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About the Writer

Hello Startup Community! My name is Alex Suhr. I am the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Marketing Associate for the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development. As a 20-year-old still in college, I don’t know much about startup life. My goal with this series is to educate myself, and others on what a startup is and what it takes to run one.

 

Join me as I interview CEOs, entrepreneurs, leaders and so many more! Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you don’t miss the next post. Also, sign up for our newsletter to see bloopers and behind-the-scenes content!

 

I can’t wait to share this series with the community. If you have any further questions, concerns, or would just like to reach out, you can email me at asuhr@selectlincoln.org.

Definition of a Startup

I am so excited to post the first blog post for my new series, “What is a startup?”. Throughout this series, I aim to uncover the true meaning of running a startup. However, before I get too far in, I need to have a baseline understanding of what the definition of a startup is.

 

The definition of the word “startup” can have many different variations. Investopedia defines it as “a company in the first stages of operations. Startups are founded by one or more entrepreneurs who want to develop a product or service for which they believe there is a demand.” – Mitchell Grant, Investopedia. Yet Forbes defines it as “young companies founded to develop a unique product or service, bring it to market and make it irresistible and irreplaceable for customers.” -Rebecca Baldridge, Benjamin Curry, Forbes. In order to have one solid definition to go off of, I have created my own using these two sources. “A startup is a newly founded company that develops a product or service that they believe there is a demand for. This product or service is often aimed at addressing an unsolved issue.” -Alex Suhr, LPED.

 

In the following weeks, I will build off my definition and create a better understanding of what a startup is. I cannot wait to take you all on the journey! Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to see every post that comes out on Fridays. Also, make sure to sign up for our newsletter to see bloopers and behind-the-scenes content! I love hearing from you, so if you have any questions, concerns or would just like to chat, feel free to email me at asuhr@selectlincoln.org!

 

Thank you all,

Alex

The Difference Between a Startup and a Small Business?

Hello everyone! Welcome back! This week we will be looking at the difference between a small business and a startup. Although both are considered young companies, it is important to understand and know the differences. 

 

“Startups are typically online or technology-oriented businesses that can easily reach a large market. To operate a small business, on the other hand, you don’t need a big market to grow into. You just need a market, and you need to be able to reach and serve all those within your market in an efficient way,” Jared Hecht, Forbes contributor.

 

Here is a made-up example for reference. We have two companies. First is Starlight, an online company that created a program to help astrologists and astrology enthusiasts better track and record their findings, while also being able to connect with other people in that niche to converse about their findings. Second is a local boutique named Red Rivers, a Nebraska-based boutique that sells Husker-themed women’s clothing and accessories. According to Forbes, Starlight is considered a startup because they are an online tech-oriented business that reaches a large market, astrologists and astrology enthusiasts across the world. Red Rivers would be the small business. Although they may sell their clothing online, they only cater to one specific market, which is the women in Nebraska or those who are fans of the Huskers. They wouldn’t sell Hawkeye gear because their market wouldn’t buy it. 

 

Knowing the difference between a small business and a startup helps us better understand the startup community because they are going to have different struggles and goals than a small business would. Thank you so much for reading!

 

Until Next Week,

Alex

Why Are Startups Important?

This series is broken up into three parts- – the background, the process and the result. This week’s post will conclude the first part, the background. It is crucial to understand what a startup is defined as before seeking the answer to what a startup really is. Our last steppingstone is answering the questions, why are startups important? Why should we care? 

 

“While startups may lack the political or financial power of Wall Street firms, rarely make the Fortune 500 or Fortune 100 lists, and receive far less press than big companies, their collective contribution to the economy is essential. Startups, particularly high-potential ones, are responsible for nearly all net job growth, experience growth rates substantially higher than other firms, and have a fundamental impact on overall economic productivity in our economy. In other words, startups’ contribution to our economy is the big small,” says Bryan Ritchie, Nick Swisher, Idea Center contributors. 

 

To give another perspective, “startups are the future of business. They’re small companies that have big ideas, and they’re often more innovative than large corporations. Startups provide a lot of jobs as well as new products and services to help grow our economy,” according to Wasim Jabbar, Business Data List contributor.

 

To really hit the nail on the head, Jabbar couldn’t have said it better. “Startups are essential because they break molds, fix problems and empower individuals to build the future. They provide us with fresh innovations and services, which may be more relevant to the world’s needs. Without cutting-edge startups, we would be stuck using typewriters at photocopying machines.” In order for society to advance, we need startups, plain and simple. 

 

I cannot wait for the next part of this series. I am so excited to share with you the experiences of the people I have had the pleasure of interviewing. If you want a sneak peek into next week’s post, be sure to sign up for our newsletter and scroll to the bottom. 

 

Until Next Week, 

Alex

The Idea

Hello everyone, welcome back to our Startup Series! Now that we have defined what a startup is, we can start the next phase, the process. The process can look different depending on the product or service you are attempting to market, but most of the time, the process starts with a simple idea. This idea is the foundation for the problem you are trying to solve or the issue you are looking to address. Without a strong starting point, without a solid idea, your startup is likely destined to fail.

 

I had the pleasure of speaking to Christie Stukenholtz and hearing how her simple idea lead to the creation of Senior Care Finder.

 

Stukenholtz’s husband had been working in the senior living industry for about a decade, and they always had lively dinner conversations about what could be done better or differently. “This search and struggle that care, seekers, when they are looking for care, usually for a loved one, was a big hot button for him,” Stukenholtz said. The discussion didn’t really become personal until Stukenholtz’s grandmother in Washington state needed additional care. Trying to answer the questions, “where could she go”, “what are our options”, and “how do we compare these options and make the right decision”, became overwhelming for them, even with having someone who has worked in the senior living industry for so long. It was an extremely stressful experience for them and took them flying to Washington, renting a car and searching for all the best care options. “After going through it myself, with my own family, on the flight home I just kept thinking, there has to be a better way,” Stukenholtz said. 

 

Right before the pandemic hit, Stukenholtz sat down with her husband and said, “either we are going to do something about this or stop talking about it”. They did an abundance of research and discussed their idea with countless contacts they had. Finally, they decided to apply for the Nebraska Department of Economic Development Prototype Grant to help them validate and get their idea off the ground, which they were awarded. “It was really the trigger to say, okay this idea has legs, let’s go do it,” Stukenholtz said. They knew this would be an industry-disrupting moment and decided all of the risks and challenges were worth it. 

 

The idea behind a startup is the solution to a problem that you believe needs to be solved. “We had spent years leading up to deciding to go for it talking to people and having conversations,” Stukenholtz said. “We were confident by the time that we decided to go for it that the problem existed and that there was a real need for an industry-disrupting solution that approached it in a different way,” Stukenholtz said. After speaking to people, they were consistently hearing that this was a problem senior care providers were facing as well as the individuals looking for care. When you have a possible solution to a problem, it is important to talk to other people and truly listen to what they have to say about your idea. They may change the way you think about the problem or solidify the need for a solution. 

 

With the help of Christie and her husband Heath, we now have an easier way to find quality senior care for our loved ones, and it all started with a simple idea. 

 

Senior Care Finder is the only complete nationwide directory of independent living, assisted living, memory care, long-term care, skilled nursing, home health care, hospice providers, and more. Search by location or provider name to find the most comprehensive list available. Compare quality ratings, amenities, and services offered to help you narrow your list. Share your favorites with loved ones and contact providers directly. Search, compare, and find the best senior care. Be sure to check them out at Seniorcarefinder.com.

 

I want to say a special thank you to Christie for taking the time to speak to me! I am always appreciative of the people taking time out of their day to let me ask them my questions. I would also like to say thank you to Jacob who sits next to me for helping me proofread this. 

 

Until Next Time,

Alex

Market Research

Imagine you have to write an essay on a topic you know nothing about, and you’re not allowed to look up any information. Virtually impossible right? The same idea applies to creating a startup. The research you do into your idea is almost as important as the idea itself. This type of research is known as market research. Market research is the process of collecting, analyzing and interpreting data about your target market, consumers, competitors and the industry as a whole. While there are many ways to conduct this research, many would argue that the best way is simply talking to people.

 

When creating FanWord, an athlete branding and marketing company, CEO Chris Aumueller would talk to anyone willing to listen. He was able to get advice, ideas and direction by simply networking. 

 

Before creating FanWord, Aumueller played tennis at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, so he had experience in the problem that he was trying to solve. “I talked to a ton of athletes, athletic departments, and other business owners in the college sports industry to really get a better understanding of the market and see if there was a business opportunity,” Aumueller said. “I didn’t really do a lot of traditional online or secondary research per se, so for me, it was most helpful to talk to potential customers and users directly.” Although, Aumueller didn’t conduct the typical kind of market research he was still able to get valuable information about his target market by going out and talking to people. 

 

“When I started, I first just wanted to highlight the athletes that weren’t always visible, that weren’t always in the spotlight,” Aumueller said. “But when I began talking to people, I realized that there was a much bigger issue. Athletes often felt exclusively defined by their numbers and athletic performances rather than who they were underneath the jersey. I also learned that athletic departments wanted to showcase who their athletes were off the field but struggled to find the time or scale their approach. That’s what really kickstarted FanWord.”

 

Through talking to people and hearing their stories, Aumueller narrowed down his audience and knew what direction he needed to take for FanWord to succeed in the early days. An important lesson he learned along the way was that “you learn that it’s not always good to hear what you want to hear. You must learn to ask the right questions to get the answers that help you, not the answers that you want to hear.” 

 

Talking to people is a crucial part of your market research. Finding statistics and conducting surveys can only get you so far, but they are not always going to give you the input a company needs to succeed. People like to know the companies they invest their time in have their best interests at heart, not just their money. 

 

Thank you all for taking the time to read this week’s installment and thank you Chris for speaking with me. Be sure to check out FanWord!

 

Until Next Time,

Alex

Business Plan

Disclaimer: This week’s blog post has two parts to it. For a complete understanding of a business plan, please make sure to read both posts!

 

Welcome back, everyone! Okay, so you have your idea and have done your research, but where do you go from here? Your business plan is the perfect next step! A business plan is a document that defines the company’s values, goals and how they plan to achieve them. It is also an excellent tool that entices banks, investors and grant companies to help finance the business. A business plan can be done in various ways and have multiple uses throughout the life of a company.

 

A business plan’s purpose and long-term effectiveness are different for every company. I had the pleasure of talking to Paul Jarrett, CEO of Bulu Group, a fulfillment and customer service for e-commerce and subscription box business. We discussed his business plan and the short-term vs. long-term benefits he has seen.

 

 When Jarrett started, he decided to fund his company via capital or funding from an outside source. Investors and banks look for and analyze specific elements in a business plan when deciding if a company is a wise business decision. These elements usually are the company summary, financial projections, market analysis and value proposition. These are only a few topics discussed in a typical business plan. It also outlines the company’s short-term and long-term goals. However, the long-term goals do change, which means that the usefulness of a business plan long-term changes as well.  

 

In the beginning, a business plan is great because it puts all the short-term goals and ideas together in one document, but it has not been as valuable for Jarrett long term. A company is almost like a living being. It changes, grows and evolves. The company’s original goals are not as convenient in ten years. You should update a business plan over time, but there is only so much you can do as technology grows and markets change. However, one part of the plan that has stayed useful for Jarrett is the core values. He looks to these values when working with his team and deciding how they should take their next step. They help him stay true to his company’s purpose.

 

Overall, a business plan has many functions. It helps new companies get funding, create goals to work towards and define the company’s purpose. Although it is not as helpful long-term, it still holds the original values and ideas they set out to pursue. There is no specific way to create a business plan, so design the one that best fits you and your company.

 

Thank you, Paul, for taking the time to speak to me and make sure to check out Bulu! Read the second blog post for information on the different business plans to find the one that best suits your company! If you are ready to take the next step but don’t know where to start, Jarrett recommended LivePlan. It takes you step-by-step through writing your plan. Plus, it gives you tips and tricks along the way!

 

Until Next Week,

Alex

Blog 2: 

 

Each company is different. They are all created for specific reasons. Some to solve a problem, others to sell a product. Whatever the reason may be, each company requires a business plan to be successful. There is no right or wrong way to create a plan. They tend to fall into two categories; traditional and lean startup. 

 

A traditional business plan “is best if you are detail-oriented, want a comprehensive plan or plan to request financing from traditional sources”(sba.gov). In these business plans, you typically see the following topics; executive summary, which describes what it is and why it will be successful, market analysis, which gives the target market and industry outlook, organization market, which states how the company will be structured, service or product line, market and sales, funding request, financial projections, which convince people that your business is stable and an appendix, which is for any supporting documents. As stated earlier, this can look different depending on the company, but these are the typical topics you see defined. 

 

The second type of business plan is the lean startup plan. This plan is best if “your goal is to explain or start your business quickly, your business is relatively simple, or you plan to regularly change and refine your business plan”(sba.gov). In this type of plan, you have the following topics; key partnerships, which are the other businesses or services you’ll work with to run the business, key activities, where you’ll list the ways your business will gain competition, key resources, value proposition, where you’ll make a clear and compelling statement about the unique value your company brings to the market, customer relationships, customer segments, which is your specific target market, channels, where you will talk to your customers, cost structure and revenue streams. These are usually the topics you see, but there can be others. 

 

Since this series is all about startups, the format we would most likely use is the lean startup. I mean it is in the name ;). In the end, you’ll write your business plan the best according to you and your business. Though, sometimes it is nice to go off of a format that fits your style! Thank you, see you next week!

Funding

Blog 1: Prototype Grant

Disclaimer: There will be two blogs again this week! Make sure to read them both!

 

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve all had a great week!

 

When starting a company, one of the biggest struggles can be finding the money to get the company off the ground. In the Lincoln area, there are many companies and organizations dedicated to providing that support. There are two sides to the funding subject: investors, and the pitch. This first blog will highlight one of the prominent funding companies in the Lincoln area, while the second will go in-depth about how to write a business pitch. 

 

Before I go further, I would like to note that although StartupLNK/LaunchLNK is committed to providing funding and aid to the startup community, it is not humble of me to write an entire blog about myself. There are many other companies and organizations in Lincoln that deserve to be recognized. That being said, I would like to introduce the Prototype Grant! The Nebraska Innovation Fund (NIF) Prototype Grant “is a matching program that provides financial assistance for new product development to businesses operating in Nebraska,” funded by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. Each year, they back around 30-50 businesses from July 1st to June 30th of the following year.    

 

A business is eligible if they are a “Nebraska-based corporation, limited liability company, partnership, registered limited partnership, business trust, or other entity with less than 500 employees, engaged in non-retail primary industries that are adding value to products or processes in Nebraska. DED prioritizes projects according to the following criteria: application meets the eligibility requirements for the Prototype Grant; product under development is a platform technology, scalable, and/or has high-growth potential; technology description and business plan are sufficient for review; demonstrates the resources necessary to match state funding; sufficient detail on the nature and cost of work that will utilize the Prototype Grant; innovative approach(es) to a demonstrable problem; and strong potential to support a business and provide meaningful employment and revenue generation in the State of Nebraska.” 

 

The funds “may be used for creating a prototype of a product stemming from research and development at a business operating in Nebraska or research at a public or private college or university in Nebraska.” A business can also use the grant to match the funds used when creating the prototype. “Expenses typically allowed must be directly related to developing the prototype and do not include any unrelated operating costs of the company. Examples of the approved expenses are materials, production/assembly costs, contracted labor, and salaries of employees for actual time spent on developing, testing, evaluating and refining the prototype. Examples of expenses typically not allowed are rent, utilities, professional services unrelated to product development such as accounting or marketing, and wages for employees not working on development. While not prohibited, founder or significant equity holder salaries are also not a priority.”

 

A business can apply by going to the DED website and clicking the apply button! We are very thankful and lucky to have multiple funding opportunities in the Lincoln Startup Community. Be sure to check out the Prototype Grant and all the others that the community has to offer. Thank you, everyone, and be sure to read the next blog!

 

  • Alex

Blog 2: The Pitch

 

Whether you decide to fund your company from your own pockets or get capital from an outside source, a business pitch is important to have on hand. Although the pitch is primarily used with investors, it can have other uses. Some pitch a business to gain resources, others pitch a business to potential customers or to find a partner to help them accomplish their mission. There are three types of pitches to be aware of: elevator, short form and long form. 

 

Elevator and short form both have the same premise behind them. The goal for both is to deliver the message in a short amount of time, but what sets them apart is how much information is in the presentation. The elevator pitch “is typically a one-minute pitch that will tell someone what your product is within a one-minute elevator ride. An elevator pitch must meet three key characteristics: “It must be concise (never more than one minute), clear (no jargon), compelling (induces greed) and irrefutable (statements you make are hard to deny),” said Dr. Sean Wise, HuffPost contributor. A short form pitch is “where you will tell them more about your company. They typically are 5-10 minutes long and should include some basics about your company, such as the problem you are solving, your solution, your team members, the market you are in, the competition, some financial highlights, goals you want to reach and information on your founding team,” Wise said. Both are great for potential customers but can also be good for investors.

 

A long-form pitch “is a formal pitch that tells investors everything they need to know about your company to invest in it. You want to pitch your venture in a way that the investors will get your point and want to learn more. If you can make all of your pitches clear, concise and irrefutable, you have a good chance of not getting an early no,” said Wise. When writing a long-form pitch, a great tool to follow is Guy Kawaski’s “The Only 10 Slides You Need in a Pitch.” This tool uses the 10/20/30 rule. No more than 10 slides, never go over 20 minutes and no smaller than 30-point font. 

 

This helps to keep your pitch concise. He also outlines what each of your slides should include. The first slide is the title. Provide your company name, your name, title, address, email, and cellphone number. The second slide should include a description of the problem you are solving or the opportunity you are providing. The third slide is your value proposition. Explain the value of the pain you alleviate or the value of the pleasure you provide. Your fourth slide is the underlying magic. Describe the technology, secret sauce, or magic behind your product. Next is your business model. This explains who has your money temporarily in their pockets and how you’re going to get it into yours. The sixth slide explains how you are going to reach your customer without breaking the bank. Your seventh slide provides a complete view of the competitive landscape. Next, describe the key members of your management team and board of directors as well as your major investors. Your ninth slide should be your financial projections. Provide a three-year forecast containing not only dollars but key metrics such as the number of customers and conversion rate. Your last slide should include your status, accomplishments to date, timeline and use of funds. Following these guidelines should impress your investors and help you get the resources you need. 

 

When it comes down to it, you should choose the pitch that best suits your goal. Don’t choose the elevator pitch if you are pitching to a major team of investors because it won’t include all the information they want to see. I hope you all find this information useful! Thank you so much for reading.

 

Until Next Week,

Alex

Where Now?

Before we get started, wanna hear a joke? Okay, what do you call a belt with a clock on it? A waist of time! Now that we’ve had a laugh, welcome back, everyone!

 

Whether you create a tech company or sell a specific product, “your business location is one of the most important decisions you’ll make because it could affect your taxes, legal requirements and revenue,” according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). The first step is deciding whether you want to have an in-person office or be fully remote. The second is finding the right location if you choose to be in person.

 

During the pandemic, people started working remotely to help prevent the spread. Now that we are towards the end of the pandemic, some companies have decided that working remotely could become permanent. There are some pros to companies being fully remote. There is more access to talent because they have a larger candidate pool. Without a physical office, they also have lower operational costs. However, there are always two sides to a coin. When working remotely, you must navigate different legal requirements like minimum wage rates and payroll requirements. There is also an inconsistency in work environments, like people in different time zones or dealing with noisy backgrounds in Zoom meetings. Although these points are great, I wanted a company’s point of view. I had the pleasure of speaking with David Chait, CEO of Travefy, about why he chose to have a physical office and why being there is best for him.

 

Travefy has three physical offices. Their primary location is in Lincoln, down in the Haymarket. They also have offices in Omaha and New Jersey. In the beginning, Chait worked remotely out of his New York apartment. It wasn’t until after meeting his partner Chris Davis, that Chait decided to move to Lincoln and run Travefy full time. Early on, remote worked for them, but after Nebraska Global gave them office space, they knew that in-person was the best fit for them. “Especially at those early early stages, we did see a lot of value in that co-location and in that energy you get from being co-located. I understand that there is no right answer, but I think for us, there was a magic to being all together,” Chait said. For Travefy, they got office space from Nebraska Global, for which they are forever grateful. However, for some, it is not that simple or easy. Location is a big decision, and a lot goes into it.

 

If you decide that working in person is best for you and your company, there are a few things to consider before setting up shop. Make sure the business location is within your budget. Now I know what you’re thinking, “well duh Alex, of course, it needs to be in my budget,” but hear me out. Consider not only rent or purchase price but also hidden costs. Will the building need renovations? Do you need to upgrade the utilities? What are the minimum wage requirements of the area? You may not think about these, but they will come up. Other things to consider are, is it a safe location? Is there parking? What about access to public transportation? If you are selling a product, is there a demand for your product in that area? In the end, you will find the building that works best for you but asking yourself these questions can help narrow down the search.

 

The world of business is constantly changing and evolving. While working remotely might be the new best thing for some companies, it’s not for everyone. While they do have some remote employees at Travefy, overall, they enjoy being in the office surrounded by their co-workers. If this is also true for you, finding the right location is a big decision. Make sure to take your time and do your research. This building is not only for you but also for your future employees. You want them to be happy and comfortable in their environment.

 

Thank you, David, for taking the time to speak with me! Be sure to check out Travefy!

 

Until Next Week,

Alex

The A-Team

I hope everyone has had a great week! I hope you are all staying cool in this weather. Hopefully, fall is just around the corner!

 

No successful company can operate with just one person. Sooner or later, the business will become too much for one person to handle. In any case, you should surround yourself with a team you can trust. Early on, you want these people to share your same drive and passion. They will help you reach your goals and expand the company. As you expand your company and grow your team, you want to hire people that not only share your values but can also do their job well. However, a person can be the best employee in the world and leave in a month if they feel mistreated.

 

For this week’s blog, I had the opportunity to speak to Vrly founder Tyler Irons. In the beginning, it was important for him to have a team he could trust because, “the workload was big, so many moving parts.” The people he surrounded himself with took on some of the workload, which allowed him to focus more on expanding the business and reaching his goals. As Vrly grew, Irons’ expectations for those he hired changed. He needed people who were able to learn to learn. “Most people are taught to get information from other people but not seek it out for themselves. Go research, go study, go problem solve,” Irons said. He wants people who take the initiative, not waiting to be told what to do. 

 

Not only does Irons want people who take initiative, but he also wants people who are okay with failure. “Most people are not okay with failure, it’s hard, but you have to fail here. 90% of the time we are failing. We’re messing things up, it’s technology. For people coming right out of school, it’s hard because everything you’ve been taught is don’t fail, you have to pass. We’re going to make mistakes but we’ll fix whatever it is,” Irons said. They value failure, but they also value how you fix your mistake. “One of the big things that we push in our culture is if there’s a problem, you can fix it. You don’t have to ask me if you can fix the problem, just fix it,” Irons said. However, the ability to fix the problem is only as easy as the leadership makes it. 

 

I always say you can tell the quality of a business by how its employees act. If the employees don’t care about their job and despise going to work, it’s clear their company doesn’t care. You want the work environment to be somewhere employees feel comfortable and happy. To make his employees feel comfortable, he feels the value of empowerment is extremely important. “I think empowering people to have extreme ownership helps them a ton. They can take days off whenever, just as long as their work’s covered. We don’t do 9-5 either. If you don’t feel good, leave. If you are tired, take a nap. There’s no reason to work if you are tired.” Irons wants his employees to make the best decisions for them and not worry if they are going to get in trouble just for taking care of themselves. 

 

During our conversation, Irons said something that stuck out to me. When someone makes a mistake, “it’s not oh you did something wrong, it’s how can I help you? What are we missing? Do you not have the right equipment? Do you not have the right tools? Is your workload too high?” Instead of blaming the person for making a mistake, he makes sure the person has the right tools and knowledge to complete the task in the first place. Unfortunately, this mindset is hard to come by. I am only 20 and have worked in environments where I was blamed for the problem when I was set up to fail because I wasn’t given the proper training in the first place. I try not to put myself into these blogs, but I have advice for whoever is reading this. If you are mistreating your employees, or the one being mistreated, life is too short to stay at a job where you are not valued. There are other opportunities out there. If you want people to stay, make them feel wanted. Make sure they know you care that they are there. 

 

Your company will not survive without a good team. In the beginning, surround yourself with people that you trust. As your business grows, hire people who are right for the job but who will also help you succeed. However, you can hire the best team in the world and still fail in a month if the team lacks a leader that cares about them. Their work is a reflection of your leadership.

 

Thank you, Tyler for taking the time to meet with me. Make sure to check out Vrly!

 

Until Next Week,

Alex

Say Yes to the Name

Hey everyone! Welcome back! 

 

As we near the end of this segment, it is time to finalize our company name. You might already have one in mind, or maybe you haven’t even given it a thought; either way, this is a crucial step. The name carries the reputation of your business and should be a source of pride. Finding something memorable and fitting can be a frustrating task. There are many different factors to consider. To make the journey a little easier, I have outlined the importance of a good name, some tips, and common mistakes to avoid below. I hope this helps!

 

Having a solid business name is important. “Well, duh, Alex, of course, it is. You don’t want to have a dumb name that defeats the purpose.” While this is true, when it comes to your name, there are things you may not realize. For one, it dictates all your brandings. “The name of your business will be featured on all your products and packaging. It will be a touchstone for your entire brand strategy. A good name will help people identify the quality of your products and remember them, while a bad (or at least unmemorable) name will quickly be forgotten and ignored. Building marketing momentum depends on having an image of your company a customer can understand and interact with,” says Keegan McGuire, Starting Business contributor. Something else to keep in mind is how your name will translate into other languages if your goal is to go worldwide. For example, the word gift in German translates to poison. So, if your name is Mary’s Gifts, it will be Mary’s Poisons in Germany. Lastly, your name influences your online presence. Make sure to pick a name that can be translated into an online entity easily. While keeping these in mind, here are some tips to make the decision easier. 

 

Before creating your list of possibilities, check out your state’s naming guidelines. “If you plan to form a business entity, such as a corporation or limited liability company, your state’s laws will restrict you from using a name that another business entity in your state is already using. In some states, you can’t use a name that is deceptively like another business entity’s name. Your state may also have a list of names you’re not allowed to use. For example, ordinarily, you are not allowed to use the word “bank” unless you’re a financial institution,” notes Jane Haskins, Legal Zoom contributor. Make sure to choose a name that is easy to pronounce and spell. “Stick to simple and memorable words and don’t get cute with your spelling or use hard-to-remember acronyms,” adds Haskins. Lastly, pick a name that’s consistent with your brand. “Before choosing a business name, figure out what you want to be known for, then choose a name that reflects that quality,” says Haskins. While these are not specific tips or step-by-step instructions, they should help narrow your search.

 

  I have covered the importance of a good name and given you some tips, so you should have your top choices. However, before you say yes to the name, ask yourself these questions. Are any of the names already taken? Does the name already have a digital presence? And if so, is it connected to something inappropriate? Is it a tongue twister? Is it inclusive to customers from all walks of life? Does the name accurately represent your company, or does it just sound nice? After considering these questions, have you picked the name? If not, that’s okay! 

 

I hope that this outline has made your decision a little easier. At the end of the day, the name of your company is your decision. If you feel the name you picked is the best one, go with it. You also have the option to change it if needed. 

 

I hope you all have a great weekend!

 

Until Next Week,

Alex

Finding Clients

Welcome back! Happy Friday, I hope you’ve all had a great week! This week’s blog is the last of this part. Next week, we will start talking about the things to know after you have already started your business. That being said, let’s get started.

 

No matter your business type, you will have to sell some sort of product or service. It doesn’t matter if it is to one singular person or an entire company. However, half the battle is getting your name out there. There are many ways to do this but not every method will work best for your company. Finding what works for you, understanding why it’s important, and learning from the results are the three most significant ideas to keep in mind.

 

For this week’s blog, I had the pleasure of speaking with the CEO of Stahla Services, Grant Stahla, and his associate Mike Scheffert about their experiences.

 

Word of mouth is one of the most powerful advertising tools because people are more likely to utilize businesses that the people they trust enjoy. However, in today’s world of the internet and social media, word of mouth alone is not going to cut it. Your company has to be willing to adapt to the ever-changing world. In the beginning, the first thing Stahla did was build a website. Grant then went through different paths like radio advertising and going to wedding fairs. He wanted to get his name out into the world and let people know that he had the solution to their restroom needs. In his second year in, he started paying for Google advertisements. One thing that Stahla practices the most is being flexible with the events he is willing to do. The market is always changing–you have to be willing to work will clients that you haven’t before or give up clients that won’t make you as successful.

 

There are many different ways to get new clients. Asking for referrals, networking and community events and having “bring a friend” days are four great ways to do it through word of mouth. This is a great way to get clients, who already know and love you, to show others how great you are. The internet and social media are also great tools to use. You also want to make sure that your website stays updated and visually appealing. Your website is where potential clients will find all the information they need. Using social media to promote and offer discounts is a good way to get people through the door. Overall, do what works best for your company.

 

Finding new clients is not only great for creating more revenue, but it is also a great way to know your target audience better. “Know your customers better because only they can help you get more leads and business. Understanding customers is the key to giving them good service which results in strong customer relationships and new sales through positive word-of-mouth recommendations,” said Patricia Jones, ConvergeHub contributor. You have to always be willing to improve your business for the betterment of your clients and staff.

 

I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog! This series is slowly coming to an end but be sure to tune in next week for the start of the next section!

 

Thank you, Grant Stahla and Mike Scheffert, for taking the time to speak to me!

 

Until Next Week,

Alex

Failure

Hey everyone! As you all know, we are nearing the end of this series. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and connect with so many amazing people. The ending of this series means the beginning of another, and I want your help deciding what it is! Be on the lookout for a questionnaire posted on our social media in the coming weeks! With that, let’s get into this week’s blog!

 

 

“About 70% of entrepreneurs will face potential business failure. Nearly 66% will face potential failure within 25 months of launching their company,” says Phil Santoro, Willbur Labs contributor. With any risk you take, there is a chance of failure. It is how you decide to deal with this failure that sets you apart. You can either give up or learn from your mistakes and try again. Just an FYI, there is a correct answer. One of the best ways to learn is by listening to others who have made the same mistakes but overcame them. 

There are many reasons why startups fail. Data from a study by Wilbur Labs shows that the top three reasons startups fail are lack of funds, no financing/investor interest and no business plan or model. Lucky for you, I have given you detailed advice on how to solve some of these issues. However, I understand that not everything is an easy fix.

 

Now, either I can sit here and preach at you all day, or you can hear from someone who has gone through a failed startup and not let it stop them. To give her personal experience, I had the pleasure of speaking to Natalie Gunther, CEO of Iron Sun and Catalystech.

 

Gunther created Iron Sun to be an assistant tool for new moms. After going through it herself, she understood the struggle of trying to get everyday tasks done with a new baby. Unfortunately, Iron Sun did not work out. “It didn’t succeed for a couple of reasons,” Gunther said. “One is the price point. It was hard to get a high-quality and affordable assistant for moms. As for the second, the demand was high. I saw that in my work, but the thought process was it’ll take as much time to teach them and tell them what to do as it would doing it myself.” Although this is a company she is passionate about, she understood that she was not succeeding. There were ways she could have kept it going but, “I don’t want to run a business to run a business; I want it to have a purpose.” Although Iron Sun didn’t work out, she didn’t stop trying to create her own business. Her dream is to be her own boss, and she is not ready to give up on that. Gunther has started to put more time into her other business, Catalystech, and hopes to get it off the ground soon.

 

Because so many startups fail, there is a lot to learn. 29.5% of founders say to do more research before launching. 22.4% wish they had a stronger business plan. These same founders had some excellent advice for young founders. The top advice they gave was to learn from your mistakes because they will happen. They also stressed listening to your customers. They tell you what they will buy from you, so listen to them. 

 

There are two more pieces of advice I want to go over. The first is to be passionate about your product. If it is not something you are passionate about, people can tell. Your product quality will not be as good, and you won’t care as much about your work. The last is to not be afraid of altering your product when necessary. Your product will never be 100% perfect; it is okay to make changes. If we never made changes, we would still have the original iPhone. 

 

Failure happens. You can either learn from it or run from it, either way, you have to move on. If you choose to learn from it, you have the chance to make your dream a reality. If you run from it, you’ll always wonder if you could have been successful. I say take the chance and try again. 

 

Thank you, Natalie, for sharing your story and meeting with me. 

 

Until Next Week,

Alex

 

*All statistics are from https://www.wilburlabs.com/blueprints/why-startups-fail

The End

Well, everyone, the day has come. This is the last blog post in the Startup Series. I want to start by saying a final thank you to those who spoke with me. Your time is valuable, and I appreciate you taking a moment to share your story. So without further ado, here is what I have learned over these last 13 weeks.

 

 

StartupLNK hired me as a part-time social media content creator. This meant that I was responsible for staying up to date with events and information in the community. But to be honest, I didn’t even know what a startup was. I had heard the term but didn’t know what it meant. 

 

 

So I began posting content, but only so people knew we were still active. It was a placeholder; it had no purpose. Over time, I grew tired of not understanding the community I represented. As I spoke with more people around me, I realized I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. So I set out to change this.

 

 

I began reaching out to founders and talking to them about their stories. My findings became a blog I used to share with the rest of the community. My goal was to educate myself as well as those in my community. In the end, I had two key takeaways, the definition, and the people. 

 

 

Forbes contributors define startups as “companies that develop a unique product or service, bring it to market, and make it irresistible and irreplaceable. The truth is, they are so much more than that. Each company has a distinct group of like-minded individuals who support one another’s goals. Their diligent work is motivated by a desire to succeed, not by the need to do so. Startups are not defined by what they are but by the people that make them.

 

 

Of the two big takeaways, the second is the most pertinent. I found that there are types of people in the community; those who succeed and those who don’t. What is both unique and terrifying about creating a startup is that you could do everything right but still fail. People brave enough to jump into the world of startups must accept that failure is always an outcome. However, they can’t let that stop them.

 

 

I am so happy to have immersed myself in this culture. There is so much more for me to learn, but this journey was a great start. I encourage anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur to start attending events and meeting people. I hope you all can look back on these blog posts and use them to our advantage. 

 

 

I plan to continue writing blog posts and will be creating more series, however, they will not have as much of my perspective. Stay tuned for the first blog!