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Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

A New Entreperneur's Motto: Try to Win Each Day

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Marty Schotenheimer giving small businesses and startups inspiration

So as many of you may know, I am from the Cleveland/Akron area and a lifelong Browns fan.  Yes, I am celebrating Sunday’s first victory of the season, but that is another story.  My point is the great former Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer used to tell his team – “Try to win every play.” I believe his thinking was, forget the first half or second half or all 60 minutes of the game.  Break the game of football down to the smallest element and that is each play.  Win each play, and you increase your chances of winning the game.  It really is a good way of looking at the game of football.

The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma: This got me to thinking about the overwhelming odds that most entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses face.  We are up against larger companies, better funded competitors, new products being launched every day and the challenge of just trying to get our names out and keeping our customers happy.  These and the many additional challenges that entrepreneurs face every day can be overwhelming.   They often drown even the strongest and most driven people who take the entrepreneurship plunge.

Just one of these challenges is entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses are faced with being pulled in every direction.   The job of focusing is so difficult (as we discussed previously).  How many of you can not even send an email out or quickly resolve a customer inquiry without being interrupted a hundred times?  We get half way through a three line email and it takes us two hours to get the rest of the email completed and by the time we are done we do not remember what we were responding to in the first place.

A New Approach? So taking Schottenheimer’s football quote, lets try to apply it to our small businesses and startups.  How do you win each play as an entrepreneur?  Here are some tips for us to try:

1) What do you control? Refocus your lens on the issues, tasks, projects and deliverables that are under your control. Forget the rest or at least do not spend a lot of time on items that are outside of your control for your business.

2) What can you attack? Make a daily list of these issues, tasks, projects and deliverables that are under your control and attack them in bite sized pieces.

3) What small steps can I take? The reminder is do not focus on trying to get everything accomplished at one time.  That approach will get you overwhelmed. Instead, take small steps each day and the snowballing effect of this forward motion will eventually help you make progress on your list.

4) What is my daily plan? Take time for an “internal huddle” each morning to plan out your day and what items you want to accomplish for your business.  Even if it is just you taking 5 minutes, it will be worth it.  The alternative is just jumping into the day and letting your emails, telephone calls and employees dictate what you do.  Fight that urge.  The huddle helps you assert some degree of control of your day as Inc Magazine discussed here.

5) How can I give 110%? By concentrating on these smaller steps and items that you control, that should help you really focus your efforts and energy on particular tasks.  That then helps you concentrate your efforts so you can do the best job possible on that task.  This is much better than being distracted and trying to still make progress on these tasks.

6) What is my daily progress? Repeat, repeat and repeat.  And oh yeah, also measure your progress too by giving yourself a scorecard of what you get done.  That way you can track how well you are doing.

Because I am such a huge Browns fan (and I also want us all to succeed at KikScore!), I am going to commit myself to taking these steps to see if I truly can win each day.  I will let you know what progress I make.

Please let us know how you “win each day!”

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Antivirus Software: A Comparison & Tips to Keep Your Computer Safe!

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I’ve been commuting to college for a while now and I’ve noticed that in our library every newspaper except the USA Today is taken by 1:00 pm. What’s up with that? *shrugs* Anyway, guess what I’m going to talk about today!People living under rocks? No Patrick the starfish? No I’ll give you a hint. It was in the USA Today. Airline fees? Nope, I’m going to talk about Antivirus software! *fireworks* How many of you use antivirus software? *Looks around* Most of you, good. For those of you that don’t, get some! To help those of you that don’t have antivirus software or have had a trial version that’s now expired, USA Today has compared several antivirus software packages. Here’s the rundown.

  1. Microsoft Security Essentials: Remember OneCare? No? That’s ok, this is better. It’s free! You get the basics, such as anti-virus and anti-spyware. Plus it’ll scan all of your hard drives and I mean all. (I have this on my laptop and it scanned my external hard drive when I had it connected.)
  2. Immunet: $19.95, the only difference between it and Microsoft Security Essentials is you don’t get automatic updates and it also scans your email for infectious files. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Gmail already do that?
  3. Cyber Defender: $29.95 The only difference between it and Microsoft Security Essentials is no automatic updates and you get anti-phishing .

Most anti-virus software offers the same benefits. Some go further and offer website health checks, parental controls, and one, Webroot, offers to monitor your credit card usage. There are a ton of anti-virus software companies out there and that can make it confusing for those of us who want decent security. So, everyone should do their homework and find out which anti-virus software best fits their needs. Some good sites to look at are:

  1. Microsoft’s list of anti-virus software vendors, here.
  2. Google’s list, here, which includes anti-virus software for all you mac users out there.
  3. The USA Today list(see above) which compares several software vendors

One warning about free software (OK more like two), you might not get very good support and the software might not be updated very often. Make sure you check the frequency of updates before downloading. Also check the websites that you visit. Do they have a seal of authenticity, such as Kikscore’s seal? If not, be careful. For all you website owners out there, consider getting a seal.

What about the rest of you? What kind of anti-virus protection do you have?

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KikScore Interviews Zadyball Creator Alayna Slinker

Monday, May 10th, 2010

While recently shopping for a unique baby gift for a friend’s newest arrival, I stumbled upon Zadyball – a unique toy that combines the things babies love best: putting soft stuff in their mouth and having a snuggle buddy.  If only I’d found this when my daughter was that small!  Zadyball is a small company that is doing wonders for moms and babies around the globe!  We are very thankful that Alayna took the time to  share the exciting Zadyball journey with KikScore.

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

A Zadyball is a handcrafted toy designed with babies in mind. They are soft to hold and cuddle, and have lots of knotted fabric strings to grab and rub. Zadyball is easy for young babies to hold on to, and it quickly becomes a favorite!

I made the first Zadyball in 2004 when my son was about 6 months old. He had a stuffed animal with a knotted string for a tail. He loved playing with the string, and would rub it to help him fall asleep. Since the string was his favorite part of the toy, I decided to make a toy for him with lots of strings for him to play with.

He loved that ball SO much and took it with him everywhere we went, and refused to sleep without it.

We got comments on it all the time, usually to the effect of “what is that thing?” And, after I explained it, many people said “hey, my kid would like that too!” So, I decided to start making them for my friends and giving them as gifts at baby showers. Other shower guests started offering to buy them from me, and I eventually started selling them online and in small stores all over the world.

Our focus is to bring a little bit of happiness to the lives of babies and their families.

2. Where will Zadyball focus most of its energy in 2010?

This year, I’ve been focusing on giving the website a bit of a “facelift”. I’ve been working on improving the product images as well as optimizing the website for search engines.

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

One thing that I’ve learned is that quality pictures are CRUCIAL to online sales. In a “real” store, people can use all five senses to view a product. They can pick it up, shake it, feel it, throw it, even smell and taste it if they really want to. But, the only sense that is available when buying online is SIGHT. So, what they are seeing had better look good!

The second thing I’ve learned is how important it is to be unique. When shopping online, buyers can view products from all over the world side-by-side. You have to be one of a kind in order to stand out.

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

Well, I think that to run my business, I’d like to be like Elasta-Girl from The Incredibles. I have to be flexible in order to make everything work. And I couldn’t do it without my family by my side – with all their super strengths!

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

A fabulously stylish mom who wants to have fantastic toys for her children.  Someone who people can relate to.

6. How do the folks at Zadyball let loose after a busy day working?

In addition to running my business, I am a full-time mother of three, so I don’t have a lot of down-time.  Most often, my work is done while they are sleeping. But, my best times are spent just hanging out with my favorite people – my little munchkins, and my wonderful husband.

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

Never become complaisant. Always be on the lookout for ways to improve your business and your product. And listen to your customers – they are the best source for great ideas!

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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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Small Business Interview with Kimberley Stewart from OnBoard Outfitters

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Kimberley Stewart with OnBoard Outfitters took some time to share some small business tips with us including her thoughts on website development, corporate vision, getting venture capital funding, and Matthew McConaughey (what else!).  Onboard Outfitters specializes in making comfortable baby carriers that can be used in water or on land.

Tell us about OnBoard Outfitters and who you focus on serving?

OnBoard Outfitters designs products and accessories for the active lifestyle so you can get onboard with life!  We use performance fabrics to innovate and enhance the use of products that individuals and families use in their active, everyday lives.  We also develop fitness programs that utilize some of our products, to encourage families to be fit and active together, and to teach kids to love fitness at an early age.  Our products are made for all ages, in various markets such as juvenile products, sports/athletics, outdoor recreation, travel, health/fitness, and medical/therapeutic.

Our first product is the innovative SportsBabyTM infant carrier, the only dual water-land carrier on the market, made for active moms and dads who live life “on the go” and want to take baby everywhere with them:  in the pool, to the beach, camping and hiking, in the snow and rain, or just a walk in the park.  Moms swear to us that their babies don’t want to get out of the carrier – it’s so soft and comfortable.  And several parents tell us that it is their preferred carrier.  Dads love it because of its “engineered” design – “It’s not just a piece of cotton with shoulder straps.”  

How did you get your started selling online?

When I joined OnBoard in 2008, we created a new LLC and decided to sell the remaining inventory of our SportsBaby infant carrier (from my partner’s former LLC), while we prepared a business plan to obtain funding.  So, we needed a website to sell the carriers.  We have also reached out to several other online retailers who now also sell the SportsBaby.  OnBoard will not be a retailer to the public going forward.  We will sell via retail partners, such as small, independent retailers and boutiques, and larger mass merchandisers.  We will also have a limited B2B division to sell directly to practitioners.

Where will OnBoard Outfitters focus most of its energy in 2010?

Getting funding!  And developing our launch products and fitness programs.  We will also focus on building consumer awareness, sales, and brand loyalty.

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

1.  Spend the money to get a good website.  We went with a woman who did “websites for small businesses” but she really wasn’t experienced in sites with a retail/shopping cart component.  So, the site looked okay on the surface, but I later learned that she had used very amateur programming on the back end, making it enormously difficult for another web programmer to make changes.  This also limited our SEO.  And she chose archaic shopping cart software, which also limits us in being able to calculate international shipping, for example.

2.  Have a reliable customer service and fulfillment system in place.  You have to be able to ship within 24 hours of receiving the order.  With a new company and product, you can’t afford to alienate any customers with bad service.  Once, a woman from Ohio called me, wanting to buy a carrier for her daughter.  She said she had tried to apply a promotional discount to her order online but couldn’t get it to work, so I gave her our Friends and Family discount, which was a greater discount.  I didn’t have the capability to process her order and credit card over the phone, so I trusted her word that she would mail me a check that day, and I shipped the carrier to her.  I did whatever was required to give her a positive shopping experience with OnBoard Outfitters and the SportsBaby carrier.

As 2009 closes, what do you see as 2 new trends in your business this year?

We haven’t been in business long enough, or had enough sales, to see a trend, but we are now finding other sites that focus on active parents and outdoor living with kids, so we are gaining a lot of attention with these sites, and finding people who “catch our vision” of sporty, fun products for infants and parents.

Overall, the fitness/health industry and the juvenile products industry have remained strong in spite of the weak economy, so we think this will help us be competitive and see some growth in the next few years.

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

Let’s see . . . If OnBoard Outfitters were a movie, we’d be a cross between “Baby Boom” (Diane Keaton) and “Gracie.”  “Baby Boom” is, at the highest level, about a woman (we’re two women) who saw a need in the baby market and created a solution.  “Gracie” is a film about a young girl who loves to play soccer, and pushes to get other girls involved in the game.  Both films also express the theme of not letting anyone tell you that you can’t do something – anything is possible with some effort and vision! 

OnBoard’s underlying goal is to help combat childhood obesity by getting kids involved in fitness at a young age – even as infants – and to exercise with their parents so family fitness becomes a way of life and a fun way to spend time together.

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

Based on our current SportsBaby product, our dream MALE spokesperson would be Matthew McConaughey.  He is the epitome of a cool sports-loving dad, who lives on Malibu beach and sports his baby around.

Our dream FEMALE spokesperson would be Kathy Ireland.  She is an amazingly successful female entrepreneur, mom, and a dedicated spokesperson for families and family fitness.

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

My business partner, Lisa LaBelle, is the fitness expert, so she’ll do something like run a marathon.  I eat chocolate.  All day long.

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

Starting a business is hard work, and requires a clear vision and plan of how to move from point A to point B to point C.  Get good, seasoned advisors on your team to guide you and also open doors for you.  Spend time at your local Small Business Community Development Center for free advice (or for a nominal fee) on all aspects of business development.  And network like crazy!

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A Small Business Interview with Mark Sarpa from Frecklebox

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Mark Sarpa from Frecklebox took a few minutes out of his busy day to share his thoughts on focused marketing, Dr. Seuss books, and what makes him passionate about what he does everyday. Mark is the CEO of Frecklebox.com, a small business that sells personalized gifts for children.

Tell us about Frecklebox and who you focus on serving?

We are focused on parents and grandparents with children between the ages of one and 10.

How did you get your started selling online?

We are part of a digital printing company which was looking to diversify its business from the fine stationery and corporate marketplace. We had the tools and developed the products to take advantage of what we do well for others.

Where will Frecklebox focus most of its energy in 2010?

Growing the market will be our primary focus in 2010 and we plan on adding more books and additional products in the children’s educational marketplace.

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

The first lesson would be to study more marketing. We think we have great products but sometimes it is tough (and can be expensive) to get your message out there. The second lesson would be to focus on a specific marketplace. I believe the more focused you are the more successful you will be.

What do you see as 2 new trends in your business this year?

The first trend would be more competitors (which is a good thing). Our market is fairly new and still small. As more competitors enter there will be growth for us all. The second trend would be more powerful customization tools. Later in the year we hope to add much more sophisticated tools where people can actually edit the story.

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

That is a tough question. I would say Aladdin because he started out as a street urchin and became a prince. Not to say that a corporate printing company is a low form but if we can transform into a company which changes children’s lives I would think we might have become a prince.

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

It would have to be Dr Seuss. He was a pioneer in children’s books and paved the way for the rest of us in the children’s book market. Our HipHopHowie book was actually modeled after many of the Dr Seuss classics.

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

All of us have families so playing with children and making them do their homework makes up our wild and crazy nights.

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

In my opinion the most important ingredient in a business’s success is the passion of the person or people running it. When I receive an email from someone that thanks me for helping their child learn how to spell their name it gives me that warm feeling that we all strive for and makes me passionate about bringing better things to the market to make children and parents smile.

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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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See how YouRenew has revolutionized the recycling world

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

YouRenew was recently showcased on All Things Considered segment NPR.   After frantically going to the website to determine the value of my drawer full of out-dated gadgets, I contacted YouRenew to tell us their adventure story.   David Walker shares the exciting chronicles of the YouRenew journey with KikScore…

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

YouRenew is an electronics re-marketing and recycling company that allows individuals to sell back their used mobile electronics and keep them out of landfills.   Customers across the country visit to find their devices, receive an instant price quote and download a free shipping label to send in their devices – once the devices arrive at the YouRenew facility, customers are sent a check within days.

We recently launched CorporateRenew, a service that allows businesses and other organizations to sell back their used cell phones and smart phones to enhance their environmental credibility while adding to their bottom lines.  We have been gaining significant traction across the country with business in a wide variety of fields via our website.

2. How did the YouRenew website and recycle service come about?

YouRenew was founded in March of 2009 by Rich Littlehale and Bob Casey who believed that given a convenient opportunity and proper incentive, individuals and organizations want to do the right thing with their used mobile electronics.  As only 10% of the discarded cell phones in the US were recycled in 2008, Rich and Bob saw tremendous opportunity to grow a business and make significant social change.

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

In 2010 YouRenew and CorporateRenew will focus most of their energy on reaching out to individuals and organizations to let them know that there is a better alternative than the trash can. Both businesses and individuals are able to receive significant value for their used electronics and can take pride in knowing that they won’t end up in a landfill.

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

The best lesson we can pass on about having an online business is to be fully transparent to the customer. Individuals and business clients want to know exactly what we do with their used electronics, and we show them! Any business that believes in their service as we do at YouRenew and CorporateRenew should be transparent with their customers.

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

As 2010 begins we see a lot more individuals and businesses putting significant emphasis on environmental responsibility.  This is a great trend for us as we offer a service that proves that being green is not just an environmentally beneficial decision, but is a financially beneficial decision as well.

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

We would have to be Tom Kelly Jr. from Tommy Boy as we are young, creating jobs in Connecticut, and Tommy Boy is simply a great movie!

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

In the midst of the Winter Olympics, we would have to go with Apolo Anton Ohno as he revolutionized a niche sport and brought it to national fame.  With e-waste just becoming a significant issue, we are revolutionizing the way individuals and organizations dispose of their used mobile devices.

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

This year alone 1 billion cell phones will be created world-wide. Help us keep them out of landfills and bring you significant value for your used devices through YouRenew.com and CorporateRenew.com.

Thanks YouRenew… now back to searching through my drawers.  Please share any other recycling tips you’ve discovered.

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Small Biz Interview with Tufted Topper owner Madalyn Duerr

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

sunset_sailingIt’s a busy week for Tufted Topperand owner Madalyn Duerr as she excitedly prepares for the Strictly Sail show at Navy Pier in Chicago this coming weekend. Tufted Topper isn’t just for avid boaters, it is a unique custom mattress pad that can be created for any mattress. Tufted Topper was one of our first KikScorebeta customers and has been a great partner in providing feedback and suggestions not only on the KikScore products but also on small business ventures and various other tidbits. Thanks Madalyn and Tufted Topper – best of luck in the show this weekend!

1. Tell us about Tufted Topper and who you focus on serving?
Tufted Topper’ is a custom-made pillow top pad to make any sleeping area more comfortable, giving you mattress comfort without the mattress price. We focus on the marine industry but a topper can be used in campers, on hide-a-beds, or on your own uncomfortable mattress at home.

2. What prompted the launch of Tufted Topper?
The idea for ‘Tufted Topper’ came out of our own need. We were avid sailors spending long weekends on our boat. Sleeping quarters on boats are notoriously uncomfortable and custom mattresses are a very expensive luxury. We had a friend in the mattress business who agreed to make us a topper for our v-berth. It made a world of difference. Once others on our dock heard about the comfortable pad, they wanted one too. A new business was born. However, our friend did not have the equipment needed to make all the intricate cuts and corners found on most boats. After an intense six-month search, we found the perfect vendor and began exhibiting our product at several boat shows but it soon became apparent that we needed more visibility and an easier way for customers to purchase our toppers.

3. How did you get started selling online?
We quickly realized that a website was in order and that a ‘safe’ ordering process was not only important but necessary. Today, more than 85% of our business comes through online sales. Our customers want easy access to product information and simple ordering procedures . . . simple but succinct . . . a challenge when you want to attract customers and provide all the information you can without being overwhelming.

4. Where will Tufted Topper focus most of its energy in 2010?
In 2010, much of our energy will be focused on improving the website and making sure our customers have confidence in shopping with us. KikScore is a great tool that helps us demonstrate that trust online.

5. As 2010 begins, what trends do you see in your business this year?
Slowly coming out of a recession, we look to this year as a ‘retrofit’ year . . . . people remodeling their homes instead of purchasing new ones, getting new tires and brake jobs instead of buying new cars, adding a few small luxuries to their current boats instead of trading up. If that rings true, it should be a good year for ‘Tufted Topper’ . . . . a terrific and affordable upgrade for a boat, camper or home.

If you are out in Chicago this weekend, head to Navy Pier for the show and stop by booth 453 to say Hi to Madalyn and explore having a Tufted Topper custom fit for you!

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Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

Small Biz interview with Little Duck Organics owner Zak Normandin

Monday, January 25th, 2010

LDO LogoToday’s KikScore interview is with Zak Normandin, owner of Little Duck Organicsa unique and tasty organic snack food for infants and toddlers – and adults too!  We came across Zak and Little Duck Organics on Twitter where Zak and team are actively promoting their yummy organic treats.  Little Duck Organics is relatively new to the online community and shares a passion for the world of small business and bringing a much needed product to the organic conscious community.  I had the pleasure of talking for awhile with Zak and sharing startup ideas and promotional concepts.  Thanks for your insight Zak and for being a KikScore customer!

1. Tell us about Little Duck Organics and who you focus on serving?

Little Duck Organics is a business that I started developing in February of 2009. My wife and I have always been a fan of all natural/organic/locally produced products, and when we went food shopping for our daughters we really didn’t see anything like that available in the baby aisle. Most of the products that were available contained added sugars, artificial flavors, and preservatives which we preferred not to feed to our kids. When we talked to other parents, they agreed that there was definitely a lack of wholesome, nutritious products available for babies. At the time, I was looking for a new venture to invest in, so I started researching what it would take to bring an organic line of baby products to market. It took me about 10 months to design our first line of products and arrange to have it manufactured and packaged. In December of 2009, we formally launched on Amazon.com and at independent grocery stores in New Hampshire.

2. How did you get started with selling online?

One of our first customers was Amazon.com. They started buying products from us in December to sell through their online grocery division. This was the first experience that we had with selling products online. At the beginning of this month (January), we set up our own online store to begin selling Little Duck snacks directly to customers through our website. This allowed us to have a little bit more control over product placement, descriptions, Etc. Overall, the experience has been great. We’re focusing now on increasing our conversion rate and finding new ways to advertise to potential customers.

3. Where will Little Duck Organics focus most of its energy in 2010?

In 2010, our goals will be to expand our retail and online distribution channels and develop the Little Duck Organics brand. One of our main focuses will be to build customer loyalty and awareness within the baby products niche. We will be working closely with the blogging community, and plan to do a lot of traveling to sample our products at retail stores. In addition, we’re planning on introducing two new products later this year that will compliment our current line of products.

4. If you had 1 lesson that you learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what would it be?

The biggest lesson that I have learned so far since we set up our online store is that you need to be very aware and organized with all of the external costs associated with selling a product through a website. Credit card fees, boxes, packing materials & shipping costs all add up with you are selling a product with a low retail price. You need to keep these things in mind and adjust your prices accordingly so that what you are offering to customers is still attractively priced.

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

As far as trending goes in the organic baby sector, I think that there will be more of a shift from the conventional baby food companies to upgrade their product lines to incorporate more natural/organic options. Fortunately for us, Gerber will always be Gerber and Beech-Nut will always be Beech-Nut. No matter how they market their products, they will always have the same brand-association in the mind of most consumers. Our advantage is that we were able to start from ground zero and build a brand around a mindset (Creating delicious organic baby snacks with no preservatives or additives).

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

I’ve always loved the movie “Click” with Adam Sandler. I really relate to his character, and although the movie does not directly relate to Little Duck Organics, I can see a lot of similarities between the story-line and our business. For anyone who has not seen the film, the main character is an architect who has the ability to fast forward his life to critical points of success. Basically, he does not want to have to go through the mundane and only wants to experience the promotions, bonuses, success Etc. I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone who has not seen it, but at the end Sandler learns to appreciate his family, friends, and the journey of life more than he previously had. I’m making a big effort to do the same in my life and at Little Duck Organics this year. I need to enjoy the process of building the business and everything that comes along with it. We’re doing something that most people only dream of , and that in itself should be viewed as an accomplishment.

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

I can’t think of anyone specific off the top of my head, but it would have to be a celebrity or someone famous who has the same mindset as our company. I would prefer a mom who understands the value in feeding wholesome organic foods to their children.

8. How do the folks at Little Duck Organics let loose after a busy day working?

Although most of my time is spent building the business, It is nice to wind down after a long day at work. At home, I enjoy spending time with my wife and daughters. We love trying out new foods and traveling. In the summer, we usually go for a walk every night with our dog. My older daughter loves helping me cook, so I try to do that with her whenever I can. At three years old, she can already make a mean Alfredo sauce 🙂

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

Know your competition, Work your butt off, Pray for luck.  Cheers!

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