Startup Spotlight: My Super Nanny Is Now In The USA!

Finding a reliable caretaker for your child is no easy feat. Word of mouth may find you the perfect babysitter, but what happens when said babysitter decides to get a full-time teaching gig, leaving you high and dry? What if the next babysitter allowed your toddler to walk up and down a steep staircase unattended, when they’d only just begun to scale those stairs under Mom’s watchful eye? What if you just can’t find anyone you can really trust to watch your precious angels, and you really are in need of a night out with the girls???

Then, it’s My Super Nanny to the rescue.

The Australian-based company is centered around three core values they believe all nannies need to possess – reliability, care, and intuition. Not all nannies are the same, nor are all families. Needs differ greatly. My Super Nanny uses a special algorithm to pair the right partners, leaving parents with more time for enjoyable tasks. For a small monthly fee of $6.95, you have access to lists of carers. You don’t pay for your nanny unless you feel comfortable with your choice and want to establish contact, making it a lower-risk proposition.

My Super Nanny provides fast, efficient and safe methods for contacting carers. After that initial contact, they let the client and the nanny make the rest of the arrangements such as pay, hours, and tasks.

And, the great news is, My Super Nanny has just launched in New York and California! To celebrate the launch, they would like to offer a free 365-day membership, which allows full access to their services. The code to use is MSN-S157L and it is only available for a limited time.

It is as easy as putting sprinkles on your ice-cream:
2. Enter code MSN-S157L
3. Contact unlimited nannies or post as many jobs as you’d like
Follow My Super Nanny Online & Find Your Perfect Nanny Now!
unnamed-6

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Startup Spotlight: Let’s Go Du+ch!

Sharing experiences, creating memories, engaging with like-minded people, enjoying a richer life… this is the concept behind going “du+ch.” The company was born of longtime friends Vincent Paradiso and Debora McCleary, who partnered to create a social network for travel and entertainment. Both entrepreneurs in their previous lives, Vincent and Debora created a unique way for people to connect with others who would share the cost of excursions they may not otherwise have been able to experience due to excessive costs. Their efforts established a marketplace for sharing life’s adventures, big or small and I had the pleasure of catching up with Vincent to chat about some of his hopes, challenges, and goals for the future. I was also excited to gather a few sound bytes from Deb, who founded the premier New York beauty directory, The Debb Report. And you all know I’m a sucker for all things beauty and fashion… =)

IMG_2328

Vincent, prior to co-founding du+ch, you had a very successful professional career in ballet. What made you decide to delve into the world of entrepreneurship? 

I’ve always been bit of an entrepreneur. I love ballet, but I always knew I would do more. I’d always had an interest in real estate so I formed Paradiso Properties. My goal was to have multiple investment homes that I rent and manage, along with a real estate license to sell homes. But I quickly grew bored with my new career choice. I made money, but it wasn’t my passion. I started contemplating new ideas. I thought of all the amazing things I did with colleagues while on tour with NYCB, and how we would split the bill. We wouldn’t have been able to enjoy as much had we not shared the cost. I knew I had something but wasn’t ready to dive in. One night out with my girlfriend, I wanted to book bottle service at a club but didn’t want to pay $1,500. Our friends couldn’t join, so we skipped out and the idea for du+ch was born.

IMG_0259-3

Deb, what differences have you experienced between building du+ch and building the Debb Report? What unique challenges have you faced with each endeavor and how have you addressed them?

The first challenge with the Debb Report was having my partner drop out. I ended up funding the entire site on my own, and found a few friends to help me write all the salon bios that are (almost all) now in place. Updating my site is still a challenge, because aside from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram updates, I have to be on top of so much information. I realized that I couldn’t do it all on my own, especially with the time du+ch now needs. I recently hired a wonderful beauty/fashion blogger to help create original content to help grow my site and SEO. Having a partner who is fully engaged and committed is a necessity. Vincent and I definitely have a give and take when it comes to growing du+ch. We complement one another very well and have complete trust in each other, which is invaluable.  Because du+ch is an e-commerce site, it is a much more involved endeavor than my directory so Vincent and I are having to learn as we go. We constantly seek expertise from those who have done this before and people have been very generous with their time and knowledge.

Choosing the right partner is so important when founding a brand-new venture. How do you work through differences in opinion and what qualities do you each bring to the table?

(Vincent) Deb is a long time friend. We have great chemistry. When I approached her with du+ch, she was immediately ready to jump onboard. The key for us is making sure we always keep open lines of communication. She helps ground me and work through new ideas. As I’d mentioned earlier, the ideas don’t stop. You can’t attack all of them at once, you have to stay focused. du+ch would be nothing if I’d built it, then decided to go out and work on another idea. Being able to keep everything organized helps a lot. We have yet to have any major disagreements, but I believe we both are the types of people who will listen. We will acknowledge each others’ points, let them sink in, and compromise on a solution.

(Deb) Vincent and I agree on most things day-to-day, but when we disagree, we have a real ability to listen to one another and come to a joint agreement fairly easily.  Luckily we are both sane, thoughtful and committed to making du+ch a success, no matter how long it takes us.

What is the best part about running your own business?  

Exactly that, it’s mine. I’m directly responsible for its success and/or failure. I take great pride in bringing an idea to life. It’s challenging work, but when you know your hands are involved in every working aspect, it is so rewarding. I look forward to each and every day. I am constantly learning about every aspect of my business.

Du+ch is such a unique concept. Do you have plans to expand beyond more elite and trendy events? Do you see a market for couples, families, businesses?

Absolutely! We’re now in all of those markets. The beauty of du+ch is that everything on the site is user-generated. The same way you can sell anything on eBay, you can share anything on du+ch. It is a marketplace that puts the power of the sharing economy in the hands of the masses. You no longer have to build an app to enter this space, you can use our platform to share anything you want. Every user, individual or corporate, can host and search for anything they want to share. The look of our brand is luxurious, but users can share free events, basic group packages, or even ultra luxe experiences. We take the social element of Facebook events, the payment features of Eventbrite, and combine them into one site. The greatest thing is you can reach more than just your current circle. The point is, friends cannot always join in the fun. With du+ch, you can find those who can, get to know one another, and pool your funds to make anything within reach. The great thing about du*ch, and what separates us from a Groupon/Eventbrite, is our social transparency. Every user has a profile with reviews and verifications, so you can meet new people and feel comfortable sharing with them.

If you knew then what you know now, how might you have advised yourselves before launching du+ch? Any big aha! moments?

I would have been a lot more specific in the design and build of the website. I had it in my head, but translating it to developers was difficult. They needed every single specification and I didn’t anticipate providing them that level of detail. I would have also done more research on payment processors. When we create the app, I am going to document every last detailed requirement for the developers. I won’t leave any stone unturned.

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

Discipline, focus and creativity. It is so important to stay disciplined. There are too many distractions surrounding us everyday – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. You have to resist the temptation and prioritize. You also have to focus on your goals, plan your short- and long-term strategies and then execute your plans to achieve them. That said, you have to remain creative, think out of the box and fill a perceived need. Always strive to disrupt the status quo.

What have been some of your failures since launching du+ch, and what have you learned from them?

I assumed once the site was built, the audience would come. I thought people would just find it, sign up and leverage the network, which wasn’t the case. I also focused too much energy on creating the perfect user experience. Marc Cuban once said, “Perfection is the enemy of profitability, you can try to make everything perfect, but you’re losing opportunity somewhere else.” What may seem perfect and simple to one may not be the same for others. I also mistakenly assumed that upon launch, I would play a support role. I didn’t realize I was going to have get out there and sell. That is the biggest challenge. Once you fill the need, you need to let the world know you’ve filled it. You have to make your own opportunities.

To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?

Taking the lessons I’ve learned from the ballet and applying them to the business world. For both, you need to exhibit the discipline, focus, and creativity mentioned earlier, but you also have to be willing to fail, deal with rejection, perform, and not let anyone define you. We failed all the time while dancing. If a step wasn’t executed as expected, you didn’t give up. Instead, you figured out what went wrong, fixed it, repeated it, and tried to perfect it.  We dealt with rejection on a regular basis. In business, you have to do the same. Not everyone will love you or embrace your vision and that’s okay. So many of my most rewarding experiences came from taking a leap. Never be afraid of failure.

How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?

Getting the word out is our biggest challenge, especially on a shoestring budget. I have seen a big jump in traffic when I advertise and share available listings on Facebook, but it hasn’t converted much yet. One experience that did convert was dinner with a private chef. The price was extremely reasonable and users wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. We are working on lining up fun yet cost-effective experiences. Giving corporate partners a chance to list group deals as they would with Groupon, but without the heavy fees, will help line up some great offerings. I also notice that when I do interviews like this, we get a major boost. I think it helps so much to get the word out. This interview engages a new audience and helps us connect with them. Some readers may skim our story, some may read the whole thing, some will love it, some will hate it, but either way I just grabbed the attention of a potential user and was able to get my entire message across. It is the best way to acquire new users and highlight interest in our brand.

Follow du+ch: Website  Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube Instagram

IMG_0100_2

Taking It To The Street…Maybe With Some Wine And Cheese

In a world where virtual is no longer the alternate reality, there is still a lot to be said for direct human contact as a driver of prospects and sales.

Let’s face it, we’re all way too dependent on our mobile devices and completely absorbed in email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube…and on and on. But all the action is online, right??

Ummm, research shows that’s not exactly the case anymore.

Successful selling is rooted in relationships…personal relationships established via in-person meetings and informal, lighthearted conversations. So we need to turn our focus to OFFLINE advertising to differentiate us from the competition. Making yourself accessible to potential customers, giving them a chance to find out who you are and what you’re all about – it goes a very long way and may make them more inclined to patronize your business.

Hitting the pavement may be just the ticket to launch your company to the next level. If you were wandering around a bookstore, wouldn’t you think it was cool to run into an author in your favorite genre hosting a meet and greet? Maybe get a chance to pick their brain about their characters, what drives them to write, where they draw inspiration from? Maybe you might buy one of his/her books because you were just so impressed with their warmth and engaging personality. Maybe you read the book, love it and recommend it to a friend. Maybe that friend is Ellen DeGeneres and the author gets picked up for a segment based on your referral and hits the New York Times bestseller list the next week. Just saying, it could happen. And so the story goes…no pun intended. =)

Don’t discount the importance of face-to-face interaction. A handshake and a smile feel so much better than a private Facebook message, don’t they?? Hosting a cocktail party is a great way to get to know prospective clients!

Red and white wine pouring on wood background

Just make sure you don’t kick back too much.  Remember, you’re working not partying on spring break. =)

Couple having fun in disco night club with body tequila party

Put A Little Sex In The Headline

Okay, it may not always work as planned, depending on your audience. But I can tell you it will make your headline click-worthy. It doesn’t have to be graphic either, by the way. Just suggestive. =)

PR is EXPENSIVE so anything you can do on your own to generate buzz will reduce your burn rate. You can pitch editors yourself but if you don’t have a hook, they don’t have a story. The surest way to get a response is to give them the whole setup. If you can’t hook an editor, you won’t have a shot of hooking readers.

Press conference

An attention-grabbing headline is the first step. Think about this blog post. Did you click the link because there was a sexual reference in the title? Don’t be shy, it’s all good. I’ll bet everyone reading this was just as curious as you. If I hadn’t written it, I’d have done the same thing.

Eliminate the mundane. People won’t care. You need to find the angle that will pique their interest and work it into your pitch.

Here’s another little tip. Less is more. Your pitch needs to be short and sweet. Make your point once, quickly, before the editor loses interest otherwise your brilliant story will most assuredly end up in the desktop trash bin.

7 Must-Do Tips For Startups To Generate Good PR – Entrepreneur

Oh yeah, one more thing. Proofread your email and make sure you’re addressing the right editor because it would really suck if you sent your pitch to the wrong person at the wrong publication because that’s your one chance to make a first impression, folks.

Wine and editorial pitches DON’T mix!!!

Time To Bust Outta That Box!

You’re a startup entrepreneur. By nature, that makes you an idea generator. It also probably means you’re operating on a shoestring budget.

So you have to wear multiple hats – innovator, marketer, developer, designer – and figure out how to get your offerings to market in an expedient and cost-efficient way. Not an easy task…but you’ve got the tools in your arsenal. =)

For those of you without huge marketing and advertising budgets, it’s frustrating to get your voice heard. I liken it to swimming (okay, it’s probably more like furiously treading water. LOL). You jump into a pool, not realizing it’s the deep end. You’re not a strong swimmer and panic sets in. The pool is packed; swimmers are frolicking, splashing, screaming, laughing. And there you are, right in the middle of it, flailing and floundering. But nobody can help you because you aren’t screaming loud enough. Your lungs are filling with water and you can barely choke out a syllable. DANGER LURKS…need a lifeline!!!!

Lost at sea

Yep. That’s how it is for a lot of us. Markets are flooded with companies trying to pimp their wares. But how many are doing it successfully? Is anyone trying to do things differently to stand out from the virtual crowd?

1. The Alternate Reality – Never assume people are only seeking information online. If you come into contact with potential customers, don’t waste the opportunity to tout your offering. I shamelessly hand out postcards advertising my novel (as well as papering restrooms, hair salons, nail salons, fitting rooms at Nordstrom…LOL). Guess what? After a mass distribution, my sales jump. When I work alongside my street team of hot male models, even better. Know your customer, folks! =)

2. You’ve Gotta Have Swagga – Don’t discount the impact of swag, no matter what Mark Cuban thinks. =) Slap your logo and tag line on mugs, keychains, t-shirts, tote bags and bumper stickers. Zazzle and VistaPrint always run sweet deals!!! Put it out there so people can see it and ask about it. If you don’t know something exists, how can you possibly buy it???

3. Incent & Engage – Contests are a fabulous way to raise awareness of your company name. Get prospective customers to engage with you online and have them invite others to join the party! Photo, video, caption, submit your vote – the options are endless! Just make the incentive worth the effort. The trick, of course, is to find participants. That’s where your social media network comes into play. But don’t stop there. Head to online sweepstakes websites and post your giveaways there. You can find plenty of freebies that will promote them and these sites typically have oodles and oodles of visitors. i mean, who doesn’t love something for nothing? =)

Internet Marketing Diagram

How Do You Keep The Music Playing? How Do You Make It Last??

So you’re sitting in front of your laptop a couple of months post-launch scratching your head, thinking “What the heck should I do NOW?”

Very good question. It’s one that I’m pretty sure most small business owners have.

Launch week ROCKED!!! We sold a TON!!! But now? Two months later? CRICKETS.

You’re still a ways off from releasing 2.0 so what are you supposed to do in the interim? Twiddle your thumbs while you obsessively refresh your sales numbers? How long can you publicize your initial offering while you prep for the new one?

It’s not easy, especially if you don’t have a ton of discretionary capital to toss at promotional services. When our Krina handbags debuted in InStyle magazine and OK! Weekly, sales skyrocketed. But the problem was maintaining that momentum when those issues were off the newsstands. Sure, we tried to capitalize on the wins but it only got us so far. Everyone wanted to see what was coming next…and we were still trying to figure out how to find the funds to produce what would come next.

instyle

Building momentum takes time. So instead of panicking that sales are dropping off, consider different ways of reaching customers. Your primary goal is to keep your brand name top of mind. So get it out there to the masses and establish yourself as a source of knowledge in your industry. All of your efforts will indirectly help raise awareness of your brand. It may take time for your sales numbers to rebound but if you reach people on another level, they just may be interested enough to find out about your offerings. Don’t shove the buy links down their throats…try some new ways to build your customer base.

Consider these ideas:

  • Create a website and BLOG – Figure out what your audience wants to read and create a content niche for yourself.
  • Submit guest posts on websites where your target market congregates – This will help associate your name to a particular type of content. Say you run a handbag design company and you love fashion. Find blogs that cater to fellow fashionistas and inquire about submitting articles about topics in fashion and style. When you include your social media contact information in the post, readers will be able to see that you are also a designer/entrepreneur and maybe they’ll be interested enough to buy one of your handbags!
  • Post in forums that focus on your product and market – This is a networking opportunity, a chance for you to find fellow fashionistas who love handbags! Tell them about your faves and begin nurturing relationships (and hopefully, future fans)
  • Identify channels for cross promotion – Research owners of complimentary businesses and ask about cross-promotional opportunities. Offer to promote their brands if they do the same for you. Share the love and see how it positively impacts your business.

In the early stages of a business, the most important thing is to raise awareness of your brand. The more people that know about your products/services, the more of a chance you have to convert them to customers.