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Archive for 2010

Building a Start-up Company and Having a Family at the Same Time

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

I was reading this post on BizSugar the other day and I thought that it was very applicable to our KikScore team so I am sure that it will also be interesting to a lot of other small business owners who also have families.  This post by Tim Jahn makes the argument that entrepreneurs can start a successful business and have a family at the same time if they maintain their focus, have a schedule, and if they set specific goals for themselves.

I definitely agree with Tim that it is possible to start a successful company while having a family, being a new father myself, and I also agree that it is very important to set aside a specific time and day(s) when you plan to complete work for the new company.  I usually try to work on my KikScore tasks on the same nights each week so my wife and I can plan around those nights so that there aren’t as many conflicts as there might otherwise be if my work schedule was constantly changing.

I also think that Tim makes a great point when he talks about having specific goals for yourself.  I find it very helpful to have a set of tasks that I want to complete each week and I make sure to keep these written down for myself each week so that they are completed.  I think that if you are vague or too lofty about your work goals for each week or month that you may start feeling like you are never getting anything done which may lead to frustration pretty quickly.

Again, I think if you are pretty good at managing your time and setting specific goals for yourself then having a family and starting a new business are definitely two things that can peacefully exist in harmony.  What have your experiences been with managing your business and family at the same time?  Any other recommendations you would like to give to our readers?

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Archive for 2010

Business Cards Go Digital

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

How many business cards do you have floating around in your desk drawer or purse? Have you ever lost important contact information because you could not locate that little card? Well, in a time when just about everything is going digital…why not business cards?

Have you ever heard of Poken? Well if you hadn’t already heard of Poken, then it was only a matter of time before you did. TechCrunch Europe recently named Poken in the Best Real World Gadget of 2009. A Poken is a thumb drive designed to replace traditional business cards. The Poken is described as a “social business card” that people can access online. Users are encouraged to attach their Poken to their keychain or to keep it in their pocket. Poken users can connect with other Poken users by simply touching their Pokens together. When the two Pokens touch, they exchange contact information. The idea is that a Poken can eliminate the need to carry around a stack of business cards. The Poken stores contact information for you, easily and compactly. The Poken is “one home for all your connections and all of their information”.

There are many Poken designs to chose from. Some resemble little animals, others have fun designs. The PokenSpark collection glow green when they touch other Pokens. The glow is meant to resemble “that flash of emotion and excitement” that come from “connecting with people”.  The PokenPulse collection is more “sleek & sexy” with the “jet black and white trim”. If you visit the Poken website you’ll discover a whole world of Pokens. The idea is that users pick the Poken that reflects their unique personality or style.

Personally, I am a little disturbed by the PokenSpark that is desiged to replace that feeling that comes from connecting with people. On the other hand, I like the fact that digital business cards are greener than their paper alternatives.

So what do you think about Pokens? Will they be successful in the United States? Would you consider purchasing one? Do you know anyone who has already purchased a Poken?

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Archive for 2010

4 Reasons SmallBiz & Startups Should Attend Friday's GrowSmartBiz Conference in DC

Monday, November 1st, 2010

On Friday, November 5, 2010, the Second Annual GrowSmartBiz Conference will take place at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Washington DC.  If last year’s conference gives us any idea about how this year’s one will be, you can expect a full day of great tips from real subject matter experts across a wide range of topics that impact small business and startups. I have to say last year my wife (who owns a small business) and I both attended and we could not stop talking about the energy, the people we met, the important tips we learned and frankly all of the fun we had in one day.  Besides our experience going to SXSW in 2009 when I co-presented, this is hands down one of my personal favorite conferences I have attended – and I even worked the conference last year manning the “SmallBiz Answers Booth” with PR specialists, lawyers, marketers, developers and startup founders.

So here are 4 independent reasons to attend this year’s GrowSmartBiz Conference:

1. The Speakers Are Awesome and Experienced Starting with the keynotes that include Successful Entrepreneur Raul Fernandez all the way to the speakers and moderator at the four track sessions and excellent.  The speaker list includes small business, technology, social media and PR kings like Ramon Ray (recently on MSNBC), Brent Leary, Marissa Levin, Joe Libava, Steven King, Jill Foster, Shonali Burke, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Ken Yancey and Rohit Bhargava. And this is just a few of the names that will be there on Friday.  The full speaker list can be found here and Jill Foster has a great summary of the lineup on her excellent blog Live Your Talk.

2. The Topics Are Going to be Highly Informative Building off last year’s conference, the organizers this year broke the conference into four main tracks: 1) Marketing & Innovation; 2) Small Business, Government & Non-Profits; 3) Technology as a Tool for Your Business; and 4) Entrepreneur Bootcamp.  Each of these four tracks has a dense topic list that includes Socal Media Marketing, Learning How to Tell Your Business Story, How to Track and Keep Customers, 6 Rules for Tech Success and Tips for Smart Hiring Practices.  These are just some of the great topics (see full agenda)  that will help any small business and startup.

3. Great Networking Opportunities It has been reported in many places (and I have heard first hand) that small businesses would like to spend more time networking and learning from each other.  Well GrowSmartBiz took the feedback from last year;’s conference and created more opportunities for the small business attendees to network and meet each other.  This year there are multiple times during the day when you can meet the fellow attendees and also ask the speakers questions after their presentations.  More networking means more learning and more business opportunities for your business.

4. Pre-Event Happy Hour This year a night before the conference happy hour for speakers, bloggers, the media, attendees and sponsors is being organized.  This way you can start networking even before the conference begins!  Who knows your question or story may end up being referenced or mentioned on Friday by one of the speakers.  My wife’s website got mentioned last year during Ramon Ray’s presentation after he met her right before his speaking session. Here is the information on the Thursday evening Happy Hour!

These are just some of the reasons to sign up and attend on Friday.   Last year there were well over 400 attendees live in person and hundreds more that watched it streaming live from as far as Australia.

Hope to see you there! By the way, here is the signup information at the Washington Business Journal site.

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Archive for 2010

20% Less Spam for Thanksgiving This Year!

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

To be honest with you, I actually really liked Spam when I was kid.  I don’t know what it was about that imitation, rubbery, ham-like substance but I am fairly certain that my Mom had me convinced it was real meat…either that, or I just didn’t know enough to think anything of it.  Jump forward 20 years, and Spam (emails) have become the bain of every Internet user’s existence.  Well, we are all in luck according to this article in the New York Times a couple days ago that indicates that these Spam emails should be decreasing by about 20% in the United States.

This article gives more details about how a major “spam kingpin” was recently arrested by Moscow police.  Apparently Igor Gusev was paying spammers handsomely to send emails promoting online pharmacies through his SpamIt.com domain.  The New York Times article goes on to talk about how known mass spammers and other cyber security threats have operated in public view for years but that recently the Russian government has started to try and clean up this image while also trying to partner with Silicon Valley to bring more commerce to the country.

While the reason for this Spam clean-up may be a little back-handed, I think that this is definitely good news for online security in general and a much needed step in the right direction.  Have you noticed a lower level of Spam email in your inbox over the course of the last 3-4 weeks?

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Archive for 2010

Happy Customers Want to Share Their Positive Experiences

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

This weekend I went to a Mexican restaurant that just opened in the area with a couple of friends. We were greeted by the entire wait staff and the manager when we entered. The food was good, not amazing, but because the wait staff was so kind and attentive we left very happy and satisfied. After leaving we all felt strongly that we wanted to post a positive review of the restaurant online for others to see. We were so appreciative of the fabulous service, that we wanted to return the favor by recommending the restaurant to others. We did post a glowing review online, we also recommended the restaurant to a friend who then ate at the restaurant the very next day.

A recent study by Harbinger found that women are more likely to share information about positive experiences over negative experiences that they’ve had with products/services. The survey asked women about several categories including ,but not limited to, information on food and beverages and appliances. Most women stated that the reason they were compelled to share positive experiences with others was because they wanted to “share the good experiences.” More women were inspired to share positive experiences rather than negative experiences. The survey found that women will share positive reviews with friends and family face-to-face and through websites.

So, people like to share positive experiences with others. If you are a small business owner, make sure that you’ve made it easy for customers who’ve had positive experiences with your company to spread the word. Encourage customers to submit feedback through your website by creating an area for customer to post reviews. Allowing customers to post reviews on your websites gives you a better understanding of what your customers like and don’t like about your product/services. An additional benefit of soliciting customer feedback on company websites was pointed out in a recent emarketer.com article that explained that as people contribute reviews on business website they “have a higher affinity and loyalty to the brand” and they feel that they’ve “left something behind of themselves” and so they will return to the site “more engaged”. So, if you’re a business owner and you aren’t soliciting customer reviews on your website..start!

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Archive for 2010

4 Changes you should be aware of if you are thinking of starting a small business

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

# All of these changes are from the book Finding Fertile Ground: Identifying Extraordinary Opportunities for New Ventures by Dr. Scott A. Shane, which you can buy here. We’re using this in my Entrepreneurial Opportunity Class right now and I thought I’d share. The rest of it is my own words.

Changes in Industry

  1. Part of an industry? Then this should be easier for you.
  2. Not part of an industry or been out of an industry for a while? Then just pick one or keep your eye on the one you left. Look at blogs, the newspaper(which is how I get most of my news), your contacts in the industry(if you have any. If you don’t, get some!)
  3. If there is, then you can start looking for ways to solve that need
  4. Once you’ve found the change, see if there is a need for something.
  5. If there isn’t, then either keep looking in the same industry, look in another industry or change your focus
  6. Start looking people! For this, go check out blogs such as engadget and other blogs that stay on top of new technology. Chances are that once the tech hits the newspapers or magazines such as Wired and PopSci it’ s old news

Changes in Technology

  1. Again, if there’s a need and you know , or have an idea, of how to fill it, the go for it! If not, keep looking, you’ll find something.
  2. Heard about the new Healthcare regulations. Who hasn’t? Regulations such as these, are good for making people need a product or service that lets them comply with the rules.

Changes in Regulation

  1. DoseSpot did this for prescriptions, which allowed doctors to comply with new Healthcare guidelines. If any of you went to the UMD Boot Camp thing yesterday, you might have heard the founder speak.
  2. So again, if you see a need then go for it! Otherwise keep looking

Demographic Change

  1. [For people in the US]Watch the census for demographic change. They have yet to release the results and I don’t think they’re done analyzing the data yet. keep an eye out for the results.
  2. [For people outside the US] Ask your government for your country’s census results.
  3. If there is major demographic change, such as one group becoming more prominent in one part of a country or an increase of immigration of a certain group, then you could possibly start a niche company that aims to fulfill the needs of that group.

Anyone have anything they’d like to add?

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Archive for 2010

Sexting and Supercookies: Two things that begin with the letter S

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Did you hear about Apple’s new patent? No? Well, go here. Apparently Apple has created a device that would monitor the content of text messages.  This means that parents could set controls to stop their kids from sending sexually explicit text messages (referred to as sexting). But according to the post, it could be used to help kids with their vocabulary and other educational uses. What about the other implications of this? Apple could partner with the government to help them monitor employee text messages, which would help prevent employees from spilling State secrets and sending other text messages that could potentially harm the government. Or Apple could provide the intelligence agencies with access to customer data which may or may not help keep people safe.  (Remember wiretapping) Apple may have a patent on the device, but not on the idea, which means that someone out there could make software which would do the same thing as the device.

Speaking of coding (because you have to do coding to make software), did you hear about the guy who created a supercookie? No, this is not a joke, Samy Kamkar, you may remember him from the Samy worm-the thing that took down MySpace (who uses that anymore?), has created a cookie that’s very hard to delete. He calls it an Evercookie, but some other people and I are calling it a Supercookie (it sounds better) because it stores information in more places than a traditional cookie (wow, that makes them sound old). Kamkar, according to the NyTimes, has the blueprints (the code) available to anyone who wants to look at it. Beware of more supercookies in the future!  How did he create the supercookie? I have no idea, but I do know that he used HTML 5, which should be integrated into everything on the web soon, to do it.

This does not look that cool. They need a cooler logo.

What is HTML 5?  The latest version of hypertext markup language or HTML for short. Who remembered that HTML stood for that before reading this post or the NYTimes article? *Sees hands* Ok, a couple of people. Now you know. What does it do? It’s supposed to make it easier to view multimedia content without downloading all the plug-ins, add-ons, widgets…..etc. It’ll also make it easier to check email offline(how does that work anyway?), and find stuff on your smartphone. It’ll also make it easier to track data, which depending on how it’s done and what it’s done for may be a bad thing. Anyone, besides me, feeling paranoid or slightly nervous yet? The data is supposed to be collected in large amounts and stored on your hard drive while online. Wait a minute! If the data’s stored on your hard drive, won’t it take up space?…..I have no idea how that works and this PowerPoint doesn’t really help, but it’s great for explaining the basics of HTML 5.

The big 5 (Chrome, Explorer, Opera, Safari, Firefox) all support parts of HTML 5, but only Chrome supports most of it. (At the time the PowerPoint was created.) However, according to Google’s own JavaScript conformance test thing (called Sputnik, which is still in testing); Opera and Safari perform better than Chrome or Firefox. But, the test is performed for a computer running XP, so that might skew the results.

So what do you think? Please, only comments relevant to this post or the last post’s character contest (which is still open by the way).

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Archive for 2010

Manly Cupcakes and Tips on Finding, Understanding, and Appealing to your Target Market

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

I was flipping channels the other day when I stopped to watch a man who was promoting “manly cupcakes for manly men” on the Rachel Ray talk show. David Arrick started Butch Bakery after noticing how many cupcake businesses there were popping up around New York City. All the cupcake shops he noticed seemed to be marketing to the same audience. The stores offered pink, sparkly, frilly, pretty cupcakes. Arrick had an idea to create a cupcake business that appealed to a different crowd…men. Butch Bakery offers “manly” cupcakes with flavor combinations including beer, bacon and whiskey. They even have a cupcake that’s decorated in camouflage!

David Arrick had no trouble identifying his target market. He knew he wanted Butch Bakery to appeal to men who wanted delicious cupcakes, minus the frilly-factor. Have you found your target market yet? Have you been successful in appealing to them?

Here are a few things to consider about identifying and understanding your target market.

What purpose does your product serve and who might this appeal to?

What makes your product different than similar products, and who might benefit from the uniqueness of your product?

What are the people most likely to benefit from your product like? Where do they live? What do they do? How old are they? How much do they use the Internet and in what way? How large of an audience are they?

Are you trying to appeal to too large or diverse of an audience? Will your marketing efforts be more effective if you narrow or re-identify your target audience?

Once you have identified and developed a solid understanding of your target group, then it’s time to use this knowledge to appeal to your target group. There are several ways to do this.  I’ve include a few tips below.

Elicit feedback from members of your target audience. Ask them what they are looking for in a product like yours. Ask them where they would look for such a product.

Build a website that will appeal to your target audience. Do your research to figure out what design schemes/colors/content your audience will react the most positively to.

Make sure that the image you are portraying about your products/services is consistent and clear to your target audience. Don’t send mixed messages about what your product is or who it is for.

Manly Cupcakes and Tips on Finding, Understanding, and Appealing to your Target Market

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Archive for 2010

All Things Small & Medium Business – Free Focus.com Interactive Summit on 10/28/10

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

On October 28, 2010 Focus.com is putting on a great FREE online interactive small business summit that is a must attend event for small and medium businesses, entrepreneurs and startups.   The agenda is jam packed with a list of heavy hitters and small business thought leaders like Fran Tarkenton (calm down Mike, we know he was your hero while you grew up in MN),  Anita Campbell, Brent Leary, Ramon Ray, the Swami Shashi Bellamkonda and many many more. The sign up information and full list of speakers and topics is available at Focus.com.   The FREE online event lasts from 11am-6pm ET.  and the range of topics is wide and covers items such as:

1) The Small Business Survival Guide;

2) Accounting and Finance Secrets;

3) Connecting with Customers through New Media Channels;

4) Socialization of the SMB;

5) Top 10 Web Marketing Strategies;

6) IT for SMBs;

7) New Revenue Streams for SMBs with Partner Marketing; and

8) Security for SMBs (Ok Mike and I are representing KikScore and are speakers for this presentation – by the way, we are not heavy weights, but just heavy!).

Anyway, this really is a very exciting online summit and is going to have a ton of valuable information for entrepreneurs.  We have to say a special thanks to Anita Campbell for recommending us to Focus to be a part of this presentation and also Courtney Sato from Focus.com who has been great with preparing for next week’s session.

So please sign up.  The event should be excellent and we are really excited about the opportunity to be a part of this great small business event next week!

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Archive for 2010

Does Your Business Name Really Matter?

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Like all new businesses, when we were coming up with a name for our product, we struggled a bit.  We had to balance the availability of a “.com” domain, making sure the name is protect-able from a trademark perspective, and that the name would actually convey a sense of what we do.  This may be wrong,  but we wanted to focus on a “.com” domain, and one that spelled out our product name (not “who you gonna trust.com”). 

We looked for available domains (because we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a domain name), and then applied the next level of filter — conveying a sense of what we do.  We looked at a lot of “trust” type names, but none really seemed to work.  Then we focused on “score” and “scoring”.  There were many more options.

Finally we looked at the list in terms of what is the best from a trademark perspective.  If the name is too literal, it can’t be protected (e.g. www.transparencyseal.com”).  It has to be a bit unrelated (e.g. apple computers). 

There is no real surprise if you’re reading this blog that we wound up with KikScore.  But did all this brain damage over a name actually matter?  I mean, most of our traffic comes from other sources — like our partners, twitter or paid search clicks.  In other words, it feels like we could have named the product anything we wanted to and the traffic would come.  But is that really the case?  Maybe becaue of our name, people feel like partnering with us?  Maybe we wouldn’t have any traffic from Twitter if our name was “BreadScore” (though that just gave me a new business idea)?

What are your thoughts?  Does a name, in the beginning, really matter?

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