Thursday, May 31, 2007

How to Research your Business Idea

If you've been putting off doing the market research portion of your business plan (like yours truly), I just came across a helpful article from that spells out the hows and whys in a very straightforward manner. It also touches on related topics like not giving up if you find your idea has holes in it - you just might need to do some re-tooling - and making sure you're selling where your target market is likely to buy - in other words don't try selling oranges in a hardware store.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Women helping women...

Yesterday I discovered yet another great resource for 'fempreneurs' like us. I attended a seminar led by Elisa Balabram, editor of an online magazine called Unable to find any magazines that targeted women business owners, Elisa decided to start her own, and published the first issue in September 2003. Her site has tons of interviews with female entrepreneurs in various industries sharing how they got started, as well as tips from experts in personal coaching, management consulting, short, a veritable smorgasbord of advice!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Free stuff for entrepreneurs

Last week was chock full of marketing, business finances and networking.

Here's the highlights:
Monday I visited the NYC Business Solutions office in downtown Manhattan. The center aids entrepreneurs by offering workshops and one-on-one counseling - for free! Its manager, Karen-Michelle Mirko, was super helpful with tips on branding and on increasing the traffic on my blog. She even came up with a contact for me to speak to about an idea I have for a reality TV show! So lots of resources there - I highly recommend checking them out. Karen-Michelle will be on maternity leave starting at the end of June but she introduced me to Elli Papadopoulos (212-618-8817), who will be taking over while she's gone, but there's also other female counselors available as well. It's great to have women helping women, which is the new tag line I came up with for the Mogulettes: women helping women achieve success - I'm still working on it but what do you think? Let me know!

On Tuesday at our weekly meeting we had Marina Aris, a financial consultant from Ameriprise Financial talk to us about business finances. We had a great turnout from the Mogulettes at the presentation and I was able to meet three new members. Afterwards we mingled and exchanged ideas. Someone suggested I bring a tax accountant to one of our meetings, so if any of you know of a good one, please let me know! Another suggestion I got was to do a teleconference, so that we can hold the meeting from the comfort of our homes. I'll keep you posted on that! One of the topics Marina covered was fixing your credit before asking for a loan. Here's two free upcoming seminars I found that deal specifically with that:

Credit Readiness

Sponsor: NYC Business Solutions, along with Greenpath Credit Counselors
Date: Wedn., June 6th
Time: 3:00pm to 5:00pm
Location: Lower Manhattan Business Solutions Center
79 John Street, b/t William & Gold Sts.
4th floor conference room
Cost: Free

RSVP: Call 311 and ask for small business seminars

************************************** ********
What Every Woman Needs to Know About Credit

Sponsor: ACCION New York
Date: 06/06/2007
Time: 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Series Title: Save, Strengthen and Succeed! Financial Literacy Tips for Real Women
Location: Baruch College, Field Center for Entrepreneurship, 55 Lexington Ave./ Rm 2104
Cost: FREE
Description: Accion invites you to participate in this evening seminar and join ACCION's credit experts, local politicians, community leaders, and the Allstate Foundation in this kick-off workshop that will provide all the knowledge you need to read your credit report, build a healthy credit history, and more!
Registration Information: To register call (212) 387-0494.

If you can't make these they're offered periodically so check this calendar for future dates.

Does the idea of getting free money for your business appeal to you? It sure did to me, and that's why I made my way over to the Science, Industry and Business Library to attend a seminar by the same name, held by the Queens Economic Development Corp. It was all about grants for small businesses - where to find them, how to apply for them and what you need to qualify for them. They're free but you have to put together an application as well as a business plan to qualify for them. Here's a few places to find more info:

They also touched on business plan competitions, which are sometimes easier to obtain than grants. A quick google search for "business plan competition" + 2007 resulted in one for entrepreneurs 45 years old plus, one from Fortune Small Business for all ages, and one for women 35 years old or younger. There's also a lot of contests sponsored by universities for students but you can overcome these limitations by having someone on your team that fits their criteria.

Thursday and Friday I attended a conference on personal finance for Hispanic journalists sponsored by International Center for Journalists held at the McGraw-Hill headquarters, home of BusinessWeek and Standard & Poor's. One fellow writer I met there was Xavier Serbia, who has a website with lots of great articles on managing your money in Spanish and is very committed to getting the Latino community educated about their finances.

Pheww! It makes me tired just thinking about all the stuff I did last week. At our next meeting we'll be learning how to give our businesses a big push from two business coaches. How will they do that? Check back and find out!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What's in a name? That which we call a rose...

This week the Mogulettes and I attended a seminar on Trademarks and Copyrights sponsored by the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project and the Field Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College. I was surprised to find out that you don't neccessarily have to register a trademark for the name of your company -simply by using it you own it - unless of course, someone else came up with the name before you did, in which case, they own it.

It's really important to do a thorough search to see if the name you want to give your business is already taken. It could end up costing you mucho dinero if you have to change your logo and reprint all your you marketing materials because someone else owns the name! A trendy Manhattan restaurant now called Serafina had to change it's name from Sophia at the height of its popularity for that same reason. They not only had to alter the logo on the outdoor signage, the menus, the business cards, etc. - then there was also the question of whether their clients would accept the new name and if they would recoginize the brand.

Here's a few places to check: or for domain names

US Trademark Office database for business names

Your local County Clerk's office to see if there is already a business registered under your name

Here's a few good tips from "A Girl's Guide to Starting Your Own Business": check with a lawyer or accountant and have them run a city, state and national search to make sure that no one else has claimed it. Then once you know the name you want is available, run it by a professional or personal circle to get feedback. Make sure it's broad enough to encompass any future areas your company may expand into.

Check out this set of articles from on domain names:
Find the Perfect Domain Name
Protecting Your Business Name Online
Keeping Your Domain Current

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Postcards from the Edge

Hello everyone! Your chief Mogulette here reporting from the trenches. We're in the midst of marketing mania. Last week me and three other Mogulettes trekked over to Flatbush, Brooklyn for a seminar on cheap ways to market your business sponsored by CAMBA, a local agency that helps startups. It took us an hour and 20 minutes to get there but it was worth it. Jay Savulich, who led the workshop, had us in stitches most of the time. He's launched and run a number of restaurants in Manhattan like Tortilla Flats and Grange Hall, so he shared many funny and instructive stories on how to "win friends and influence people".

Brenda and Viv at the marketing seminar

One of our fellow Mogulettes, Brenda (above left), asked a question that brought up an interesting discussion. She is launching a dog care service and wanted to know if it was a good idea to put the name of your company on those little plastic bags used to scoop up your dog's poop. My initial thought was "Hell, no! That's gross!" But Jay pointed out that if you put your logo on the bags and give them away for free, it's a way to build customer loyalty and advertise your brand. Of course!!

This week we piggy-backed on the marketing theme and did a brainstorming session to figure out ways to promote ourselves. We had two ladies in the group providing pet care services so one suggestion we came up with was to print out postcards and use a similar strategy to Olimpia's (see her story here): strike up relationships with pet store owners where you send each other customers and leave a stack of cards at their store. Another one is give your existing clients a special gift (a discount or some other freebie) if they refer their friends to you.

As for my own business, I got a great idea from Ina, an incredibly creative make-up artist and stylist who's also part of our group. I was searching for a logo for the Mogulettes and this image in my head of a strong, invincible woman that does it all. There's a caricature in an E-surance commercial that comes close to what I had in mind - but Ina came up with an even better one: take the Charlie's Angels image of three women and instead of them holding weapons they hold a cellphone, a laptop and a briefcase! Love it! Soon to be at a Mogulette blog near you! Over and out...

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Vision mapping

Melissa Zwanger spent years working for various Fortune 500 companies until a transformational trip to Hawaii made her realize her true calling. She now does counseling and coaching in the area of relationships and sexuality, and she incorporated her company, Transform Now, in 1994. We had the pleasure of listening to her tell her story at last week's meeting.
Melissa shares her vision with the Mogulettes

One interesting thing she revealed to us was how she came to an epiphany when preparing for her presentation to the Mogulettes. She found an old vision statement she had written over 10 years ago regarding her business, which she hadn't looked at in a very long time, and was shocked to see that almost everything she had wished for has come true, as if by divine intervention! She believes that our visions are the most important element in the business plan. Hers was one full, typed page, and it was written in the present tense.

Here's how she suggests you do it: first close your eyes and really imagine what it would be like to have the business you want to have - feel, hear, and see everything that is going on - and then write it down. List everything - from what products and services you offer to the types of clients you are attracting (not only demographics but also personality, age, culture, background, etc.) to the type of space you work in (how is it decorated? how large is it? where is it located?) - everything! This is a real fun exercise. It may feel like part fantasy, part wishful thinking but it's all about putting our intentions to the universe!!! Afterwards, share it with someone you trust (I'm planning on having a meeting just for sharing our visions!). And don't keep it hidden - carry it with you or tape it somewhere near your desk. That way you won't have to wait 10 years to see that miracles do happen...;)

Quote: "When you can picture the ending, the beginning is easy."