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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

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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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Small Business Interview with Troy Fimrite from the Atlin Institute

Friday, April 20th, 2012
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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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

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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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

A Down Under SmallBiz Story & Tips with One on the Way’s Kelly Tredwell

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Today we have the honor of sitting down with one of our new KikScore customers that signed up through our partnership with ShopifyOne on the Way’s owner, Kelly Tredwell, has a really cool and interesting business that is focused on serving the maternity wear segment.  Kelly’s entrepreneurial story takes us to Australia where her business is based, but she has customers all over the world! Beyond Kelly’s story about launching One on the Way in October 2010, she has some very good tips for small businesses and online store owners.

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

One on the Way is an online maternity clothing store, specialising on providing pregnant women with fashionable maternity clothes.

2. How did you get started selling online?

I bought the business in October 2010, however, it has been trading since 2007.  By the way you can find us on here on Twitter and Facebook.

3. What inspires you to grow your business?

Being a Mum myself and knowing how hard it was to find comfortable and affordable maternity clothes in the department stores, I am excited when I have been able to provide a customer with a dress or a top or something that she loves and will comfortably wear throughout pregnancy and beyond.  I also have a passion for fashion and have plans to release my own maternity clothing label at some stage down the track.

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

Maintain excellent customer service – always address orders or customer inquiries within a 24 hour turnaround time.  Be sure to research your advertising opportunities fully before committing financially.

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

For me personally it’s been about learning the industry, which was all new to me once I took over the store.  A new website has been on the cards since then too so I had been focused on what I wanted to achieve from this project and with it just going “live” on 1st January 2012 I am very pleased with the results of my hard work!

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

For small business I think a trend will be focused towards excellent quality products and in my business, I think enabling customers to have a more interactive approach to shopping for clothes online would be fantastic.  We’re working on it!

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

Audrey Hepburn – Graceful, Elegant, Chic and Sophisticated – like our clothing!

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

Competition – both here and abroad.  It’s everywhere, always a new online store opening up but that’s retail I suppose and I’m learning to not focus too much on what other stores/companies are doing.

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

For readers I think I would say that you don’t necessarily have to shop at the big, well known stores to get excellent products, quality service and fast turnaround times for purchases – small businesses are much more focused on achieving customer satisfaction so give us a go! For the small business community I would say keep going, keep putting in the hours and you’ll get there! Keep searching for the “difference that makes the difference” with your store.

Thanks to Kelly for sharing her story with the KikScore small business community.  Let us know if you have any questions for Kelly in our comment section below.

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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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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

SmallBiz Strategy Tips from Our 7 Best Blog Interviews of Last Year

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

The holidays are over (for most people anyway) and people are returning to work.  Last year was hectic and I don’t think this year will be much better considering it’s election year. Now before we start running for the underground bunkers or start to wade through the tens of thousands of political articles and interviews, let’s take a look at 7 really good interviews of last year that were on the blog.  [Please note that these are in no particular order, except for maybe how they appeared in my tab list.] I selected these because I think that they offer some new tips and talk about things that aren’t often talked about.

1. Books the new old Google

Turning Sites into Gold: This is an interview of John Nicholson from Marketade. The thing I liked the most about this interview was that Nicholson suggests going to a library and looking at books to get information.  I love libraries (although I haven’t properly been inside one in ages) and I think this is a source that most people overlook.

I remember when I was doing a Linguistics project, my partner and I got all of our information from two very good, but slightly outdated books.  Sure, the internet is a great resource and will probably have the most current information, but how much of that is actually valuable? At least with books, you know that it’s been filtered and scrutinized enough to know that it’s valuable. It may not be current, but it’s probably the best.

2. Law, Perfection and the Internet

The Right Side of the Law: This is an interview with Gregg Hand.  One of the things Hand talks about in the interview is the fear of starting a business. I like his examples of the types of decisions that one has to make when starting a business.  Often it’s stuff that you don’t think about.

Hand also mentions that conditions for small businesses have become more favorable due to the internet. Now this is probably something we all know, but it’s always nice to hear it in words.  The best bit of advice that I think Hand gives in this interview is that things don’t have to be perfect. If you’re starting a business, often you won’t have everything set up just yet and you will most likely encounter setbacks even if you make a habit of starting businesses.  Eventually, you’ll have to jump right in and get started.

3.The Duo of the Elite Group

“Putting Your Money baQ Where it Belongs” : This is a double interview with both the CEO (Brian J. Esposito) and the CTO
(Peter Hermsen) of paybaQ.  Their advice is solid and I liked the acknowledgement about family members and friends un/intentionally bringing you down. I think this is something that happens often, but that no one really talks about.

One of my favorite bits from this interview is the description of the small business community as “elite”.  They mention that small business owners should be proud of the responsibility that they have taken on and I feel like this is a point that should be brought up more often. It takes a lot of work, energy and determination to start a small business, so feel proud small business owners!

4. Platforms and Personality

The Speech AND the Pen are Mightier than the Sword: I’ll admit to a little bit of bias on my part for picking this. I’ve met Jill Foster before and I like her and thinks that she gives great advice.  One important point that she brings up in this interview is that one doesn’t have to use all of the social media platforms that are out there.

A lot of the things that I’ve read online make it seem like small businesses have to use every single platform that they can find. I know that’s a bit silly, but that’s the impression I got. Jill is the only person I’ve seen so far mention the fact that one shouldn’t use all of them.

Another good piece of advice that she gives is to make sure that your business has a personal feel to it. Big businesses like Target or Walmart  have a certain feel to them, but it’s impersonal and not the type of feeling that y0u want a customer to get from your small business.

5. Juggling Jobs

Talking Employedpreneurs & Steps to Success for Businesses with Tai Goodwin : What I like about this interview is that it focuses on people trying to start a small business while having a job.  Goodwin gives some great pieces of advice such as putting in systems to manage your small business while you work at your other job.  Goodwin also talks a little bit about different business models and suggests trying something other than the traditional one-to-one model.

The piece of advice I liked best from this interview is that it’s important to be flexible.  Having a vision is good, but often, due to the way the environment changes, you may need to update it. Customers and markets tend to change quickly and you’ll be in better shape if you can adapt faster to keep up.

6. Products and People

Small Business Interview with Sophie Kovic from FlockStocks : My favorite piece of advice from this is bit about choosing a product that doesn’t vary much because then you’ll have less trouble.  Another great piece of advice is to trust the people who work under you. You cannot manage everything. Let go when necessary and trust that when you go on vacation, the people whom you leave in charge will work things out.

7. Coordination and Background Knowledge

Reach Your Best Insights: This is an interview with Pierre DeBois.  One piece of advice I liked from this interview is the fact that online and offline activities should be coordinated. It’s like picking colors, you has to choose ones that go together. Another thing that DeBois talks about is going beyond Search Engine Optimization. Yes, that is important, but there’s things beyond that which Small Businesses should do too.

One of the points that DeBois brings up is the fact that Small Businesses need to think about what goes on in the background that’s essential to either the customers or the business itself.  Reading all of these articles and tips for Small Business owners, I get the feeling that it’s something that’s often not touched on.

All of these interviews offer valuable advice for Small Businesses and should be reviewed as you owners start drawing up your plans for the coming year. If you have any tips or interviews to add to or contest, leave a comment. :)

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Reach Your Best Insights! A SmallBiz Interview with Pierre DeBois

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Today’s KikScore interview features Pierre DeBois, founder of Zimana, a web analytics service. In this rapidly changing e-commerce environment, Pierre is instrumental in helping other small business reach success through his analysis of their web analytics and his assistance and advice for marketing and social media strategies. I had a pleasure talking with Pierre and learned a lot, so I hope you all share similar benefits from reading what he had to say.

Tell us about Zimana and who you focus on serving?

Zimana is a web analytics consultancy service for small businesses that are at a unique stage of operations, having launched their businesses that rely on analytics data. These businesses require marketing optimization but do not have enough time determining their marketing effectiveness and aren’t ready to reach a larger analytics firm. I analyze their analytics data, ranging from basic keyword analysis to website traffic exploration, and then I help them develop an optimizing marketing strategy with projections. My clients encompass a wide array of small businesses, from mom and pop companies to businesses that built their firm around a particular platform with numerous employees.

What prompted you to start Zimana?

It was very accidental; my original idea was that I wanted to work with small businesses that needed help with their financial data.  I found out that a lot of the time these businesses tend to seek financial help, but it’s often too late to implement the advice. Therefore, that doesn’t strike me emotionally as a way to be helpful. So back in 2007, I was working for a government contractor firm in Huntsville, Alabama. The firm was determining if potential clients were reviewing products and services at the company website. I researched and discovered the measurement solution Google Analytics. I used my own resources and vacation schedule to undertake the training on my own. I then worked with the web developer to implement site content changes. The end result was successful and identified traffic flow through the site. It helped the firm place a value on their marketing budget. That was my first taste of web analytics though it wasn’t until 2.5 years ago when I launched Zimana. It’s been great and fun, though still very challenging especially due to the economic environment we are in. But the responses have been positive.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced and how did you overcome it?

Living in New York is a catch-22; though it is the best place to meet and network with people and find good resources, it is economically straining to live here starting out.  It is also tough to follow up with customers in the actual city, as opposed to other locations. When living and working here, you learn how resilient you have to be and it forces you to be efficient. While the fast-paced, business environment makes it hard to initially make a living, it forces you to remain focused and more diligently.

As a hub for business, being centered in New York also allows me to track clients outside of New York; one of my best clients is SmallBizTrends.  Though based in Ohio, I conduct a lot of their monthly analysis. Moreover, being in NYC has helped me to create many business book reviews for the book segment and provide up-to-date analytics ideas that will be beneficial for their future.

How do you advertise yourself to get more clients?  Do you make use of tools like social media?

Yes. Social media has helped me tremendously, especially through Twitter as I have attracted some of my followers through my tweets. In addition, though accidental, my writing has had a huge influence on gaining more clients. What started as being just for fun doing book reviews evolved into writing analytics articles.   I’ve written articles for many different business sites, including AllBusiness.com, Pitney Bowes Smart Connections series, Business Agility, and AllAnalytics.com.  The posts have helped me a lot, expanding my online exposure and clientele base. A great challenge has been balancing my time for writing and managing other business functions. I had not expected the writing to take the direction it has.  In general, client referrals and social media marketing have been the most beneficial for me, with carefully placed and timed ads as bonus exposure. I am a big believer of using analytics to figure out which marketing outlets actually work, so that has helped me tremendously of where to focus most of my attention.

Have you had any trouble proving your business’ credibility and legitimacy to potential customers and website visitors?

Yes, there have been times and I think it’s in a very weird catch-22. In my business, the accountability issue is in the beginning; there are certifications that analytics practitioners must take and my qualifications definitely help. Though at the same time, there is a level of education that is required on part of the customer. The main customers believe that analytics is only for SEO and that’s not the entire case. So the challenge becomes that an analyst can be used for both online and offline marketing functions, though it depends on the organization, and therefore I must educate the customer enough and provide them with enough information that they will be comfortable doing business. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but most times people are appreciative of what you try to share with even if they don’t quite have the budget.

In terms of being legitimate, what’s helped me is dealing with the right customers and not trying to deal with those that are uninterested. Only once or twice have I had to deal with a relationship that wasn’t right, but as a business owner, you have to hold out and fight for the ideal customer. Once you find the right one, then credibility will come into play. The use of social media can be utilized to reinforce that credibility; in order to effectively use social networks, you have to focus on keeping in touch with specific people and make the most of the contacts that you have made.

Based on your expertise, what two things do you think small businesses should be doing concerning online marketing?

First, there needs to be more of a coordinated effort between digital properties (websites, paid searches, social media) and how you market your business offline. There are now studies that are proving that when you gain a customer, that customer has researched your business online and then decided whether they will do business with you. Lots of small businesses do not coordinate their online and offline efforts well, but they need to think holistically about how they market themselves and then track that, which is where the analytics comes into play.

Second, based on my expertise, businesses need to begin thinking about more than search engine optimization. With the emergence of social media, there is more of a need for a combination between social media and search, plus some level of digital marketing, whether it is paid ads on Google or banner ads on Facebook. There needs to be an increased effort beyond search to touch upon the customers and engage them. Businesses are aware of Twitter and Facebook and other networking communities, though they often do not make a dedicated effort to effectively use them. Going beyond SEO, some type of paid search or ad, coupled with social media, will help businesses convert customers on the sidelines as an ongoing customer.

What trends do you see in the business world that you think are important for small businesses to take note of?

A rising trend in the small business world is the use of cloud services. I support these services whole heartedly because it makes it easier to manage a team, whether you’re an army of one or 20. They create value for the services you have and permit more efficient management. I’m finding that the businesses that struggle have not thought in terms of simplicity; For example, one business never thought of instituting PayPal on their site because they didn’t use credit in their operations.  That doesn’t mean that your customers don’t. Most businesses are too focused on their main product or service and therefore they do not think about all the underlying activities that would be essential. You don’t need to have a desktop to quickly search for information, so the challenge for small businesses is not only having access to up-to-date technology, but deploying it in the best and easiest manner for conducting your business.

Speaking from personal experience, the people who helped me the most were freelancers. One lady designed my website and also developed my hand-drawn logo into something very unique. Another was a photographer whose photos of me grabbed the right attention. I learned many different tips from many sources, ranging from billing ideas to learning to focus on the big picture as opposed to the little details. The biggest thing is to learn from others how to conduct business efficiently, so you are working to grow your business and “on” your business, not just “in” it.

How do the folks at Zimana let loose after a busy day working?

For me, I’m a big fan of The Big Bang Theory; I love it and think Sheldon is hilarious and the best television character in years. I watch a little Big Bang Theory and football, and I’m good! I still love automobiles like I did growing up so I read up on cars quite a bit. Pretty much besides that, I just try to keep up with my close friends and family. I haven’t had as much time to relax as I’d like to and for the most part, my business is my time. In addition, I talk a lot with other small business owners, which is both informative and also energizing.

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

Stay driven and keep your faith. If you are in any struggles, keep your faith and make sure every day spent on your business is actually productive; business owners spend too much time talking about their business, as opposed to working on it and helping it grow. Using your time efficiently is necessary, as well as networking and making sure that you are learning what needs to be learned to stay current with your business and surrounding technologies. At the end of the day, you need to be driven to put all of the pieces together and keep your business moving into the future. 

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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Business in Bloom: An Interview with Mark McCurry

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Recently, I had the opportunity of speaking with the amazing entrepreneur, Mark McCurry. Mark is a man with an impressive background; not only is he the president of the successful delivery business 1-800 Courier, but he has recently started the rapidly emerging online florist business known as Peachtree Petals. From our interview, I quickly became aware of Mark’s impressive knowledge of creating and maintaining businesses, which I want to share with others:

When and why did you decide to create Peachtree Petals?

I actually started Peachtree Petals about one month ago. At my other brand, 1-800 Courier, I noticed that we were getting a lot of delivery orders from florists. This got me to thinking that, instead of just delivering floral arrangements, maybe I could make and sell them myself. It was really easy to set up Peachtree Petals’ online store using Shopify. As of right now, we are 40 to 50 orders per day.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced and overcame in launching Peachtree Petals?

Honestly, with my experience of launching and maintaining 1-800 Courier, I didn’t encounter a whole lot of challenges with Peachtree Petals. The one thing that I would say was most difficult was finding a designer, since I don’t really know much about flowers.

How do you advertise yourself to get more clients?

I was able to get a lot of customers out of my other business’ clientele, but I have taken a few other routes. I take advantage of Google AdWords, which is useful regardless of your business. I also set up a Peachtree Petals Facebook page, am part of a floral network, and had two billboards put up.

Have you had any trouble proving your business’ credibility and legitimacy to potential customers and website visitors?

There’s always some trouble when trying to show people that your new business can be trusted. That’s why my store uses KikScore. It’s already helped to increase by conversion by 10 percent or so.

When you’re not working on Peachtree Petals, what do you do to relax?

I have three daughters, so I spend time with them and take them to their various events. I also enjoy going out to dinner with my wife on weekends. Aside from that, I have five websites that I spend a lot of time on.

What trends do you see in the business world that you think are important for small businesses to take note of?

The biggest trend that I am seeing lately is that margins are shrinking in retail. This is due to internet-based shopping. It’s now a lot easier for people to go on line and compare prices. There’s no longer a need to get what you see at first sight.

What tools would you recommend in the small business world?

I definitely recommend Shopify for setting up your store. As I mentioned earlier, it’s really easy to do. Google Analytics is another useful tool for helping you monitor your store. Other than those two, I would suggest interconnecting through blogs. That’s a really good way to help spread the word.

If you had to pick two lessons that you’ve learned from launching and maintaining your business, what would they be?

One lesson is that you need to watch your marketing cost. If you don’t do this, you run the risk of overspending and hurting yourself more than helping yourself. My other lesson would be to make sure that you’re selling something that there’s a demand for. If there’s no demand, then who is going to buy what you’re selling? It’s best to keep watch and look out for what is in demand.

Thanks to Mark for a great interview! I hope that everyone can benefit from his business savvy and entrepreneurial spirit!

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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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The Speech AND the Pen are Mightier than the Sword: A KikScore Interview with Jill Foster

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with the amazing Jill Foster, founder of the speech coaching service liveyourtalk. Writing and giving speeches can be a trying task for some, and Jill is definitely the one to go to when that person is you. From my interview alone, I can safely say that Jill is a fun, energetic, and all-around great person who has a lot of wisdom to share with all of us.

Tell me a little about liveyourtalk.

The whole point of liveyourtalk is to provide coaching services in the social tech industry. I help these people improve their written content and social abilities when delivering speeches and other public speaking situations. I love doing what I do and I’m happy to be living out my dream job.

When and why did you decide to create liveyourtalk?

For years I’ve been teaching and doing various projects in the sales and social media circles. Through this time, I’ve seen a lot of fantastic people who could express their brands online and get into an offstage dynamic. However, I also saw a lot of these same people struggle once they got onto the stage. That’s when I decided it was time to start my business.

My business has been going for about a year and a half. I’ve been able to build on two loves: my love of social tech and my love for really thoughtful presentation and speech writing. The way I see it, creating liveyourtalk has been a great chance to bring more truth and fun into this world in terms of presenting and speech writing.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced and overcame in launching liveyourtalk?

I would say that the biggest challenge has been learning how my customers think. This meant studying what the market wants from a speaking coach. In the first year of starting liveyourtalk, I discovered that what I wanted to provide wasn’t necessarily what people in the tech industry wanted from a speech writer. It was also pretty difficult to figure out what language they used when creating content for live audiences. It took a while for me to realize that writing is very much grouped in the world of speech coaching. There are certain content needs that must be made easier.

How do you advertise yourself to get more clients?

Actually, I’d say that 90% of my business comes from word-of-mouth. A lot of that business came from participation in my career before starting liveyourtalk. However, I do participate in Facebook and Twitter; more the former than the latter. In both of these, I participate in specific groups to keep within my target audience. My focus is mainly on media and socially centric clients.

Have you had any trouble proving your business’ credibility and legitimacy to potential customers and website visitors?

Not particularly, but there’s always room for improvement. One thing that I know I could always try to do is find ways to make liveyourtalk more socially accessible. What I mean to say is that, although I haven’t really encountered any problems, I’m fully aware that my site could be improved.

When you’re not working on liveyourtalk, what do you do to relax?

I love to exercise. I also have a lot of fun going out somewhere with my husband or friends. Participating in the social tech community is really enjoyable. In fact, I even have some fun video side-projects.

Based on your expertise, what two or three things do you think small businesses should be doing concerning marketing?

Frankly, there are so many different social marketing and social media opportunities that it can sometimes be daunting. One piece of advice I’d give is to look at your overall goals and choose two media platforms to use. But keep in mind that, even though there are so many different ways to use social media, you don’t have to use them all.

Another important thing is to make sure that your business culture is personalized. Give people a feel for your services and show them how you handle yourself in your industry. Again, there are tons of ways to do this. A good way to do this, in my opinion, is to make a 30 second to 1 minute video that goes over your business. It helps to create an image in people’s minds that they can really understand.

What tools would you recommend in the small business world?

A helpful tool that I use is the search function in Twitter. Even if you don’t participate on Twitter, using it to search for certain keywords can give you a lot of information. It’s really helpful when searching for clients and competitors. You can see if they’re on Twitter and, if they are, what they’re doing.

For businesses that feel more comfortable on social networks, I would also recommend HootSuite. It can help you organize your social media conversations, like those in Facebook and Twitter, as well as set up ongoing feeds for what you search. It also has measuring tools for tracking how much someone is looked at on social media sites.

If you had to pick two lessons that you’ve learned from launching and maintaining liveyourtalk, what would they be?

The greatest lesson I’ve learned in getting liveyourtalk off the ground is that you must develop working systems for your business. It’s important to be fun, clear and artistic when you’re on the stage. Therefore, you need to figure out a system for how to create this feeling while conveying it with good content.

In addition to this, I’ve learned that it is essential to remind yourself to pull back for a minute and look at your business as its own entity. By doing this, you can get an objective view of your business and see how you can make it successful.

Thanks to Jill Foster for an incredible interview! I hope that everyone can learn as much from her expertise and enthusiasm as I have!

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