Business Planning

Illinois has first successful equity crowdfunding campaign

PRESS RELEASE

 

ILLINOIS HAS ITS FIRST INTRASTATE EQUITY CROWDFUNDING SUCCESS:

USING THE TRUCROWD ILLINOIS PLATFORM, AIRCHICAGO HOLDINGS, INC RAISED OVER $150,000 FROM OVER 90 INVESTORS IN ONLY 5 WEEKS.

Chicago, IL, Thursday, January 25, 2018:  Launched in November of 2017 on the truCrowd Illinois platform, AirChicago Holdings only took 5 weeks to raise its goal of $150,000 becoming the First Successful Equity Crowdfunding campaign using the Illinois Intrastate Crowdfunding law.  truCrowd Illinois is an SEC-approved Investment Portal operating under Regulation Crowdfunding (Title III of the JOBS act).  AirChicago Holdings, Inc. is a private-jet-travel company based at Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling, IL that offers, for the first time, the opportunity for Illinois residents to travel on private jets at airline fares.

 

Exclusive access to AirChicago Flights is through ownership of an AirChicago Jet Card.  Investors in AirChicago’s crowdfunding offering received an AirChicago Founder Jet Card as part of the return on their investment.  For every $1,000 invested in AirChicago, investors received four complementary flights on AirChicago each year for life.  They also received 30 shares of AirChicago stock.  Each additional $1,000 investment in AirChicago yields an additional four complementary flights on AirChicago each year for life and 30 shares of AirChicago stock.  AirChicago Founder Jet Cardmembers can purchase additional AirChicago flights beyond their four complementary flights each year at airline-coach fares.

 

AirChicago flew its inaugural flight on January 15th, 2018 from Chicago to New York City.  Additional routes will be opened to 30 of the most-popular business-and-leisure destinations in the U.S. as quickly as possible.  The flights will depart Chicago Executive Airport in the morning and return in the early evening Monday through Friday.  The selected routes are the busiest airline-travel routes out of Chicago.

 

“This is a great step forward for the intrastate equity crowdfunding space” states Florence Hardy, CEO of truCrowd Illinois. “We have worked hard with the Secretary of State and our partners to make equity crowdfunding a reality for businesses in Illinois and this first success proves it can work.”  truCrowd Illinois is currently working with a number of businesses to get their campaigns listed and start the fundraising process and expects to have 5 offerings ready for investment by February 28th, 2018.  truCrowd Illinois currently has a database of over 2,000 Illinois investors looking for opportunities and individuals can sign up to view the upcoming offerings at il.trucrowd.com.

 

About truCrowd Illinois:  The first registered Equity Intrastate Crowdfunding Platform in Illinois, TruCrowd Illinois focuses on providing equity financing opportunities to Illinois business owners and investment/wealth building opportunities to Illinois residents. Located in the heart of the financial district of downtown Chicago, truCrowd is an equity crowdfunding portal operating under Regulation Crowdfunding (Title III of JOBS ACT) and connects startups and emerging businesses with non-accredited and accredited investors. Built on the belief that not all businesses and investors are alike, we pride ourselves on delivering a personalized and professional funding experience through industry-leading technology. Our truCrowd team consists of ordinary people with extraordinary passion and experience. We have all dedicated ourselves to making truCrowd the most user-friendly equity crowdfunding portal for funding your startup or investing in startups. Our collective talent in finance, marketing, content and design form a powerful team committed to achieving and maintaining the #1 equity crowdfunding portal in America.

 

About AirChicago: The AirChicago private-jet-travel experience starts with booking your flight through an easy-to-use App.  AirChicago Jet Cardmembers can arrive at Chicago Executive Airport as little as 15-minutes before departure and enjoy free parking a short walk from their departure gate.  There are no TSA hassles, delays, lost bags or bumping associated with travel on AirChicago.  Ten-to-fourteen-passenger executive jets are used for the innovative AirChicago private-jet service.  Travelers on AirChicago flights enjoy complimentary beverages and meals that are served by two friendly and helpful flight attendants.  The flights are flown by pilots that meet or exceed FAA standards.  When they arrive at their destinations, AirChicago travelers will find their ground transportation and bags waiting for them when they get off the airplane.  On average, AirChicago Jet Cardmembers save over 3 hours on each one-way flight.  This makes one-day business trips a reality again.


Crowdfunded Communities: Own Where You Live AND Play

Originally appeared in Black Enterprise and Written by Brandon Andrews

Florence Hardy is CEO of truCrowd Illinois, a state-level equity crowdfunding platform allowing Illinois residents to invest in startups. She is also COO of Fundanna-an equity crowdfunding platform for the cannabis industry, and truCrowd’s national equity crowdfunding platform.

Hardy is one of the only black, brown, or female executives in the equity crowdfunding arena.

After interviewing black entrepreneurs running equity crowdfunding campaigns, including WhoseYourLandlord and Jetpack, Black Enterprise contributor Brandon Andrews sat down with Florence to get the perspective of an executive in the space. She shares her thoughts on equity crowdfunding and the opportunities for black founders and investors.

 

Brandon Andrews: You run truCrowd Illinois, a state-level equity crowdfunding platform in Illinois. You are also COO of the national truCrowd platform and COO of Fundanna, an equity crowdfunding platform for the cannabis industry. Let’s talk about truCrowd Illinois first. What opportunity do you see in the state-level approach?  

Florence Hardy: I think there is a great opportunity to both support local business and build livable communities by focusing on the state level. It provides an opportunity for small businesses, the ones that have the hardest time finding funding, to get investments from those likely to patronize them: local residents. It puts business owners in a place to create a different narrative about their business and who they serve, while allowing them to focus their marketing and fundraising effort in a concentrated area, saving time and money.

Additionally, state-based laws are more progressive than those at the federal level, allowing business owners to raise more funds while allowing residents an opportunity to invest more per campaign.

 

 

For entrepreneurs raising money and investors who want to fund businesses, how is the state-level approach different?  

The approach is not that much different. The business still needs to identify likely investors and market to them efficiently and effectively. The key difference is the messaging. The key message at the state level is that investors would be able to own their community, not just live in it. And with ownership comes pride; pride can bring about change in the way people treat their communities and others within it. That is a message that you just can’t make with a federal platform.

Also, it is important to note that most businesses do not have a national target market. The lack of such an audience makes it inefficient for a business owner to target a national audience when trying to fundraise. That said, we do also operate a federal platform for companies that have a national target and we work with business owners to help them decide which platform would work best for them.

 

What benefits can entrepreneurs/investors expect by using a state-level equity crowdfunding platform instead of a national platform?

The biggest benefit is that most state based programs are more flexible in terms of the amount of funding a business owner can raise and the amount an investor can invest per campaign. Beyond that, working with a state-based platform typically means you are working with a company that is familiar with the local market. The platform should have local relationships that can help provide the right insight and direction to a company that a national platform just does not have the resources to provide. We are really able to help a business owner determine what will and won’t work in our state and that may greatly differ from what will work in other states.

 

truCrowd also has a national equity fundraising platform. This is a small but increasingly competitive marketplace. As an executive how do you distinguish your platform from competitors?

We are different in the service we provide. We help individuals understand equity crowdfunding. Many platforms just give entrepreneurs a checklist when setting up a campaign. We walk entrepreneurs through the process. We don’t give legal or accounting advice, but we help as much as possible.

On the investor side, we lay out all of the available investment options. We do SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity); equity; debt deals; revenue sharing, etc.

 

Fundanna is an equity crowdfunding platform for hemp-, cannabis-, and THC-related businesses. What opportunity to do you see in the cannabis industry? Why is a separate platform necessary?

The cannabis industry is a new opportunity and there are tons of people interested in the market. We hope to provide an opportunity for all those interested in a piece of it to do so.  Right now, there are over 20 million medical cannabis users in the U.S. and as the list of covered ailments grows that number will only increase; not to mention that many states are looking at their recreational use laws too. With that comes a number of businesses that want to serve this market. Like any other business, they need funds to grow but they cannot go to traditional financing institutions. Banks, credit unions, and event microlenders do not play in the space which leaves angel, venture capital, and crowdfunding to fill the void.

A separate platform is necessary because of the regulations in place for these types of businesses. Additionally, it allows us as a company to build an audience of like-minded investors who understand the varied risk of investing in this industry; those risks differ greatly from those seen in other industries. Lastly, it serves as a safe place for those interested in cannabis to talk about the unique challenges they face and opportunities available with others knowledgeable within the industry.

 

Are there unique opportunities for black entrepreneurs/investors in the cannabis industry?    

I wouldn’t limit it to the cannabis industry. I think there are unique opportunities for black entrepreneurs and investors using crowdfunding in general. However, within the cannabis industry, there may be an opportunity for those who would be left out for reasons of lack of capital or criminal history to still be a part of this growing industry.

 

You are one of the few black, brown, or female executives involved in operating equity crowdfunding platforms. What unique perspective does your background bring to this work?    

Getting past the basic levels of traditional financing has always been a difficult step for minority business owners to get past. While less than 2% of all firms will ever receive VC or angel money, this statistic is even lower for minority-owned firms. However, I think part of that low statistic is that minority entrepreneurs generally do not have experts to look to gain that experience with angel or crowdfunding. I hope that when I speak to audiences about crowdfunding, I make the opportunity seem attainable and turn angel investing and crowdfunding into an opportunity that they can see themselves taking advantage of too.

 

How do you plan to engage black, brown, and female entrepreneurs and investors with equity crowdfunding opportunities?  

We work with business support agencies and municipalities all over the state that provide entrepreneurial education to the business owners they serve. However, I am working to make an extra effort in communities of color as I believe that is where we can have the biggest impact.

We are putting together campaigns and marketing initiatives that will introduce the concept of crowdfunding to minority and female operators and potential investors and provide them with direct opportunities to participate. In one program, we are identifying commercial districts, working with business owners to create investment opportunities and informing and educating nearby residents about these, and all other, crowdfunding opportunities that exist.

Our goal of this concerted focus is to put the power of economic development in the hands of those who live in these communities directly. 

 

As an executive in this space, what trends to you see in the next year? How do you plan to grow truCrowd Illinois and Fundanna?  

I think equity crowdfunding will become more mainstream in the next year. As more businesses look to this as a way of funding and introduce this opportunity to their customers, the space will grow and evolve.

Additionally, I think that more traditional financial institutions will begin to look at this space as a way to increase market share and offer products to the generally underserved market of micro business owners and households, which make less than $200,000 a year.  


Everyday is a Special Day (for your customers)

With Valentine's Day coming up in a few days, it is easy to come up with deals for your clients to make them feel special while hopefully padding your cash box.  However, the special treatment you give to your customers on this day does not have to be limited to only one day a year.  Every day is an opportunity to showcase to your clients their importance to your business, even if it is not highlighted in a calendar.

One way to easily incorporate deals for clients and highlight different activities you are doing is to take advantage of wacky holidays.  Wacky holidays are those days you hear about briefly, but can cause major upticks in your business if used quickly.  Days such as National Pizza Day and National Pancake Day are opportunities to highlight the fun side of your business, while giving you a reason to contact customers who may have been quiet for a while.

Highlighting wacky holidays can also be a way to create content for your blog, website and social media when you run out of things to talk about. However, when you do use a wacky holiday, it is important that you make sure the day has some relevance to your business or your customers.  For example, National Grandparents Day can be relevant to celebrate for a day care center, but it would be hard for your parents to care about Science Fiction Day.

You can find a complete calendar of wacky holidays at https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/fun/.  If you don't see any relevant to your business, you can also create your own.  Use your businesses anniversary date, the owners birthday or some other special occasion and spread the world about your local celebration.   Happy Holidays!!!


Redefining Success

Billion dollar corporations are relatively new creations in the story of human history.  As a person who works in business and economic development, the continual push is to find and support the next Zuckerberg or Musk.  However, that is not the ambition for many of those interested in starting and growing business.  For most, the goal is to create some semblance of a comfortable lifestyle, where they have control over what they work on, who they work with and, sometimes, how often they work.

After thinking about this premise for a while, I thought I might be shortchanging the entrepreneurial process.  Why can't every business strive to become a multi-conglomerate corporation with billions in the bank and thousands of employees, I thought to myself.  And the answer become clear after some thought.  More money, more problems and some people just aren't ready to tackle the problems that money brings.  From unrealistic expectations to multiple partners and investors to listen to and the larger and larger threat of litigation.  Besides those things, as companies get bigger, they become less flexible and may loss some of the luster that brought a person to entrepreneurship in the first place.

All of this to say, you need to define success for yourself.  Set goals, reach them and work so that in the end, you are personally proud of what you created.  If you need help drafting your success plan and strategy, contact me at info@smallbizflo.com.  Start now to define what success will be in your business.


The Math to a Million

As many millionaires have said before, "Making the first Million is the hardest".  More than the math, it is the mindset that it takes to reach this milestone that less than 1% of the US population has reached.  It is hard for many people to fathom making that kind of money, so I decided to break it down.  What does it really take to make $1 million a year?  Now this with a bunch of caveats.  For example, I am not including taxes or expenses in this number, so while the numbers show what it takes to make $1 million dollars, that is not necessarily what you get to keep and spend.

With that out of the way, here are the basics:

To make $1 million a year, you have to make $2,739.73 per day or $114.15 per hour.  That is every hour of every day.

Now, if you only take into account working hours, here is how the math pans out:

To make $1 million a year, you have to make $19,230.77 per week and $480.77 per hour for a 40 hour workweek.

While the math is telling, most millionaires are not in the habit of exchanging their time for money.  It is just impossible to do so.  By its very nature, time is finite and thus a limitation in the quest of getting to a million.

The best thing to do is to figure out how to make money in your sleep, on the weekends, and beyond the normal 40 hour workweek.   Is there a specialty service or product that you can offer that others will want despite time?  To break down the numbers to get to a million in this preferred manner, here is one example:

Record a web training and charge $50 for people to view it.  Then you need 20,000 paying customers a year.  If that seems daunting, identify a training, product or membership you can sell monthly to the same people for $50/month.  If you do this, you only need to find 1,666 paying customers a year (or 138 customers a month).  With almost 320 million people in the US and over 7 billion people in the world, finding the right 1,666 a year should not seem too extreme.

You could interchange the price, frequency and service/product offered to fit your needs and market and the math is fairly easy to do.

So now that I have shown you that it is feasible to get to a million, what are you going to do to get started toward your first million?


Alternatives Ways to Start A New Business

When thinking of starting a business, most new entrepreneurs first impulse is to build a business from the ground up.  However, one very prominent and less risky way to enter the world of entrepreneurship is buying a business that already exists.  This can be through a straight acquisition of a stand alone business or by buying into a franchise.  There are tons of tools that exists to help you determine if this is the right step for you. Here are some things for your to consider if you are taking the acquisition route into entrepreneurship.

  1. The value of the brand - One of the most enticing reasons to buy an existing business or franchise is that you do not have to start from scratch.  However, if the business is being sold has a bad reputation or horrible record keeping practices, it may not provide any value to you moving forward.  Take into account how the businesses current customers view the brand to help you determine if value actually exists.  If you buy into a business where the value to customers is non-existent, you are essentially going to have to start from scratch to build up your customer base regardless.
  2. Training or Support - Some owners and all franchise operations offer to provide training to help you jump into the business with as few mistakes as possible.  Be sure to choose a business acquisition that will give you the education you need on processes, suppliers, current marketing strategies, financing and more.  This will allow for a smooth transition of ownership and prepare you to handle many of the problems you will face as an entrepreneur.
  3. Ongoing Costs - While rare in small business acquisitions, but a staple in the franchise business, paying a monthly or annual "royalty fee" can be an ongoing cost for your business.  While it may be called by a different name depending upon the seller, you need to be mindful that entering into an agreement may have additional ongoing fees beyond the closing of the sale.  Be sure you are clear about how much these fees are (if they are applicable to your transaction) and you account for this additional cost in your regular accounting.

While this list is not exhaustive of all the items you should take into account when acquiring or buying a franchise of a new business, it is a good start.  For more information on things to consider, contact me at www.werkflow.co or fhardy@flowenterprises.com.


How to Build Strategic Partnerships

Building strategic partnerships are of paramount importance to your business.  The right partnerships can help you enter new markets, build new products and expand your client base.  However, building the right partnerships can take time, effort and its own type of strategy.  Once you have taken the time to identify the right organizations and companies which you would like to work with to reach your goals, the key is making the connection.

Here are some tips you can use to help you build alliances with organizations without being seen as an annoyance.

1. Learn about your target company

Having identified an organization with whom you want to partner, now comes the hard part of learning about why they should care.  Research their current partners and the ways in which they work with them.  Find out about upcoming initiatives to be implemented.  Identify the individual(s) within the organization who have the authority to make decisions so you know who to contact.  The point here is to learn as much as you can about the company so you can approach them correctly.

2. Understand your value

Knowing your value is key to every part of your business.  Your value is the reason why customers purchase your product.  It is the problem that you are solving in their lives. Once you know your value, you can highlight why the features your product or service provides are superior to your competition.

3. Now mesh the two - Articulate your value in terms that match the target companies goals.

Understanding why customers buy from you can help you articulate to target companies what additional value you can bring to their customers.  Coming to the table with the reasons why you would make a great partner shows that you are prepared and can help you in the process of building alliances without being an annoyance.

Now go out and make those connections.


If You Build Your Credit, They WILL Come!!!

Unlike the credit card offers we are buried with when we enter college, the process of building business credit can be a bit more elusive.  However, working to build your business credit is super important to any business owner, especially those who may have less than perfect personal credit. Good business credit is not only important if you are looking to obtain loans, but it can also be important for attracting new clients and opening up a range of payment options with your vendors.  This is because, unlike personal credit, business credit is available for viewing by both your customers, your suppliers and your partners.  So how do you get started with building credit for your business?  Here are 3 steps to get you on your way.

1. Register with Duns & Bradstreet and obtain a DUNS number.  This number is the "social security number" for your business.  It is free to apply for and necessary to apply for credit.  You can obtain your business' DUNS number at www.dnb.com/duns-number.html.

2. Apply for a Business Credit card with your local banker.  The limit does not have to be huge as every little bit helps.  Try starting with a small limit of $500 if possible.  The key is to begin making purchases for your business using the card and pay back those purchases the SAME month.

3. Attempt to open credit lines with your suppliers and vendors.  The more businesses you have reporting to the credit bureaus that you pay your bills on time, the higher your credit score will go.  However, be mindful not to take on more than you can handle.  One or two vendor lines should be enough to get you started.

For more information on building your business credit as well as other access to other tools that can help you start and grow your business, visit www.werkflow.co and sign up for our free business management tool.


Planning for Productivity in 4 Steps

Being productive has a range of definitions from one business owner to another and you have to decide what a "productive" day, week or month looks like for your business.  The best way to do that is to set goals and work toward achieving them.  This is generally easier said than done, but I have provided 5 tips to help you reach your optimal level of productivity.  So ....  here we go!


1. Set SMART Goals

Setting goals is not as easy as it sounds.  It is easy to say I want to make $1 million this year, but you have to take a look at the resources you have available to ensure the goal you are setting is a SMART.  SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.  Make sure that the goals you set have all of these characteristics and you are on your way to a productive new year.


2. Work with Others

I have heard time and time again that it is hard for solo entrepreneurs or the self employed to stay motivated.  There is generally so much to do, it is hard to decide what to do next and so procrastination settles in.  One way to combat this is to get an accountability partner.  This does not have to be a partner in your business, but it should be someone you feel comfortable talking to about your business goals and tasks.  Share your goals with your partner and schedule regular calls or meetings with them to share your progress.  Having someone you trust to answer to can make sure that you are continually and being as productive as possible.  


3. Take Care of Yourself

Get healthy and exercise.  Studies have shown that those who exercise at least 3 times a week have a higher energy level and feel more prepared to get something done.  Besides the increase in productivity, you are likely to see an increase in stamina and happiness.  Now, these are the kind of side effects I like and that are sure to help you reach your goals.  Plus, the workouts don't have to be long and involved to be effective.  A 15 minute session or a walk during lunch can be all it takes to get you out of a rut and on the path to productivity.


4. Get your Priorities Straight

We all over extend ourselves from time to time, but as a business owner you need to be able to firmly identify priorities over non-priorities.  Priorities should be those things that you need to do to grow your business that cannot be outsourced for one reason or another.  Once you have identified those tasks you need to do, put the most important ones first and get to work.  One thing I like to do is create a to-do list everyday to make sure I am accomplishing the short term goals I have set for myself.  I also use a little trick.  In creating my list I put an easy item first, followed by the hardest item, followed by an easy item and I even put in breaks to make sure I don't forget lunch.  Then I repeat.  It feels great to cross something easy off my list before delving into a hard task.  Then after I complete the hard task I am rewarded with a break or a super easy task.  It is the little things that help me move forward.


I hope this short list of things to do helps you reach the productivity levels you want in your business.  If you are in need of a productivity partner, look into www.werkflow.co for more information.


Entering the Experience Economy

I am a big advocate of new and emerging economies. My favorites are the Experience and On-Demand Economies. I will speak about the explosion of the On-Demand Economy in a later blogpost, but this one is focused on the Experience Economy.

I love, love, love the Experience Economy and I have been pushing it to my clients for years. So what is the Experience Economy? It is the practice of figuring out how to find a way to give your clients/members/customers an experience as a part of the sales process. What is even better is that you can charge for the experience that you are providing!!! So it makes marketing a revenue stream for you instead of simply an expense. Awesome, right?!?

After some reading, I have found some great examples of the Experience Economy and you may have already come across some of these. For example, Kellogg's is opening a cereal bar in New York and Chobani opened a yogurt shop in Soho. Large brands are using pop-ups to create short-term (and in the case of Chobani) long-term experiences for their customers and so can you.

So the question you may have is "How do I join the Experience Economy"? First, you have to identify a relevant, related experience that matches your brand and product. Second, you have to find a medium to share that experience. It is important to note that the experience can be virtual or actual, so don't always start with thinking you have to host an event somewhere. And Third, assuming you have people who want to take part in the experience, you want to put in place some mechanism to receive feedback. Ask participants, what they liked about the experience, what they would change, what was missing that they expected, etc.

Need assistance in identifying ways for your company to enter The Experience Economy? Contact me at info@smallbizflo.com to schedule a consultation.


Networking: Personal Marketing At Its Best

 

I have never liked being around big groups of people.  Citywide festivals and crowded concert arenas just are not my thing.  It took some time to figure out why this was the case because I do like going new places and trying new things.  However, there was always this constant anxiety that came along with these new adventures: There will be other people there and I might be forced to talk to them.  You see, the art of small talk was a skill I had not yet mastered.  The idea of going up to strangers and attempting to fain interest in their chosen topic of conversation just was not appealing.  This non-interest was further aggravated by the fact that as a soon-to-be attorney, I am constantly bombarded with invitations to networking events and panels where there will be the opportunity to meet and greet with experts, practicing attorneys or students.

Over time, I have begrudgingly attended a number of these events as I have been told that doing so is a must to be successful in any field.  And you know what I have found:  It is true.  Networking is the best form of marketing.  After all, how else will people know what you do or what you need?  You have to tell them.  This is personal marketing at its core and the best way to keep your name and specialty on the forefront in order to gain clients in the future.  By going out and speaking with people, I have been offered internships, jobs, and even scholarship money.  People like to buy from and work with people they like and the only way they will know if they like you is to meet you.So as much as I used to hate it, I now embrace the idea of getting to know new people and letting them get to know me.

Most importantly, what I have learned over time from attending these events is that to master the art of small talk, one only need a plan; a marketing plan to be exact.  Creating and instituting a plan allows you to paint your own picture of how you want others to see you and your practice in networking situations.  To help you begin to put your plan together, I have included a few topics (outlined below) to keep in mind.

Choose your events carefully

As you already have your business plan in place and understand the characteristics of your ideal client, spend time focused on attending events that will give you face-time with this audience.  As you get more involved, there are generally costs associated with access so you want to plan to spend your money and your time wisely.

Have something to say

There is nothing worse than approaching a group of people, listening intently to their conversation and when it comes your time to state your opinion….crickets.  I have seen it and it is not pretty.  A simple browse through the daily paper or a related industry brochure can prepare you to speak on almost any subject that may come up.

Set attainable goals/Make it a game

What I find now is that I quite enjoy meeting new people.  With the skills I have gained as a law student, it has become a game to find out the true goals and interests of all new people with whom I come in contact.  In addition to this, my personal goal is to meet at least 2 new people at each event I attend.  That is a number I feel comfortable with, but you should choose a number that meets your needs and expectations.

Provide personal incentives

After reaching the goals that you have set, reward yourself with a new purchase, a nice dinner or time off.  If you set a goal of meeting 3 new people at a particular event and accomplish this goal, you have done a good job.  Why not take a night of?  Providing yourself an incentive will build excitement as you work to reach your goal(s) and you may start to look forward to the process.

Create a follow up plan

Sending a quick email is a great way to follow up on a previous conversation.  In some situations, it may even be appropriate to send a handwritten note, if you were able to gain a new lead or obtain information about a helpful opportunity.  If you choose to do so, send the message quickly so that you are still on their mind by the time they receive it.  Also, by doing so, they may be more likely to remember you in the future when additional opportunities arise.

Even if you are already working with the client of your dreams, there is always room for improvement and your next opportunity may just be hiding behind an unasked question.  So go out to citywide festivals, be social while waiting for your concert to start, attend industry seminars and begin marketing yourself and your practice with purpose and confidence.  You never know where the next big opportunity may come from.


Becoming A Dangerous Start Up

Entrepreneurship is all about taking risks.  Seeing an opportunity to fill a need and doing what you need to do to fill it when others will not.  The most successful ventures are those that take the biggest risk and venture into unknown territory and create entirely new industries. One of quotes attributed to Henry Ford addresses this phenomenon where he stated "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

These days many of the barriers that exist to creating new industries and filling needs that people do not even know they have are legal in nature.  The truth of the matter is that the law has not caught up with the speed of technology.  It is unwielding, slow to progress and a hinderance to innovation.  However, there are some companies out there that see the perpetual silver lining and proceed regardless.  These are what I like to call "Dangerous Startups".  They face opposition head on and work to interpret or adjust the law to allow their innovative ideas to reach the market.  The most obvious example of "Dangerous Entrepreneurship" include Lyft and Uber.  Before these companies, individuals were stuck with the lack of service or expensive prices of local cab companies, but the law did not allow any competition in the industry.  However, now, these along with additional car sharing services are commonplace and fill a need that most people could not articulate prior to their existence.

Being able to look at a situation which most would find impossible to innovate within and provide a solution that disrupts that mold is difficult on it's own. When the law works to stop that disruption, it can be even more difficult.  However, as you think about how to find opportunity within an industry or field where none seem to exist within the confines of the law, remember that (some) rules were made to be broken.  After all, law is created using the information available at the time, but as information and technology changes laws will, as most things in this world, become obsolete.  

This post is not an endorsement to go out to break the law, but instead it is a challenge to creative within traditionally non-innovative industries.  Think beyond what is currently in front of you and consider what could be as you work in your business.  You have already taken the risk to start a business.  Why not take one more and be the "Dangerous Entrepreneur" the world needs to solves its most pressing problems?


Hacking Social Media: Take Less Time to Get Better Results

Everyone (by now) should know the power of social media.  And its influence on people's buying behavior should be no surprise.  After all, when you think about it, social media is just word of mouth on steroids.

But being effective and successful in social media can be time consuming.  The constant changes and upgrades can be overwhelming.  Keeping up with these changes while making time to create content that is social media worthy can become a full time job by itself.

To be truthful, there are tons of shortcuts and resources available to help you manage the behemoth that is social media.  Today, I am highlighting just 3 that can be implemented immediately and help you start saving time and your sanity today.  So here it goes...

1. Create a Stalker List

Despite the negative connotation, we all have idols.  People whom we look up to in life and in business.  A stalker list helps you identify people whose social media prowess you want to emulate in order to track what they are doing so you can politely duplicate their efforts.  Be mindful, this is NOT an invitation to plagiarize, but instead take note to how often they post, where they post, what they post and match your posting schedule to it.   You can also use this tactic to find your ideal client.  For example, if you really want to meet a particular person to whom you can sell your product or service, follow them, see what they are posting about, where they are posting...and be there.

2. Use Content Multiple Times

It takes you precious time to create content, so make the most of it and use it more than once.  Twitter is one of my favorite platforms to help me reuse content.  Whether using it to take notes at a conference, or simply jot down my thoughts, Twitter is an ongoing notebook that allows me to get feedback on topics immediately.  Additionally, Twitter has a tool that will send you an archive of all of your tweets, going back to your first one.  You just have to ask for it.  Using this list of topics you have already discussed, you can create blogposts, facebook posts, podcasts, webinars and more without starting from scratch.  To get an archive of your posts, just visit Account Settings and select "Request your Archive" at the bottom of the screen.

3. Automate Multiple Actions at Once

If you have not heard of IFTTT, let me enlighten you.  If this, then that (IFTTT), allows you to connect social media platforms and make changes in one, when you make changes in another.  For example, once your accounts are connected, you can change your facebook profile picture whenever you send a tweet or send out a tweet whenever you post to your blog.  This is a great time-saving tool that everyone should use.

So now that you know, go out and take over the social media world.


The One Thing You Need To Do To Monetize Social Media

There are alot of articles in the universe about how to increase likes on facebook, followers on twitter and instagram, scopers on periscope and so on.  And this is great information.  However, getting those likers, followers, and scopers to convert to paying customers is a whole different ballgame.  Statistics show that (on average) less than 2% of your social media followers will ever buy from you.  So while focusing on gaining a following in social media is good to just get your name out there, it is not enough to make the kind of money you want (I assume).

So how can you change that?  The answer, while brief, is not so simple.

You need to create valuable community experiences in a select few social media platforms that move customers to purchase.

See it is short, but it is a loaded answer.  Let's break it down.

1. Create

You need to curate your content.  Posting on social media should reflect the personality of your brand and business and thus, everything you create should be purposeful.

2. Valuable

Value is in the eye of the beholder.  Find out what information, images, content, discounts, etc your ideal customers believe is valuable and give it to them.  Whether it is weekly tips, breathtaking images or something else, find your companies value to your customer and pile it on.

3. Community

Put the social back in social networking.  It is easy to think of customers as strangers behind a screen, but all individuals want to be part of a community.  Create a community specifically for your customers, whether within a social network platform or by hosting real-live events.

4. Experiences

People forget the things they buy, but they remember the experiences that moved them to purchase.  Think about relevant experiences you can provide your customers and create them.  Like community, experiences can take place both online and offline, so be creative.

5. On a few (preferably one) social media platform

Managing multiple platforms is difficult for Fortune 500 companies with hundreds of employees, so it is not surprising that it is difficult for the solopreneur.  Choose one platform, preferably the one most in tune with those in your target market and be spectacular within it.  You can also cross pollenate content to other social media platforms later, if you decide.

6. That move customers to purchase

This should more specifically state that you need to include an "Ask" in every post.  The ask may be implicit, such as including contact info or a giving incentives to visit site in each post or it may be explicit and state on the face of the post to BUY NOW.  In any case, you need to include an "Ask".  Think about it like this...in church, in every service, they ask for a donation...you should do the same.

So that is it...one short loaded phrase to help you to begin to monetize your social media platforms and convert your followers into customers.  Good Luck!!!


3 Time Management Tips for Those With No Time

It is easy to get caught up with small tasks that eat away at your time daily.  To ensure you use the limited time you are provided in a day most efficiently, here are 3 tips that you can begin to incorporate immediately to add precious minutes and hours to your day.

1. Set project goals daily

It is easy to overwhelm yourself and try to get as much done as possible on any given day.  To help you manage this impulse, set one or two BIG project goal per day and attach associated task items to that goal.  For example, your BIG project goal may be to get a blogpost distributed on 10 blogs in a given day.  If so, then your associated task items might be, complete research, write blog, identify 10 bloggers, contact bloggers, and send post with request.  Depending on the size of your project goal, you may be able to add a few more or have to restrict yourself to one per day.  If a goal is too big to be completed in one day, then you have to break it down into smaller goals that can be completed in one day.  The key is being able to accomplish the project goals you set for yourself in one day, so don't be too ambitious.  It is better to complete one project goal per day and go to bed with a sense of accomplishment, than to get halfway through a goal and go to bed all tense and stressed out.

2. Prioritize

While you may have alot to do every day, you know as well as I do that everything is not of the same importance.  By prioritizing your activities, you identify the must do's (those things that cannot wait until tomorrow) and can ensure that those things get accomplished in the day.  The must do's are those items that have a self-imposed or third party - imposed deadline or those items that upon which other activities cannot be completed without them being done.  Once you prioritize, you should see that you only have a few activities that need to get done and you can get to work on completing them.  The best time to prioritize your goals for the day is the night before while things are still fresh in your mind.  An easy thing to do is to start a list with activities that you need to get to, but don't have time to in that day.  As the day goes on, you add more to the list.  At the end of the day, prioritize your activities for the next day based off the list created.

3. Use a Calendar, not a Task List

Now in the previous tip, I told you to create a list...and you should.  You just shouldn't use it in a list format.  To ensure that things get done, the next morning take your list of prioritized activities and move them to a calendar attaching a time to each item.  Make sure you provide enough time to complete each activity and to travel from one task to another, if necessary.  By placing the items in your calendar, you take away the discretion that you have to decide when things get done...because you have already decided!  Also, by placing items in a calendar, you can focus your activities to make sure you get to your next "appointment", instead of haphazardly going through your day deciding what to do next.

While these are just a few time management tips, these are some of the easiest and most efficient to ensure that you use your time wisely and get everything accomplished you need to everyday to sit down to work.


3 Ways to Boost Productivity Using Rituals

The term "ritual" can have a negative connotation from time to time.  It can harken thoughts of cults and other subcultural phenomena.  After all rituals are usually used when one doesn't want to think for oneself and relinquishes that power to another.  However, that does not and should not always be the case.  When used appropriately, rituals can help you be more productive by stopping you from wasting time on tasks that are trivial and allow you to focus on those tasks that are imperative.  Here are 3 rituals to consider to help make each of your work days more productive than that next.

1. Create a Diet Routine

This does not mean you have to eat the same thing everyday, but it does require you to plan in advance.  The best example of this is Sheldon from the show "Big Bang Theory".  For Sheldon, the meals for everyday of the week are planned.  Monday is Thai, Tuesday is Cheesecake Factory (where he orders the same item every week), Thursday is Pizza Night, etc.  This eliminates the hard conversation you have with yourself everyday at least 3 times per day about what to eat.  If you create a diet routine, the decision is already made.  You can boost this step, but scheduling delivery of your meals at the appropriate time.

2. Define your Fashion Uniform

Most businesses understand the effect of having employees where uniforms.  Outside of the basic benefits that it can act as promotion for the brand when employees are in public and allows your employees to put forth one image of your company, it just makes life easier for the employee.  No more taking time to wonder if something is appropriate for work...with a uniform, your employees are always appropriate.  The same can apply to you, whether or not you have employees.  This does not mean you have to wear the same thing everyday, but it does mean you choose a style and focus on it.  Maybe that means you buy 10 dresses that fit the same in different colors.  Or you have 20 white shirts with 20 corresponding black bottoms to mix and match.  Whatever you feel comfortable doing, do it.  It will save you time and stress in the morning and get your day off to a productive start.

3. Prioritize 1 Item per Day

The dreaded to do list.  No matter how much you get done, there is always more to do.  To ensure that you are as productive as you need to be each day, choose one item that you have to get done.  It should be an overarching item that encompasses a few of your minor to-dos, but prioritize it and make sure that you work to complete it.  An example of this type of item is "posting a new class online".  While in and of itself, it may seem like a minor item, this one item can lead to creating social media posts, posting the class on numerous websites, drafting an outline for the course or more.  Whatever you have to do to complete "post the class online", do it on the day you have made it a priority.

Rituals help us by releasing us of some of the thousands of decisions we make each day.  Consider introducing a few of these rituals into your days to reach your ultimate level of productivity.


The "New Work" - Redefining Work for a New Generation

I remember from my days in grammar school the mantra that was incessantly beat into our brains in school.  Get an education so you can get a good job and work until retirement.  Even then, that seemed like a horrible existence.  Spending so much time and money to help others reach their dreams and then retire.  Not my cup of tea at all.

thenewwork

While not a big fan of western movies or tv shows at all, I also remember how in these shows and movies everyone was known in the town for something.  There was the general store owner, the baker, the blacksmith and so on.  It seemed that everyone was working for themselves and society thrived.  It was part of the culture to take on an apprentice to teach someone else how to do exactly what you were doing so they could one day work for themselves.

In recent decades, as indicated by my first story, this has changed drastically.  The tide changed from the goal of work for oneself to the goal of working for "the man".  However, with the mass layoffs, the ease of technology, and the uncertainty of the government (at all levels), entrepreneurship is now back in fashion and work is being redefined daily.

The new work is reminiscent of the days in the old west, where one finds their individual talent and works with numerous clients to provide that service or product. Now we call these people freelancers or gigworkers.  In short, the new work is being defined based on projects instead of job title.  Individuals can move from project to project and generally company to company leading to more professional and personal growth.  It requires the ability to artfully articulate your value, deliver on promises and produce results like never before.  For these reasons, this "new work" will require individuals to gain new skills and competencies to manage it.

So how you can get prepared to work in this next era of business if you have not already taken the leap.  Here are 3 tips to help you prepare for the new work paradigm just over the horizon.

1.  Think of yourself as a brand

When others speak of you, what do you want them to say?  Are you doing things now in your professional life that portrays that perception?  If not, get to work building your brand and expertise in your chosen area.  This could mean that you begin writing on topics of interest, reading relevant titles, and speaking at small events to those in your community.  Even the smallest steps will start the brand building process.  Remember, people are talking about you when you aren't in the room anyway, so do your best to control the conversation by working on your brand.

2.  Treat your current employer(s) as clients

When you refer to your current employment, refer to them as your biggest client.  While in, they may be your only client for the long or short term, that little fact is not so important.  When you start referring to them as a client, you should feel a higher sense of responsibility to get things right and do a good job.  In short, it should help you bring a higher level of professionalism to your job that will set you apart from your peers and help you get noticed.  It also provides "practice" in the area of managing additional clients should you choose to take some on in the future.

3. Document your accomplishments

Patting oneself on the back can be difficult, but it is key in getting noticed among competition.  In the time of "new work", showcasing your portfolio is paramount.  You will have to be able to show that you have a history of taking on projects and completing them to be successful.  You can start with the projects you are working on now.  Document the project, the problem, the steps taken to resolve them and the result and keep it in a safe place.  Even if you never have to venture into the world of "new work" this is something that will help you move up from your current position as well.

Whether or not you believe it, a fundamental shift is happening in the way that work is defined and delivered.  You can start following the three steps above to ensure you are prepared to face this change head on!  For more information on how to manage technology in the world of "new work", visit www.werkflow.co to participate in an information session and find out about workshops and webinars happening soon.


Managing Technology Within Your Business

The speed that technology changes is fast.  Really, really fast.  Keeping up with the trends and tools that are available for business is a daunting task for any company, no matter the size.  Large companies dedicate entire departments to social media management and technology implementation and this is a luxury most small business owners only dream of.

managingtechnology

Did you know that most business owners have to navigate between 10 - 15 software solutions daily? Having different programs and websites that control everything from email management, calendars, event promotion, marketing and more, can cause confusion and wasted time.  Even though these tools are meant to help your business, they often result in business owners feeling overwhelmed and not know where they should spend their time and with what tools they should be working.

So how do you manage technology?  Here are few tips to help you conquer that mountain.

1. Understand which of your business systems can be automated and then automate

Based on your business model, some of the processes of your business may require a personal touch.  You may want to call high value clients to inform them of new promotions or you may want to update your blog based on current events and not a pre-set topic.  Even if this is the case, there are other areas of your business that do not require this much of your time.  You need to figure out what they are and automate.  For example, you may send out a newsletter monthly that is simply a compilation of previous blogposts or you may be able to allow clients to schedule their own appointments via your website.  These are easy processes that can be done by technology tools available on the market.  You just need to take the time to set up your accounts and preferences and you will be on your way.  Understanding the areas of your business where you can remove yourself and still provide the value to your clients you want is key in determining which technology tools you may want to implement in your business.  Once you have this down, you can then focus on finding the tools to use and put a plan together for how to manage them.

2. Take the time to learn about technology

The vast amount of tech tools available is wide, but not insurmountable.  You just need to take a bit of time to learn the features that you need and match them to the technology that is available.  Taking a day or two out of your business to do this may seem like a waste of time in the beginning, but doing so as early as possible will definitely save you time on the back end.   Investing in technology is about more than the actual money that you may spend to obtain it, but it is also about investing the time in making sure you are taking advantage of all the capabilities that a particular technology provides.  Doing so will not only save you time in the long run, but it will also ensure that you are not using multiple tech tools to complete a job that one tool can do.

3. Choose only one system to incorporate at a time

The overwhelming part of technology comes with thinking that you have to do everything all at once. That is simply not true.  As your comfort level increases with one technology, you can slowly implement additional systems that makes your business easier to operate.  Like anything in business, it is okay to take everything one step at a time. For example, you may choose to get a good handle on managing your payment acceptance technology, before you start focusing on email marketing tools. By only focusing on the implementation of one tool at a time, you relieve yourself of the pressure of understanding too much at one time and dedicate only the appropriate amount of time to technology, while focusing on bettering your business.

To better assist business owners in handling the monumental task of organizing and understanding the technology that exists to help their business run as seamless as possible, a new tool is being introduced later this week called Werkflow.co.  Werkflow is a technology management solution that allows you to create a customized dashboard that highlights the technology tools that you use on a regular basis.  In addition to providing updates on the tools you already use, Werkflow provides up to date information on new tech tools as they become available and sends you customized information on the tech options available to your business.  It does the research for you so you never have to worry about using old technology in your business. Lastly, Werkflow provides the opportunity to schedule one-on-one FREE business consulting services for your business, so you are in business for yourself and not by yourself.  Interested in learning more about Werkflow?  Visit hello.werkflow.co to schedule a FREE 5 minute demo.

Remember, the key to conquering technology is to face it head on, but you should have a plan to do so.  Follow the steps above to create a plan that works for you and will help you reach the goals you have set for yourself and your business.


To Blog or Not to Blog...What is Blogging Anyway?

The advent of social media has opened up a new, free (in most cases) avenue to help individuals market their business.  Along with the social networking, the term blog (short for weblog) was created in 1997 and has since become a major advertising and, for a lucky few, a major revenue generating outlet.  Blogs allow individuals to publicize their thoughts and ideas or highlight their levels of expertise in a given area.  So should you use one in your business?

toblogornot

There is no easy answer to this question, but here are some things you should consider before jumping into the blog ocean!

1. Purpose

Know why you are interested in creating a blog.  Is it to highlight your expertise in your area, is it to push product or is it to share information that you learn along the way?  These purposes are not independent of each other and it is certainly possible to include all of these reasons (and more) in your rationale for creating a blog.  However, if you do not a focus, purpose for your blog, it may seem more like a journal than organized thought and be a turn off to your readers.

2. Intended Audience

Do you know who you are speaking to with your blog?  If so, is that an audience that can be easily found online and are they likely to follow you?  Just as with everything in business, you need to have a good understanding of your target market and know whether or they are interested in reading the content you are posting.  If your target market is not into blogs, then you may be wasting your time creating one.

3. Dedication

The thing with blogs is you need to be consistent with them.  Adding content only every once in a while is not likely to help you reach your goals.  You need to add content on a regular basis.  Choose one day a week, or a certain time every day to add to your blog to stay on schedule and follow it as much as you can.  You can even take a day to write out all your blog posts and schedule them to post in advance.  The key is to make it a habit and post, post, post.

4. Content Creation

Now the question is what to post.  This is also based on who your audience is and the purpose of your blog.  Tips about how to do business with you, behind the scenes highlights or customer highlights are just a few ideas to talk about.  Here the key is knowing that the blog posts do not need to be long or in depth, but they need to be interesting and informational.  Just think about what you would want to know about a business and start writing from there.

These are just a few of the things to consider when you are considering creating a blog for your business.  If you would like more one on one assistance if determining if a blog is right for your business, contact the experts at www.craftynista.com.


Rome wasn't built in a day

And neither will a huge social media following.  So what can you do to help the process along. The key to growing a following is consistent, quality content.  To help you do this, lets take a closer look at what that means.
socialmediapatience
Consistent
In order to be successful on social media, you have to be on social media.  That may sound intuitive, but it isn't.  Setting up a profile and posting once a month is not going to cut it.  However, it is important to note that too much posting can also be a bad thing.  So being consistent means finding the line between to little content and too much content and walking it perfectly.  It is also important to note that not every platform is built equally.  The right amount of posting in one platform may be too much or too little in another.  While none of this is scientifically proven, the best amount to post per platform is outlined below to make it a little easier for you to start.
Pinterest - 5 posts per day
Twitter - 3 posts per day
Google+ - 3 posts per day
Facebook - 2 posts per day
Instagram - 2 posts per day
LinkedIn - 1 post per day
Blog - 2 posts per week
To make it easy, you should use posting scheduling tools, such as hootsuite or latergramme, to relieve the pressure of always being at the ready with new content.  You should also feel free to reuse your content and/or post the same content on multiple platforms.  Chances are you have a different audience in each so you should not have to many people reading the same thing over and over again.
Quality
Being consistent means nothing if what you are creating is boring or irrelevant to your reader.  You want to be sure that you are creating content that your readers and followers will actually find interesting.  A good way to do this is to simply answer some of the questions that you get concerning your business.  Chances are that if one person took the time to ask the question, many others have the same one.
When you also consider whether your content is truly quality, you need to also take into account your writing ability and style.  The problem that I see with some blog authors is the dreaded "they write like they talk".  The written word is very different from that of a verbal conversation, and some miss the point.  Writing as one speaks can make writings difficult to read and understand and few readers will take the time to wade through it.  So try to make reading your content as easy as possible by using the best grammar possible.
Content
So what is content.  As I have alluded to in this post, a lot of content is writing.  Whether it is a blog post, a short tweet or facebook comment, written posts are easily the most commonly created types of content.  However, to boost your social media following higher and faster, you need to begin to incorporate pictures, video and live interaction into the content you are creating.  Pictures are a necessity when using certain platforms, such as Instagram or Pinterest, but incorporating them into all your platforms is key to getting ahead.  Additionally, with new platforms such as Periscope and Blab.im gaining in acceptance and usage, being able to interact live with followers is even more important.  Most importantly to note is that these interactions do not have to be long and planned to the moment.  Additionally, these interactions can be recorded for usage on different platforms making it even easier for you to create content on the go.
As with everything, the key to building a large following is to be diligent and generally good at what you do.  If you do that, finding the time to share your passion with others will be easy and the followers will just come!!