will Change on June 28th

June 1st, 2012 | This post was written by RajMalik

 

Announcement About KikScore’s Future

We are excited to announce that the KikScore technology and certain assets have been acquired.   As of June 28, 2012, the KikScore service will no longer be available to customers.  We recommend that our customers check out the Google Trusted Store product as an alternative to the KikScore service.  In fact, we wrote this post last October that describes how complimentary the KikScore and Google Trusted Store products are for small businesses.  We are very proud of the more than two years that we offered the KikScore service and are so grateful to the 1700+ small business customers that we have served globally.

Back in 2008 this all began at a Fuddruckers in Northern Virginia.  The road from there to today has been filled with great highs, some deep lows, overcoming immense challenges all while dealing with the occasional kicks to the gut that most startups typically experience.   It has been a sincere pleasure for the entire KikScore team to serve so many small businesses and also work to help them be successful through this blog, tweetchats and our December 2011 white paper.  There is still great work to be done for small businesses and that is why we are so excited that an industry leader will be able to build off of the technology, platform and IP that we spent our blood, sweat and tears building, developing and launching.

Now The Very Important Thank Yous

There are so many people that helped us in invaluable ways get to this moment.  That is why it is so important for us to take the time to thank the people that helped us. To the inevitable person that I forget, please forgive me.

  1. Two Intros Help Make the KikScore Sale Possible:  Even before the stories of the introduction, two occurrences had to happen for us to get to today and for the sale of KikScore to become a reality.  First, I went to my good friend’s wedding in beautiful Montana a few years back and secondly, I made the choice to attend Ohio State back in the late 90s for graduate school. Those two seemingly random events led to two separate, but critical introductions by Eric Liaw (who I met at our mutual friend’s Zeno’s wedding while roasting marshmallows at the rehearsal dinner in Montana) and Anuj Goswami (fellow OSU grad and Browns fan!) to the necessary stakeholders to make this deal come together.  Even more importantly is the lesson learned from this: when people call you, return their calls….but maybe wait a bit!  I took a little extra time to call Anuj back (ok 3 weeks!), but on a ride home from the Reston Town Center to DC on a cold Friday afternoon in February I finally returned Anuj’s call that quite randomly turned into the catalyst to bridging Eric’s introduction with an introduction Anuj would make within hours of our call.  That one returned call to Anuj and his initiative set us off to the races to get this deal done!  So a major set of thanks to Eric and Anuj for those crucial introductions at just the right time. 
  2. KikScore’s Team: Frankly, I will never look at Denver the same way because that time zone difference with our headquarters in DC and 10:30pm team calls just about killed me.  Somehow and someway over the years, we mastered the DC and Denver teams working together seamlessly.  To that end, Travis Valentine, our CTO, worked every minute he could to help get us to where we could be in this position where we are at today.  Without his tireless and amazing efforts, dedication and willingness just to get things done, we would never be making this announcement.   We, along with our team, accomplished so many things that we are all proud of here.  Our team was filled out by Mike Collins (product lead and resident Packers fan), Mike Mauseth (one of the original co-founders and Fudruckers guys and one person with a crazier sense of humor than me), Joel Springer (the creative visionary behind the KikScore look and feel), Mike Britti (Mr. 30,000 foot), Kristen Hillier (our scoring model whiz), and Woody Jones.  We also must thank Sergey Kliuev our always available surge capacity developer in the Ukraine who was so great helping us with our partner integrations.  It is awesome to have the technology the team built get recognized and acquired by a global technology leader.
  3. Killer Guidance from Our Key Advisor:  Tom Lewis was nothing short of a savior to the KikScore team and especially me.  As a founding member of the fantastic Founder Corps group, Tom provided continual strategic, product and partner guidance over the last year.  Simply, without Tom’s guidance, support and introductions, there is no way we would have gotten as far as we did and had been in as many strategic discussions as we have been over the last few months.  Every founding team and CEO should wish to have a mentor/advisor as accessible and strategic as Tom.  Also there is another advisor I cannot really name due to certain sensitivities, but he knows who he is, and this is a special thanks to him.  Again Tom was instrumental in making that introduction as well last year!  Tom Lewis what can I say…..just phenomenal.
  4. Community/Evangelist Support:  The overall small business community has been tremendously supportive of KikScore and our mission over the last two years.  We had some fantastic folks that tirelessly helped us and so we want to recognize and thank each of them. They are: Anita Campbell (for all the mega shoutouts and support); Ramon Ray (thanks for the infectious energy and coverage of our growth); Ivana Taylor (for all the help and chats); Tai Goodwin (for inviting us to guest host the prestigious #SmallBizChat); John “ColderIce” Lawson (the amazing support and you always making us laugh); Tinu Abayomi-Paul (your unending good wishes) Jill Foster (the Dupont Circle/neighborly love); Laurie McCabe (for the SmallBizInfluencer nominations and interview); Shonali Burke (our early PR guru) and Howard Lewinter (for your guidance and stories).  Sadly, somehow three of these folks are also Steelers fans.  It is a tribute to them that they still talk to me since I am a Browns fan…….
  5. Friends’ Direct Support, Help & Guidance: The space here and the time cannot do enough justice to the friends who supported us, made key introductions, helped with creating amazing pitch decks, gave us strategic guidance and also just provided huge amounts of moral support along the way. They included:  Shashi Bellamkonda (our #1 evangalist and my close confidant on our daily rides home); Jason Knaut (the best strategic/ex-investment banker/ex-corp dev guy any entrepreneur would want on their side); Harry Lalor (for listening to all my stories and the fantastic support); Ntoh Etta (for keeping us focused and helping with diligence); Eric Akunda (giving strategic guidance and helping keep things in perspective); Roy Dunbar (for being so generous and opening up his huge network to us with multiple introductions); Jake Lebowitz (for helping support me get the sale closed); Atul Rustgi (great strategic guidance as the clock wound down – though I am still surprised that a UMichigan guy would help out a Buckeye!); Elvis Oxley (for always thinking about connecting KikScore to every new person you met); Bobby Turnage (see this post on leadership on how he helped); and Miles Reidy and Dick LeFave (for each of them ironically on the same day in 2011 telling me to just go “all in” with my entrepreneurial drive and pushing me to succeed).  I cant thank each of you enough for the incredible help and inspiration you each provided.
  6. Wise Counsel:  At KikScore we were lucky to have great lawyers help us on this deal.  Mike Hardy from Rosenberg, Martin & Greenberg, LLC in Baltimore, who I pulled too many all-nighters working with at White & Case, served as our lead corporate counsel and gave us great legal and non-legal guidance throughout the process of documenting and finalizing the sale of the KikScore technology.  Also Rick Holzer and Chirag Patel from HolzerIPLaw in Denver have been great over the years serving as our IP and patent counsel through the long patent process for the KikScore technology.
  7. KikScore Customers: Without our customers we would have been nothing.  We are so thankful for all the small business customers that gave us a chance, used our product, told their friends and evangelized KikScore.  It was great to get to know so many of our customers as well through our interview series on this blog.  Thanks to our customers for making this all possible.  And I would be remiss not to send out a very special thank you to Paybaq’s Brian Esposito for being such a fantastic customer advocate for KikScore after nearly leaving us!  We are so glad we won you back.
  8. Lastly & Most Importantly the KikScore Families: There is just not enough that any of the team can say about our spouses, kids, parents and siblings for being there and supporting each of us along the way.  No one really can quantify the level of patience and understanding that each or our families had to go through when you have a startup with 10:30pm team calls, late night customer escalations and weekend after weekend of saying I just need to spend time getting things done.  So for each and every family member we THANK YOU! Now specifically for Rebecca, my wife, I cant thank her enough for her unending patience for the entire KikScore experience and the major impact it had on our lives……though the great thing now is that the 24/7 defacto Customer Service Level Agreement I have had to abide by since she was a KikScore customer now expires on June 28th!  Seriously, thank you Rebecca so much for the amazing support, help, guidance and trying to help me balance some crazy form of work-startup-family balance especially today as you are now 8+ months expecting!  I could not have done this without your support.  I am sure that many of the same tremendous thanks could be said for Travis and his wife Sarah and the rest of the team and each of their respective spouses.  Thanks so much to each and every one of them.

On a personal note I look forward to moving on to my next gig….and oh yes it will be another startup launching this summer.  I am really excited for it. Finally, I am thankful for trusting my gut instinct.  Countless times so many of the people that I have thanked above either validated my gut thinking or told me I was way crazy so I luckily modified course a bit.  The one thing that no one could convince me to do was giving up on our goal of getting KikScore this far.  My gut always told me to push on in this journey to get to the end we all wanted to get to.  I am therefore incredibly thankful that I both trusted that instinct while also having the team, advisors, friends, the community, evangelists, customers, counsel and especially the family to get KikScore to today’s announcement.

 

 

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Guest Post: Key Business Lessons from Chelsea’s Unexpected UEFA Champions’ League Victory

May 29th, 2012 | This post was written by SuperChief-Admin

Football (Soccer), like many sports has grand lessons for any business enterprise. This because sports teams are complicated business enterprises that are supposed to both entertain (hence are mired in all sorts of strange emotions) and make money applying skills of players with different sorts of talent yet liable to injuries that turn the fortunes of a team upside down anytime in a season.

Chelsea of England has been a great Premier League and European team since it was purchased by Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch, in 2003. In seeking greatness (read, winning the Champions’ League trophy which is as prestigious as the World Cup for European club teams and global players at club level alike), many Chelsea coaches have fallen victim to this objective (the current coach is the 8th in that period, serving in an interim capacity). The dismissals have come even where other teams would have paid to be in Chelsea’s shoes (e.g. losing the final of the Champions’ League, winning the Premier League and FA Cup etc.)!

At the start of the 2011-12 season, Chelsea paid thirteen million pounds for the coach they much coveted to be released by his club Porto from his contract. This coach was brought in with two key objectives for him, transition the club into a greater club by culling the team of its older players making the team dependent on younger ones, and change the team’s playing style into an attractive one like that of Barcelona and Arsenal. In business parlance, he was the change agent to make the organization better placed to compete in the future.

The way he went about this was wanting from the start. His pronouncements in public about “this project” as he put it, especially on the old players did not help his cause. He completely antagonized those the club depended upon over many years and still had much to give, both in terms of performance and passing knowledge through their experience to the next generation. In the process, he isolated them!

His presence at Chelsea turned into unmitigated disaster given the results which placed the club out of its customary top 4 in the premier league (which comes with participation in the Champions League, thirty million pounds for competing and hence is a boost to a club’s finances, in addition to serving as an attraction for the best players in the world which guarantees staying in the upper reaches of football). He was fired in the middle of the season. Players breathed a sigh of relief on his departure.

His assistant, a former Chelsea player with minimal coaching experience at the top levels replaced him in an interim capacity. Every experienced manager, pundit, and media person at the time predicted nothing but doom for Chelsea. In addition to poor premier league performances (they ended the season 6th), Chelsea had just lost a Champions’ League game and were likely to be eliminated from the next round. The playing unit was suffering from a total lack of motivation with senior players on the team shocked by the treatment they received. In essence, the club was totally dysfunctional.

The new manager though interim seemed to turn this around. He did a number of things right. He met each player personally, and explained each one’s role he was going to play moving forward in the short period of the season remaining. He decided games were going to be played applying strategies and tactics amenable to the players available vis-à-vis the opponent. Every player young and old alike got a clean slate in competing for a place on the team. The team was going to work and fight for each other. As the media and experts continued to spell the doom awaiting Chelsea game to game, the team went about its business of winning by using the most pragmatic means necessary. In the process, they were either lucky or indeed created their own luck! The manager sought leadership from players within the playing unit. You didn’t have to be captain to lead. It was expected of you as a member of the playing unit to play that role.

In doing so, they reached the final of the Champions’ League when least expected, eliminating arguably the best team in Europe, Barcelona at the semi-final stage. The final was going to be a taller order as they were playing at the home of their opponent, Bayern Munich. All pundits deemed Chelsea a non-issue, handing Bayern the trophy before a ball was kicked. This team was arguably the worst seen at Chelsea in the last eight years, albeit the core of the playing unit having been there in the same period. Matters were made worse by the fact that four of their best players were suspended for the final. When the team won the Champions’ League trophy, players young and old stated clearly that their season was turned around when the prior manager left. Others have stated they will never forgive him for the way he treated them – such was the dysfunctional state of affairs at the club in his presence, and justifies how massive an accomplishment winning this trophy was.

What business lessons are here that we can learn from Chelsea’s success under the prevailing circumstances?  Here are a few:

1)    Recognize that job titles do not necessarily tell who your best leaders are on your team. Some team members are leaders by virtue of what they do and their influence on the rest of the team. For Chelsea these leaders were Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole and Petr Cech (none is either captain or vice-captain on the team). They gave 100% every game, even when the team was supposed to be at its worst. They rose to the occasion in special ways each game. Identify your team members who take pride in speaking through their actions. Reward them accordingly, as you need them and they will come through for you at your hour of need!

2)    Team members who understand where the company has come from and the micro-culture within it can save a sinking ship. The interim manager, a former Chelsea player, brought the team together, with players responding due to the respect they afforded him having been in their shoes before. Do not underestimate the value that can be brought by people who have played a role in the past, especially in times of crisis. Don’t burn bridges with team members who leave, they may come in handy in the future when you most need them!

3)    Create your luck and ride it! Chelsea did so by implementing tactics to suit the players they had on the playing unit in a very disciplined and systematic fashion. Everyone in the team (manager, players, and staff) was on the proverbial same page all the way to the last and most important game of their season! They took advantage of any mistakes of omission or commission by the other team at every occasion. For this, they were crowned champs for the most prestigious trophy in Europe at club level, something they have failed having been to at least the semi-final stage six previous times when they were at their best!

4)    You are as strong as your weakest link. Clarity of purpose is essential to success even when failure is the assured result. Each member understanding their role and how their non-performance will result in sure failure for the whole is fundamental. This has to be set at the top, yet and most importantly it also has to be passed on to the team clearly. At Chelsea, the interim manager accomplished it by speaking to each player individually and ensured that each understood their role clearly as they strode toward the team’s end goal.

Let us know if you have any lessons from the most unlikely victory in the comments section.

GUEST POST: This article is a guest post to the KikScore blog from Eric Akunda who was moved to write this after he saw the victory by Chelsea and then saw the parallels to large companies, small businesses and startups!

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Small Business Tips & Guidance from Moooh’s Carlo Trotta – Selling from China, Serving the World

April 30th, 2012 | This post was written by tubs

I had the opportunity to interview Carlo Trotta from Moooh!! and he had a lot of interesting things to say in the interview below.

1. Tell us about your business and who you focus on serving?

Moooh!! is the first social luxury commerce website. We design, handcraft and sell custom made jewelry, apparels, shoes, fashion accessories, ethnic home decor, gifts idea. At moment we sell only jewelry and few accessories, but in the next months we will add many other products. Almost all the products sold on Moooh!! are proudly Made in China. I don’t understand why many luxury brands producing in China, often don’t disclose to their customers the origin place of their products. Moooh!! serve a wide target of customers, people who loves beautiful things, made with good material, good quality manufacturing , elegant, fashionable, unique. Everything sold at very competitive price.

2. How did you get started selling online?

I started to sell on Ebay. Being power seller on different accounts and then I left because of the increasing Ebay commission fees, harassment policy for the sellers and low seller protection given by Paypal.

3. What inspires you to grow your business?

Give to people the possibility to access to beautiful and fashionable quality items at very competitive prices. I want to create a community of shoppers and small businesses through Reward Programs, Promotions, Sweepstakes, Affiliate Programs and other strategic initiatives that we will take during the year.

4. If you had 2 lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

Total dedication to the customers.  You must create and offer what the customer is looking for, customize and personalize for your customers, then reward them for their purchases. Finally, invest your time more than money.

5. Where has your business focused most of its energy this year?

I will invest in inbound and online marketing. Also I will be really focusing on spread my social media presence so I can create a community of shoppers and small businesses around Moooh!!

6. What do you see as 2 new trends for small businesses and in your business?

I can “predict” a much deeper use of social media and blogging.  It is almost a must these days!  I’m also quite sure also that many small businesses will start to consider developing some type of mobile applications for their business.  Mobile is really taking off and small businesses need to focus on what is their mobile strategy!

7. If your business/store could be any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

Rocky. Starting from less than zero, exercise, learn, fight, fall down and stand up until the victory. I hope I can make my own movie.

8. If your business could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

Actually no one, but myself, my customers, my affiliates and small businesses than are around Moooh!! That’s very social and also my dream spokepersons!

9. What is the biggest challenge that your business faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge?

Raising money to develop and grow the business. I cannot see any other challenge considering that I live in China and there’s no better place than here to have a business and catch the huge opportunities that this wonderful country offers.  That being said raising capital and having enough capital is the biggest challenge.  That capital will make or break making small businesses in China that are serving the world market like me.

10. Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

Concentrate your effort on your customers, make the product they need, make them love the product they buy and then they will purchase more from you and spread the word. Also relentlessly focus on reduce expenses, cut the unnecessary costs so you can invest your time and dedication to your business. But don’t forget also to dedicate time to your family and friends:) That will keep you truly happy.

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Check Out the Dream Big Contest for Small Businesses – Win A Trip to DC!

April 26th, 2012 | This post was written by RajMalik

So our readers and the community know we here at KikScore are all about helping out, supporting and championing the Cleveland Browns. OK!  Just kidding (its draft day after all!), we are all about small business.   We eat, leave, breathe and do all things small business and this blog and its almost 400 posts (this is the 399th) is a testament to our commitment to small business success.   So when I found out about the Small Business Dream Big Conference, I said we at KikScore have to tell the world about it and support it.

So here are the details for this content that is sponsored by the folks that bring you .US domain names.  So if you enter the content and win here is what you get:

1. Two of you get to travel to Washington DC all expenses paid (make sure you stop by the historic Ben’s Chilli Bowl and awesome 2 Amy’s Pizza when you are here) between May 20-24th;

2. Two full day passes to the National Small Business Conference;

3. Professional consulting from an industry expert;

4. A complete website redesign; and

5. A local online advertising campaign customized just for your business.

Wow.  Sign me up.  That is pretty cool.  Does that mean if I win here at Kikscore they will pay my Metro fair to the conference and for me to stay at a hotel across the street from my house?  I hope so, I need the rest before our baby #2 arrives in July!  I would be the cheapest content winner that .US and Neustar could get, but knowing my luck (and theirs) they will get someone from Montana (been there by the way and it is beautiful) that they have to fly here through Dallas, Chicago, Miami, Richmond, Pittsburgh, and finally to DCA!

Anyway please go check it out and enter as all the details can be found at the Web Address to KickStart America Website – .US.  Great work to the .US folks for putting this together!

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Small Business Interview with Troy Fimrite from the Atlin Institute

April 20th, 2012 | This post was written by tubs
Atlin

I had the opportunity to interview Troy Fimrite from the Atlin Institute and he had a lot of interesting things to say in the interview below.

Tell us about your business and who you focus on serving?

You know how people buying a business for the first time are making a big life decision, need to buy the right one and not lose their money? Well, we help them with a money saving resource www.buyertoolkit.com that answers a lot of questions and makes it easy for them to buy a business for the first time.

How did you get started selling online?

I have been involved in buying and selling companies for 20 years and constantly answer emails, phone calls and interviews by people looking for a answers as they look to buy a business for the first time. I decided to utilize the internet and create a downloadable product to make it easy for people around the world to quickly understand the way to buy a business. The whole idea is to make it easy to understand, simple to follow and make it as easy as 1-2-3!

What inspires you to grow your business?

I am an Entrepreneur and absolutely love growing business! I have been very fortunate to be mentored by many incredibly successful business people and now also mentor people new to business through Universities, Accelerator programs and Entrepreneurship programs. I am inspired every time someone takes a step towards business ownership and truly love helping them along the way!

If you had 2 lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

A/B test everything. And you do not know what will work until you try it!

Where has your business focused most of its energy this year?

I have several businesses that are in different stages so I spend time working with each one to ensure they are efficient, growing and profitable. My time with the Buyer Tool Kit is to constantly improve the content and make sure customers understand the simple steps to buy a business!

What do you see as 2 new trends for small businesses and in your business?

The access to the Internet and advanced technology is opening up new markets for business owners without large investments and the second is the movement of people wanting their own business as additional income.

If your business/store could be any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

James Bond. He is always one step ahead, has timeless knowledge, uses excellent tips and tricks and always achieves a happy ending!

If your business could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

Richard Branson, Incredible businessman who has started and bought hundreds of businesses!

What is the biggest challenge that your business faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge?

To create an online presence that earns the trust of people looking to buy a business and provide a product that can truly save them thousands of dollars. We are focused on gathering user feedback, adding up the dollars we have saved for people and using great trust indicators that actually add value like KikScore!

Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

I will share this simple quote that was passed on to me by a really successful business mentor: ” Troy, you make money when you buy.”

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News Roundup: Inc. Magazine & SmallBiz Technology Talking About KikScore

April 9th, 2012 | This post was written by RajMalik

We just wanted to send a special shout out to our friends at one of the best magazines around, Inc Magazine (see our previous post on our love for Inc. Magazine), and Ramon Ray's SmallBiz Technology Blog.  Over the last few weeks, both of these great websites not only mentioned KikScore but used us as important data points for both How to Build a Website that Inspires Trust and also Managing Your Online Reputation and Taking Steps to Protect it.

The Inc. Magazine post discusses the important concept of making sure your business website conveys trust and credibility.  If you remember, we actually were the guest host for #SmallBizChat on that very topic last year so feel free to check out our presentation and tips that was rated one of the top 10 tweetchats of all of 2011. Thanks to Jon Gelberg for mentioning us in the article.  We really appreciate it.

The SmallBiz Technology article discusses the increasingly important issue of how do businesses manage their reputation in a comprehensive way from what is said on third party sites and then taking the best reputational information and making sure that makes it onto the small business' website.  Just like so many of the great articles on Ramon Ray's blog, the article discusses how there is a real need for a 360 degree solution for small businesses so they can collect and use reputational information from across the internet (Yelp, Google feedback, Facebook posts, Tweets etc) to get more business from their websites.  We are really honored to be mentioned as a product that helps deliver part of that 360 degree reputation management solution to small businesses.

Thanks to both of these great websites for covering and discussing KikScore.

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Small Business Interview with Ruben Guerin from Cookbook Village

March 16th, 2012 | This post was written by tubs
I had the opportunity to interview Ruben Guerin from Cookbook Village and he had some very interesting insights into the current state of e-commerce and small businesses.  Ruben also had some great recommendations for small businesses just getting started selling online in the interview below.

Tell us about your business and who you focus on serving?

Cookbook Village has been around several years, but as a popular eBay store. The new store, which opened in January 2012, caters to collectors and cookbook enthusiasts and offers collectible, vintage and used cookbooks.

How did you get started selling online?

My wife had been a collector for years and asked me at one point to sell her collection on eBay. She was fascinated by e-commerce and wanted to us to try it out. There is an audience for collectible cookbooks and we knew it as soon as her original collection was nearly depleted. To keep the store going and our own collecting habit fed, we began scouting cookbooks all over the region. Finally last year, we decided to plan to open our own e-commerce store in 2012. It was six months in the making as we wanted it to be our dream site. We opened in early December and are now entering month four.

What inspires you to grow your business?

I was a 20-year employee of Shell Petroleum when I lived in The Netherlands. I gave up a stable career there to move to the United States with my wife–she had wanted to return home after living there for over 10 years. My world changed quite a bit and I have had to try to re-establish myself. Cookbook Village is my chance at again having a thriving career, this time running my own business. People have said a printed book is becoming a thing of the past. I believe that cookbooks are something you need to touch and feel and I am out to prove they will be around for a long time into the future. Growth is key in any business.

If you had two lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

1) Selling online is a business like any other. You have to put a lot of time and effort into making it successful. It is not as easy as putting up a cart page and hitting publish. There are many facets to selling online and I think many new store owners expect it to be easy with a “build it and they shall come” mentality. That is a mistake.

2) Ensure that you plan ways to engage your audience. Cookbook Village has a strong focus on audience engagement and customer service. We are constantly thinking of new ways to reach out and provide our site’s users and customers with content and products that meet their needs. Social media and search engines are both kings in the world of e-commerce. Neither should be taken lightly and both should be a focus when you are building your online store or business. I see many online businesses today that practice one-way communication. This is why the KikScore seal is so important to us. It is a means for customers to provide feedback in a trusted, third-party app.

Where has your business focused most of its energy this year?

Since we have only recently launched the new cookbookvillage.com store we have been focused heavily on tuning our store to offer a better customer experience. Also, we are heavily focused on building store traffic and brand awareness. Through social channels, blogging and SEO, we are starting to gain momentum. We didn’t expect a single sale for the first several months. We were being conservative. We are prohibited from reaching out to our eBay base, so essentially we’ve had to start over. We made a sale in the couple days after hitting “public” in our cart application. What a surprise, but it’s set the bar a bit higher as well.

What do you see as two new trends in small business and in your business?

Pinterest and similar visual sharing platforms are hot right now, especially for e-commerce. The fastest online sale we’ve ever seen came just seconds after hitting “Pin” on one of our books. We are seeing similar platforms come out so we are tracking them closely to see if there are opportunities.

Integrations in technology have really helped streamline small businesses like ours. Our shopping cart platform, Shopify, integrates with a lot of wonderful apps. KikScore, email apps, order status apps and more make the store easier to manage. The fact that companies are working together to provide more integration and features for end-users is a blessing. We wouldn’t have been able to do half of what we’ve accomplished without a platform like Shopify and all of it’s partner applications.

If your business/store could be any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. Cookbooks make people happy. We like making the connection between cookbook and cook, often bringing customers a cookbook that has a deep connection with a childhood or memorable event. Over the years, we have received many letters from people we’ve touched. Some of those letters describe the memories the customer has had come to life from a book from their past and being able to find it again. I can’t think of many retail items that have the power to bring someone to tears. We are a business like any other and need to profit to carry on and survive, but we like the fact that we make people happy. It’s a win-win situation for both Cookbook Village and our customers.

If your business could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

Russ Parsons, food editor at LA Times did an article on our store. He had stumbled upon our site a week after launch. He has a huge following and a lot of influence in our market. We followed him on the Daily Dish blog but weren’t truly aware of his love of cookbook collecting until we saw the article about Cookbook Village. What a spokesperson he would be! He understands the culinary world and the audience–and is himself a collector. Having someone like that discuss our business is powerful because he understands both the industry and the market. The day that article came out was a day we will forever remember. We were so surprised to see it. It was the perfect article and we wouldn’t have changed a word. If we could pick a second it might have to be one of the Top Chef hosts. We love that show and all its hosts.

What is the biggest challenge that your business faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge?

The biggest challenge we face tends to be too many ideas, too little time to execute them. Since we are still small and starting out, we need to do it on our own. Our store model patterns the brick-and-mortar boutique store experience–customer service focused with a richer focus on cookbook details versus the one line descriptions you often see on online book sites. That means complete cookbook details and vivid photos of the items (no stock photos of our books). That takes a lot of time. Also all the marketing and customer outreach can be draining. So when do we work on all these updates, promotions and new ideas? We overcome the obstacle by logging each idea and making a fixed time each week to execute at least one of them.

Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

A strong focus on providing good customer service is as important to online businesses as traditional businesses. With the current social climate online, customers have the power to help promote your business alongside you. Don’t take for granted. Some people may love a quick get-in, get-out experience but others prefer a connection and a sense of community. Online retailers should strive to bring customers the best of both worlds.

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The Fabric of a True Leader – My Takeaways from the Last 5+ Years

February 29th, 2012 | This post was written by RajMalik

As many of the readers of this blog know, my day job has been at a large web services company over the last few years.  Today is my final day of juggling the absolutely exhausting schedule of a demanding full-time day job and simultaneous full nights and weekend entrepreneur with KikScore.  I am very excited for that, however, the only major downside really is I now have to find another excuse for why I am 10 pounds overweight, have no time to work out, am balding and have those dark circles under my eyes!

The substance of this post and the story that provides that substance has been years in the making. In short, this post is about the lessons I learned from an undeniable true leader, my former boss (who also left the company this past November).  Therefore this is a very personal and important post for me for two reasons: 1) to provide a way of saying thanks to him and 2) to share with the broader community some of the incredible traits that I hope we all strive for in leadership positions that we are in or may be in one day.  My tribute to him will only really be complete if I can embody and carry many of these same traits to KikScore and beyond in my career and not end up like the guy from the CareerBuilder ad (great song by the way from one of my all time favorite commercials)!

Instead of a long story, the best way to convey to readers what I experienced and learned first hand is by sharing the traits that he repeatedly demonstrated in his daily work and interactions with our team, management, board of directors, third parties, employees throughout the organization and even adversaries trying to sue the company.   The traits broadly broke down into four main areas:

1) Personality;

2) Management;

3) Strategy; and

4) Interaction with Others.

Just for some important context, I saw these traits and actions of this leader over the backdrop of more than 5 years, 4 different management teams (including 4 different CEOs) and 3 different owners that included two separate private equity firms.  His approach to leadership and managing his team instilled a tremendous amount of loyalty not just with me, but throughout the entire organization and especially with his ability to successfully manage through external crisis scenarios and heavy media scrutiny.  A testament to that is over the last few years there was not one person that had the overall and nearly universal respect of the multiple management teams, middle level management and employee base as well as scores of people outside of the company (even competitors too!) and in the community that consistently and repeatedly recognized and often commented on how phenomenal of a leader and person my former boss is.  The funny thing is I honestly think there are probably more than 20 people today across many of these organizations around the world that would write this very same post I am writing about him because our experiences with him have been so similar.

So based on my last 5+ years, the fabric of a true leader can best be described the following way:

A Leader’s Personality Matters

1) Be the person that sets the example and the standard for others

2) Remain calm during a crisis and when others are in various states of panic because that calmness helps everyone make better decisions

3) Keep everything in perspective, even when going through ups and downs as a company and team

4) Stick up for those people who do not have a voice, they will repay you with loyalty and even harder work

5) Be courageous and have the conviction to present a different opinion (just make sure to back it up with data and facts)

6) Steer clear of the politics for a decision and focus instead on what is the right decision for the business

7) Take the time to laugh and enjoy the moment – laughter can often diffuse the inevitable tense meetings and events that we all experience

A Leader Helps Create and Implement a Strategy

8 Work to create an overall mission/strategy that defines the role for yourself and the people you manage

9) Remain flexible and open minded in the tasks and roadmap needed to execute on the strategy

10) Always game plan so you think two and three steps ahead of decisions/actions taken so a team can adequately anticipate possible outcomes

11) Relentlessly focus on customers and employees for the overall strategy and the decisions that are made in executing on that strategy

A Leader Manages with Common Sense

12) Know the role that you have as the leader of a team and focus on consistently delivering in that role

13) As you manage and lead your team, work to ensure that the team clearly understands the strategy and mission that is to be accomplished and their individual roles in achieving the mission

14) Ask lots of questions, but do not second guess subject matter experts by replacing their recommendations with your own gut feelings

15) Learn to deflect praise to the team and team members

16) Actively promote the careers of deserving team members even if they end up having to leave your team

17) Communicate, communicate and then communicate some more with your team

A Leader Makes a World of Difference to Others Through Their Interactions

18) Set your own high standard for interacting with others and make sure you do not get drawn into reacting to other people’s behavior and negativity

19) Avoid unnecessary escalations where you need to “go over someone’s head” and instead give people the benefit of the doubt

20) Take the extra time to remove the attitude from communication and email – the attitude almost always is counterproductive to everyone involved

21) When in doubt, have a face to face conversation instead of trying resolve items over email, that hardly works

22) Be respectful of others’ workloads even when you are much busier than they are

23) Focus on the person that is talking to you, do not multitask and look at your email when they are asking you questions or talking to you

24) Encourage learning from failure and mistakes instead of pointing fingers

I could probably go on and on, especially with more than 5 years of material but then I would lose probably even more readers than I already have with this long post.  Ultimately, a person is perceived and recognized as a leader for a number of reasons often due to their own merit or in some instances just due to association with certain people in an organization.  This post is about laying out the path to do it on your own merit because that is what I saw first hand for the last few years with my former boss. I am forever better off for being part of a team that had a one of a kind leader that taught me (and many others on our team and beyond): that leaders succeed by standing up for a core set of values, working exceptionally hard, taking care of their people, and caring deeply about customers and fellow teammates.


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Thanks Fox Business For Covering KikScore As Their Featured Business of the Day

February 28th, 2012 | This post was written by SuperChief-Admin

We were really excited that our friends on Twitter nominated us to Fox Business Channel to be featured as their Business of the Day last week.  Special thanks to Kate Rogers the fantastic Fox Business Network Online, Small Business reporter that interviewed and then featured KikScore.  Here is her article: Grading Small Businesses to Close Sales.  Fox Small Business is doing a great job profiling small businesses.  Just follow the hashtag #mysbc on Twitter to see other great businesses that they are profiling and nominate your favorite ones.  We nominated a bunch last week!

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Is Your Small Business Using Texting to Communicate with Customers? Here Are Some Tools to Help

February 27th, 2012 | This post was written by mitalib

Hey, have you heard of a company called Seconds? No, well neither did I until I saw that they were giving small businesses texting. Apparently no one could send or receive text messages with their local businesses before Seconds came along.  But, Seconds isn’t the only one who doing this. There’s another company called talkto which looks like it’s going to do the same thing. (It’s still in beta right now, so we’ll have to wait and see.)

The good thing about Seconds is that it is a two way system. You won’t just be getting text messages from businesses, you’ll be able to send them messages too. This is great because it saves you time. Plus, since it uses text messages, almost any phone will work with it. You don’t need to have the latest iPhone model.

Seconds stores all the data in the cloud, so things are pretty smooth and quick. Right now, they charge only a dollar per customer, so it’s good for a small business just starting out.

So what can you do with this texting service? Well besides the obvious, keeping in contact with your customers, you can handle customer service complaints. Your customers will probably be happy if they don’t have to wait and you reduce the chances of getting yelled at over the phone. Also, you can use texting to promote your business and give your texters exclusive deals.

I think that this is a good idea and that if you’re a small business owner, you should look into it and see if it’d work for you.

What are your thoughts?

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