10 Ways To Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

Startup Tips, creativity, YECQuestion: What process do you use to spur creativity — in yourself and your team — especially when you’re feeling blocked?

Mindmapping Works Like a Champ

“Start with a topic or question, and mindmap your way around it. Don’t censor yourself as you come up with all the surrounding topics and bubbles that go with your initial topics. This type of “hyperlinked” thinking is what allows us to come up with new ideas. You can also go really deep on a thread, which can help spur creativity in other threads of your mindmap. Mindmap as a group, and this takes on a whole new life!”

Turn to Your Trusted Resources

“When I hit a creative road block, I turn to other entrepreneurs for inspiration. Usually, I hit those road blocks at weird hours of the night, so I keep a business-related book or a copy of Entrepreneur or Inc. Magazine close by. I find that spending 15 minutes or so digesting other entrepreneurs’ thoughts and opinions does the trick and gets my creative juices flowing right away. I use a similar tactic when it comes to spurring creativity in my team. During our team meetings, everyone is required to share an article, story, quote or anything else that gave them creative inspiration this week. After everyone shares, we take a vote on our favorite creative piece and the winner chooses what is for lunch that day. It is a fun and interactive way to get everyone thinking.”

Kevin Tighe II | Co-founder and CEO, WeBRAND

Fun Equals Creative Thinking

“It sounds simple, but some of the best ideas come from having fun and not thinking about the business. Get your team out of the office and take them out. Not having an “office atmosphere” allows people to open up and be themselves. Not only will it give you the chance to really get to know them but also the chance to let the creativity flow. If you aren’t having fun, then why are you doing it?”

Ashley Bodi | co-founder, Business Beware

Look Outside Your Field

“One of the best ways to jog my creativity is to consume media totally outside my field. If I’m at the airport maybe I’ll pick up a magazine about farming or architecture. I’ll watch a documentary about a subject I don’t know much about or go see an experimental play. Listen to a random Pandora channel in a genre you usually don’t listen to. I think ideas tend to slow down when you get into a rut with the things you see every day. Even taking a different route on a walk can help a lot!”

Movement Gets Me Going!

“Our bodies provide as much information as our heads, but we usually ignore them in our work lives. You know, simply taking a walk while talking about important things makes the conversation more meaningful. So why do we sit in conference rooms instead of walking and talking? To think creatively, keep moving. What do I do? Bollywood dance breaks! Seriously — I have Bollywood-inspired Innovative Moves workshops.”

Get the Ball Rolling and Don’t Stop

“Creativity comes often when one least expects it: in the shower, walking to work or in the middle of the night. These moments are gifts not to be wasted, but they’re also impossible to schedule into team’s meetings. As a founder, my company relies on me to take the lead on creative discussions, so I created a simple process to get the intellectual momentum going. We start by going into a conference room where we break down a problem or topic into its smallest possible parts. As ideas flow, we post them up onto our walls with flip chart paper. Surrounded by the information, people naturally start connecting the dots and the creative juices start flowing. Once you hit a rhythm, embrace whatever topics come into focus, dig deep and never let ridged schedules derail your flow.”

Christopher Kelly | Co-Founder, Principal, Convene

Get Completely Uncomfortable

“I’ve always found creative ideas come when you’re trying to do something new… and find out that you’re bad at it. Take a cooking class, try rock climbing, learn to play a new instrument. Inevitably, you will encounter some difficulties when experiencing something for the first time, and your brain will get to work. A lot of times, I end up saying to myself, “This is really hard…why don’t people just do ‘x’ to make it easier?” Or, “This is great, but it would be so much better if ‘y’ were added to the experience!” Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations where your brain isn’t used to operating often is a great way to get those creative juices flowing!”

David Stankunas | President and Founder, Beard Head, Inc.

Spark Creative Visual Conversation

“By painting our walls with IdeaPaint, we’ve been able to have a lot of conversations by drawing out what we imagine. Instead of our ideas floating around in the air, we put them out on the wall for everyone to look at and soak in. This caters to those who are visual and audio learners and ultimately brings everyone together for a better, more creative brainstorm.”

Wine Catalyst to Get Creativity Flowing

“There is a reason why happy hour is such a crucial thing for co-workers to participate in together. Allow your employees to unleash their ideas outside the confining walls of an office over a glass or two of wine. You’ll be surprised how quickly the combination of a relaxed environment, and some vino will transform a casual hang out into an innovative meeting that just might leave you with a whole new creative direction.”

Erika London | Co-Founder, iAdventure.com

Place, Purpose, and Post-Its

“First, take your team somewhere stimulating. The beach, a grassy field, or even couches will do. If you go outside, be sure to bring some cardboard to use as an idea wall. Next, frame the discussion. “This morning we are generating ideas. Our goal is to come up with as many ideas as possible in 10 minutes. Wacky ideas are welcome – they might lead us somewhere unexpected and exciting.” Throw, slide, or pass colored markers or pencils and sticky pads to everyone. Everyone then captures ideas as fast as they can in 10 minutes before sharing their ideas. Depending on the size of your team, you will have twenty to several hundred ideas. Rinse and repeat. Each set of ideas will spark other ideas. Then your challenge will be moving to analysis mode!”

Kevon Saber | Cofounder , Fig 

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.


The Wildly Successful Marketing Secrets of Startups

Typically, startups are lean, with a limited supply of money, talent, and time, meaning they don’t have resources to throw around willy-nilly. While this can induce panicky feelings for a lot of business owners, the upside is that it automatically forces burgeoning startups to wield the resources they do have sharply and intelligently.

This balancing act can get a bit tricky when it comes to marketing, because the internet has enabled an absolutely ludicrous array of options, opinions, and ideas to spring up. Get a website up! Contact investors! Use Pinterest! Start a YouTube channel! It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer scope of modern marketing and completely lose your head.

But focus! There are simple rules to keep in mind to craft the best marketing plan possible that fits your business. Any company’s product or service is built around a specific target audience, right? No matter how long your company’s been around or how much money it brings in, make sure your marketing is specifically targeted to your demographic as well, or it will flounder. While keeping in mind that your approach should be tailored to suit your audience, use these tips to make your marketing the best it can be!

Follow Mint’s Shining Example



Mint, a personal financial management service started in 2006, was built around the young professional demographic their chief marketer, Noah Kegan, thought was being neglected, and they aimed their content marketing accordingly with huge success. Behold, their secrets…Quality Content

Take a look at their MintLife blog yourself, and tell me if you don’t get sucked in by their entertaining, oh-so-easy-on-the-eyes infographics, and their friendly, direct, and helpful writing. Mint made sure to only engage quality writers and illustrators, both in-house and freelance. A lot of companies trip themselves up by going for quantity over quality and turning off many potential customers with low-grade content.

Remember that while quality content marketing may be a long game, it yields undeniable results.

Variety of Content

Knowing well how to appeal to their customer base of young internet-savvy professionals, Mint uses a variety of media to engage and hold their interest. Their blog doesn’t have just articles, but also videos, infographics, and slideshows, which keeps their site fresh and a pleasure to share with others.

Social Channels

To build up trust, Mint spread their content out to well-known social channels like Digg and Reddit and even more commendably, did it well. For the uninitiated, these social sharing sites can be tricky to navigate and come out the other end with positive feedback, especially Reddit. Mint managed to pull it off by genuinely engaging with readers of both sites. (Hint:don’t be spammy.)


Mint also relentlessly used carefully selected metrics to track the reactions to their content, and then used that knowledge to pursue what was working and drop what wasn’t. This means they were constantly improving on what they’d done before.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking the benefits of quality content marketing is a one-way street. Content marketing benefits your company hugely as well, by allowing you to engage intelligently and consistently with your community, and make sure you are always thinking about next steps to self-improve and evolve.

Quality content marketing is infectious. Heck, sometimes I’ll sign up for a service I might not even use, just because of how appreciative I am for that company’s content. Simply signing up for their service makes me more likely to be a paying customer in the future or pass along word of it to others who may convert to profitable users themselves. The same principle applies to the pricing of e-books which (at an average of $3-4) sell for drastically cheaper than paper books. Why is that? Even if customers don’t actually read the book, the low price means they don’t have much to lose in purchasing it, and just the simple act of acquisition means you are more likely to spread the word to other potential customers.









Be Creative

Don’t limit yourself in the terms of how you interact with your user base. In a sea of businesses and other startups jockeying for recognition, why should they choose you? Stand out (in a good way) and your audience will be delighted with and appreciate your extra effort.

Be Thoughtful

Consider your future courses of action carefully. Letting your ideas incubate and then acting accordingly will benefit you much more than trying out new fads at random. Having a smart team with similar values and a solid grasp on what’s important to your company’s growth really helps with this.

Be Aggressive

Don’t be afraid to really put yourself out there. You have a lot of competition, after all, and you won’t reach your goals by being passive in your efforts.

Always Fine-tune

Pursue strategies that have proven results and prune out what isn’t working. This will keep your company a solid marketing foundation to build off of and keep operations efficient.

In the end, it simply comes down to being a valued resource, which means being trusted, reliable, smart, entertaining, and helpful.

Christine Beuhler is a regular contributor to Markerly’s blog. Markerly is a content agency that connects your brand to influencers.

How to Ensure Your Employees’ Productivity

Productivity, startup, startup tips, guest postThe last thing any employer wants is to have a workforce that puts procrastination over productivity. Unfortunately there are just some employees who are going to push against that envelope at every chance they get. It’s one thing if you have someone who works best under pressure and can still turn out a fantastic product reliably in a short time frame. It’s another if that someone is simply easily distracted or doesn’t mind producing a lackluster product and would rather spend time playing games on Steam.

So what do you do? How do you make sure that your employees stay on track?

1. Monitoring Software

Some companies will install monitoring software that will allow them to “log in” and see what any employee is doing at any given time. If you have some particularly problematic employees, this might be a good way to “catch them in the act.” Another good way to go is to use Network Monitoring Tools that track and record details like traffic, resource allotment, etc. This way, even if someone minimizes a window when you walk by (or in case you “log in”) you can see how much bandwidth they are using. If you know the volume of resources they should be using, telling who is spending more time surreptitiously watching YouTube will be obvious.

2. Regular Reviews

Performance appraisals (some employers choose to call them, simply, Performance Reviews) are a great way to improve employee productivity (nobody wants a bad review!). The trick is to have them regularly. Most employers will only do them once every twelve months because, frankly, most employers hate doing performance reviews more than the employees! It’s better to have them at least every six months. If you have the time or your employee pool is small enough, having them every three months can keep productivity levels high. It also helps you maintain contact and keep tabs on how your business as a whole. It is helpful, particularly if you are going to have them more often, to strive for an informal and conversational style. Encourage feedback from your employees as well as asking them to accept the feedback you give to them.

3. Provide Helpful Tools

There are lots of different productivity apps out there that you (and your employees) can use to help manage time, stay on task and increase productivity. Embrace the technology and implement it on all of your work-related machines. Foot the bill for the better, and more expensive, apps so that your employees don’t have to.

4. Offer Great Benefits

In addition to basic health care benefits, other benefits like company cars (or gas allowances), free childcare (or as close to free as you can offer it), paid kid sick days and allowing employees to telecommute when they need to can all help improve your employees’ productivity. Why? Who would want to risk losing a job with all of those sweet benefits? Further, those benefits help your employees relax while they are on the job. That relaxation feeds into their desire to give their best performance at work. Everybody wins.

There are lots of ways to incentivize your employees to stay on task and to be as productive as possible. The hardest thing is not deciding whether or not to offer those incentives but which incentives you want to focus on.

Kelly Jane Brown is an aspiring writer, entrepreneur and student at UCLA.










Five Technology Must-Haves for Your Startup

Technology, Startup Tips, Guest PostEach year, nearly 20 percent of small businesses stop operating temporarily, and this interruption results in significant revenue loss for 68 percent of owners. Of those, 40 percent will never resume operations, Capstone Technologies reports. As a small business owner, it’s vital you invest in technology that you can rely on. Implement the latest tech solutions that will grow with your company, help you maximize your resources and facilitate a healthy and vibrant business for years to come.

Consult With a Tech Professional

If you can afford it, purchase a technology consultation from a professional who specializes in your field or type of business. Consultant fees are approximately $100 per hour and include an assessment of your company’s needs today and into the future. You can find a referral at Microsoft’s Small Business Specialist Program. Common small business technology decisions you would discuss with a consultant include:

  • Hardware processing speed and storage capacity
  • Analog and Internet-based telephone systems
  • Customer service and professional services software
  • An in-house server for website hosting and data storage or outsourced and cloud technology
  • Mobile phones and tablets
  • A business network
  • Wireless Internet service
  • Security software
  • Bring your own device (BYOD) consultation
  • Website design and Internet marketing technology

Internet Access

High-speed Internet service is the most reliable and cost-efficient online access model. Most systems are similar; however, some regions only offer a few options, and a consultant or review website will help you compare. A broadband service is the fastest and includes:

  • Fiber optic service (FiOS): the fastest, but has limited availability
  • Cable broadband: the next speediest option, but may operate more slowly during peak Internet times, because the connection is shared with other users in your area
  • DSL: relatively fast, but slower as the distance from the server increases

In a rural area, you may need to use satellite Internet such as Hughesnet Gen4, or a mobile wireless system such as Clear.

Computer Hardware

A basic computer needs approximately 4GB of memory, an 80GB hard drive and a 3GHZ processor. An 18-inch or larger monitor is an inexpensive upgrade that will help employees avoid tired and strained eyes.

Data Storage

Cloud technology for data storage can save your business a lot of trouble in the case of an emergency or server crash. It is safe, easily accessible and inexpensive. Most services allow you to limit access to files and come with sharing options that enable users to edit and replace files. It also tracks user activity for added security. Dropbox has a business version with low fees and graduated data capacity options.

Portable Digital Devices

Smartphones, tablets and laptops are prevalent in today’s business world. You may decide to save money and allow employees to use their own phone or other mobile device, but there are some potential legal ramifications, such as unlawful use with “sexting” and other forms of unsanctioned communication that your company could be liable for. If you do allow BYOD, make sure you establish a firm BYOD policy.

Website with Mobile Options

A high-quality website is a significant investment. It is probably the most important communications and ecommerce tool you have. Hire a professional website development team with a solid reputation. Ask them to explain the features you need and the latest design advancements, including responsive design (design that resizes the site for viewing on mobile devices). Mobile search is growing—Google reports that 67 percent of users search and make purchases from mobile devices.

A basic website can range from $5,000 to $10,000, while a responsive design website can range from $15,000 to $25,000. Responsive features cannot be added to a standard website later, but if you cannot afford a responsive site, you can purchase a mobile website that costs as little as $13 per month. A mobile site is a simplified version of your website with large buttons and fewer columns for the mobile user’s ease of use.

Jack Wilson manages multiple corporate design projects by day, while fitting in some part-time freelance writing by night.


How to Get Inspiration from Your Family

joe-bartonThere was a time when people were born into occupations. Craftsmen spent long apprenticeships learning a trade, inside and out. Though times have changed, businesses born from family traditions are still thriving all over the world.

These businesses are special because they have roots. For my family, it was baseball. My dad took our love of baseball and turned it into J&B Baseball Cards. My dad was willing to invest his hard-earned money in something I was passionate about, and his example was instrumental in my decision to start my own business as an adult.

What You Have to Offer

If your family’s hobby, tradition, or “secret recipe” is something others find valuable and would pay for, it could lead to a profitable business. You’ve lived and breathed it your whole life, so you probably do it better than anyone else. Here are some examples of small family businesses I’ve seen that have the potential to be lucrative:

Homemade Goods: We had Amish neighbors who were amazing cooks, and they had a nice little side business selling their food to the public. Artisan goods are hot right now, and it’s easy to get involved with your local farmer’s market to sell jams, jellies, pies, etc.

Pet Services: We recently bought a puppy and have been learning how to train him by watching video tutorials. It’s a tough job, but if you love animals, you can run a side business training puppies, walking dogs, or even grooming pets.

Landscaping: My best friend learned the hard work required for a business from his father, and when he was 16, he fell in love with landscaping. Now, he’s one of the best landscape designers in the Midwest. If you know what grows well in your region and don’t mind hard work, landscaping can be a profitable family business.

Admittedly, these are more small businesses than global, scalable startups. But, with a little thought and innovation, it wouldn’t be hard to turn your family hobby into a global brand. It worked for Wal-Mart, Mattel, and Whole Foods.

Why It’s Viable

The key to viability is demand from others combined with the ability to provide a solution to a hungry market. There are two distinct advantages to creating a startup from a family tradition:

  • Experience: Research conducted by Anders Ericsson indicates it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice for someone to become an expert at something. When you start a business from a family tradition, especially if you’ve been immersed in it since childhood, you’ve dedicated the time necessary to learn and experience it deeply, and that puts you a step ahead of the competition.
  • Budget: Tight budgets are a reality for almost every startup. However, when you have the experience of a tradition, you can avoid major expenses, such as research on the trade itself. You already know the pitfalls to avoid and have likely determined the most cost-efficient materials or resources.

How to Get Started

The good news is that people want to buy local to support family businesses in their community. If you’re ready to try your hand at a tradition-born business, follow these three tips for success:

  1. 1.      Start Small: Try to make your first dollar in the early stages, and don’t invest thousands in building something you’re not sure others want. Make your offering available to the public, make a small investment, and see where it goes.
  2. 2.      Keep Quiet: It’s natural to want to tell people when you’re excited, but be careful about deluging people with your enthusiasm. Some people may try to discourage you, but it’s important to believe in yourself and your idea.
  3. 3.      Have Fun: When you make something a business, you can lose sight of what you loved about it in the first place. Don’t forget to have fun. Involve your family in certain areas so they’re a special part of the business. I include my parents in stories and reports, and they love feeling like a part of our company’s success.

Starting a business is hard, but the more you pour yourself into something, the more likely it is you’ll commit to it and succeed. There will be challenges, but when you survive them, you and your business will emerge stronger. Carry a family tradition into your work, and you’ll truly see roots take hold.

Joe Barton is the founder of Barton Publishing and other websites that promote natural health through teaching people how to cure themselves using alternative home remedies (using simple grocery store items, herbs, vitamins, exercises, and more) instead of expensive and harmful prescription drugs.

A Startup Guide to Energy Efficiency

Startup Tips, Guest PostThe best time to start thinking about energy efficiency and cost saving for your startup is as soon as you start detailing your business plan. Build energy saving steps into your plan early, and start saving money on day one. If you wait until the business is moving down a path of wasting energy, you’ll spend a lot more time and money getting back onto a cleaner path.

Begin creating energy-efficient policies and procedures so your staff will know you are serious about saving energy. Reinforce and reward energy-saving behaviors. It’s easier starting this way than trying to change the company culture later.

This also gives you an opportunity to think about your energy usage plan. If you’re in an energy-deregulated state, choose an energy provider that meets your preferences. If you consider yourself a “green” company, this is the chance to associate your business with one of the renewable energy resources available in your area.

Start a List by Starting Simple

A startup has enough things to think about, so they should start simple when it comes to energy management. Start with the lights in your office.

Take advantage of the natural light coming in through the windows. Keep the lights off throughout the day if there is enough natural light for people to do their work. Change the light bulbs in the office to energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Where you need more lighting or spot lighting, use halogen lights or LED clusters.

Install motion sensors where it makes sense in the office. Areas such as restrooms benefit from motion sensors, so the lights aren’t on for long periods when there are no people present. Get your office lighting on a schedule. Make sure the lights are off during evenings, weekends, and holidays when people aren’t there.

Be on Schedule

Depending on the type of business you have, a startup schedule can be very important. Food Service Equipment and Supplies suggest a food service business can save a lot on energy costs by creating a schedule of when to turn on cooking surfaces. A broiler that is only used at lunch and dinner doesn’t need to be turned on at breakfast. Put the kitchen on a schedule on opening day, so the staff gets accustomed to the procedures.

Track the Temperature

Monitor the HVAC system and thermostat. Again, the environment only needs to be comfortable when people are present. If you open windows to allow fresh air in, adjust the thermostat so you don’t lose energy dollars out the windows.

Make sure doors and windows seal properly when closed. Doors should have automatic closures on them. Your HVAC expenses could be some of your highest costs. Be sure to fine-tune your heating and cooling schedule so you’re not wasting money.

Be Well-Equipped

The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends using equipment with the Energy Star rating. To receive this rating, products must prove they can operate 10-15 percent more efficiently than the non-rated devices.

Plug desktops, monitors and printers into power strips so they can be turned off while not being used. Minimize printer and copier use. The startup phase is a good time to try to be a “paperless” office.

Peggy Smith

Peggy is a sustainability specialist from Arizona who writes about solar energy and green living.


Easy Ways To Save On Electronics As A Startup

Starting your own business is a risky venture. Technology is everything in this day and age, and getting the right equipment for your office is expensive. Here are some easy ways to save on electronics for your startup.

Bring Your Own Device

Image via Flickr by DennisCallahan

Incorporating a BYOD policy is a wise idea. With a BYOD policy, employees will use their own phones as work phones. This will save you a ton of money because you won’t have to buy phones, activate them, and sign them up for data plans. With the BlackBerry 10 OS, people can separate their phone profiles into personal and professional sides, so you won’t get confused with apps and information on either side. You can also use mobile management software so you can keep all of your employees in sync.

Another area where you’ll save money by having a BYOD policy is with office phones. If you’ve got a BYOD policy, you have employees with cell phones — there’s simply no need for an office phone. By not having an office phone, you’ll save hundreds, if not thousands.

Buy Used

Most retailers offer used or refurbished electronics at deep discounts. Take advantage of these deals. They’re under warranty and guaranteed to be as good as new. Check discount stores and online sites such as Craigslist for used furniture. On Craigslist, you’ll often run across people that are just parting with their furniture because they’re moving, so you’ll be able to strike up a good deal.

Search for Deals

Image via Flickr by analogkid281

If you have to have an item and can’t find it used, you’re going to have to search for deals. Sites such as RetailMeNot, Groupon, and CouponShack host deals from around the web, so before you buy anything from any website, check with these sites first. You may end up with free shipping for a percentage off!

Another way to look for deals is with Google Alerts. With Google Alerts, you can have Google send you an alert whenever a product drops in price. This is perfect if you’re waiting for an item to go a few dollars lower before dropping the money on it.

Move to the Cloud

Cloud computing isn’t really anything new, but its popularity is soaring. By moving your servers to the cloud, you’ll save your company thousands of dollars annually. The up-time with a service such as Amazon is likely going to be much better than your current provider, and you can use Amazon for storing data and backing up files. This is ideal for employees that want to work out of the office as they can simply log in, download the files, contribute, and upload it again for the next person to work on. With cloud storage, there’s no need for a centralized office!

If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll quickly sink a ton of money into your startup and it’ll fail before it even gets a chance to start.

Have you tried some of these tips? What other tips did you use?

DJ Miller, a graduate student at the University of Tampa. He’s an avid gadget geek and spends most of his time reading or writing. He is a huge fantasy sports fan and even runs his own blog for fantasy help.


Three Lessons to Learn from Up-and-Coming Entrepreneurs

Startup Tips, Guest Post, Successful entrepreneurs
What makes so many up-and-coming entrepreneurs so wildly successful?

If you thought it was age, connections, or just some stroke of luck than think again because these modern entrepreneurs have something valuable to bring to the world even if it isn’t apparent to those outside of its understanding.

There is something about their work ethics, passion, and drive to explore the options that allows them to capitalize on trends, innovation, and markets long since dominated by dying companies.

1. Low barriers for action

Eyal Lichtmann sums up, quite perfectly, why agile entrepreneurs are able to make such a big impact:

“Find a niche. Go for it. Everybody has a dream, but only dreams plus action equals reality. There is no guarantee of success, but there is a guarantee of failure if you do not try … Dream big… then focus on the details.”

Traditional businesses are often govern by bureaucracy which places too many hurdles in the way of innovation and agility; smart entrepreneurs go with the flow, set out on big goals, and put in the time, energy, and resources to see a project to completion even if it hasn’t been analyzed to the 10th degree by some “quality assurance” department.

2. A transparent, agile process

Eric Reis of the Lean Startup book/idea has two very important concepts about business that many traditional and overreaching businesses seem to miss the mark:

·  Our goal is to learn as quickly as possible

·  Don’t believe your own propaganda

Small and big businesses that were formed on the traditional approach such as outlining a detailed business plan, setting structure, and creating a tough product production process become bogged down with the ability to adapt their products based on customer feedback. Likewise, spikes of success can lead to having a false sense of security in the industry and market when in reality the product is already marching toward doom because it has been outclassed by an up-and-comer.

The thing you want to take away from this is that you must always pay attention to the customers and snap on a moment’s notice to make the changes that will keep them sealed to your brand.

3. Unity through creativity (not tyranny)

A boss should be a leader – not an individual that overly demands and controls every aspect of a project.

Businesses stagnant and waning in their industry, more often than not, are ruled by bosses that have an iron grip on their creative and talented team. The nit-picking and micro-management stifles creativity from those that are fully trained to complete a task – they were hired for their talent but the boss becomes their toughest hurdle.

The business that are doing great, agile things are the ones that allow for creativity thinking, flexibility in their work, encouragement from their peers and bosses, and give all the appropriate tools and resources to tackle an objective in the manner they see best fit.

Because these entrepreneurs act like leaders, rather than bosses, they are able to create and innovate in their industry where others fall flat.

Kelly Jane Brown is an aspiring writer, entrepreneur and student at UCLA.


13 Pieces of Startup Advice You Never Thought Of

Guest post, startup tips, YEC

Question: What’s your most unorthodox/funny/strange-but-good advice to other startup founders?

Get a Vacuuming Robot

“When you’re in startup mode, you’re not thinking about cleaning. The downside is that your environment really affects your productivity, so having a clean home office is crucial. Consider hiring a cleaning service or getting a vacuuming robot to make sure that you’re working in the best conditions so you can produce your best work!”

Working Out Will Save You Time

“I’ve found I’m so much more efficient after I work out that I always gain productive time, not lose it. Seems counter-productive for many, but my startup founder friends who don’t exercise regularly find it harder to stay focused, tougher to be creative, difficult to maintain a good diet, and are just less happy in general.”

Derek Flanzraich | CEO and Founder, Greatist

Clean Your Employees’ Mugs

“As a founder and leader of your startup, you want to demonstrate to your team that everyone has to play multiple roles within the company — and some roles will be cool, others not so much. On Monday mornings, I like to go around and ask team members whether they need their mugs cleaned. Sure, I like to clean, but also I like to demonstrate that I am not above playing the role of a dishwasher.”

Eric Bahn | Co-Founder, Hustle Con Media

Make a Championship Belt

“Create fun ways to reward employees. I give my employees a championship belt to place on their desks when they do something exceptional for the company. You will be able to get top performance from your employees by showcasing unique rewards.”

Decorate Your Work Space

“Boring work spaces make boring and less productive employees. Finding decor that you can afford and will motivate your staff might be tricky, but it is a proven fact that work performance is enhanced when employees are inspired and energized by their surroundings. Inspiration comes in many forms, so make sure your decor is consistent with your business goals.”

Erika London | Co-Founder, iAdventure.com

Get Barefoot in the Park

“Think about it: a person takes off his shoes when he gets home and gets comfortable, which is the exact atmosphere that helps early-stage startups succeed. Early employees need to feel at home at the office, and they need to bond with their teammates like family. Don’t allow shoes at the office, and employees will stay later in the night and build a closer bond with their teammates.”

Jun Loayza | President, Ecommerce Rules

Work in Corporate America

“This may sound weird, but it’s true. It’s wise to learn and make your mistakes on somebody else’s watch before risking everything on your own. And if you don’t have the right business skill set to start, launching your own company is going to be an uphill battle.”

Alexandra Levit | President and Founder, Inspiration at Work

Encourage Daily Siestas

“Approximately seven hours after waking in the morning, we experience an energy drop that prevents us from working effectively. This is the perfect time to have a post-lunch, 20-minute catnap; studies have shown that midday napping can significantly improve performance. Some employees might feel uncomfortable napping during the work day, so lead by example and take a nap every day.”

Emerson Spartz | CEO and Founder, Spartz

Get Over Yourself!

“Get over the fact that you are going to turn off a lot of people while running your startup. That includes your family, friends, prospective investors, prospective customers, media, etc. Once you do that, a great majority of the weight you carry while trying to run your startup dissipates.”

Carmen Benitez | Co-Founder and Managing Director, Fetch Plus

Don’t Try to Boil The Ocean

” It’s a great visual analogy, and it perfectly encapsulates a major challenge for any startup founder. You’ve got to take the challenge on, one gulp at a time.”

Brent Beshore | Owner/CEO, adventur.es

Give Time to Other Startups

“I’ve spent 10 hours a week over the past two years “advising” startups — formally or simply as a sounding board or beta tester. It’s great to have tunnel vision with your product, but supporting others has a few incredibly positive effects. You’ll meet very interesting and skilled people who can help you, and you’ll uncover clever ways to solve your own challenges.”

Aaron Schwartz | Founder and CEO, Modify Watches

Take a Vacation

“Really, take one. When you leave your team to execute on their own, you’ll see where all the holes in your company are, and then you can work on patching them. You should be able to leave your company for a few weeks without them needing you.”

Don’t Live With Co-Founders

“Don’t live with your co-founders. When you’re part of a startup, you’re likely spending 15-20 hours a day with your co-founders. It’s inevitable that they will start to irritate you. If you have to spend your precious four hours of free time with them too, you can add their snoring problems to the mix!”

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

At this national startup conference (that even you can afford) You’ll get great startup advice too!


Been There, Done That: A How-To Guide from a Real-World Entrepreneur

Guest Post, Startup Tips, How to

Small businesses represent more than 99.7 percent of all employers in the United States. How do you get yours off the ground and running? While I was taking Indie Peace from concept to company, I learned a few things—some the hard way.

Great idea, maestro!

You’ve identified a niche and are poised to meet a need. You’re prepping to deliver a wonderful product into a market you hopefully know like the back of your hand. Feels good, doesn’t it? The tips may provide some lift to your business wings during your entrepreneurial flight and ensure sustainability along the way. Good luck!

1.    Warm up your wings before you leave the nest—or crash like a rock.

There are thousands of risks in starting a new company. Reducing those risks as much as possible beforehand is vital. It’s an unknown road, yes, but without the unknown, we don’t really have an entrepreneurial adventure on our hands. Foresee the ups and downs of your journey; no one else will do it for you, and it will also help you feel less stressed as you navigate uncharted territory. The clever predictions you’ve forged from your upfront due diligence will serve you well.

Sustainability is the operative word here. Once you get going, don’t stop. Anyone can start a company, but few can sustain one. The key is seeing every possible outcome and determining the required pivot you must make along the way. Remember, this is a journey, not a destination. What do the first two years look like? What are the major milestones? Do you have all you need to meet your goals? Validate your revenue model for roadblocks. Create a journey map for your business that highlights the first major achievements.

2.    Welcome the opportunity to punch holes in your business—from everyone.

Entrepreneurial wisdom can be found in the strangest of places, but be careful where you seek it. Great advice can carry the side effect of fear, so maintain your energy throughout and let nobody dampen your flame. Most times, good advice from friends or family is exuberantly given from a personal obligation to see that you don’t fall on your face. Don’t let them take the wind out of your sails.

The worthiest advice can be given from those with defeatist attitudes and the worst advice can sometimes come from those who are most qualified to give it. The least qualified can sometimes be the best for challenging your assumptions early on. They also bring an added layer of creativity, as they’re not informed on the traditional roadblocks in your industry.

Validate what you see as real threats and have a system for solving them. Punching holes in your business will serve you extremely well. Leverage all the minds around you to mitigate risk while putting your pride aside.

3.    Form your board of advisors: The Specialists.

Once you get past the embryonic phases of your business concept, one of the quickest and easiest ways to sidestep landmines is to form a team of advisors, ideally consisting of successful entrepreneurs who have made the journey at least once, and leverage their expertise and experiences often.  Believe it or not, most entrepreneurs love helping other businesses. They miss the startup phase and like to join in the conversations. Start with one or two people that you can call at anytime for advice. Ask family members and friends to refer you to people they know. Look for “specialists” with knowledge in a specific area, such as obtaining funding or taking a new product to market. You don’t need anything formal and your “board” never even has to have official meetings. In fact, my personal board of advisors has never gathered together to meet since we’ve been in business, but I know I can call on each one of them to advise within their specialty.  They really enjoy it.

4.    Find your tribe.

Find the local, entrepreneurial tribes on the same journey as you and get involved. Attend all the events and discover the ones for you. Try entrepreneur.Meetup.com, Cofounderslab.com, LinkedIn entrepreneurial groups, and spend some time on Google searching for entrepreneur societies and small business groups in your city. If you cannot find anything, create your own. The university or college near your city will probably have an entrepreneur institute on campus. Contact the director and see how you can get involved.

Co-working facilities are my favorite places to connect locally. They cater to entrepreneurs and host mixers and business pitch nights to share ideas and contacts, and are great places to meet all types of local mavens; I met my developer at one. The most important thing is to be involved; after that, the possibilities will present themselves.

If your tribe is not present locally, find them digitally. Ask your social network to make recommendations.

5.    Consider a doing well by doing good business model.

Many times, sadly, businesses are formed purely for making as much money as possible. Consider ways your company can give back versus take away; a business that assists in the collective cure versus the disease. Embed something you care about into your product or service. Don’t simply form a business to make something as cheaply as possible and sell it as expensively as possible. Create a product or service that will make you smile when you go to sleep at night. This will sustain you in your business and be the primary source of your passion.

This also makes it easy for you to grab people’s attentions and elevate their eagerness to help. New businesses usually cannot afford a lot of public relations (PR) and marketing. Here’s the great gift to building a business of purpose: people want to help the “good guys”—especially in the digital sphere. Enhance your original idea accordingly. What do you care about? How can you and your business give back? For instance, in Indie Peace’s case, we support organic farming practices in the U.S. by only buying organic cotton grown on U.S. soil. All of our garments are exclusively made from organic cotton, so we eliminate herbicides, pesticides, defoliants, and fungicides from our environment and water systems. One shirt purchased versus non-organic eliminates 4oz. of pesticide use. Perhaps there’s a way you can give a percentage of sales to a charity you love.

Unless you’re creating a new market or disrupting one, you must find a way to separate your company from the “noise.” Enhance it with a social or environmental impact model. Be the small business you would like to see more of in the world. This may be tougher in the beginning, but in the long run it will generate more positive PR and social media buzz. Entrepreneur Magazine ran a two-page spread on Indie Peace—free PR I likely wouldn’t have received without our environmental mission.

6.    Sell the idea that your business is great in 30 seconds.

Nail down a succinct description of your business that you can communicate in 30 seconds or less. Know it by heart. Whether you’re taking to an investor, an advisor, or a random person at a football game, it’s essential that you describe your business consistently and effectively. This also helps sharpen the way you describe your company to press, video, social media, etc. You’ll use it more than you know, so really know your company and its reason to exist.

7.    Create a business plan that you actually use.

Unless you need capital, you don’t really have to have a formal business plan. Business plans tend to be stagnant documents that are read once and then forgotten. Instead, create a living “planning document” that is continually updated and revised as needed, with next steps and actionable line items that can be instantly assigned as tasks to be performed. Keep a good two-page executive summary on your company that you constantly update and are able to send out to those who express interest. Find a cloud solution that allows you to store your business work in a central location and assign out tasks with ease to others working with you. This makes it easily accessible to anyone on your team and more apt to evolve with your business. It’s great for instantly adding new team members to the conversation as well.

8.    If you need capital, multiply whatever you think you need by two, and then assume you won’t get it.

Raising capital may be the biggest challenge for businesses. It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my business. Many entrepreneurs don’t want to ask for the amount of capital they really need because they don’t want to scare off potential investors, but then end up underfunded and unable to sustain the business. It also signals to the investor that you don’t know the industry and the operational requirements for your company. Break the real number out and try to raise it in tiers.

Make 100 percent sure that if you miss an investment round, you can still keep your company in business. Funding is a moving target; it usually won’t happen when you think it will. It’s vital to have strong insulation by assuming you won’t raise the capital at the intended time. There is no way to put a timeframe on when investment will occur, but you do know when your own money will run out. When you estimate the month you need to secure the next round of working capital, add another 8 months to that and find a way to keep things moving until then. See where you can cut some up-front costs to add this investment padding.

Start with a short list of where you can go to raise the first round of capital you need—friends, family, bank, etc. Learn the art of crowdfunding. Learn all the platforms (Kiva.org, Kickstarter.com, indiegogo.com, Fundable.com, Peerbackers.com). The recent Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act encourages funding of small businesses by making it easier to raise money from many small investors instead of a few large ones. It can help you bridge the gap in funding for things like prototypes before you get to larger investors. What happens on crowdfunding sites is also valuable for validating whether or not your concept really has wings. When you’re ready to approach larger investors, divide whatever you think your business is worth by 1.3. Entrepreneurs are notorious for overvaluing their companies. This keeps you on a level with what the investors will be thinking.

9.    Compete in business competitions.

Search online for new business competitions; they’re easier to win than you think. I won two of them for Indie Peace and it helped us in a multitude of ways. Always keep this on your shortlist of funding options. There are usually fewer entrants than you might expect, and if you are coming in with an environmental or social impact model, your odds increase. Moreover, these competitions provide great marketing and PR.

10. Weatherproof your business.

Set up your business to function even if there is an economic downturn, or if you do not secure investment at the intended time. Have backup suppliers. We have Indie Peace to the point now where we don’t need investors, but when we first started out, our business model relied heavily on investment rounds being achieved. This put us in dire straits when the economy tanked a few years ago. Investors were hard to find, boutiques were going bankrupt, banks were frozen, and suppliers were in the danger zone as well. Determine what your initial needs are and then take all of them off the table and figure out how the business works on the alternatives you’ve selected.

11. Develop a multi-channel strategy. Pick the right megaphones.

Take advantage of multiple online channels for promoting your business, but pick the right ones. Get to know all of them: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, etc. There are endless choices and new ones appearing every day. Find a company similar to yours on each channel and study the moves they make. There are thousands of megaphones out there—let your voice be heard, but spend time in the right places as a lot of time wasting can occur here. As with anything, measure your effectiveness. What does success look like for you on these platforms?

12. Automate you and all there is to do. Focus on the important stuff.

Take advantage of the small business productivity applications available in the cloud—they’re some of the best things to happen to solo entrepreneurs. They’ll help you automate basics such as accounting, invoicing, file sharing, and tasks management. Plus, most of them have pay-as-you-go programs that grow with your business and keep costs manageable. Plus, the less time you spend on tasks, the more time you can devote to learning how to develop your business. You know all of the things you have to do. Find a comprehensive cloud solution that lets you get more of them done in less time with fewer headaches, and as your business grows you can easily plug in new team members. An all-in-one cloud solution helps you run lean, mean, and organized.


There’s much work to be done and you must ultimately decide the point where concept must meet tactical execution. It’s go time or not. The odds are either in your favor or not. What are odds really, other than the direct correlation between your own entrepreneurial due diligence and ability to create alternatives around the roadblocks? Thank God for entrepreneurs and their relentless ability to adapt. You’ll drive on through the night and that’s what slaps the odds in the face.

14. Do the work.

Be a business even when no one is watching, because success and character are built when no one is watching. With no one breathing over your shoulder checking in for status reports, distraction is everywhere. Act like you go to work by setting your own hours and sticking to them. Dedicate work times and let no one or nothing affect them. Know each day what you are going to accomplish and actually accomplish it. Have a dedicated workspace away from your “outside work hours” spaces. As an entrepreneur, you are taking success into your own hands. Staying organized and on-task is vital. Be careful to watch your effect on the business. Sometimes the business owner is the biggest problem.

15. Unplug and unwind.

I still struggle with this today. Establish time for yourself unrelated to your business. You’ll find that some of the best new ideas and inspirations pop up when you’re not working. Remember to keep your head up and enjoy life along the way. You only have one life to live – live it well.

Lawton Ursrey is the CEO and Founder of Indie Peace, an environmentally responsible apparel company, and Product Marketing Manager of Sage One, a simple, online accounting application for small businesses. 


Is Your Unpaid Internship Program a Good Idea? 6 Legal Considerations

Guest Post, YEC, Interns, Unpaid Interns, Startup Tips, Startup Legal QuestionsAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is especially high among college students and recent graduates. For those unable to find paid work, an unpaid internship might seem like a useful way to gain valuable experience, recommendations and even future job placement. Likewise, for cash-strapped startups, the idea of getting labor without having to trade liquidity or valuable equity can be too appealing to ignore.

However, there are some very serious legal considerations every for-profit company — including startups — must be aware of before attempting to hire unpaid interns.

Under federal law, every employee in America is entitled to a minimum wage, additional compensation for overtime and certain other benefits. The employer must also consider worker’s compensation, discrimination laws, employee benefits, state labor laws and unemployment insurance coverage. In order for these requirements to not apply, the employment relationship must fall under applicable legal exemptions.

In the case of Walling v. Portland Terminal Co., the United States Supreme Court held that one such exemption to the federal requirements exists for people who work for their personal advantage rather than that of their employer. Such a person may be considered a trainee instead of an employee for purposes of federal law. In this seminal court case, the Supreme Court looked to six factors in deciding whether a work program was for the intern’s own educational benefit or the advantage of their employer.

Here are the six factors considered by the Court:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

The DOL has taken the position that for the exemption to apply, all of the factors listed above must be met. While some of the above requirements may be covered by an effective agreement, those that are subjective create a substantial burden on a company looking to hire interns to create a substantive program that meets these criteria.

The key takeaways for anyone looking to hire unpaid interns is that you need an appreciation for the nebulous area of the law you are entering, understand the difficulty of complying with the Department of Labor’s specifications, and finally, ensure you do all you can to be in compliance with the law.

Peter I. Minton is the founder and President of Minton Law Group, P.C. His practice focuses on the representation of startups and emerging businesses in business transactions, capital raising, corporate governance and general corporate matters. Prior to founding the Minton Law Group, P.C., Peter attended the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University Law Center. Upon graduation, he began his practice in the mergers & acquisitions department of a large New York City law firm where he represented private equity and hedge fund clients in a diverse range of transactions. He is a admitted to the New York bar.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.


5 Ways Your Startup Should Be Using Video

Guest Post, Startup Tips, YECI started “producing” my own videos when I was 8 years old. From the time my sister and I were deemed old enough to hold the family camera without breaking it, we were hooked on the wonders of video. Back then, polished videos were still a luxury. I never would have guessed that consumer-level cameras would soon fit in my pocket, or that video would become such a powerful piece of my own business.

I recently got together with my friend and fellow entrepreneur, Ariane Fisher, co-founder of the crowdsourced, cloud-based Storymix Media, to brainstorm a few of our favorite ways to use video to save time, pump up marketing and improve business practices:

  1. Use video to train new staff. Most of our staff works remotely, so we don’t always have the luxury of sitting down with new team members to walk them through training. Instead, we use Camtasia, a screen recording software, to record ourselves walking through our processes step-by-step. When new team members start, we have a dozen videos that they can watch. These videos don’t have to be perfect and polished, as long as you can get your point across.
  2. Use quick video tutorials to help clients understand complex topics. Most of our clients have hectic schedules, so we often use Camtasia to record short screen recordings in place of web conferencing. We simply send them links to private videos that walk them through specific concepts, and they can watch the videos on their own schedules. “Video tutorials are a great way to provide value to your existing clients,” says Fisher. “At Storymix, we use video tutorials to help clients get creative with our product and use it in ways they hadn’t considered.”
  3. Use video to bring testimonials to life. A written testimonial is a powerful marketing tool, but a video testimonial is even more credible. “Testimonial videos seem more authentic to prospective clients than written reviews,” says Fisher. “They don’t have to be daunting or intrusive; they can be filmed in the comfort of your client’s home using their webcam. You can schedule a phone call with them after delivering your product or completing your service. Talk with them for a few minutes about what they enjoyed most. Then ask them to hit record on their webcam and keep speaking with them in an interview style.”
  4. Create a short value proposition video for your website. Your value proposition is your promise to potential customers. Use a video on your website to quickly and clearly explain the benefits of what you’re offering. As Fisher puts it, “Explainer videos are super hot and a quick way to explain your value props to prospective clients. You can hire high-end professional services, or even go the DIY route and create your own explainer video using your existing footage and a voiceover with a USB mic.” Check out an example from her company on YouTube.
  5. Use video to make yourself more visible in search engines. YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world. “Google owns YouTube and places higher value on inbound links from their own platform,” says Fisher.

Whether you’re using video to communicate among your own team members or to complement your marketing, the most important thing is that you set aside time to jump in and start experimenting with it. Video is becoming a powerful part of modern business—if you’re not using it, you’re missing out on endless opportunities.

Allie Siarto is the co-founder of Loudpixel, a social analytics company focused on social media monitoring, insights, measurement and infographics. She also runs a project called Entretrip, a co-traveling experience for location independent entrepreneurs, and a digital marketing innovation podcast called The Apt Marketer.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.


How To Build A Semantic Startup

Semantic startups, guest post, startupHow to Build a Semantic Startup

Google’s “semantic search” concept is an innovative approach to search queries. Queries on the search giant aren’t just analyzed as individual words, like the way most search engines deliver results. Google’s algorithm is trained to read and understand a user’s query, drawing on past queries and lots of Web browsing data to determine exactly what the user is searching for and deliver those results.

You can build a semantic style startup too, one that that tests theories and uses that data to help increase conversions and improve the quality of your product.

Learn Your Industry

A unique skill that entrepreneurs must possess is the ability to look objectively at one’s competition to discover what they do better. The copy and messaging your competitors use has often been finely tuned to get the most conversions for that niche. If you see others advertising on AdWords, try running a campaign there with some ad extensions to direct customers to your product pages or get more phone calls.

Websites like Alexa collect some statistics on your competition that you can view publicly, like the age range of people who visit your competitors or which part of the country they live in. With this data, you can learn and make guesses as to what customers expect when they visit your page. You’ll get a better return on your investment if you study your market carefully instead of shotgun blasting your ads around the Web.

Educate Yourself

Any individual in business for himself must resign to a life of hard work and constant education. For instance, the health industry is in for some major changes that software developers can capitalize on if they know what’s expected. Changes to health information technology have created openings for developers to design the programs and infrastructure needed to connect patients, doctors and health care professionals. The old generation of office paperwork is on its way out, and candidates looking to get into this field can now learn more than ever from online universities offering degrees and certifications in those fields.

Educating yourself does not necessarily mean returning to school. Independent certification or accreditation from institutes and seminars can also help someone with an existing skillset expand their abilities. In the case of software developers, a certificate in health care will help teach the necessary jargon and common practices hospitals face to make software design for that industry more intuitive and easier to understand.

Test Your Ideas

Very rarely is your first campaign a huge success, so you’ll often need to test out new ideas to increase conversions. Even a campaign that launches with a strong conversion rate can often undergo testing to increase the efficiency of that campaign. That means writing new copy, playing with the arrangement of the elements on your Web page and trying new forms of customer outreach is crucial to expanding your business.

You should also figure out which forms of traffic are the main factors behind your conversions. Perform testing on those platforms, then port the successful changes you find to other sources of traffic. If you work primarily with PPC and find a formula that works, try that formula in a cost per view campaign and see if you can grow your niche on other networks.

Invest in Technology

Just like Google had to invest in its search algorithm, so too will you need to invest in technology for your business. Software that automates your workload or keeps track of your task lists are all small investments with large payoffs overtime.


Startup Tips: 13 Money Saving Tricks Nobody Ever Talks About

Startup Tips, Guest Post, YEC

Question: What’s ONE thing I can do to save my business money right now that nobody ever talks about?

Forget Information Products

“This is an area not many people talk about because a lot of businesses make their money by selling these items. The problem is that too many entrepreneurs buy into eBooks, courses, group coaching programs, etc., but they don’t spend any time implementing. Stop spending your money on information and instead, save it, or spend it on talent that will help catapult your business forward.”

Shared Gym Memberships

“I’m a huge believer that splurging on gym memberships saves on employee productivity big time. But don’t buy individual memberships; instead, negotiate with a nearby gym to buy just a few memberships you can share with people on the team (as long as only one person per membership goes at once). They”ll typically be cool with that, and you’ll potentially save a ton.”

Derek Flanzraich | CEO and Founder, Greatist

Audit Your Subscriptions

“Look through your credit card statements for automatic rebills, and make sure all the services you’re paying for are actually being used. In the past we’ve uncovered a mobile phone account that no one had used for six months, a website optimization service that was overbilling us, and a CRM that we had switched away from months prior. For services that you do use, contact and ask for discounts.”

Fit It in the Right Box!

“Many product companies I have talked to always tell me some added costs come from having to buy a shipping box on-top of their retail box. A little tip we learned was make it fit inside a USPS flat rate box or UPS box. These materials are free from both suppliers, and if you manage your relationship with the driver, they even drop them off to you, saving your company a ton on packaging costs.”

Jerry Piscitelli | Owner / Inventor, Portopong LLC

Look at Legal Expenses

“Businesses often have legal needs that can cause large, unexpected legal bills. Ask your attorney for flat project rates to allow you to better budget your legal expenses. If an attorney will not provide a flat rate, they might be willing to agree to a cap on the project, which also can help you prevent surprise legal bills.”

Doug Bend | Founder/Small Business & Startup Attorney, Bend Law Group, PC

Ask for Tax Guidance

“The earlier in the year that you can sit down with your CPA and look for opportunities to better manage what you’re going to owe the IRS, the more likely that your CPA will be able to help you find some strategies to minimize your tax bill. From retirement accounts to going green, there are a lot of tax strategies out there and it’s worth going over all of them with a tax professional.”

Negotiate Absolutely Everything

“Prices for B2B products and services are almost always negotiable. Aggregated savings over time can amount to a real enduring competitive advantage if competitive negotiation becomes part your company culture. Make it a policy never to sign off on anything until you and your team have hustled out every last penny.”

Christopher Kelly | Co-Founder, Principal, Convene

Try Out Outsourcing

“Outsourcing oversees things such as web design, SEO, and in some cases, content writing can greatly reduce your overhead. Firms such as Supreme Outsourcing http://www.supremeoutsourcing.com, Guru and oDesk help you find work from around the globe. If you reduce cost in these areas, you can then hire more full-time people in your own country so there is nothing unpatriotic about it.”

Use Communal Space

“Take advantage of communal office space where the rent is subsidized and the culture is lively. Shared space is a great way to immediately reduce your cash burn, and interact with many other entrepreneurs in a fun and creative setting.”

Utilize Interns Wisely

“There are millions of college students and recent grads willing to work for little or no money in return for experience. Never underestimate the value of the experience you can offer. Compared to working at a large, boring corporation, many students will opt for the fun, small business. Once you have an intern (or four), you’ll start realizing how much of what you do can be delegated.”

Emerson Spartz | CEO and Founder, Spartz

Outsource Key Infrastructure

“Many small businesses see the value of outsourcing for specific tasks (such as web design or content). But outsourcing key infrastructure positions is an even more effective way to save money. Starting out, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll face an internal skills gap. Outsourcing key functions such as finance, legal, and HR can help you keep your internal resources focused on your business.”

David Ehrenberg | Chief Financial Officer, Early Growth Financial Services

Refuse Some Business

“”Are you mad?” Nope. Simply stated: you need the focus. Stop looking for that quick fix and start connecting to your ideal client! You need to think long and hard about who that is. They are the ones that can extract the most value by using your service or product and will come back to you time and time again. All others are a waste of effort, as you bend over backwards for them just that once.”

Carissa Reiniger | Founder and CEO, Silver Lining Ltd.

Review and Analyze

“Review invoices and statements from the past three months. As you go through them, ask yourself the following questions: Do we really need this? Are we paying too much? Can we get a better deal? How can I avoid these costs in the future? By analyzing every dollar, you’ll find areas where you are wasting money by overpaying or using services you don’t need.”

Christian Springub | CEO and co-founder, Jimdo

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.