Retailbound Wants to Build a Retail Platform for Gadget Entrepreneurs

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So you have a successful crowdfunding campaign. Your product has been funded, manufactured, and shipped. The question is, now what? According to Retailbound, Inc. only one in fifty crowdfunded gadget entrepreneurs manage to get their product on the shelves of major retailers.

The team behind Retailbound wants to improve these odds. The Chicago based company has been around since 2008, describing themselves as a full-service retail marketing consulting company. Its website boasts:

Our seasoned executives bring versatile experience and expertise of retail marketing and merchandising solutions, from both sides of the retail buyer’s desk. This experience within the retail industry sets us apart as a leading retail marketing and merchandising solutions provider.

Now the company is looking to build a new platform designed to help crowd-funded gadget entrepreneurs get their products into retail stores. The company is calling this platform a “virtual incubator” where gadget entrepreneurs can learn, network, and sell.

Retailbound is currently running an Indiegogo campaign to launch the new platform. A $10,000 funding goal has been set. It’s still early, so there is no telling if the campaign will reach that.

For more on the campaign, see the group’s Indiegogo video below:

Specific details on what the platform will entail and look like are vague. Retailbound does say it will provide how-to videos that can be accessed 24/7. The goal is to help entrepreneurs learn and develop strategies to successfully sell.

Retailbound also claims the platform will help match retail-oriented gadget entrepreneurs with retailer and distributor opportunities. If the platform can deliver on this claim, it would be a helpful tool for those getting started in that market.

There are no specifics on pricing for using the platform once it’s completed. Right now it’s looking like membership will run about $50 a month. This price is assumed based on rewards perks offered with the current Indiegogo campaign. But there may also be different levels of membership with differing fees or additional services that could cost more.

Retailbound’s new project, if it gets off the ground, could hold some helpful opportunities for entrepreneurs. An online membership could be an alternative to hiring an expensive consultant and could be a solution for entrepreneurs starting out who don’t have a big budget to spend.


Retail Technology Photo via Shutterstock

More in: Gadgets

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Best Motivational Quotes for Creative Entrepreneurs

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There is something special about motivational quotes. No matter how many times you read and re-read them, they never cease to help you reassess, refine and freshen up your place in the universe. They are like mini-books, authored just for you by people who have achieved some level of influence and success in their chosen fields. When read in the context of the person to whom a quote is attributed, it can take on even more meaning.

There are quotes to inspire greatness in all aspects of life, and you can find them all over the Internet and in your favorite books and magazines. The quotations in this post, displayed in no particular order, are a few of the ones that I live by, and are featured here for their ability to inspire and encourage Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs. Which one of these best motivational quotes is your favorite?

Best Motivational Quotes

“There’s nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team.”

— Jason Fried, Founder of 37signal

Personal significance: Size is less important than intention.

Makers in business are surrounded by instructions to go big or go home, but you don’t have to do either. You don’t have to lead your company into bigness, and you don’t have to curl up in a ball because you are not breaking all kinds of entrepreneurial records. You can decide that size is irrelevant.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need a big team to accomplish your specific business goals. Create a team that has the perfect number of members for where you are right now — and adjust down or up as you go.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

— Chinese Proverb

Personal significance: Unless you’re dead, it’s never to late to do things you want to do.

Maybe it would have been better if you’d launched your newsletter or upgraded your website, or (insert thing you should have done last year here), but that’s no excuse not to do it today.

“If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

— Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder of LinkedIn

Personal significance: The pursuit of perfection is dangerous.

Business moves at lightning speed, and you do not get a pass because you’re a Maker. If you know what you want to do, you must do it as quickly as you possibly can, before the opening to do so closes forever.

There are only two things you need to guarantee before launching a new product: quality and safety. It does not have to be perfect, and it probably never will be. Waiting for perfection feeds fear and disables all forward progress.

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

— Wayne Gretzky, NHL Hall of Famer

Personal significance: Effort counts.

Not making that sales call because you’re afraid the buyer will reject your offer? Avoiding using video because you don’t think people will like the way your hair looks? Refusing to spend money on your packaging because you’re afraid you’ll not be able to recover the costs quickly? You can keep thinking like that, but as Wayne said, you’ll stay stuck where you are forever. I don’t want that for you, and I’m sure you don’t want it for yourself.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

— African Proverb

Personal significance: Community is power.

I have witnessed this time and again in the Indie Business Network and in my life personally. Entrepreneurship is a lonely and relentless journey, and even more so when you go it alone. Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs in particular thrive in community. If you are not a member of a community, join one today. If you cannot find one that suits you, create it yourself.

Quote Number 6: “The person who chases two rabbits catches neither.”

— Chinese Proverb

Personal significance: Focus … or else.

Trying to make your products, take a personal call, and write a blog post at the same time? The more plates you are simultaneously spinning in the air, the more will shatter into a million pieces all around you. Multi-tasking will kill your business faster than anything else, and you won’t even notice it. Focus relentlessly on one thing at a time, get traction and get it done. Then move onto the next thing. You’ll be more successful, and your output will be far superior to what is created when you try to do everything at once.

Quote Number 7: “The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

— Steven Furtick, Founder and Lead Pastor at Elevation Church

Personal significance: Never compare yourself or your achievements to those of others.

This is harder today than ever. Social outlets like Facebook and Instagram bombard us with the happy faces of people dropping off thousands of dollars worth of product at a retail outlet, and surfing on Monday morning because they have a fabulous team of people doing all the grunt work back in the office. Don’t get sidetracked by someone else’s success. Focus on creating your own and what everyone else is doing will fade into the background.

Quote Number 8: “It is better to make lots of sales of a few products than to make a few sales of lots of products.”

— Donna Maria, Founder and CEO at Indie Business Network

Personal significance: Do not have too many products in your line.

I learned a long time ago that having a ton of products in your line quickly sucks resources, including time, energy, and money. Not only that, you end up looking at a bunch of cool products on a shelf that are not translating into cash because you spend so much time making things that you don’t have time to market them. Keep the number of products in your line to a number that allows you to market and sell them effectively. While you may have fewer offerings, you’ll be more focused and make more money.

Quote Number 9: “Luck is preparation meeting opportunity.”

— Oprah Winfrey

Personal significance: Prepare for the opportunity before it’s staring down your face.

Want to get your products into a nationwide chain of stores? Study how others have done it, then rinse and repeat as you pursue the opportunity. Want to get the attention of a publisher for your book? Blog your buns off and make yourself an attractive target for a publisher.

I don’t mean to oversimplify this, and I’m sure Oprah didn’t either. The bottom line is that you cannot always predict when or what types of opportunities will come your way. You will get results, however, if you identify what opportunities you want the most and invest your resources preparing to capitalize on them when they show up.

Quote Number 10: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

— Peter Drucker

Personal significance: If you cannot find it, make it.

If you want to be prepared for the future, decide what you want it to look like and then start taking actions that create that exact future, one step at a time. This is a lifestyle approach that does not apply solely to business.

If you are not happy in your current neighborhood, either work to make it better or move to a new one. If you are not happy with your current sales statistics, learn some new sales strategies and put them to work in your business.

It’s amazing how something as simple as a quote, read and repeated over and over again, can change your life. I encourage you to select the quotes that are most meaningful to you and feed yourself with them daily.

What are your favorite quotes, and why? Please share below so we can all be inspired and motivated to achieve more of what we were created to achieve!

Gretzky Photo via Shutterstock

More in: Motivational

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15 Successful African American Entrepreneurs on Etsy

successful African American entrepreneurs

Since its launch back in 2005, Etsy has grown into a huge ecommerce market for handmade and vintage goods. Browsing through Etsy, you can see products from a huge variety of sellers.

If you’re just getting started or thinking about joining Etsy, it can be inspiring to look through the shops of those who are finding success on the platform. Below are many successful African American entrepreneurswho are finding success selling their handmade products on Etsy.

Successful African American Entrepreneurs on Etsy

Camille Peace, Peace Images

Peace is the proprietor of Peace Images, a shop that sells handmade jewelry items (pictured above). Peace is one of many successful African American entrepreneurs on Etsy. Her business journey started how many others have started – as a hobby. She then grew it into a full-time business.

Peace told Small Business Trends, “About 9 years ago, while working in the Social Work sector, I began making myself earrings. At the time It was very hard to find things that I felt culturally represented me (ie Africas, Ankhs, etc). So I made a few pairs for myself, posted them to facebook and was encouraged by both friends and my husband to list them on etsy. My first pair sold within 48 hours and my husband gave me the best advice ever, “keep going.” So I did. I never stopped. I am now self-employed and have been for about 6 years.”

Akua Washington, Waists By Wednesday

Waists By Wednesday is a shop that sells waist beads, a tradition in West Africa. Washington sees them as an important part of her family’s heritage. And with thousands of sales on Etsy, it’s clear that many value the beads as much as she does.

Washington says, “WbW sells primarily West African Traditional Waist Beads. I was introduced to them by my step-mother during my early teenage years and have never been without beads around my waist since then. My dad is from Ghana and as I’ve gotten older I’ve grown more intrigued by that side of my heritage. I always had friends asking me where to get waist beads from and I just realized there was a void in the marketplace for real, traditional African Waist Beads. So one day I just decided to see how well a few of them would sell. Long story short…Waists by Wednesday was born.”

Shadra Strickland

Shadra Strickland successful African American entrepreneurs

Strickland was already an illustrator before getting involved with Etsy. When she would show off her work (pictured above), people would ask where they could buy prints. So she looked into Etsy and found that it provided an easy way for people to buy prints of her artwork.

She says, “The shop itself has always been a very organic thing. Due to my publishing and teaching schedules, I don’t have the luxury of planning new lines, but the personal work that I do include stems from continuous ideas about my childhood and memories. I would love to have more time to really craft a specific line or series that had a continuous look, but my life just doesn’t allow for that right now.”

Chantel Weaver, PaintingsThatPop

Weaver’s shop, PaintingsThatPop, includes a variety of different products featuring her artwork, including coasters, jewelry and even coloring books.

Weaver, another one of the many successful African American entrepreneurs on Etsy, offered the following advice for others looking to get into selling handmade items, “Remember your community. This is a time more than ever where we need to be uplifting each other breaking free from the stereotypes, and creating positive representations. Do not give up if you do not see the fruit of your labors right away. You will probably spend more money than you earn within your first year. It will be a hard and trying period and people will try to sway you in lot of different directions, stick to your goals.”

Brenda Walker, Teeny’s Sweet Soaps

Teeny’s Sweet Soaps is home to handmade soaps, bath bars and a variety of other bath and beauty products. Walker said she is grateful for the opportunities that Etsy has provided for her to reach customers around the country.

She says, “My advice to African American entrepreneurs who are interested in selling on Etsy is to jump in! My products have been purchased by people all over the country, and I am so grateful for the feedback and reviews from everyone.”

Keyshondra Pringle, SoJourn Naturals

Keyshondra Pringle successful African American entrepreneur

SoJourn Naturals (pictured above) began because Pringle saw a lack of products in the market that gave women with natural hair options for chemical-free, non-harmful hair products.

She explains, “My business started with the idea with women of color not putting harmful chemicals in their hair to change the natural state of it while in the process damaging and destroying the beautiful hair that they’re born with. I want them to be able to take care of their hair naturally with products that are meant for them and for them to embrace their beautiful curls.”

Dee Dee, Dimensional Vision

Dimensional Vision is a shop full of unique accessories. Owner Dee Dee got started selling her handmade items at local craft fairs and events. And one day happened upon Etsy by coincidience.

She explains, “I came across Etsy while surfing on the web on Craigslist actually. Someone had posted a craft event and shared that they also sold their items on Etsy. So I Googled Etsy’s website. Then did some research about Etsy. And they looked legit, and their site looked clean and bright and very eye-catching. Etsy had a lot of awesome reviews from customers and Etsy sellers. So I decided to sign up with Etsy and give them a try.”

Dana Osborne-Biggs, Urban Heirlooms

Urban Heirlooms is a shop featuring artisan leather bags and other accessories. Osborne-Biggs said that the decisions of choosing Etsy for her business was a fairly easy one.

She says, “Low overhead and the ease of starting were the biggest attractions. All I needed was a decent camera, a handmade product, and a little bit of enthusiasm and I could open up shop. At the time it was truly a niche marketplace with a community that was eager to help a newbie. Etsy was a grassroots marketplace where the one-on-one maker/buyer relationship was honored and encouraged. It was like an artist’s Utopia!”

Nandi Tahir, Three Little Birds Tees

successful African American entrepreneurs

Three Little Birds Tees is a shop full of t-shirts (pictured above) and other clothing items featuring quotes, sayings and artwork. Tahir started her business as a brick and mortar store. But when she switched over to a home based business, she discovered Etsy as an outlet.

She explains, “I had a brick & mortar store here in Philadelphia for 20 years. After closing when my husband passed away in 2012, I wanted to continue as an entrepreneur but I wanted more of a home based business. I created my line of t-shirts and discovered Etsy as an outlet to sell them.”

MiMi Dabo, Boutique Mix

Boutique Mix is a shop full of African clothing, jewelry and other fashion accessories. Dabo opened the shop back in 2008 and has been most impressed with Etsy’s resources and wide reach.

She explains, “I chose Etsy because it is a global platform. It provides a small business like mine access to consumers all over the world with just one click. It also has excellent resources for learning how to run a business, and tools for growth.”

Jocelyn Hamilton, LunarEclectic

LunarEclectic is a shop that features handmade jewelry. Hamilton says that her favorite part of selling on Etsy is the large community of other makers available on the site.

She explains, “I chose Etsy to sell my handmade jewelry because I was a buyer here, long before I ever thought of having my own shop. After doing my research, I liked the fact that Etsy helps you to sell (if you are willing to learn and apply the information given). The community here is great, everyone is so helpful! I also liked that most buyers are familiar and comfortable with Etsy as well.”

Cynthia, Prayer Notes by Cynthia

successful African American entrepreneurs

Prayer Notes by Cynthia is a popular Etsy shop that sells Christian artwork, coasters (pictured above), bookmarks and more.

Owner Cynthia says, “I’ve used a few other venues for my crafts, but Etsy has proven to be the most efficient and easy-to-use platform. My customers trust Etsy and come back to visit my shop, over and over, again. I’ve made wonderful cyber-friends through Etsy and I am grateful.”

Vallen Cordon, Fab Creations Ear Candy

Fab Creations Ear Candy is Cordon’s shop full of unique earrings. Though still a relatively new shop, Cordon has made consistent sales since joining Etsy.

She offered the following advice for other Etsy sellers, “Etsy is a wonderful selling platform, however with an estimated 1.6 million sellers, it is very easy to be another seller lost in the sauce, waiting for sellers to miraculously find you. Take the time to learn SEO and how to properly use keywords in your listings to get your shop found in searches and take the time to learn what it takes to get your shop on the first page of search results in Etsy. Do this before or immediately when opening your shop (don’t delay like I did). Learn what it takes to begin getting sales sooner than later.”

Tisha Howell, Skinfolk

Howell’s job was downsized in recession of 2008, which is why she decided to join Etsy. Her shop, Skinfolk, sells handmade skincare and similar beauty products.

She says, “Etsy was recommended by a co-worker as we were packing up our personal items to leave corporate America for good.  It was an eclectic, worldwide artisan playground at the start when I initially signed up in 2008.  I met many fellow artists and customers, that would became cheerleaders, supporters and friends throughout the years.  It was a warm welcome to independent selling.”

Angela Holbert, Getawaygirl Jewelry

successful African American entrepreneurs

Getawaygirl is a jewelry shop full of handcrafted items (pictured above). Holbert’s Etsy journey also began as a hobby.

She explains, “I enjoyed making jewelry and I began to make it in enough quantities that pretty soon my dresser was covered with pieces. New techniques were always of interest, leading to increasingly interesting, marketable pieces. Seeing this beautiful mess one day, a friend suggested (not for the first time) that I should finally start selling my pieces!”

More in: Women Entrepreneurs

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7 Reality Checks For New Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs

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But the fun and fresh look can quickly turn into dread and tears if you are not fully prepared for what life as a handmade entrepreneur is truly like. This article is designed to give you a heads up. If you are a newbie, read it carefully and take notes, and share it with other new entrepreneurs. I wrote it not to scare you, but to empower you. I want you to be ready for the real deal. With that in mind, here are seven checks for new makers and handmade entrepreneurs.

Life As A Handmade Entrepreneur

1. You Will Not be Able to Just “Make” All Day

I know that one of the reasons you started your business is to make money by continuously making the things you love to make. While you may anticipate that your life as a maker business owner will be a right-brained playground, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in order to make money, you’ll spend about a quarter of your time making things. The rest of the time will be invested in marketing, sales and leadership activities. Be prepared for this from the start.

2. You Will Need to Hire Help Before you are Ready

In line with the advice above, to ensure that you have enough time to market and sell your products and lead your business, you will need to hire help — and probably faster than you’d like to. What kind of help you hire first will depend on you. Generally, it’s best to hire people to do the things that you either don’t like doing or do not do well.

For example, if you hate fiddling with technology, your first hire should be someone to help you with technology including your website, SEO, social media, etc. Conversely, if you are a geek, but really don’t want to be making everything all the time, you’ll want to train someone to help you make your products so you can be free to focus on other things your business needs — things you enjoy doing.

3. You Will Need to Take Some Phone Calls During Family Time

You may think that you’ll be able to work during the day and never have to take a business call during the family dinner hour. Don’t hold your breath on that one. While there will certainly be some days when you can sashay out of your studio in time to prepare and enjoy an uninterrupted home-cooked dinner, most days will not be that way — especially at the start of your business. Get used to this, and more importantly, make sure your partner understands that this is a reality of entrepreneurship.

4. You Will Need to Keep Up with Technology

One thing I hear makers and handmade entrepreneurs talk about frequently is their reluctance to embrace and leverage technology. Unfortunately, this leads to a domino-like effect from which it is difficult to recover. Failing to intentionally make time in your work week to study how you can leverage technology to engage your customers automatically results in lost sales.

In order to be successful, you will need to embrace social media and certain types of automation. You will also need to learn to leverage video and audio technologies and, yes, you will need to embrace living life outside of your comfort zone where a lot of technology is concerned.

The idea of embracing technology may sound scary at first, but believe me, it is not as scary as dumping piles of cash into a business and never making enough money to even keep up with inflation.

5. You Will Need to Create New Income Streams

You will likely start your business thinking that you will be able to make whatever you make, and sell enough of it to make enough money to secure your future. That may happen to you, but it does not happen to most makers. Most makers eventually discover that, in order to make enough money to sustain the type of life they want, they will need to create additional sources of income. Do not let this idea scare you. In fact, this is where the fun can actually begin.

By the time you have been in business about five years, you should have enough help and enough systems in place that the business can run without your day in and day out involvement. That’s when you can begin to consider creating additional sources of income. From writing and selling books to speaking at conferences and events to teaching classes to leading membership programs — once you have built one successful brand, you can build another.

Look forward to this, but don’t put the cart before horse. Make sure to build one brand out before you start building another one. Eventually, you can build as many as you’d like, with all of the preceding ones supporting the ones to come.

6. You Will Need to Learn How to Write Well

Many maker’s sigh when I say this. While a product must be made well before it can be sold, the bulk of your sales success still depends on your ability to write well. Your product descriptions must be well written. You will need to write well enough to connect with your audience on social media and at your blog and/or newsletter. Brochures, direct mail pieces, Tweets, Instagram posts, thank you letters — every word that represents your brand must be carefully crafted to represent you and your customers well.

If you were not in advanced placement writing classes in school, don’t worry. There are plenty of places (online and offline) where you can begin to hone this important craft.

7. Some of Your Friends Will Turn Out Not to be so Friendly

It is a sad fact of life that some people are uncomfortable with the success of others. Unfortunately, it can be those closest to you who are most likely to try to discourage you from pursuing your entrepreneurial desires. While it is not always possible to figure out exactly why someone is not supportive of your work, it’s not hard to notice when that’s the case.

Understand that everyone will not be as excited as you are about your new venture. Share your journey with those who show that they are committed to encouraging you to grow and be successful. As an entrepreneur, you will need heaps of positive energy around you all day every day. Be discerning. Carefully choose the people you want to travel your entrepreneurial journey with you. Minimize people who are spiteful or who don’t take you seriously. Don’t get comfortable if you have not seen them yet. They’ll come. It’s just a matter of time.

I could go on from here, but I’ll stop. I realize that some of these points may be discouraging. You may think I’m trying to rain on your parade. I am not. I just want you to be ready. I want you to be prepared for the bad and the ugly, as well as for the good. There’s plenty of both, and if you use the points in this post as a guide, you’ll find that you have more good than bad and ugly.

What do you think?

What do you think, do you have what it takes to live life as a handmade entrepreneur?  If you’re a seasoned maker, what advice or “reality checks” do you give to those coming along behind you? I’d love to know your thoughts and advice in the comments below.

Reality Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

6 Super Speedy Blog Post Ideas for Time-Starved Handmade Entrepreneurs

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Of course there a a million things you could blog about if you had the time, but since you don’t, you have two options. Don’t blog at all, or blog quickly but effectively. This post offers 6 super speedy blog post ideas for handmade entrepreneurs that pack a powerful punch.

Super Speedy Blog Post Ideas For Handmade Entrepreneurs

1. Answer a Customer’s Question

This is perhaps the easiest and most overlooked way to produce a blog quickly. If one customer asks a question, many other customers probably have the exact same question. Why not please them all with a single post you can point o over and over again when customers ask the same question in the future.

General questions are best, such as how to use or purchase the type of products you make or why a person would choose your product over a similar product offered elsewhere.

Example: One of the questions a breast reconstruction patient may have is how to safely and comfortably exercise after breast reconstruction surgery. In this post, Teri Pearman of Infusion Breast Care Botanicals, who offers skin care products to sooth the skin after breast cancer treatments, answers this question. This is a great way for Teri to help the public in a way that clearly also leads them to her products.

2. Introduce a New Customer Service Feature

Don’t you think your customers deserve to know when you introduce a new feature that will help you serve them better? Of course you do, and a blog post is a great way to inform them.

In this post, Anne-Maria Faiola of Bramble Berry, tells her customers about a new packing machine that will help people get their packages faster and with less chance of damage. Whether it’s a shipping machine, a new customer service hire, or a fancy new app that helps you answer your customers’s questions more quickly, it makes a great blog post, and your customers deserve to know about it.

3. Share a Favorite Recipe

All you need to make a yummy recipe seem appealing is a person who is breathing! Everyone has to prepare food and eat it. This means that, at some points in time, everyone human on the Internet will be looking for a recipe. Why not yours?!

A recipe does not necessarily have to specifically complement your products, but if it does, all the better.

Example: Dennis and Kayla Fioravanti manage the Red Cedar Bison Farm in Tennessee, and Kayla is the resident bison-for-dinner expert. In this post, she shares how to make Strawberry Balsamic Glazed Bison Steaks. The recipe is shared on a printable recipe card so anyone can print it out and put it in a convenient place in the kitchen or easily share it with a friend.

4. Record a Video About a Product or Service

YouTube is a very popular search engine on its own. Why not make a video introducing your newest product or telling your customers about your making process? Everyone loves a behind-the-scenes look, even more when it’s a look at how you make a product they love to buy?

Example: When Christy Rose of KB Shimmer blogged abut how she made her Very Berry Vanilla Soap, she used three videos to showcase the beautiful colors and the amazing way her handmade soap came together in the soap pot.

5. Tell Your Customers How to Get the Most Out of the Products They Buy from You

Once someone buys your product, they may need your help using it properly. Why not satisfy existing customers with a blog post that tells them how to use a product they purchased from you. If you do, you may also simultaneously attract new customers who ask a similar question on a search engine.

Example: This post from Carrie and Darren Seibert of Soap Commander informs customers about the many different ways they can use their aftershave balm. Not only will customers benefit, but so will people searching the Internet for ways to maximize the aftershave balm they already have. Won’t it be great when they stumble on this post and not only get an answer o their question, but also find a new brand of aftershave balm to love?!

6. Tell the Story of a Handmade Entrepreneur or an Event in Your Town

Everyone loves a local story of a person striking out on their own in pursuit of the American dream. Use your blog to showcase a fellow entrepreneur or a feel-good, startup type event in your town.

Example: In this post, Cindy Jones of Sagescript shares about Startup Week in her hometown, and lets everyone know how she has volunteered to mentor young entrepreneurs as a part of the event. A post like this lets her customers, the local ones in particular, discover first-hand how Cindy gives back in her local community.

Rotate these ideas and you’ll never run out of blog post ideas for handmade entrepreneurs.

If you use this as a guide, you can rotate these six topics and easily have a blog post a week for the life of your business.

Be sure to use key words to attract your audience via search engines, and use a big, juicy, colorful graphic to complement the content.

Also, link to the blog post in all of your social media outlets, and make sure your newsletter subscribers know about it.

What are your super speedy blog post ideas for handmade entrepreneurs?

Typing Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Young Entrepreneurs Invent Self-Sanitizing Restroom Door Handles

self-sanitizing door handle

Door handles of public restrooms are not known for being especially clean. But that could change in the near future, thanks to an invention from two Hong Kong-based students.

Sum Ming “Simon” Wong and Kin Pong “Michael” Li, who are just 17 and 18 years old respectively, recently presented their invention at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

The self-sanitizing door handle actually uses the opening and closing of the door itself to power the disinfecting reaction. Sid Perkins wrote in Science News for Students, a publication run by the Society for Science and the Public, which also put on the event:

“The concept is simple. Every time the door is opened, the movement creates power that triggers a germ-killing reaction on the handle. In lab tests, their system killed about 99.8 percent of the germs that they spread onto lab dishes coated with their material.”

The germ killing power comes from a substance called titanium dioxide, which is also used in products like paint because of its germ killing properties. But titanium dioxide works best when it’s exposed to UV light, which can be sparse in indoor bathrooms.

So, the teens fashioned the self-sanitizing door handle itself out of a UV light encased in clear glass. And to power that light, Wong and Li fashioned a gear box that goes inside the door and converts its movement into electrical power.

There are a lot of aspects that go into the product, but the teens estimate that it should only cost about $13 to make.

The self-sanitizing door handle isn’t available for purchase or installation at this point. But the idea shows a lot of creative problem solving from some young entrepreneurs. Their invention clearly solves a problem that is pretty prominent. It uses materials that are readily available. And if their estimates are accurate, it should be pretty cost effective as well.

Time will tell if the handles really catch on. But they certainly have the potential to do so. And it’s just one more example of young people showing their creativity and unique perspective.

Image: Society for Science and the Public/Student News

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

10 Sources of SMB Loans for Veteran Entrepreneurs and How to Apply

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As small business owners, veterans play a very important role in driving the U.S. economy. Veteran-owned businesses employ more than six million workers, and generate approximately $1.2 trillion in annual receipts, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA).

What’s perhaps most interesting is that the number of veterans pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams is growing at a swift pace. To give an example, one in every 10 small businesses is veteran-owned today. Inspired by this phenomenal growth, Silicon Valley is taking a keen interest in these businesses.

If you are a veteran interested in setting up your own small business, here are some of the most popular sources of small business loans and information on how to apply.

Sources of Funding for Veteran Entrepreneurs

StreetShares

A peer-to-peer lending marketplace for small business loans, StreetShares was co-founded by Mark Rockefeller, an Air Force veteran who served in Iraq. The company has an auction-based funding model that connects entrepreneurs with investors. The StreetShares marketplace combines lowest bids into a single loan to reduce the borrower’s cost to the lowest-possible rate. The platform is open to non-veteran small business owners as well, although about 60 percent of the loans listed are for veteran-owned businesses.

How to Apply?

StreetShares has a four-step process to funding businesses. You can apply for a loan in 10 minutes online, or call the company to understand the application process. Once you complete this step, you will instantly find out if you qualify. The next step is to submit all documents for verification purposes and build a business pitch. The loan will be funded via auction on the StreetShares marketplace.

Veteran Entrepreneur Portal

The Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP) is part of the Veterans Affairs Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. The VEP connects veteran entrepreneurs to BusinessUSA and offers listings of small business loans for veterans. It also offers growth lessons, resources geared toward the veteran small business community, franchising opportunities and more.

How to Apply?

To access financing options, you need to fill out some basic information such as your location, financing needs, and the industry you operate in. Once you provide all the information, you will receive a recommendation of state and federal financing programs based on your answers.

Veterans Business Services

Veterans Business Services (VBS) connects veterans to financing and provides resources as well as knowledge to move in the right direction. This private consulting service has tie-ups with national SBA 7a Lenders — loan providers with government guarantees from the U.S. Small Business Administration — and other respected financial intermediaries to provide a range of financing options to veterans across the United States. VBS also helps veteran entrepreneurs develop a financing strategy to blend eligible and practical capital resources.

How to Apply?

You can visit the VBS site and provide information about your business interest, business plan and NAICS code to get started.

Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (MREIDL) is intended to provide for the necessary expenses that cannot be met when an essential employee has been summoned to active duty in their role as a military reservist. The purpose of these loans is not to cover lost income or lost profits. Moreover, the program offers loans at low interest rates of four percent.

How to Apply?

For loans over $50,000, you need to show collateral. Although a loan is not typically declined for the lack of collateral, the SBA requires the borrower to pledge collateral that is available. It’s also important to note that the filing period for small businesses to apply for the economic injury loan assistance program begins on the date the essential employee is ordered to active duty and ends one year after the employee is discharged.

You may apply directly to the SBA for assistance. The SBA will send an inspector to estimate the cost of your damage once you have completed and returned your loan application.

SBA Express Loan Program

SBA’s Express Loan Program provides financing of up to $350,000. One of the best things about this program is that you will receive a response to your request within just 36 hours! It is this quick turnaround time that has made the program vastly popular among veterans.

How to Apply?

To apply, you will have to provide a variety of information, including your personal background, tax returns, credit report, and bank statement among other information. For a complete description of the application process, check SBA’s SOP 50 10 5(G) (PDF).

SmartBiz

SmartBiz is a San Francisco-based marketplace for online small business loans.  SmartBiz’s website claims the company makes it easy for veterans to access funds by making the application process simpler and less time consuming — that includes application for an SBA-backed loan. It is ideal for veteran entrepreneurs interested in expanding their business with the least expensive financing.

How to Apply?

To qualify, you should have a credit score of 600 or higher and report a revenue between $50,000 and $5 million. You must also have been in business for at least two years with no bankruptcies or foreclosures in the past three years. The pre-qualification process takes just five minutes and requires you to provide basic information. Once the process is completed, it takes about seven days before the funds reach your account.

Minnesota Reservist and Veteran Business Loan Program

The Minnesota Reservist and Veteran Business Loan Program provides business loans to firms that are affected when their employees are called to active military duty. It also offers business loans to veterans who have returned from active military duty and want to set up their own business.

Both types of loans provide one-time, interest-free sums of $5,000 to $20,000. The loan terms are 54 months, with no repayment for the first 18 months and equal monthly payments over the remaining 36 months.

How to Apply?

To be eligible for the startup loans, your business should have 20 or fewer employees and have had less than $1 million in annual gross revenue in the preceding fiscal year.

Veterans who qualify under this program must have been:

• On active duty on or after September 11, 2001.
• Separated from service under honorable conditions after having been on active duty for at least 181 consecutive days or for the full period for which called to active duty (or after reason of disability incurred while on active duty).

Generally, it takes four to six weeks for the application process to be completed and funds to reach you.

Connect2Capital

Connect2Capital offers loans to veterans who own small businesses. A non-profit lender, Connect2Capital provides loans in the range of $50,000 to $4 million. A key feature of the loan by the organization is the lower down payments that start as low as 10 percent.

How to Apply?

To get started, you need to provide information about your business, your financing needs and credit score, along with other details.

Veteran Launch

Veteran Launch is an affiliate of OBDC Small Business Finance, a non-profit organization specializing in financing California veteran-owned businesses through financing, consulting and networking support. The organization offers access to micro and small business term loans with low fees and competitive interest rates. Loans in the range of $25,000 to $250,000 are available with no prepayment penalty.

How to Apply?

To apply, you can give Veteran Launch a call, or simply fill out an online form where you need to provide some basic information about your business.

Veterans Business Fund

Veterans Business Fund is aimed at helping veteran entrepreneurs expand their business with adequate financial support. Do note that at the moment, Veteran Business Fund is raising the required capital to assist businesses. Until the necessary fundraising is complete, no application will be accepted.

Once applications are accepted, Veteran Business Fund will issue non-interest bearing loans to veterans. The loans will be for a term of five years or longer.

How to Apply?

When Veteran Business Fund gets ready to accept applications, veterans will be required to first apply to a lending institution of their choice for a loan. The lender will specify the amount of equity required for the loan. After receiving the requirements from the lending institution, veterans will have to contact Veteran Business Fund. The application process is expected to capture essential information based on which a decision will be made within three weeks.

Army Uniform Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

“Conquer the Chaos” Gives Entrepreneurs Inspiration and Insight

I first read Clate Mask and Scott Martineau’s story on the InfusionSoft web site.  When I heard they had this book out, I quickly purchased a copy.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of their story:  A couple of guys start a software business.  The business has its ups and downs and in August 2002, it was mostly downs. Then they get a call from another freaked out entrepreneur that starts with the words “I have pain!  Can you help me?!”  This is where EVERYTHING changes and where the lessons for “Conquer the Chaos” are learned.

What makes “Conquer the Chaos” such a heartwarming and inspirational read is the authenticity with which Scott and Clate tell the InfusionSoft story.  They are not afraid of sharing personal moments of fear, frustration and doubt.

In the beginning of the book, they share how chaos was in control in the early days of their business business with this touching moment when Clate’s  8-year-old son asked

“Dad, why are you so mad?”

“Because a freaking creditor called me on a Sunday!” Clate snapped.

The next question was “What did he want?”

“He wanted to know why I hadn’t paid my bills.”

“Well, Dad, did you tell him it’s because you haven’t made enough sales?”

There’s another story right after this one where Scott was at the hospital with his wife and new baby but he was preoccupied closing a deal on the phone.  When his wife looked at him angrily, he simply replied “You want to be able to afford the hospital bills, right?”

Sharing these kinds of real-life stories is Clate’s and Scott’s way of showing the reader that they’ve been there.  Their story isn’t too different from ours with one possible exception:  they’ve recognized the chaos and learned to overcome it and re-direct its energy toward helping other entrepreneurs.

Who is “Conquer the Chaos” Written For?

This book is written for entrepreneurs and small business owners who have a dream of being free and being in control of their time, their life and their success.  Or it could be for the person who has an idea or a product or process that was better than anything else out there.  Or maybe you’ve been out of work for so long, that doing your own thing seems like the best way to bring money back into your household.  And if you’ve been in business for a while, and haven’t quite been hitting your goals, you, too will find this book a useful read.

The Entrepreneur’s Journey from Chaos to Freedom

The point of the book is that chaos is and will be a part of your daily life.  And more importantly, unless you conquer it – it will conquer your dream.   It is written in four sections:

  • Section I: The Quest for Freedom – This is really the “Why you should listen to us” section.  It’s where Clate and Scott lay out the bulk of their hearts and personal stories to show you that they are NOT being academic, but practical in their advice.  They give so many examples that resonate that you will find yourself unconsciously nodding your head in agreement and mumbling things like “Don’t I know it.”
  • Section II: Mindset Strategies – In this section they tell you that your head needs to be in the right place.  In fact, you need to have just as much “emotional” capital in the bank as actual cash (maybe more).  What exactly is an emotional bank account?  It’s all the emotions in the mix that allow you to CONTROL how you experience the day.  It’s having the strength to CREATE the experiences you have, rather than having the daily experiences of life drain your energy and creativity.  It’s the old “All the money in the world can’t make you happy” scenario.  You have to have enough emotional capital to see things clearly and stay optimistic.  So that when challenges come your way, your brain is in the right place to find a solution.
  • Section III: Systems Strategies: Controlling Speed – Now that your mindset is in order, it’s time to start creating systems that help you manage and create order.  Much of the chaos (and success) within our lives and our businesses comes from two sources; humans and communication.  And since customers are humans that we have to communicate with, it just makes sense to start creating a centralized system to do just that.  And this is actually what InfusionSoft software does.  I’ve heard some readers say that the back end of the book is a pitch for InfusionSoft, but I didn’t really see it that way.
  • Section IV: Find Your Freedom – This last section harkens back to the mindset theme. Now that you’ve built a system, you’re on the precipice of having more time, more money and the freedom that started you on this journey.  This last set of chapters will inspire you to focus on the higher calling behind your business.

Scott and Clate may have started out thinking they were in the software business.  And their story is a real life example of how to move BEYOND what you do toward what you and your business are here for.  That fateful call in August of 2002 launched more than a project.  It launched more than a software.  It launched Scott Martineau and Clate Mask on an entrepreneurial calling to help entrepreneurs be successful.  And (oh by the way) if you happen to use their software to help you – then it’s a win-win for everyone.

Conquer the Chaos” is a wonderful book that’s and easy and fun read.  Pick it up for yourself, friend or family member who is a budding entrepreneur or who isn’t living up to their own dream of freedom.

[“source-Business-standard”]

TAXI Offers Inspiration for Creative Entrepreneurs, Others

inspiration for creative professionals

TAXI is a daily updated news and editorial site that provides inspiration for creative professionals such as designers, creatives entrepreneurs and others. The site marks its tenth year of publishing in 2o13 and is located at DesignTaxi.com.

Its purpose is to showcase the work of creative professionals and entrepreneurs from a variety of industries. It also provides inspiration and a way to keep up with industry news and information about new tools and techniques.

TAXI features examples of product design, architecture, photography, apps, and more. You click on an item from the main page. Then you can view a brief description of the project and the people behind it. You can also see related photos or other media. Users can browse by type of post or just view the most recent items.

Anyone can submit items or tips to the site for inclusion. TAXI also has a presence on multiple social media platforms. They include Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. The site has a community of more than 400,000 followers on all these platforms together. So those who want to receive updates can subscribe to a social media channel or subscribe via email.

TAXI is part of The Global Creative Network, founded by designer Alex Goh. The Singapore-based company includes three other sites also aimed at creative professionals and entrepreneurs.

The Bazaar

inspiration for creative professionals

This is an online Marketplace where creatives can sell their work.

Launched in 2010, the site includes anything from art prints to jewelry to downloadable products. Shoppers can search by keyword or type of item and price range. Then shop owners can sell and ship their own products directly to customers.

The Creative Finder

inspiration for creative professionalsThis is  global directory of creative professionals including illustrators, photographers, and graphic designers. The Creative Finder was officially launched in 2012, but started in beta in 2009.

Users can create a profile and upload their work. Then they can browse the work of others on the site for inspiration or to find collaboration opportunities.

Imgembed

inspiration for creative professionals

Earlier this year, Goh and his team released another site for creative professionals, Imgembed.

Imgembed is aimed at those who share images online. Users can upload photos and create image galleries similar to those on other photo-sharing sites. But Imgembed gives users a way to track where their images are used online, and even a way to monetize use of their images with a premium option.

inspiration for creative professionals

In recognition of TAXI’s tenth year online, Goh teamed up with clothing company Uniqlo to create a t-shirt design (above) sold at three of its stores.

The shirt features a squiggly line trapped in a box, which Goh said represents the creative process. In a TAXI article, Goh shared a bit about his design:

“The creative process, like many phases of our lives, is rarely a straight path. Many times, you imagine yourself taking a new turn, but in reality you are actually still trapped in the box.”

Whether you think of yourself as creative or not, entrepreneurs go through much of the same process. Sites like TAXI offer a way to be inspired and to see problems in a slightly different light.

[“source-Business-standard”]

TAXI Offers Inspiration for Creative Entrepreneurs, Others

inspiration for creative professionals

TAXI is a daily updated news and editorial site that provides inspiration for creative professionals such as designers, creatives entrepreneurs and others. The site marks its tenth year of publishing in 2o13 and is located at DesignTaxi.com.

Its purpose is to showcase the work of creative professionals and entrepreneurs from a variety of industries. It also provides inspiration and a way to keep up with industry news and information about new tools and techniques.

TAXI features examples of product design, architecture, photography, apps, and more. You click on an item from the main page. Then you can view a brief description of the project and the people behind it. You can also see related photos or other media. Users can browse by type of post or just view the most recent items.

Anyone can submit items or tips to the site for inclusion. TAXI also has a presence on multiple social media platforms. They include Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. The site has a community of more than 400,000 followers on all these platforms together. So those who want to receive updates can subscribe to a social media channel or subscribe via email.

TAXI is part of The Global Creative Network, founded by designer Alex Goh. The Singapore-based company includes three other sites also aimed at creative professionals and entrepreneurs.

The Bazaar

inspiration for creative professionals

This is an online Marketplace where creatives can sell their work.

Launched in 2010, the site includes anything from art prints to jewelry to downloadable products. Shoppers can search by keyword or type of item and price range. Then shop owners can sell and ship their own products directly to customers.

The Creative Finder

inspiration for creative professionalsThis is  global directory of creative professionals including illustrators, photographers, and graphic designers. The Creative Finder was officially launched in 2012, but started in beta in 2009.

Users can create a profile and upload their work. Then they can browse the work of others on the site for inspiration or to find collaboration opportunities.

Imgembed

inspiration for creative professionals

Earlier this year, Goh and his team released another site for creative professionals, Imgembed.

Imgembed is aimed at those who share images online. Users can upload photos and create image galleries similar to those on other photo-sharing sites. But Imgembed gives users a way to track where their images are used online, and even a way to monetize use of their images with a premium option.

inspiration for creative professionals

In recognition of TAXI’s tenth year online, Goh teamed up with clothing company Uniqlo to create a t-shirt design (above) sold at three of its stores.

The shirt features a squiggly line trapped in a box, which Goh said represents the creative process. In a TAXI article, Goh shared a bit about his design:

“The creative process, like many phases of our lives, is rarely a straight path. Many times, you imagine yourself taking a new turn, but in reality you are actually still trapped in the box.”

Whether you think of yourself as creative or not, entrepreneurs go through much of the same process. Sites like TAXI offer a way to be inspired and to see problems in a slightly different light.

[“source-smallbiztrends”]