1000 Ways to Start a Business with $1,000 or Less
Top Challenges Faced by Entrepreneurs Today

1. Raising Capital (for a Debt Buying Company)

“I started American Asset Solutions LLC to transform the debt collection industry. We buy delinquent credit card loans from major US Banks and collect them by treating customers with absolute dignity and respect. We want to transform an industry that has been far too corrupt for far too long. 

The company began operations in September, 2010 and we were cash flow positive by January and the business is already self-sustaining. Operations are going very well and we have access to over $1 million in credit card loans from four major US Banks so we have a ton of room to grow.

Our biggest challenge has been raising capital to grow the business. Banks are hesitant to take the loans we purchase as collateral so we’re focused on raising money from private investors. We raised $80,000 from a few private investors at 20% interest, but we haven’t found that key partner yet to really help us attract  the capital we need to grow and scale up the business model. Right now we’re looking to raise another $200,000 to purchase more assets and take advantage of this huge market opportunity.

For more information about how we’re transforming the debt collection industry, you can visit our website American Asset Solutions.

- Tom Corson-Knowles, founder of American Asset Solutions LLC

2. Dealing with the Recession (Men’s Designer Clothing Store)

We started our men’s designer clothing store Evolve Male in 2008, opening the store front doors in the summer of 2008. This was a self invested, under-funded, niche that we knew would be difficult. What we didn’t expect was an immediate change in sales starting in September, during the financial crisis; just months after starting. We immediately started making numerous changes such as developing our own website, cutting bills, etc. hoping to balance the cash flow. As with many others, we watched the recession, wondering how it will affect our business in the long run and when it will “end”. The store has been generally flat since the fall of 2008, and I have returned to work so my wife and I both have jobs and personal income.

As we enter 2011, we are committed to making more changes to our business. This includes continuing with men’s clothing and an online store, then adding women’s clothing to the store front this Spring. We feel this will be a big boost for sales, and will allow our men’s side to grow as well. In addition, we will be starting our own men’s clothing line which was always part of the plan, but put on hold due to the cost of having the store front.

Overall, we feel that we still haven’t seen the true potential of our business, and look forward to the changes we will be making in the near future.

For more information, please visit us online at www.evolvemale.com.

Geoffrey Lester, owner of Evolve Male

3. Getting a Fantastic Marketing Plan into Action

"I founded Dark Matter Consulting in order to help clients to get the most out of their time. This includes both time management and productivity, as well as discovering and living according to values and life purpose.  

While my company has been profitable and cash-flow positive for most of its existence, I am making much less than I could if I were to go back to being an employee.  

My biggest challenge has been “cracking the marketing code.” I have seen the amazing results that clients get from our work together. They literally “make” more time, relax into a calm and confident state of leadership, and find life and work more rewarding (financially and personally), but I have not yet found the right way to get in front of and connect with enough potential clients to keep my practice full. Coaching can be hard to understand, it’s not like “accounting” or “dry-cleaning.” We all know what that is. I struggle to articulate the value of coaching in a way that resonates. 

For more information, visit www.DarkMatterConsulting.com

- Thanks to David Kaiser

4. How to Invent a Unique Product and Sell It 

I decided to turn my passion for being a mermaid into a company selling mermaid tails, so that anyone can become a mermaid or a merman. This is a new trend and it’s growing around the world among women, men and children.

My best friend became my business partner and we decided to bootstrap our startup with less than $2,000. We started working on the business in January 2010 and got our online store open by March. In April we started getting regular orders, peaking in June and July for the swim season. Sales have dropped for the rest of the year but remain steady enough to pay our monthly costs, which we’ve kept very low. Most of our tails go all over the U.S., but we have also shipped tails to Canada, Australia, Spain, Austria, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the UK, and Cyprus!

Our store has been open a year now, and my business partner and I are itching to get paid an income. That is our primary goal this year. Our startup is still on its infant legs, we are working to shore up its weaknesses by applying for a bank loan, looking into reducing production costs, developing processes to organize the business, trying out new marketing strategies. One of our biggest challenges is that, mer-swimming being such a new, fringe sport, we are having to educate the public before we can sell. But the world’s first mermaid convention is happening this August in Vegas, so the word is spreading.

You can see videos, photos, our mermania blog and store at www.aquatails.com

- Thanks to Mermaid Jerilyn

 5. How to Manage Cash Flow

 Laid off to entrepreneurship
"I started a designer scrub business last year after 6 months of unsuccessful job searching.  The 6 months of frustration gave me the courage to finally start my own business, something I’ve always wanted to do. 
I design and manufacture the scrub line in the New York garment center. I wanted to produce a higher quality scrub for medical professionals seeking a more professional image. I spent 15 years in boxy unisex scrubs as a medical device sales representative and knew they could be tailored to look nicer and last longer. 
It’s been a great experience thus far, however, I would do a few things differently.  I started off producing too much inventory which is just costing me money.   I wish I would have put those production resources towards advertising or web development, anything to generate sales.  Also, I was got too caught up in the packaging, not necessarily a bad thing but spent too much capital buying beautiful bags.  
My biggest challenge like many other start ups is cash flow.  I have limited capital which restricts me from doing things, I have to be very selective and careful how I spend the resources.  The good news is, it forces you to be creative and find ways to get free publicity.  Fortunately, social media has leveled the playing field for small business and it’s so much more economical to market a business.  
For more information, visit us at www.skylinescrubs.com.” - Thanks to Annette Akers

6. Pursuing a Licensing Agreement or Retail Partnership (for a one of a kind Necktie)

"I started The iTie, LLC and Anchor Neckwear after inventing a necktie that stays in perfect position while you wear it. Anchor Ties are hand crafted from high quality 100% pure silk, come in amazing designs and colors, and are the world’s most functional line of ties. Simply put, Anchor Ties will never get in your way, fly over your shoulder or shift out of position. 

The iTie was started in August of 2008 after losing my full time position at a Fortune 500 company. I was able to file the patent, start the website, identify and establish a manufacturing relationship, and obtain my initial inventory. Over the past 2 years, I have been able to sell over 1 thousand iTies and Anchor Ties (rebranded in 2010 to Anchor Neckwear) with very little capital and marketing resources. The product was endorsed by the late Billy Mays and Pitchman Anthony “Sully” Sullivan. 

My biggest challenge has been establishing a licensing agreement with a large clothing manufacturer or distributor who has the resources to market this line of ties internationally. I have proven that the ties are a success on a local level, but establishing retail partnerships and a licensing agreement has been a challenge, especially now that I have re-entered the corporate world. I am currently looking to license my idea to a Men’s Wearhouse, Vinyard Vines, PVH, or private neckwear manufacturer who can really take The iTie and Anchor Neckwear to the next level. 

For more information, please visit - http://www.anchorties.com - Joe Sale, Founder of The iTie and Anchor Neckwear

7. Building a Business on a Shoestring Budget

"I started Career Performance Institute in 1983 when I couldn’t find gainful employment since it was 9 years before ADA became law. I used my background in Psychology, Mental Health, and Rehabilitation Counseling to start a business around my passion.  My goal was to help clients overcome personal obstacles to achieve their personal goals.

When my company began operations, I had limited funds to work with so it was difficult to write, print, and mass market brochures for my seminars while still taking care of personal finances.  I found that when I looked into SBA grants, since my product was an intangible and with no credit, I was unable to secure funding from banks.  Creating Audios for sale meant hiring someone to videotape my presentations. To rent space for presentation was another obstacle to overcome.

During this time I went back and attended both Toastmasters and NSA-GA Chapter to perfect my skills and watch as the job market changed.  During this time I wrote a speech titled Success Is My Only Option!

Technology and the use of the Internet has changed how my business is marketed.  I started a radio show on the Internet called Live Without Limits.  This allows my to create my own audio programs.  My home study programs have been converted to digital E-Courses that are downloaded from my website.  There are companies that offer bridge lines for teleseminars and sites to use to conduct webinars.  With the use of these online services one can cut overhead and expenses.  Our company can work with clients over the phone or through email.

For more information on our products, services, and prices visit us at http://www.1personalcareercoach.com

I would also like to add that with the use of a computer and adaptive software, this allowed me to write my book No One Stands In Line to Become Disabled and all my articles training programs that I use with clients in my mentoring programs.  With the 21st Century the job market has changed.  For instance, secretaries are now virtual assistants working from home, graphic designers are also web designers, and professional speakers who had to put together press releases to sell their services to associations can now upload their videos and audios not only to their websites but also to Facebook and YouTube to sell their services and products.

For people with disabilities has opened the doors to employmentment but even there their are laws protecting their right companies are still not opened to hiring people with disabilities.  Based on my personal experiencestarting a business, and finding that the agencies that I contacted like SCORE didn’t understand my specific needs and have established a NPO to teach people with disabilities the skills needed to have a business, resources availabled to get the adaptive equipment and low interest loans.”

- Davida Shensky CEO Career Performance Institute

8. Raising Money and Developing Partnerships

"I started Gen-Ray Records to support personal growth and global transformation through intentional selection of entertainment.  Few of us realize the impact our selection of entertainment has on thought patterns. Especially with songs played over and over, we program the mind, shape thought, affect feelings, influence words and incite action. So we create songs that address real life emotions and lead the listener to feel better, reclaim personal empowerment and take love-based action through lyrics including success principles and universal truth.

I began professionally recording and producing my work in 2005, responding to an inner calling to express this life passion with self funding.  Enthusiasm for this type of music spread and we were encouraged by  some generous private donation seed money used to produce and release our first CD.  We’ve received an encouraging response to the quality of our work and concept of our brand, gaining publicity, radio play and exposure.

Our biggest challenge in today’s economy is to develop partnerships and raise money for promotion, forming a touring band as well as making connections to the personal empowerment industry.

For more information, check out our website www.SassyAlternativeMusic.com." - Rosemarie Ashley of Gen-Ray Records

9. Learning New Marketing Methods For New Media To Launch Start-up 

"I started Bill DeWees Media in 2007, after being downsized from a VP position at an instructional design company.  I had a long time dream of becoming a voice over actor and figured that was as good a time as any to give it a shot.

My background in business, and marketing in particular, served me quite well and within a years time I had almost doubled my former salary.  Using traditional methods of marketing and lot of self promotion and sales work, my business has steadily grown each year.  

This past December, I started a new division of my company which focuses on the training and coaching of aspiring voice talent.  My new website is a business which at it’s core, is information marketing which calls for a completely different marketing approach.  The biggest challenge has been learning the strategies of building Google page rank and the utilization of new media (including social networking) to build demand, organically, for my new service. 

It’s a slow process and the learning curve is quite steep.  At age 51, this is a new challenge for me!  The biggest hurdle has come in knowing that there is no immediate pay-off.  Information marketing experts advise that it takes about a year just to begin to the see results and a longer term plan (3-5 years) to truly achieve success.

Time is now focused on developing useful content for my audience.  I’m receiving a slow (by steady) stream of opt-ins to my site and am developing voice over training materials and programs for future release.

For more information you can visit www.Voice-Over-Training.org.” - Thanks to Bill DeWees

10. How to Reach Your Target Market

"I started Accuracy Influenced Mechanics for Law Enforcement (AIM4LE) to transform the way firearms is taught in law enforcement. We developed a 4 step firing sequence that addresses the most common problems that plague officers on the pistol range.

We want to transform the the way firearms training has been traditionally taught because in its current format, it is antiquated and prevents officers from attaining a higher level of proficiency. The company began operations in January, 2008, but we were not cash flow positive until the summer of 2009. Our company was doing well having been listed in national publications, and received interest from Federal agencies, and the two largest police departments in the country.

Our biggest challenge has been exposure to executive protection companies (bodyguards) and private security firms. Law enforcement training budgets have been ravaged by the economic epidemic. Our revolutionary “Ladies Only Handgun School” for female officers helped to nearly double our second year earnings, but recent lay-offs have stymied that as well. Although there are pockets of police departments who managed to maintain a semblance of their training budgets, we have been unable to reach them.

For more information, you can visit us online at www.aimshootingsystem.com.” - Antoine Lane, Founder of Accuracy Influenced Mechanics for Law Enforcement, LLC.

11. How to Generate Web Traffic and Convert Sales

"SlimyBookworm.com is an online children’s bookstore that I started in October 2010 to assist busy parents and grandparents select and purchase wholesome books for the kids in their lives. Books that will engage those kids as well as unleash their imagination.

We are not yet cashflow positive.

Our biggest challenge has been generating traffic to the website and conversion of traffic into sales. We have tried online marketing through reviews and giveaway hosted on mommy blogs, We retained a social media PR firm and offline marketing by collaborating with some other complimentary business both online and offline. Most sales have come from being featured on daily deals/ group buying websites. We hope to convert a portion of these purchasers into return customers.

For more info, check out http://Slimybookworm.com.” - Bola Ajumobi, SlimyBookWorm.com “The Destination for Books Kids Love!”

12. Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

"I started Pre Med Assistance, LLC in July, 2010. This business offers my expertise, experience and guidance of pre medical students which I have gained over the last 25 years. As a former member of my medical school Admissions Committee, I believe I have special insight into what it takes to have an application which is favorably reviewed. My track record and testimonials speak to the achievements I have had. I offer a comprehensive service which includes everything from helping to choose the right college, to essay review and videotaped mock interviews.

 The web site design and ad creation were the bulk of the start up costs. There are very little overhead and maintenance costs. The biggest stumbling block has been to whom and into what sources to advertise. I was shocked to discover the cost of even a small sized ad in a local magazine. Placing ads in college newspapers has proven to be of little value. The reason for this, I believe, is that most traditional college students do not recognize that a small sum of money spent to fine tune their application can make the $150,000 investment in their pre medical education worthwhile.

Since the students often don’t grasp the value of a dollar (as parents receive and pay the bills), the perspective they have on my fees relates more to how much spring break costs than tuition. This generation of students many times wouldn’t consider taking on an extra job in order to pay for my help, and in the long run have a better chance to obtain their goal of becoming a physician.  Although the rewards of practicing medicine are many, the sacrifices endured to reach the top level begin early, and students who aren’t willing to sacrifice their time, energy and some money early on are probably not cut out for medicine.

 For more information, you can visit our website at www.premedassistance.com. “

 - Dr. Chuck Tullius

Tom’s Thoughts:

Chuck’s problem here is obviously one of marketing. How do you find your target market? What is your target market? Once you find them, how do you communicate that you can offer them something that will solve their problems, save them money, and make them happier?

Chuck needs to do what most entrepreneurs fail to do - SELL RESULTS! People don’t buy consulting, advice, supplements, or anything else. They buy one thing and one thing only - RESULTS! If you show your customers how you will give them results, they will buy the results regardless of how you get them the results. Chuck should focus on showing his customers how he will get them into the best medical schools with the most scholarships and the least effort. That’s results. Everything else is just details that most customers don’t care about.

If I was Chuck, I’d focus on building relationships with pre-med guidance counselors and letting them know he can offer to help their students who are looking to go to Medical School. Building a steady stream of referrals from these guidance counselors could give him more business than he even knew what to do with.

13. Getting Exposure and Traction in the Marketplace

"My family and I started a new clothing line in late 2008 with a loan against my 401(k) account. We created a uniquely styled robe called The Original FreeBeneath. The robe is a pullover garment — no opening in front, ties or flaps. It provided comfort and style but with privacy and security. The idea arose from my aversion to conventional robes, and we detected from our research that there exists a hidden pent-up demand for a new lounging robe that would not be revealing or cumbersome.


We debuted our robe in 2009 at the Magic Apparel Trade show in Las Vegas, and the response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. At the show, we hired a couple of models as well as our son and daughter (also our partners) to roam around the who floor in our robes. They were swamped with inquiries and many of our visitors to the booth came from seeing our models walking around. We were approached by the MGM Mirage Group, Wynn Resorts, and the Canyon Ranch Spas to procure our robes for their guests and gift shops.


We also offer our robes directly to the consumer from our e-commerce website www.FreeBeneath.com. Our conversion rate has been excellent: 1-.5-2.0% minimum, and we have reached 4% during some periods. Furthermore, our loyal following has been delighted by our product as verified by the comments and reviews from our customers. We have not had one item returned, and we concentrate on providing excellent customer service.


Our biggest challenge has been getting exposure to our product. When we receive publicity from any media source that directs traffic to our website, our sales explode. We spend a great deal of time and effort getting as much notice from any source of medial that we can generate. When we are able to do that, we are profitable and will continue to grow in the future.” - Ken Brown, The Original FreeBeneath

 

14. How to Plan for Success in Your Business Instead of Failing to Plan

"Interlocking my personal and professional story began when my son was diagnosed with Autism at age three.  Drawing from my marketing background, I originally sought to create a “cause product” to benefit Autism organizations and to raise overall awareness of the disorder.  It was while researching this concept, I discovered that there are thousands of these products and their causes fragmented about the marketplace. It was this realization that lead me to launch in 2010, Filanthropists.com, a online shopping mall that serve as a one-stop shop for those conscientious consumers that are looking strictly for “products that gives back.

The decision to self-finance the start-up phase was a means to get the site live before Holiday shopping began. Unfortunately due to development issues and other set-backs, the site launch was delayed which ultimately destroyed any hope for a Holiday presents. In early 2011, the lack of capital to support phase 2 and 3 of site development has put us in a Catch 22 situation - we need more money to get more customers and we need more customers to get more money.  Other obstacles have included trying to get already financially strapped nonprofits to understand the value proposition of the site.

Today, I am about 80% finished with a solid business plan and soon I will be looking to find Philanthropists like John P. Dugan that will understand the potential success and kindness of the site. I am also, looking for corporate sponsorship that would essential “pay-back” all the nonprofits fees for a year, about $5,000.  In hindsight, I might have been a very naive, but I am a mom with a purpose and I had no other choice.

For more information, please visit us online at www.filanthropists.com

- Filomena Laforgia, CEO of Filanthropists.com

Tom’s Thoughts:

Filomena is typical of most entrepreneurs who get very excited about an idea, go all out for it and get to work right away without taking the time to plan properly. Of course, I don’t recommend you just plan, plan, plan and never do anything but planning is a key part of being successful. The better your plan, the better your chances of success.

There will be struggles, challenges, upsets, disappointments, missed deadlines, and countless mistakes made as an entrepreneur. Having a good business plan (not necessarily a written one, depending on your business, goals and capital needs) will help you avoid a lot of mistakes by thinking through them before they pop up.

Another huge advantage of planning is sharing that plan with experts and getting feedback from them. “Success leaves clues” as they so and so if you can find someone who’s been massively successful in your field or industry, you can learn from them and create even more success in your business.

One of the major problems with not having a plan is that someone who starts a business runs into problems - not enough money, development problems, missed deadlines, budget constraints, and on and on. So they make decisions here, cut corners there, have to deal with things there… and that’s all great and very valuable experience. But sometimes what happens is the entrepreneur ends up creating a business that’s nothing like what they had envisioned and, even worse, that’s nothing like what customers want! 

If you’re in that situation, you really need to go back to square 1 and plan, plan, plan. Who is your target market? What’s your value proposition? Get VERY CLEAR on the results you want to produce for your customers. Remember, customers by results not products. Find out what results they want, or what results they don’t even know they want yet, and find a way to give it to them. Too many entrepreneurs get “product focused” instead of “customer results” focused. If you’re focused on customer results, you may have to completely change your product. If you’re focused on the product alone, you may find you have no customers.

15. Raising Capital for a Longevity Nutrition Company

"I started LongevityDrugstore.com to help people live longer and healthier lives. We created a revolutionary longevity supplement that combines nine of the best anti aging ingredients on the market into one powerful product.  While the perception of the anti aging industry as "snake oil" salesmen in the past was often well deserved, our goal is to help public perception catch up with the realities that science and our company are making possible.   

The company launched it’s website in January 2011 and made it’s first sale within a week.  Sales continue to grow steadily, and with many in the baby boomer generation becoming more health focused, we have plenty of room to grow.  

Our biggest challenge has been raising capital to grow the business.  The current credit market has made it difficult for us to borrow appropriate funds for marketing.  With a conversion rate on our site of 3%, a marketing budget would help us grow aggressively.  Right now we’re looking to raise 50,000 to launch a major campaign.  

For more information, visit us at www.LongevityDrugstore.com.”

-Benjamin Shore, founder of LongevityDrugstore.com

16. Shifting from Freemium to Monetization

"I launched MeetingWave.com, which helps you arrange targeted networking meetings over coffee, lunch or other meeting with the exact type of people you want to meet. Meetings are only confirmed if everyone agrees to meet and everyone can conceal their identity & contact info until ready to exchange. Our goal is to help people connect with other people for job leads, new clients or other opportunities. 

We originally had a free model, but recently pivoted to a fee-based model and private SaaS label versions to license to colleges/universities (alumni networking) and conferences/trade shows (attendee networking).  We also recently launched a fee-based geolocation iphone app that allows you to set up business networking meetings with new people on the fly! We hope to launch an android app in two weeks. 

I wish I focused on monetization from day 1 and formed the right team earlier.

For more information, you can visit us at MeetingWave.com.”

- John Boyd, founder of MeetingWave.com

17. How to Find the Right Name for Your Business

"I started LET’S B SAFE,LLC in 2007 to provide a program that helps teach
children, as young as 3 years old, how to be safe from sexual abuse
and abduction. Based on my book entitled, LET’S B SAFE, I provide
classroom-based programs for children,parent/teacher workshops and
corporate lunch & learn seminars.

While my overhead (it’s a home-based business) and costs for launching my
business was not a problem, finding the perfect name was. I’ve had 4
different names and each one cost me time and money. My learning curve
cost me extra money to incorporate and dissolve each business(especially
because I used an attorney each time). Then I had to have new letterhead,
business cards and promotional materials made. Plus, because I stink at
technology (and it wasn’t as easy back then), I had to hire web developers
to change my website for me.

My advice: Test drive your company’s name before committing to it 100%
Make sure you love it and everyone you know loves it. Make sure everyone,
especially strangers (people who don’t know you well and don’t know what
you’re all about) can tell right from the start what your company is
selling or providing. No one likes to guess nor has the time to figure
out your cute acronym. People should smile and “get it” and not have to
discern what you’re offering.

Have a logo that complements your name and helps promote your message. I incorporated and trademarked a little bumblebee character to help reinforce my business, its name and its mission.

I hope this helps my fellow entrepreneurs avoid the mistakes that I made.”

Yours for entrepreneurial success! - 
Brenda Zofrea

18. How to Stay True to Your Mission and Still Make Money

"I launched St. George News, an online daily newspaper, in June 2010 when the print newspaper I was managing went out of business due to, well the dying newspaper syndrome and lack of sales. At that time, the major daily newspaper in our community put up paywall to access their website. I am a firm believer that newspapers need to survive, but I am not confident that asking readers to pay will ever work since most of the content can be found online elsewhere.

Our newspaper is a daily, local newspaper with no AP stories. It is content that you have a difficult time finding anywhere else online unless I or the other newspaper cover it, and you can’t read it from them unless you pay $2 a day.

I began St. George News with no money and no capital. I partnered with a web developer to put  up a website in exchange for ads and had 50,000 hits that month with no marketing other than Facebook and Twitter. In January, I found two business partners, created an even better website and my readers continue to grow. We now have a credit line of $8,000 that we haven’t touched. Currently, we all work other jobs to keep this going and stay afloat ourselves. All of our writers are interns or volunteers and they are burned out - and they are the best in the county.

The local community has been very supportive, with over 1,300 fans on our first Facebook page, under our former name Dixie Press, and 400 fans on the brand new St. George News Facebook page. We have great interaction from our readers on our social media. But no income.

We have recently put together ad packages for pay-per-click, pay-per-impression or monthly rates. But we are having a difficult time finding a qualified sales team that can make enough money selling online advertising to make it worth their while. 

We have no private investors but an entire community behind us. Our biggest concern is paying our writers to stay on board so we can continue to provide daily local news, and eventually add in more national news than what we get from the FBI press releases.”

- Jen Watkins, Publishers, St. George News www.stgnews.com


19. Finding the Best Marketing Practices and Increasing ROMI - Return on Marketing Investments

"My business partner and I started Roam the Woods, a women’s specific backpacking company.  We offer one and two week learning backpacking trips for women throughout the U.S. in various National Parks and Wilderness Areas. Our focus is giving women the skills needed to be confident in their outdoor endeavors.

The company become a LLC in September 2009.  This is our second year in business and our first season with a full backpacking calendar offering trips on the East and West coast.

Our biggest challenge is marketing. We have a very small budget for advertising and marketing and are having trouble figuring out the most effective way to get the word out about the trips we offer. Our limited budget leaves us dependent on a lot of free advertising through word of mouth, small magazines and venues such as help a reporter out. These marketing tools have been helpful, we have also utilized Google ads and Facebook ads to advertise. Unfortunately, our market is such a large and diverse group of women that we need a broader but focused span to publicize our company. It seems like it will be a slow process towards figuring out the most cost effective and efficient way to advertise for Roam the Woods!

For more information, you can find us online at: www.roamthewoods.com.

-Rosielani Enos, Co-Founder Roam the Woods

Tom’s Thoughts:

Roam the Woods is clearly a business that a lot of people would have interest in. It’s a big market. The question is, why focus on women? There’s nothing wrong with doing so, but as an entrepreneur you MUST know WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. If you don’t know why, then you end up just doing what you’ve always done and not getting better results.

I’m going to guess that there are more men backpackers than women backpackers, so women backpackers is a smaller, niche market. I’m also going to guess that women backpackers have different needs, wants, and desires. So you can give them what they want, if you know what they want, while your competitors are focused on men and miss out. The question is, how do I find out what my customers want?

Ask them!! Go where your customers are. Write that down!! That’s the most important thing any entrepreneur can do - go where your customers are. Go meet them, talk to them, ask them questions, find out how you can help them, find out what problems they have (problems = opportunity). Once you know what they want, then you figure out how to give them what they want. Then, once you figure it out, you craft your marketing message and then lastly you pick the marketing strategies that work the best. But if you don’t know what your customers want in the first place, a $1 Billion marketing budget will do you no good.

Most entrepreneurs overspend on bad marketing and under-invest their time in figuring out what their customers want.

20. How to Fire Up the Sales Engine

"We started Performance Analysis LLC so that we could participate in rebuilding the American manufacturing sector and ultimately, the American economy- no matter how small a part we might play.  We work with manufacturers and other process-oriented organizations of any size, with our primary target market being small to mid-size manufacturers. Our central focus is to provide support and training for change management, which typically includes Lean Manufacturing techniques, productivity, and efficiency improvement.

We officially began in August, 2010. Most of our marketing efforts to this point have revolved around strategizing, market studies, website and blog construction, course creation, and internet and social media marketing programs. 

Our main hurdle thus far is finding the time and resources, and developing a succinct plan to launch dedicated, fine-pointed sales efforts to our target audience.  Our plan was to ramp things up slowly, not for the sake of being slow, but so that we could minimize debt burdens.  At this point, we have a difficult decision to make: Do we continue down this path and suffer by way of a slow take-off due to lacking sales;  Or, do we shoulder some debt in order to hire a dedicated sales force and really start making progress?” - Thanks to Performance Analysis LLC

21. How to Be an Expert in Your Field (Own Your Space!)

"I started DJ Mystical Michael to share my gifts of musical knowledge, understanding of people and ability to entertain by just being myself. My intention was to utilize the skills as a DJ and MC, which were birthed in 1979 at a college radio station and bring back honest, sincere DJs that actually care about their work, not the their ego. I was one of the three original mobile DJs in New Jersey and loved sharing music at weddings and parties. I made a name for myself back then for my diverse collection of music in the days of vinyl, meaning I had back problems from carrying around eight racks of records:)

DJ Mystical Michael came to life in October of 2010. This came after being suddenly laid off from my work at a recording studio and production studio in New Jersey upon returning to The USA after a year and a half in Asia traveling and teaching English.  I borrowed money from friends to buy the right equipment so I would not have to skimp on quality. The down side of being a semi-techno geek is I can’t play music on bad equipment. I am starting to book gigs and have had success with my clients since I listen when they talk and honor their needs and requests. Something tells me this is not what they are used to getting here in the NY/NJ area from entertainers. I have booked at least two gigs for each month through the fall. This is enough to stay alive but not enough to earn what I am worth.

The challenge for me is to demonstrate to customers that I do in fact have a wealth of experience and build-up a nice clients list for referrals and references. Not living in the area since 1995 makes me equal to a new DJ who is still trying to figure out how to work his gear correctly - nobody knows who I am here anymore. I do not have enough cash to invest in advertising, which makes me rely on Internet marketing to connect with brides and event planners. I know in time I will be booked more than I can handle and hire a few DJs to add to the team. Until then I have no way of proving to brides and event planers that I am competent and excel in making people have fun and feel good through music and MCing great events.

For more information, I invite you to visit http://DJMysticalMichael.com" - Thanks to Michael Swerdloff

Tom’s Thoughts:

People love to buy from experts! Tell people how many years experience you have (if it’s more than 1 or 2 years), use testimonials from happy clients, be the BEST at what you do! If you own your space, you will have a business that is booming regardless of the economy. The problem is, too many entrepreneurs are just mediocre - they don’t LOVE what they do and they’re not 100% committed to being the best. If you’re committed to owning your space and being the best in the industry, customers will respond to your marketing message.

22. How to Compete in a Saturated Market

“I started Making Your Event Special to transform the wedding and event planning industry.  We provide wedding planning and event planning services to brides and grooms around the country. We offer our expertise to couples of all budgets and situations.

The company began in 2005 and we were doing wonderful.  We were even able to expand to Indianapolis, IN from Richmond, Va to create two separate offices.  Our biggest challenge has been finding new clients because so many people think that they are wedding and event planners so the market is completely saturated. Everything depends on what type of weddings you do which determines the type of clientele.

In comparison to the east coast the Midwest is known for being slower than the east coast and west coast in relation to weddings, so this is reflected in the amount that people spend for a wedding planner. I charge more than the normal planner so this puts me at a disadvantage because most high profile clients which would pay this amount go with referrals from family and friends, which being a transplant won’t happen for me and then the lower amount clients can’t afford me.
Right now we are looking to gain more Midwest clients, specifically in the Indianapolis and northern Indiana areas.

For more information you can visit us at www.makingyoureventspecial.com

-Shafonne Myers, owner of Making Your Event Special, LLC

23. Marketing 101: Learning the hard way         

"I started A Clear Path: Professional Organizing to help people deal with the chaos that comes with having too much stuff.  We work with people in their home, work space, garage, and storage units to make sense of the mess and disorganization. We tame stacks of business cards, over-stuffed garages and closets, paper piles, and the wide range of things people acquire that eventually overtake their lives.

The Company began operation in October 2008 and we became cash-flow positive in July 2009. The business is currently self-sustaining but with a lot of room for growth.

Our biggest challenge comes from being a small but rapidly growing company! When the work flows in, and clients are lining for services, marketing takes a back seat. As client projects wrap, marketing once again become a prominent feature of the business plan. We want to create a balance between meeting the needs of current clients and reaching out potential clients. Thus, we are reexamining the budget to hire another 1/2-time employee to work strictly on marketing and networking.

For more information visit: http://www.AClearPath.net.”

-Regina F. Lark, Ph.D., CEO/Owner

24. Is low sales volume due to price, PR, or product?

"As a stay-at-home mother with 3 young children, I have invented several products that make my life easier.  I started my company, Mommy Genius, in June 2010 because I believed that other mothers would love my products too.  I launched my first product, the Bib Drying Rack, in June 2010.  It is currently sold on my website, on 3 other websites, and in 2 small local baby stores.  I have had no luck getting any catalogs or big baby stores to give it a try.

The Bib Drying Rack is the perfect place to hang wet baby bibs to dry between meals. Moms no longer need to put food-covered bibs in the laundry after each meal (where they tend to get moldy). They no longer need to drape wet bibs all over the kitchen in attempts to dry them. After meals, simply rinse the dirty bibs off in the kitchen sink and hang them on the Bib Drying Rack. They will be dry and ready to use again by the next meal. With the Bib Drying Rack, owning 1-2 rinse off bibs per child is plenty.

Although well educated with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, my lack of business, marketing, and manufacturing experience has been a hindrance. I really wanted my Bib Drying Racks to be manufactured in the USA. However, the high cost of manufacturing in the USA causes my retail and wholesale prices to be high.  Should I switch to an overseas manufacturer?  I have also not been able afford to hire a PR agency. Despite my best efforts to generate consistent website traffic, the number of daily visitors to my website remains in the single digits.  Is it absolutely necessary to hire a PR firm? There is also the nagging worry that maybe I am having trouble getting sales because no one likes my product. How do you determine if a product just needs more publicity, if the price is too high, or if it is just not a good enough product? I would appreciate any advice, comments, and criticisms.

For more info, check out www.mommygenius.com.”  -Annie Pryor, President, Inventor, Mom

Tom’s Thoughts:

Let’s just be honest - most entrepreneurs suck at marketing. They just don’t know how. Why? Because NO ONE EVER TAUGHT YOU! Did you take marketing 101 in high school or college? (Ok I had marketing classes at Indiana University in the Kelley School of Business, but they don’t actually teach you hands-on guerilla marketing, they teach you how Fortune 500 companies advertise, which is not what you need as a start up to succeed).

If you come from the assumption that you suck at marketing, then you have to assume that if people are buying you’re product it’s because 1) they like you and don’t want you to fail or 2) they actually like the product. If you’re getting sales from complete strangers and you clearly suck at marketing, it means you probably have a good product. What should you do then? Learn from your customers - Ask them what do they like? What don’t they like? Why did they buy? What else could you do to help them? What problems do they have? How did your product solve their problem?

The answers to these questions will help you craft your marketing message and better fulfill your customers needs.

If you suck at marketing, find someone who is a kick-ass marketer and go work with them, learn from them, DO ANYTHING YOU CAN to be around them and learn what they know. Or, just hire/partner with them. Success leaves clues - find successful people and learn from them.

25. How to Master Time Management (Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!)

"I started Comfy Cozy®, inc. to launch my line of Glow-in-the-Dark pillowcases.  Like many entrepreneurs, what started out as a hobby eventually grew into a business.  We sell our “fun & functional” pillowcases to consumers on our web site, comfycozy.com and wholesale as well.  The goal is to offer unique products that make a night time ritual a bit easier but provide items that are keepsakes.

The company began in 1995 out of my apartment while I was still working full-time at another job.  Within a year, I left the job and was focusing on developing Comfy Cozy®, inc., applying for a small business loan and creating new designs.  In the first couple of years, I sold mainly at local craft fairs and attending a couple trade shows.  By 2004 the line was doing very well and one of our Glow-in-the-Dark pillowcases was on the cover of a Femail Creations, a nationwide catalog.

My biggest challenge is “doing it all”.   The business is based in our home and I have 2 young boys, so separating work/family gets tricky sometimes.  I feel like I’m living mostly in the grey area - trying to keep one hand on the computer in my office and the other in the dining room helping with homework!  

The second biggest challenge is time management.  Several years ago, I created Glowfx Designs, a division of Comfy Cozy®, inc. which focuses on Custom Screen Printing.  The work is profitable and rewarding, however, marketing to two different customer bases is not only time consuming but can be expensive.  

Marketing/Promoting are the third, and ultimately the one challenge that directly effects my ability to expand my businesses and increase sales.  Trying to stay on top of web site design, social media marketing and  looking for new customers is something I would like to hand over to my clone!  At this point, I am focusing on managing my time effectively between all the areas of both my professional and personal life.  The rewards of being an entrepreneur are worth the effort.  Both Comfy Cozy®,inc. and Glowfx Designs allow me to be creative in different ways, appeal to a broad section of consumers and ultimately, follow my dream!

For more information, please visit us online at www.comfycozy.com and www.glowfxdesigns.com

 - Peggy Schafer Vincent, owner of Comfy Cozy®,inc.

Tom’s Thoughts:

As an entrepreneur, you have to learn to delegate if you want to take your business to an even higher level of success. There are only 24 hours in a day - the question isn’t, “How do I get more time?” - you can’t! Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, you and me all have just 24 hours a day. So use it wisely.

If you’re business is already doing well, you have no excuse for not hiring a virtual assistant to manage your social media marketing and other efforts. Know that MMW (Millionaire Minimum Wage) is $525 an hour. Treat your time as that valuable and outsource what doesn’t bring in income so you can focus on what does. Go to www.ODesk.com - you can hire a VA very cheaply and they have accountability systems so you can confirm they’re doing work when they say they are. Try it for a month and you’ll never go back. Of course, you’ll have to learn HOW to delegate effectively…

26. How to Market Yourself as an Artist

"I started my knitting business unofficially while I was in highschool. In 2004 my mother taught me how to knit. It took me a while to get better but with perseverance I became much better. I lived in Illinois at the time and I made myself a scarf to wear and keep me warm, my friends and some family saw and they wanted me to make them one.  In 2009 when I was living in Florida I finally got the guts to start my own website where I would sell my scarves among other things.

My first year I made only $1400, because I charged way to little for my scarves. It’s also really hard for my business because I live in Florida. So I cannot go to craft fairs or wear my scarves around town to promote myself because it is warm here 50 weeks out of the year.  I rely primarily on orders from across the country. During the u.s. Summer I try and get sales from countries that are starting their wider. But I have had no luck. I was also just fired from my day job, and I have yet to make a sale since I have been fired.  This year has been tough for me. To see my amazing scarves and other items I knit please visit www.customknittreasures.etsy.com.” - Rachel Steck

27. How to Sell Your Products

"Entrepreneurship is in my blood. My father and grandfather were entrepreneurs as am I and now a daughter. I started my first "real" business when I found out the company I worked were doing some things I felt were unethical. I realized my strengths and built a business around them. Odd Jobs inception was in 1998 with a litany of services. By about 2001 I decided to narrow my clientele. I didn’t want to hire employees and I was too busy to handle all the work I had. Eventually the country as a whole was slowing and so was my business. I thought this might be another opportunity. I opened another business in 2007 making purses, bags, costume jewelry, etc. from rescued materials (my true passion). The idea was to help our precious planet and children.  I make many donations to charities and donate 10% of all sales to abused children.

My biggest challenge is reaching customers. My clients are always telling me the positive response they get on their purse or bag. I get the same when I am in public, but in most cases, they don’t seem to want to make a purchase. My overhead is very low and I am not in a position to take on debt. I continue to search for answers and better ways to run my business. Please visit gpurse.com  to make a purchase or for more information on Greenpurse.” - Tina Wick

28. How to Launch A Product and Connect with Raving Fans

"I started the WaggleWeight™ Company in 2005.  My unique cumulative combination of athletic performing experience in baseball, golf, and other activities plus a formal education in engineering has provided me rare insight into the game of golf.  The company is engaged in the development of golf products and services.

The company has yet to reach a positive cash flow, largely because there are no products fully developed to sell yet.  The early focus has been on the development of intellectual property that forms the foundation of the company, including written instructional material that overhauls and corrects previously faulty golf swing and clubfitting theories and practices, and secured patents for implementing a new golf club specification named “waggle weight,” which is actually an advancement of golf club swingweighting.

I am always curious to find out whether any interested parties might be willing to invest in the company’s development and future or even purchase its assets outright (as these things might help me determine any potential value of the business to this point), but I am fairly content with my “boot-strapping” ways at this time and can perhaps manage the development of early company products with my own financial resources.  The patented and patent-pending products and services are so important to the recovery and growth of golf in the future that I have actually wondered whether Uncle Sam might want to purchase the rights to them (which could really help the golf sector of the economy), but I would not know how to pursue that avenue in a serious manner if my thoughts in this regard were to continue.

My biggest challenge at this point is to gain publicity for my ongoing written work and gain as much exposure for it as possible on an extremely limited budget.  The education it provides and which is primarily located at http://www.waggleweight.com/blog/ (a column named Waggle Weight Wisdom™) is essential in that it sets the foundation for the products and services that will subsequently be available.  Without a sufficient “reeducation” of the golf industry through a great deal of publicity for this work first, there will be no understanding of or demand for the products and/or services to follow.  Such publicity can be harder to garner within the golf industry than other industries for several different reasons.” - Bill Kostuj, Changing the Golf Industry for the Better 

29. Driving Traffic to Your Website

"I started a website titled Socialhearts (http://www.Socialhearts.com) in 2008; a site that offers various dating sites to fit any lifestyle or relationship goal. In addition to dating sites, Socialhearts offers valuable information about dating, love and marriage. For instance, visitors can learn how to write the perfect dating profile or find additional resources to assist them in finding their true love. I also wrote a book about online dating profiles titled You Need A Cellmate, Not A Soulmate, published by Ladybug Books.

Our most challenging obstacle has been gaining new visitors attempting to find true love. My goal is to gain more publicity for my website and provide an entertaining website for singles while encouraging them to consider Internet Dating. Internet dating is an opportunity for singles to meet others that they would never be able to meet at a local grocery store or anywhere else. Visitors can also be selective and take their time when searching for their soulmate.”

Marc Hoover
http://www.Socialhearts.com
Author of You Need A Cellmate Not A Soulmate by Ladybug books, available at Ladybugbooks.com and Amazon.com

30. Making Money in Show Business

"Show business is just that, a business, and that business is not easy.

I’m a professional magician and sleight-of-hand artist and I am the sole
proprietor of my magic business. I’ve been performing for almost 10
years and even earned my keep in College performing all over Boston.

Since I graduated in May I moved my business to New York City, the show
business capital of the country. While I have been honored to perform at
some great venues across the city included the Friars Club and the
Houdini exhibit at the Jewish Museum I’ve run into very real business
challenges.

Entering Spring, this is the time where I should theoretically be
swamped with work, but it’s just not the case. Instead I’ve experienced
numerous gig cancellations, mostly due to a lack of budget for
entertainment. Times are difficult and entertainment is usually the
first thing cut in companies’ budgets, they just don’t see the value of
keeping their friends and employees happy. For a person who makes a
living delighting audiences, this is not good news.

For more information about my magic check out www.jaredmolten.com.”

- Jared Molten

31. Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

"About five years ago, I decided that I wanted to turn a hobby of sewing into a profitable business.  I spent a year or two making quilts, then started to focus on only purses.  Making the purses from recycled materials gives them a unique marketable quality.

Primarily at first I sold the purses at local craft and art fairs.  Many people like the products that I sell, and purchase them as gifts or for themselves.  However, I found craft fairs to be hit-and-miss in that at certain fairs I might sell little or nothing at all.

Marketing online seemed to be the next sensible step towards creating profit for the business.  I have a website with paypal feature and also an etsy store.  

Additionally I use twitter, flickr, and a blog to talk about my business and show pictures.  Online marketing has created a large community and has led to a small increase in sale, but not yet to where I would like to be.”

 -Meghan Corbin

32. Getting Customers to Take Action NOW!

"My business is exposing and showing people how to avoid health care delivery. If it were not for the health care delivery system we would not have the government takeover of health care. Health care delivery wastes as much as 75 cents of every dollar sent to the insurance company in the form of health insurance premiums. Because of the astronomical number of small claims and the massive waste of health care dollars on these small claims the insurance companies end up rationing care for the large expenses - the things that insurance truly should cover. 

My name is Dennis Rowley and I have been unraveling the Gordian Knot of health care delivery for nearly 12 years. I lost a wife to cancer in 1988, and afterward I discovered that her death was preventable but the health insurance company denied giving her a series of lifesaving procedures for over seven years. A few years after that personally catastrophic event I dove headfirst into research and detective work to find out how and why an insurance company has the right to determine your care. I have been a health care delivery consultant since 2003. I have just developed this passion into a full blown business with customers and everything. To find out more visit my website at www.CareLiberty.com


The business is growing. Two years ago I could get a few to listen, but no one to act. That all changed over the last few months. As people have begun to slowly realize that the government takeover of health care is real and it’s here - their premiums continue to increase, (A new wave of major premium  increases is headed our way!) and the law isn’t gong to be repealed. 

My biggest challenge has been getting people to listen and then to act. A lot of people are frozen. They seem to believe that if they do nothing that it will all work out. they have been so deeply brainwashed into believing that health care delivery is OK. As Thomas Paine wrote, “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right." - Dennis Rowley

Tom’s Thoughts:

We have GOT to get people to take action. It’s one of the biggest problem entrepreneurs, salespeople, and economies have. People not taking action. People taking unemployment checks and not even trying to start a business or help their community. People eating fast food and junk and not taking control of their health. People complaining about the way things are and not DOING something about it. We’ve got to get people to take action, and the only way to do it is to inspire them by sharing your WHY - WHY you do what you do. People don’t care what you do, they care why you do it and how you can help them.

33. Monetizing a Personal Brand

 

"I started www.GiftCardGirlfriend.com because I’m passionate about gift cards. I love the flexibility of gift cards—the ability to buy something I want or need without feeling guilty—without having to stand in a return line. But as much as I love to receive gift cards, I used to worry that giving one would appear impersonal. That’s until I developed my signature style of turning any gift card into a thoughtful gift.

 

On Gift Card Girlfriend, I share my ideas, answer questions about gift cards, and offer practical advice for getting the most out of the gift cards you give and receive. This site is a platform for my personal brand.

 

My goal is to generate revenue through advertising, sponsorship, and endorsements. But I currently lack the traffic required to command significant advertising dollars. Several people have suggested I sell gift cards and my “kit ideas,” but I’m truly not interested in managing inventory of the hundreds of cards and ideas featured on my site. I’d like to think virtual instead and am thinking my next step is to create a downloadable app.

 

I’d appreciate advice from other entrepreneurs on attracting more traffic and other creative ways to monetize the site.

 

For more information, you can visit me online at www.GiftCardGirlfriend.com.”

 

— Shelley Hunter, founder of www.GiftCardGirlfriend.com

34. Challenges starting a new business during a tough economy


"I started Anderson Franchise Group, a franchise sales and consulting business that matches aspiring business owners, entrepreneurs, and investors with a franchise system that best fits their goals and needs. We provide the candidates with legal, accounting, marketing, mentoring, business development and funding assistance while we connect them to one or several of over 200 franchises we are affiliated with. 
All of the franchises we are affiliated with are franchises we believe are primed for the most growth, have strong management teams in place and provide great support for their franchisees. Many of our affiliated franchises are listed in Entrepreneurs top 500 franchises in the country. 
Our biggest challenges have been developing strategic alliances and bringing on sales representatives that will help our company grow. We provide a lot of value and services to ensure the prospective franchisee will be better prepared so that they can be successful in their franchise system. Right now we’d like to develop strong strategic partnerships with business and immigration attorneys, CPA’s, career coaches and counselors, entrepreneur networks, investors, and professionals with a large circle of influence. We are also looking for qualified sales professionals with a strong background in high dollar transaction sales who are interested in joining our sales team.
For more information, you can visit us online at www.AndersonFranchiseGroup.com.” - Duane Anderson

35. Collecting Receivables from Customers

I started BVT Productsmore by necessity than anything else. As a longtime aerobics enthusiast, it was great for me to have a place to work out like the YMCA that was very close to my home. The problem came when I would get out of my car with my water bottle, towel, purse, keys, cell phone, etc. I think I got a better workout bending and picking up all my dropped items than I did in the aerobics class! I took comfort as I looked around and saw so many other people doing the same thing. I thought to myself that there had to be a better way to keep my things organized without using a big clunky gym bag. I then decided to take matters into my own hands and I invented the Go Caddy™.

BVT Products was started in 2005 and has been growing ever since. This past February 2010 my sales rep had gotten our Go Caddy™ into a very large and very well respected catalog. Our Go Caddy™ had sold out three times that year and earned a 5 star customer rating. Just before the holiday season this catalog company placed a substantial order. Sadly, when the invoice came due in January 2011, I was informed they had filed for Chapter 11. For a small entrepreneurial business this was a financial setback.

I wanted to share this unfortunate business story in hopes to help another entrepreneur or small business. Sometimes I think entrepreneurs feel grateful that a company is willing to feature a product in their store or catalog. It’s this feeling of gratitude that I think stops us from focusing on what is best for our company.

Looking back I would change two very important decisions. First, I will not accept 60 day payment terms, 30 days will be the longest. Second, I will not ship a new purchase order until the previous invoice is paid even if the invoice has not reached 30 days. As I move forward I need to remember to do what’s smart for my business and if a company does not agree to my terms then it may not be the right company to do business with. While the catalog company has filed Chapter 11 and I may never see the past money due me, I have been able to continue our business relationship, but this time under my terms. They must pay for future shipments in advance by way of wire transfer which they have agreed to.” - Vicki Forster,  www.thegocaddy.com

36. How to Educate Customers About How You Serve Them

"The US Wealth School was created to empower people with the financial knowledge, tools and vision to make their own financial decisions with confidence. My courses are tailored to meet the experience and understanding of the audience. People learn how to systematically get out of debt and set achievable financial goals.

I began this business 4 years ago between my 2nd & 3rd career layoff. Each time I would “reinvent” myself to survive.

The challenge to my business growth is that no one wants to admit they don’t know about money. They always feel “it’s important for people to know,” but don’t include themselves in that category. Therefore, no one registers to attend.  So I have changed my strategy. I am trying to encourage mid-size businesses to offer these courses for their employees, because many studies that show a business makes more money when employees aren’t distracted by their finances.

For my business, without income, there’s nothing to “manage.”  I have to help CEOs and Human Resource Managers understand that these courses actually increase their bottom line.” - Gwen Riase, Founder & CEO of the US Wealth School

37. Finding the Right Strategic Partners

"I started From Car to Finish to make the new vehicle purchasing process as quick and painless as possible.  From Car to Finish is a nationwide new vehicle negotiating service that helps individuals and organizations by taking the haggle and hassle out of buying a new vehicle, saving our clients both time and money.  Our website offers tools and advice to help you research, price, and compare new vehicles, but our main service actually negotiates the price of your new vehicle for you, so that you don’t have to.   

The company began operations in April 2010.  We are completely debt free, and have a low cost of doing business.

Our biggest challenge has been raising consumer awareness of the service, so that we have enough consistent business at any given time.  While trying to market the company as a preferred partner with existing banks, credits unions, trade organizations, and non profit and for profit companies, we’ve found that many organizations have a hard time understanding what we do.  This is because they weren’t previously aware that there WAS a service that could negotiate a new vehicle, much less one that does it with a guarantee of getting the lowest price in a customer’s area. 

Because of this, it’s hard to find the right person to connect with at an organization, because they think we’re something different than what we are, and don’t give us the time to explain what we actually do.  We end up getting lumped in with companies they think we compete with, or at best, ones who loosely claim to do what we do with no guarantee, but whom the organization we’re looking to solicit feels does a good enough job that they don’t need to look at a better alternative, because they don’t understand that there can be a better alternative.

For more information, you can visit us online at www.fromcartofinish.com.” - Mike Rabkin, President, From Car to Finish

38. Building a Successful Web Business

"Last January 2010, I was a chronically exhausted mother of teenagers in search of some relief from night sweats and aches.   At the time, I didn’t know what it was but I began looking on-line to see what I could find.  I happened upon Goodnighties sleepwear for women and within a few days - I was trying the brand - and sleeping for the first time in ages…. amazing for me, straight through the night!  As a true sanity check, I then purchased a pair for my bff who was diagnosed in ‘84 with fibromyalgia- she was also blown away by the result and will now (like me) not wear anything else to sleep in!  

This discovery for me was a stunning revelation and as my sleeping continued my creative brain healed!  Because I am clearly the target audience for this sleepwear, it occurred to me that this company could use my professional marketing expertise to help other suffering women.  I then for the first time in my career, cold-called the manufacturer and within a 5 week period my husband (with his executive sales management expertise) and I had formed a new company to be the exclusive worldwide Marketing and Sales group for Goodnighties, Inc.   With this new opportunity before us we were wide-eyed and ready to go - no bank loans were needed we were going to do this on our own! :)… All new messages, new website, ‘jammie testers’ in place….. nothing was going to stop us! 

The reality of all this….didn’t sink in for awhile after all, we were so bright-eyed!  After about 6 months of paying a public relations agency resulting in 2 mediocre placements we started hearing a new phrase for PR called ‘an evergreen approach’- code for …get-ready-to-invest more in something that wasn’t working and a deadly term for start-up entrepreneurs!… So my quick analysis begins! It’s true, I underestimated just how ’trained’ our culture is in thinking the answer to all problems is a ’quick pill’ solution- Goodnighties was unfortunately viewed by the masses like ‘pixie-dust’ and too good to be true! …Our messages were also buried in the immense volume of ‘easy access’ email pitches that we were competing with! At first I was thinking I have ‘email halitosis’ but I’m learning I’m not the only one being ignored! Our saga continued!   

We then found completely incompetent ‘social media experts’ yet another mistake that cost big $$ because they metaphorically threw a brick though our store window. We had high-traffic and no sales…hmm? Can we say broken cart here!?   We had to start again with website development and were saved by an independent web builder (now M.I.A.) but he did lead us to Big Commerce (which is great) and so ‘The Little Engine That Could’ is back on track…trying our best to stay off the 3rd rail!  These early errors have cost a lot of time and $ - it’s what my husband calls my excelorated MBA program!  I call it unadulterated STRESS!

Despite these unexpected setbacks….we are selling Goodnighties directly from our website and through specialty catalogs and web partners and from that, have shipped Goodnighties to all 50 states and to 7 countries. The reward for me comes when I hear the excitement in a happy customer’s voice… it provides me with the direction that I know we are doing the right thing!   Being passionate about your product (which I am) is the key to motivation and (hopefully) future success.” - Sarah Baldwin, President, Marketing Goodnighties Inc. www.Goodnighties.com

Are you an entrepreneur facing challenges in your business? Share your story by leaving a comment!

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