How A Blog Can Help Your Startup

Blog Can Help Your StartupStartup teams have one objective, make money before running out of cash.

Marketing, while effective, is inherently risky and mistakes are expensive, says Pushing Social blogger Stanford Smith. Bootstrappers and VC-funded startups are shying away from splashy (TV) and tricky (pay per click) tactics and giving content marketing strategies and blogging a second look.  Some of the more nimble startups are finding that blogs are more versatile than previously thought.

Although blogs are easy to create, Smith explains, startups need to follow a carefully choreographed strategy to get results from their blog. You will need to balance your marketing objectives, staff resources, and time to create a streamlined blog that successfully tells your story and creates customers.  The good news is that your blog is a force-multiplier – strengthening your website, sales team, PR, and customer service efforts.

If you are unsure about how a blog can help your startup, then consider these 3 points from Smith in his post, Why Your Startup Should Launch A Blog.

“Writing blogs and blog posts are really going to increase traffic to your website because, number one, it establishes you as an expert and it just underlines everything you do,” says Tatiana EL-Khouri,  the Founder and CEO, Creative Force Group. In this video, she provides 5 ways blogging will boost your business and drive traffic to your website.

Detroit Brothers Reinvent Way to Buy School Supplies

With the start of each school year, it has become a common practice for many budget-strapped public school teachers to buy supplies with their own money to help cover classroom needs.

Detroit-based entrepreneurial brothers Andrew and Ryan Landau, co-founders of Chalkfly.com,  have come up with a way to ease the financial burden for these teachers by offering discounted school supplies online.

Read the full story on DigitalMI.com

Financing Your Business With Crowd Funding

Being unable to find investors to finance your business endeavor is not an excuse anymore. Entrepreneurs are collecting money from crowd funding websites like Kickstarter and Chipin, which offer accessible and low- to no-cost entry platforms for funding projects, expanding businesses and launching startups.

Crowd funding, or crowd financing, is the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their resources, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. These communities are used to support a wide variety of activities, including disaster relief, citizen journalism, support of artists, and yes — startups and small businesses.

“These types of communities have made themselves quite valuable in today’s ‘Mom and Pop’ market,” says John Cerasani in his YFS Magazine article, 5 Ways to Start a Small Business Without Capital. “With a short profile video describing your business idea and fun perks for potential donors, entrepreneurs have a platform to raise funds without giving up control or equity in their ventures.”

Kickstarter, a crowd funding website for creative projects, has funded a diverse array of endeavors, ranging from indie films, music and comics to journalism, video games, and food-related projects. The platform also showcases entrepreneurs seeking financial support to help expand their small business.

Yancy Strickler, Co-Founder of KickStarter.com, tells how people are funding their entrepreneurial endeavors using his website.

In one case, San Francisco-based entrepreneurs Rachel and Greg Malsin launched Project Juice as a personal mission on Kickstarter to “nourish” the Bay Area community with their fresh, nutrient-dense fruit and vegetable juices. They successfully raised $15,579 (the original goal was $15,000) to help remodel their kitchen to meet the standards of city compliance, purchase industrial refrigeration units, launch a user-friendly website, and obtain license and permit fees.

Apparently, Kickstarter’s crowd funding platform is an idea whose time has come. According to its website, about $347 million has been raised for projects so far (though much less has been raised for successful projects).

ChipIn is another Web-based crowd funding service that simplifies the process of collecting money from groups of people. Once you create an event with ChipIn, the site will process and track all payments that contributors “chip in” via PayPal. You can also monitor events simply by logging into your account and viewing your dashboard.

As people donate to your event, you’ll be able to track the progress of your event using the ChipIn widget, which can be inserted on blogs, profiles, and websites.

Crowd funding is a financing option for prospective entrepreneurs who are hoping to develop an idea into a business, and those who might already have a business going but need financing to take it to the next level.

Here are five tips when considering crowd funding for your next project.

New SBA Platform Lets Small Businesses Tell Their Stories

Everyone has a story, and now the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is giving entrepreneurs a new online platform to share their stories and showcase their successful and thriving businesses. SBA has launched “Small Business Owners Speak,” an interactive platform featuring videos by entrepreneurs from across the country who have started or grown a business with the help of the SBA. The videos will be featured at www.sba.gov/stories.

Read the full story on SpecialtyFabricsReview.com

“I have the great privilege to meet with many amazing small business owners across the country,” says Karen Mills, SBA Administrator. “I get to hear their stories – stories about why they started a business, how their business improves their community, how business ownership has enriched their life, and often how SBA was an important resource to make it happen.”

In this SBA Small Business Owners Speak video, Cupcakes A-Go-Go co-owner Laura DeVries explains how her business grew with funding from the SBA.

Questions To Ask Yourself Before Pursuing a Business

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Becoming a successful entrepreneur requires thorough planning, creativity and hard work. But how will you know if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? To consider whether you possess the characteristics and skills to become a successful entrepreneur, there are key questions you must ask yourself.

Remember “Twenty Questions,” the parlor game where a person chooses a subject but does not reveal this to the others? All other players, who are questioners, have to figure out what the subject is by taking turns asking questions that can only be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.” The premise for this game can be used to examine your natural aptitude at entrepreneurship.

In fact, the U.S. Small Business Administration sets the stage for a realistic set of 20 questions you should answer to make sure you’re ready to start a business:

  1. Why am I starting a business?
  2. What kind of business do I want?
  3. Who is my ideal customer?
  4. What products or services will my business provide?
  5. Am I prepared to spend the time and money needed to get my business started?
  6. What differentiates my business idea and the products or services I will provide from others in the market?
  7. Where will my business be located?
  8. How many employees will I need?
  9. What types of suppliers do I need?
  10. How much money do I need to get started?
  11. Will I need to get a loan?
  12. How soon will it take before my products or services are available?
  13. How long do I have until I start making a profit?
  14. Who is my competition?
  15. How will I price my product compared to my competition?
  16. How will I set up the legal structure of my business?
  17. What taxes do I need to pay?
  18. What kind of insurance do I need?
  19. How will I manage my business?
  20. How will I advertise my business?

Jason Feffer, Co-Founder of SodaHead.com lists questions to ask yourself before developing an idea. Be sure to ask yourself these questions before investing time in kick starting a business.

Creating a Niche Coupon Website

Shopping  for back-to-school items is often stressful for parents and students on a tight budget. To help make their shopping experience less painful, daily deal coupon aggregation sites, such as Groupon.com, are connecting consumers to local merchants that offer coupon savings on items like rulers, pencils, clothing, dorm room furniture and more.

With so many shoppers looking for daily deals and using coupons to save money these days, now might be the best time to start a coupon website. But how do you compete successfully in a crowded market? By choosing a specialized target group or offering bonuses that no one else does.

To determine the right niche markets to target, MySmallBiz.com recommends that you conduct research to investigate current competitors in your field and answer the following questions: What coupon sites serve your local area? Do they concentrate on a specific product or group of people? Are the sites kept up-to-date? What types of coupons do they offer? How will your coupon site differ from those already in existence?

Potential niche markets for your online coupons could include:

  • Parents – parents are always on the lookout for deals and ways to save money
  • Hobbyists – there are hundreds of hobby areas in which you could specialize
  • Business to business – offer discounts on products that other businesses frequently buy
  • Seniors – target senior services and other products senior citizens purchase
  • Coupon booklet sales – package different types of coupons into a single coupon book

How to start a coupon website.

Sites that offer coupons and deals online are very popular. Running a coupon website involves listing coupons and sales; you make money from paid advertisements on your site and from commissions earned when people click on the coupons.

A coupon website is a great way to make extra income, especially if your hobby is shopping and finding deals online. It doesn’t cost much to set up, and promoting it is easy with online marketing and social networking.

Wikihow.com provides these 8 steps for starting an online coupon site in a crowded market.

  1. Choose your target customers and find a niche. The market for finding general coupons and deals online is somewhat saturated with big names like FatWallet and Groupon, so competition is fierce. However, a specialty website or coupon blog that offers deals in specific areas is a good alternative that can make extra income. Research what your target customers buy to figure out how to start a coupon website with relevant deals and low competition.
  2. Create a website or blog, or hire someone to do it. The site must be attractive and easy to use, with search capabilities for users to find the coupons and deals online that they are looking for. It should have social networking features like blogs, chat and forums for users to interact with each other. Consider purchasing a customizable template or hiring a website designer. If you choose to start small with a blog, it’s easy to create a free blog with WordPress or Blogger.
  3. Register your domain name. Usually your web hosting company will do this for you. Remember to renew your registration annually or when it’s ready to expire. You can save some money by registering for longer periods of time once you know the site is successful. Register your website with Google, Yahoo and other search engines.
  4. Find coupons to place on your coupon blog or website. Contact local and national businesses to get coupons. Some offer programs that give you a commission on sales when people use coupons from your site. Another idea is to rent advertising space on your site where retailers can place coupons. Do some work yourself by looking for online deals and coupon codes, and then placing them in your blog or site. Be sure to have a way for users to easily share coupons and online deals on your site.
  5. Consider registering for affiliate programs and coupon feeds like For Me to Coupon and Smashdeals. There is a fee for this subscription, but it’s a way to get large numbers of coupons without doing a lot of work.
  6. Market your site online with social networking and search engine optimization techniques. Create Facebook and Twitter accounts to broadcast online deals as you hear about them, with status updates that direct back to your website. Use keywords when writing articles or blog posts so that people looking for deals will find your site.
  7. Make sure your business is legal and legitimate. Talk to a business adviser, accountant or attorney to determine how to start a coupon website, including tax and liability issues. Register your business with the IRS and find out if you need permits and licenses to operate in your state and town.
  8. Manage your time and work area. Make sure your schedule allows for finding deals online, engaging in advertising and social networking tasks and maintaining your site. Keep your site up to date; remove coupons or deals as they expire.