Author Archive

August Amber Grant Awarded to Kateboards

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Last week, we announced five August Amber Grant finalists. Today, we’re delighted to share the recipient and the 9th qualifier for the $25,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Kate Adams, Founder of Kateboards. In our interview below, Kate shares the backstory of her company, walks us through her product and its production, dishes on advice for female entrepreneurs, and more.

WN: What led you to launch Kateboards?

KA: Kateboards is the reality of a dream that has been cultivating for the past 25 years. However, it wasn’t conceptualized until the end of 2015 and it didn’t materialize until the end of 2018. Kateboards is the culmination of my innate drive to have a positive & meaningful impact on others coupled with my love for skateboarding.

Born and raised in Southern California, surfing and skateboarding have always been a natural and constant part of my life. I don’t remember my life without a board under my feet. From the moment I started skateboarding, I was hooked. The joy, freedom, self-expression, challenges, fun, awareness, the falling and getting back up, the grace + flow, excitement, the individuality, the camaraderie, the confidence garnered, and the fresh air in my lungs as I cruised down the hill. There is a power that comes with propelling yourself on wheels and plenty of life lessons that come along with it as well.

My love for skateboarding, my experience in the industry, and my determination to have skateboarding be more approachable for women led me to launch Kateboards. I am the girl on the skateboard with all the childhood joy + wonder and I am the woman running the skateboard business. Same person, yet different. 

I’ve always felt like I am on this Earth for a reason bigger than myself – I believe we all are. I believe I am here to share who I am, to encourage and support others, and to lovingly help others grow just as others have helped me. 

I find depth in the simple things in life, things that keep me connected to my being. Skateboarding is one of the simple, yet profound parts of my life. I spent a lot of time searching for my purpose and came to recognize that any dream pursued with 110% effort, passion, and care is worth doing. Sometimes it just takes a little push, a dose of courage to get us to go for something that can lead to greater things, greater life experiences. 

After graduating from SDSU with a degree in business, I worked for the largest longboard skateboard company in the world for 5 years in sales and customer service. The highest quality boards were being produced at the factory and distributed globally from the attached warehouse. From the ground up I was able to see and be a part of how the business operated as a whole and it was an invaluable experience.

At Kateboards, we’re on a mission to create an inclusive and progressive environment for female skateboarders of all levels through community, collaboration, and quality products. I want women to harness the courage that is required to get involved in skateboarding + the confidence they gain from it and apply that to other areas of their lives. Kateboards is for all levels and all ages. 

In my time skateboarding as a kid, parlaying into a career in the skate industry, I saw first hand how many women would shy away from skateboarding due to the intimidation factor of it being male-dominated, fearing they’d get hurt, and not sure how they would even get started. These are all real and perceived barriers that I’m looking to dismantle.

I’ve had countless one on one interactions with women who said they felt intimidated to go into a skate shop, afraid to try skateboarding by themselves, or that they were too old to try. It may seem like women skateboarders are the norm here in Southern California, the mecca of skateboarding, but these are all personal conversations I’ve had with women in our town. What is great to see, though, is the outpouring of excitement from women who have tried skateboarding for the first time or have decided to take it back up. That’s definitely a major motivation for me and it provides so much joy.

It has become abundantly clear that there is a sheer lack of females represented in skateboarding. If women are not represented, then how do we expect them to progress? Representation is at the forefront of creating a larger scale of awareness and involvement. That being said, change has started.

Talented young women are earning sponsorships from the biggest brands in the industry, and women skateboarders will be participating in the 2020 Summer Olympics. It is truly an incredible step for women in skateboarding. However, there is still a lot of work to be done… and fun to be had. 

The Kateboards logo is the delta symbol, which signifies change. The purpose is to represent that change leads to growth, and to represent my goal of increasing the number of female skateboarders.  

WN: What challenges have you faced since launching last fall?

KA: In the 10 months since Kateboards launched, the biggest challenge thus far has been growing the business while self funding and being the only one to run day to day operations. But this has also built character, resilience, and taught me how to be even more resourceful.

Asking for help has not been a strong suit of mine in the past, but it is something I now practice more often. It has been amazing to have people’s support with Kateboards. I am positively overwhelmed by the community and how they have contributed to the business + showed they care through their words, actions, and purchases. My connections in the skate industry have also been so genuine in their support of Kateboards and made it possible for me to pursue this dream. 

WN: Take us through how Kateboards are produced and sold. What differentiates your product?

KA: The first run of Kateboards was all about laying the foundation for what the brand stands for and they were all sold direct to consumer except for the support of one retail location, which I purposely kept as the only retail shop to carry Kateboards. 

We collaborate with female artists to create the graphics for Kateboards and create a brand that it is female-oriented with the quality boards women deserve. Oftentimes women are marketed to with cheaper components and gimmicky reasons as to why the product is better for a woman. Our focus is on clean, bold, meaningful, and quality skateboards. 

With this second run of boards, and going into the 2nd year of Kateboards, there will be a bigger push to have them in retail locations resulting in the mission behind Kateboards gaining more exposure. This company isn’t just about selling boards or being another skate brand – it’s important that the purpose of Kateboards is communicated effectively.

Kateboards are quality boards made from hard rock maple and manufactured locally using state of the art machines. The boards are incredibly stable, fun, and easy to ride. They are perfect choices whether it’s your first skateboard purchase or your 10th board!

The manufacturer I’ve partnered with is one of the best around and I am so excited to be working with them. When it comes to longboards and cruisers, compared to standard street decks, there are countless shapes that affect the style of riding. Cruisers and longboards typically require more precision in their construction compared to street decks. They are easier to ride and we set them up with bigger + softer wheels and trucks that create a smoother ride. With my knowledge and experience in skateboarding I feel confident in the boards I am selling.

WN: What are your plans for future growth, and how will you get there?

KA: There are a lot of plans for future growth and the possibilities are endless. 

I am looking forward to building the Kateboards team, expanding our group skate meet-ups, and increasing our private lesson offering. I am incredibly excited to launch a new series of boards with talented artists and get Kateboards under the feet of more women. There are plans for more sustainable practices as well along with modified board designs. After 10 months it’s clear there is no limit to where Kateboards and women in skateboarding can go. 

The focus will always be on providing the best boards possible, creating value for the customer and community, and maintaining a supportive environment for female skaters. 

In the next five years I’d like to have warehouse space, ambassador programs, larger skate events, philanthropic opportunities through non-profit collaborations, skate team sponsorships, scholarships, after school programs, and Kateboards retail locations to name a few things. I feel strong, enthused, and ready to take this to the next level.

WN: Share a piece of advice you’d give an aspiring female entrepreneur. 

KA: There are several things I’d like to share:

I will say that the idea of not starting Kateboards scared me much more than starting it. It might be good to ask yourself if you feel the same way about your idea/business.

Don’t underestimate the importance of taking excellent care of your health. Without good health, running a business (or doing much of anything) is even more challenging. 

Have a plan for what you want to create and accomplish. Do your homework. Ensure that what you’re pursuing is something you truly value and feel connected to. Don’t shy away from your dream, because you think someone else is doing it better. There is a lot of noise out there – come back to your center. Do it your way. Stay on your own path and trust that what you’re doing is worth it.

Don’t be afraid to ask the big, bold questions. Encourage and support those around you. 

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” —Anaïs Nin.

WN: If you have anything else to share, please do — this is your platform!

KA: Thank you to the WomensNet for believing in me + Kateboards. And thank you for the ways you are supporting women with their dreams. To anyone reading this, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to hear from you. -Kate

August 2019 Amber Grant Finalists

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

Hi everyone,

We’re here to share 5 finalists for the August Amber Grant. The recipient will join 8 businesses currently in the running for our year-end Amber Grant of $25,000.

Expect the recipient to be announced next week. For now, congratulations to:

Dam Good™ English Muffins

Website

Binding Tales

Website

TAKEaSTAND

Website

Tubesies

Website

Kateboards

Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Lessons I Learned During My First Year in Business

Monday, August 19th, 2019

That first year in business is one of the hardest. You’re learning how to sell your products and services while simultaneously figuring out how to build a business. It’s a lot like flying a plane while you build it, as the saying goes.

The good news is that the vast majority of small businesses do survive their first year. In fact, a resounding 79.8% were still in business after Year 1, according to the US Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. That’s not to say surviving and thriving are easy. That first year provides many opportunities for growth.

So if you think back to the biggest and most important lessons you learned that first year as a business owner, what would they be? Or as you’re creating the foundations for your business during your own first year, what have you learned so far?

We asked dozens of women entrepreneurs that question and distilled their answers down to the five we thought were the most insightful. You surely had your own five biggest lessons, and they may be completely different from this list. But as you continue to grow your venture, these may be lessons you need to learn now.

  • The people you hire at the start may not be able to grow with you. Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls marketing consulting firm, learned that lesson the hard way, she says. Her mistake that first year was “not getting rid of weak people earlier…I spent more time managing them than finding new customers.” Loyalty is what led her to hold onto them even when they were no longer the best choice for the roles they were in. 

“As soon as I let them go, the culture got stronger and the bar higher,” she says. Hire slowly and fire quickly is now her mantra.

  • Prioritize what skills you should learn, rent, or buy. Juli Lassow, founder and principal of JHL Solutions retail business consulting and management firm, strongly advises assessing your areas of strength so you can build your business around your “superpowers.” Then “focus on what needs you can’t meet today and quickly decide how you’ll want to address the gaps,” says Lassow. She sees the options as learning the skill yourself, such as the basics of social media; outsourcing tasks to an expert, such as if you need a website designed and don’t see yourself needing that skill regularly; or buying tools or systems that will help you solve issues or fill a need.

“For technical areas of expertise, such as legal or accounting services, I would highly encourage that you prioritize your funds to hire an expert. The upfront investment will help you build a stronger foundation and save you money in the long run,” says Lassow.

  • Set boundaries for yourself. “The first six months are tough because there is no groundwork to build off of,” says Ashley Lim, founder and CEO of Mansa Tea, a handcrafted aged tea company. You have to do everything from scratch, for the first time. “From product planning to supply chain management to marketing, there is so much on your plate and not enough time,” Lim says. Feeling overwhelmed is common and possibly preventable, by taking breaks, setting limits on what you expect of yourself each day, and being willing to hand off tasks that you don’t personally need to tackle, such as bookkeeping, ordering supplies, or creating online content. 

Saloni Doshi, CEO of EcoEnclose, a sustainable shipping supplies company, avoids overwhelm by mapping out her priorities each month. “Then each week, I plan how much time I’d like to spend on each one. It’s a great way to make sure you’re organized, hitting your goals, and making time for the things that matter,” Doshi says.

  • Test your product, again, and again, and again. Lori Cheek, founder and CEO of Cheekd, a Bluetooth mobile dating app, learned from not testing her website before earning major publicity. “When we got covered in the New York Times nearly five years ago, we got site traffic from all over the world until Cheekd crashed,” Cheek says. Once back up, the company started getting orders from customers nationwide. “It was the biggest day in the history of Cheekd,” she confirms.

But her jubilation turned to frustration when she discovered that the company’s web developer had toggled a button “off” to prevent customer credit card data from being captured and saved. That was problematic since Cheekd’s business model is based on a recurring subscription model that requires credit card data to be stored. She estimates the company lost on the order of $30,000 from hundreds of orders that couldn’t be renewed. Her takeaway? Test everything to make sure it works as you expect before launching.

  • Communicate consistently with your customers. The number one reason that customers stop doing business with you is perceived indifference. According to the Peppers & Rogers Group, 60% of customers stop buying from you because they that they think you don’t care about them. How can you combat that? Be in touch. Send friendly emails to see how they’re doing, connect on social media, send out a newsletter, pick up the phone. Do all you can to show you care about your customers’ well-being as individuals, and not just people who spend money with you.

Alex Tran, a deals and lifestyle blogger at Schimiggy, quickly discovered that online customers appreciate talking to a live human. About 13% of her customers are repeat buyers, she says, who “do more than just purchase. They interact with me on social media and through my blog and I’ve become friends with many!”

That first year is tough, but as time goes on, you should be proud of all you’ve accomplished—the connections you’ve made, skills you’ve developed, network you’ve established, and recognition you’ve received as a result of your idea and your efforts.

Your second year in business may not be easier, but it will definitely be different, full of new ideas, customers, and experiences you can continue to learn from.

July Amber Grant Awarded to Love Again Local

Friday, August 9th, 2019

On Saturday, we announced 5 July Amber Grant Finalists.

Today, we’re delighted to reveal the $2,000 recipient and the qualifier for our $25,000 year-end Amber Grant. Congratulations to Elena Mascherino, owner of Love Again Local. Elena’s business story proves that experience isn’t always the be-all, end-all. Her journey back to work — after raising 3 children — shows determination, and how it’s never too late to reach your business dreams.

WN: Share the story of how Love Again Local started.

EM: The doors of my shop opened almost exactly two years ago when I was 45 years old. Although my career background is not in the restaurant business, I always fantasized about opening a place to call my own in my awesome town of West Chester, Pennsylvania.

I believe that the choices you make about what foods you eat are some of the most important daily decisions of your life. Plant based diets are growing in popularity. I wanted people to know that they don’t have to make huge lifestyle changes to incorporate more plant based foods in their diets. So I took a lot of time and energy developing a strong business plan and an all star menu consisting of tried and true classic deli sandwiches that I made to be vegan. 

My vision was two fold. First, I wanted to serve delicious food that people would crave and come back for. And not just people who ate exclusively vegan foods.

Secondly, I wanted to create a positive work environment for my staff members. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what I’m doing to fulfill these two missions. I talk to customers everyday who, whether vegan or not, tell me that they love walking in my door because it’s always welcoming, the staff is amazing, and the food is delicious and satisfying. My staff members, who consist mostly of college students, are bright, positive and love what they do. 

Previously, I chose to stay home with my three children (currently age 12, 15 and 17) when they were little, even though we could have used the extra income. When I decided that it was time for me to start working again, it was tough and discouraging. After about a year of unsuccessful job hunting and a lot of soul searching, I realized that I needed (and wanted) to change the direction of my path. I was itching for something new, exciting and fulfilling. I loved and cherished that I was able to devote those years entirely to my kids, but I was ready to take on a meaningful career for myself.

It started out with some delicious vegan cookies. People have always told me that I should package and sell them. And so that’s what I did! After the first year in business selling my cookies wholesale, I spent some time evaluating the direction I was going.

I ultimately decided that the wholesale business was not where I wanted to be. I wanted to be around people. I wanted to see them enjoying my products. I wanted to have a place for people to gather to eat, talk, celebrate, and be happy. I woke up one morning and the decision was made. I was going to open a sandwich shop — an all vegan sandwich shop that would be so much more.

I spent many months in front of my computer researching how to open a successful restaurant, how to find the best location, how to negotiate a lease, how to fund an entrepreneurial venture, how to hire staff, and so much more. I spoke to other business owners to get advice and gain knowledge. I did all of my homework. 

Here I sit, two years later, and I am in awe that my vision has been realized. This journey has been the craziest, most exciting and exhilarating ride of my life and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

WN: You mentioned you had zero experience in the food business. How have you been able to overcome that?

EM: I’ve never even worked in a food service environment. I probably wouldn’t recommend doing it that way, but in some ways, I think it’s had its advantages.

I didn’t have the “that’s not the way you do it” limitations that come along with having experience. Although I sometimes have to correct certain things I do, I have a fresh approach to how I run my restaurant. There are so many aspects of opening a restaurant from the ground up, so some areas were trial and error. I had to ask a lot of questions to get the information I needed. And I had to overcome feeling insecure because I knew I was asking questions that I should already know the answers to.

Food ordering was a huge challenge in the first few weeks. I had no idea how much of anything I would go through. Do I need five pounds of lettuce for the first week? Or fifty? I ordered way too little of some things and way too much of others. It took a while to get in the grove, but with patience, perseverance and sometimes begging distributors and vendors to deliver overnight, it all fell into place.

WN: What are your plans for future growth, and how will you get there?

EM: Before any of this manifested itself in the real world, I spent many hours hashing everything out in my head and on paper. I made a business plan that includes everything that we have already accomplished as well as where I want to go with it.

Store location number one…check. Next we have location number two and then three. If all goes well, the plan is to franchise. I have designed location number one to look like a franchise. People ask me all the time, “is this a chain?”.

We always keep that idea in the back of our minds as we develop new ideas for the shop. “How will this scale?”, meaning, “how can we make lots of this if we were supplying it to multiple locations?”. We also have plans to eventually wholesale products for other restaurants and retailers to purchase as well as direct to consumer, online retail sales. So there’s lots of work to be done. I have a fantastic small group of staff members, who I consider partners, who believe in what we are doing and are interested in growing the brand. Plant based products and foods are a huge trend and there is lots of room for new products and ideas to succeed.

WN: How will you utilize the July Amber Grant?

EM: I am so excited and grateful to win this grant. When I was researching how to open and run a successful restaurant, the one thing that was consistently emphasized was the high cost of it all. I must have read it a thousand times!  

But it takes timeinvestment and patience. The very appreciated $2,000 will go toward a few updates and improvements to the current location. Sometimes the updates and improvements get put on the “back burner” because there are always more pressing issues that need to come first. But it’s important to keep a clean, fresh and updated appearance in the shop at all times. I have been talking about getting a logo sign for above our counter since day one, but just haven’t had the budget for it. We’ll also be purchasing some new shirts for our team members as well as some other branded marketing materials which will be used in store to help bring together our overall appearance.

WN: What advice would you give an aspiring female entrepreneur?

EM: FOCUS, FOCUS and FOCUS! You can do anything if you can focus on your idea, know your strengths and run with it! I have always embraced the bold and simple concept with everything I have done. It’s so easy to get distracted and get off course.

Opening a restaurant has MANY parts to it. There is finding a location, negotiating a fair lease agreement, designing the space, fitting out the kitchen and buying the equipment, getting proper permits, licensing, and setting up your business as an “entity.” There is hiring staff, paperwork and more paperwork. There is menu development, menu pricing, and food ordering. If you don’t focus on one thing at a time, you can get swallowed up. But if you convince your stubborn self that you can do it, then you will do it.

WN: If you have anything else to share, please do — this is your platform!

EM: Love Again Local has been a dream come true for me. I am so grateful to everyone who has been a part of making it a reality. I’m so lucky to have always had the overwhelming support of my friends, family and community who cheered me on from the start. I never experienced any of the negativity that I read about in my research. I read that sometimes well-meaning loved ones will warn against taking such chances on something so risky. I had none of that! Everyone has been so excited, encouraging and inspired that I would go after my dream. I am forever grateful for this entire experience, regardless of where it goes from here. 

Special thanks to all my staff members from the very beginning! They have been the ones who have really made it happen. Without them, there would be nothing. With love, kindness and compassion, we can do anything!

July 2019 Amber Grant Finalists

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

Hi everyone,

We’re here to share 5 finalists for the July Amber Grant. The recipient will join 7 businesses currently in the running for our year-end Amber Grant of $25,000.

Expect the recipient to be announced next week. Until then, congratulations to:

Love Again Local

Website

Spots & Stripes Early Learning Center

Website

Nurture Occupational Therapy

Website

Likability

Website

Galas & Blooms

Website

12 No-Cost or Low-Cost Marketing Tools

Friday, July 19th, 2019

We recently received a question from an e-mailer who said, “I’d like to hear about no or low-cost marketing tools and ideas. Promoting a business as an independent woman operating as a team of one has its challenges.”

We agreed and wanted to offer some ideas for getting more bang for your marketing buck.

12 No-Cost or Low-Cost Marketing Tools

Starting and running a successful business takes time and money. In many cases, when you don’t have much time, you can spend money to delegate to other people and services. But when you don’t have much money, you have to invest more time to get things done.

Fortunately, when it comes to marketing, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to capture your audience’s attention, but it may take a little time initially before you see results.

The following are 12 free or low-cost marketing tools you should consider exploring, to raise awareness of your business and attract potential customers:

Free

Believe it or not, marketing doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. In fact, some of the absolute best marketing tools are completely free. Yes, some may have paid versions as an upgrade option, but in most cases, the free account works just fine.

Publicity

The most effective way to attract new business is to get the media saying positive things about you. Whether in a magazine article, newspaper mention, TV show, or website quote, people like to be associated with success. So when they see your business attracting positive attention from established media outlets, you may be surprised by the calls and emails you receive.

There are two ways to land media exposure: 1) Write a press release and send it out in the hopes that a reporter will find it interesting or 2) Find out what reporters are already working on and suggest that you’d be a good source.

That second approach is far more effective and less expensive than the first. The website HelpAReporter.com, nicknamed HARO, sends out three emails a day during the work week announcing the types of sources reporters and editors are looking for. Reading those listings will tell you exactly what articles are planned.

Skim the listings to see which topics you might qualify for, or be qualified to talk about, and then email the writer to explain exactly why you’d be a good person to include.

The basic HARO subscription is free.

The key to succeeding with HARO is to respond quickly and take a couple of minutes to answer the reporter’s question or offer your advice. Yes, it does take time, but giving them what they’re looking for up front will significantly increase the odds that you’ll be quoted.

Social Media

You’re on social media everyday anyway, right? So it shouldn’t take much extra time to do some business.

Three platforms you’ll want to at least have a presence on are Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Believe it or not, Facebook is very active for business and a great way to find and interact with potential clients, at no cost. Set up a free business page (which is different from your personal profile) and start to share information of interest to your target business audience there.

Instagram (IG), which is very visual, is a great place to share news about your products and services and to give your audience a taste of how you do business, through photos. Although IG is free, you may want to invest a little money in some photography training, since snapping quality pics is essential on this site.

Although we don’t hear a lot about Pinterest for business, it’s another great place to share stunning visual imagery with a link to other content. For example, you could share a link to an article you’ve written on your blog with the cover image pinned, or some glamour shots of your products.

Given how easy it is to find and connect with other people using free social media platforms, they should be one of your first resources to leverage.

Groups

Related to sharing updates and news on social media, another great way to attract members of your target audience while positioning yourself as the expert is by setting up a Facebook group. Facebook groups are communities you can establish for free that can bring together groups of like-minded individuals for discussions, information-sharing, and networking.

Some companies create private customer groups and share special deals with members, while other business owners use Facebook groups as a way to encourage conversations that are related to their business.

For example, a veterinary practice could set up a Facebook group for dog lovers. A graphic design firm could set up a group for sharing best practices around logo creation. A grocery store could create a group to talk about recipes that include ingredients that are on sale that week.

To get a sense for what groups already exist, do a search within Facebook on a subject you’re interested in. You may be surprised by the depth and breadth of groups that are out there. See if you can come up with one that doesn’t already exist.

Networking

Another free social media site designed for business professionals is LinkedIn. You certainly want to be sure you have a professional LinkedIn profile created, so that potential customers can check you out. It’s a stealth research tool many businesses use.

Once you have your profile set up, be sure and share links to articles and blog posts you write there, too. And ask to connect with other businesses in your industry and individuals you’d like to have as clients.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

When potential customers go looking for businesses like yours online, you want to be sure that your company shows up on the first page of Google results. If it doesn’t, the odds of your business being found go way, way down. Most people don’t look at the results beyond that first page.

To improve your standing in Google results, register for a free account at SEMrush, to be able to conduct keyword research. With an account, you can perform 10 keyword searches a day at no charge. If you need more than that, you may want to consider paying for a subscription.

Keywords and phrases are the words your target customer uses to look for your products and services. You want to find out what they are so that you can use them on your website and in your blog posts, to help Google see that your business does what your prospects are after. Matching your verbiage to what prospects are searching for is what search engine optimization is all about.

For example, if you own a restaurant in Boston, MA, you may want to see whether more people are searching for “restaurant in Boston” or “restaurant in Back Bay” (a neighborhood in Boston) online. Or maybe “Italian restaurant in New England” or “Boston eatery.” Once you discover what wording most people are using, use the same terminology to describe what you’re offering.

Video

The percentage of information we now get from videos has skyrocketed in recent years. More people are watching TED Talks and instructional content as well as vlogs—video versions of blog posts—than ever before.

YouTube is the main video platform, which is free to post on. You can upload your own videos related to your company, such as product demonstrations, trouble-shooting instructions, or recent presentations made, for example.

You can also create your own YouTube channel and invite your audience to subscribe, so that they never miss future videos you post.

All for free. 

Low-Cost

In addition to the free promotional tools available, there are a few that are extremely useful but that will cost you a few bucks. Nothing crazy, but also not free.

Blogging

One of the best ways to get Google’s attention is to regularly post new content to your website. The easiest way to do that is through blogging, or writing and uploading short articles of interest to your target customers.

To do that, you’ll want to add a “blog” navigation tab to your website that is linked to WordPress.org. WordPress is a fairly easy-to-use blogging platform. While there is a free version you could use (at WordPress.com), don’t. Go with the paid WordPress version that offers the option to add apps that will attract more eyeballs to your blog. You also pay for hosting of your website and for the URL you want to direct people to.

If you need help setting up a website or attaching a blog, SUMY Designs may be able to help. SUMY has low-cost website templates available that will get you up-and-running quickly design-wise. You’ll still have to provide your own copy and images, but they can design the back end.

Newsletter

As you start to build a customer base, it’s a good idea to communicate with your prospects and clientele regularly. Sending informational emails in the form of a newsletter to their inbox is one way to do that, as long as you have their permission.

There are a couple of companies with systems that will help you manage your customer database and format and send newsletters out. One is Constant Contact and the other is MailChimp.

My sense is that Constant Contact may be easier to use, or at least you get more hand-holding, while MailChimp may be less expensive but require more of your time to become familiar with how it works.

Getting Started

Don’t feel like you need to immediately use all of these marketing tools. You don’t.

Start slowly and check out each one to be sure it’s going to help you build your business. Rank in order of priority which tool is going to make the most difference for your company.

For example, if you don’t have a website, put that near the top. You can’t start blogging or directing members of the media to learn more about you if you don’t have a website.

A newsletter, on the other hand, is something you can put off until you have, say, a mailing list of at least 100 customers and prospects.

Video, however, you can create even without a website.

But before you go spending tons of money on paid advertising or pricey promotions, invest your time in exploring these budget-friendly alternatives.