Business Basics

Harness the power of crowdfunding

Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Business Basics

  Published in The Tennessean May 4, 2015 By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville “I have a great idea but need some money and will probably not qualify for a loan. Tell me about crowdfunding.” Crowdfunding comes in four varieties. One popular type is reward-based; I’ll concentrate on that and outline the others at the end of this column. In reward-based crowdfunding you provide a perk for those who contribute to your campaign. Rewards generally escalate as support levels increase and should be consistent with your product or service offering if possible. For example, if you are raising money to produce an album, provide a free download, a CD, or a signed CD of the finished product depending on the level of investment. Other common rewards include t-shirts, subscriptions, and product samples. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are two of the leading reward-based platforms. The platform retains a percentage of the money you raise. Set a realistic financial goal for your campaign. With Kickstarter you must reach or exceed your goal to keep the money pledged, otherwise it is returned to the backers. Indiegogo has a similar all-or-nothing model or you can choose an option that allows you to keep any money raised less a significantly higher percentage retained by the...

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Successful marketing is a multipart process

Posted by on Apr 20, 2015 in Business Basics

Published in The Tennessean April 20, 2015 By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville “I thought word-of-mouth and Facebook would be sufficient to grow my business, but I was wrong. What should I do?” Word-of-mouth helps grow a business, but it’s rarely enough. Let’s look at some other marketing strategies. There are many social media alternatives beyond Facebook. Linkedin, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram are just a few. The trick is to use the best platforms for your offerings and your market. Provide interesting content in social media posts; if you treat social media as simply an advertising platform, people won’t be engaged and may even block your posts. Blog posts, stand-alone or in conjunction with social media, can help tell your story. Did you know YouTube is now the second largest search engine behind Google with over 1 billion users? Embed YouTube videos in your websites and share them in social media posts. You can create a YouTube video using your smart phone. But don’t list product features and benefits; include entertainment, real-life experiences, or some interesting information to motivate viewers to share and respond. And keep the videos short! Use your business card to promote your business. If you are a CPA, add some information about the work you...

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Before starting a business

Posted by on Apr 6, 2015 in Business Basics

  Published in The Tennessean April 6, 2015 By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville “I just lost my job and have several ideas on businesses I can start. Where should I begin?” Focus on your best idea first. Then consider the following: Passion. Do you have a true passion about the business or is this a reaction to losing your job? Just like romances that begin shortly after a break-up, you need to take a bit of time to evaluate your options. Industry knowledge. Do you have experience in the field you are pursuing? If not, get a job in the industry and learn the business before investing your time and money. Business skills. Do you have the necessary business skills? For example, you need to understand how to use financial reports. Are you aware of best practices and legal requirements for hiring and firing employees? Do you understand basic marketing principles and have the skills necessary to sell your product or service? Market. Is there a market for your product or service? Is the market willing to pay the prices necessary to be profitable? Why will your potential customers change what they are doing to buy from you? Who is your competition and what is your competitive advantage?...

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How to protect your property

Posted by on Mar 23, 2015 in Business Basics

  Published in The Tennessean March 23, 2015 By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville “I’ve been told to protect my intellectual property. What should I protect and how should I go about it?” Intellectual property includes original works, names and logos, and unique products and processes and is protected by copyrights, trademarks and patents. Here are the basics. Copyrights are the simplest of the three. A copyright protects original works of authorship. It prevents others from copying what you write, draw, photograph, etc. without your permission. You own the copyright in a work once it is created and reduced to any tangible form, but you must register a copyright to be able to enforce it. Copyrights don’t protect against such things as others writing about the same topic in their own words or photographing the same landmark. Trademarks protect a word, phrase, name, or symbol you use to identify the source of a product; a service mark provides the same protection for a service offering. Trademarks and service marks prevent others from using names and logos that would be easily confused with yours but do not prevent others offering similar goods or services under a different name. Do a search prior to coming up with your company or product...

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Don’t mix business with politics, religion

Posted by on Mar 9, 2015 in Business Basics

  Published in The Tennessean March 9, 2015 By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville “I’ve been told to avoid politics and religion in my business discussions. I own the business and have strong views, why can’t I share them?” You most certainly can promote your beliefs, but at what cost? Society has become increasingly more diverse religiously and divisive politically. Is it worth alienating a good portion of the marketplace by spouting far right or far left opinions? Is it worth a discrimination lawsuit for failing to serve a member of the community who doesn’t share your theology? I have seen business owners post information on social media about their great company and then follow up with biased political posts. Then they share cute family pictures. Next you’ll see a religious post claiming their faith tradition has all the answers and everyone else is wrong, followed with another post saying “come see us at Bill’s Florist for a special deal.” How many people do the political and religious posts offend? I venture to say half of their potential customers will be turned off by what might be considered rants. Four notes about social media: Unlike a verbal conversation, posts don’t disappear. There is no way to tell by responses...

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Franchise ownership carries risks and rewards

Posted by on Feb 23, 2015 in Business Basics

  Published in The Tennessean February 23, 2015 By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville “I want to start a business and am considering a franchise instead of an independent start-up. Is this a good idea?” Maybe. Let’s look at the plusses and minuses of opening a franchise. On the plus side, a franchise has a brand that has proven successful and can be cloned in new markets. Usually there are marketing campaigns built for the brand that you can use locally, or in some cases are already being used nationally. A franchise has been successful elsewhere and this can help you get a loan that might not be available for an independent start-up. You can show the bank real financial results from franchises in comparable markets. Regardless of your research and planning, it’s hard to be as accurate in predicting financial results for a brand new business. Although experience in the business is recommended, many franchises offer training to help you succeed. You also have a built in peer group with whom to share ideas that have worked, and those that haven’t. The product or service offered by a franchise should have a consistent level of quality; customers should know what they are getting. On the minus side, a...

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