Our First-Time Visitors

A Serial Entrepreneur Becomes A Millionaire From An Accidental Startup

Monis Rahman, serial entrepreneur, accidentally launched Rozee.pk when he needed to find more programmers for his startup.

Getting A Mentor

I had a strategy session with a business start-up owner a few months ago. She was six months into her start-up and needed some ideas during her development stage.

Simple Steps To Creating Your First Website

When you make that decision to start a business, you immediately become a multi-tasking maniac. Let's face it, you will have a lot of work on your hands.

Why 'Core Competency' Is Important To A Startup

Well, I like the answer that Norm Brodsky gives in his book, The Knack: "It was the one thing we had that our competitors couldn't offer, and by the time they caught up, we had a foothold in the market and were known for providing that service."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Stimulus Bill in Simple Terms

It is 24% spending (building bridges, roads, energy innovation, etc), 38% tax cuts and 38% Aid (i.e.medicaid).
What it means for Ohio: Approximately 8 billion dollars will be allotted to Ohio. About 5 billion of that will go to medicaid, 1.5 billion to infrastructure and 98 million to education.

Of course if you're like me, you're wondering, how is small business affected? Well I blogged about it a little on an earlier post. However, I urge you to view the bill yourself at http://www.recovery.gov/ (I will also keep you updated with new reports).

The next step now for the administration is to get credit flowing again in order to increase market confidence. If you heard President Obama's address last night, you heard him say, "It is not about banks. It's about people." He was referring to the financial check-up that banks will be receiving in the coming months. Once again, they will get some sort of assistance--their balance sheets will be reviewed, and they will also get government guarantees. However, this is meant to increase consumer confidence in banks, and banks' ability to lend again. This continued government assistance for banks is really aimed at the individuals and small businesses that banks serve.

You will hear some financial gurus on tv stations telling people to save their money and refrain from entertainment or travel or restaurants. They laugh at others that are encouraging people to carry on normal lives. Although I understand their reasoning, (I have a financial advising background in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, insurance, etc and I've gone through financial planning certification training) I also have an economic background that has taught me to understand how consumer spending and confidence plays a major role in a fallen economy. Plus, if people don't spend, then what happens to small businesses? Who buys from small businesses? Or what about the conference, business lunch or business trip that could mean an increase for business owners? Should business owners then be afraid to grow their business?

Although I don't advocate spending carelessly or freely (especially in the midst of job loss), I also know that we can't hide and hoard money if we are to help our economy. So while I respect the advice of seasoned financial experts, I also disagree with some who advocate fear of spending and fear of lending. We can't change the American mindset for credit overnight and we definitely can't afford to let small businesses suffer by not advocating lending structures to help small business; even if we have been placed in a bind because of greed (I mean think about it, the subprime mess was started when Fannie Mae backed down from control of the mortgage lending industry--due to legal issues, and Wall Street took over, paying huge fees to anyone who could produce a loan candidate).

The Stimulus bill for startups is also important to research because it gives you an idea of what incentives could help your venture. For instance, there are a lot of incentives for "green" businesses, so a "green" startup would benefit from government incentives passed down in the form of contracts, grants or tax cuts. Again, get informed at http://www.recovery.gov/.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Don't let Financial Woes hinder your Startup

Yesterday I had to give a pep talk to one of my clients and it reminded me of the financial struggles that start-ups face. This client was about to "throw in the towel" even before a business launch. She was discouraged because of a potential contract with a governmental agency that fell through at the last minute. Her situation is one of many I encounter while dealing with start-ups. Every week I sit with various clients to brainstorm different avenues with which to bootstrap a business, because this is something I am too familiar with--I too, have had to bootstrap my business.

Financial intelligence for a start-up business is crucial to business success. Our conversation reminded me of one of my favorite passages from the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad: "Financial Intelligence is simply having more options. If the opportunities aren't coming your way, what else can you do to improve your financial position? If an opportunity lands in your lap, and you have no money, and the bank won't talk to you, what else can you do to get the opportunity to work in your favor? If your hunch is wrong, and what you've been counting on doesn't happen, how can you turn a lemon into millions? That is financial intelligence."

If you are a start-up business, keep in mind that everyone may doubt you at this point--your potential customers, investors, partners, colleagues, friends, etc. However, you can't doubt you. When you have your moments of doubt, expect it, shrug it off, and start the next day fresh. It is up to you to tell the world why you're important--why your business fills a certain need and void. Don't worry, after a while they'll listen. You have to make them listen. Nothing will turn out as you planned, but learn how to think on your feet. Most importantly, learn some business financial intelligence--if one thing doesn't work, try other avenues. Keep trying!

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and the Founder & CEO of Isaac Business Services LLC; an agency that caters to start-up businesses. http://www.isaacbusinessservices.com/

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Story of a Girl in Central Ohio

According to the Women's Fund of Central Ohio, a girl in Central Ohio is one-third more likely to be living in poverty now than back in 2000. She is one-third more likely to be living in poverty than the average Central Ohioan. If she is living with a single father, the odds that her family is in poverty are over 1 in 5. If she is living with a single mother, these odds double. She is 38% more likely to get pregnant. Yet, through all these challenges, she is more likely than the average boy to graduate high school, and to do so with honors (statistics quoted directly from the Women's Fund of Ohio One Girl report).

The Women's Fund of Central Ohio is a public foundation formed to empower women and girls in Central Ohio through grant-making, event planning, fundraising, and community service. I have attended their grant workshops before--so that I could acquaint myself with their services in order to properly advise my non-profit start-up clients. However, it wasn't until I attended their fundraising event this month, entitled One Girl, that I was fully "wowed." Their energy was contagious and the reason they exist is obvious--girls need to have people who care this much.

I started a non-profit business club geared towards teenage girls earlier this year (the first event is set to launch this summer), but I was inspired to encourage girls even more by attending this event. The exercises prepared for each table, made me dig deeper to find what I needed, wanted and lacked as a teenage girl, to then try and incorporate that thing into the program offerings for my girls.

This is what the Women's Fund does--it makes women care about other women and girls. I decided to contribute and volunteer. Will you? To view the complete One Girl report, or to make a donation, visit http://www.womensfundcentralohio.org/ Your contribution goes towards helping organizations and start-up non-profit businesses that help women or girls (in the form of grants no more than $10,000). Let's start a campaign to help one girl at a time.

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and the Founder & CEO of Isaac Business Services LLC; an agency that caters to start-up businesses. http://www.isaacbusinessservices.com/

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Young Entrepreneurs and Business

According to a bizjournals research study in June 2008, "youthful spirit and economic vitality go hand in hand. Communities with higher concentrations of young adults are more likely to prosper." So how does this piece of information apply to start-up business?

Based on the start-up inquiries I get each week, the young, aspiring entrepreneurs I meet via social networking each month, the type of businesses being started by young entrepreneurs around the globe, one thing is certain---Young Entrepreneurs are starting new and different kinds of businesses. By this, I mean that Generation X and Y are staged to change the "face" of business. We are starting exciting and modern businesses with a Web 2.0 twist; but most importantly, we are changing the way we do business. Face-to-face is no longer the first method of conducting business. Seminars are now virtual and conferences take place on "synced" computers.

We now do business online, across states, in Web 2.0 rooms, we use instruments like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Plaxo, Friend Feed, StumbleUpon, and Digg. Online business forums are where we meet new clients nowadays, the blogosphere is our new best friend, and without the internet, we are helpless. While other generations view the internet as a medium, we view it as a "must-have". The businesses we have, almost always have a unique twist or edge to it.

Take RovAir for example (http://www.rovair.com/). A start-up that opened its doors in 2008, it operates solely online. Part of RovAir's mission is to provide people with high-speed internet connectivity in an internet day pass format. Started by young entrepreneurs, the company benefits from being middlemen for a much-needed service--the internet. For as low as $6 a day, someone can purchase a wireless card for places where wireless is hard to come by (i.e. the airport or a car). Now some may think this is too much, but if you live on your computer like me, you can appreciate such a service. Plus, if you hate paying huge fees to hotels for wireless service, then you may find this service more affordable.

So, young people start businesses that understand young people. The problem is, too many people underestimate young entrepreneurs. Either that, or some communities are too conservative to understand the rise of young stars. Initiatives are rising up everywhere to help small businesses thrive. However, they're missing a big piece of the puzzle--young entrepreneurs. The innovators that can barely get credit from a bank because they may have been out of college less than ten years. The transformers who are greeted with skepticism when they introduce their businesses.

Biz journals study isn't the first. Studies are going up everywhere, proving that young people add success to a community. There is energy, hope, risk-taking, innovation and persistence that have not been seen before. And communities must figure out how to keep the momentum going or risk losing it to their neighboring communities or states.

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and the Founder & CEO of Isaac Business Services LLC; an agency that caters to start-up businesses. http://www.isaacbusinessservices.com/

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's Valentine's Day, where's the "love" for your business?

Being a business owner means taking care of yourself first, in order to have a successful business. We all know that we are our businesses. So since Valentine's Day is all about "love" how are you "loving" yourself today so that you "love" your start-up? What do you like and enjoy doing for yourself or with your family? Well, here are some things I chose to do this Valentine's Day that could work for you:

Step out of your house. Use this day to leave your house and do something. I sincerely believe that everything I do is a learning experience for me that carries over to my business. So even when I'm in the grocery store, I look at the way certain products are marketed, the different advertising, the employees. I notice people from different backgrounds--their demeanor, attire, way they interact with family, and I take mental notes. I notice start-ups and their campaigns, their advertising structures, their environment, target audience, and I take mental notes. You see for me, education for myself and my business does not come only in the form of academia or books. It comes through interaction and observations and real life experiences (from me or other businesses).

Visit your target audiences. Why not patronize the very people you expect to help you grow your business? I have a sincere passion for networking with start-ups and hearing their challenges and successes, so I always try to visit start-ups. This morning, I visited a start-up candy shop, talked to the owner (very nice lady, I believe we will see more of each other), and bought some chocolates. One thing that stood out to me, was her style. She was very classy and her chocolates were a reflection of that--from their wrapping to the wording font. You could tell that she was her business and her business was a part of her mantra. We both learned some things from each other and all we did was interact briefly, talk and laugh, while I bought tons of chocolates.

Mix business and pleasure. Personally, I love networking and mixing fun with business. So this evening, I will be visiting another Columbus start-up with my hubby--Martini Park. If you live in Columbus, you've probably heard a lot about this start-up. You can visit their website at http://www.martinipark.com/. I plan on having fun, interacting with new people, and networking. And I won't hand out a card to someone just to do business. If I hand out a card, it will be to start a businessbuilding-networking-twowaystreet-I-want-to-learn-more-about-you-and-your-business-I-would-love-to-introduce-my-business-and-let's-see-how-our-relationship-develops-from-there kind of relationship.

Go Network but be Sincere. In order to have great friends, you must sincerely care about people. Keith Ferrazzi in his book, Never Eat Alone, says that "real networking is about finding ways to make other people successful." I sincerely approach every relationship or potential relationship as just that--thinking of it as a relationship-building process. A relationship is a two-way street, everyone benefits. I believe that with a sincere want to help or build a friendship with someone, everything else will automatically fall into place. However, you must first be sincere--otherwise you are a user--you try and befriend people only for what they can do for you.

Lastly, have a Happy Valentine's Day!!

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and the Founder & CEO of Isaac Business Services LLC; an agency that caters to start-up businesses. http://www.isaacbusinessservices.com/

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Show us the Money!

"Get our money on the streets!" was how Representative Michael Capruano admonished banks to lend money. He was speaking to the top 8 bankers that were called before the House Financial Service Committee yesterday. After telling bankers, including those from Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase that the American people do not trust them anymore, he urged them to lend the funds given to them. Then he admitted that he does not have "a single penny" of his money in any of the banks run by the bankers who were before him. It is no surprise that Representative Capruano ended up being the star of the event.

So how are the banks lending the money given? No one really knows. CEO Dimon was asked several weeks ago, and he said that the money was placed into a "pool", making it hard to track the exact dollar amount being lent to small businesses and the public. However, he added that their loan number had increased.

It is understandable where the disdain for banks have stemmed from. Customers who have had their credit lines for years and have paid on time, have been faced with a decrease in their credit limits. Credit card limits have decreased, while the interest rates have increased. Late fees are now being charged if your online banking payment system delivers your credit card payment on a Monday because they do not deliver on Sundays--when Sunday happened to be your due date. Business owners who once depended on their credit lines while awaiting their account receivables, are now facing a crunch due to credit line decrease and are forced to lay off employees. Not to mention--obtaining a business loan these days is like trying to purchase a yacht!

Yet, we learned that a few days before Merrill Lynch requested "help" they secretly paid over a million dollars in bonuses. Wow! Try to envision this with me--before a customer can obtain a loan from most banks, she must first prove herself "trustworthy." She must have solid financials dating back 3 years, a solid business plan--with profit and loss statements, balance sheets, etc., 3-years tax statements, a personal financial statement, GREAT credit history, GREAT debt-to-income ratio, some collateral, a significant percentage in down-payment, and maybe more. So imagine the anger of the public when the rule makers of such a grueling lending process were not made to go through the same ordeal of proving themselves "trustworthy."

So how are bankers trying to warm up to the public? Well, at least one CEO is trying. Jamie Dimon has a proposition for you. At the finance committee hearing, he offered his assistance with any credit line decrease or interest rate increase that customers consider unfair. He promised to personally "right" the "wrong." "If we did the wrong thing, send it to me," Dimon said. "Send them all to me and we'll deal with them one-by-one." So if you happen to be a "wronged" Chase business customer, Dimon's contact e-mail is: [email protected] o[email protected] or [email protected].

Whatever you do, fight and don't just give in. Think about the people who depend on you. Crawl out of your hole, contact your bank, banker or credit card company and see how you can compromise before it's too late.

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and the Founder & CEO of Isaac Business Services LLC; an agency that caters to start-up businesses. http://www.isaacbusinessservices.com/

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Stimulus Package and what it means to You

Our economy is in shatters and the vote is unanimous-- something different must be done quickly to change direction. Small business owners have been caught in the middle of this tumultuous credit meltdown and are now taking short-term measures to decrease long-term negative effects for business. Most business owners are now discussing amongst themselves and wondering how government plans to intervene in this crisis.

So, if you are like me and wondering what this whole stimulus package "hoopla" is about, I've got some news for you. After intensely following the episode unfold via the news for a few weeks, I finally found some time to read about the bill a little. I found the section that was the most important to me--Small Business. I advise that you find some time and read the bill; instead of listening to biased opinions of the media. You can find a PDF version of the bill here at Huffington's Post's blog: http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/HR1.pdf

However, if you don't have a lot of time or you're not a reader, I've outlined some points specific to small business; from the infamous bill that was introduced to the House and have recently caused a stirr amongst the House and Senate Republicans and Democrats. The bill will undoubtedly be changed and tweaked as it makes its way through the Senate. However, here is my Small Business recap of the recent House bill:

The bill, called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, has a few purposes which include: 1) Preserving and creating jobs, 2) Assisting those most impacted by the recession, 3)providing investments needed to increase economic efficiency by spurring technological advances, etc. Here are some business-related points from the bill:

Revisions to the Small Business Administration (SBA) Loan Programs: Includes the Economic Stimulus Lending Program for Small Businesses (Sec. 6201). This will permit the SBA to guarantee up to 95% of qualifying small business loans--a higher percentage of current SBA guarantees. Additionally, the bill will NOT delegate to lenders the authority to approve or disapprove applications. This is huge! Currently, although bank lenders work with the SBA, they have the authority to disapprove loans even with SBA guarantees. What's even more distressing is that some banks do not even participate in SBA programs--they simply apply banking guidelines to loan applications, and if there is not enough credit, collateral or time in business, they turn down borrowers.
Here is a statement directly from the SBA's website regarding their most popular loan program: "A key concept of the 7(a) guaranty loan program is that the loan actually comes from a commercial lender, not the Government. If the lender is not willing to provide the loan, even if they may be able to get an SBA guaranty, the Agency can not force the lender to change their mind. Neither can SBA make the loan by itself because the Agency does not have any money to lend." (http://www.sba.gov/services/financialassistance/sbaloantopics/7a/index.html)
Section 6204 of the bill--The Economic Recovery Program--will establish NEW lending and refinancing authority within the SBA. And I bet we can all agree that the current SBA lending protocol needs restructuring--specifically to establish a direct lending protocol.
Rural Community Advancement Programs: this portion of the bill allocates $5,838,000,000 for those business owners in rural areas. Included in this allotment is $2,000,000,000 for business and industry guaranteed loans and $1,102,000,000 for rural community facilities direct loans.
Tax Incentives for Small Business: the bill calls for tax incentives for business owners who acquire property in 2009, will provide a temporary increase in limitations on expensing of certain depreciable business assets, and provides incentives for hiring "disconnected youth" and veterans.
I will keep you posted with new developments.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Who Stole the Service Cookie from your Start-up Jar?

You will always hear people caution you to "learn to delegate" so that you are not completely involved in your business. They will warn you to forget the old saying, "if you want it done right, do it yourself." They mean well--just don't misconstrue their advice or you will find yourself headed down the path of doom. Or else, someone may end up stealing the service cookie from your start-up jar.

My experience today was a prime example. Today I visited IHOP-International House of Pancakes a few miles outside of my city. As my husband and I walked in, we noticed that there was a long line and the wait was about half an hour. Well, since we were a long way from home and were hoping that we would have a shorter wait-time compared to the larger groups, we decided to wait. While waiting, we noticed that the hostesses were unfriendly and non-accommodating. We simply shrugged this indifference off and branded it a "busy-day indifference."

However, shortly during breakfast I couldn't help but notice a lady who slowly approached each table in my aisle. She was saying hello, smiling and asking, "has anyone helped you yet" or "did someone come to take your drink order yet" or "how was the food today?" After she passed our table and we exchanged courteous pleasantries, I winked at my husband and said, "she's probably the franchisee" and he nodded in agreement. Shortly after she came around, we noticed an immediate difference in the attitudes of her wait staff. They were now smiling, making conversation and being receptive to the customers.

My point is this---you must not start to even contemplate leaving customer service to your staff to figure out. The buck starts with you! By being involved in the service aspect of her business, this franchisee was able to accomplish several things: 1) She acknowledged her customers and made them feel welcome, 2) She provided a model to her employees of how she wanted them to interact with customers, 3) She managed to get people in and out in a timely manner so that the anxious crowd in line could be seated and served (you wonder how she did this and I say--had I said, "no, no one has taken my drink order yet" I bet you that would have been the next thing on her agenda).

You see, this particular restaurant I refer to is in its start-up phase. Having just opened in late 2007, it is still considered a start-up restaurant. Start-ups cannot take the risk of delegating customer service to staff--even if they can afford it. A start-up owner must be involved in the service aspect of the business by enforcing core values and sticking around to ensure that they are implemented. Otherwise, a moody employee may steal the customer service cookie from your start-up jar--the very cookie that your customers crave so badly.

So the next time you hear advice about delegating to employees, be careful to discern. Most advice is dedicated to bigger or more established businesses. Or they might reference some different aspect of business. In reality, your sales and service as a start-up starts with you. You have to set the model, put in place the infrastructure, ensure its implementation, role play for your team and have your core values emphasized at every meeting and in every policy manual. Then as your toddler business grows, you can now afford to have these established principles carried out throughout your company. Protect your customer service cookie jar or your start-up business may run out of cookies and lose customers.

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and the Founder & CEO of Isaac Business Services LLC; an agency that caters to start-up businesses.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Things that Make you go---"Whoa!"

This morning I watched news reporters slam Bill Gates because of his last "scene" at a charitable fundraiser/awareness program. Apparently, Gates felt that he could not stress the point enough that malaria is killing people around the world daily. So for his presentation, Gates took a bottle of mosquitoes and released them into a room of a hundred or more people. He waited two minutes and then said, "don't worry, these ones are not malaria-infested." I believe they got his point but some were angry. Why? This hit too close to home. What if these mosquitoes were infected? This would mean a spread right here in the US.

This is exactly the point that Bill Gates tried to make--will I get your attention now that I've made it personal? I once worked for a bank that encouraged its employees to make it personal when interacting with customers. I've found this strategy to work because it releases some form of emotion from a potential buyer and it allows both you and your prospective client to focus on what you have in common instead of your differences.

Things that make you go-"Whoa!" may tend to have negative reactions from some, but perhaps it does work to get your point across in a way that you may not have been able to do otherwise. Take Suze Orman for example. Suze has been able to build her financial consulting empire on saying things to people that might make you go, "Whoa!" Undoubtedly, she has been successful at it because she manages to get her point across.

As a start-up, one of the challenges you will face will be trying to learn what to say when selling your product. People will listen, mostly because they can empathize with you--you're doing something they admire or don't have the confidence to do. They may even instinctively like you. The question is how do you get them to buy? How do you get them to really understand the importance of your product or service?

Include the "Whoa!" factor and make it personal. You don't have to be drastic, but find a way to make people care. Every product or service is different, so you would have to figure out what your "Whoa!" factor is and how you can make your interactions personal. If you are in a tough-selling industry; like financial advising or mortgage brokerage, having a "Whoa!" factor may prove to be essential to sales accrual. I will be testing the "Whoa!" factor out so I hope you will too.

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and the Founder & CEO of Isaac Business Services LLC; an agency that caters to start-up businesses.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Look out Girls, Here we Come!

I am appreciative of the chance to have been mentioned by WE Magazine as one of the "101 Women Bloggers to watch for 2009" (you can view the website by clicking on the link to the left). What an honor--especially since I just ran across the article by happenstance! Most of you are already aware that my blog-The Startup BizTalk Blog is literally about "talk" important to start-up businesses and I am thankful to those of you who have followed our discussion. I was able to peruse WE's list briefly and here are some rich-niche blogs that immediately caught my attention, and the notable women mentioned:
  • Bridget Ayers and the Get Smart Blog: (http://www.thegetsmartblog.com/) The Get Smart Blog is dedicated to helping professionals build internet presences; particularly through video marketing and social media. My 2009 business plan involves intertwining more social media and networking marketing tactics with traditional forms of marketing so you know I will be tuned in to this blog.
  • Casey Wohl and the Girls Getaway Guide Blog: (http://girlsgetawayguide.blogspot.com/) My regular readers can already guess why I mentioned this blog. Earlier this year, I talked about my love of travel and my plans for 2009. Since I am taking part of my business virtual this year, I plan on incorporating some travel into my entrepreneurial work weeks to learn about start-ups in other states. So Casey, keep up the good work with the travel, seminar, and event information!
  • Jennifer Moore and Pink Heels Blog: (http://pink-heels.blogspot.com/) The Pink Heels blog offers information to professional and business oriented women. The information covers a variety of information important to women. Jennifer also follows other women bloggers. As for the ambiance of her blog--it makes you literally want to follow Jennifer's advice and "grab a cup of tea, snuggle up with a blanket in your favorite chair, and enjoy the musings of Pink Heels." Like all the others, I have added this blog to my google reader and will definitely be following.

My goal this year is to improve my blog and include vital features; such as a link to facebook, twitter, other social networking "Share This" links, etc. A book that has helped me with an initial start is ProBlogger; Secrets for Blogging your way to a Six-Figure Income, by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett.

You can check out Darren's blog at http://www.problogger.net/ and Chris' blog at http://www.chrisg.com/. I will also be updating you with other helpful instructional tools. If you know of a noteworthy social networking instructional guide from a notable female blogger, please share!

Let's keep blogging ladies and if you're thinking about blogging and don't know how or where to start, stay tuned for some shared resources from me on this blog.

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and the Founder & CEO of Isaac Business Services LLC; an agency that caters to start-up businesses. Her company's website is http://www.isaacbusinessservices.com/

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More