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Online for Change

  Tell us a bit about your business? Blue Clay Productions is a video production company based in Sydney and Wagga Wagga, offering a wide range of services from filming, editing to motion graphics. We also increase the online presence of clients by creating strategies and creative, compelling video content that fits our clients’ marketing needs and budget. Some examples of how we might do this is through creating a television commercial, online promotional film or live streaming an event. We started a regional arm in March 2012 and work closely with SME’s and tourism operators. Why did you start up your business? I’m a journalist by trade and love telling stories. When I was working for a major current affairs program I was often approached by businesses and individuals who wanted to share their story. Some of these businesses were paying PR agencies thousands of dollars just to write a press release. Then you have the ‘big boys of business’ paying tens of thousands for online videos – even more for a television commercial.  It’s just not feasible for SME’s to pay this kind of money. When you consider the power of online video in terms of audience reach and the various ways you can use it to tell and sell, it’s a perfect platform for SME’s. Teaching this market how to use online video and creating affordable content has been a successful recipe.   I also saw a gap in the video production market – particularly when it came to corporate films at a reasonable price. Many were able to pick up a camera and edit some footage but few were able to really tell a good story. What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting up your business? Getting runs on the board in the first few months was a hurdle. I enrolled in a small business course that really made me look at the direction of my business, my market and my competitors.  What was my edge? What was the one thing that made my video business different? The answer was ‘me’ - that being my experience and training. So I ran with it. I attended every free (or cheap) networking and training event I could. I made cold calls and I turned on the charm without (hopefully) seeming too desperate! Rejection is a very hard thing to deal with but you need to use it as fodder to keep going. Once you get momentum you gain more clarity and confidence. Also, capital can be a difficult obstacle but it doesn’t have to be. There are low interest unsecured loans that can easily be obtained. Research it through your local Business Enterprise Centre. What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting up their business? Do your research and do a proper business plan. Starting a business is like building a house – you need strong foundations. Don’t skip this and ensure you spend proper time on it. There are lots of short courses you can do to help with this process and templates that can show you the right format. Market yourself and get out there. How? Do I need to say it? Video marketing is great for people on a budget who want to build an online presence. You don’t need thousands to produce quality video content however remember that you need to protect your brand. Don’t send anything live that will do more harm than good to your product/service. Think outside the box and think of ways you can use video to reach your audience. You could simply do a vlog (video blog), a product demo, an office tour or you could engage a video production company to create a professional film for you. Remember to ask yourself, ‘Who is my target market and what are my key messages?’ Remember, Google loves video. Also, create partnerships and explore pro-rata deals. The first big contract I scored was after I already worked for this particular company through a sponsorship deal. It meant that they got to ‘try and test’ my services before they handed over a cheque. It actually lead to many other contracts. I still take this approach when I am trying to break into a new sector. You won’t see the rewards the following day though. It may take months if not a year or more to see the full return on investment. What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business? When I first returned to Australia from working overseas for a couple of years as a journalist and producer, I found it difficult to find full-time work that wasn’t based in the news industry, which I’d grown tired of. I had a plan when I returned to open my own video production company however I needed capital and some training. I worked part-time while I completed a business course and also during the first eight months of trading. How did you family and friends react? My friends and family, like so many others, often said they supported me but they often questioned my sanity and regurgitated facts like, ‘One in three businesses fail in the first two years of business” etc etc… Some perhaps thought it was a ‘phase’ I was going through; others knew how tenacious I am so they didn’t question it. You just need to remember to take it slowly, do your research and preparation and be passionate! If you aren’t passionate there is a good chance you will become a statistic and no one wants to hear ‘I told you so’. How has your life changed? Wow, where to start? I work harder, longer and in the beginning sometimes for a lot less money… but I am now more passionate about life, work and the future. Expanding to regional NSW has brought a lot of opportunity and exciting paths. I have also learnt what my ‘business style’ is and how it works for my company and me. Oh, and I can pull a sick day and take leave without asking the boss. What success have you experienced since starting your business? Blue Clay Productions has managed to secure a number of great contracts and establish fantastic relationships with key bodies in various sectors ranging from tourism, universities and media. In 2012 we filmed a documentary about the woes of dating in Sydney. We took five single women fed up of dating ‘pretentious city guys’ on a road trip to meet men from various backgrounds. We drove from Adelaide to Rockhampton meeting all sorts, from farmers, professional athletes to Irish miners. It was a mission to say the least. We also made the move to open our regional branch, which has opened a lot of doors for us. This year we will be opening a Media, Arts and Business Centre in the Riverina where we’ll conduct training, mentoring programs and networking events. Exciting times. What is the vision for your business going forward? We really want to expand further into Melbourne and run more workshops across the cities and regional areas to teach people the value of video marketing and story telling. We are aiming to become the go-to agency for regional video production in southwest NSW and established training and a support base for SME’s, young entrepreneurs and artists through our centre. What tips can you give other SavvySME about motivating yourself to push through the challenges that rise up while building your startup? Network and talk to other people who are starting up their own business. Join a young entrepreneur or business group in your area. You aren’t alone and you might be able to troubleshoot issues with them and form great alliances at the same time. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be the biggest and best within a year. Set realistic expectations but aim high.  Also, make small goals and targets that you can tick off and gain a sense of accomplishment – and reward yourself when you get there. But most importantly? Remember to have fun!

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Over the christmas break I decided to start a business…

Every January and February I hear the words “over the Christmas break I decided to start a business.” And whilst it makes my heart sing to see the enthusiasm of new entrepreneurs, I also have some trepidation. Many people start a business for exactly the right reason. These include a burning desire to create their own “thing”, needing more flexibility (especially with the kids now at school), being sick of working for a boss, having a million dollar idea or simply wanting to make the world a better place. Sometimes it’s that someone has said “You’re really good at that – you should go into business.” We have all heard the advice that “you should focus on what you are good at doing”. This is pretty sound and I have no issue with it – however there is more... In addition to doing what you are good at there should be an overlap with what you love. I’ve seen way too many people who are extremely good at something and so pursue that as a vocation or a business, but end up hating it because it doesn’t light them up. For example, I know a great accountant who’d love to be a property developer and a restaurant manager who’d love to be a naturopath. My favourite though is the Monty Python “Vocational Guidance Counsellor” take on it – see it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMOmB1q8W4Y For these people their lives only begin after work. Even more significantly, the intersection of what you do well and what you love is invariably your passion - and may even be your purpose. Working at your passion and purpose is truly inspiring and a prerequisite if you want a successful business. But there is even more… Even if you are absolutely brilliant at whatever it is, passion and purpose alone are not enough. The world must also need what it is you do or make. Without that you’ll end up with a garage full of stuff that no one wants. Or even worse – you’ve done your research and established a genuine need, only to find out that the world won’t pay for it! And without this you certainly don’t have a business. For example, I don’t know about you, but on the odd occasion when I make an egg sandwich, I’ve been frustrated at being unable to line up the egg slices with the edge of the sliced bread. So when I came across the boiled egg squarer (that produces cube-shaped boiled eggs) I was definitely tempted – but not that tempted to buy one. You could say the same for Pet Rocks (popular in the 1970’s). What a great idea, but who really needs a pet rock? What products do you have lying around that you saw a great need for at the time but in hindsight really wish you hadn’t bought? Let me know and I’ll publish a list so we can all laugh with each other… So yes, build a business around your passion and your purpose, but also make sure to do the research to establish both a need and a want. David PS - Just to confirm, no, I don’t have boiled egg squarer, though I do have lots of other “useful” junk! But that’s the subject of another blog :)

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Product Validation: How to pre-sell

Before you invest all your time and money into a product, build an audience that would be interested in what you want to sell. Find ways to capture your audience by getting them into a Facebook group, and especially on your email list. The validation pre-sell is where you ensure people want the product you're selling, and then asking to people to buy it. ​                       You’ve heard how many startups fail. It’s extremely sad, but so many founders spend months of their lives building something, only to struggle to build a user base. Despite all their best efforts and intentions, they fizzle out and end up with nothing to show for their sweat and tears.  Most of the time, they’ve fallen to what I believe is the biggest mistake founders make: creating a product that nobody wants. The idea might have sounded great on paper, and all their friends might have told them it sounded great. But when the time came for people to sign up and fork over real money, they got nothing. This is the all too common story of not validating an idea properly.  Only a couple of weeks ago I spoke to someone at a networking event that had invested 18 months of development into an app and had a total of zero people who had expressed interest in it. It’s so painful to hear this kind of thing, knowing that their chance of success is near zero. So how do you validate a product before investing all that time and money in it?  One of the best ways is to build an audience of the people you want to work with, and then simply ask them! Build an audience You’ve probably heard this so many times that it goes in one ear and out the other. It did for me too, until I finally grasped the concept and made it happen.  Over the years, I’ve seen several “accidental” businesses pop up. I say “accidental” because these were just people doing their thing, creating regular content (blogging) or social media, and had created a large following over time. When they realised it could become a real business, they just needed to create a product their audience would love. Seeing this enough times, it finally clicked: build the audience first.  This isn’t an overnight exercise. It can take months, but the result is worth it. An audience that knows you and loves the content you put out is much more likely to buy from you later. How to build an audience The underlying concept of building an audience is pretty simple: consistently provide something that has real value to your target audience, and get that content consistently into places they already hang out.  Content For a cookbook, the content might be as simple as taking awesome photos of meals and using the right hashtags consistently, day after day.  For us, it’s providing content, tools, and strategies for web designers to run their businesses better and get some of their life back. Everything we create is based around this idea, and this is what keeps people coming back. Promotion I see a lot of people make the same mistake with content that they do with their product. They believe that all they have to do is “build it and they will come.” That never works. To get eyeballs on your work, you have to spend a lot of time or money to get it out there. Our strategy was to get people to read our blog posts. Once someone had visited a blog post, we’d drop the Facebook remarketing pixel. That allowed us to show them specific ads to bring them back onto our website at a later date to opt in. For blog post traffic, our two best sources were: Facebook Groups LinkedIn & LinkedIn Groups The image below shows a period of traffic for our website. All the blue squares are Facebook traffic, around 90% from groups. The red sections are from LinkedIn. Unfortunately, we have had some issues with LinkedIn traffic showing up as “direct” so we can’t be sure of the exact numbers.  When linking to your own blog posts, you have to be very careful to stay within the group rules. If you go into groups and drop links (aka spam), you’ll be booted instantly.  Instead, provide some commentary and discussion around the blog post. Why are you posting it there? What value is in it for the target audience? Ask some questions to get a discussion going in the comments. The more comments, the more people will see your post, thanks to the Facebook algorithm. Here’s a post from a group that I frequently visit, and regularly help people out.  At first glance, you’ll see it only got 11 likes and 12 comments. But this post saw 462 visits to the blog post.  Capturing the audience Getting people to view the content is not enough. It’s super important to move the reader from an anonymous visitor to someone you can reference by name. We did this in two ways. Every blog post was optimised to: 1.    Get them into our Facebook group 2.    Get their email address There are so many benefits to doing this, like: •    Becoming an authority that people know by name •    Getting website traffic by emailing or posting in the group •    Seeing the questions people ask to get more blog ideas •    Noticing problems that you could solve with a product or service Those last 2 points are critical. Validating and pre-selling your idea Once you have an engaged audience, these two parts of the process go from difficult to incredibly easy. That’s the number one reason building an audience is so important.  In our case, we lined up Skype interviews with some key web designers to hear about the biggest problems they faced in their businesses. The key with conducting interviews is to listen and prompt them to talk about their biggest issues. If you’ve already got an idea for a product in your head, you have to fight the urge to guide them into talking about that. Otherwise, you might completely miss a bigger problem people are willing to pay more money for. In our case, I had an idea to simplify the website briefing process for web designers. But instead, almost every interviewee complained about getting content from their clients. During the interviews, I asked more and more questions about why this was such a problem, and how much of a problem it had been for them in the past. That’s when the passion comes out. They began describing how painful the process was to get content from clients promptly so they could move on with building their websites. They described how many jobs were held up, and how much it cost them. Their frustration enabled us to focus on a real problem in desperate need of a solution. Even better, because of the honesty in their answers, the interviewees gave me the exact language to use on our sales website.  The result is a product that people want, and the sales messaging to sell it. At this point, you’re miles ahead of almost every other startup. The pre-sell At this point, you should be fairly confident you have an idea for a product people really want.  The final validation step is asking people to actually buy it.    There is a huge difference between people saying, “Oh yeah, that’s a great idea,” and them actually pulling out their credit card to give you money. It’s a very large barrier that you should try to cross before investing thousands of dollars (or your time) in building a product.  With an audience, it’s easy.   To pre-sell our product, we drew up two simple wireframes and had an experienced UX designer make them look great. The total cost was about $250. We created a “sneak peek” blog post with those two screenshots and talked about the product we were going to build. Thanks to the time spent listening to our audience, the sales messaging matched what they wanted to hear.   To enable purchases, we created a simple sales page, but this could be as easy as creating a PayPal button. You are asking people to trust that you will follow through and create the product, so it makes sense to heavily discount the product at this point. We asked for $49 for a year of access.   The final step brought it all together. We sent out an email with a link to the blog post and sales page. Limited to 20 spots, we sold out within 3 hours from a fairly small email list of 400.   While that doesn’t mean the product has a 100% chance of succeeding, it’s a very good indicator that there are people out there willing to pay.  This is one of the most important things you can do before potentially wasting months or years on creating a product. 

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Providing a community service with shoes!

Tell us a bit about your business? Glamazon Shoes is a niche market business. We provide beautiful women’s shoes for bigger feet with sizes starting from 10 and going up to at least size 13, and some up to size 15. Glamazon Shoes has a shop in Melbourne and an online store as well, supplying gorgeous shoes to women (and cross-dressing men!) all over Australia, and even some overseas.   Why did you start up your business? I’d had the idea for a ‘big shoe shop’ for decades but never had the courage or confidence to act on it so it remained just that, an idea. After uni, I did the corporate thing for almost 13 years followed by babies and then working the other end of the spectrum, as a small business consultant. But the idea for Glamazon (even though it wasn’t called that yet!) was always there. Finally, I mustered the courage to go out and actually get it off the ground, around 3 years ago. I’m 5’11” and have size 11 feet and buying shoes has been an ordeal ever since I can remember. Years ago, you were lucky to find size 10 shoes in shops, never mind size 11, and if you did, they were almost always ‘sensible’ or just plain frumpy.  So I lived in men’s runners and Doc Martens. I refused to settle for granny shoes!   What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting up your business? The biggest one would have to be a lack of knowledge about the footwear industry. I had plenty of business experience but not in this area, so that was quite a steep learning curve. Also, doing the venture on my own has meant that I have to be a jill-of-all-trades – web manager, salesperson, writer, visual merchandiser, marketer – everything! There’s no-one to delegate to and that can be quite difficult at times.   What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting up their business? Put together a solid business and marketing plan and do lots of market research. Clearly define your market and if possible, quantify it. Figure out your USP – unique selling proposition – as this is going to be the reason (hopefully) that people will want your product or service. How are you different from the others out there? Price shouldn’t be the differentiator. Also, be wary of other businesses who will all try and sell you their wares/services. Get second opinions and quotes from more than one supplier and don’t rush into any expenditure based decision.   What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business? Age and the confidence that comes with age. Could have been a mid-life crisis but after carrying the idea for decades, I knew I would regret not giving it a go.   How did you family and friends react? They were extremely supportive and excited for me, especially my 3 young daughters. Maybe it’s a shoe thing!   How has your life changed? When I was in the corporate sector, I was earning a very good salary but felt empty and dissatisfied with the work I was doing. It was a drudge. Now I have the complete opposite. As a new business, my wages are, let’s just say, nothing to write home about, and that’s after not paying myself for quite a long while, my hours are just as long but I love what I do. I get an extraordinary amount of satisfaction from most of the wonderful customers I meet and it never fails to thrill me when I see how ecstatic they are at being able to find beautiful shoes in their size. Especially for those whose feet measure size 14 or 15. It’s incredibly satisfying, especially when they return with each new season. It’s like seeing old friends.   What success have you experienced since starting your business? I’ve had a couple of PR wins of my own undertaking and got featured in the Herald-Sun as well as The Age (Melbourne newspapers) which got syndicated nationally. That was a wonderful boost for general branding.   What is the vision for your business going forward? I would love for Glamazon Shoes to go national. I think there’s definitely scope for other stores interstate, as well as growing the internet side of the business.   What tips can you give other SavvySME about motivating yourself to push through the challenges that rise up while building your startup? Network with other small business groups and especially those with women. Female business owners tend to face challenges that are unique to our gender and it can really help to speak to other women who may have faced what you do.

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PuggleFM - The Battle for Family Friendly Radio by Charlotte Caruso

    Tell us about your business? PuggleFM is Australia’s first radio station for families/parents. Since June 2010, we have been battling with ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) as well as Minister Stephen Conroy for a right to broadcast such a station – to this day we have been denied such a right, but have taken our case to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, where it is currently being reviewed. PuggleFM aims to provide useful and valuable information to parents, whilst playing music that we all love to hear, and we are happy for our children to sing along to. We aim to remove all useless, boring and repetitive adverts and instead only promote really good products and services, valuable to parents. PuggleFM currently streams online and has podcasts for parents to download and listen to any time of the day, discussing topics like Reflux, Gen Y, Baby Boomers, Travelling with Kids, and much, much more.   Why did you start up your business? PuggleFM started in the car in June 2010 when I was driving my girls to school, listening to the radio. The first station spend 20 minutes talking about a footballers wife losing weight after having a baby, in disgust, I changed the channel to a station playing Rihanna’s “S and M” playing at 8.30 in the morning, flicked again and I got a nasal spray ad – being so angered by the ridiculous content on the radio I turned to a CD that would keep the kids happy – only I went straight into a traffic jam. This gave me another hour in the car to brew over why there wasn’t a radio station for parents. I know there were one’s for religious groups, for the elderly, for university students, why not for families? I had never expected that such a radio station didn’t nor had even existed in Australia, so that day when returning to work I began to develop PuggleFM. I have always wanted PuggleFM to provide entertainment and valuable information to parents. Instead of only discussing hot topics such as how long to breastfeed for or whether or not to use dummies, I wanted PuggleFM parents to be given access to more valuable and useful information – discuss politics and how it affects families, discuss the state of education, health, allow parents to connect and share the journey of parenthood – the highs and the lows.     What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting your business?   Most definitely getting a license! We have applied for a community license and were refused as they have denied us 90.1FM (which is currently white noise in Perth) because it “may” interfere with a TV station 200km away, despite the fact they have granted 90.5FM a license – who have the exact same potential to “interfere” with that same TV Station (this is why we have taken them to the Commonwealth Ombudsman). Additionally we requested the right to be granted a digital radio license, and have been refused on the basis that Mr. Conroy (existing Minister for Digital Broadband and Media) does not want to grant any digital licenses as he plans to keep them all to auction for 4G networks, with an estimated net work in the billions. Despite these setbacks we have been streaming online and developing podcasts since July 2012 and are steadily growing from the online exposure. Because of these setbacks, finding advertisement has been a challenge, as most people have said they would love to engage and promote their products via our radio station, however this is conditional on getting a license. This has meant we have had to bend and be dynamic to survive. What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting their own business? Do your research first. Make sure you understand the future obstacles for your industry, make sure you know your competitors and what they struggle with, and make sure there is a big enough gap in the market – then go for it. Be fluid and dynamic enough to overcome obstacles – and make sure you enjoy it every step of the day, as it will require a HUGE amount of dedication, make sure its worth that sacrifice for you!What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business? When I realized it had never been done before, that it was really needed, and sometimes the best most successful business ideas are the ones that seem so obvious.How did your family and friends react? Without the support and excitement of my family, I don’t think I would have ever taken the jump. I remember texting the idea to my husband, father in law and mum, they all texted back immediately it was a brilliant idea, and I have never looked back since then. Had they turned around and not responded or said they didn’t think it would work, I most certainly wouldn’t have been brave enough to take the leap on my own. In saying that, the dedication required has taken a toll on my family, because I’m usually so exhausted, however there always there for me, egging me on, so they’ve been a huge reason why PuggleFM is still fighting on today.   How has your life changed? It’s funny – kids have an amazing ability of keeping things real. I remember just after the news article on PuggleFM was published in the Sunday Times, I had all kinds of networks calling me for interviews, it was crazy, and here I was, stepping over toys, still in my PJs, no makeup on, thinking – if only they could see me now!! My life hasn’t changed much, because I’ll always be a mum and a wife first, but I certainly have less time on my hands and struggle with time management a LOT more than I ever used to. But for all the struggles, I’ve had amazing experiences and have met amazing people, and I honestly have loved every minute of this journey so far and I’m excited to see what lies ahead! What is the vision for your business going forward? Well, the latest technology shows that cars will be fully internet connected within the next 5 years, so with that, an online radio station has a lot of potential! I am working on having the podcasts streaming on iTunes and working on a few other projects to keep the wheels turning until the Commonwealth Ombudsman come back with (hopefully) some good news. Until then I plan to focus my attention on providing a better quality of podcast content and sound for our listeners.What tips can you give other SavvySME about motivating yourself to push through the challenges that rise up while building your start-up? You need to be passionate about it. If you have passion then motivation comes by itself. You need to really believe in what you’re doing, the value of it, that it will make the world a better place and not just be focused on making profit, I think this focus on “doing good” will always motivate you. The other piece of advice is partner up with someone who will make you feel compelled to take the next step, and the next step etc. – accountability is everything! 

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Q&A with Sharon Zeev Poole - Director of Agent99 Public Relations

Tell us a bit about your business? Agent99 Public Relations specialises in garnering exposure through media coverage for clients in the consumer products and services, or corporate space.  We pride ourselves on securing results for our clients that make media and audiences sit up, take notice and act.  Ultimately adding value to their marketing mix and bottom line.Why did you start up your business? I was working for a midsized PR firm and was ready for my boss’ job… which wasn’t going to happen given that she owned the business!  I had many years of experience under my belt and the choice was either to go to a large firm and run a team as an Account Director, or start a business where I could really take all I had learned and shape a company according to my values.  I opted for the latter six years ago and haven’t looked back since.What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting up your business? I must admit that it was smooth sailing from day one.  One of my old project clients had heard that I started my own firm, so she literally called me on day one when I was sitting at my desk with no clients, and the rest is history!  I picked up a new client once a month for the first six months, and towards the end of my first year I was literally working around the clock and knew it was time to hire my first employee.  It was such an exciting time because it exceeded all my expectations and everything was so new!  I would love to relive it again.  But I have to admit that each year has brought its delights and challenges.  But I have learned so much.  I still absolutely love what I do and get excited when each New Year comes because I know we’re just going to get bigger and better. What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting up their business? I think there are some very key lessons for anyone starting up a business that have helped me: 1. You are going to face many challenges, so you have to believe in yourself and what you’re doing.  If you don’t, no one else will either. 2. Surround yourself with great business advisors who can help you make key decisions.  Mine have been a great accountant, a business coach who really helped me take the business to the next level, another friend who runs and agency of a similar size who I bounce things off, my dad who runs a national company and has an excellent business/financial mind, and my husband who is in strategy. 3. Your reputation is everything.  Know what your values are and stick to them.  They will guide each and every decision that you make in your business, and how you behave towards your key stakeholders. 4. Money is not everything.  Happiness always matters, so make sure that you get the balance right.  Spend time with family and friends and don’t stop doing the things that are important to you.  I was working really hard in the first year of business, but still managed to run my first marathon because that was a personal dream I wanted to accomplish. 5. Select your staff carefully.  You can’t do it alone, so go through rigorous procedures to make sure that you are working alongside the best.  They ultimately represent your brand, so they have to believe in what you do and do the best for you.  What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business? I had been contemplating for about six months whether I should start my own PR Agency or not.  I really loved my job, but was certainly ready for the next challenge.  Making the decision was the scariest part, but once I did it, I really didn’t know what the fear was all about!  My business has become my passion.  I still get such a thrill when we secure an amazing piece of coverage for a client that I know will help them sell more, or will impact their brand awareness on a large scale.How did your family and friends react? My husband and mother in law were my biggest supporters and really pushed me in this direction.  I am so thankful for their belief in me. The rest of my family and friends just went along with it, but I often get pats on the back for having done it.  There have been no naysayers at all, which has been great. How has your life changed? It’s changed in many ways.  I love what I do every day.  I am always challenged.  I have done better financially then I would have done working elsewhere.  And I get excited about what the future will bring. My biggest challenge came this year when I had my first child!  Wow, hats off to all the mums and business owners out there.  I have new found respect for them.  I had no idea how hard it was going to be.  My staff really helped me pull through it, but it’s made me see things from a very different perspective.What success have you experienced since starting your business? We have grown to a staff of five since I started and have worked with close to 40 amazing clients on either a retainer or project basis.  We were named Finalist in the Sydney Business Awards last year which was such a highlight.  We have also been featured in countless industry magazines and outlets about the campaigns and work we have done on behalf of our clients.  I’m very proud of what we have achieved to date. What is the vision for your business going forward?The vision for Agent99 PR (www.agent99pr.com) is for us to grow to a team of about 10 staff.  I don’t want us to grow too big, because I believe that the services and values can be diluted. We are really strong in securing results for our clients and will focus our efforts on making that known and showcasing the work and innovation. We have two areas in the business, and I see strong growth in both.  One being our lifestyle and consumer offering, and the second is the B2B space.  I believe that we will end up with two distinct teams managing clients in those spaces. It’s a very exciting time! What tips can you give other SavvySME about motivating yourself to push through the challenges that rise up while building your startup? My tips for staying motivated and face challenges are: 1. Regonise issues and deal with them.  Don’t sweep things under the carpet, it’s best to face them head on. 2. Learn from everything that you do, so that you don’t make the same mistake twice! 3. Be relentless.  There is a way, no matter how hard it may be. 4. Don’t give up on yourself or the business.  But also know when you’re flogging a dead donkey and be ready to change direction. 5. Respect other people’s opinions, but don’t get pulled in many directions.  Know your own mind and be confident in making your own decisions – right or wrong. 6. Enjoy the ride and celebrate milestones.  I have a photo of my first cheque.  I was so excited! I also took my husband out to dinner after having a fabulous year, and we celebrated in style. It’s important to pat yourself on the back, as no one else will! 

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Running a Plumbing Supplies Business Online

  Thanks to technology advancement, running a plumbing supplies business online is possible. This is because there are very many people who can access the internet and prefer transacting business through this forum because of the convenience it offers. Should you decide to run an online business here, some of the perks that you can enjoy include:Working from home One of the biggest advantages of setting up a business online is the fact that you can get to work at home. This means that you can set your own business rules according to what you feel is convenient for you. This way, you will set the hours that you will work as well as anything else that is associated with the business so that it can bring in the desired results. This will also help you save a lot of money for startups since you will not have to worry about buying or renting the premise that will be used for running the business. Running a plumbing supplies business online does not also require a lot of personnel as one person can do it alone without any problem. This also reduces the money that you will pay in wages. You will also save money used to commute to the business premise.No need of a warehouse Another advantage of running a business online is the fact that you don't need a warehouse to store your wares. This is especially when you have a big house that you can be stocking the supplies that are needed. A person who is running a plumbing supplies business online can also make special arrangements with the manufacturers so that they can be collecting the wares when they are needed by the clients. This is a huge benefit as you will not have to deal with distributors or have any headaches while thinking about the place to store the supplies.Customer interaction Running a plumbing supplies business online also gives the owner an opportunity to interact on a more personal level with the clients. This is because they will be talking to you as they place their orders. This way you can get to know what they really feel about the business. This will give you pointers that will enable you to improve the business so serve the clients in the best way possible. You can always ask for customer feedback so that you can know what needs to be changed to propel the business forward.Room for expansion Running a plumbing supplies business online also creates great room for expansion. It is usually challenging to expand a business that is not yours as you have to follow the rules that have been set by the boss. However if you have set up a business online by yourself, it is easy to expand it fast. This is because you can adapt practices that will make sure the business goes to the next level as you wish. You can hire new employees with time so that they can help out with various operations for the business as you work towards building a bigger empire that will bring in the desired profits. Author Bio: Biljana is an online writer and a blogger researching when and why running a plumbing shop can be useful  and convenient.  

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Setting a solid foundation for your business

I love the ocean and in particular love surfing. Although the sport is free, there is a lot of expensive equipment that is required including your board (or boards!), fins, wetsuits, boots (for those in Victoria anyway) etc. Yet despite all of this expensive hardware, the most important piece of equipment is your $4 block of wax. Surfboard wax is a sticky wax residue that gets applied to all boards to enable surfers to keep their grip while out in the water. Applied religiously before any session, it aids in gripping the board when going under a wave, paddling around to catch the wave, pushing to standing position and also to maneuver the board as you ride the wave. Without this foundation coat of wax on their board that takes literally a minute to apply, surfers would be slipping and sliding everywhere. Your business foundation is similar to the role played by wax in surfing. You apply it before you start, it helps you get around and ultimately provides the foundation for you to stand on your own two feet.  Like wax, a good foundation is needed to help you succeed in business. So how do you build a solid foundation for your business to stand up?   Have a clear vision In 3 to 5 years’ time, where would you want your business to be?  This is your vision for your business.  Think far enough down the road and set lofty, but realistic goals for you to meet. While it’s good to include your profit goals into your vision, you’ll want to include other aspects of your business.  What awards and recognition do you want your business to receive?  How big would you want your team to be?   Once you set a vision for your business, set one for yourself.  Remember, you don’t live to work.  Everything you do in your business should be for the improvement of your life and the people around you.  How would you want to live in 3-5 years’ time?   Create a mission statement Now that you have a clear vision of where you want you and your business to be in a few years’ time, create a mission statement based on that.   Almost every business has a mission statement, but make yours bold.  Make yours inspiring.   Treat your mission statement like your battle cry as you enter into the market.  It should be a message that you and your team can rally around even on the toughest of times.  It should be the words that can spur your hearts to work hard to achieving your vision. Don’t go overboard though!  You want your mission statement to be attainable.  Challenging, but possible to attain.  Setting an impossibly hard mission statement will only be a source of frustration for you and your team. Come up with your business’ core values Your company’s core values can be totally different to your personal values, or it can be similar.  Like your mission statement, make it realistic and something everyone can adhere to.  Your core values will define you as a company and how your team members interact with each other.  Be unique and make it personal so that it resonates with your team’s feelings.   Build your business plan You now have a vision, a mission statement and core values.  It’s time to create a business plan around these so that you can reach your vision in the time you’ve set. Your business plan is the blueprint your business will be built on and will include plans on how you will make a profit.  Include your business concept, startup costs and partners.   Investigate your strengths and weaknesses through a comprehensive SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis.  A good SWOT analysis will enable you to maximize your strengths and supplement weaknesses.  It will make you aware of opportunities that come your way and warn you of potential threats. Make your business plan comprehensive and try to cover any contingencies you can think of.  This is going to be your playbook, your cheat sheet, and it’s also what potential investors will be looking at if they become interested in investing their money into your company. In your business plan, include your planned business structure.  Will it be a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a limited liability corporation (LLC)?  Learn the differences between these and how your local government regulates each of these business types so that you can pick what’s best for you. Build your team by evaluating individuals, while looking at them as a team Look at your list of potential new hires to join you in your new start-up.  Look at what their skills are.  Narrow down your list according to the skills you’ll need to make your plan a reality.  Look at potential skill sets that can prove useful to you in the future.  Once you’ve got your shortlist, re-evaluate them and see how they can complement each other as a team.   You’ll get a pretty good idea now which teams you’ll assign these people to so that their skills make up for each other’s shortcomings while making the most out of each skillset.   Keep your eyes and ears open Even the best business plan and company organization will need to be tweaked due to the dynamic nature of the market.  There might be changes in your customer’s purchasing habits, a new competitor might have come out with a new disruptive product or there may be a shift in the general economy.   Don’t limit yourself to your plan.  Keep a lookout and be flexible.  Open up your mind to new concepts that come your way and be sure to constantly review your plan. Of course it also helps if you keep on studying and researching so that you’ll never be left behind the curve. Set a fallback Sometimes, things happen that are beyond your control and you’ll find yourself in dire straits.  Try to foresee these problems and create contingency plans.  Set your structure so that your company can truly be agile and react quickly to changing tides in the market.   If all else fails, you’ll want to have capital reserved for tough times.  Ideally, you’d want to have enough for at least 6 months of operation stored up as emergency funds to catch your business should you run into exceptionally tough times.   So there you go.  With these tips, you’ve got a that trusty coat of wax that’ll keep you on your board and let you ride through even the toughest of waves.  

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