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Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

KikScore Technology Acquired – Service Will Change on June 28th

Friday, June 1st, 2012

 

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

Monday, April 30th, 2012

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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Small Business Interview with Ruben Guerin from Cookbook Village

Friday, March 16th, 2012
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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Small Business Interview with Hostile Bacon

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

I had the opportunity to interview Miss Ren & Pete who operate an up and coming Shopify store named Hostile Bacon this week.  They had some very interesting lessons learned from their experience starting their business and how they have evolved their use of social media to help market their business over time.  Please check out the interview below and let us know your thoughts in the comments as well.

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

Hostile Bacon is an online store that provides a variety of products that are unique or quirky in nature. These are lifestyle and fashion items that you typically wouldn’t find at the local shops, some items are handmade by local designers, others are sourced from overseas and closer to home. We also provide random yet interesting information through Ren St blog and our social media channels.

Our focus is to serve anyone who likes things that are a little bit different, a shopper who is looking for a gift for themselves or someone else. If you’re nostalgic, whimsical, fashionable, health conscious, practical or all of the mentioned, Hostile Bacon is for you.

How did you get started selling online?

www.hostilebacon.com.au came about by necessity. I’ve been designing and making things since I first stepped foot in a home economics class room many years ago. At the start I was making things for myself and then friends and family started putting in orders and then eventually friends of friends were buying my designs, by this stage online was the best medium to have as a shop front and I also started sourcing products to provide a larger variety.

What inspires you to grow your business?

I really enjoy sourcing new products, coming up with new ideas, researching and writing my blog and seeing what so many talented designers are producing. I’m also inspired by the fact that we provide a good shopping experience for our customers. Shopping should be an activity that is pleasurable and easy.

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

Lesson number 1 would be to invest in a reputable, secure hosting company, to keep your site operating securely.

Lesson number 2 is to remember that little things make a big difference. Wrapping an item, replying to a post or comment, these things and more, create a good experience for shoppers and potential customers.

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

This year we’ve focused on sourcing new and interesting products and optimizing the website to attract and maintain customers. We want to be found easily and for our customers to come back repeatedly and to do this we have to offer something new regularly and provide a reason to come back to the site.

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

I believe more small businesses will use social media to engage rather than push products. We’ve built social media into our marketing plan as a majority of our target market are social media savvy.

A user friendly website that is clean and easy to navigate is becoming more favoured, long gone are the days of clunky websites with neon flashing banners and an encyclopedias worth of information. We regularly make changes to the site to ensure those that do visit have a good experience and stay longer.

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

I would choose the character Holly Golightly played by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s as she is synonymous with style, glamour and eccentricity.

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

Fonzie would the our dream spokesperson, he was cool in 1974 and 38 years later he is still cool.

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

A big challenge is competing with large companies with even larger marketing budgets.  To overcome this we will continue with traditional marketing activity and provide our customers with a great experience so they ‘market’ us to friends and family.

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

You are the expert in what you do so rely on experts to perform tasks in other areas to help you with your business, things that may not be your strengths. It’s very easy to become bombarded with tasks in running a business and sometime it would be a much more effective use or your time and resources to utilise someone else’s skill set and lastly, enjoy what you do. I’m always smiling when I talk about Hostile Bacon because I enjoy it so much.

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Mobile Shopping is Going Viral this Holiday Season!

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

With only 11 shopping days left until Christmas, shoppers need all the help they can get this holiday season while trying to find the best deal on the perfect gift for their loved one.  This year more shoppers than ever before are using their smartphones to find the best deals while they are in stores around the country and even at home and work.

Pricegrabber just released these survey results last week of 3,574 online consumers in the United States.  According to these results, 39% of all respondents have a shopping-related application on their smartphone.  Out of the respondents with a shopping application on their phone, 56% indicated that they have these applications on their phone because they believe they get the best prices using mobile shopping applications.

These numbers show a staggering increase from just 1 year ago when I wrote this KikScore blog post that talked about a Wall Street Journal article that indicated that only 5.6% of consumers used a mobile phone to price compare while on the go.  The WSJ article referenced in the aforementioned blog post also says that only .1% of consumers used a mobile phone in this way in 2009.  As you can see from these numbers consumers are continuing to increase their use of smartphone mobile shopping applications at an exponential rate!

So, what are merchants across the Unites States doing in response to these legions of mobile smartphone shoppers?  Unfortunately, the answer is still “not very much” at this time.  Again, like I mentioned in my blog post last year, I still cannot walk into a Best Buy, use my smartphone to find a better price on an item online and get the store to match this price.  Many bricks and mortar stores are still having a problem reacting to this new wave of technological advancement in the pocket of the U.S. consumer.

According to this article in the Chicago Tribune, some retailers like Macy’s and J.C. Penney are starting to react to these mobile shoppers by streamlining their mobile websites, creating custom shopping applications, and increasing the speed and efficiency of their sites.  In my mind, however, this is just the very basic levels of catering to the mobile shopping consumer and great strides will need to be made in the coming years in order for this new bread of consumer to be on the same page with these large retailers in the U.S.

Have you had a positive or negative experience while using a smartphone with a mobile shopping application at a retailer?

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Small Business Interview with Sophie Kovic from FlockStocks

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

I recently had the chance to interview Sophie Kovic from FlockStocks and here are some of the highlights of our discussion:

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

We are a feather hair extension supplier that mainly sells to salons. We hit it big when we opened up FlockStocks as our store opening serendipitously coincided with the start of the Shopify Build-A-Business competition. Since then we have been focusing on improving our products and services and following trends. We are really trying to listen to what our clients want, and developing our products accordingly.

How did you get started selling online?

We started on eBay selling a range of products. I had a clothing label originally.  Selling online was inspired by Timothy Ferriss and the Four Hour Work Week. But the clothes didn’t really match his lifestyle model. FlockStocks is much more rewarding, and far less work. Tim would be proud.

What inspires you to grow your business?

Besides the obvious cash incentive and the subsequent lifestyle, I just really enjoy the work. One of the exciting things for me is meeting new like-minded people. At the moment my goal is to meet an inspiring business mentor.  I also have a new baby and want to make sure I can provide for him properly.

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

1) Choose something with little or no variation, such as size, color etc. With little or no variation you get less hassle, less complaints, less stock-keeping, and less returns.

2) Choose something with good Adwords potential. High clicks and low competition is everything. You must be sure you can drive customers to your site in the beginning.

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

We have been focusing on developing a new way of grading our products, which makes the whole process much easier for clients to select a product based on their needs and budget. That is still in the works. We have also been diversifying our products, finding better suppliers and generally growing our range. Staying current and rolling with the trends is absolutely vital to our business.

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

1) Sites that host timed discounts such as Groupon are great ways to get exposure.

2) Instant advertising methods have changed the way we can get potential customers to our sites. Adwords, for example can get you results in one day. Long gone are the delays of print advertising.

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

Juno. That movie came out of nowhere. It didn’t appear to fit with the mainstream, but most people ended up thinking it was really cool.

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

Kim Kardashian would be our dream spokesperson. Besides being gorgeous and surprisingly articulate she has a very talked about hairstyle and would be the perfect fit for our premium positioning in the market.  

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

A new flooding of competitors is the main challenge facing our business today. Refocusing on a different clientele (salons rather than individuals) where there is less competition has been our approach to this problem.  That also works in well with Tim Ferriss’s  80/20 principal, where 80% of profits come from 20% of customers.

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

Read The Four Hour Work Week. It changed my life. I am writing this from a villa in Thailand, where I just celebrated my 25th birthday, with my partner, son and friends. We have just spent 3 months here, and I have not so much as looked at an order the whole time. I learnt that things can be automated. The world will not fall apart if you step away. Trust your people. They are smart. They will work it out. You will have more time to come back with better, bolder and bigger ideas.

So go. Do something. Be inspired. And have fun! 

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Guest Post: Top Ten Reasons Small Businesses Fail, part eight: Cash Flow

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Cash flow

It’s odd: the purpose of starting, running or working for a Small Business is making money. Yet managing money is almost universally the one thing most neglected, ignored or feared by Small Business owners, operators or employees .

Quite often, you’ll hear some variation of the phrase “I’m not really in it for the money” – as if a focus on the financials is dishonorable or morally objectionable. But if you consider it for just a moment, that’s like a doctor sayingI’m not really in it to help people“. Whether you’re a Scrooge-like materialist or a post-modern hippy at heart, the purpose of starting, running or working for a business is profit.

Many people, regardless of their financial status, avoid dealing with their finances. Debt consolidation commercials fill the air, and stories of multi-million dollar celebrity bankruptcies have almost become cliche. But managing Small Business financials doesn’t require advanced calculus skills — just an understanding of basic accounting skills, and a strategic use of technology.

You have to manage your money — Small Business financial management is more than having a positive bank balance. Cash flow becomes critical when there is a delay between the money you’re owed (accounts receivable) and the money you owe (accounts payable). This is where many Small Businesses experience cash flow problems — they know they’ve got the money coming in, but they miscalculate and end up overdrawn.

That is, after all, why it’s called cash flow — it’s dynamic, and fluid. The informal running total many of us depend on to manage our personal finances doesn’t scale effectively, and bouncing a check to a distributor or supplier can affect your credit rating, or worse, the survival of Your Small Business.

Below is a short list of software & websites to help you manage Your Small Business financials:


Of course, technology is not a magic bullet. The best accounting program is useless if you don’tuse it. This is why I recommend starting by creating a Mint.com account.

Mint.com allows you to reverse-engineer your budget: you provide read-only access to your bank accounts and credit cards, and it automatically categorizes your deposits and expenses. After a few months, you have a graphical breakdown of your cash flow: once you see where your money goes, and what your spending patterns are, you can then properly manage Your Small Business budget going forward.

Mint.com is run by Intuit – the company behind QuickBooks, the de facto standard in bookkeeping software. If you have fewer than twenty active clients (so far), QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition 2010 allows you to manage your billing and invoicing in the same format used by most accountants.

Using QuickBooks requires an understanding of basic accounting principles, which is why I’ve included one of the best introduction to accounting tutorials as the final link in the short list, Dave Marshall’s Bean Counter website.

The Bean Counter site has been online for eight years, and is the simplest introduction to basic accounting principles you’ll find without taking a course or buying a book. As with the software, it’s only useful if you actually use it.

Which is a choice only you can make. But your cash will flow, either way. The question is… in which direction?


Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. cholt@henssler.com
The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper
© 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com

Cornell Green is Your Open Source CIO, guest blogger for KikScore. Visit him at http://opensourcecio.blogspot.com

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SMB Group Interviews KikScore – Why Small Businesses Need Help Demonstrating Trust Online

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

I met the fantastic Laurie McCabe at the Small Business Summit in New York last month.  Laurie and her partner Sanjeev Aggarwal run the very influential market research company, the SMB Group, that focuses on studying the small and middle market business.  Laurie alone has over 20 years of experience in studying this market and conducting in-depth studies and competitive analysis.  The SMB Group is only growing in influence as a research group that knows the ins and outs of the Small Business space. In fact, Laurie and Sanjeev just last month authored the 2011 Impact of Social Business on Small and Medium Companies. Earlier this year they published the 2011 Top 10 SMB Technology Market Predictions and have a number of other studies coming out soon.

Just one of the many great items that came out of the Small Business Summit was that Laurie wanted to sit down with Mike and I to learn more about KikScore and how KikScore helps small businesses take information about their reputation and track record of reliability and trustworthiness and display that to shoppers and leads so the small business can sell more.

We want to say thanks to Laurie and Sanjeev for sitting down with us on this podcast.  Please check the KikScore interview (and the other great podcasts too) here.

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Are you on the right journey for yourself and your business? A Must Watch Video

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

If you have not heard about Dr. Srikumar Rao, he is a well known professor and speaker on business, management, professional development and personal enrichment.  He has given a number of great talks including a recent one at the TED conference that can be seen here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).   The above one is from a talk he gave at Google in 2008.

The reason you should watch this video: it is really a transformational type of video that asks critical and important questions about the journey you, your business, your career and your life is on.  While the video is a little over 45 minutes, it is well worth it.  My wife and I watched it on Sunday.  We highly recommend it to our friends, family and the community.  You will not regret taking the time to watch it.

After you watch it, please tell us what you think.

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Video: Sir Richard Branson on Marketing and Business

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Here is a very good short 6 minute video of the great entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson, on marketing and business.  As always he has some great tips and stories that small businesses, entrepreneurs and startups can learn from for our businesses.

Please check it out and let us know your thoughts.

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