Friday, September 28, 2007

A Mogulette goes to Paris

Bonjour Mogulettes! I'm back from my trip totally inspired by the style and flair of Paris. The French love to surround themselves with beauty. Everywhere you turn there's a statue, a building, a park or some other enchanting thing to enjoy. All the seats in the outdoor cafés look toward the street so you get prime viewing of the lovely ladies walking by, who get dressed up even to go shopping. It was cold and drizzly but I hardly noticed because I was so excited to be there. My last visit was over ten years ago and the city seemed even prettier than I remembered, so I quickly embarked into a whirlwind of tours and sightseeing.

On the outbound flight I sat next to a lovely Parisian jeune fille (that's young woman - I can't stop plugging in le francais!) and by the time we landed at the Charles de Gaulle airport I had a long list of places to visit.

One of those was Les Jardins de Luxembourg, where I stopped by on my third day and was immediately smitten. Dainty little flower beds and softly gurgling fountains give this little jewel of a park an air of peace and tranquility. A large circular pond sits in the middle surrounded by a gallery of statues, which upon closer inspection I realized were all of French queens and illustrious women. Trés mogulett-ish! (Want to see more pictures? Visit my Flickr page).

The park seemed surprisingly full of people for the middle of a work day, reflecting perhaps the fact that unemployment is high in France. That topic came up the following day when I joined a handful of "locals" for lunch. The ladies (pictured below) were all Anglos - either American or British - but have lived in Paris for years. They talked about how in spite of the lack of jobs it's very difficult to set up a small business in France because of the high taxes and piles of paperwork that entrepreneurs are burdened with. We're lucky to have all the free resources and support that we have here in the states - we need to take advantage of that!

The trip ended all too soon but I returned with renewed energy and positivity. When I first started considering the idea of going to Paris the thought of spending time and money on something other than my work was terrifying. How dare I take a vacation? Coming up with a budget and getting support from my friends helped me to put things into perspective and overcome my fears. Now I clearly see the benefits of taking time off - had I not gone I'd probably be feeling pretty frustrated right now, but by spending time in such a beautiful city I came back feeling abundant, and if I feel abundant, I'm more likely to attract abundance into my life.

"Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into." --Wayne Dyer

Au revoir!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Would $50,000 be enough to get you started?

How does $50,000 sound to get you off the ground? That's what Mirassou Winery is offering women entrepreneurs if their business plan wins the "Make Your Dreams Come True" contest they're sponsoring. That could buy all the things on my wish list: laptop, printer, virtual assistant, personal masseuse (just kidding, unfortunately) much more. The trick is you have to submit a rockin' business plan by December 15th, so that was incentive enough to get me (and a handful of the Mogulettes!) to sign up to Baruch College's 4-week Bootcamp on how to write them.

Elissa Grossman (that's her in the blue jacket next to yours truly) teaches courses on business management for college students that typically span a whole semester but she's doing an abbreviated version for entrepreneurs, starting with the elements of a business plan, which she covered in the first session, along with great examples of what an executive smmary should and shouldn't look like.

The second class was focused on the marketing plan, which is all about information gathering - where to get data about your target market, what the benefits and limitations are to different types of research, how to conduct surveys (one place to try out is, where you get the first 10 questions in a survey free), how to scope out your competition. Then she moved on to narrowing down your target market and selecting a marketing mix to reach them.

The third class centered around money - how much you need vs how much you want. This part was cool - Elissa recommends shutting your eyes and imagining the process that's involved in making a sale. Then make an outline of that in order to come up with a list of costs, like how much will the virtual assistant cost, plus the web developer, plus the computer, the desk and the chair, the masseuse (no...just kidding again) and so on, for each task. How much will be variable, or fixed? All this will help in coming up with a price for your goods and services. But that's not all that determines price - there's the perceived value (you can charge a premium for goods that are new in the market, or are complex, or where price comparisons are difficult). Competition also plays a role, as does strategy, like special pricing promotions that you might do.

The second half of the class was about sales forecasting and breakeven analysis, which I won't even attempt to summarize. But she made it interesting by giving lots of real life examples of how companies used these numbers to make adjustments and run their operations more efficiently.

BTW, Elissa's available if you'd like feedback on your business plan, as are other counselors on staff at Baruch's Field Center. These services are offered for free.

So, sharpen up your pencils and put your fabulous ideas on could win 50,000 big ones! Like they say: you gotta be in it to win it...

Next week I'll be away on a short vacation to Paris, yes, the "city of lights"! My friend invited me to stay with her and I'm using my miles to get there, so it's a great deal. Stay tuned for my report on how the French do business - I expect to be doing heavy duty research into their chocolate industry. Au revoir!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Upcoming Workshops

If you live in or near Manhattan and have an interest in all things digital media and Web 2.0, don't miss the Small Business Tech Tutorials! There are workshops on blogging for business, online video basics, site customization & monetization and much, much more. Here's a list of upcoming classes. Click on the "Google Calendar" button on the bottom to find out more info and to RSVP.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Market your Business with Email Newsletters

Aside from emails sent by friends and family, my favorites things in my inbox are newsletters - and I get quite a few of them. There's one from NYremezla with updates on Latino artist events around town, Duct Tape Marketing usually has interesting ways to promote your business, and The Spacialist doles out a weekly tip on getting rid of clutter. Oh and I forgot, there's dating advice from my friend Melissa's Love Notes (I need all the help I can get!).

Newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your community and your clients, to give them a little something for free and let them know you're thinking about them. This week Maisha Walker of Message Medium spoke at length about newsletters in her internet marketing class, which is being held at NYANA, a business center that provides training and micro loans to entrepreneurs (that's Maisha, left, with Maria Paulino of NYANA on the right). I know many of the Mogulettes are interested in newsletters, so I'm including some of the highlights of what she said.

One of the most widely used newsletter providers is Constant Contact, who starts out charging $15.00 a month for 500 emails and then goes up from there. The big downside with them is they place their own ads at the bottom of the newsletters, which isn't great. Feedblitz offers a free version but again, you'll have to allow them to place 3rd party ads on your emails. Luckily there's many other ad-free options at comparable prices, and I researched them all for you!

iContact - starts at $9.95/mo. for 500 emails with a $12 discount if you sign up for a year (first 15 days are free)
AWeber - $19.95/mo. for up to 70,000 emails
Campaigner - $25/mo. for up to 2500 emails
Vertical Response - $15/mo. for up to 2500 emails (first 25 emails are free)
MyEmma - $30/mo. for up to 1000 emails plus $250.00 for a template
SwiftPage - $14.95/mo. for up to 250 emails; $30/mo. for up to 1000; 15% discount if you sign up for a year
StreamSend - $5.95/mo. for up to 500 emails; $9.95/mo. for up to 2000 (first 30 days are free)
PatronMail - call for quotes
Benchmark Email - $9.95/mo. for up to 600; 10% discount if paid annually and the 13th month is free (plus first 30 days are free)

Maisha's Tips

  • Avoid 3rd party advertising (unless you're getting paid for it!).

  • What people look at first before opening an email is who it's coming from, so don't use a generic address. Instead, segment your list and use a different address for each group you send the newsletter to.

  • Define your purpose - is it for reading or for selling products?

  • Keep the layout consistent - if you have four pictures on the first one do the same for all the rest.

  • Decide on timing - how often will you send it? (Maisha suggests to start slow - quarterly)

  • Link your images and text to relevant pages on your site, or create landing pages.

  • Create compelling subject lines to get your emails opened - focus on what the benefits are to your readers.
My next big task is to chose one of those providers above and then, start composing! If you have experience with newsletters and would like to share it with us, please do!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mogulette to launch bookstore in East Harlem

I just love hearing success stories from fellow Mogulettes-in-the-making!

When I first met Aurora Anaya-Cerda at a Latina writer's group at the beginning of this year, I was instantly captivated by her business idea: to launch a bookstore in East Harlem, a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Manhattan which currently doesn't have one but is sorely in need of one. Back then she was still very much in the planning stages of her concept, but aided by a boundless amount of enthusiasm and motivation.

Fast forward a few months to last week, when I caught up with her at an internet marketing class. With a big smile on her face she shared her exciting news: "La Casa Azul", the name she's given the store (it's named after Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's home in Mexico City and it means "blue house") will be launching in the Fall!

Aurora grew up in a place similar to East Harlem (also known as "El Barrio"), an immigrant neighborhood lacking businesses, programs and services that benefit the community, and instead where countless liquor stores, dilapidated buildings, drugs and gangs abound. Her belief is that El Barrio needs a store like La Casa Azul Bookstore - a place of knowledge and culture, where the community can come together to enjoy activities such as author signings, art receptions, educational workshops, not to mention the best organic coffee and Mexican hot chocolate in the neighborhood!

This enterprising "chica" first got the idea of owning a bookstore during her junior year in college. After working at an independent bookstore in California she knew that I one day she'd have to open one of her own. But it wasn't until many years later when she arrived to New York that she was able to reawaken that dream that had been dormant for years! In the Spring of 2006 she came across the East Harlem Business Capital Corporation, a neighborhood organization that helps entrepreneurs, and took the first of many courses on business. These classes served as the catalyst for more opportunities, including access to more resources, advice on financing, leads to support groups (like the Mogulettes!) and the push she needed to move into the world of bookselling.

Two years ago Aurora didn't know the first thing about a business plan but now she has a firm grasp of the whole start-up process. She has an investor who believes in her vision, and is awaiting funding for the remainder of the start up costs. Below is her mission statement and goals:

La Casa Azul will be an independent bookstore/café, offering new and used books in English and Spanish. The store will offer a wide range of books and music from the United States, México, Latin America and the Caribbean. La Casa Azul will also carry Mexican jewelry, art and clothing. Our mission is to provide the community with contemporary bilingual literature, featuring works by Latino authors.

Our goals are:
  • To provide culturally relevant books and events.
  • To heighten community awareness and political consciousness regarding issues that affect East Harlem residents.

For more information about the store's grand opening, email:

About Aurora:
Aurora Anaya-Cerda acquired experience in the daily operations of a bookstore during her employment at two independent bookstores. A graduate of UCLA, Aurora has a double Bachelor’s degree in History and Chicana/o Studies and a minor in Education. She taught middle school for 2 years and had been in the education field for the last 6 years. Since her arrival to New York in July 2005, she has been an active member of the East Harlem community as a participant and supporter of cultural and educational events.

Aurora is definitely on her way to becoming a full-fledged Mogulette, and I'm looking forward to attending her launch party!

If your business has experienced success or reached a highly anticipated milestone, let me know! Your stories inspire all of us, so please share them!!