Tips for Entrepreneurs (Fox 8 Follow-up)

1. Believe in your business.
The main reason we took the leap and started MerriMail was because it was a totally unique concept that we believed in and that we knew we could be successful. We could see ourselves doing MerriMail every single day.

2. Surround yourself with a strong support group.
We have participated in several women run business groups. We found that the women in these groups are more than willing to share advice, ideas and networking opportunities. A few of these include Ladies Who Launch, Industry, Chix in Business and The Little Black Book. We also check in with several of our entrepreneurial friends who are working on their own projects. We share words of encouragement, which can make a huge difference.

3. Write a business plan and use it.
A business plan is a working document that business owners should actually use and refer to often. So many times it’s created and then thrown in a drawer and never used. A business plan should guide your company and enable you to stay focused on your mission. Many times people get stuck trying to write a business plan. To get started, we simply followed sample business plans that we acquired from classes, friends and the internet. We took bits and pieces from each plan and then wrote our business plan to suit our needs. We refer to our business plan frequently and we keep it updated.

4. A little money can go a long way.
Depending on your business, you may not have to have deep pockets or take out a loan to get started. In the beginning, we didn’t know how we were going to fund our business. We were very apprehensive about taking out a loan. We applied for a grant that we didn’t get. We briefly looked into seeking out investors, but we wanted to maintain control of our company. So, we decided to begin by investing small amounts of our personal money into the company only when we needed it. During our first five months, we invested about $1,700 and that help us start the company and launch the first issue of MerriMail. We’re now in our 9th month of business and the company is currently self sustaining. Don’t underestimate the power of that loose change you’ve been saving. It adds up and it could be all the money you need to start your business.

5. Use simple things to keep you organized and focused.
For us, it was and still is a weekly conference call that lasts about one hour. On the call, we review our business plan and any action items that we need to discuss. This call has helped us stay in constant communication, keep our priorities straight and stay focused on the real issues of the business.

6. Sweat equity: Use your talents and friends' talents and find ways to pay for other professional services.
Then barter, trade or pay for professional assistance where needed. This is good old sweat equity. It’s important to divide your labor so that you’re not duplicating efforts and divide it according to your strengths. Here are a few examples of what we did. Caroline is a graphic artist so she created our logo, which saved us time and money. We asked a colleague who is a copyright lawyer to help us with some questions we had regarding trademarking and he did so for free. After we exhausted all of our options, we hired a certified public accountant to help us manage our finances for a very reasonable fee.

7. Leverage public relations to promote company.
This is important because PR or editorial coverage in the form of newspaper stories, magazine articles and television news coverage is free. And, because it comes from a third party, it’s more credible than a paid advertisement, which also can be expensive. Since September, we’ve issued two press releases, and those releases combined with our follow up calls have resulted in two newspaper articles, one product feature in a magazine, five online product features and this television interview. All of this publicity was free. It helped us get MerriMail in front of thousands of people and we can say for certain that it helped us double our subscriber base.

8. Launch sales and marketing by starting with friends and family.
Neither of us are very strong in sales and marketing so we decided to start by reaching out to our friends, family members, acquaintances and professional associates. After compiling a contact list, we signed up for an email marketing service that only cost $5.25, and then we sent them an email. This was our first sales and marketing effort and it provided us the first half of our customer base.


Sharp Lily.com said...

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Caroline Armijo said...

Thanks, Sharp Lily! BuildV1.com looks like a great resource. Plus, you have a fabulous site. I can't wait to start reading your reviews.

Sorry it took us a while to respond. I just saw your comment. I really need to stick with Firefox over Safari!