_ There are two types of entrepreneurs: those that are funded and those that must immediately be earning for their business to operate. Firstly, it is not recommended that anyone starts a venture without some form of cash infusion in the company. Even if it is just 3 months operating cost and living expenses, it’s something. However, if your business has little to no overhead and you have some method of paying your personal bills for a while, you might launch your start-up without money in the bank. This of course is risky, but something that entrepreneurs have done for over a century.

How you run your business can be very reliant upon which of the above scenarios describe your financial situation. By having cash on hand, a CEO can stick to their defined goals for scope/scale of projects and what type of clients they wish to work with. They won’t have to settle for every $500 opportunity that comes across their desk or resort to offering services that fall outside of their core competencies. Of course, 1,000 projects/orders at $500 wouldn’t be a bad start for a company. But, playing the volume game can be difficult depending on the product. 100 projects/orders at $5,000 are likely to be less time consuming and more manageable.

When you don’t have cash built into your business you are setting yourself up for a number of issues. For starters, you really can’t afford to turn down work- even if it isn’t exactly what your business is designed for or the payday is peanuts compared to what you know your time is worth. You could be focusing that time on targeting larger scale projects that fall under your realm of expertise. Unfortunately, if you need that $500 to pay rent or keep the Wi-Fi running you’re not going to have a choice. This can become a dangerous pattern. You end up in a cycle of taking on small projects to get by and never have the time to put your attention to building the business you envisioned when you decided to become your own boss. You’ll ultimately be stuck in mud that gets more difficult to get out of as each day passes.

Just because you have cash, doesn’t mean you won’t fall into those same patterns. It happens to all business owners. Sometimes, it’s worth taking on a small project or doing something beyond your focus if you believe that it will lead to work that does bring value to you. However, these one-off projects are often not worth your energy.

The best way to run checks and balances against taking on non-beneficial jobs is to have a plan in place before your first day of operation. Know when an order is too small, an offer to low or a client too limited in resources to bring you the kind of opportunity you need. Set a minimum profit margin for any work you take on. Even set a maximum to avoid taking on work beyond your capabilities. Only compromise these thresholds if it means there is greater, manageable opportunity to follow. Also, write out your core service and product offerings in highly specific language. Do not perform labor that doesn’t match these offerings. You’ll end up confusing the marketplace as to what you actually do and make it much more difficult for anyone to take you seriously as an expert or master of your craft.

Now, get out of the mud and start marketing yourself to your ideal clients until you have a roster full of them. A portfolio of focused, high-end work will follow.

 
 
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It started on another social networking site, but the topic of discussion was Pinterest: the rising social site that features a corkboard style interface to let users share a visualization of their interests. Despite still being beta, Pinterest boasts over 4 million active users. An old college friend was calling out his former roommate with the quote,

“My wife found you on Pinterest. Explain yourself!”

The defendant in the case, an entirely macho rugby playing guy defended himself by saying he was using it to find new recipes. A debate ensued, which erupted into a questioning of whether Pinterest was really intended as a gathering place for women. The aggressor went as far as stating,

The Colonel Sanders had some good recipes too...he started his own business and made millions...not (by) follow(ing) 20 something year young wives on bulls### fantasy crap they will never have....it's time for an intervention…”

As a male, fan and user of Pinterest myself, I stepped in to say that Pinterest would be a more gender neutral site and much cooler if guys weren’t afraid of it. It seems that because women have been the earliest adopters and have come to dominate the site with photos of desired shoes, home décor and cute animals many men have decided there is no hope for the masculinization of Pinterest.

Yet, if you dig deep enough you’ll find a great deal of manly and cross-gender content across, tech, fashion, geek, design and yes- even food. The speed of sharing is incredible and sections filled with recipes and DIY home improvement projects could keep you a busy hobbyist for life. It’s also an impressive collaborative tool for creative projects at work. It certainly boasts an endless realm of possibility once it becomes public and even more users get to play with it.

The point that the situation I encountered raises: are new social sites subject to gender control? Does Pinterest need to promote use by males in order to maximize its audience? Should they just hone in on the demo that has shown the most interest? Where are the revenue streams in sites like Pinterest? Are men really that pathetic that they run and hide if the ladies put their stake in the ground first?

It brings up plenty of topics for discussion. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below! You can also view my personal Pinterest page by following me www.pinterest.com/jmtnyc

 
 
_ Control over our own thinking is perhaps the most difficult task a human can attempt. There is an entire genre within the publication industry that exists because of it. In our every interaction we are being influenced by other’s intentions. Marketing messages and advertisements inundate our minds with considerations we never planned for. Experts and teachers dispense their established creeds with such certainty that we are forced to second guess our own perceived wisdom. Family and friends, who we believe likely know us best and want the best for us, recommend courses of action that present new options and further confusion. Then lines delivered on our favorite TV show, in our favorite book or through a song lyric hit us with beautifully artistic life-shaking impact that throws it all in question one more time. Who are we to listen to? Who is to be trusted? Who should we believe in?

The answer is probably no one…besides one self. The collective wisdom of all of the powers that impact and shape our own mantras in life will never be as powerful as our intuition. Instinct is too often passed upon or ignored in exchange for what we are led to feel will take us further, make us more money or earn us admiration in the eyes of others. We are consistently pausing to second-guess ourselves out of fear that someone else is right.

Often, these 'others' are complete strangers who have no inside knowledge of our personal hopes, dreams and aspirations. On a micro scale, they are inexperienced, unwilling individuals afraid to admit their own shortcomings when it comes to pursuing their dreams. Instead, they speak more, louder and in more definite tones to sound important when in reality they are ashamed of their own powerlessness. On a macro scale, they are self-interested manufacturers of cog mentality. They create concepts for hopes and dreams that benefit their own lives and then convince weak individuals to subscribe to them. It happens every day and all around us. It fuels blind consumerism. It funds big politics. It drives the division of class. Worst of all, such thinking is based on old-fashioned principles that have no place in the modern world. Again, it is about systems that have been cemented into society for decades and we continue to let ourselves fall victim to.

I founded C2Bseen from a desire to take my own thinking about entrepreneurship and branding and share it with others that might be too hesitant or confused to take a chance at pursing their passions. In that time, I have cultivated highly personal relationships with clients that understand my goal is not to force them into a business that they are not proud of, but to guide them to see their vision realized and ensure that it has the best possible chance of meeting their goals.

This morning I caught a fantastic clip of cultural and marketing mega-mind Seth Godin on CBC Television's ‘The Hour’ with host George Strombo (Stromboulopoulos) in which he was asked about the changing economic world in 2012. To my great pleasure, he reiterated many of the points I made in my last blog post regarding the rise of specialized boutique business. Seth agreed that now, in the midst of recession, is the time for entrepreneurs to take chances and to come to the marketplace with fresh ideas that challenge the way everyone else is thinking. He goes on to encourage young people to take an idea and run with it, without compromising their plan to fit any system.

It would be an incredible honor to sit down with a man of Seth’s prowess. The man certainly speaks with a great deal of economic and entrepreneurial understanding. Then again, he is just another man with a set of opinions based on personal experience. He can advise you forever on what to do to make your aspirations into reality, as can I. It’s up to you to bring your ideas into action. You have to be the change you want to see, as the saying goes.

What leaders like Seth and me seek to do is to help guide you without manipulating to you. It sounds strange coming from a marketer who has been taught the old hat tricks of manipulation as scripture. However, there really are some of us out here that believe in a better economic future that is fair to both consumers and producers. Some of us feel strongly about the importance of quality products and services that promote better lives and those of us that do, want to see the entrepreneurs that can bring those products and services to the market succeed. This is what I like to call socially responsible consulting and it is what I am extremely proud to be practicing at C2Bseen.

 
 
_ As we continue to dodge the effects of an on-going recession, 2011 demonstrated that Americans reached their boiling point with both corporate greed and politics. We saw Occupy Wall Street lead to passionate protests nationwide and presidential candidates struggle with what average Americans want. While the message and purpose of these gatherings may have lacked a cohesive focus, one thing was apparent: too many of us feel we’re not getting our cut of the pie. It seems that only a small percentage of our population is allowed in the kitchen these days.

While I by no means endorse the notion that all corporations are evil machines, nor do I think OWS was the answer, I do see a necessary shift in a big box mentality that has gotten out of control. Our nation’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer businesses who maintain power over the lives of an enormous percentage of citizens; capable of dangling employment by a thread when the bottom line starts to thin. The trend of large companies to diversify their ownership across multiple industries has also gone too far. We now have an abundance of choice in terms of product diversity, however our options for where to conveniently make purchases are inversely declining. This has ramifications on price point control and access that put small businesses at a severe disadvantage.

On a positive note, what grew out of the frustration of the 2008 recession and was amplified in 2011 are two significant movements.

Specialized Online Boutiques
Big box companies are typically incapable of giving consumers one product offering. To keep shareholders happy and profits rising, they must add to their product portfolio. At a certain growth point, most corporations are forced to shift from their core offering and bring new products to the marketplace to protect themselves long term. Often, a company will find that their secondary launches out-do their primary product and evolve to make it their priority. This thinking exemplifies the fact that when a business gets too big, it is required to function solely for profit. Often times, social and environmental impact, employee well-being and product quality suffer as a result.

I am noticing a shift in how average consumers are spending the limited funds they have. As our cars, clothes and apartment décor all started to look similar it seems that we grew tired of being force fed. We began looking for fresh and new while finding the same old cookie cutter products at the few retailers we regularly had access to. The cool, responsible, contemporary, vintage and classy goods we desired were all beyond most American’s price point and resting in the luxury category. We were aware that the Internet had vast aisles filled with potential shopping finds, but we were never sure where to start or look and Amazon or Overstock only seemed to link us back to the products found in the same big box stores that rested together in clumps off the interstate.

Then, Groupon and LivingSocial took deals digital and made coupon clipping trendy again. The discount list-serv movement was born. The communal buying mentality brought us highly focused list servs, such as Fab, that link purveyors of specialized goods with eager buyers at discounted prices. Etsy and like-minded sites revolutionized the handmade industry. Zaarly made buying/selling hyper-local. We now have incredible curators of well-crafted, specialized and accessible goods at our fingertips and word is spreading virally to bring them to more consumers.

In 2012 I only see this trend continuing. The US Commerce Department reported sales of $48.24 billion dollars in Q3 of 2011. This is up over 13% from Q3 of 2010. With the holiday stats from Q4 still pending, all signs point to continued growth in the online shopping sector. Innovative boutique sellers will continue to find opportunities to carve out their niche of this skyrocketing retail foothold.

Communal Commerce
Outside of the online model, this trend toward small group economics is being brought to life in cities of all sizes. Terms such as: co-op, free-trade, locally grown and organic (while often misused) each reflect a concerned movement away from mass production and distribution and toward more conscious spending. 2011 saw a rise in the number of communal gardens, backyard chicken coops and even free curbside mini-libraries. Crop-shares are also becoming commonplace amongst families with access to local farmers. In Minneapolis, employees keep Hard Times Café running as both employees and co-owners; just one example of dozens of worker cooperatives functioning in the US. What we’re clearly realizing is that there was some logic to the local economies of yesteryear.

I believe we are actually in a golden age as consumers-- if we choose to be involved. We now live in an era where spending $4 on a fresh baked pie a few blocks away is as easy as having an intricately designed baking pan sent to us from Portugal for 40% off. What smart consumerism comes down to falls on each of us. If we engage the marketplace, investigate our options and decide what is best for our budget, values and needs we can find an intelligent balance for where we send our dollars that has less strain on planet earth, is better for the economy and results in more satisfying purchases.  Larger brands will follow-suit in finding ways to deliver their goods on a local level. A more responsible consumer will thus result in more responsible producers.

The timing is ripe for specialty services and products to continue to steal their share of the pie. As we take commerce back to the community we strengthen our neighborhoods, infrastructure and lives. If you have an entrepreneurial venture you’ve been considering, do your research and find the avenues for distribution that can cost-effectively bring you to the marketplace. What better year than 2012?

 
 
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