Mark Cuban’s Advice To Entrepreneurs – Risk, Energy, and Funding

According to online dictionaries, an entrepreneur is “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money” or “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”

Well, I get a check for both of those. My past venture into the fashion industry was fraught with risk and cost me plenty. Now, I have little to show for it, save for a closet full of the most amazing handbags EVER CREATED.

I’m normally a risk-averse person, but somehow, when I’m on a quest to find the formula for success in some endeavor, I throw tons at it – money, energy, time – hoping to find the magical components. The problem is, when you invest in something you really don’t understand, you come up empty more often than not. Knowledge is power, sometimes more so than money, and that’s what struck me with this video from Mark Cuban.

The big takeaways?

Seeking funding for a new business venture is failure. It’s an admission that you can’t hack it on your own, can’t find success with the resources you already have, and need to sell-out in order to plunge forth. The question is, how successful will you really be when you are on the hook for millions of dollars to others who believed enough in your idea that you probably could have rocketed on your own first, albeit a little slower??

I never thought of it that way…

My latest venture is challenging, to say the least. And while I’ve researched the concept itself, I’ve thought many times about how I’ll pitch the idea to investors, how I can get into an accelerator, how I can get the attention of venture capitalists…all so I can command funding and leverage expertise from those who have already found success.

But after watching this video, I realize my mindset needs some fine-tuning. Funding is not necessarily the answer. Preparation is the missing element in my formula. It’s where I fell short with my first business. Not taking enough time to learn about the industry before jumping in, spreading myself and my resources too thin to be even slightly effective, not doing enough research in the form of focus groups prior to designing my products. It was a totally ad hoc, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, throw-lots-of-crap-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks process, with no tried-and-tested repeatable elements. I had no blueprint, no measurable metrics, and no plans for future execution. So, what did I do? Hired a new, more expensive PR firm (which did squat, btw), designed even more products without customer input, spent more money than I could afford…only to land flat on my face with no answers and lots of anguish.

I never acquired the knowledge, though I did amass mountains (now they’re more like hills) of debt as a result. I could have mitigated the risk with a deep understanding of the business landscape, including potential pitfalls and competition elements. But not me! I’m an instant gratification whore, way too impulsive and impatient to waste time on LEARNING, of all things.

To my own peril. I’ve raised many a glass to that toast, regrettably…

So, Mark. Thanks for the advice. Knowledge is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. The more ammo you have, the more prepared you are for battle. And yes, it IS a battle. But winnable if your head is in the right place.

What Does Success Look Like???

Let’s face it – the unknown is daunting.  Even extensive planning can’t always prepare you for challenges you may face in your entrepreneurial endeavors – whether you’re a startup CEO, a handbag designer or an aspiring indie author. Sometimes you just need to trust in yourself and be confident in your abilities. Obstacles may seem insurmountable at first glance but if you are dedicated to your efforts and you do the proper research, you WILL work through them.

You can’t crush true entrepreneurial spirit. If you have it, it’s only a matter of time before you find your niche. Each “failed” attempt has to be viewed as a lesson learned. The real failure comes about when you don’t take anything away from the experience, when you don’t apply any of your newfound knowledge to your next endeavor.

My advice is simple. Embrace the unfamiliar and power through. You’ll never know the full extent of your capabilities if you don’t navigate outside your comfort zone. We can’t always be the best at everything but we should always strive to be. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Sure, you may accumulate a mound of debt in the process (something your husband won’t ever let you forget) but you will have taken control of your future.

Clear strategy concept as a straight road going over confused paths for achieving success in the future as a symbol of business vision and planning to solve the maze.

Be passionate! If you aren’t, find a new goal. You’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur. It takes too much time and effort to launch a new business and if you don’t love what you’re doing, you’ll never get it off the ground. If you’re not willing to work harder than you’ve ever worked before, preserve your sanity and come up with a new game plan.

Take a risk. You’ll never have all the answers or the insight you need to feel comfortable in EVERY situation.  But that’s okay, because you have faith, drive and ideas to propel you toward your goal.  Sometimes, that’s all you need to achieve success.

Believe in yourself and what you can do. SEE yourself creating, developing, designing, writing, and selling. The powers of the subconscious mind are astounding. Envisioning success is just more positive reinforcement you can apply to your effort. Never let negative thoughts permeate your mind – they will only hamper your efforts. See yourself hitting #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, see a Hollywood A-lister clutching one of your evening bags as she graces the red carpet at the Oscars, see your gadget in the hand of Mark Zuckerberg as he sings its praises to the press. See it, believe it, and make it a reality.

Don’t be afraid to fail.  That only really happens when you give up on your dreams. Outcomes that don’t match your expectations aren’t an indication of defeat. Think of them as lessons learned, pearls of wisdom to draw upon at a later time, things that need to be tweaked as you progress toward meeting your goals.

Try new things. Be creative. Think outside the box. Do something nobody has thought of before. Find the whitespace and clutter it up with your ideas. Don’t try to create demand; figure out what people need and give it to them. Why waste precious resources building something that nobody wants?

Life is all about taking chances. If you play it safe ALL the time, you’ll never uncover your true potential and untapped talents.

LEAP. Nothing worth having ever comes easily. Even if you crash-land, you can still say you tried.

And finally, never give up… on your dreams or on yourself.

Business woman celebrates successful deal at office. Business People

So You Wanna Be A Blogger?

Blogging is a great way to connect with a target audience on a somewhat personal level on one condition… you actually BLOG. It sounds great in theory – start a blog, write about a cool topic, get a bunch of readers to follow you, and BOOM! All of a sudden you’ve graduated to Perez Hilton status, with 14,500,000 estimated monthly users. Who wouldn’t want THAT????

But you need compelling content that people crave. It doesn’t happen overnight and it definitely won’t happen unless you do a few key things right up front.

Your first step is to figure out your topic and blog name. It can be your name or something that is related to the type of content you want to write about. When I created my blog, I knew I wanted to write about innovation, entrepreneurship and startups. So I agonized for DAYS and finally came up with The Idea Mama. It’s catchy, right??? =)

Once you have a name, you’re ready to roll! So here it is… my top 10 list for starting a new blog! These steps come way before your fingers hover over the keyboard, itching to type that first entry. There’s a lot of prep that goes into the setup. Don’t rush the process. Take your time, think long and hard about your goals with the blog. These tips will help you get started.

Group of BLOG related 3D words. Part of a series.

  1. Buy the domain. You can’t have a website without a domain name. It’s your home address… on the web. Go to http://www.godaddy.com and find out if it’s available. If it is, GRAB IT! If you want to test the waters, buy it for one year instead of three.
  2. Select a blogging platform. I use WordPress and I like it. I’m not wild about TypePad. I’ve used that in the past and found it to be extremely frustrating. One of my other sites, Author Navigation, was built with Weebly. They have a free trial available. Weekly is very intuitive. You can drag and drop components onto your page according to the theme you select. Easy to use and very reasonably priced.
  3. Get a logo for your website. Fiverr is THE place to go for a cost-effective graphic. It’s one of my favorite places on the web. It’s a community of freelancers who offer gigs for graphic design, online marketing, advertising, music and audio, writing and translation – all starting at $5. You can always beef up your gig for an additional amount but let me tell you, I’ve gotten kick ass results with only $5. Go. NOW! If you need a recommendation, I’ve got a guy… =)
  4. Create a Twitter handle…I have a couple… @kristen_luciani, @theideamama. Use your new blog name and if it isn’t available, come up with some variation. Then, HAPPY TWEETING! You’ll share your own content, as well as content you come across on the web and with your fellow tweeps. We’ll get to that in the next tip…
  5. Create a CrowdFire account. This will help you find the right target audience to follow on Twitter. It helps to grow your following, which you NEED to grow. You’ll also be able to find INFLUENCERS using this tool. Influencers are people who are subject matter experts in your topic and have a large following, which represents a large opportunity for consumption of quality content. Establish relationships with a few key influencers. Retweet and comment on their content and hopefully, they will eventually return the favor.
  6. Create a Facebook page for your blog and start to get likes. Make sure you post to it several times daily. You can post images, links to articles or anything else that is relevant to your blog. The purpose is to engage with your fan base and sharing compelling content is the best way to engage. Videos are cool too. People really appreciate the personal interaction, so get out of your comfort zone.
  7. Set up an Instagram account. You can post images or 15 second-long videos. AND you can link your Instagram account to Facebook and Twitter, so any of your images will post to all three locations.
  8. Establish a Hootsuite account. This is a tool that allows you to consolidate all your social networks and post to all at once. TIME SAVER!!!!!!
  9. Register an account on Quora. This is a great way to get exposure to a new audience. Establish yourself as a subject mater expert on your topic by answering questions in that category. It really helps get your voice heard and people will start to become familiar with the value you bring to the table. AND, you can always use those questions/responses as blog posts!
  10. Subscribe to a photo site. I belong to Dollar Photo Club. It has great images and is extremely cost-effective. $99 per year entitled you to 99 images. Each additional one will cost only $1. There are plenty of other sites, but this is my preference. You can’t post random Google images on your blog, even if you credit the website. If you get caught, you’ll get a nasty letter warning  you to take the image down or else legal action will be taken and you’ll most likely be threatened with a fine.

There are also a ton of informative books on blogging. Here are a few of my faves:

Feel free to browse other titles…just be careful that the book wasn’t published too long ago otherwise the industry will have changed too much for the information to be really relevant. Sometimes, though, you can find diamonds in the rough.

Okay, I’ve gotten you started. Next steps?

WRITE, then SHARE!!!!

Social Media Ideas Designer Desk Architectural Tools Office Concept

Social Media Ideas Designer Desk Architectural Tools Office Concept

Startup Spotlight: Ditch The Dummy

I remember the days of pacifiers…and my little Lulu was an addict. She couldn’t take a step without one in her mouth and one in each chubby little hand. And nighttime was the worst because she’d constantly knock them out of her crib and scream bloody murder, giving my and my hubby near-heart attacks from being shocked out of as deep a sleep as we could hope for with a very vocal baby. There were no solutions beyond tossing them into the trash when we’d had just about enough, which is exactly what we did. And we paid. Handsomely.

But now there is a solution! And it’s created by a company called Ditch the Dummy! The dummy is the pacifier, not you, by the way…

Penny Angela is the CEO of Ditch the Dummy and she had a plethora of sound bytes to share about entrepreneurship, motherhood, motivation, and potential pitfalls of creating a brand-new business.

1. Penny, what made you decide to delve into the world of entrepreneurship?

The reason I decided to delve into entrepreneurship was purely accidental. My husband and I fostered a beautiful 20-month old little boy called Joey. He was addicted to his pacifier. The only time it came out of his mouth was to eat.

Joey was a very shy little boy and could only speak a couple of words. We waited a couple of months before trying to wean him from his pacifier, giving him a chance to settle in, feel comfortable and with the minimal amount of stress.

Pacifier weaning Joey was horrendous! We tried just about everything, from cold turkey to losing it, nothing worked. Then a friend suggested poking a hole in one of his existing pacifiers. We did it, and it did work.

After a few days Joey just put it aside and that was basically that. He had effectively weaned himself.

Then purely by chance, I came across an article on pacifier weaning and how it can be harmful to alter your child’s existing pacifier, apparently pieces of silicon can become embedded in your child’s gums or even create a choking hazard. Basically the integrity of the pacifier nipple can be compromised.

Pretty horrifying!

But knowing this method does work, I thought if I could create a product for pacifier weaning along those lines, but with a manufactured hole, it would still work the same, but be totally safe.

I went online to see if there were any pacifier weaning tools available, and only found 1 tangible product, (besides books) a set of 5 pacifiers reducing in size. I sure this works very well, but it’s quite pricey, ranging from $20 to $30 depending on which site you made your purchase.

I thought that if there was a pacifier weaning product that could be retailed for around $10 including shipping, it would be affordable for most parents. I would definitely have bought it!

Hence, “Ditch the Dummy” was born.

I originally came up with the name “Binky Stop” but after research, found the word “Binky” was trademarked by another company, and so were most catchy pacifier names.

I was born in England, we call pacifier “Dummies,” and so “Ditch the Dummy” was it.

We are currently selling “Ditch the Dummy” from our website www.ditchthedummy.com, as well as on eBay and Amazon.

2. The number of aspiring entrepreneurs is rapidly growing, and everyone is looking for a way to click with their online target audience(s). Do you have any tips to share about how to connect with potential buyers?

Connecting with potential buyers is always going to be the hardest part of bringing a new product to market. Luckily with a niche product like mine, with a defined target “parents between the age of 20 and 40”, it’s a little easier to narrow down your target audience. I find Twitter and Facebook advertising to be my best source for customers. By joining lots of parenting groups on both these platforms, posting articles, blogs and ads regularly.

Website SEO is also an ongoing work of art. Pay per click advertising can be quite expensive so spending some cash on search engine optimization may be a must, if you’re as non-techie as me. I definitely recommend the Yoast Premium plug in for any website.

3. What are your top three tips for people looking to establish an online presence?

Top three tips for people looking to establish an online presence would be: 1. read lots of books on marketing strategy, social media and e-marketing and take plenty of notes. There’s also a huge learning source out there on YouTube – I found most of my social media advertising tips from an Australian YouTuber called “Lazy Ass Stoner”! 2. Get to know your competition, follow them, what are they doing that you can do better? Then do it. 3. Be prepared to spend hours and hours on your computer.

4. What is your favorite part about running your own business?

My favorite part of running my own business, is not that I don’t have a boss (in fact I do, it’s Me, and I’m a toughie). But I love that I can stay home and work. I’m here if my little boy gets ill and needs to stay home one day. This was a huge problem when I had my 9 – 5  job.

5. Did you have any big aha! moments as you launched Ditch The Dummy?

When I launched “Ditch the Dummy” I guess my big aha moment was my first sale! You just can’t beat that feeling.

6. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

I believe the top 3 skills needed for any budding entrepreneur would be, first – time management. I was all over the place at first, but now I have my days planned, I know what I’m doing, I no longer feel that I’ve worked all day and just spun my wheels!

Second would be delegation. You soon find out that you can’t actually do everything yourself. If you have family or friends who can help out in any way, don’t be afraid to reach out. This can save a lot of time, frustration and energy on your part. Let people know what your doing – the helpful tips will soon start rolling in.

I believe the third would be tenacity. You have to believe in your product and stand beside it 100%. You have to be as tenacious as a bulldog, your product is your chew toy. You need to keep shaking that chew toy to get it noticed. The minute you stop, your sales will too.

7. What have been some of your failures since launching Ditch The Dummy, and what have you learned from them?

I guess my biggest failure in the “Ditch the Dummy” launch was in the development of our website. I’m not at all techie, and actually got my website account suspended in Google Shopping. There were a lot of hoops to jump through to get it reinstated, believe me. There’s a lot more to a website than pretty pictures and a shopping cart, so do your research; make sure you have all your policies in place. Do not – I repeat do not, upset Google!

8. As a momtrepreneur, what advice can you offer other moms who are trying to launch a brand-new business?

As a momtrepreneur (We eventually managed to adopt Joey) I think the best advice for other Moms starting their own businesses would be to get a mentor or a series of mentors. At the very beginning of my journey, I joined Micromentor.org. I think I’m on my 6th mentor at the moment and still in contact with my first. Micromentor.org a free website where you can connect with mentors for all stages of your business, from creation to marketing to website SEO. These mentors are experienced business people who make themselves available free of charge and have a wealth of knowledge.

9. If you had the chance to begin your career again, what would you do differently?

If I had a chance to start my career again? Well, this is my new start! In retrospect, I should have done a huge pre-launch. I waited for my product to land in Miami before I actually did any marketing. I basically wasted quite a lot of time. I was just so worried about something happening to my product and not being able to fulfill pre-orders. Well, we did have a hurricane!

10. What motivates you?

Motivation? For decades parents have been snipping holes in their child’s pacifiers for weaning purposes without knowing the dangers and this needs to stop. We need to educate. This is my mission.

Every transitional period in a young child’s life can be pretty traumatic, for both parent and child. I hope “Ditch the Dummy” will make life just a little easier and safer for the 40%, yes, 40% of toddlers who have “Pacifier Addiction.” This is my motivation.

If you’re not motivated by your mission and/or your product, then maybe, just maybe it’s time to look elsewhere for your entrepreneurial success.

Check out Ditch the Dummy on Facebook and visit their website!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oscar! Oscar! Best Actress Does Not Equal Best Dressed…By A Longshot

#TGIF.  Seriously.

My first-pass synopsis for Unlikely Venture is begging to be trimmed but I don’t think I’m in the right frame of mind.  It is a lot of work for me to “trim.”  I am, by nature, long-winded.  I’ll never forget my editor’s feedback about the very first iteration of my manuscript.  She said, “I bet that you write the way you speak, am I right?”

Um, yeah.  I do.  If something can be summarized in five words, you’d better believe I’ll need forty-five to get to the same place.

But, have no fear prospective publishers!  I’ve successfully modified my style.  So now my writing is in direct opposition with my conversational (and blogging) style.  I can’t turn myself completely inside out.

Anyway, I digress.

Let’s return to my original point.  See?  I told you I can get wordy.

Sunday.  The Oscars.  The dresses.

I surfed a bit tonight to unwind after a long week and came across this infographic, courtesy of Cosmopolitan UK.

To be completely honest, there have been very few gowns that have really tooted my horn over the years.  I mean, there have been horrors for sure – Cher, Jodie, what the frock????  Oh, wait, it was the frocking ’80s

I think my fave was from 2004 – Charlize and her stunning Gucci.  I am always curious to find out the styles embraced by those being celebrated.  It’s a darn good thing that some of these ladies are so talented since they’d never make it as fashion icons.

But just to be perfectly clear, if someone invited me to join them on the red carpet in one of the many atrocities panned over the years, I’d do it.  Just saying.

https://i1.wp.com/www.mediarundigital.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/hi-res-oscar-dresses1.jpg