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Posts Tagged ‘Small Biz tools’

Some Small Business Resources and Tools for 2012

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

It’s only the 3rd week of the new year (can we still call it that?), but it’s time to start thinking of tools you can use for your small business in 2012. There are plenty of tools out there, but we’re only going to talk about a few. (These may be considered resources more than tools.)  These will be useful as a good starting point and then you can find more tips, tools and resources through them.

  1. Twitter chat! To me Twitter almost seems like a chatroom, only with a word limit and hashtags. If you want that chat feel, then you can attend #smallbizchat on Wednesdays at 8pm on Twitter. This is hosted by Tai Goodwin and Melinda Emerson. These one hour long chats are great for getting great guidance from experts about your business.  The hour usually keys on one area that relates to owning, operating or growing a small business and features a fabulous expert that dishes out gems while an audience of participants interacts with the expert and also each other.  Its a fun hour to get a lot of good guidance.
  2. Women Grow Business -yes even if you’re male. Why? This blog offers a different and unique perspective that applies not only to women, but to men as well about being an entrepreneur and dealing with the issues that small business owners face.  Several good contributors and editors on this great blog including the always fabulous Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Shonali Burke and Jill Foster.  And there are so so many more.  They also host tweetchats too (once a month) that are also very valuable to participate in.
  3. Inc. Magazine- this is a great resource and Raj has written a superb post about it. This magazine is geared specifically for Small Businesses and has excellent articles with very practical advice.  This is a must have and should be a mandatory monthly read!  The articles will get you excited and motivated to do great things!
  4. SBA. gov- this site is run by the government and looks a lot cleaner than most government websites. It’s very through and has both general and local resources across a range of issues such as financing, tax, incorporation issues, selling and buying online etc.
  5. Small Business Trends- This site has tons of great resources and information for small businesses. It has guides, sections devoted to Management, Marketing, Funding and even one devoted to Research. Plus, the founder is the amazing Anita Campbell. :)
  6. SME Toolkit- This is a website made by both the IFC and IBM. It’s “designed for Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American and Women-owned businesses” , but it has useful information for everyone.
  7. Small Business CEO-  This is more of a guide to management for small business. If you’re just starting out, then it probably won’t be of much use to you, but if you’re looking to add employees and grow your business, it’s worth a look through.
  8. Small Business Technology- this is a blog that talks about news and technology that’s related to small business. It explains how and why the latest pieces of tech or news can matter to small business. Plus, my father apparently likes it on Google plus so it has to be a good resource!
  9. Constant Contact- Unfortunately, unlike the other links, this one is a paid tool. There is a 60 day trial though. This tool helps you keep in touch with your clients via email marketing and social media marketing.
  10. Business. com- Whatever field you decide to start a small business in, they’ll have resources for you.  There are literally guides on almost anything you can imagine related to a business.  Instead of doing a bunch of Google searches on a subject related to small business, check out this great site first and you likely will save yourself some valuable time.

These are some great resources to start you off with now. From these, you can then branch off using the links that they provide to find even more resources that would fit your needs. There are plenty of resources out there and these are some of the best I have seen lately.

Are there any others you can think of and want to share with us?

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Biz tools’

Is a Trained Entrepreneur More Likely to be Successful in Small Business?

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

When KikScore came to be, the team was comprised of members from a variety of backgrounds and influence.  We banded together and outlined the best approach across our experience to build the business — which is still fluid and we continue to review our progress and make changes, you have to!

We had many say ‘what do you know about starting a business’?  We answered, the practicality of having those lessons learned from previous experience is critical in making a new business a success.  And of course we all have some entrepreneurial zest within us.

There are always those out there thinking that the quick fix money maker opportunity is business for yourself — think again my friend, it takes work, lots of work and perseverance.

It amazes and intrigues me that there are actually college programs geared at entrepreneurship.  Are they really more successful in the long run?    I had a good friend who went into one of these programs a few years ago… unfortunately I’ve lost touch with him, but last I’d heard, he was working for a big business.

Do you know anybody who has taken these classes and has a billion dollar business today?

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Biz tools’

Don't quit on me!

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

When starting a small business, everyone wears multiple hats and jumps in to assist where needed.  As your business grows, you work to hire people to fill specific roles so that:

1) the founders can focus on more strategic direction

2) to drive the business forward

3) effectively execute on key initiatives.

You proudly get your entire team staffed up and people are working hard in their roles and the business grows exponentially – everything is on the up and up, customers are fascinated with your product line and you have a backlog of requests to implement… and then, somebody quits.

So this perfect (well at least manageable) entourage you have created to implement your product roadmap now comes to a screeching halt, or at least imposes a very large mountain to navigate around. To keep business moving, you must revert back to wearing multiple hats, which in turn impacts growth and forces you to re-prioritize efforts, at least until you can back fill.

In larger companies, the back fill process can be lengthy and daunting.  What tends to happen is until the position is refilled, the tasks of the resigning employee are dumped on other employees… it becomes a juggling process to continue forward momentum.

While you cannot 100% prohibit turnover from happening, you can implement processes to ensure smooth transition in the event and also back fill (or redistribute effectively) so that you don’t end up pushing further resources out the door from overload.  People leave for a variety of reasons, but when building a team for a small business and growing your company, retention can be critical.  Then again, sometimes, that resignation is music to your ears

How do you motivate your team to stand by you? What transition plans do you have in place in the event of a mutiny?

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Biz tools’

Fringe and Small Business

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

I must admit, I am a Fringe junkie… the X-Files of the new generation… if you are a follower of Fringe, or Fringe science one can see how an obsession with a theory (or a job) can overtake you.

Let’s take the Walter Bishop of ‘our world’ vs. the Walter Bishop of ‘the other side’… why is it that he within our world is attempting recovery from insanity whilst the ‘other’ Walter seems to have done quite well for himself and been spared the asylum visit?  One could theorize that our world Walter became so obsessed with not only bringing Peter across but also with protecting him all these years and it eventually overtook his entire psyche.  Where the other side Walter has been focused on finding Peter, he seems (at least in our brief introduction to him last week) to be well put together, so perhaps not as ‘obsessed’ with this mission or at least capable of keeping the sanity surrounding his zeal.  An entrepreneur can easily be led astray down one Walter path vs. the other… so how do you keep the sanity while trying to get your business off the ground?

Here are some key areas that have helped us at KikScore:

Organization and Time Management

Know your market/customer  and react to feedback

Delegate – If you have a team, you can’t do it all yourself

Set clear goals for all team members and communicate

Keep track of lessons learned

What are your Fringe theories?  And how do you keep your sanity in your start-up?

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Biz tools’

The Awe Inspiring Essence of Creativity

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

I stumbled upon an interesting and motivating quote a couple weeks ago:
Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself — George Bernard Shaw

This got me thinking about how creativity comes into play in defining not only who we are, but how the world sees us.  My daughter, who turned 2 in December, has started mastering marker to paper, and paint brush to easel.  My husband and I praise her creative wonders and display many of her designs about our home.

As I hung two of her recent ‘dinosaur’ masterpieces on my office wall today (one scanned above), I am overwhelmed with not only a sense of pride but an inspiration to be more creative myself.   To force more creativity in my daily doings and namely in my business activities (both day job and KikScore).  To remind myself that a little bit of color and imagination can be awe inspiring.

In order to maintain a competitive edge in business, you must have innovation that not only keeps your customers interested and coming back, but ensures they are shouting out accolades about your business with their friends and beyond.  Since teamwork is a key element to business success, you need to keep your team motivated and the creative juices flowing.

We continuously encourage creativity and individuality in our children… and we need to carry that forth and foster it in the work place environment as well.

Whether you have a start-up or a mature business, how do you encourage creativity?  Get out those markers and a blank palette… what can you create?

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Biz tools’

How you respond to customer issues is important… anyone can be reading!

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

While researching a couple of issues from a recent KikScore customer signup,  the importance of a quick and informative response to current and would be customers became critically evident.  As a small business, you need to educate your customers so they have confidence in the product you are providing, and also share information in layman’s terms to alleviate confusion and not tech-speak your customers into oblivion.

I struggle with this balance while straddling the technical and marketing role at KikScore (and in my day job too).   Your customer base doesn’t share the in-depth knowledge that your team has on the inner-workings of your system, and thus you need to take a step back when responding to a customer inquiry/issue and put yourself in the customer’s shoes.   This entails not only empathizing with the issue at hand, but also providing deeper context surrounding the potential resolution/fix to the customer’s concern and conveying that back to them in a timely and informative manner.

In the world of social media today, any response you share with customers (and prospects) can (and most likely will) be posted or passed along the internet waves and will have an impact on not only the legitimacy of your business/product but also on its future branding potential.

SocialSmallBiz is doing a series on customer support and social media and the intertwining of each.  A fantastic quote to live by, for ANY small business owner “It Takes Months to Find a Customer… seconds to lose one”

How do you handle your customer inquiries and responses?  Please share your best practices and lessons learned with us.

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Biz tools’

KikScore Interviews Name.com – Local Denver Domain Registration Company

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

I stumbled upon Name.com about a month ago while researching local small businesses.  They are a close knit team that is very active in the Denver community and show a strong passion for small business and teamwork.  Lesley Yarbrough, the Community Manager of Name.com shares with us their exciting story.

1. Tell us about Name.com and who you focus on serving?

Name.com was founded in 2003 by Bill Mushkin, who previously founded Mushkin Enhanced. Our office is located in gorgeous Denver, CO in an old building that was part of Lowry Air Force Base.   Name.comis comprised of an awesome  and diverse group of people working hard to create innovative tools and provide our customers with the best service possible.

Really we focus on serving three different groups:

  • Retail customers
  • Small to medium sized business and startups
  • Domain investors or “domainers”

2. There are a lot of domain sites out there.  How does Name.com differentiate from the competition?

We try to provide the best search tools we can to help our customers find the right name for their needs. For instance, our Domain Suggestion tool  is very unique in that it not only provides our keyword suggestions, but also Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) translations and Google Keyword suggestions. We also offer over 50 extensions for registration and awesome, personal support for all of our customers.

3. Where will Name.com focus most of its energy in 2010?

A lot of our energy in 2010 is going to be focused on reaching out to our community and establishing more of a local/regional presence here in Colorado. We’ve recently hired a Community Manager to help us with this effort. We also want to focus on improving our search capabilities and providing more value-added products to our customers.

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

Try new ideas and act on them quickly, because if you don’t someone will beat you to the punch. Also we’re working to create more strategic partnerships and “acting quickly” can be applied to that as well.

5. As 2010 begins, what do you see as 2 new trends in your business this year?

IDNs are pretty popular in the investor community and we see those becoming more mainstream this year. We think we’ll also start to see a higher adoption rate of alternative extensions (.TV, .MOBI, .IM, .TEL, etc.) as fewer .COM and .NET domains are available.

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

Honestly, the first thing that came to mind was The Big Lebowski .  We’re genuine, laid back, and we can get the job done. The Dude abides.

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

Why Gary Vaynerchuk of course! We’re huge fans of Gary in our office, we love his passion, his hard work, and his honesty.  We take what he has to say to heart and try to crush it every day. He actually did a personalized video for us recently when we ordered a bunch of his books for a promotion.

8. How do the folks at Name.com let loose after a busy day working?

We’re a diverse bunch, so we let loose a few different ways. Being located in Colorado we have access to great biking, hiking, skiing, and all that fun stuff. We have a ping pong table in our office and sometimes we’ll have tournaments, so there’s a bit of friendly competition going on. We also do a weekly web show called Beer Fridays.

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

Work hard, show your customers you care, and keep on rockin’!

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Biz tools’

Influences of the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

As I prepare for a family visit this weekend to celebrate a milestone birthday (yes, mine), I reflect upon the choices I have made in life and the influences that got me to where I am today.  It also brings a bit of sadness in the fact that my father won’t be joining our celebration as we lost him to ALS in 2006… but when I think about influence, his strength and charisma still impact me today.

My father was a welding salesman, back in the 70’s-80’s when face-to-face sales were the only option.  He was an extremely successful business man within that format. Yet, my dad also always had something else ‘cooking’ on the side to fulfill his inventor spirit.  Most of his creations were related to the welding world, but he (and his partner) had one amazing idea way back when in inventing an above the ground swimming pool light – it installed in the side and lit up the inside of the pool, underwater, and was the first of its kind. Dad tested his invention on our pool and then worked to market it in local stores.  My sister and I were brought on board to silk-screen the product logos onto the lights in our garage.  It was exhilarating to be part of a new idea and see it grow, I was 9 years old…

While the underwater light venture didn’t expand, (there’s a long story of trusting the wrong manufacturing firm – another example of why choosing the right team is critical)  the perseverance my dad had in trying out his ideas and having that ‘side business’ was very inspirational.  Over the course of my life, my dad often encouraged me to make choices that may have seemed ‘out of my comfort zone’… which led me to a life of independence and a strong appreciation for the entrepreneurial spirit.

While my involvement in the KikScore venture started after my dad’s passing… I know he’s looking down proud as can be. What is your small business spiritual story? Share it with us!

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Biz tools’

KikScore interviews Virna Lisa, creator of RedBud Body Care

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Virna Lisa , shares with KikScore the history of RedBud Body Care and her unique approach to small business. Virna is truly an inspiration not only to women in business but more importantly to the inner strength of women overall!

Redbud Body Care was named after the Eastern Redbud Tree found in North America. The uniqueness of this Tree is how the flower buds shoot directly from the bark. The flowers are also edible and contain health enriching anti-oxidants.

1. Tell us about RedBud Beauty and who you focus on serving?

Our philosophy is based on the Ayurvedic principle that whatever we put on our skin should be good enough to eat. In addition to the freshness of the product we take into account that every one’s constitutions and predispositions are drawn towards particular scents and textures. RedBud Body Care respects the truth that nature provides us with all that we need to stay in healthy rhythms with ourselves and the world around us.
In support of eco awareness and upholding standards that sustain our planet, we use organic ingredients, glass containers, recycle and compost our soil enriching ingredients.
This product is good for everyone. Take into account that some people have allergies to certain flowers and herbs.  First do a test patch on the inside of your wrist before using.

2. How did you get started selling RedBud Beauty products online?

The business was first introduced on Shustir.com and then posted on a partnering website that sells products to Yoga Studios, Spas and Yogi’s & Yogini’s.  We are already selling our products in a few venues right now that were generated through Redbud Body Care directly.

3. Where will RedBud Beauty focus most of its energy in 2010?

Our focus is getting the name Redbud Body Care out to the public via the internet since so many folks do their shopping online.  We would like to have the product out regionally and then move to a national market.  Redbud Body Care is also working with Eco Yoga (TM) which is another business I own.  Yoga & Ayurveda are sister sciences so the businesses dovetail nicely.

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

Being in business for yourself can get daunting, I always try to remember to do nice things for myself, like walks out in nature, warm baths with yummy herbal infused oils (that RB sells) and spending time with people that believe in your mission.  Support in a new venture takes a lot of support.  Take advice from people that have been there before you and have something of value to add to the company.

5. As 2010 begins, what do you see as 2 new trends in your business this year?

The small business market has an incredible opportunity to make a mark for itself in this market.  Big business is struggling with their big budgets.  Creating handcrafted products that are of great value to the customer as well as the public at large is in demand.  People want to feel like they are getting their money’s worth.  I also think that the Green movement is finally to take the market by storm.  We have to take into consideration how we spend our money in the business so that it supports the market as well as the planet.

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

This one is tricky since it’s still in its infancy stage.  I was once told by Horst Rechelbacher that a business is like a baby that needs to be nourished.  I am not sure what it is going to grow up and be.  I would want RB to grow up to be an inspiration for others a source of wisdom and leadership.  I’ll have to work on this vision and get back to you when it gets into the teen age.

7. If RedBud Beauty could have a token spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

I would love to have Oprah be it’s spokesperson because she is a beacon of hope in my eyes.  She has overcome so many obstacles and has risen to incredible heights.  If I ever meet her I’d thank her for her leadership and tenacity.

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

To quote Hillel “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, than what I am? If not now, when?” We must believe in ourselves, love ourselves and try our best to live the dream we embody. Having said that I believe it’s important to have some kind of spiritual grounding that creates community as opposed to separating us.

Thanks again Virna and best of luck to RedBud Beauty!

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Biz tools’

Social Commerce Camp DC Wrap-Up, Summary and Presentation Slides

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Social Media Assassins at KikScore's Social Commerce Camp DCSwami Shashi B taking pictures and chatting at a packed house at Social Commerce Camp DC sponsored by KikScore and Network Solutions

Shashi B talking social media at KikScore's and Network Solutions sold out Social Commerce Camp DC

Shashi B talking social media at KikScore's and Network Solutions Social Commerce Camp DC

Social Commerce Camp DC speakers and Sponsors Network Solutions, KikScore and MyBusinessAssistant

Social Commerce Camp DC speakers and Sponsors Network Solutions, KikScore and MyBusinessAssistant

Last Saturday morning, KikScore, Network Solutions, and MyBusinessAssistant.com put on the first ever Social Commerce Camp DC at the downtown offices of Mayer Brown.  The event actually sold out after receiving considerable coverage in a number of places like  Techcocktail the Washington ExaminerWomenGrowBusinessand GrowSmartBusiness. More than 70 small businesses, social media enthusiasts and online sellers showed up for networking and learning.  The event featured three sessions from social media experts that included practical tips for using various social media tools, a real case study of social commerce success and great PR tips for small business. Pictures of the event, including the post-SCCDC Chipolte run, can be found here.

The morning got kicked off with some early networking, a great breakfast provided by the sponsors and everyone’s excitement about being in the absolutely gorgeous town hall conference room overlooking 19th Street.  After some introductory remarks, Network Solutions’ Shashi B got Social Commerce Camp DC going with his rousing, often funny and super useful Social Media 101 for Small Business. Check out Shashi’s slides below that cover a range of subjects on social media including the basics of a small business social media plan which are: 1) Set up Google Alerts about your business, industry and your own name; 2) Start participating in conversations; 3) Become a content publisher via Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, podcasts, Facebook etc 4) Claim you business on Yelp; 5) Encourage customers to review you and 6) Start using videos.

After a quick networking break, Steve Fisher and Mike Doughtery began the second session with an energetic and highly informative case study presentation on Creating a Killer Social Commerce Website Experience.  It featured the very interesting discussion of their launch and promotion of the movie Browncoats: Redemption. Steve and Mike got the audience engaged as they walked through the basic components of building a successful social commerce experience which are: 1) Social Shopping; 2) Ratings & Reviews; 3) Recommendations & Referrals; 4) Forums & Communities; 5) Social Media; and 6) Social advertising.

After setting the baseline for the audience of the basics of the social commerce experience, Mike highlighted how the Browncoats: Redemption experience used a 6 step strategy to create awareness and buzz around the movie.  The 6 steps were: 1)   Establish your goals; 2) Build the community; 3) Give them good content; 4) Get them involved; 5) Get them investing and 6) Share the success.  Check out their slides and the embedded video clips in them for more on the highly anticipated movie, their case study and these 6 steps:

The final session of the day featured the very highly regarded PR and social media specialist, Shonali Burke, who gave the attendees a great hands-on tutorial on PR Best Practices for Small Business. Shonali stressed that so much of PR today for small business is about relationships, presenting yourself in a consistent and presentable manner through your various online and offline channels.  The audience got great tips on tools to use to get to know their customers better with survey tools like Survey Monkey along with good press release tools like Pitch Engine.  Here are Shonali’s highly informative slides:

Some quick final thoughts.  We think it was a great first event and thank all of the participants and speakers.   Check out the hastag #sccdc on Twitter for the stream and conversation about the Social Commerce DC.  Lastly, look out as the next Social Commerce Camp will be in Denver later this spring.  In the meantime, we encourage all participants to keep up the good vibes and connect with each other! Also please check out the KikScore (SCCDC’s sponsor!) website out. We would love comments/feedback/thoughts on our new look and feel.  We encourage you to sign up for our service if you have a business online. Its completely free.  Try us out.

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