Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized’ Category

4 Great Tips for Women Business Partnerships

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

A lot of entrepreneurs like you come to WomensNet.net in search of grants for women business owners.  Nothing wrong with that.  We’re one of the very few places on the internet that will give women entrepreneurs a grant.

But if you’re looking for funding, here’s another idea you should give some thought:

Ask some of your friends if they’d would like to be partners (read: investors) in your business.  Your BFF could invest time or money – or both – in your venture.   Yeah, I realize that’s not the most earth-shattering revelation – but you’d be shocked at how many women business owners never pursue partnerships with friends, for one simple reason…

Women are afraid that if a business partnership goes bad, the friendship will go bad as well.  That’s actually a pretty good reason to shy away from partnerships.  Oil baron John D. Rockefeller put it this way: “A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on founded on friendship.”

There’s wisdom in Mr. Rockefeller’s admonition.  But it shouldn’t be a deal breaker in forming a partnership with a friend.  Here are a few tips for making partnerships work for women business owners.

1. Create an operating agreement.  Many partnerships go south because the people involved didn’t put their expectations in writing.  It’s not enough to say, “We’re business partners.”  You have to put the details of the business in an agreement that everyone had a hand in crafting.

An operating agreement ensures each partner will be treated consistently in good times and bad.  Your agreement should lay out in plain language how profits, assets, debts and other responsibilities will be shared while you’re in business together.  It should also lay out the details of what to do if one partner wants out of the business.

There are many issues you should put in writing first, and the best way to forge an operating agreement is to do some research on the internet as to some major issues– then sit down and air your concerns honestly and openly with your partner.   Two partners might agree to split all the work evenly – but what happens if one person winds up consistently working more hours?  How will that partner be compensated?  There are a lot of similar questions you need to discuss.

The final step is to consult a lawyer if you think there are some unique issues that should be addressed in your agreement.

2. Don’t let your friend risk money that she can’t afford to lose.  This is a point of common sense.  If you ask a friend to invest $20,000 into your venture – and she has $500,000 in savings and investments, there likely wouldn’t be a huge emotional toll if the business struggles (or even fails).  But if your friend invests $20,000 by draining $15,000 in life savings, and borrowing another $5,000 from her mother – well, you get the picture.

Make sure any business partner can afford to lose the money she’s invested.  You don’t want your friend to wince every time there’s a downturn in the business, and to be hanging on every paycheck.  That’ll only lead to more stress on the both of you.

3. Partners offer emotional support.  Not only can you share the labor and responsibilities of running your business with partners – but you can all lend each other emotional support.  When things are going tough, you can all lean on each other… encourage each other… find solutions together… and work hard as a team.  Trust me – you can’t put a price on the emotional assets that a good business partnership brings to your venture.  As one business owner to me about her partnership, “When we hit hard times, it’s only half the pain.  But when things are going well, it’s twice the fun!”

4. “Sweat equity.”   You’ve heard the expression, “time is money.”  So if you can’t find a partner who can afford to put money into your business, find someone who will put in “sweat equity.”  In other words, give her an equity stake in your company for an investment of her time.

These partners are sometimes the best to have.  You don’t have to pay her cash for her labor.  And she doesn’t have to risk money she doesn’t have.  The truth is – a lot of women can name a handful of their talented friends who can help in a business venture.  Recruiting them to trade their time for a slice of your business should be a strong consideration.  After all, it’s better for you to own a smaller piece of a successful business, than 100% of something that fails…

Thanks for reading these tips.  And I hope you’ve been inspired to consider a partnership as another way to find funding for your women-owned business.  Getting your friends involved can be a fantastic resource for you. 

Why Learning to Write Copy Can Make or Break Your Business

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

by M. Belmont
WNN Staff Editor

You are what you write.  How you write can inspire people to want to know you better and buy your products and services.

In the parlance of marketing, writing to motivate your readers to take action is called “copywriting.”  And as a women business owner, you can’t afford to ignore the copy on your website.

According to Maria Veloso in her book, Web Copy that Sells, good copywriting is crucial to your business.  Veloso says that 60-65% of buying decisions are made as people read in the first few sentences on your website.  Yep, your copy matters.

WebCopyThatSells

So here are Seven Simple Steps any women entrepreneur can use to boost website sales:.

1.    Tell your story. Most folks think that writing great copy takes great writing skills.  Actually, it’s a lot simpler than that.  Writing great copy starts with telling a story.  People want to know who you are… why you started your business… and how you can help them.  They want to connect with you as a person.  Remember – people don’t do business with companies.  People do business with other people.  Tell them your story – in plain, simple English – and tell them how you can help them.  That’s at the heart of compelling copy.

2.    Tell it with emotion.  Every great story is laced with emotion.  Emotion is the part that paints a picture in someone’s heart.  If you were going to sell cookies, you could tell folks that you use flour, sugar and chocolate chips.  But telling them that you use the same ingredients your grandma used when you were a kid – pure cane sugar, sifted flower and real Nestle’s chocolate chips.  Wow… I’m 9 years old again and in my grandma’s kitchen waiting for the cookies to come-out-the-oven!

3.    Define the problem.  Every potential customer is coming to you with a problem to solve. Even if you sell cookies.  Some people can’t make them come out exactly like grandma’s.  Some folks might not have the time to bake.  Some folks want cookies for a special occasion and want to bring a “wow” factor.  Whatever the motivating factor, people are coming to your business to solve a problem.  You fit a need and a niche in their mind.  Find out what that is and let it come out in your copy.

4.    Discuss why this problem hasn’t been resolved already.  “Bake cookies the way grandma used to bake?  Who’s got time to do that?  Nobody in today’s busy workplace.”  That’s a way to empathize with your client or customer.  No matter what your business is, you can empathize with your client’s problems.  It’s ok for the problem to exist – because you have the answer that will help them.
5.    Tell them how to solve the problem.  Here you provide a solution.  Do this in a clear, brief way.  In the case of baking homemade cookies, I did a quick Google search and came up with cookiesfromscratch.com.  I can’t vouch for their cookies, but their website copy is pretty good. So the way to get the taste of homemade cookies without all the work?  Call Laura at cookiesfromscratch.com.  She didn’t quite follow our tips, but if she had, she might have written something like, “Do you want to send an old friend a taste from yesteryear?  How about a tin of our famous oatmeal butterscotch homemade cookies!”
6.    Clearly state what is different about your product or service.  This is where you unveil your USP. Your “Unique Selling Proposition.”  With homemade cookies, the UPS is simple.  You make homemade cookies – not the crumbly cheap mass processed variety.  “We make every batch from scratch!”  Another USP could be that you deliver them right to your customer’s door.  Or your cookies are so good, you can give them as a gift – to your grandmother!  You get the idea.  Whatever makes you unique vs. your competition is your USP.

7.    Make a clear call to action.  Simply put, you need to tell your readers what they should do next.  This is there call to action.  “Call right now to get your shipment of made from scratch cookies.  In the time it takes to melt a stick of butter, you could have a tin of homemade cookies being shipped right to your door.”  Remember – you have to ASK your customer or client to take advantage of your service or product.  It sound simple enough, but most copy folks write leaves out this crucial final step.

What you communicate in writing defines who you are – especially in our web-based world.  Copywriting is writing that grabs people’s hearts.  It starts with a good story.  And ends with a call to action.

As a women entrepreneur, you want to make sure that your customers become your followers – your biggest fans.  And you want to inspire them to buy your product or service time and time again.  (Bonus: Your customers will inspire others to do the same!)

Try to put these copywriting ideas into practice as soon as you can.  Using this these simple tips can prove to make a big difference for you.

Survey on Women Entrepreneurs to pass along

Monday, May 9th, 2011

This was sent to us at WomensNet.net:

A group of graduate students from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management have been kind enough to partner with The Founding Moms to undertake a survey of mom entrepreneurs.
Our goal? To send the survey to as many mom entrepreneurs as we can, enabling us to receive a rich (albeit anonymous) data set that will allow us to discover never-before-seen information on this niche of women.
The survey closes on Sunday, May 15 (**just less than a week!**.) We’ve included a random drawing for a $50 Amex gift card, too. Thank you VERY much in advance, and I’ll be happy to send you the published findings upon request. THE LINK: http://bit.ly/bizmomsurvey


What’s the Best Way for a Woman to Advertise Her Business?… It’s Intuitive, Effective and FREE

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Did you know that women use roughly 20,000 words per day as opposed to about 7,000 for men? The main reason for this disparity is that women are more relational.

So what does that factoid have to do with advertising for women-owned businesses? Everything.

“Word of mouth marketing” is the answer — hands down. It’s intuitive. It’s effective. AND IT’S FREE!!

Think about it. When you are getting ready to buy something, do you turn on the radio or television and sit for hours waiting for a commercial to point you in the right direction?

Or – if you’re like me, do you phone your best friend to ask her for a trusted opinion?

You might even jump online and read a few reviews or join a forum discussion. Right? Have you ever done a YouTube search first? (BTW, did you know that YouTube is the #2 search engine?)

Truth be told: You use Word of Mouth. We all do.

We place great trust in these referrals. Heck, this is one reason there’s a huge market for personal shoppers and product experts. This is why businesses like OpenSky.com have taken off so quickly. You trust these opinions, whether you realize it or not.

Most people might not conscious of this reality, but Word of Mouth marketing is the most effective form of advertising. (In point of fact, there is a trade association called the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, womma.org)

So, how can you utilize Word of Mouth marketing for your business?

I’ve compiled some simple ideas to help you spread the word about your business. Sure, some of these ideas will take some time – but they’ll generate surprising results:

1. Your friends and family are your most effective network. Your greatest advocates are the people closest to you – the folks who know you best. So don’t be shy about asking your friends and family to be walking advertisements for you. Let them spread the word about your business. Send them an email every few weeks thanking them for telling people about your business (a subtle reminder!). This tip might seem obvious, but your personal network can be very powerful.

2. On many social occasions, you’ll find that people ask you about your business. Who are these folks? Think about it. Why are they interested in your product or service? Have a mental script ready and prepared in your head, so it’s easy to remember and actually sounds interesting. Use these interactions as your own secret profiling project. At the end of your conversations, make a way to encourage them to talk to you on a regular basis. You might want to hand them cards with your fan page address, or your Twitter account name. Or tell them how to find you on Facebook (And even more savvy, ask how you can find them!!)

3. Are you on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter? If not, make it happen. Did you know there are over a half billion people on Facebook? You can use these networks to point people back to you — consistently. By giving your customers special tips; informing them about coming events; asking for their opinion; you are helping them understand that you are engaged and listening. By doing this regularly, you will make your customers feel like they are company insiders. And, they will develop a loyalty to you.

4. Make sure the copy on your website is top notch and is laid out in a clean, easy-to-read format. (Of course, this applies to your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter posts too.) Copy is the language and power of the web. It’s really not all about the pretty icons and hip artwork. This stuff can easily distract potential customers from your primary goal. You want potential customers to become customers. Remember, content is king and when you pull it off really well, your credibility and integrity shines. And, people become compelled to do business with you!

5. Focus on customer service and rapport building. Think about your favorite coffee shop, pub, boutique, etc. What makes this place your favorite? Do they remember your favorite drink or your favorite spring color? You want to be with people that take a genuine interest in you (or at least make you feel like they do.) Do the same for your following. As you do, your following will get bigger rather quickly. Why? Because you made it personal for them.

6. Write a weekly blog about topics and ideas that relate to your product or service. Think about it this way. Your blog is an extension of you – it’s a lot like your wardrobe. Pick compelling titles. Pay attention to key words that are used to search for you, and use them in the first few sentences. And, if you’re anything like me, life happens. So try to stay out in front of this process. Write three or four so that you can post a new blog every week.

7. Display your online comments and reviews. Respond to them regularly. Make sure to respond to both positive and negative comments in a timely manner. Post words of praise on your website. The more, the better. As people see that you’re responsive, they will be more apt to trust you and to purchase your product or service.

8. Rally your team around your cause. This will make them happy. Study after study show that employee morale is a key predictor of the profitability of a company. And happy employees actually say good things about you and your business. Help those you work with understand that they work more for your cause than for you. If they get this, they will become very engaged and loyal – AND HAPPY! Hint: Make it a point to do what you can to establish a home-like work environment. Encourage open, honest communication and model it. Giving feedback. Openly discussing issues. Being part of decision making. These are all opportunities that clarify the cause, build relationships and grow trust. And guess what? More and more people will talk about your business with their family, friends, and neighbors.

9. Associate yourself with something bigger than yourself. You can do this by offering meaningful resources on your website. These resources should relate to your product or service and also support the need for your product or service – research articles and informational links. You also should think about associating your business with a charity that resonates with you and your potential customers. Did you know that over 75% of consumers want the businesses that they frequent to support a charity – a bigger cause. Coupling Word of Mouth Marketing with Cause Marketing can prove to be a very important way to keep people talking about you. It makes you real.

10. Get Google Analytics. In order to be on top of things, you need to know what is working (and what’s not). Allow the data to speak to you. It’s like using a map and paying attention to landmarks. If you’re able to effectively track unique visits, conversions, web traffic differentials – after getting some Word of Mouth going – then you’ll have a better handle on what works. This takes discipline and a little time, but can help you know if you are actually getting to your destination.

The price tag for word of mouth marketing is your time and effort. Coupled with a little savvy, your personality, and passion for your business, you have a real recipe for success. It’s like getting a five star dinner at a home-cooked price. I think that you will be pleased with the results. Please let me know how you’ve used some of these techniques. I’d love to hear your story.

Women’s Business Grant Applicants: Three Common Themes

Monday, April 18th, 2011

 

As we go through the Amber Grant applications each week, we’re always inspired by the dreams and stories we read from women business grant seekers.  There are some recurring themes that we’ve noticed.  And we think some of these themes are worth highlighting because they make women entrepreneurs distinct from many of their male counterparts.

(Actually, we wanted to say these themes make women entrepreneurs “better” than their male counterparts, but we don’t want to sound self-righteous – or offend the beloved men in our lives!).

Anyway – we’ll let you decide if you see yourself in any of these characteristics.  Not coincidentally, we’ve had three previous grant winners fall into each of these categories.  So if you’re a women looking for a business grant, what you learn here might help.

  1. Socially Centered ideas:  Yes, there are many great businesses that promote environmental sustainability and social responsibility while pursuing profits in traditional industries.  These are companies that work to reduce paper and ink consumption.  Or they may be coffee shops that use only fair trade coffee.  We at Womensnet.net applaud those businesses and their sensitivity to operating as responsible corporate neighbors.   But what we see among our applicants are women owned businesses whose goods and services are specifically geared toward promoting a greater social good.  One of our favorites is a small business – thegreenduck.com –that sells compostable cutlery, cups, plates and a host of other items.  Green Duck founder, Jocelyn Tice, is a 2010 Amber Grant winner.  It always makes us smile when we see women owned businesses that are trying to do good for the rest of us – while still earning a profit.  We’ll feature more of these businesses in the coming months on our womensnet.net blog.  We want to make sure these women get some well-earned accolades.
  2. Nurturing Ideas:  We’ve noticed a lot of women owned businesses that create a service geared toward nurturing relationships.  Whether it’s an intimate apparel line of clothing… or sharing the kind of comfort food that your grandmother used to make… or business ideas that focus on moms and young kids…. we have seen hundreds of businesses and business ideas that are inspired by and focused on nurturing relationships.  A few months ago, Ellen Richard was awarded an Amber Grant to help her business, Letterlearning.com.  Ellen is a former teacher and young mother who came up with the idea of selling “educational greeting cards.”  The big idea is to let kids be creative while teaching them spelling and penmanship.  As Ellen explained it, “It was on maternity leave that the idea for Letter Learning struck me like a ton of bricks.  While on a walk, I caught myself thinking about my students and their struggles with, well, everything, but especially literacy.  Also on my mind were the many thank you cards I needed to write on behalf of [my daughter] Katie. That intersection of thinking was it!! EDUCATIONAL GREETING CARDS.   What’s not to love?  I get to combine 3 of my greatest passions.  Education, kids and cards.”
  3. Fun Ideas:  Got any social things that you love to do?  Travel?  Shop? Hiking? Dating?  Just about anything that you do for fun, you can also do for profit.  The best example of this was our July 2009 Amber Grant winner.   Maia Josebachvilli, founder of Urban Escapes, took her passion for traveling and social adventure and parlayed it into a hugely successful business.  Her big idea?  Maia offered urban professionals in Manhattan the chance to escape New York City for a weekend, and spend time in the Catskill Mountain-region hiking, biking, and going to social events – basically spending time outdoors, and outside the city, with other people.  Folks had so much fun that Urban Escapes was acquired by Living Social in October of 2010.  So what do you love to do?  Can you turn it into a business and share it with other folks?

Well, ya never know! Amber Grant recipient sells company to Living Social

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Back on July 19, 2009, we announced the Amber Grant Award winner was Urban Escapes, here is an update on the status of their company. 

 

LivingSocial Buys Urban Escapes, As Social Discount Market Heats Up

by Kara Swisher


LivingSocial, the No. 2 social local deals start-up, announced today that it has bought Urban Escapes, a social adventure company.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
LivingSocial now has about 10 million subscribers to its discount offers online, where it competes head-to-head with Groupon.
Both companies have been garnering huge fundings, which is being used in a race for dominance in the space.
After the recent $135 million funding of Groupon that valued the Chicago-based company at upward of an eye-popping $1 billion, LivingSocial announced to that it had raised a more modest $14 million in a Series C round.
The Washington, D.C. start-up had raised $25 million in a Series B venture financing only a month before that. And it raised $10 million on top of that since 2008.
In addition, big companies have become focused on the fast-growing arena, such as recent acquisition interest from Yahoo in Groupon.
Here is the official press release about the latest LivingSocial deal:

LivingSocial Redefines Social Adventure with Acquisition of Urban Escapes
Unique, Exclusive Experiences Now Offered to LivingSocial’s Network of 10 Million Subscribers
Washington, D.C.–October 19, 2010–Leading social shopping site LivingSocial (www.livingsocial.com) today announced the acquisition of social adventure company Urban Escapes. LivingSocial will now be able to exclusively offer its 10 million subscribers-strong worldwide community a host of diverse, fun and unique adventures and experiences, produced by a team of on-the-ground experts.
“By working closely with merchants in all of our markets, LivingSocial has helped thousands of people across the country experience fun and exciting things to do in their neighborhood,” said Tim O’Shaughnessy, CEO and Co-Founder of LivingSocial. “With the acquisition of Urban Escapes, we will now have the ability to help curate some amazing experiences and adventures exclusively for our members.”
From “Zen Escape Yoga Hikes” to “Boulder and Brew Tours™,” Urban Escapes redefines social adventure, and its unique itineraries promote a fun and active lifestyle and a chance to escape the day-to-day rat race. Urban Escapes staff will work directly with LivingSocial representatives in five introductory markets designing and creating one-of-a-kind experiences and adventures for LivingSocial customers.
“People who use LivingSocial are already looking for fun, new things to do in the area they live or where they’re visiting,” said Maia Josebachvili, founder and president of Urban Escapes. “We’re passionate about organizing experiences you could never arrange on your own and this acquisition is the perfect opportunity for us to expand these completely unique, guided experiences around the globe.”
As the premiere local activity discovery engine, LivingSocial lets anyone find restaurants, shops, activities and services popular in their area at a savings of 50% to 70%. Handpicked adventures from Urban Escapes offer unique adventures and experiences at affordable prices to the LivingSocial community.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.