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KillerStartups

Where Internet Entrepreneurs are the Stars

Misha Kaura: the Millennial Miuccia Prada 16 May 2019, 1:06 pm

In a world of fast fashion, slow and sustainable luxury fashion is gaining ground rapidly.

A fashion label exemplifying the values of sustainability and artisanship is Misha Kaura, a French womenswear brand at the absolute highest end of the luxury market.  Their line of exotic maximalist apparel and accessories represents both an immersion into the fairytale world of Maharanis, reflecting the science of style.

Backed by venture investment, Misha Kaura is owned by Darlinghurst Enterprises and provides both couture and prêt-à-porter apparel and accessories.  Drawing inspiration from botany, astronomy, Mughal architecture, and philosophy, allowing each hand embroidered piece to tell a story of the highest quality artisanship and timeless design.  Pieces are designed thoughtfully such that they can be passed down from generation to generation.

Above all, the Misha Kaura brand DNA is exotic savoir faire and specializes in the use of tambour embroidery, sequins, metals, bows, and traditional Indian embellishments including Zardosi needlework.  The result is season-less, timeless design that’s unabashedly feminine, modest yet alluring, and crafted to highlight the form.

The label has a bifurcated business model: old school with made to measure client sales on an exclusive platform called the Misha Kaura Club—a tightly edited group of stylish women—and new school with innovative music video-backed permanent collections.  The label only makes couture garments on a seasonal basis; all other products are produced in a season-less, timeless, and permanent manner.

The eponymous fashion label was founded in 2017 by Misha Kaura herself, who was born in the US but picked up an international flair through fashion design and embroidery studies in England, France, and India.  Dr. Kaura stands as the only top designer with a PhD in fashion—only Miuccia Prada has a PhD, and hers was in political science–and doubles as an Ivy League law student.  She recently turned down a big law summer associate position to focus on her business.

A former Miss Utah, Misha is also the first top American-born designer since Ralph Rucci to be invited to show couture at Paris Fashion Week; designers such as Altuzarra, Rodarte, and Proenza Schouler are all prêt-à-porter brands, not couture brands.  Misha anticipates becoming a full couture member at the Chambre Syndicale De La Haute Couture in Fall 2019.  On the commercial side, her hard work has paid off quickly to the tune of 189 private dress clients, making Misha Kaura the fastest growing brand in the couture business.  In fact, the company has been profitable since inception with revenues of $4.8 million in 2018. This success is owed in large part to the company’s innovative selling model of increasing product valuations season to season, which Dr. Kaura also innovated due to owning the Darlinghurst Garment Factory supply chain enabling Toyota-like just-in-time manufacturing.

In addition to hosting her own podcast, “Passion for Fashion with Misha Kaura,” Dr. Kaura and her brand have also been featured positively in Forbes Magazine, Inc. Magazine, Shopify, and more than 50 other publications.  The brand’s social media footprint is exemplified through its Instagram page, which boasts over 126,000 followers.

Looking ahead, Misha is currently working on a variety of additional promotional efforts poised to grow her brand to new heights – including releasing her ebook “The Science of Colour,” debuting her first couture show and music video drop this June, starring in a television show titled “Misha Kaura: The Label” releasing later this year on Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, and various broadcast networks, and starring in a documentary film titled “A New Couturier” releasing at the Sundance Film Festival.

Interested in learning more about the Misha Kaura movement?  We invite you to visit the brand online at www.mishakaura.com; or, you can email them directly at info@mishakaura.com.

Photos: Misha Kaura

The post Misha Kaura: the Millennial Miuccia Prada appeared first on KillerStartups.

How to Overcome Entrepreneur Burnout 16 May 2019, 7:45 am

Entrepreneurship can be a rewarding experience, but it can also require a ton of time, motivation, sacrifice, and energy. This often leads to burnouts. I’ve faced multiple burnouts as an entrepreneur and I’ve become pretty aware of the warning signs.

If you feel like you’re running on empty, worrying too much or having anxiety breakdowns, or if you just feel a lack motivation to be productive and work on what used to bring you excitement and joy, you are probably experiencing burnout.

As an entrepreneur, what makes it worse is trying to force yourself to push through regardless of how you feel. Deadlines still need to be met and you still need to eat but ignoring burnout will only make it worse. Here are a few things you can do to overcome entrepreneur burnout and get your spark back.

Identify the Source

First, you must get to the root of the cause of your burnout. Ask yourself what’s making you feel stressed, anxious, or tired when it comes to your work life.

Maybe you took on a project that has left you less than inspired or maybe you took on too much. It’s important to narrow down some sources that could be causing you distress so you can eliminate or reduce them.

Start Saying No

Are you a ‘yes’ person? Saying yes to everything can easily lead to burnout. When you say yes, it creates a new priority and everything can’t be prioritized when it comes to your business.

It’s important to go back to your core goals and values and only say yes to the projects and opportunities that align with that.

This may mean cutting ties with others or handing off assignments and tasks to your team or other colleagues. That’s okay. As you lighten, your burden, you will start to gain more clarity and overcome the burnout.

Set Realistic Expectations

Saying no more will help you begin to set realistic expectations and establish boundaries. If you’ve reached a point of burnout, that means you’re feeling fatigued and overworked.

As a result, you need to set more realistic expectations for yourself and your business. Break up larger goals, start block scheduling your days and don’t be afraid to take the necessary time to actually meet deadlines without added stress and pressure.

Take Time Off

Most people who are burnt out just need a break. Some entrepreneurs find it difficult to take time off because they can’t just cash in vacation hours like traditional employees can.

This just means you have to plan for breaks and create your own PTO package. Start setting a portion of your profit aside for a vacation or just a weekend relaxing at home.

Being your own boss means you have the freedom to control when you work and play so take advantage of it. When you come back to work, you’ll feel refueled.

Create Time For Your Passion Project

You may be experiencing burnout if you’re no longer doing work that you’re passionate about. Business owners get to choose what work they do but they also have to focus on profit. You may find yourself chasing after work that brings in good money but is mentally demanding and doesn’t really make you feel fulfilled.

This is the place I found myself in last year. I went to a summit and spoke with a mentor who recommended I find an easy and low-effort way to make money with my business to cover my basic expenses while I use the rest of my time to work on a passion project.

A passion project may not bring in any money at first, but it can help you break through burnout. When you start getting involved with work you love and enjoy again, you’ll have more motivation, energy, and drive to get up and work each day.

Have you ever experienced entrepreneur burnout? What led to the burnout and how did you overcome it?


Originally published here, by Choncé Maddox.

The post How to Overcome Entrepreneur Burnout appeared first on KillerStartups.

4 Reasons Why You Should Start a Business When You’re Young 14 May 2019, 7:45 am

If you’ve ever wanted to start a business, you’re certainly not alone. Whether you think of the next best thing in tech or an easier way to deliver pizzas, the opportunities are truly endless. What separates the “wantrepreneurs” from the entrepreneurs is action. A great idea is worthless without execution.

So when’s the best time to start a business? After years of experience working for a corporation? Once you’ve settled with your family? Truthfully, there’s no golden rule for when you should embark on your journey. However, there are tons of advantages to starting a business early on in life.

Here are four reasons why you should start your business when you’re young.

Fail fast, fail often…fail early.

This quote is used a lot in motivational speaking. We’re told time and time again we need to fail in order to succeed. Like every motivational quote, you need to take it with a grain of salt. Yes, it’s true that you will probably fail many times before you have a big win, however you need to learn how to fail well.

When your business goes under, it sucks. You’ll be discouraged and you’ll have trouble motivating yourself for the next gig. This is why it’s important to fail when you’re young. I launched my first business fresh out of high school. After about a year, we decided to cut our losses.

I was discouraged for months. All that time spent down on myself was time wasted. That said, it’s a good thing I was only 18 and full of energy at the time. Failing fast and failing often is important, but failing early is key. After your first big failure, the next few will be easy.

There’s typically much less at stake.

When we’re young, we generally have less responsibilities. You probably don’t have a family, no mortgage to pay, and if you’re lucky you’re still on your parents’ medical insurance.

Starting a business puts a lot at risk. Aside from your finances, you’re also going to commit 110% of your time. Giving up a year when you’re splitting a room with your co-founder versus a year when you’re supporting a family is a huge difference.

Long-term assets.

If done right, a business can be one of the best long-term assets you can build. Put in the time now, to make a passive income for the rest of your life.

If you’re a millennial like me, you need to get started building assets as early as possible. If you simply trade your time for money, by earning a salary, you just won’t get ahead in life. While it’s tough, building long-term assets is always worth it. That said, you need to start as early as possible.

You’ll get a taste of the ‘real world’.

I’ve always been a hands on learner. I was never able to grasp concepts in the classroom. I just needed to get out and do it.  Classrooms and corporate positions are often very controlled environments. While you can definitely learn a lot, you’ll miss out on some key lessons.

Starting a business is the perfect way to get your ‘real world’ education. There’s no teacher or manager telling you what needs to be done. You need to come up with your own ideas, marketing plans, fundraising goals, hire employees, and much more. When you make a mistake, there won’t be anyone to cover for you. These lessons are invaluable, and can only be learned from experience.

To be honest, it’s never too late to start a business. However, there is an optimal time – and it’s in your youth. So get out there and get to work!


Originally published here, by .

The post 4 Reasons Why You Should Start a Business When You’re Young appeared first on KillerStartups.

The People’s Smart Home Provider 10 May 2019, 11:57 am

The machines are catching up.  Thanks to the amazing Internet of Things, some inanimate objects now have a level of intelligence that rivals human beings.

The IoT is placing a whole new world of possibilities at our disposal – connecting everyday objects through an interactive network and giving them previously unimaginable functionality.  But like so many other breakthrough technologies, it remains out of reach for most people at its current point.

This is especially true when it comes to smart home automation.  Being able to control and manage much of what your home has to offer from anywhere in the world is a distinct possibility – but the lofty price tag makes this unrealistic for a large portion of the population.  Don’t forget, there was a time not too long ago when a new PC cost thousands of dollars.

The reality, however, is that many smart home systems are actually affordable – most people just expect them to be out of their price range.  This keeps them away from ever learning what they’re all about in the first place and understanding how much they could help their lives.

The time has come to open the world’s eyes with SYS Smart Home Technology: a new solutions provider looking to bring their innovative home automation systems to the masses.  The company is doing so through their Community Partnership Program, which gets people educated, excited, and involved with the smart home action while simultaneously funding local churches.

The community-based initiative allows churches to sign up and offer congregation members free smart home equipment when they sign up for SYS’ smart home security monitoring.  For each member who does so, SYS will then donate 20% of the sale right back to the ministry.

What’s more, SYS packages start at just $2.50 per day.  Thousands of people who were left out in the cold previously can therefore start powering their homes towards the new age of the IoT right from their mobile devices.  From unlocking the door for a delivery man to switching off lights remotely, the SYS system lets users capitalize on all smart home tech has to offer while also helping save money on utilities.

In addition to convenience, their systems also deliver added safety – including the ability to check on kids while you’re away and identify burglars in the event of a crime.  SYS offers three different packages to customers, with the following elements included in their top level Gold package:

  • 1 smart automation control panel
  • 3 door and window sensors
  • 1 motion sensor
  • 1 smart lock
  • 1 key fob
  • 1 media player with 3 months of Gynesys TV

Going forward, SYS plans to continue adding features and functionality to its current smart home offerings.  On the marketing end, they are prepared to begin aggressively going after ministries in multiple markets to promote the Community Partnership Program. This is a great program for simultaneously helping communities gain affordable access to smart home technology and for funding lifechanging churches and ministries throughout the country.

For more information on SYS Smart Home Technology and to view a detailed explainer video, visit them online at http://mychurch.myfreeautomation.com/.  You can also reach the team via email at akugel@fullscalemedia.com.

 

Photos: Security Sales & Integration; Alarm.com

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10 Productivity Tools Every Business Owner Needs 9 May 2019, 7:45 am

Being a business owner demands a diversity of different responsibilities. You’ll wear an HR hat when hiring and managing employees. Then, you’ll don a financial hat when projecting revenue. After that, you’ll put on other hats for working with clients, generating new ideas, and navigating legal issues. But, there’s one important quality that underlies all these important roles: your productivity and the productivity tools you choose to use.

Productivity Tools are the Real Key to Success

Most of us start the day with a cup of coffee or spend time “getting in the zone” to be more productive. With today’s technology, there are countless digital productivity tools you can use to enhance your productivity as well. And, if you want to stay competitive and give your business the best chance for success, it’s in your best interest to adopt them:

1. Email Analytics

Here’s the high-level view: EmailAnalytics is like Google Analytics, but for Gmail. In seconds, EmailAnalytics pulls all the data from your Gmail account and breaks down how you’ve been using it. Hence, you realize who sends you the most emails, when you send and receive the most emails, and even how you’re writing and reading them. This is all to help you improve your email habits for the better. Since you probably spend 20 hours a week or more just on emailing, the benefits here can’t be understated.

2. IFTTT

IFTTT, short for “if this, then that,” is a free platform designed to help business owners (and everyday consumers) connect their apps and devices together with more integrated, automatic functionality. Even if you’re not tech-savvy, the platform allows you to write short scripts that automatically trigger specific actions under certain circumstances. It has the potential to automate virtually any repetitive or predictable task you engage in. This could save you hours of work overall.

3. Slack

Team communication can make or break your productivity. This is why Slack endeavors to make it simpler and more straightforward for everyone. Slack helps you organize your employees into groups all within one simple platform. Therefore, you can chat at any time and still keep your conversation threads in order.

4. G Suite

G Suite is one of the most ubiquitous sets of tools for business owners everywhere—and for good reason. Its cloud-based software includes collaboration tools for things like document editing and sharing. There are also tools for emailing, calendar coordination, and even file storage. If you’re running a startup with a limited budget, you can get access to most of these tools for free. Even the upgraded package is only $5 per user per month.

5. Evernote

If you take notes frequently, Evernote is a must-have app. Available for every device and operating system, Evernote allows you to take notes on the fly, whether you type, speak, or handwrite them. It keeps everything organized for you. The productivity tool can even turn some of your notes into task lists that improve efficiency.

6. Trello

Trello is one of the top names in project management thanks to its innovative system of boards, cards, and notes. These tools keep you and your team more organized than ever before. With it, you can ensure that no task ever gets lost in the shuffle. Plus, your team remains active and focused on the most important projects.

7. Buffer

If you use social media for your business, you need an app like Buffer. It automates some of your social media tasks and makes the rest of them easier to manage. With its app, you can schedule posts in advance and track how your content performs. Additionally, you can manage all your social media accounts in one central location.

8. Asana

At its core, Asana is a task management app. It allows you to create high-level projects and ground-level task lists within those projects. Then, you can assign those tasks to individuals and track how they’re completed. It’s ideal for both collaboration and long-term analytics. Therefore, you can spot productivity hiccups and take action before they become a problem.

9. GoCo

If you’re stuck dealing with HR responsibilities frequently, there’s no better productivity tool to have in your arsenal than GoCo. It is designed to make HR management easier. You get cloud access to your employee documents, time-off balances, salary data, benefits data, and performance reviews. You can even integrate it with your payroll system to make life even easier.

10. Upwork

Even the most productive and hardworking entrepreneurs can’t do everything on their own. Eventually, you’ll need to hire someone part-time or for a short-term contract to help you fill the gap. That’s where Upwork comes in. It’s a simple, easy-to-use and easy-to-navigate platform that will help you connect with the perfect freelancer for practically any job. Accordingly, it can save you time, money, or both.

Productivity Gains Mean Profitability Boost

These productivity tools are designed to help you get more done throughout the day. You can work more efficiently and ultimately help your business become more profitable. Since they range from free to inexpensive, they’re well worth your time and money.


Originally published here, by .

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Brace Yourselves: A Better Orthosis Solution has Arrived 8 May 2019, 7:13 pm

As a society, we’ve never had more of a craving for physical exercise and fitness.

 

But with this desire for more active living comes unwanted aches and pains – especially when it comes to knees.  The limitation of knee issues is an unfortunate reality for millions of individuals. Knee replacement surgery is an option, but the exorbitant cost and highly invasive nature keeps most people away.

 

As an alternative, many opt to wear knee braces due to their affordable cost and lack of surgical requirement.  And while they do provide some relief, current solutions are are stiff, rigid, don’t use natural rubber, and don’t form-fit to the wearer’s body – thus limiting range of motion.  This can put a huge damper on desires for a more active lifestyle.

 

It’s time to stop being held back by status quo orthosis products.  Introducing SuperSkin Orthosis: the very first non-metal, hydrophobic knee brace of its kind.  SuperSkin’s uni-body nature provides dynamic flexible support that protects and empowers the wearer to live life to its fullest.

The brace’s proprietary design is centered on a single piece of material that stores force as it flexes – form-fitting to the user’s body and allowing range of motion that similar solutions can’t duplicate.  It was uncovered through design processes that haven’t been utilized in the industry before – including 3D printing and laser scanning of legs.

 

This result?  SuperSkin helps decelerate distal joint forces throughout a natural range of motion rather than bracing and restricting movement – placing no limitations on who can benefit from its use.  Superstar athletes and weekend warriors alike can now seamlessly return from performance deficits and injury.

 

Additional features the SuperSkin provides include:

 

  • It’s sweat-proof
  • It’s antibacterial and antimicrobial
  • It’s made from natural rubber (100% silicone)

The innovation was conceptualized by Co-Founder Tennyson Wilson back in 2016.  Since then, the company has been in stealth mode – working to secure trademark and patent rights while simultaneously beta testing & researching with the San Francisco States Kinesiology department.

 

Their early May 2019 launch of a Kickstarter campaign signified the end of stealth mode – and returns have been great already.  SuperSkin had already raised over $4,000 just a few days in, on top of drawing significant customer interest through their Facebook page.

 

Kickstarter funds will be used to make improvements after a year of beta testing – including decreasing wall thickness, adding alternating friction bumps, and building in a cross strap for additional support.  Looking further ahead, the company plans to release elbow braces, a companion app, and other product line extensions.

 

Want to learn more about SuperSkin Orthosis, and perhaps contribute to their Kickstarter campaign?  Feel free to visit it here, or check out their website at www.superskinorthosis.com.  The Co-Founder can also be reached directly at tennyson@superskinorthosis.com.

 

Photos: SuperSkin Orthosis

The post Brace Yourselves: A Better Orthosis Solution has Arrived appeared first on KillerStartups.

Wellness Boom Creates Fertile Ground For Natural Health Startups 8 May 2019, 8:00 am

Over the last few years, health and wellness have been top concerns and new products are everywhere, vying for public attention – and while it’s a competitive marketplace, this is good news for startups. Both investors and buyers are interested in exploring new opportunities for enhancing their health and sales are booming.

Selling A Trend

One of the primary reasons that wellness startups are thriving right now is that trendy topics get a lot of media coverage and coverage fuels sales. What’s more, these brands are masters of new media; wellness startups know how to work with PR firms and traditional publications as well as how to push products via social media influencers. Those influencers play a key role in getting new products into mainstream homes through their appealing Instagram posts, blog reviews, and other promotional strategies. Partnerships between wellness startups and influencers help to sell new products in a pervasive yet personal way.

Trend Spotters

It takes more than just media coverage and influencer support for new wellness startups to succeed. They also need to know the trends inside and out. In 2019, these wellness trends include, for example, a big emphasis on circadian rhythms as a component of overall wellness, a renewed interest in the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda, and increased availability of natural wellness products at mainstream pharmacies and grocery stores. This push for increased availability is also a big motivator for new brands trying to break into the market. A larger group of buyers means there’s room for more brands to compete and succeed.

Breakout Brands

Whether you’re an investor, a distributor, or just a shopper, health and wellness startups are excited to make a case for their new products, and many of these products channel traditional medicine and folk practices. For example, projections by Grand View Research say the medicinal mushroom market is expected to be worth $50 billion within the next six years as brands promote the idea of “functional foods” and the anti-inflammatory nature of mushrooms.

Brands like Host Defense are leveraging the medicinal nature of mushrooms with their US-grown supplements, each targeted to a specific function and drawing on the unique compounds of mushrooms such as cordyceps, chaga, and lion’s mane. The fact that these products are American made is of particular importance since, despite the growing popularity of medicinal mushrooms, their roots in Eastern Asia have many consumers worried about the safety of the supply chain.

Another traditional practice startups are promoting with a modern twist is the notion of color therapy and how colors relate to the chakras. So how do you rebrand chakras for 2019? With an app, of course. Pranadigma emits imperceptible flashes of light based on users’ specific health needs, leaving a trace of light that boosts the targeted chakras. It can also support specific healing and wellness goals such as quitting smoking, improved sleep, and pain relief.

Modern Branding

Finally, it’s important to consider how modern branding is changing how startups sell wellness products, a phenomenon that can be traced back to Goop and similar modern wellness brands. Goop’s vitamins, for example, have catchy names like Nerd Alert, Knock Me Out, and Ball In The Air that describe their intended effects, and other startups are following this lead.

At acupuncture-forward startup WTHN, which counts the founders of SoulCycle and Sweetgreen among its investors, supplements based on Chinese medicine are rebranded with millennial-ready names like Oops I Did It Again, a recovery formula, and Dream On, a supplement meant for sleep and relaxation. These products supplement emphasis on acupuncture, which aims to make the treatment more accessible and affordable, but they also fit neatly within the new wellness startup culture.

It’s an exciting time to be part of the health and wellness world with new innovations popping up constantly – but how large can the market get? With falling prices and increased availability in mainstream stores, as well as the option to deliver wellness via an app, it seems like the sky is the limit for today’s startups.

The post Wellness Boom Creates Fertile Ground For Natural Health Startups appeared first on KillerStartups.

Automated Financial Modeling for Your Business 7 May 2019, 9:09 pm

For small businesses, cutting corners where you can is an unfortunate reality.

 

One common area where this fact rears its ugly head is in financial management.  The F500s and VC-backed companies of the world are afforded the luxury of Big Four accounting, enterprise software, and other top-level resources – resulting in optimized financial analyses and strategic development.  The rest of us, however, aren’t so lucky.

 

Smaller players must instead resort to the use of Quickbooks or even Excel spreadsheets.  But while these solutions might offer familiarity, they fall short where it really matters – especially in terms of actionable analysis and automation.

 

The time has come to empower all business leaders to run their companies the same way the giants of the world do – regardless of financial restrictions.  Introducing RMI Insights: a machine learning-based visual financial modeling platform that allows businesses to seamlessly automate monthly financial planning and analysis functions.

Democratization of corporate strategy and development – even for the smallest of businesses – has finally arrived.  RMI Insights allows executives to instantly assess actual performance against target performance with little more than a simple PDF or CSV upload of historical financial statements.  Waive goodbye to Excel!

 

Powered by machine learning algorithms, the platform will then do the rest.  Users may visually adjust the key drivers for their targets – including COGS, working capital, and revenue growth – without needing any specific expertise or training.  This results in vastly improved decision making going forward for business leaders.

 

Users can automate RMI-driven financial processes even further by connecting the platform to their company’s ERP (i.e. Quickbooks).  Additional features offered include:

 

  • Ability to invite fellow executives & investors to collaborate with the platform
  • Results presented visually and downloadable as PDF or Excel files
  • KPI dashboard & monthly budgeting tools allow for continuous actual vs. target tracking
  • Valuations of a business can be presented in real time
  • Real-time benchmarking against similar public companies
  • Deal Assessor tool available for investment managers

Wall Street veteran Varun Balan founded RMI back in 2014, and has led the company to 212% YoY growth ever since.  Fast forward to today and the platform currently serves over 20 happy enterprise customers, and a strong growth pipeline as evidenced by continued 10%+ monthly sales increases.

 

On the heels of raising capital from a prominent venture partner at a large DC-based firm, RMI Insights is looking forward to continuing to help empower and grow businesses everywhere.  The platform will officially launch to the mass market on June 17, 2019. – and the sky’s the limit from there.

 

Special discounts are available to customers that sign-up prior to this launch date.  To take advantage or for more information, simply visit www.rmiinsights.com.  The Founder can also be reached directly at varun@rmiinsights.com.

 

Photos: RMI Insights

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Build Things People Want with Scoops 7 May 2019, 1:56 pm

Just because it sounds awesome to you, doesn’t mean it’ll resonate with the masses.

 

If you listen closely enough, chances are you’ll hear dozens of new business ideas throughout the course of a week.  Some budding entrepreneurs even act swiftly on these ideas and begin crafting their ventures – but almost all will never see the light of day.  Why? Because they’re building things that nobody wants.

 

This is the #1 reason startups fail – as the time and money spent developing an offering that ends up being unappealing virtually always sinks the ship.  Founders often get blinded by excitement and simply don’t spend enough time asking themselves whether or not their solution solves a real problem.

 

It’s just super important to have a dialogue with prospective customers and understand their concerns, hesitations, and frustrations upfront – uncovering why they would or would not be a user.  That said, finding a large enough sample size of these people and truly understanding their thoughts is another challenge altogether – often leaving the task on the back burner for good.

 

Product development is a massive investment – so why keep risking it?  It’s time to validate your ideas before building anything with Scoops: a new question & answer platform that uses real people to test concepts, find early adopters, and find out honest opinions on usage potential.

Scoops allows users to conduct research via an independent respondent group.  For just $12, you can ask 100 people a question and then follow-up with additional actions that delve deeper into your idea.  And unlike survey panels, you can have back-and-forth conversations with as many people as you want.

 

The platform operates through a visually-appealing app that’s easy for both sides of the coin to navigate.  Simply ask any question regarding your idea, get the answers you need, and review those answers in the form of multiple choice, respondent comments, or short answers.

 

From there, you’ll have a variety of follow-up options – including asking another question if you’re surprised by the answers, sending a link if many people like the idea, or even conducting an interview if you think you’ve found a prospective customer.  Additional features and benefits that Scoops provides include:

 

  • Very stringent requirements for sourcing respondents
  • Regular scrambling & repeating of questions to defeat answer bias
  • Respondents are balanced out with different ages, occupations, genders, etc.
  • Respondents receive donations to a charity on their behalf (which the company matches), and can also earn gift cards
  • Easy-to-use live chat available for customer service

Scoops was conceptualized by Christopher Lee in 2018, who has wasted no time in building it into the promising position it sits in today.  The platform has earned significant positive feedback from startup leaders, including Savor CEO Nick Tchir.

 

If you’d like more information or want to try Scoops for yourself, visit them online at http://scoops.io/ they’re giving first-time users 1 free question & follow-up (a $7 value)!  You can also reach them directly via email at chris@scoops.io.

 

Photos: Scoops

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The Aspiring Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business Financing 7 May 2019, 7:45 am

Americans are more debt-ridden than ever, with around 80 percent of Americans currently carrying debt. While some of this is tied up in mortgages or medical debt, much of it also stems from student loans and credit cards. In fact, the average Gen Xer carries more than $8,000 in credit card debt, while the average Millennial is saddled with nearly $5,000.

And this debt doesn’t just follow us around when we’re alive. Seventy-three percent of Americans died with debt in 2016, and the average debt load was near $62,000. That’s no small chunk of change, and it means people are hindered from doing everything they want to do while they’re alive.

Debt can specifically be a big hindrance to entrepreneurs looking to start or expand businesses. Qualifying for a traditional bank loan to fund a small business is notoriously difficult; in fact, only 8 percent of startups use bank loans for financing. People looking to launch or grow their ventures instead need to educate themselves on their options.

What’s the Big Deal?

Student loan debt is on the rise, which influences graduates’ job choices and results in fewer would-be entrepreneurs taking the leap. With the average debt level hovering just above $30,000, it’s hard for young entrepreneurs to consider taking on more debt.

Worse, a big student debt load may actually make it harder for them to qualify for funding — Millennials with student debt are having a harder time reaching financial milestones than earlier generations because of their diminished credit scores. While the national average credit score is 667, Millennials’ average sits at 625. And the magic line distinguishing bad credit from good is 629, meaning these young entrepreneurs are viewed by traditional lending institutions as high-risk bets with bad credit.

While old-school lenders may not be motivated to invest in these fledgling entrepreneurs, the economy needs them: They create jobs, bring opportunities to small and rural towns, and develop innovations that propel industries forward. Because of this, other financing options have emerged to provide funding for businesses with the potential to make a real impact.

Assessing the Options

While big bank loans were once viewed as the standard avenue for funding, the digital banking landscape has created new options and made existing options more accessible. The first step, however, is for entrepreneurs to determine how much money they need and why.

Business owners borrow for all sorts of reasons, from operating expenses to marketing campaigns. Knowing how much these efforts will cost — and how much they’ll take from existing projects and workflows — is important for ensuring the debt load is appropriate. “It’s smart to make sure your business doesn’t take on too much debt,” says Daniel Wesley, the founder of Creditloan.com, a site dedicated to educating on personal finance and money management. “The other side of the problem is when a business doesn’t borrow enough.”

Wesley has seen entrepreneurs both max out their possible loan amounts and borrow very tight amounts. Each has a downside. Those who’ve maxed out may have trouble getting loans in the future, and those who didn’t borrow enough can have cash flow problems that affect the rest of the business. He says business owners should budget for up to an additional 15 percent of the loan cost to be on the safe side.

The second step is for business owners to determine which type of financing is best for them.

  • Credit cards: Those with personal credit card debt may cringe, but business credit cards are a good fit for short-term financing. Many have high interest rates, but they also frequently come with 0 percent interest for the initial six- or 12-month period. If a business owner needs cash in that time period but can pay it back before interest kicks in, it’s essentially an interest-free loan. Add in rewards programs, including cash back, and some entrepreneurs can make money off the financing they needed temporarily.
  • Lines of credit: Lines of credit are revolving, meaning entrepreneurs can borrow what they need, pay it off, and see their line of credit replenished to be used again. Interest is only charged on the amount borrowed, not on the amount approved. These lines of credit are typically unsecured, which prevents business owners from having to put up collateral, such as product inventory or real estate.
  • Working capital loans: These loans are intended to help a small business get through a cash crunch, lasting as short as a month or as long as a year. This is a good option for a startup that needs to finance a new product line prior to release or fulfill a large order prior to payment. Such loans are intended solely for operational use, not for acquiring assets or making investments.
  • Small business loans: These can take many forms, from online loans to Small Business Administration loans. Entrepreneurs need to consider the loan terms, repayment schedule, and collateral needed to secure these types of loans. Online loans, for example, can get small business owners same-day approval, while SBA loans have lower interest rates than most other options.
  • Invoice factoring: For those wanting to avoid debt altogether, invoice factoring — selling a business’s invoices at a discounted rate to a factoring company — may be an option. In this scenario, the business receives a lump sum payment from the factoring company, which is paid by customers when they fork over the money they owe. Invoice factoring doesn’t require collateral and can allow companies to keep long-term customers on longer payment periods.

Entrepreneurs have to assess their options to determine which type of financing is best for their situation. If their cash flow is strong but they need financing to pay for a big equipment investment, a small business loan may be the best option. A business that doesn’t want to put up any collateral may opt for a line of credit instead.

As these options show, however, bad credit, poor past budgeting, and debt don’t have to prevent entrepreneurs from building their businesses. With an open mind, a strong business plan, and market demand, business financing is always a possibility — it just may take a different form than many expect.


Originally published here, by .

The post The Aspiring Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business Financing appeared first on KillerStartups.

4 Useful Tips for The First Time Entrepreneur 2 May 2019, 7:45 am

Entrepreneurship can’t really be taught. If you want to learn how to become an entrepreneur you need to just get out and do it. You need to go through the trials and tribulations of running a startup. That experience is invaluable. That all said, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t learn as much as you can from those who’ve paved the way for you. This knowledge won’t guarantee your success but it may help you avoid certain pitfalls along the way.

Here are four useful tips for the first time entrepreneur:

Stick to What You Know

When starting a business you should always stick to what you know. Running a company is hard enough. Running a company in an industry you’re unfamiliar with is typically a big mistake. The main reason individuals start businesses in fields that aren’t knowledgeable in is because they see a larger opportunity.

Again, there are situations where this may make sense. For example, if your co-founder has experience in that space it may be worth the risk. However most of the time you should avoid going down that path.

Stick to What You Love

In addition to working in an industry you’re an expert in you should also work in one that you’re genuinely passionate about. In a startup you’ll go months even years before making any money. Those months when you’re eating Top Ramen struggling to pay your bills are the toughest. This is when that inner passion comes into play. That passion is what gets you through those tough months and eventually on to building a wildly successful company.

Again, it’s common to want to forego passion for bigger opportunities elsewhere. I can promise you that your happiness is more important than a larger paycheck.

Stay Focused

Many first time entrepreneurs are anxious to jump at any opportunity that comes their way. Throughout my life i’ve been told to never put all my eggs in one basket. In addition to that i’ve also been told to stick to one thing and do it well rather than do 10 things poorly. So which one’s correct? The answer is both.

In business you should never rely on one source or one opportunity. However, if you’re running a company it should be your main focus. If you don’t give your company your full attention it’ll hurt your productivity and effectiveness for that company. If you want to have another project to work on as a back-up for your original concept then it may say something about your business. It’s always okay to close down shop if you think it’s time.

Know When to “Take It Behind The Barn”

As I mentioned above it’s always okay to close down shop if you think your company has run it’s course. In fact, this is one of the most valuable tips I can give a first time entrepreneur. Your business is like your baby. You want to see it grow and flourish into a magnificent entity. This makes it difficult to truly evaluate your business from an outside perspective.

If things aren’t going well and they’ve been that way for a while it’s time to take a giant step back. At some point you need to decide if it’s worth continuing with a business. Your time is your most valuable asset at the end of the day. If your business is taking up too much time with nothing in return it may be time to shut it down. I’ve done this many times, and it sucks. In the end of the day though, I know I made the right choice.

Running a startup is tough. That said you’re going to need all the help you can get. If you’re a first time entrepreneur make sure you take note of the four tips listed above.


Originally published here, by .

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3 Painless Ways to Plan Out Your Content Calendar 30 Apr 2019, 7:45 am

Organization and planning are key when it comes to putting out quality content for your business. A content calendar helps save you time and energy when it comes to brainstorming topics and themes and can help you stay on track.

Whether you’re launching products, delivering value via your blog, or sending emails to your list, here are a few helpful tips for planning out your 2018 content calendar quickly and with ease.

Create a Theme For Each Month

This is common for bloggers to do. If you are trying to keep your content fresh and relevant, you’ll find it helpful to come with monthly themes you can base your content on. Then, all you need to do is brainstorm topics that fit within that category.

For example, lots of people tend to be interested in goal-setting and starting fresh in January. You may even have a launch for your business that could be an entire theme for a particular month.

Be sure to set goals for your business for the year first along with how much content you want to produce each month before you decide on your monthly content theme.

Determine Which Issues Your Customers Need Addressed

Are there unique challenges in your industry that customers face? If you’re not sure, ask them. Reach out to your email list with a survey. Join Facebook groups on your niche and just observe the conversations and questions asked there.

Use your findings to create a list of potential topics, promotions, and lead magnets you can create. Sometimes, it’s easy to run dry on content ideas, but by doing this ahead of time, you can stock up on plenty of topics to use when the time is right.

Repurpose Old Content

Another easy way to plan out your content calendar for 2018 is to repurpose a lot of older content that people have. found helpful. Do you have popular blog posts, e-books, case studies etc.? If there are evergreen, you can always update and repurpose them in the new year.

For example, you may want to take some popular written content and turn it into a webinar, infographic, masterclass, video, or course.

You can also update older blog posts that have been popular and create new lead magnets to grow your email list.

Keep It Limited and Create Funnels

Another idea for easy content planning is to keep your free and open content simple, helpful, and limited and create opt-ins to get people on your email list to receive exclusive content from you.

This is where you’ll create an evergreen email funnel to establish authority, build trust, and sell your products or services. Once you create your email funnel series, you can automate it for new sign-ups and won’t have to add much content in the future. This is a great way to set yourself up for 2018 and the years to come.

Have you planned out your content calendar for 2018 yet? Do you use any of these strategies?


Originally published here, by Choncé Maddox.

The post 3 Painless Ways to Plan Out Your Content Calendar appeared first on KillerStartups.

Here’s Why Every Entrepreneur Should Exercise Daily 25 Apr 2019, 7:45 am

We all know that getting daily exercise promotes a healthier lifestyle. What people usually overlook is what exercise can do to your mind. When you get out and move your body produces endorphins. When released, these endorphins can do wonders for your body and mind. In my opinion, way more effective than a cup of coffee.

In addition to those endorphins here are a few other reasons why every entrepreneur should exercise daily.

You’ll Have More Energy

The misconception is that after a long workout your body and mind will be tired therefore you’ll have less energy. If you run a marathon then yes you’ll be out of commission for the rest of the day. However, after an hour long workout this is far from the case. As long as you don’t overdo your workout you’ll actually have increased energy levels when you’re finished.

Studies show even light exercise like a 20 minute walk can reduce fatigue by up to 65 percent. That said every bit counts and it can have a huge impact on your energy levelsthroughout the day.

You’ll Become More Disciplined

If you’re able to commit and stick to a workout routine you will develop into a more disciplined person all round. Very few entrepreneurs are able to stick with a workout routine for longer than a few weeks. As work picks up and things get busier it’s easy to cut your workout out of your day because it’s a low priority.

If you prioritize and make time for your workout it shows discipline. You’ll get better at time management and organizing your schedule around getting consistent exercise. These skills will help you balance your work life with your social and person life as well.

You’ll Be Happier

Now let’s get back to the endorphins for a bit. As we discussed earlier in this article, these chemicals (the good ones) promote feelings of well-being and reward when produced. This will have a profound effect on your overall happiness throughout the rest of the workday.

If you don’t believe me try and go on a run or hit the weights for a while next time you’re feeling upset or down. You can channel that negative energy into getting a better workout and I can guarantee you’ll finish feeling on top of the world!

You’ll Have More Networking Opportunities

One way to get the most out of your daily workouts is to exercise with a group. If you exercise with others it gives you a great networking opportunity outside of your regular work life. It gives you the opportunity to connect with others on a daily basis which in turn builds strong lasting relationships.

One idea is to join a recreational or competitive sports team. Some leagues are even offered specifically for startups or companies in the area. This way you’re guaranteed a great workout along with meeting tons of new people.

You’ll Get a Better Night’s Sleep

Last but not least getting daily exercise is an integral factor in ensuring a proper night’s rest. This is especially true if you choose to workout first thing in the morning.

Studies show that those who exercise at 7:00 a.m. in the morning spend about 70% more time in the deepest stages of sleep. If you create a routine out of this your body will be awake and ready when the alarm rings and ready to shut off when you hit the pillow at night.

Final Thoughts

As an entrepreneur you need to be in tip top shape. Not just your body either, this includes your mind and spirit. Exercise is an integral part of keeping all three of those in shape. That said, it’s time to get out and get active!


Originally published here, by Renzo Costarella.

The post Here’s Why Every Entrepreneur Should Exercise Daily appeared first on KillerStartups.

Meaningful Motivation: What Actually Drives Employee Engagement 23 Apr 2019, 7:45 am

Managing employees is tricky. While our workers tell us money is the way to maximize productivity, results tell a different story. What do we believe?

Recent experiments run by Dan Ariely, author of the book Payoff, showed that money is a poor motivator for getting the best work out of people. In fact, large bonuses for key executives produced deteriorating efficiency.

Based on these findings, if not money, what incentives produce the output employees?

Here are 3 rewards other than cash that we can give to our workforce to boost productivity. All these privileges have been shown to produce more engagement in companies than dollar based incentives. Start using these motivation boosters in your business today, and watch your company culture and happiness increase substantially.

  1. Seeing a satisfied customer

One of the worst parts about pivoting in a startup is the amount of previous work you must throw away. Imagine working 12 hours a day, sacrificing family time, and working weekends to help build a product you believe in. Then after months or years of working your tail off, the company you work for scratches the project. No one will use what you built, and now you have nothing to show for it. Your motivation is gone.

Unfortunately, this scenario is seen in companies of all sizes. While many times an instance like this is unavoidable, the way decision makers handle a scenario like this can make all the difference.

Seeing a customer have a great experience with something that you helped create is a wonderful feeling. It allows you to see first-hand that what you are working on has a greater purpose, and you can see with your own eyes the positive effect you have caused.

To take advantage of this, if your company is going through a pivot, find ways to save as much of the work that you did as possible. Tie it into your new product, or dig into the processes that worked well before you pivoted and incorporate them into your new plan.

Throughout the building process, bring customers in and have them test the product in front of your team. When your employees see customers light up, they will light up as well.

Once the product is built, share positive feedback from your customers directly with your staff.

When I receive positive comments about the content my team produces, I share it directly with my team. It means more to them to see the customer say good job than it does for me to.

People want to work for companies that are improving the lives of others. The best way to show your team they are working for a purpose is to allow them to see happy customers with their own eyes.

  1. Meaningful motivation builds trust

Sadly, some employees view trust as more of a privilege than a right. For these organizations, motivation is nonexistent.

While having faith in your team can increase employee output exponentially, not having confidence in them can lead to your company lacking vision and any kind of connection with the organization.

While trust can be expressed in a variety of ways, one of the best is enabling a sense of autonomy to your workers. For instance, in my company, we allow everyone to work from home. There is no office, and we don’t have a set start time. We update each other on our daily schedule and all have tasks we are responsible for that day, but there is no micromanaging.

When I was deciding to build a company this way, I thought about the kind of company culture I’d want to work for. I didn’t want a company who treated me like a child. I wanted to be an equal in an organization, not a prisoner. As I’ve built an autonomous culture in my own company, the rewards have been substantial. Happier employees, increased productivity, and less burn out are just a few of the perks.

The more trust you put in people the better results you’ll get. If you don’t have assurance in your team, then you’re hiring the wrong people.

  1. Congratulating Employees For A Job Well Done

When an employee is doing an amazing job, the first thought in many employer’s minds is to up their salary. The issue with this thought process is that the worker quickly becomes used to the increased pay anytime they do something well. So when they do something exemplary again, they want a bigger bonus. Then an even bigger bonus, and on and on.

Try going back down the ladder, and your worker will be furious. Once pay has become the dictator of worth, smaller bonuses are seen as a bad thing not a great motivator.

Instead, positive reinforcement is shown to be just as effective as increased pay but without diminishing returns. So, let’s say if instead of paying you a fat bonus for a project you knocked out of the park, I tell you how great of a job you did and invite you out for a drink. To most people, this will be an equal motivator as a bonus. But, when you do amazing things in the future, you won’t expect more money, you’ll instead just expect me to give you more praise.

Appreciating employees is easy. There are no monetary resources that you need to pour in. All you need is sincerity and time. Over the long term, this is a much better way to motivate your workforce, and a better way to build your company culture.


Originally published here, by John Rampton.

The post Meaningful Motivation: What Actually Drives Employee Engagement appeared first on KillerStartups.

Reftab: Simple and Free Asset Management Software 22 Apr 2019, 7:35 am

When it comes to your most prized possessions, why leave anything up to chance?

 

Sure, mistakes and hiccups are inevitable during the daily course of business.  But as a company leader, if you’re not doing everything you can to avoid the big ones, well, that’s on you.

 

This is especially the case when it comes to asset management.  From inventory, to equipment, to licenses, to valuable IP, your assets are the “gold” at the foundation of your business – but the status-quo practice of using spreadsheets isn’t getting the job done.

 

Using spreadsheets in this arena greatly increases the chance for human error – and the results of mismanaged assets can be debilitating for a business.  Not to mention, it’s extremely time-consuming and can create added confusion amongst key employees; instead of deciding how to best use these assets, you’re scrambling around trying to organize them.

 

It’s time to waive goodbye to spreadsheet hassles with Reftab: a simple SaaS platform that helps businesses keep track of their asset inventory.  The free solution makes management easy, in addition to handling all development & hosting activities – so you can get back to what really matters.

Reftab was designed to be rapidly onboarded by businesses to have them trashing spreadsheets in no time.  Its mobile asset scanning interface allows users to check-in/check-out with a quick QR code or barcode scan from any device.  As soon as your asset appears you can immediately see who owns it and when it’s due for return – plus, you can create custom asset tag labels for free.

 

All security concerns are also immediately alleviated, as Reftab utilizes SAML SSO, two-factor authentication, and many other top security features.  For new users, it’s as simple as categorizing your assets, printing & attaching QRs/barcodes to them, and downloading our apps to use the platform. This simplicity makes Reftab ideal for a wide range of organization types – including design & ad agencies, IT professionals, and schools.

 

Items can also be reserved from a custom-branded user portal with drag & drop calendars.  Other features the platforms offers include:

 

  • Running automatic reports and setting customized email alerts based on multiple metrics
  • Track multiple asset categories, including software licenses, bulk items, and much more
  • Sync users from an Active Directory automatically instead of manually creating records
  • Track asset loans according to location

Reftab lets businesses manage 50 assets free forever with unlimited inventory and software tracking.  This user acquisition-friendly approach has allowed them to compile an impressive customer list during its first 5 years, including Cornell University, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, and Adder.

 

The company was co-founded by Michael Caslowitz, an NYC-based IT professional serving with top design, advertising/PR, and fashion companies.  Under his watch, Reftab hopes to continue growing its national user base and start helping even larger enterprise customers.

 

If you would like more information about how Reftab is changing the game in asset management, please visit them online at https://www.reftab.com.  Mr. Caslowitz can also be reached via email at mike@reftab.com.

 

Photos: Reftab

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8 Marketing Skills That Can Build a Great Career 18 Apr 2019, 7:45 am

Marketing has become one of the most complicated industries in the modern world. With so many different methods, channels, and goals it’s important to become familiar with them all if you want to stay competitive. So when it comes to marketing skills which are the most important to acquire?

This really depends on which marketing channels will best fit your business. Social media marketing, for example, is much more valuable to a company like GoPro since they push out tons of picture and video content. That all said, it’s also still important to acquire as many skills as possible. This way you’ll be able to provide marketing value in more than one channel.

Here are eight marketing skills that can help you build a great career

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization is a strategy used to rank your business higher on search engines for certain keywords. This focuses on your organic rank which from a user perspective, appears as if the results were produced naturally.

2. Email Marketing

Email marketing is used by just about every company out there. If you’re proficient with platforms like Sendgrid or Mailchimp you can help your company build robust and effective email marketing campaigns.

3. Facebook Ads

Social media marketing is a broad category within itself. Facebook advertising is a tried a true marketing method. The platform allows you to set realistic marketing campaigns based on your budget. In addition they offer tons of metrics and reporting features to help you stay on track. Try to learn the ins and outs of the platform like building custom audiences, pixels, placements, etc.

4. Influencer Marketing

Barrett Wissman works with influencers to help position startups in the right way in-front of the right influencers. He suggests “People buy things from people they trust. Identifying key influencers in your industry is a great way to market your products and services. Influencer marketing really comes down to finding the right contact.”

Wissman continues “Always shoot for quality over quantity. If an Instagram account has millions of followers but only gets a couple thousand likes and comments per picture it means they have low engagement. In addition – shoutouts are usually priced off followings. That said you should always aim for engaging influencers over ones with solely high followings.”

5. Snapchat Advertising

Snapchat will continue to grow its advertising services for brands in 2018. A big advantage of this is that it’s relatively new. If you’re able to learn the ropes of Snapchat ads you’ll be ahead of the curve and highly coveted by big brands.

6. Video Content Advertising

A picture says a thousand words. So how much does a video say? The ability to create and publish video content is a highly effective marketing strategy. With so many mediums to consume video content i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, you can hit multiple channels with a single piece of content.

7. Building Case Studies

Identifying your most successful customers are going after similar companies in the industry is one of the most effective sales tactics. In order to quantify their success it’s a great strategy to build a case study. Case studies serve as powerful marketing materials for your sales team and company as a whole.

8. Google Analytics

The numbers don’t lie. Google analytics is a great way to measure the effectiveness of each marketing channel and strategy. Whether it’s customer engagement or conversions each of these goals can be tracked using Google Analytics.

If you become a master at measuring and reporting your key performance indicators(KPIs) you’ll be a great asset to any marketing team.

Final Thoughts

Like anything in life practice makes perfect. As a marketer you shouldn’t expect to be an expert in every channel. However the more marketing skills you have the more effective you will be managing a marketing team. That said you should get out and learn the eight marketing skills listed above.


Originally published here, by Renzo Costarella.

The post 8 Marketing Skills That Can Build a Great Career appeared first on KillerStartups.

Find the Perfect Business Name, Instantly 17 Apr 2019, 8:42 am

It’s one of the most important things you’ll ever do as a business owner – yet many only give it a few minutes’ worth of thought.

 

Deciding on a business name is a hugely important task that has long-term ramifications on your brand’s identity.  An unappealing or misunderstood moniker can deliver the wrong message to your target audience (either consciously or subconsciously), keeping many potential customers away right from the start.  This is why doing actual research is so important.

 

Sometimes, however, you’ll commit days of detailed analysis to choosing your company’s name, land on the perfect one, and boom: you discover it’s already taken in your state.  In addition to this, there are a number of other usage factors (trademarks, domains, etc.) that people often fail to look into, but should steer you away from certain names – in order to avoid sunk costs and other issues down the road.

 

The time has come to stop wasting your time on misguided research, and to start building better businesses.  Introducing Formal Founder: a business name availability search tool that provides the entire scope of business name search, completely free of charge.

Most states simply offer publicly-available government registrars to check name availability; but Formal Founder combines everything under one umbrella.  The platform helps entrepreneurs find available business names, trademarks, domains, social media handles, and more nationwide – and does so instantly with a single query.

 

Behind the scenes, they actively monitor the USPTO and different business registrars to provide accurate, up-to-date information.  Taking this national approach is a huge help to those looking to do business in (or eventually expand into) other states.

In addition to searching nationally, users can also search by specific state if they so choose.  Here are the primary categories of results they can expect on Formal Founder:

 

  • Government registrars – All state departments are checked for existing business names and state IP assets that may exist
  • Trademark & Patent records – Not just the USPTO, but similar offices in over 110 other nations
  • Social media networks – All major social platforms are scoured for your name’s page availability
  • Domain registrars – Assistance with finding available domain names that match your business

 

Formal Founder was just launched earlier in 2019 by Founder Michael Arciola, but has already compiled an impressive 250 million+ (and growing) associated records.  Going forward, the company hopes to continue increasing its national user base and eventually initiate an actionable revenue model.

 

Got an idea for a great business name that you’re curious about?  Use the platform yourself by visiting https://www.formalfounder.com/.  You can also reach the Founder directly via email at mra33@live.com.

Photos: Formal Founder

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Motivating From Afar: Helping Your Virtual Team Stay Energized 16 Apr 2019, 7:45 am

In today’s global and distributed business economy, virtual teams are becoming the norm. In fact, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely in 2016. And as more and more companies begin to embrace this idea, expect that number to increase significantly.

While having a remote team has numerous advantages, the biggest hurdle to overcome is keeping this remote team motivated and energized. It’s not like you have the option to pop-in their office or conduct team-building exercises.

Thankfully, motivating from afar and helping your virtual team stay energized is possible. Here are a few tips that I’ve used over the years:

Create a blueprint.

“A healthy, functional team, whether working together in an office or remotely, not only has shared goals and objectives, but they also have clearly defined individual roles,” writes Shannon Durio over at OneSpace.

“Strategy drives successful performance, and when you are managing virtual teams, a clear plan of attack is even more important. Establish expectations up front to avoid inefficiency.”

“For example, while flexibility is a perk of working remotely, it may prove beneficial to decide (as a team) certain hours of the day when everyone is expected to be available for discussion and collaboration. It also may be helpful to talk through timelines for deliverables so the team understands all of the moving parts and how missed deadlines can bottleneck a project.”

After the strategy and benchmarks have been determined, keep them in one central location. “Although your team may not be co-located, the road map should always be easily accessible to all,” says Durio.

Make communication a priority.

Workplace communication is extremely important. That’s because it allows your company to remain productive and operate effectively. Of course, communication can be a challenge when working with a team from afar.

The good news is that you can still make communication a priority by doing the following:

  • Create opportunities for team members. Since your team isn’t running into each other at the office, you need to create this virtually. You can do this by using online chat rooms like Slack, video conferencing from Google Hangouts, or project management software like Basecamp.
  • Always keep a chat room open. Once you’ve found your preferred communication method, keep a business chat room open. This way your team can pop-in whenever they’re online to discuss ideas or ask for advice. You can also create a chat room that’s dedicated to non-business discussions.
  • Choose the right communication style. This can change depending on your needs. Email works just fine for most communication, but for urgency, chat programs are preferred. Phone calls or video chats should be saved for meetings or when discussing more serious issues.
  • Collaborate on documents and spreadsheets. I use Google Drive since it allows me to create and share documents with my team. Once it’s in their hands, they can edit the document or spreadsheet. It’s a simple, yet effective, way in building a community.
  • Utilize screen sharing tools. Sometimes you can’t explain what you need in a text. That’s when tools like Join.me come into play. You can use it to show your team exactly what you’re doing — and vice versa.

Use gamification.

Gamification is applying game playing techniques to non-game environments. For example, there’s a startup called EvaluAgent that uses points and rewards to make boring tasks in call centers more interesting.

When you have team-based goals and competitions, you’re creating a sense of inclusion. In return, this strengthens collaboration and cooperation. As an added perk, gamification can also help skill-building, engagement, and productivity

Don’t hoard information.

Think about the time you couldn’t make a friend’s party because you had prior obligations. It wasn’t that big of a deal until you heard how much fun everyone had.

Now translate that fear of missing out in the workplace. Since you and your team aren’t in the same location, there will be times when information will slip through the cracks. The problem is if this because constant, your team will have hard time trusting you.

It’s easy to understand why. They’ll believe that you’re not being transparent by keeping information to yourself.

To prevent this from happening create a shared file site (Google Docs, Basecamp, Dropbox, etc.). This is where any and all relevant information will be stored. This way when your team needs this information they can easily access it on their own.

Have clear and detailed deliverables.

Hopefully you know that you just can’t tell somebody to do something and expect that be an effective way to manage. It’s pretty vague, right?

At the same time, you can’t be involved with every detail because you’re a control freak. Micromanaging, then, isn’t the way to go either.

Instead, provide detailed descriptions of the tasks. I’ve found sharing examples of the expected outcome also goes a long way. However, you also want to give your team the freedom to execute it their way.

Develop accountability.

“When you manage a virtual team, you need to make sure that everyone’s time is accounted for,” suggests Miranda Marquit for Due.

“Now, this isn’t about tracking every hour someone works or trying to force people to work eight-hour days. It’s about true productivity.” Productivity isn’t about hours worked, either. “It’s about what you accomplish with those hours.”

Furthermore, “Accountability measures aren’t about making members of your remote team clock in and out. It’s about using tools that measure their progress in essential areas. This includes making sure they get their projects done, and still leaving time for them to communicate with others, and do the housekeeping things (like email) that also come with the territory.”

Miranda’s suggested tools are:

  • Jell. This a to-do list that your team uses to update other of their planned tasks for the day.
  • 15five. This allows your team to set weekly or monthly goals that they evaluate themselves.

“The idea is to make sure each employee has ownership of his or her schedule. You don’t need to track hours and insist on a set schedule if you have accountability measures built in,” adds Miranda.

Shared learning experiences.

This could be attending an online course or webinar together or starting a company-wide book club. There aren’t just great team-building exercises, it’s also a way to motivate your team since you’re encouraging them to strengthen their skills.

To fortify the bond of your time, encourage them to discuss the webinar, for example, afterwards. This could be through a conference call or instant messaging. The idea is for everyone to share their key takeaways.

Overlap work hours.

This can get tricky since you’re dealing with time zones. But, it can be beneficial to spend around three hours a day where a majority of the time is online at the same time. It’s another simple way to build comradery. It’s also the quickest way to handle any problems.

Create a virtual happy hour or coffee break.

Teams need to bond with each other outside of their work roles. Of course, when you’re working with a virtual team, that’s not always possible. After all, your team is probably scattered across the country — if not the world.

One way to get around this is by creating a virtual happy hour or coffee break. This is simply designating a time when your team connects via chat, conference call, or media. During this time the team discusses whatever they like while sipping on their favorite beverage.

It may sound a bit hokey, but it’s a great chance for you time to bond and unwind.

Offer rewards and incentivizes.

Rewards and incentives are popular strategies for motivating employees who’ve gone above and beyond. Of course, they work when addressing an underlying need.

For example, if one of your team members has expressed an interest developing their skill you could send them to a workshop. If another team member states that their laptop has been buggy, go ahead and send them a new or a gift card to Best Buy.

Provide acknowledgment and recognition.

According to David Sturt, executive vice president at HR consulting firm O.C. Tanner Co., recognizing your team is the easiest thing for you to do as a boss.

In fact, in a survey conducted by his company, “Seven out of 10 employees who report they’ve received some form of appreciation from their supervisors say they’re happy with their jobs.” Without any recognition, only 39 percent say they’re satisfied.

“The same study found that a new leader can foster an immediate boost in employee job satisfaction — by 31 percentage points — just by recognizing those who have never received any appreciation from their superiors,” adds Sturt.

If you want to provide recognition, there are some tried and true methods. You could write a handwritten thank-you note, give a shout-out in a newsletter or social media post, or provide a “years of service” award.

Another effective method that works particularly with virtual teams is starting each meeting by having each member share two specific acknleledgemnts. One will be for themselves, while the other will be for someone else.

Conduct a virtual poll.

Most virtual meeting software comes equipped with a polling feature. If not, you can use tools like Wiggio to ask your team questions to better understand their attitudes and preferences. For example, you could ask their preferred communication method or best time to meet every week.

The cool thing about polls is that they don’t have to be strictly work-related. You could ask what your team is doing for a holiday-weekend or who they think will win the Super Bowl.

Once the poll is over, don’ forget to display the results of the poll. It’s a simple way for them to see the similarities and differences within the group.


Originally published here, by John Rampton.

The post Motivating From Afar: Helping Your Virtual Team Stay Energized appeared first on KillerStartups.

Making Higher Education More Accessible & Affordable 16 Apr 2019, 7:14 am

There’s little debating the value of education – and the incredibly important role that institutions of higher learning serve in our country.

However, there’s another key thing that’s not up for debate: college is really expensive.  The six-figure price tag is often too high to justify a commitment to a 4-year degree – especially with the constant presence of work, home life, and other potential distractions.

The majority of those who do pursue collegiate degrees are thus forced to take on student loans; and in today’s America, this has created debt of epic proportions.  Collectively totaling $1.34 trillion, US student loan debt is larger than both auto and credit card debt and places a crushing burden on young learners – which translates into issues that linger into adulthood.

Well, it’s about time higher education stopped being so unapproachable.  Introducing OnlineDegree.com: a modern alternative to junior college that addresses inherent issues with accessibility and affordability to keep students on the right path.  The web-based platform allows students to take online courses, instantly activate scholarships, and save up to 25-30% on tuition – all for free.

Founder Grant Aldrich said it best: “We’re on a mission to solve the student debt crisis and make college affordable for everyone.”  The company is setting out on this bold path with an alternative approach to what’s common in the educational world – one that includes sponsorships, ads, a tutoring marketplace, and more – while not sacrificing world-class educational quality.

Here’s how it works: a hopeful collegian starts off by finding potential school matches through accredited partners.  Then, they set off on their educational path – taking the site’s free courses to receive units toward a degree while activating discounts along the way.  Whether you’re trying to buy your dream home or pursue that dream job, anyone can now take the critical first step towards full-time education at a university without burden.

Users can take all they classes the want, choosing from over a dozen current offerings like Introduction to Microeconomics, Organisms & Ecosystems, Introduction to Culinary Skills, and more.  Other features and benefits of the OnlineDegree.com platform include:

  • An information center that teaches about certain career paths and how to get there
  • The ability to research US colleges and universities by state
  • All course textbooks are free through the Open Educational Resource (OER) movement
  • Takes less than one minute to enroll on the site

The OnlineDegree.com team has made quite a bit of noise since July 2018 – including earning recommendation by the NCCRS, whose recommendations are considered by over 1,400 accredited US colleges & universities.  They’ve also secured partnerships with 3 of the 10 largest universities in the country, and have been featured in Forbes, Inside Higher Ed and other outlets.

The platform’s user base is also growing rapidly, with 2,000 new students enrolling every month.  Going forward, the company plans to continue spreading the word to accelerate this total even more, while adding more course offerings to the curriculum.

Looking for more information about OnlineDegree.com?  Check them out for yourself and browse course offerings by visiting https://www.onlinedegree.com/. Also, check their scholarships page by visiting https://www.onlinedegree.com/scholarships/

Photos: OnlineDegree.com

The post Making Higher Education More Accessible & Affordable appeared first on KillerStartups.

Student Debt Isn’t Just An Employee Problem — It’s Also An Employer Problem 10 Apr 2019, 8:00 am

For decades, the tradition has been to get into a good college and earn a degree to kick-start your career. And, for most, this strategy has worked.

The only problem is that the majority of those who complete college leave with something more than a degree: a significant amount of debt. While there are many avenues for accessing the funding needed to attend college, there’s often no substantive strategy offered for paying that debt off in a timely manner. And that can be financially crippling.

As more students enter college, with only a limited number selected for scholarships and grants, the student debt load in this country continues to grow. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported in its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit for the fourth quarter of 2018 that outstanding student loan debt increased to $1.46 trillion, which is $15 billion more than the previous quarter. It also reported that student loan debt rose by $79 billion in 2018.

The student debt load isn’t just impacting the individual students who enter the workforce, hoping they can find a job that enables them to make those monthly payments. I’s also slowing economic growth. A January 2019 Federal Reserve paper noted that young adults report their student loan debt is the reason they’re unable to buy a home. The same report also cited other research concluding that 20 percent of the decline in homeownership among young adults relates to student loan debt that’s been rising since 2005.

Besides potentially blocking homeownership, it prevents young adults from starting to build the personal wealth they could use to contribute to the economy in terms of buying power. It also stifles their ability to save money for other large purchases and retirement — and the less money they put into the economy, the more businesses suffer as well.

Despite these gloom-and-doom stats, fintech startups are addressing this problem with viable solutions and giving both employees and employers a shot at a brighter future.

Employer Contributions Ease Student Debt

In looking for a unique solution, fintech startups are reaching out to employers with a way to provide a benefit that new hires are sure to appreciate. FutureFuel.io offers its Student Debt FinHealth platform to small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as Fortune 500 customers. Partners in the platform include life insurance, HR and benefits, and credit union companies, such as Colonial Life, Student Choice Credit Union, and Ultimate Software, which are extending FutureFuel’s solution to more than 10 million users.

Similarly, Gradifi is intent on turning student debt payoff into an employee benefit that can attract and retain talent while helping them lower their stress levels over debt and focus on their performance. In addition to the ability for employers to directly contribute to student loan payments, an employee can choose to apply unused vacation days and bonuses to their student loan balance. The company also offers student loan refinancing programs to further reduce the financial pressure.

Proactive Approaches to Reducing Student Loan Balances

Fintech startups understand how overwhelming it feels to address student loan debt. That’s why companies like Student Loan Hero take a strategic approach that involves education to improve financial literacy while delivering a personalized strategy for each student’s loan balance.

This includes recommendations on how to lower payments, information on where to find refinance options, and insights into how to seek loan forgiveness. It also provides customized calculations to show students how quickly they can pay off their loans and offers a payment reminder feature.

Other fintech startups have focused on an online portal or a marketplace model for their student loan solutions. For example, LendKey is a student loan marketplace platform that connects young adults with student debt to local banks and credit unions for some of the most competitive refinancing loans available for education debt. LendEDU provides another marketplace to make it easy to shop for a refinance option for student loans.

Credible is another example of an online comparison platform for student loan rates, fees, and refinancing options. These fintech startups have branched out into other types of loan and refinance options, including home improvement loans, mortgages, and credit cards.

Stopping Student Debt Before it Starts

Additionally, some of these lending marketplaces have decided to take it a step further by locating scholarships, financial aid, and better student loan options with lower rates and terms.

Another startup combined the power of crowdfunding with the need to stop student debt before it grows larger. WeFinance provides a way for others to invest in a student’s dream of attending college. Each student who uses the crowdfunding platform can create a campaign and tell his or her story.

Then, investors can decide if they want to invest in that student’s education partially or fully. Once a person reaches his or her target funding goal through one (or many) lenders, the funding campaign closes. Students receive the funds after signing a simple contract. Those who invest can make a small return on their investment through loan interest associated with the funding.

Before these fintech companies receive an A+ for their efforts, however, there’s more work to do to tackle the country’s enormous student debt load. There’s plenty of room in the student loan solution marketplace for more fintech startups looking to ease financial pressure for new generations of talent. That talent, after all, is necessary to make companies successful, as well as to fuel sustainable economic growth. The American Dream may be harder to achieve, but these fintech businesses are working to keep it alive.

The post Student Debt Isn’t Just An Employee Problem — It’s Also An Employer Problem appeared first on KillerStartups.

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