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10 Tips For Startups Sourcing Products From China

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I had the pleasure recently of interviewing Michael Fox, who is the co-founder of the online store Shoes of Prey. What I loved about talking with him is that most of their brand has been built by word of mouth and the use of social media influencers. One of those social media influencers was Juicystar07 aka Blair Fowler, who sent more than 700,000 people to the Shoes Of Prey website in a very short period through a Youtube video she shot.

In the first three years, none of the founders took a salary, and the money they had each saved was what they lived off. In June 2012, they raised a $3 million AUD round of funding which they used to ramp up their hiring and experiment with marketing channels. In November 2013, they raised another $2 million in funding. Finally, in November last year they did a big round of $7 million to help them grow even further.

Shoes of Prey are predominantly an online business with a small retail footprint that allows women to design their own shoes, which they make and then send to their customers. The options for designing women’s shoes on their site are literally in the trillions and you can change things like the toe shape, the back shape, heel type, decorations, leather type and colors of the shoe.

The biggest success they have had in recent times is their partnership with Nordstrom in the USA, who have 120 department stores. They currently have two retail stores in Australia and six retail stores that they have partnered with Nordstrom over in the USA. After being introduced to Nordstrom they took feedback on their design and spent the next 12 months tweaking things for the USA market. This resulted in them getting a yes from Nordstrom. The main crossover was that they are both fanatical with customer service so this was a good foundation to build a partnership and relationship on.

Michael, his ex-wife Jodie and Mike Knapp started the business while they were all studying at law school. The three of them were fairly entrepreneurial and started out with regular jobs. Michael was doing advertising sales at Google; Mike was a software engineer at Google and Jodie was working in advertising. When Michael and Jodie would book holidays, Jodie would always like to book stopovers in Asia because there were stores where you could design your own shoes.

On her second and third trips, her friends started asking her if she could design shoes for them because they had seen the cool shoes she was wearing. The three of them wanted to start something in the online space for a while and spent many years diligently saving up their money to do so. When Jodie’s light bulb moment came with the shoe design concept, the idea ended up becoming the now famous Shoes of Prey.

The future looks bright for Shoes Of Prey so expect them to be opening more stores, raising more money from investors and introducing new product lines such as boots, handbags and other leather accessories.

Below are the ten tips Michael Fox gave me to help you be successful in sourcing products from China for your startup.

 

1. Find smaller suppliers at the start

When you are first looking for suppliers, you want to try and go with someone who is a bit smaller because they will be hungrier for your business and might be more open to doing something a bit different. Michael said that the economy also helped them because during 2008 the Global Financial Crisis hit the smaller suppliers, and their orders were suffering as a result.

Shoes of Prey had to find fairly unique suppliers in China because they were sourcing custom made shoes one at a time and sending them to a customer rather than ordering containers of product. Rather than using websites like Alibaba, which is great for generic products, they attended trade fairs in China and met with shoe manufacturers. The first obstacle they had was that the minimum order was often a thousand pairs of shoes, and they wanted them made one by one.

 

2. Stand out with your product to avoid copycats

To avoid copycats copying your product and affecting your sales, you should consider the concept that comes from Seth Godin’s book “Purple Cow.” The analogy in the book is imagine you’re driving past a paddock of brown, black & white cows, you wouldn’t pay any attention because you have seen this before but, imagine you saw a purple cow, you would be posting photos on Facebook and telling everybody. What your business can learn from this analogy is that you want your product to be like the purple cow and to really stand out from the other products in the market so that you will attract buyers that can’t go anywhere else for what you offer and avoid copycats. It’s this concept from “Purple Cow” that inspired Shoes of Prey to start their eCommerce company.

If there is a way for you to develop a unique product, you won’t have to deal with the issue of your suppliers selling the same products to your competitors. You can try locking them into exclusivity, but you will need the volume to do this.

 

3. Get the volumes up with your marketing

From the beginning of the Shoes Of Prey business, they marketed via word of mouth and on the first day they sent an email to about eight hundred of their friends. The email told their friend’s what they had been working on for the last few months along with a coupon that gave them a $50 credit. This $50 credit also allowed their friends to forward the same coupon onto other people to try it out too. Michael believes that word of mouth, along with a unique product and awesome buying experience will see your online sales quickly grow. Through this process, it’s a good idea to pay close attention to your net promoter score, which will help you attract repeat customers.

The other part to Shoes Of Prey’s marketing strategy was to open small stores within larger department stores to leverage their brand. Every time Shoes Of Prey open a store in the USA they contact all the local fashion bloggers, Instagrammers and influencers and invite them along to the store events. This helps to get people talking about them, and the traditional media are also very useful for these events too.

Shoes Of Prey had an amazing story where a video blogger on Youtube spoke about their product, and they got more than 700,000 thousand visits to their website. This volume of traffic was more than what they had had in the nine months prior to the video being posted! Check out the video  from Juicystar07 below.

Go through your own customer database using some of the tools available online, which allow you to lookup your customers Instagram accounts to see who the influencers are and then invite these people to your events. Consider also using a PR agency that will have access to a lot of the top fashion bloggers and journalists.

 

4. Work with multiple suppliers

Michael said that at the start the approached about twenty suppliers before they picked two suppliers and began placing orders with one of them. With a business like customised shoes, you can’t work with two suppliers because one factory might make a totally different shade of red shoe than another. When three months with one supplier passed, the relationship just wasn’t working out which is why it is always important to have a second supplier as a backup. The next supplier that Shoes of Prey used lasted for three years. Michael’s advice would be once your startup gets big enough, it’s a good idea to think of building your own factory in China, which is what they now have.

If you only have one supplier, then that company know that strategically you are not in a strong position and this can lead to them dictating both price, delivery times and quality.

 

5. Make it easy to send orders to your supplier

Before they had their own factory Shoes Of Prey developed an online order form that had a built in translation system that could translate the order from English to Chinese and then be sent to the factory to explain the individual shoe that needed to be made. Once the order form was in the factory, all the components of the shoe would be put into a box and go through various stages to make the shoe before going then proceeding through to quality control.

With custom made products it’s important to price the shoe at a lower margin when you begin so that you can still be competitive, once the volumes rise you can then increase your margin because your buy price is lower.

 

6. Be careful of intermediary shipping

China is like the Wild West for doing business and if you have the money to spend you can source almost anything very quickly. The negative is that if you don’t have enough shipping volume in the early days to deal with the large shipping companies like DHL, you are forced to use an intermediary. What Shoes of Prey found was that because the intermediary were paid by the cubic metres of the shipping parcels and then they in turn were charged by DHL in cubic metres, they would unpack their nicely packed shoes boxes, and cut down the top off the shoe box to make the shipping cheaper for them.

Customers began telling them that the shoes were great but the boxes looked horrible, and Michael couldn’t figure out why. Being a clever entrepreneur and understanding the power of customer feedback, he drove around to one of the customer’s houses in Sydney and inspected the box. On closer inspection, Michael could see the shoebox had been cut around the top to save space.

 

7. Keep a close eye on the payment terms

In the early days of your startup, you should expect to pay your Chinese suppliers up front. In the case of Shoes of Prey, they would get the money in full from the customer at the time of ordering, and once they had a relationship with the supplier, they could typically pay 14 days from the invoice. What this did was put them in a positive cash cycle and allowed them to grow. For you to be successful in importing products from China, you must be continually renegotiating your supplier payment terms to make the cash cycle as good as it can be.

 

8. Keep the design process simple at the start

Shoes Of Prey Design Process - David JonesInitially, Shoes Of Prey used the Chinese manufacturers design of the shoe to start with and so that it wouldn’t burden the relationship too much early on. If you go down this path, consider flying to China and seeing all the samples yourself. If you only deal with them by email, it can be tough to have any sort of relationship. As things have progressed, Shoes Of Prey now do all the design work and styles themselves. The continual theme here is to start with a simple arrangement with your manufacturer otherwise you will find it very difficult to get your first one. As things move forward, and they can see orders coming in, they will be much more open to trying new ideas with your product.

 

9. The first employee you hire should be in China

Overcoming the language barrier when dealing with Chinese suppliers is definitely possible as a lot of them have English speaking sales and business development staff. Very early on in your startups journey, it is a good idea to hire English speaking staff that work for you and are based in China if you’re going to be sourcing products from there.

The nature of manufacturing anything in China is that you must have rigorous quality control standards, and this must be done by you. For Shoes Of Prey, the first employee they hired was based in China to do quality control before they even launched. As you expand you should eventually have your own factory with a workforce of employees that you employ directly – small steps should be taken early on.

As founders, you should expect to be spending a fair bit of time China yourself keeping on top of the quality control, and perfecting the business.

 

10. Control the production time

If the manufacturer knows you can’t go to another supplier, it can be very challenging to hold them accountable for production times of your product. One solution to this problem is to keep the backlog of orders on your end. For example if you had 100 outstanding orders for shoes, you would send 10 to the factory, they would produce them, and then 24 hours later you would send an order for another ten of your must urgent orders and so on. This can help them keep the production time under control.

Shoes Of Prey Founders Michael Fox, Jodie Fox, Mike Knapp

Shoes Of Prey Founders Michael Fox, Jodie Fox, Mike Knapp

Visit the Shoes Of Prey website to find out more about their products and latest styles.

Tim is best known as a long-time contributor on Addicted2Success. Tim's content has been shared millions of times and he has written multiple viral posts all around personal development and entrepreneurship. You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net

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Startups

Why You Should Use Pinterest to Grow Your Business

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pinterest for business

Raise your hand if you’ve been snubbing Pinterest. If your hand is raised, know that you’re not alone because also I used to. Mind you, about two years ago I did actually take the time to set up an account, yet that’s where my Pinterest relationship began and ended. I took a few minutes to look around and checked out. I felt like a squirrel on acid. Too chaotic, too many recipes and so much mom and baby stuff!

This isn’t for me. I’m a personal development blogger and an inspirational/motivational Facebook page owner. I thought Pinterest was no place for me because I post quotes and self help blogs. Due to this, I closed my mind off to it until December 27, 2017.

With the constant urging of a friend, I cautiously opened the Pinterest door again, almost like I was expecting some casserole to come out and smack me upside the head.

I looked around and much to my surprise and delight, there were other bloggers and business peeps just like me on Pinterest. I was instantly hooked. With a new appreciation for this beast, I dove in and got to work. I had 15 followers and no boards. After a few weeks of burning the midnight oil, getting Pin ready images for my blogs, resizing quote images from my Facebook page, creating boards, and joining tribes and other group boards, this happened.

Pinterest statistics

It’s not just babies and crafts

If you are a blogger or business owner, Pinterest has a place for you. Let’s talk a bit about what it is and isn’t.

First and foremost, Pinterest is not a social media platform, it’s a search engine like Google but more colorful and fun. The great thing about Pinterest is that it has its own search engine within it. You can see what your people are searching for. 

Another thing to note is people buy things on Pinterest. Lots of things! Check out this link for Pinterest stats! Now that you know what it’s not, let me tell you what it is. It’s a powerhouse traffic driver.

There’s power behind using Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog. Just take a look at these astounding facts:

  • A pin is 100 times more spreadable than your average tweet
  • Each pin can drive up to 2 page visits and 6 pageviews
  • Ecommerce sites benefit from pinning as each pin can generate 78 cents
  • The life of a pin is one week! Compare that to 24 minutes for Twitter and 90 minutes for Facebook. (source bloggingwizard.com)

In February of this year, my organic reach was just over 1.2 mil views! Remember, I started working it at the end of December with nothing.

pinterest business

It’s not as hard as you think!

It’s time consuming but definitely not hard. Take a minute to think about this, you work hard on your business. You want to reach people, sell things, inspire others, and teach through Pinterest. Don’t you think it would be worth your time and effort to work at something that will actually produce mind blowing results? Of course it would be!

Here are a few tips to get you started on Pinterest:

  • Create a business account. 
  • Have a look around to see what other people in your niche are pinning. Take a look to see what pins attract your attention. 
  • Head over to Picmonkey or Canva and create some pins for your blog or your products. Images are everything! Take extra time on these, you want them to be engaging and you definitely want repins.
  • Create boards and keep them secret until you have enough pins in them to go public. I usually wait until I have about 15 (as I’m creating new boards).
  • Find groups to join so you can share your stuff and repin others. Groups and Tailwind tribes (you should join Tailwind-tons of my traffic comes from there) are key! Think of them as an online networking/marketing event. You need them. I checked out big pinners in my niche, had a look at the group boards they belonged to and then asked to join. 
  • Get active. Pin from other people’s boards, connect with others, join Facebook groups for pinners. Aim to pin 20–50 times a day. It’s really up to you how often you want to, I’ve settled for 30 a day. Don’t let those numbers frighten you. Tailwind takes care of that for you!
  • Keyword your descriptions, boards, pins, everything! Remember, search engine.

Now get going!

Obviously there’s a tad more to it than that but once you get set up and get going, you will quickly become addicted to Pinterest (as I have) and be blown away at the growth of your business.

When you think about it, how much time are you spending (wasting) on social media platforms that just aren’t doing it for you? You’re pulling your hair out wondering why things aren’t working. Stop running the hamster wheel and head on over to Pinterest. It’s not just home decor, breastfeeding pumps and tuna salad recipes. There’s a whole other world you need to explore. If you discount it, you are leaving precious clients and money on the table.

“Social media is about sociology and psychology more than technology” Brian Solis

Have you used Pinterest for your business before? If so, did you like it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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5 Steps to Turn Your Business Into a Well Oiled Machine

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how to automate your business
Image Credit: Unsplash

A lot of online business owners that I interact with run “one man” operations. They spend most of their time delivering to their clients, leaving little room to bring in new ones, and generally grow their business. I’ve been there myself, and it’s incredibly easy to get stuck on solopreneur island, because in order to get off you have to jump into the unknown water and swim.

There are a two main problems with being a solopreneur, and if you are one these it may seem very familiar to you. First of all, as mentioned above, it’s easy to get busy delivering to clients, but that doesn’t actually grow your business, getting NEW clients does. The other big problem is that everything depends on you. You can’t get sick, tired, or go on a holiday, because as soon as you take your foot off the gas pedal, everything stops. Funnily enough, many of us start our own businesses in order to get freedom, yet many just end up creating another job for themselves.

The good news is that you can get off solopreneur island. I’ve done it, and here’s how to do it yourself:

Step #1 – Get clarity & package your offers

A lot of solopreneurs offer a wide range of services. They talk to prospects from all angles, and tailor make their services to fit each unique client’s needs. Sounds like a noble thing to do, but it’s not sustainable. A better approach is to look at the common denominator of the clients you’ve already worked with, and see if you can turn that into a front end offer.

I used to talk to prospects, listen to their needs, and then create a proposal, which usually got rejected. Since we sell video production, I told myself that every video is different, and you can’t turn that into a package. That was simply a limiting belief, and we eventually started offering 30, 60, and 90 second videos with either template or custom graphics.

Look at all the things you’re offering, and see if you can turn your offers into a menu, just like at a restaurant.

“Time = life; therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.” – Alan Lakein

Step #2 – Start treating your website like the asset it could be

Your website can get you new clients on autopilot. Don’t hold your website back by having 3 portfolio items and a contact form. Turn it into a salesman.

We get anywhere from 5-20 new clients every single month through our website. The way to accomplish this is to first and foremost realize that people cannot make a purchase if they have unanswered questions. Put all the information they need to make a decision right there on your website. If your prices are less than $1,000 for what you offer, I believe you can make the sale right there on the website. If it’s higher than $1,000 I generally recommend to get people on a phone call first.

These are some things you should do to your website: describe the problem your audience has, describe your solution, show lots of previous work, and tons of testimonials. You should also answer all the frequently asked questions, offer a guarantee, show pictures of your team and most importantly, go for the sale/phone call, not a contact form. Don’t hold your website back, let it work for you.

Step #3 – Build a high quality team

People freak out about hiring. They think hiring means you have to be able to pay someone $60,000 a year, but that’s not true. Like anything else, you can and should, start small. I hired my Project Manager for 3 hours per week when we started.

You’ll also note I wrote “high quality” above. This is crucial. When you hire a $3/hour graphics designer from India, I promise you’ll get $3 quality work. The problem with being cheap when you hire is that you get people that aren’t good at what they do, and can’t solve their own problems. When people can’t solve their own problems it’ll be up to you to do that. You’ll end up working just as much as if you didn’t hire them in the first place, therefore you are effectively paying money to give yourself stress. Does that sound like a good deal to you?

It’s better to hire a $25/h person for 3 hours than a $5/h person for a month. Once I decided to try hiring a high quality freelancer instead of a cheap one, I instantly saw the benefits and have never gone back.

Step #4 – Build systems and procedures

You should have a process in place for everything that is done in your business, especially the stuff that is done repeatedly. Use project management software so that your client facing work always follows the same structure. Use Trello for internal processes. Create documents and checklists showing how to do things.

If you’re training a new employee, record a video rather than doing the training live as you should expect to have to train another person on the same exact thing in the future.  This way a ton of the training will already be ready to go if your employee quits on you (this happened to me and I was able to successfully replace a project manager and have the new one up and running within one week!)

“To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.” – Albert Camus

Step #5 – Automate when possible

Make a list of every task that happens in your business from when a prospect finds you to when your product is delivered to them. Then, look at how many of those things can actually be done by a computer, and get to work using Zapier and all your other tools. I even recorded a video series where I educate the client along the way.

If you find yourself having the same conversations over and over again, just record a video and save yourself the time! Every automation you put in place is going to save you minutes and eventually hours every single week. This frees up your time so that you can focus on growing your business, instead of just delivering to your clients.

Summary

Getting off solopreneur island is not rocket science. You’ll need to get clear on what your packages are, put your client acquisition on autopilot, get a high quality team in place, document and checklist everything, and finally automate what you can.

Once you actually go through with this you’ll find that your business can run without you, but more importantly you’ll be able to spend your time on growing the business, and not being forced to do the day-to-day operations.

What’s your main takeaway from this article? Comment below!

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Why Your Business Should Focus on Effectively Outwitting Competitors

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Image Credit: Twenty20.com

It shouldn’t be a case of getting out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat, it should rather be the case of not venturing into the kitchen. Any brand which was set up with the outlook that there won’t be competitors was started on the wrong premise and will be plummeted into oblivion.

Any road to success is thorny but paved with advantages, which may be fair or unfair. It borders on putting in personal sacrifices which are prone to constant uncertainty, existential threats, and taking a headlong plunge into making terrifying decisions. It’s definitely not a place for the Lilly-minded and nitwits because you are setting out to engage in a fierce competition with the best minds in the business world.

What you should work tenaciously upon is your competitive advantages. Ensure the things you have going for you are brought to the forefront. You will require the right mix of guts, tactics, timing, and the knack for hitting the rod when it’s red hot because opportunities coming your way should be quickly utilized.

Dilly-dallying will be highly disastrous and very devastating. Your brand may not be a pacesetter and you don’t have a carte blanche to do whatever you fancy, yet it behoves on you to gear up to face competition from the onset.

Amazingly, however, you can effectively outwit your competitors in the global market. You just need leveraging on the following steps:

1. Research other winning brands

A lot of people may consider this to be absurd but that is the joker you have. What you do must be entirely different from other brands in the same industry as your brand. When you concentrate on researching your rivals in the same industry, you may only come up with something akin to what they do.

You, however, need to come up with something completely new and stunning, a whole set of nouveau innovations and the only way to get that is by going out of your industry completely. Your ideas must be mind-blowing and eye-opening not minding that you are possibly a newbie in the industry.

It’s of utmost importance that you build with the future in mind, before launching your product into the market. This singular action of yours will quadruple and ironclad your chances of surviving the onslaught in the market.

“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” – Otto van Bismark

2. Spin your obvious weakness into your strong point

You definitely will have some weak points and your competitors will seek those out to backstab and whip you silly in the market. You shouldn’t, however, be deterred by this. You can swivel this supposedly bad fortune into a huge arsenal for your brand with the attendant result of leaving your competitors on the turf.

A brand’s weak point could be the price. It’s possible your price is on the high side in comparison with others in the market. This is an opportunity to showcase your ingenuity by adding domestic customer service, home delivery, extended warranty, or any other incentive which you know your competitors will chicken out on.

The initial venture will definitely pummel your finances but by the time your prospective customers come to identify these advantages which were supposedly weak points with you, your ROI will skyrocket sensationally. Your competitors who had set out to tailspin you will be wondering what hit them.

3. Stay glued to your clients

The customer is the king and this must be your brand’s watchword. Your taste may be the best in the world but it’s absolute balderdash if it doesn’t resonate with the customer. You must learn to maximize the values your customers hold high and play down other money-grubbing wastes.

To effect this you must stay glued to your customers. Find out what they have going for your products and how you can enhance them. This effort may be a time suck and you may be required to put in odd hours tracking down your customers but it will pay off handsomely.

John C. Maxwell, aptly described this situation when he said “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” Make your customers off-limits to your competitors. You can enhance this by making sure you are constantly in contact with your customers.

“When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king.” – John Wanamaker

You should be in tune with those things that can make or break your business as well as having the metrics to measure how well you are doing. It’s absolutely necessary that you know your brand’s fundamental metrics like the average customer value (ACV), cost per acquisition (CPA), return on investment (ROI), and break even.

Business is like the art of war and the best form of defence is to attack.

How to you make sure people stay loyal to your brand? Let us know some tips and advice below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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Startups

Enough With The Word ‘Startup’

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The word ‘startup’ has created a false reality.

When we think of startups we now think of the following:

  • Cool kids wearing their startup t-shirts
  • Co-working spaces
  • Lots of lattes with a picture drawn in the froth
  • San Francisco and how perfect it is (I’ve been there and it’s not perfect:  #HomelessPeopleEverywhere)
  • Unicorns (not the ones you see on kid’s shows)
  • Made up valuations (a GFC fixes this problem nicely)
  • Accelerators (an overload of opinions that are just that)
  • Pitch nights where investors are made to look like Fortune Tellers and experts when the reality is nothing more than this: they’re guessing

 

It’s time to bin the word startup.

The word has no meaning. Day one is the start and then everything after that is just business. By continually using the word startup we’re implying we’re still at the start when we’re not.

“The word startup makes us feel crappy because it puts us in the amateur, early stage, “I’m still learning” category which never expires”

We never know what we’re doing in business completely and that’s a good thing.

Everything is constantly changing and so we’re going to be lifelong learners in the business world whether we like it or acknowledge it.

 

The word ‘Startup” means business so let’s call it that.

Just like a penis, big or small, it’s a fucking penis. Let’s call it what it is.

Maybe you’re a small business with one employee.

Maybe you’re a large corporation with 35,000 employees

Maybe you work one day a week on a side hustle.

Maybe you have two freelancers working for you one day a month.

It’s all just business. Sorry cool kids, the word ‘startup’ doesn’t make business any easier, different, simpler, funkier or any other description you can give.

 

Can everyone really be an entrepreneur?

I’ll give it to you straight amigo: no, they can’t.

“Some of you suck at entrepreneurship even though Instagram sells you on the dream that you can sit on the beach with your laptop, sip a cocktail, take a selfie and do one hour of work a day”

This is all a lie designed to mess with your head and force you to suffer FOMO thus resulting in social media engagement for someone with a landing page that leads to a digital product where there’s a payment wall for you to insert your credit card number and add money to a bank account that’s not yours.

Many of you can’t handle:

  • Risk
  • Stupid amount of stress
  • 12-hour days
  • Managing other people
  • Having to be creative
  • Customers whose demands never stop
  • The game of money
  • Soul crushing failure

The list could go on forever. There are so many components to entrepreneurship.

Only about 1% of people are truly cut out for it. Just like not everyone can be a leader - otherwise there would be no followers - not everyone can be an entrepreneur. And that’s okay.

You’re human - you’ll be okay.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try entrepreneurship. Sometimes giving it a shot and doing it is the only way to find out.

Life is not all about startups and entrepreneurship - there’s more to it than that.

 

When does the ‘Startup Phase’ end?

It doesn’t.

Some people say Stripe is a startup even though they do billions in revenue now. Some people call my side-hustle a startup even though it’s just me.

The word ‘startup’ keeps getting used because somehow it puts you in a different league where growth hackers (I call it sales), dev-ops, UX designers and a whole bunch of other words that describe a team that does sales or builds software exists.

 

A startup is not a startup; it’s called a business.

No more buzz words.

No more unicorns.

No more thinking you’re smarter than your competitors.

No more BS valuations.

No more naming and shaming people who don’t want to be a founder of a startup like you.

Not everyone is in love with startups and not all of us want to be founders. Some people want to be stay-at-home dads or stay-at-home moms.

Some people want to raise their kids instead of being on the front of Startup Daily with a bunch of cool kids.

There’s more to life than fucking startups and #StartupLife.

 

Business is business. 

  1. You build a product or service with you or a co-founder.
  2. You attempt to see whether it solves a problem
  3. You continue validating the idea beyond your mom & dad, friends and work colleagues
  4. You make some money - $1, $100, $100k - it doesn’t matter
  5. You continuously improve the product to make your customers happier
  6. You make them happy and the business makes more money
  7. You build out a team so you can grow the business to be bigger
  8. Then you either stop at where you are and be bloody happy, or you raise money in some form - VC, bank, angels, parents, ICO (insert trendy way to borrow more money)
  9. You hi-five everyone, sell the business and sit on a beach or you keep going because it becomes about more than money

THE END.

 

Final Word On Startups. 

If you want to create a business, then do it. If you don’t then that’s fine too.

Find a problem, solve it and be humble as hell about it if you succeed. There’s more to this world than the ridiculous label that is startup.

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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What You Can Learn From My Ultimate “I Am Screwed” Moment.

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Image Credit: Unsplash / Gold Chain

When I was 16 years old, I had the ultimate “I am screwed moment.”

Everything from this point on happened in slow motion. What I’m about to describe probably happened in the space of thirty minutes but it felt like five hours.

I was walking down the street with my buddy one night, eating a paddle pop ice cream. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a group of about twenty teenagers running towards us, dressed in black.

I instantly knew that something was up and as they got closer, we both realized we were screwed and there was nowhere to run to.

Seconds later the gang of teenagers came straight towards us as fast as they could.

“I got lucky and copped a baseball bat to the head. My friend wasn’t so lucky. He was repeatedly stabbed by several different people and there was blood everywhere.”

As I saw what happened to my friend, I knew I’d be next. I was hit so many times with the baseball bat that I was numb from the pain. Everything started to go white.

Then I heard a faint voice. The voice was calling my name out.

I listened to what the young man was saying and realized he was saying that his little brother knew me. All of a sudden, he put out his hand, lifted me off the ground and told me to run in the other direction, or I’d end up like my friend.

I somehow managed to get on my feet and run, but I was not giving up on my friend. I ran around the back of the shopping center that we were standing outside of and entered the building. I ran to the first security guard I saw and told them I needed help.

In my search to get help, miraculously, my friend had made it into the shopping center and he was being treated by a number of bystanders for his massive knife wounds.

I went over and spoke to him. He was okay and things looked better than I expected. I had about sixty seconds of calmness. Then I looked to my left.

Through the glass doors, I could see the same gang of teenagers running into the shopping center. Everyone including the two security guards ran in opposite directions.

My friend with his multiple knife wounds also ran and there were bandages everywhere as he made a run for it (I’m not even sure how he was able to move).

This time I was the unlucky one. I ran into the part of the shopping center that was closed for the night and three of the youths followed me. I’d never been so afraid because I saw what they did to my friend.

I ended up in the shopping centers food court and I hid in the darkness. I tried to control my breathing, but it was hard to silence the fear inside of me. I still remember the white Nike pants I was wearing and the bright red Sean John jumper I had on (I later discarded them because of the memory they left).

Again, through some kind of miracle, the three boys did not see me. They ran off in another direction and I stayed under the table.

The pain of my wounds started to set in. I knew deep down I was safe and so the fight or flight response was turned off. All of a sudden, moving and walking felt very painful.

I could feel broken bits of teeth in my mouth.


The aftermath.

After some time had passed, I manage to reconnect with my friend. By that time there was an ambulance on the scene and he managed to get his knife wounds treated. He got lucky and no vital organs were affected.

The next day I went to school and people could see I had gone through one hell of an ordeal. One of my friends in the year level below, came and found me and explained to me that it was his older brother and friends that attacked me.

They had mistakenly thought that we had come from a party, because of the direction we came from, where he was beaten up. He told me that because they had recognized me, to some degree, I was spared.

The story doesn’t end here though (I wish it did). Even after the brutal event, one of the attackers was still upset with me. I didn’t know why and it made no sense. I had multiple times where he and his friends were waiting for me in certain places and I was told they would harm me.

Through a mutual friend, I was able to resolve the conflict and I found out that a few of them were close friends with a few of my friends. In the coming years, I got to know my attackers.

“They were not the horrible violent people I encountered on that night. They slowly changed their ways and one of them has gone on to do extraordinary kind acts all over the world.”


A revelation from this “I am screwed” moment.

After this horrible event had occurred, I tried to make sense of it. I was not a violent person in any way but in a way, I had created this path for myself.

During my teenage years, I let rap music and violence dominate my life. I thought they were both cool.

The revelation from all of this was that I knew I had to change my life. I knew that the path I was on had led me to this moment and only I could change things. The next time an attack like this happened, I may not be as lucky.

I gave up rap music, I changed my group of friends, I started a business with my brother, I quit smoking and I disengaged from anything that was violent. Looking back, an “I am screwed” moment can be extremely valuable. It’s during these difficult times that we learn about who we are and what we can do to change our lives.

I would never have become obsessed with legacy, giving back and personal development if I hadn’t had this life or death experience.

I’m now fully aware of my mortality and I’m never going to take another day for granted.

Everything can change in a split second for better or for worse. What you do in that moment is up to you.

Nothing happens randomly (even this attack). Everything happens for a reason and when you ensure you get the lesson from it, you can go on to do extraordinary things.

I’m typing these words and reaching millions of people with them, partly because of this “I am screwed” moment.


If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

Tim is best known as a long-time contributor on Addicted2Success. Tim's content has been shared millions of times and he has written multiple viral posts all around personal development and entrepreneurship. You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net

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Startups

Why You Should Use Pinterest to Grow Your Business

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pinterest for business

Raise your hand if you’ve been snubbing Pinterest. If your hand is raised, know that you’re not alone because also I used to. Mind you, about two years ago I did actually take the time to set up an account, yet that’s where my Pinterest relationship began and ended. I took a few minutes to look around and checked out. I felt like a squirrel on acid. Too chaotic, too many recipes and so much mom and baby stuff!

This isn’t for me. I’m a personal development blogger and an inspirational/motivational Facebook page owner. I thought Pinterest was no place for me because I post quotes and self help blogs. Due to this, I closed my mind off to it until December 27, 2017.

With the constant urging of a friend, I cautiously opened the Pinterest door again, almost like I was expecting some casserole to come out and smack me upside the head.

I looked around and much to my surprise and delight, there were other bloggers and business peeps just like me on Pinterest. I was instantly hooked. With a new appreciation for this beast, I dove in and got to work. I had 15 followers and no boards. After a few weeks of burning the midnight oil, getting Pin ready images for my blogs, resizing quote images from my Facebook page, creating boards, and joining tribes and other group boards, this happened.

Pinterest statistics

It’s not just babies and crafts

If you are a blogger or business owner, Pinterest has a place for you. Let’s talk a bit about what it is and isn’t.

First and foremost, Pinterest is not a social media platform, it’s a search engine like Google but more colorful and fun. The great thing about Pinterest is that it has its own search engine within it. You can see what your people are searching for. 

Another thing to note is people buy things on Pinterest. Lots of things! Check out this link for Pinterest stats! Now that you know what it’s not, let me tell you what it is. It’s a powerhouse traffic driver.

There’s power behind using Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog. Just take a look at these astounding facts:

  • A pin is 100 times more spreadable than your average tweet
  • Each pin can drive up to 2 page visits and 6 pageviews
  • Ecommerce sites benefit from pinning as each pin can generate 78 cents
  • The life of a pin is one week! Compare that to 24 minutes for Twitter and 90 minutes for Facebook. (source bloggingwizard.com)

In February of this year, my organic reach was just over 1.2 mil views! Remember, I started working it at the end of December with nothing.

pinterest business

It’s not as hard as you think!

It’s time consuming but definitely not hard. Take a minute to think about this, you work hard on your business. You want to reach people, sell things, inspire others, and teach through Pinterest. Don’t you think it would be worth your time and effort to work at something that will actually produce mind blowing results? Of course it would be!

Here are a few tips to get you started on Pinterest:

  • Create a business account. 
  • Have a look around to see what other people in your niche are pinning. Take a look to see what pins attract your attention. 
  • Head over to Picmonkey or Canva and create some pins for your blog or your products. Images are everything! Take extra time on these, you want them to be engaging and you definitely want repins.
  • Create boards and keep them secret until you have enough pins in them to go public. I usually wait until I have about 15 (as I’m creating new boards).
  • Find groups to join so you can share your stuff and repin others. Groups and Tailwind tribes (you should join Tailwind-tons of my traffic comes from there) are key! Think of them as an online networking/marketing event. You need them. I checked out big pinners in my niche, had a look at the group boards they belonged to and then asked to join. 
  • Get active. Pin from other people’s boards, connect with others, join Facebook groups for pinners. Aim to pin 20–50 times a day. It’s really up to you how often you want to, I’ve settled for 30 a day. Don’t let those numbers frighten you. Tailwind takes care of that for you!
  • Keyword your descriptions, boards, pins, everything! Remember, search engine.

Now get going!

Obviously there’s a tad more to it than that but once you get set up and get going, you will quickly become addicted to Pinterest (as I have) and be blown away at the growth of your business.

When you think about it, how much time are you spending (wasting) on social media platforms that just aren’t doing it for you? You’re pulling your hair out wondering why things aren’t working. Stop running the hamster wheel and head on over to Pinterest. It’s not just home decor, breastfeeding pumps and tuna salad recipes. There’s a whole other world you need to explore. If you discount it, you are leaving precious clients and money on the table.

“Social media is about sociology and psychology more than technology” Brian Solis

Have you used Pinterest for your business before? If so, did you like it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Startups

5 Steps to Turn Your Business Into a Well Oiled Machine

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how to automate your business
Image Credit: Unsplash

A lot of online business owners that I interact with run “one man” operations. They spend most of their time delivering to their clients, leaving little room to bring in new ones, and generally grow their business. I’ve been there myself, and it’s incredibly easy to get stuck on solopreneur island, because in order to get off you have to jump into the unknown water and swim.

There are a two main problems with being a solopreneur, and if you are one these it may seem very familiar to you. First of all, as mentioned above, it’s easy to get busy delivering to clients, but that doesn’t actually grow your business, getting NEW clients does. The other big problem is that everything depends on you. You can’t get sick, tired, or go on a holiday, because as soon as you take your foot off the gas pedal, everything stops. Funnily enough, many of us start our own businesses in order to get freedom, yet many just end up creating another job for themselves.

The good news is that you can get off solopreneur island. I’ve done it, and here’s how to do it yourself:

Step #1 – Get clarity & package your offers

A lot of solopreneurs offer a wide range of services. They talk to prospects from all angles, and tailor make their services to fit each unique client’s needs. Sounds like a noble thing to do, but it’s not sustainable. A better approach is to look at the common denominator of the clients you’ve already worked with, and see if you can turn that into a front end offer.

I used to talk to prospects, listen to their needs, and then create a proposal, which usually got rejected. Since we sell video production, I told myself that every video is different, and you can’t turn that into a package. That was simply a limiting belief, and we eventually started offering 30, 60, and 90 second videos with either template or custom graphics.

Look at all the things you’re offering, and see if you can turn your offers into a menu, just like at a restaurant.

“Time = life; therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.” – Alan Lakein

Step #2 – Start treating your website like the asset it could be

Your website can get you new clients on autopilot. Don’t hold your website back by having 3 portfolio items and a contact form. Turn it into a salesman.

We get anywhere from 5-20 new clients every single month through our website. The way to accomplish this is to first and foremost realize that people cannot make a purchase if they have unanswered questions. Put all the information they need to make a decision right there on your website. If your prices are less than $1,000 for what you offer, I believe you can make the sale right there on the website. If it’s higher than $1,000 I generally recommend to get people on a phone call first.

These are some things you should do to your website: describe the problem your audience has, describe your solution, show lots of previous work, and tons of testimonials. You should also answer all the frequently asked questions, offer a guarantee, show pictures of your team and most importantly, go for the sale/phone call, not a contact form. Don’t hold your website back, let it work for you.

Step #3 – Build a high quality team

People freak out about hiring. They think hiring means you have to be able to pay someone $60,000 a year, but that’s not true. Like anything else, you can and should, start small. I hired my Project Manager for 3 hours per week when we started.

You’ll also note I wrote “high quality” above. This is crucial. When you hire a $3/hour graphics designer from India, I promise you’ll get $3 quality work. The problem with being cheap when you hire is that you get people that aren’t good at what they do, and can’t solve their own problems. When people can’t solve their own problems it’ll be up to you to do that. You’ll end up working just as much as if you didn’t hire them in the first place, therefore you are effectively paying money to give yourself stress. Does that sound like a good deal to you?

It’s better to hire a $25/h person for 3 hours than a $5/h person for a month. Once I decided to try hiring a high quality freelancer instead of a cheap one, I instantly saw the benefits and have never gone back.

Step #4 – Build systems and procedures

You should have a process in place for everything that is done in your business, especially the stuff that is done repeatedly. Use project management software so that your client facing work always follows the same structure. Use Trello for internal processes. Create documents and checklists showing how to do things.

If you’re training a new employee, record a video rather than doing the training live as you should expect to have to train another person on the same exact thing in the future.  This way a ton of the training will already be ready to go if your employee quits on you (this happened to me and I was able to successfully replace a project manager and have the new one up and running within one week!)

“To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.” – Albert Camus

Step #5 – Automate when possible

Make a list of every task that happens in your business from when a prospect finds you to when your product is delivered to them. Then, look at how many of those things can actually be done by a computer, and get to work using Zapier and all your other tools. I even recorded a video series where I educate the client along the way.

If you find yourself having the same conversations over and over again, just record a video and save yourself the time! Every automation you put in place is going to save you minutes and eventually hours every single week. This frees up your time so that you can focus on growing your business, instead of just delivering to your clients.

Summary

Getting off solopreneur island is not rocket science. You’ll need to get clear on what your packages are, put your client acquisition on autopilot, get a high quality team in place, document and checklist everything, and finally automate what you can.

Once you actually go through with this you’ll find that your business can run without you, but more importantly you’ll be able to spend your time on growing the business, and not being forced to do the day-to-day operations.

What’s your main takeaway from this article? Comment below!

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Why Your Business Should Focus on Effectively Outwitting Competitors

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business competition
Image Credit: Twenty20.com

It shouldn’t be a case of getting out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat, it should rather be the case of not venturing into the kitchen. Any brand which was set up with the outlook that there won’t be competitors was started on the wrong premise and will be plummeted into oblivion.

Any road to success is thorny but paved with advantages, which may be fair or unfair. It borders on putting in personal sacrifices which are prone to constant uncertainty, existential threats, and taking a headlong plunge into making terrifying decisions. It’s definitely not a place for the Lilly-minded and nitwits because you are setting out to engage in a fierce competition with the best minds in the business world.

What you should work tenaciously upon is your competitive advantages. Ensure the things you have going for you are brought to the forefront. You will require the right mix of guts, tactics, timing, and the knack for hitting the rod when it’s red hot because opportunities coming your way should be quickly utilized.

Dilly-dallying will be highly disastrous and very devastating. Your brand may not be a pacesetter and you don’t have a carte blanche to do whatever you fancy, yet it behoves on you to gear up to face competition from the onset.

Amazingly, however, you can effectively outwit your competitors in the global market. You just need leveraging on the following steps:

1. Research other winning brands

A lot of people may consider this to be absurd but that is the joker you have. What you do must be entirely different from other brands in the same industry as your brand. When you concentrate on researching your rivals in the same industry, you may only come up with something akin to what they do.

You, however, need to come up with something completely new and stunning, a whole set of nouveau innovations and the only way to get that is by going out of your industry completely. Your ideas must be mind-blowing and eye-opening not minding that you are possibly a newbie in the industry.

It’s of utmost importance that you build with the future in mind, before launching your product into the market. This singular action of yours will quadruple and ironclad your chances of surviving the onslaught in the market.

“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” – Otto van Bismark

2. Spin your obvious weakness into your strong point

You definitely will have some weak points and your competitors will seek those out to backstab and whip you silly in the market. You shouldn’t, however, be deterred by this. You can swivel this supposedly bad fortune into a huge arsenal for your brand with the attendant result of leaving your competitors on the turf.

A brand’s weak point could be the price. It’s possible your price is on the high side in comparison with others in the market. This is an opportunity to showcase your ingenuity by adding domestic customer service, home delivery, extended warranty, or any other incentive which you know your competitors will chicken out on.

The initial venture will definitely pummel your finances but by the time your prospective customers come to identify these advantages which were supposedly weak points with you, your ROI will skyrocket sensationally. Your competitors who had set out to tailspin you will be wondering what hit them.

3. Stay glued to your clients

The customer is the king and this must be your brand’s watchword. Your taste may be the best in the world but it’s absolute balderdash if it doesn’t resonate with the customer. You must learn to maximize the values your customers hold high and play down other money-grubbing wastes.

To effect this you must stay glued to your customers. Find out what they have going for your products and how you can enhance them. This effort may be a time suck and you may be required to put in odd hours tracking down your customers but it will pay off handsomely.

John C. Maxwell, aptly described this situation when he said “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” Make your customers off-limits to your competitors. You can enhance this by making sure you are constantly in contact with your customers.

“When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king.” – John Wanamaker

You should be in tune with those things that can make or break your business as well as having the metrics to measure how well you are doing. It’s absolutely necessary that you know your brand’s fundamental metrics like the average customer value (ACV), cost per acquisition (CPA), return on investment (ROI), and break even.

Business is like the art of war and the best form of defence is to attack.

How to you make sure people stay loyal to your brand? Let us know some tips and advice below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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Startups

Enough With The Word ‘Startup’

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The word ‘startup’ has created a false reality.

When we think of startups we now think of the following:

  • Cool kids wearing their startup t-shirts
  • Co-working spaces
  • Lots of lattes with a picture drawn in the froth
  • San Francisco and how perfect it is (I’ve been there and it’s not perfect:  #HomelessPeopleEverywhere)
  • Unicorns (not the ones you see on kid’s shows)
  • Made up valuations (a GFC fixes this problem nicely)
  • Accelerators (an overload of opinions that are just that)
  • Pitch nights where investors are made to look like Fortune Tellers and experts when the reality is nothing more than this: they’re guessing

 

It’s time to bin the word startup.

The word has no meaning. Day one is the start and then everything after that is just business. By continually using the word startup we’re implying we’re still at the start when we’re not.

“The word startup makes us feel crappy because it puts us in the amateur, early stage, “I’m still learning” category which never expires”

We never know what we’re doing in business completely and that’s a good thing.

Everything is constantly changing and so we’re going to be lifelong learners in the business world whether we like it or acknowledge it.

 

The word ‘Startup” means business so let’s call it that.

Just like a penis, big or small, it’s a fucking penis. Let’s call it what it is.

Maybe you’re a small business with one employee.

Maybe you’re a large corporation with 35,000 employees

Maybe you work one day a week on a side hustle.

Maybe you have two freelancers working for you one day a month.

It’s all just business. Sorry cool kids, the word ‘startup’ doesn’t make business any easier, different, simpler, funkier or any other description you can give.

 

Can everyone really be an entrepreneur?

I’ll give it to you straight amigo: no, they can’t.

“Some of you suck at entrepreneurship even though Instagram sells you on the dream that you can sit on the beach with your laptop, sip a cocktail, take a selfie and do one hour of work a day”

This is all a lie designed to mess with your head and force you to suffer FOMO thus resulting in social media engagement for someone with a landing page that leads to a digital product where there’s a payment wall for you to insert your credit card number and add money to a bank account that’s not yours.

Many of you can’t handle:

  • Risk
  • Stupid amount of stress
  • 12-hour days
  • Managing other people
  • Having to be creative
  • Customers whose demands never stop
  • The game of money
  • Soul crushing failure

The list could go on forever. There are so many components to entrepreneurship.

Only about 1% of people are truly cut out for it. Just like not everyone can be a leader - otherwise there would be no followers - not everyone can be an entrepreneur. And that’s okay.

You’re human - you’ll be okay.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try entrepreneurship. Sometimes giving it a shot and doing it is the only way to find out.

Life is not all about startups and entrepreneurship - there’s more to it than that.

 

When does the ‘Startup Phase’ end?

It doesn’t.

Some people say Stripe is a startup even though they do billions in revenue now. Some people call my side-hustle a startup even though it’s just me.

The word ‘startup’ keeps getting used because somehow it puts you in a different league where growth hackers (I call it sales), dev-ops, UX designers and a whole bunch of other words that describe a team that does sales or builds software exists.

 

A startup is not a startup; it’s called a business.

No more buzz words.

No more unicorns.

No more thinking you’re smarter than your competitors.

No more BS valuations.

No more naming and shaming people who don’t want to be a founder of a startup like you.

Not everyone is in love with startups and not all of us want to be founders. Some people want to be stay-at-home dads or stay-at-home moms.

Some people want to raise their kids instead of being on the front of Startup Daily with a bunch of cool kids.

There’s more to life than fucking startups and #StartupLife.

 

Business is business. 

  1. You build a product or service with you or a co-founder.
  2. You attempt to see whether it solves a problem
  3. You continue validating the idea beyond your mom & dad, friends and work colleagues
  4. You make some money - $1, $100, $100k - it doesn’t matter
  5. You continuously improve the product to make your customers happier
  6. You make them happy and the business makes more money
  7. You build out a team so you can grow the business to be bigger
  8. Then you either stop at where you are and be bloody happy, or you raise money in some form - VC, bank, angels, parents, ICO (insert trendy way to borrow more money)
  9. You hi-five everyone, sell the business and sit on a beach or you keep going because it becomes about more than money

THE END.

 

Final Word On Startups. 

If you want to create a business, then do it. If you don’t then that’s fine too.

Find a problem, solve it and be humble as hell about it if you succeed. There’s more to this world than the ridiculous label that is startup.

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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