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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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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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Net Shopping and Net Gains: Online Buying Spikes for the Holiday Season

Monday, November 28th, 2011

If it Exists, People will Use it for Shopping

Not too long ago, people had to walk through crowded stores and malls if they wanted to get any holiday shopping done. Alright, so maybe this is still true. However, it’s far from the only way to buy what you want these days. According to Forrester, sales from online shopping for the holiday season will see a 15 percent increase from last year. Although this is only a particularly high prediction for the moment, it is already shaping into an underestimate. comScore is keeping its eyes on the November/December 2011 shopping period and has reported that the first 20 days have already seen a 14 percent increase in ecommerce spending for the holiday season. Furthermore, IBM has found that online sales for this past Black Friday increased by 24.3 percent. What does all of this mean, though? Is it that shoppers are becoming more inclined to shop online because it’s convenient and easy for comparing prices? Of course, but this is only a small glimpse of a much larger picture. We need to instead look at this trend as a set of guidelines for how to act throughout this season.

More Trust, More Business

An important thing to note from this trend is that ecommerce businesses need to realize that, if they want shoppers to target them for their purchases, they need more than great prices; they need trust. Throughout the holiday season, as people search the internet for the best deals, they are also looking for a site that provides the least amount of risk. In other words, since shoppers are skeptical of where they buy from, your business has to be reliable in a way that is easily conveyed to shoppers.

A number of factors can help your businesses gain the trust it deserves. If you look back at our #SmallBizChat post, you can see several ways to make your business’ website more trustworthy. These include showing management information, having a helpful ‘About Us’ page, using a confidence badge, and more. Businesses that take advantage of features such as these are far more likely to inspire trust and see more business knocking at their door (or at least purchasing from their website, in this case).

Create the Rush and Prepare for it

Another takeaway from the information above is that businesses need to know how to go about getting their names out there. After your business has established and conveyed a trustworthy image, there is still the issue of how many shoppers are aware of your presence. Without this, you’re reliability can’t save you from being invisible. Build your brand and then prepare for the inflow of customers.

However, there is another part of this task that bears mentioning: make sure your business is prepared to receive a large inflow of customer orders. If you cannot provide people with what they want, they won’t buy from you. If you only have a certain amount of a popular product, than you most likely already know exactly how many orders you will fill for it. Don’t go overboard, but it can’t hurt to stock up on items you know will sell.

To wrap things up, there is one other piece of advice that applies to both businesses and shoppers: stay safe. No one should get too caught up in the zeal to know how to deal with the holiday shopping season safely. Think about the advice above and avoid a virtual version of Black Friday’s craziness. Enjoy your Cyber Monday and the holidays to come!

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Blurring lines: Facebook’s new additions and changes

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Thanks to ahans for the pic!

Have you seen Facebook’s new features? They have features similar to Google and Twitter now. Recently Facebook has introduced lists that are supposed to sort close friends, family members and coworkers into lists.

Exactly how do they do that? I have absolutely no idea, but wouldn’t that be confusing? I mean if you’re like me and hardly use Facebook(I keep forgetting about it, like Twitter) then how does Facebook know who you consider to be close friends?

That’s not the only thing that’s confusing. Facebook  is allowing users to do Twitter status updates from Facebook. Now, in theory this might sound great but,…isn’t practically everyone on Facebook on Twitter too? Not only that, but people who follow you on Twitter and are your friend on Facebook will get the exact same status update. I don’t know about other people, but I’d find that annoying.

The other thing that Facebook is going to do is make its pages feature obsolete. This means that there won’t be a need for two separate Facebook identities.  Yeah, that’s great, but what if you’re a company? I’m pretty sure that you and your employers want to keep your personal profiles separate from your company one. Plus, if they become one big profile some people might get tired of all of the business-related updates and just not read your updates. (I personally know people who’ve done this because someone hasn’t made a separate page for their public profile.)

Yes, these all sound practical, but Facebook isn’t even giving users enough time to get used to the new features before they add the next one in. Facebook is rumored to be moving towards further integrating music and videos. This does not look like it’s going to stop anytime soon and my feeling is that soon these three will either merge or will become so indistinguishable from each other that soon you won’t know(or care) which one you’re logging into.

So what does this mean for small businesses? Well, if you want to be on Facebook, you have to do it without a specific page. Or you might have to find another platform all together.

Thoughts?

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A Conversation with Candice Cabe of “Day2Night Convertible Heels”: Venturing Into the World of Start-Ups

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

I had the pleasure of talking to Candice Cabe, who is the CEO of an innovative startup called “Day2Night Convertible Heels.”  Her company focuses on simplifying life for women who want to be both practical and stylish.  Her business targeting women-on-the-go, and is quickly plunging into the entrepreneurial world.  We spoke briefly about her ventures, as well as what it’s like to be a small-business owner in today’s quickly-changing world of business.  Thank you, Candice for speaking to me and sharing your experiences with our readers.  We wish you the best of luck in the future!

Tell us a little bit about your business and what makes it unique.

We invented a high heel shoe that converts from high heels down to lower heels.  It is a new kind of technology.  The shoes have interchangeable heels so that women can wear the same pair of shoes but adjust the heel height.  It’ll be the first time that women can wear fashionable and much more comfortable shoes at the same time.

What prompted you to start this business?  Was there a problem you aimed on solving?

The main problem is that women love to wear high heels, but usually after a few hours of wearing them, their feet really start to hurt. They’re usually forced to carry extra shoes with them in their bag to wear to work in the morning or to go out at night.

One of the stories that I tell a lot is that I was packing for a trip – I had to go on a corporate trip down to Miami for a few days and I was told to pack lightly and not check baggage.  I was trying to fit all of these shoes into my little tiny suitcase and I noticed that I ended having three pairs of shoes that looked similar but all had different heel heights, depending on what I was going to be doing.  I knew that immediately when I was getting off the plane, we were going to be chartering a boat and going on that for a few hours, so I was going to need small heels.  Later, we were going to be walking around the tradeshow for a few hours.  I needed to look appropriate in my suit and wear medium-height heels.  Then we were going to go out for a fancier dinner at night so I needed to have high stiletto shoes.  All my shoes looked the same but had different heel heights.  Also, they were taking up so much room in my suitcase.  I thought that it would be so nice to have a travel shoe – one shoe that you can wear to multiple occasions.

What are your short-term goals for the next year?  What kind of things is your business focusing on?

Right now we’re working on refunding and financing.  We’re trying to get some money in the door to finish prototyping.  We are also going to have to invest in getting a mold made.  Once we have a mold, we’ll be able to mass-produce the shoes in China.  We’re also looking for a shoe designer and a shoe manufacturer.  We already have one, but we’re looking for an alternative one.  We’re also trying to close some deals – we’re hoping to do a licensing deal with an existing shoe company.  We’re talking to companies like Steve Madden and zappos.com.  It would be great to get a licensing deal with a larger shoe company.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for small businesses in today’s society and economy?  What do you see as the best solutions to these challenges?

Funding, for sure, is number one.  Another one is building a team and getting people to work for straight equity instead of money is difficult – so getting people to either quit their jobs or to work for you full time.

The biggest thing that I’ve done is just talk to everybody I know or everybody I can think of.  I go to a lot of networking events and tell people what I’m trying to do and what I’m struggling with.  People always want to help, especially if you specifically tell them what you’re struggling with, which makes it easy for people to introduce you to other people.

From your experience, what are the best ways to advertise yourself?  Do you make use of tools like social media?

We have been using a lot of social media tools.  We use Facebook and Twitter and we have our own website.  We’re working on search engine optimization, for example Google keywords.

Where do you go to find advice or to get information that is relevant to your business?  Where would you recommend that other small businesses in the community go?  How do you connect with other businesses?

There’s a book that I’d like to recommend to people.  It’s called The Four Steps to the Epiphany.  That’s a book that is helpful for this kind of business that can help business owners get some customers and prove that people want things in the way that you’re doing them.  It’s a good way to get information to people.

Have you had any problems with demonstrating trust to your potential clients or customers?

People seem to be pretty good with trust.  Sometimes people have issues with our particular product.  They are reluctant to believe that the product will hold up well and be sturdy enough and strong enough.  What we’ve done to reassure customers is have a couple of videos on our website demonstrating the shoes, how they’re worn, and how they work.  In the future, we’re hoping to get a lot of customer reviews, feedback, and testimonials from people.  Communication is very important.  We’re trying to put ourselves out there so that people can better understand what we’re doing.

If you could choose a dream spokesperson to represent your business, who would it be?

My dream spokesperson would be Carrie Underwood because we would love to have a celebrity that would be able to wear our shoes.  I think that a lot of people would follow suit.  She’s a rising star and an American Idol and holds a lot of credibility for young women in America.

What do you see as the future for small businesses like yours?  Are you seeing any trends or changes developing?

I’m in the startup world of Boston, which is a really big startup community and city.  It seems that more and more young folks are starting businesses right out of college.  Instead of graduating college and immediately trying to find a job, people are thinking creatively and taking entrepreneurial courses or looking up to other young startups.

Do you have any parting comments or words of advice to our readers and the small business community?

If you have an idea, you should act on it.  Ideas can be a dime in a dozen, but it’s really about execution.  I think that if people put all of their effort into starting a business…if they’re passionate about it and tell everybody they know about it, then almost anyone can start their own business.  I encourage people to start their own businesses and try to ground themselves with people who have done so and been successful.  It’s good to have mentorship from people who know how things work.

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and I hope you gained something from Candice’s words of wisdom and many insights into what it’s like to own a start-up.  What do you think of her ideas?

Feel free to leave feedback here or contact Candice through her site: http://www.convertible-heels.com/Day2Night.html

Support her business here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2072356942/day2night-convertible-high-heel-shoes

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When Young Americans Unite – We Can Do Some Cool Things! – I am Here to Help Small Business for the Summer

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Hey guys! This is Jason and I am a new intern here at Kikscore!

I am a rising sophomore at American University, majoring in Business Administration with a double specialization in Accounting and Marketing. I learned a lot my first year at school, especially in my Business 1.0 class. Having intended on just majoring in Business Administration with a specialization in Accounting, this fundamental class introduced me to a variety of business-related fields, especially sparking my interest in marketing. The class emphasized how important of a role the internet plays these days, not just in marketing but in all aspects of business and society.

Take the recent killing of Osama bin Laden, for example. The television news channels most likely broke the news to the adults who were still awake at the time. However, the internet and its many social networking sites informed millions of college students and teenagers around the world of the breaking news. Statuses on Facebook such as “OSAMA BIN LADEN IS DEAD!! AMERICA!!” and “Osama bin Hidein for ten years, now he’s dead BOOYAH!” were appearing on my news feed by the second. In fact, a tweet by a former chief of staff that read “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn” actually broke the news to the public (this article can be found here:  Twitter Reactions to Osama’s Death) This is a great example of how important and influential the internet is, and how significant it can be for businesses.

However, I first found out about Osama’s killing from shrieks and yells coming from the hallway of my dorm. Even though I am not political whatsoever, I do attend a school that is revered for its politically active student body. (I am also an avid sports fan and we don’t have a football team, but I love it! Go figure.) And one of the many perks of going to school in DC is the fact that I am only 15 minutes away from the nation’s capital. So that night, I went to the White House with a large group of friends, joining the thousands of Americans already there to celebrate, singing the national anthem probably about 50 times.

My favorite rapper Kanye West puts it best by saying that he is the “voice of this generation.” Maybe I’m not rich or famous like Kanye, but I believe I am also the voice of this generation. Times are changing and with the evolving power of the internet and media, we are all the voices of this generation. After hearing about Kikscore, I was immediately interested in joining this small, internet business and I am excited to use what I have learned in Business 1.0 to help here. I am eager and ready to gain first-hand experience and practice with this rising online start-up.

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Skype Hype: Are you using it for your business?

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Now that the founders have become rich (again) and sold Skype to Microsoft – a questions must be posed.  “Did Microsoft completely overpay?” Not that question, but maybe (how the hell would I know).  “Will Microsoft underfund and completely destroy this new asset?”  yes…but not right away and that’s not the question. 

No, the real question is how will this new found attention to Skype change how will you use it for your business.   Before every cable company offered a VOIP solution, Skype was the way to talk over the internet for very little cost.  That uniqueness has gone away, but it still is the best way to talk internationally without it costing a lot.

The way we’ve been using Skype is for video conferences with our team (some of us are in Denver, some in the D.C. area) – and I’m sure we’ll continue to use it that way.  But Skype has competitors in that space with video chat already offered by Apple and other web camera services. 

One of the more interesting ways could be a combination of Skype into social media.  Don’t forget that Microsoft invested in Facebook a few years ago  — so forget poking, what about video chatting with your social network.

Any other thoughts on how Skype can help your business?

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Is this a Bubble or a Buble?

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Every day, I check TechCrunch.  It’s sort of a must-do type of thing.  First, you have to do it to see what the latest trends are for start-ups and funding.  Secondly, if you’re involved in a tech start-up and you don’t read TechCrunch, well, you’re seen as a bit of poseur.  And it’s not one of those things where by not doing it you seem even cooler….like not owning a TV.  For some reason, if you don’t own a TV. people think you’re really smart.  But is that really that smart?  T.V. and the internet are the main sources of news and critical information.  It’s like going back thousands of years and saying “I don’t fire” and expecting people to really respect you.

Ok.  Back to my original thought.  I’m reading TechCrunch and in the last 6 months, at least once a week, there is news of a small startup getting large funding or being acquired by a larger strategic player.  For those of us old enough to remember the late 90’s (and who could forget Ace of Base), it’s getting a little scary because it’s feeling like a bubble.  Irrational exuberance.  High Valuations.  People are losing their F&^%$#*!  Minds. 

But is this latest round of investment and acquisition really a bubble?  Or is it logically investing.  I mean, where else should you put your money?  Real Estate?  Corporate Debt?  Blue-Chip Stocks (with 4% growth).  Recent technology investments are based on profitable companies or scalable services that a larger player would rather buy than build.

I guess what I’m saying is this seems more like  Buble than a Bubble.  By that I mean a pitch-perfect time for technology.  Also, I just love referencing Michael Buble.

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We’re So Money…Or I Mean, We So Need to Figure Out the Money Issue

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Our little enterprise at KikScore is growing.  We have a long list of customers and are in process of integrating with several different channels.  That’s the good news for our business.  The bad news is that we’re just starting to charge for the service and we constantly throwing in our own cash to feed the growth.  Like it or not, we need to make a decision about funding.  And it’s looking like our choices are pretty familiar to other growing startups: Friends and Family vs. Angels vs. Venture Capital vs. Self Funding.  After talking to several capital sources and other startups, here’s my analysis of these choices:

Friends and Family:  First thing, you don’t actually be related or friendly with this investor group.  It’s a group of people you know that have money.  You may get money from this group, but it may not enough to fully fund the venture and the investors may not be completely clear on the risks of a startup investment.

Angels:  This group is certainly aware of risks of their investment and have ready access to capital.  But they are generally less willing to fully fund a venture (compared to Venture Capital), but are still in your business.  So you now have a boss, but not the free-flowing cash to stock up your office with cool gear and get a SuperBowl ad.

Venture Capital:  You get the money and the contacts.  But everyone is going after investment from the top VC outfits…and they are generally looking for a business that has a strong balance sheet, several partners and a lot of buzz.  In other words, a business that doesn’t need the money.

Self Funding:  You’re  the boss, you control your business completely.  And you’re constantly kicking in money. 

After contemplating the options, we’re sticking with option #4…unless you want to just gift us some money with no strings attached.

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