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

How Do You Know You’re Ready For Launch?

We all want a big-splash launch – no matter what the offering. Who wouldn’t want mountains of accolades and recognition for a job well done?

In the period leading up to your big day, the best advice I can give consists of one very important word – plan.

Planning is critical to a successful launch, so make a list of everything you can possibly do to make your event as grand as possible. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

  • Create a Task Timeline – Identify each component of your launch prep along with an expected timeframe for completion and a point of contact.
  • Prioritize Each Task – For each group of tasks you’ve outlined, ask yourself which ones will have the greatest impact on your launch. Focus on the ones that will deliver the biggest bang for your buck first.
  • Ask For Help – Reach out to all your contacts – family, friends, colleagues – anyone who can help you spread the word. Send them Facebook posts, tweets, images to share via Instagram, fliers to hand out in their towns – anything that will highlight awareness.
  •  Leverage Your Existing Fan Base – Come up with creative ways to engage your existing fans. Word of mouth is the most effective way to generate interest because of the credibility factor so ask your fans to get involved with your launch.
  • Cross-Promote – Identify potential partners who have launches around the same time as yours and augment your target audience by gaining access to theirs.
  • Maintain Your Plan – Update all notes and statuses so at any given point, you can see exactly what your progress has been in preparing for the launch.
  • Follow-Up As Needed – People generally don’t have a sense of urgency about someone else’s endeavors so a gentle nudge is sometimes warranted.
  • Get Out the Corkscrew – When you’ve fully executed your plan and feel confident you’ve done all you can do, the rest is up to the stars. So sit back, relax and have a glass of wine because you deserve it.

Red and white wine pouring on wood background

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Deviant Is Too Deviant???

I am most insightful while running. I don’t know why, but my mind goes into overdrive. I’m pounding the pavement, singing along with Metallica and BOOM! Enlightenment.

Maybe it’s because I can be alone with my thoughts. They don’t have to yell and scream to be heard because the competition is still at home, snug in their beds. Of course, said competition is usually the reason why my ideas never make it to paper. But today I refused to get sidetracked.

Do you know what it’s like, saying you want to be a romance author today? It’s kind of like saying you want to create a really awesome website, where people can connect with friends, make new ones, exchange messages, form common interest groups and share information, pictures and videos for feedback.

Um, dude, sounds great except…IT’S ALREADY BEEN DONE!!!!

You can’t approach this endeavor with the mindset that, hey, it worked for all those other big authors, why not for me? It’s a different world and if you’re not bringing something new and exciting to the table, nobody will join you for the meal.

As an author, I spend a lot of time on social media, which is how I find out about new releases. I read blurbs and I know within the first two sentences if something is going to piqué my interest. I occasionally buy a book solely because of it’s cover, but it’s rare. The last book I bought by cover alone (and LOVED) was Taint by S.L. Jennings. But it was Mike Thurston, could you blame me??

Before I was an author, I would go to Amazon and just click around until I saw something interesting. It always came down to the blurb. If it grabbed me, I one-clicked. Period. As an aside, somehow I’d always finish a book while running on the treadmill so my goal was always to find something good quickly so I could keep reading. Running at 7 miles an hour and clicking around a Kindle isn’t ideal, just saying. I didn’t care about price, I wanted to be entertained with anything that would keep me focused on something other than the running. Brand-loyalty had no impact for my buying preferences.

Woman doing make-up, beautiful young woman doing make-up and smiling while looking at the mirrorNow, on the other hand, I’m a total lipstick whore. It’s my very favorite makeup item and I sample pretty much every type of product – matte, sheer, lip stain, gloss, lacquer. Two things matter – how the color looks and how long it will last. I buy it all, with no regard for price. I don’t necessarily have brand-loyalty in this case either since my preferred brands can’t always help me accomplish my goal. It’s all about how the product makes me feel. If there is a chance it will take me look like a million bucks, I’ll give it a shot. What do I have to lose? I can always return it if it doesn’t have the desired effect.

I’ve spent way more on products that I’ve used once and stuck in a drawer, but that doesn’t require hours of my time. I can try it and if I love it, great. It lands in my makeup bag. If not, it goes back to the store. But books? They can be free and I’ll still hedge, because they require a greater time commitment. I rarely read beyond the treadmill because I don’t frequently find books that hook me. If I’m going to one-click, it had better be something special.

Murderous woman with very scary eyes licking the blood of her knifeSome authors have embraced the concept of innovation in their writing because they know being different,
gritty and edgy is a good way to set their names apart in the market. Menage and BDSM were all the rage not so long ago but now those books get lost in the shuffle of deviant sex tales. Fifty Shades opened up a whole new genre for readers but now there’s a glut and one has to wonder, what’s next? Let’s venture into the land of sex with prehistoric creatures and toasters and you’ve got a brand-new taboo subgenere for readers to sink their teeth into. Teeth…oh jeez, is cannibalism next??? Hot sex followed by dinner a la Hannibal Lecter, coupled with a nice Chanti and some fava beans? That would give a whole new meaning to characters tasting one another…wink, wink.

So what does all this mean if you’re an author trying to hit it big with your books, the ones you’ve poured your heart and soul into for months and months? What if you aren’t passionate about writing appliance erotica??? Are you destined for failure?

Here’s the truth. I don’t know. There are marketing tactics that have worked wonders for my sales and there are ones that have completely tanked. Unfortunately, no one tactic will launch a new author to NYT bestseller status unless you’re a Kardashian. There IS a magic formula but nobody knows exactly what elements are included and what worked even a year ago probably won’t have the same impact now because of the thousands of competing books published every week. So it’s mainly trial and error, and you have to be okay with that.

If you really are passionate about your writing, keep it up. You have to be able to look back and say, “I did it for me.” You may never win an award or hit a bestseller list but that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. When you give up on something you love because you’re frustrated with the outcome… that’s when you’ve failed.

So just keep calm and write. =)

Whistle While You Work…Or Run…Or Play Foosball

My workspace is pretty standard, very practical, but kind of boring if I’m being honest. Lots of desk space, tons of papers covering said space, cabinets, laptops, ever-present mug of coffee. I try to keep it organized but it’s not easy when ideas are constantly flowing out of my head and onto Post-Its. My name is Kristen and I’m a Post-It addict. Whenever I get a thought, I jot it down and stick it…well, wherever I can find space, which is a commodity.

Post it papers flying out from laptop

I sometimes wonder, how awesome would it be to create a workspace according to my own dream specifications? Like maybe a space where I could take a quick break and run on the treadmill to keep the creative juices flowing? With plush couches where I can plop down when the knots in my neck tighten after being hunched over my laptop for hours on end? One with large, floor to ceiling windows, lots of greenery, light, airy rooms and a fabulous view for inspiration? Maybe one with a nicely stocked refrigerator with lots of champagne so I can reward myself after spending the day agonizing over scenes and plot twists? It would be awesome to have a large-screen wall hanging television for those times I just need a mental break and want to watch re-runs of Impractical Jokers. And of course, a huge whiteboard for all those dang Post-Its would be nice!

modern empty office interior

Well, guess what? There is a company out there that can help me achieve my work zen, called WeWork. You signup to become a member and select from several packages that allow you different levels of access to custom workspaces. You can book a space for a day or longer, depending on your needs. Maybe you just want to have a couple of days a month where you venture off to another location to keep things percolating. You have that option with WeWork. And if you happen to be traveling to another location and need to reserve a spot while you are there, go to WeWork for options! It’s that simple.

The company has space in all the big hubs across the United States, with additional locations in Israel, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

So even if you aren’t traveling for business, maybe you just need a periodic escape to recharge your batteries. Comfort + mental calm = PRODUCTIVITY!!!

NOTHING VENTURED IS LIVE! IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME!

It’s LAUNCH day!!!!!! Let’s CELEBRATE!!!! How about a giveaway, in honor of our delicious hero, Chris Camden?????

Glasses of champagne and sparklers on bright background with sparklers

Here’s to Chris, the Adonis and certifiable charmer with more lines than a supermarket before a snowstorm. With a panty-melting smile, ridiculous body that oozes pheromones, and a hot car, he’ll have your knees weak within minutes. I promise. ❤

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card and a signed copy of ‘Unlikely Venture,” Book One of the Venture Series.

The contest closes on 9/22/2015 and the winner will be notified by email. GOOD LUCK!

Buy Nothing Ventured:

Amazon  Barnes & Noble  iBooks  Smashwords

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It’s Almost RELEASE DAY For NOTHING VENTURED!

September 15 is almost here! Release day for “Nothing Ventured!” I’m excited beyond words (which is kind of odd for an author) and thrilled for the launch day events to kick off!

We’ll be running giveaways with awesome prizes, so be sure to check them out! I’ll post all the details here!

Nothing Ventured, Book Two in The Venture Series

After suffering a devastating loss that forever changed her life, eluding love is Mia Bradshaw’s primary objective…. until she’s granted a coveted career opportunity to partner with Silicon Valley heartthrob, Chris Camden. But when everything she’s been so careful to protect and control is put in jeopardy, can the guy with more lines than a supermarket before a snowstorm save her… and himself?

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So while I wait for Tuesday to roll around, I’ll need to find ways to keep calm and occupy myself…hmmm…this might do the trick.