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Five Things I Learned from 31 Days of Blogging

By Mike Spotten

I made a commitment to myself sometime in November that I was going to start my blog on December 1st. I’d been thinking about it for months. I knew what it was going to be about and I knew what the URL was going to be and I was ready. I just needed to get everything set up to pull the trigger on December one.

As November crept along I kept thinking about what I needed to do in order to launch and I kept not doing it. It’s not that I didn’t want to, it’s just that I found other priorities that were “more important”. Were they really? Probably not, but the mind is a devious trickster.

And then it was December 1st and I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have WordPress set up, and now felt unsure about the topic and the URL. However, I said I was going to launch, and so launch I did. I spent the first few hours of the morning trying to convince myself that the original URL and name I had was right even though I felt like it wasn’t.  Finally I settled on mikespotten.com in order to let the blog grow and be whatever it was going to be, which in the past month it has.  

This brings me to the first thing I learned (or rather re-learned).

Learning #1: Start.

I’ve said it multiple times over the first 31 posts, but it’s crucial, so I’m repeating it again. If I hadn’t started I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. I’d probably be playing Clash Royale or scrolling through Instagram.

By getting the ball rolling it created momentum just as I predicted it would. And by committing in writing to posting every day in December it jedi-mind-tricked me into feeling obligated to fulfill that promise.  In the book Influence, Robert Cialdini talks about an addicted smoker handing out cards to the people she respected most in order to give herself the push she needed to quit. This was my way of committing to the task.

Learning #2 – It was harder than I thought it was going to be.

It was hard to post every day. Or rather, it was hard to post something I felt good about every day.  I care about what I’m putting out into the world. 

At the beginning I had planned to write a few posts a day and have a backlog ready so I could take a day off here or there. That didn’t happen. I had other work come in which became a priority and on the days I did have extra time I would perfect one post rather than write several.

I got sick twice and I had to create “filler” posts. From Boxy To Curvy and Rapid Prototyping were those posts. Not bad, but short and sweet. I had Rapid Prototyping in my back pocket from day 1, but From Boxy To Curvy was something I had read the day before and in my feverish haze threw it onto the page in order to get back into bed.

There were days where I didn’t know what I was going to write, I had worked all day, put the kids in bed, worked some more, and then it was 10 or 11 at night. “I don’t want to post today.” I would say to my wife and she would nod knowingly without a word. It’s the kind of torture I like to put myself through, the only person marking the scorecard was myself but fulfilling that promise of a post a day mattered and so I sat down and wrote.

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Learning #3 – There are different types of posts.

My expectation at the onset was that I would write a lot of posts on building products, setting vision, strategizing, ideation, roadmaps, etc. And I wrote a few good posts on those topics and would reference back to them whenever fitting, but the majority of the posts ended up being about the process of writing the blog itself and personal challenges I was having on a given day or reflecting on a challenge of the past.

I also created three of my favorite posts from the month in a three day period: What Makes a Good CultureAmazon Go, and Product Lessons from Mark Zukerberg’s Home AI Challenge. Two of them were unexpected pieces about technology that I felt compelled to write after they came up in my news feed. Moving forward I intend to do more of these types of posts. 

Learning #4 – I failed at promotion.

My goal was to get 100 subscribers in December. I got 10. I know I could have gotten more and applied more tactics in order to try to get them but I didn’t. I focused on the writing and I avoided promotion. I promoted 3 posts the entire month and I even forgot to include Google Analytics until about day 10. Moving into January I’ll start experimenting with different promotion techniques and include traffic goals as well as pushing my subscription of 100 users.  What I did learn here is that direct email outreach worked better than any other form thus far and sometimes I need to ask in person, “Hey, can I add you to my list?” and then just do it myself.

Learning #5 – Spillover.

Committing to working on this blog has engaged me in ways that I wasn’t expecting. I dug into articles that I would only skim before and stopped audiobooks to take notes in order to reference it in a post. As hard as it was to post every day I’m very glad that I did.

An unexpected result was something I’ve called spillover. My commitment to doing the blog has triggered other positive habits to rise to the surface of my life. I’m getting up earlier, exercising more often, eating better, and finding that I'm more focused. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks about keystone habits which when triggered create a domino effect towards other good habits. I believe the act of working on this, achieving something daily and stepping towards my larger goals, have made this a keystone habit in my life.

Minor Learnings

On December 1 I wrote, “The only thing I know for sure is that I’ll be further than I am today.” It’s very true. 

For January I’ve set another goal, but given myself a little bit of leeway: 20 posts  // 100 subscribers.  That gives me 10 days off, which I have already eaten through 4 of.

Along the way I discovered how to set up an Amazon Affiliates account, got MailChimp set up, posted on LinkedIn, posted on Twitter, created a content calendar, dug around in WordPress and more to get this all up and running.  These are all things which took time and will pay dividends moving forward into January.

There’s a bunch more, but that's a taste for you. What would you like to see me write about? Leave me a comment and follow along on my blog HERE

New Year, New Self… New Business?

It’s typical for the New Year to prompt questions about whether or not you’re living your best life. For me, throughout this holiday time, I’ve been asking myself, how do I want to “take off” from work around the holidays while I’m starting up my business? How do I factor in self-care willingly when there’s always something I could be doing? How do I maintain my sense of self outside of my responsibility for my business? And, how’s everyone else managing?

About two years ago I helped a close friend start his business. It felt incredible to get insight into the flexibility and creativity it takes to start something. Business had never been on my radar. My experiences (affected by my gender) had always directed me to more soft skill oriented positions. I was held back in Algebra in high school, I went on to study Women’s and Gender Studies in college, and was attracted to work that connected people with food, nature, or art.

It wasn’t until helping my friend and his family start their food truck business that I realized that there is so much unpredictability in a start-up business; a great deal of it ends up being put together on the fly. Starting a food truck ends up being much more about your Do-It-Yourself skills than the spreadsheets you drew up 6 months before. Don’t get me wrong, those spreadsheets are devilishly important when it comes to making sure your idea can work, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, small businesses are taking up arms in DIY ways through social media, community partnerships, and by recognizing the value of allowing the process to be transparent.

I recently-- momentarily-- lost my sense of self, separate from my sense of business. Out of habit before bed I scroll through my social media accounts, mostly Instagram, to see the day's happenings and photos. Recently, I’ve been just revisiting my business’ accounts, checking likes, peeking on stats, looking at photos of inspiring people and businesses around Baltimore. My pleasure and passions are so wrapped up in my business that it was hard for me to turn off my "work brain", even just for something as simple and regular as getting ready for bed. My racing brain, full of ideas, and inspiration, and worry, would race and race and race, after the normal restraints of business hours and leave me more anxious than passionate about how I was letting starting a business run my life. But it’s in my control, and I’m making up the rules, it’s DIY to the max, so can’t I make self care a major player in my business game?

I’ve been appreciating female entrepreneurs  that are emphasizing and highlighting the self-care element of business. Laura Miller, who is known for her vegan cookbooks, is open to and interested in divulging some of what goes on in her head by talking about intimate subjects like loneliness and failure. Her web series is called "Talking in Circles", and they’re short reminders that it’s important to take care of yourself on top of everything else you’re doing. A pulled quote from the failure episode:

“When I see someone fucking up it makes me like them more… It’s endearing in some sort of way, I think it’s because I know I could be that too… their more vulnerable and I feel more connected to them” -Novena on Talking in Circles

    Vulnerability is powerful and relatable. I think it’s become more and more important to expose the relatable person behind who’s running a business. I think people are interested in supporting the people that run a venture, beyond just the venture itself. The food movement can’t just be about the free-range chickens you’re eating; it’s gotta be about the free-range people that are dishing up those chickens. Some notable people in Baltimore that specifically highlight the importance of self-care is the team behind Dovecote Cafe. Here are some highlighted Instagram posts  that reflect their attitude about self-care:

It’s inspirational seeing people say what they need and making it work in a way that mutually benefits them and their community.

I also want to give a shout out to Krystal Mack, who’s working non-stop on the opening of Blk//Sugar, in R. House in Remington. She spoke some small words, that to me went a long way, at the first Startup Soirée event I attended. She shares about her experience in such a candid and authentic way. It often feels like she’s speaking my mind on some topics and the determination she shows in her journey keeps me believing that I can start something too. 

Business owners in Baltimore are doing more than managing, they’re giving their cheat sheet out on how to manage.

So how do I self-care separate from my business? I’m working on a bedtime routine, a lot less phone, a little bit of stretching, some tea, and some me time. I’ve tried setting up more obvious work hours in my hectic start, and while that doesn’t always work, I do know that every once in awhile I need to just switch off and laugh hard with friends, dance with strangers, and sit quietly in the YMCA sauna.

And the blurred lines are not so bad. Startup Soirée events, mixed with a pop-up workshop at Dovecote, or a lesson through Cube or School of Food are all things that get me so excited to be starting a business in Baltimore. So as I enter the New Year, with my replenished sense of self, and my starting business, I’ll continue to keep a pulse on the blurring lines between my Wilde self and my Wilde startup venture, Wilde Thyme.

- Kiah

Why Meditation is good for entrepreneurs, employers, and employees.

Meditation has many benefits, but how do you apply it to your business? One of the first misconceptions about meditation is that you have to have a clear mind and not think about anything.  You always hear the excuse of, "It's too hard," "I can't turn my mind off," and "I don't have time."  But as a business owner and brand; meditation has not only helped me be more productive, it has made me a happier person. 

In the book, "The Happiness Advantage" author Shawn Achor talks about seven principles that fuel success and performance at work.  In this article, I will discuss how meditation can help you and your co-workers.

Stress.  Meditation can help decrease stress levels.  Research shows that meditation can contribute to reducing blood pressure and resting heart rate if practiced three to five times a week.  Imagine being in a work environment where you can take a second to make a more rational thought and help defuse stressful situations by taking 5-10 minutes to meditation practice.  Also, meditation can help with time management by prioritizing situations to relieve stress.

Creativity.  Meditation can also open up your mind to more creativity.  If you need help problem solving or coming up with an idea, taking deep breaths with your eyes closed for 10 minutes can allow you to think more clearly.

Mindfulness.  The difference between meditation and mindfulness is that mindfulness is being more in the present moment.  If you can work with less distraction it can help, not only your work efficiency but also your work relationships.  

In conclusion, meditation can help you and your co-workers or employees become happier and more active people who help not only the company, but the individuals.

To learn more about different meditation practices and how to apply them to your life.  Check out my "Design Your Life" Meditation workshop at M.Power Yoga on January 7th.

Catch the Startup Soirée Podcast featuring Jason and Charm City PT HERE

How to Secure Bank Financing, Debunked

sponsored blog post by The Columbia Bank

sponsored blog post by The Columbia Bank

So you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve got a vision. Now you need the funding to transform that vision  into reality. Working with a bank may seem intimidating, but if you follow these simple steps your chances of walking away with a check in your name are greatly increased.

1.     Go local. Avoid having to call a 1-800 number. Find a community bank that typically lends to local businesses in your area. You can find the rankings of these banks through sba.gov.

2.     Research on programs. Before gathering all of your business data, check out the programs available to you. Some examples are Small Business Administration loans, VOLT funding and community grants. Also, its good know what collateral requirements may exist.  

3.     Put together an A-Team. Before meeting with a bank lender, make sure you have a CPA and corporate lawyer as resources.  Primary focus as a new business owner should be upper level management and logistics.

4.     Be prepared for personal meeting with a bank lender. Here are some tips:

a.     Have a short and concise business plan. Less is more, 2-3 pages max

b.     Have  resumes of your management team available

c.     Put together revenue projections. Focus on 2-3 years, month-to-month. Think this through and be prepared to answer questions on working capital needs and repayment. Hint: never walk into a bank and ask “how much” can I qualify for. This may show that you haven’t thought through what your monthly payments will be and how to repay.

d.     Pull your own credit report and ensure your existing business is in good standing on Maryland’s SDAT website. Also, feel free to search for UCC’s that may be outstanding.

e.     Be prepared to speak about your location. Examples are: leases (if you have them), specific documentation on equipment costs, exhibits for your sources/uses table. Be prepared to put 10-20% into the project yourself. Chances are you have already bootstrapped thus far to get up and running – so have your investment documented on an spreadsheet to show you’re putting in your own equity.

Not into bank financing? Crowdfunding is always an option, if it aligns with your long term corporate vision. If you’ve got shareholders, discuss succession planning with them. If the company grows rapidly, will they be willing to subordinate their debt to seek additional funding from a bank if needed? What is your shareholders’ long term plan for repayment?

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask local bank lenders questions.  If you’re not quite ready to apply but want additional information, pick their brains about financing programs that would be a good fit.

Best of luck!

Member FDIC. Loans are subject to credit approval.  The Columbia Bank is not associated with the Small Business Administration or Maryland’s Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Maintaining Your Personal Finance While Starting A Business

A note from InvestEd:

InvestEd is a startup, financial advising firm based in downtown Baltimore. We’re on a mission to bring smart money to everyone, and have removed the complexity around saving and investing money. InvestEd has no minimums or hidden fees, and we’re not tied to big banks. We believe in technology, and taking the long-view on investments. We really want to help ALL people achieve financial independence. 

-Genti Cici

One night earlier this year, I sat down with a friend of mine, who was starting his own business. He’d done his homework on the business’ financials, and he’d done a pretty good job estimating cashflow vs. revenue vs. profit. But as we talked further, there was an element of starting a business that I could see he hadn’t thought much about: how it would affect his own personal financial situation. We talked a lot about this.

For the Startup Soiree community, I thought parts of this discussion would be really helpful, so here they are in a nutshell.

The Safety Net

In general, I tell the typical InvestEd client to carry a cushion/safety net of 3-6 months of expenses, for any unforeseen circumstances. But for new entrepreneurs starting their own business, it’s good practice to have at least 1 to 2 years of your expenses in savings before you make the leap. Even if you think your business will make money right away, starting a company comes with all kinds of surprises: unplanned renovation costs, delays in product launches, additional legal fees. You’ll want the financial flexibility to handle these up’s and down’s, and keep your current lifestyle as close to normal as possible. Believe me, you’ll be under enough stress as it is.

Shrink Your Expenses

Getting your expenses down to a minimum is key to making your safety net last longer. The rule of thumb is no more than 28% of your gross pay should go towards a home payment, and no more than 36% to home + recurring payments. Of course, if you don’t have any income because your business is just starting, all of your expenses must come out of savings or revenue from your new business.

So, plan accordingly. I won’t ever tell someone to change their lifestyle when starting a business, but what I will say is that all entrepreneurs need to be realistic and strategic–can you really handle all of your expenses while you get your business off the ground? Make sure your answer is a firm ‘yes’ when you get started.

Protect Yourself

Even if you’re going to be an army of one when you start out, always form either an LLC or corporation to ensure you keep your personal assets protected. The idea is to keep your personal money and holdings away from your business. One easy but essential step is to use business-only credit cards and bank accounts. In addition, spending on your business may be tax deductible, so separate your business expenses and keep good records for tax time and beyond.

Life Changes

Many founders that I talk to, don’t consider the effect that major life changes will have on their business. Getting married, having children, taking care of other loved ones–all of these things can affect an entrepreneur’s mind, as well as his/her financials.

Make sure you understand the ramifications of these big life events, and as much as you can, plan for them in advance. If you’re in a relationship, you should talk about the financials of your venture and what impact it will have on the two of you. Believe me, there is nothing worse than having to decide between the wedding of your dreams and keeping the lights on at your new office. This is why the savings guidelines I mentioned earlier are so important.

For Those About To Rock

Building a business is an amazing journey. It can reward you in ways that you never dreamed. Most people these days think of startups as high-flying tech companies with billion dollar valuations. Some of those are out there, for sure–but I think it’s good to remember that most of the businesses around us that we use every day, started as someone’s idea or dream. Their owners saw a need, hatched an idea, pulled together resources, toughed it out, and made something real and valuable. I salute everyone who is inspired, gutsy, and resourceful enough to go strike out on their own. It’s a trip almost always worth taking. I wish you the best on it.

Moms as Entrepreneurs

This program aims to help dozens of Baltimore City Moms become business owners

Entrepreneurs Jasmine Simms, Founder of Scrub Nail Boutique & Tammira Lucas, MBA, President of The Business Dr. Consultancy are reinvesting in the Penn-North community where they both grew up by giving moms the opportunity to launch and grow businesses through their Moms As Entrepreneurs (MAE) Academy. 

The eight-week entrepreneurship training program will hold its first session on April 4, 2016   with a cohort of 20 moms who want to start or grow successful, profitable businesses in order to find personal fulfillment, foster growth in their neighborhoods and reinvest back into their respective Baltimore City communities. 

The purpose of the academy is to: (1) provide moms with resources to create a microenterprise through hands-on training programs focusing on the development of life, entrepreneurship & financial literacy skills; (2) create a documentary of the journey of the women and use it as a coaching tool for other moms and; (3) partner with financial institutions and other lenders to identify funding resources.

We want to invest back into the community where we once live and be the resource and support system for other moms to help them launch their businesses while understanding they don't have to give up on their entrepreneurial dreams! 

Online registration can be accessed by visiting The Moms As Entrepreneurs website where a link to the application is provided. Registration for the program is $20 and the total tuition cost is $149. The registration fee will go towards the overall cost of the tuition. 

This will be the first of three cohorts for 2016 and will help the founders to achieve their goal of help 60 local moms to start their own businesses. The Moms As Entrepreneurs organization works to support and provide resources to help mom entrepreneurs start or grow existing businesses through a podcast, WEAA radio segment, yearly conferences and quarterly workshops. 

The Moms As Entrepreneurs (MAE) Academy welcomes sponsorships to help offset the cost of its training for aspiring women business owners.

For more information about participating in this event and sponsorship opportunities, visit www.maeentrepreneur.com, email maeentrepreneur@gmail.com or contact Tammira Lucas at (410)493-3282.

Analysis of Popular Startup Tools by TeamPassword

Brian Sierakowski, CEO of TeamPassword, shares his analysis of popular tools that are used by used entrepreneurs through TeamPassword. 

At TeamPassword since our customers are SAAS product companies and marketing agencies, we get to see the gambit of tools that companies are using. It’s always interesting to us to see what these companies use to help themselves, as well as their customers, grow.

So, using our data science powers for good, we’ve done an analysis on some of the most popular logins shared in TeamPassword and are processing them for you. Analyzing a sample size of 35,000 accounts, we’ve found the ten most popular products being used by TeamPassword customers. The numbers don’t lie, but we also think these products are the best around.

Without further adieu, let’s talk tools.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is a tool used for sending emails to customers and prospects. Who might this particular product be for? Anybody who needs to send marketing or product emails to a list (aka everybody in the tech world) can get great use of MailChimp.

MailChimp is more than the adorably mispronounced sponsor at the end of Serial episodes. This email service provider gives you the fastest way to get setup and get emails out the door, allowing email managers and marketers alike to efficiently do their jobs.


Mandrill

Used widely by developers, Mandrill is an email delivery platform powered by MailChimp. Developers are busy, with their hands in multiple projects at any given time. By having their own mail servers already set up for them, Mandrill takes one more thing off their already full plate.

Even if you’re not a developer, you should be able to appreciate the benefits of not sending your own emails, namely making sure your transactional emails get to your customers inbox and not their spam folder. Emails are hard! Let someone else send them.


Github

Developers and product teams have chosen GitHub as their go to tool for software version control, collaboration, and doing code reviews. Github has taken an extra effort in making it easy to get started, which has turned many newer developers off when trying to get into the arcane world of Git and other version control systems.

Every product team should be using a version control system—if you disagree with that, please see me after class. However, given my experience in the software world, Github does the best job at providing the tool set above and beyond just “here’s what changes have been made” which separate them from the other tools available.

 

Hootsuite

Ask any marketer what they need to manage their social media strategies and they will often say Hootsuite. It’s a social media management platform that allows companies and individuals alike to set up and conduct their outlets effectively.

People are definitely busy, but, your customers expect quick responses. One way to do that is to get all your social channels in one place so you can watch all them incoming @’s and likes and whatever else the kids are doing these way to make sure your customers are happy.

 

Zapier

We know you have the talent and know how to build complicated integrations, but if you don’t have the time or bandwidth, let Zapier do the connection work for you. Zapier creates automations across your toolset, allowing you and your team to work on more urgent and crucial projects.

One cool new feature Zapier just released are called “Multi Step Zaps” (pew pew) which allow you to create automations not just between two tools, but within an entire workflow. This lets you take your zapping to the next level, you could do something like: when a new customer is created in Stripe, schedule a welcome email for them to come from mailchimp, post a message in slack, then open a todo item for someone to manually follow up with them. Powerful stuff, all with zero lines of code written!

 

Browserstack

Testing your products and looking for bugs will never be a tedious pain. You’ll have instant access to all real mobile and desktop browsers all while testing your product in a ton of different browsers so you can track down the bug reported from IE5.

You could instead download one of the many packs of virtual machines and find the right combination of operating system and browser, spin up the VM, fight with networking, then realize you don’t actually have the right combination and start all over again. Or, assuming your time is not worth nothing, you can use Browserstack and do the same thing in a fraction of the time.

 

SurveyMonkey

Nothing is more important than getting feedback from your customers. One of the easiest and most useful ways to get feedback is through surveys. SurveyMonkey lets you create those surveys and get them out to your customers with ease.

SurveyMonkey has a leg on on their competitors a few ways, but generally people look to two key features: 1) they make it super easy to create, send, AND analyze your results, and 2) they give you a bank of scientifically tested survey questions to make sure us amatuer survey creators benefit from the wisdom of the expert surveyors that have come before us.

 

Trello

Lightweight, flexible, and easy to use, Trello helps you keep track of all your projects and statuses in one place. You and your team have access to your Trello boards, keeping everyone organized and up to date on past, ongoing, and future projects.

We use Trello to keep track of everything that’s not software development, which includes all of our marketing activities (this post was once a Trello card), sales activities, operations and our internal to-dos. I really dig Trello since they have a similar product strategy to us: while providing helpful constraints, Trello gives you the flexibility to organize and manage workflow however it’ll work best for your company.

 

Stripe

Revolutionizing the way we process payments, Stripe allows businesses to quickly and easily accept payments over the Internet. Provided you’re already incorporated, you can start accepting credit card payments within a few minutes of creating your account (not days, not months.)

Stripe also provides the fastest turnaround time of any payment processor we’ve used—your money is yours, and they never freeze or hold funds for any reason, unlike some pals that come to mind. Developers love them for their awesome toolset and the ease of getting started, business people like how fast they get their money and how little time they had to spend to get there!

 

Media Temple

Take the guesswork out of hosting by using Media Temple to manage your servers. They are backed by their excellent customer service—it’s like having an extra team of developers to help you whenever you need.

While they provide a whole fleet of services, I’ve always been aware of Media Temple’s Wordpress hosting services as the top tier choice for hosting the most popular CMS software in existence. But, they provide most any type of hosting environment you need, and especially focus on the designer and developer community.

In Conclusion: 

Before you sign up for all these great tools (which we know you’re totally about to do, if you haven’t already), you might want one last recommendation: a tool to help you share and manage access to all these other tools.

Check out TeamPassword at our special page just for Startup Soiree readers here 

 

 

 

Startup Spotlight: ArtWorks Program

It is a busy afternoon at the Baltimore Resettlement Center. Ten high school students chat, laugh, and bustle around, working diligently on a variety of projects. Snippets of French, Tigrinya, and occasionally Pular can be heard above the ding of the sewing machine and the swish of necklace making.

These are the students of ArtWorks, a social enterprise creating products at the intersection of art, culture, and refugee experiences. An initiative of Baltimore City Community College’s Refugee Youth Project (BCCC RYP), ArtWorks is still a new venture, transitioning from a small scale fundraiser to a full retail operation.

In late, 2012, BCCC RYP had a vision to expand current community arts programming to meet an even larger audience--why not sell extra artwork created by students during programming? That holiday season, BCCC RYP was a first-time vendor at the Maryland Institute College of Art’s premier holiday shopping event, Art Market. The program received an enthusiastic welcome, and completely sold out of all its’ products! Encouraged and excited, BCCC RYP created ArtWorks

Now in its’ third full year, ArtWorks features a variety of unique products. Student artwork has been turned into stationary, recipes from around the world are featured in a cookbook, and candles are scented with smells reminiscent of student’s home countries. Handmade by refugee youth in grades K-12, products are created at summer programming, during special “maker’s days,” and through community arts programming throughout the school year.

ArtWorks has expanded from one holiday festival in 2012 to three in 2015, and has added several consignment agreements. In addition to attending markets in November and December, ArtWorks also participates in art events throughout the year, including ArtScape. ArtWorks is excited to add another distribution channel in 2016—an online store.

What’s next for ArtWorks? BCCC RYP’s Coordinator, Kursten Pickup, envisions the enterprise as a vocational training opportunity for refugee youth. She and her team are working hard to secure funding to provide 10 local refugee youth with stipends to create part time employment opportunities, as well as provide targeted support in career development and financial literacy.

ArtWorks provides refugee youth with a valuable opportunity to engage with art for personal expression, cultural communion, and even healing. By operating as a business, ArtWorks not only has the opportunity to become sustainable, but also to share with a wider audience the creativity of Baltimore youth from around the world.


Chelsea Coston, ArtWorks Program Coordinator 

Chelsea Coston, ArtWorks Program Coordinator 

Chelsea Coston works with the Refugee Youth Project based in Baltimore. She is the coordinator for the ArtWorks Program, an initiative of the RYP, which she talked about above. She has volunteered for many other causes, including Feed the Homeless in which she served as director. You can find more information on their Facebook.

 


The Three Tiers of Promotion

Marisa Dobson, Founder & Principle of Scintillate

Marisa Dobson, Founder & Principle of Scintillate

Marisa Dobson, Founder of Scintillate, demonstrates her expertise in many fields. She is well versed in book publishing, social media management, events & event sponsorships, consulting & entrepreneurial flexibility.

Below she shares with you some advice for promoting your new brand: 

Promotion is one of those activities, like networking, that comes easily to some and is like pulling teeth for others. In my line of work, I often come into contact with talented individuals that have a product to sell, content to share, or an event to promote. But, they don’t quite know how to go about it, or don’t have enough distance from their work to get perspective on what’s most valuable. What follows are three ideas for promotion that can be scaled depending on your budget and time (both being scarce in the start-up world!).

$$$ / Launch Event

 Launch parties create awareness of your product. Pixilated Event: The Whiteboard Book Launch Party

 Launch parties create awareness of your product. Pixilated Event: The Whiteboard Book Launch Party

You have a new product and you want to create the biggest splash possible in your media market. You also have a budget for promotion/marketing. Host an event. Make it open to the public if you can afford it (with a private media preview or VIP space) and invite-only if you’re trying to limit costs.

Must do’s 

  • Secure a sponsor whose customer base aligns with yours, OR who is trying to reach out to your audience. 
  • Find a venue that is on-brand and willing to host you for little or no cost. 
  • Create gift bags or a door prize for attendees.  
  • Prepare wrap-up materials (# of attendees & other relevant data, company press release, sample product) to distribute the following day. Do not neglect follow-ups! 

$$ / PR campaign

You don’t have quite enough money or time to throw an event, but you can devote resources to publicity. Obviously I have a horse in this race, but it often makes sense to hire a professional to handle your publicity. Not only do they have relationships with media, but they have access to constantly updated contact lists (i.e. Cision) and a honed awareness of what kind of pitch works. 

Must do’s

  • Find a newsworthy hook. “New” is the key part of newsworthy. You must have a new product, new book, new menu, new leadership in order to garner real press coverage. 
  • Give the campaign at least 3 months. One month to prep, one to pitch, and one to follow-up and close. 
  • Follow ALL of the relevant editors, producers, influencers on social media. They notice, believe me. 
Use as many types of social media as you can to get your brand out thereGoogle Images

Use as many types of social media as you can to get your brand out thereGoogle Images

 

$ / Brand Ambassadors or Online Advocates

Pixilated Brand Icon represents brand, put it out there as much as possible!

Pixilated Brand Icon represents brand, put it out there as much as possible!

You’ve got a really awesome product, but no dollars. That’s fine! Make it as easy and enjoyable as possible for people who are already fans to promote your product. Offer free or reduced-cost product for a social media post or an Amazon/Google review. Congregate online using a hashtag, and take part in the conversations already occurring. 

Must do’s

  • Always retweet/regram and thank them publicly whenever they post 
  • Write sample tweets or posts and distribute to your fans 
  • Make beautiful low-res product/brand photos available 

You made it to the end. My goal in writing this was that it would be helpful enough that you would click PRINT or SAVE. If you did, give me a shout-out on Twitter and share a screenshot! I would be so thrilled to retweet you. If you have any questions in regards to anything above, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Thanks for reading and see you at the next Startup Soiree!

6 Ways to Bootstrap Your Marketing

Unless you’re Sean Parker (or Justin Timberlake playing Sean Parker), chances are you’re in that lovely phase that everyone affectionately calls “bootstrapping”. The word comes from the 1860’s, when--if Johnny Depp movies are to be believed--everyone wore boots. It’s referring to those loops on the back of your boots, and it means to pull yourself up by those straps. Nowadays, we think of it as scrounging, hustling, pinching pennies, and doing what you can so that your new sprout of a company can flourish from the entrepreneurial ooze.

Okay, let’s assume you have an awesome product or top-notch service. If not, get back to work and stop reading this blog. Aside from being great and all, telling people about greatness is important. Really important. And for all the aforementioned reasons you’re stuck at the marketing budget line item of negative zero. All is not lost. There are a few things you can do during that pre-budget period to get the ball rolling, the only cost is a little time and imagination.

  1. Social Media. I know, duh, right? But hang on, hear me out. What about using social media in odd ways? Check these campaigns out, they should get the juices flowing: using Tinder to break the fourth wall by having movie characters listed as users, congratulating the wrong Super Bowl team on purpose to promote needing a new social media manager, or setting up profiles for adoptable dogs on Tinder. Think of ways to use social media as part of the ad, not an interruption to it.

  2. Pull Tab Flyers. Your cities telephone polls are littered with cheap tear off flyers. You can print these from home or work. If you don’t have a printer you could bribe an artsy friend to draw you some. The key here is to embrace the cheap, make it part of the campaign. Also, remember to post them near where you would find your target customer. Check these neat ideas out to get you started.

  3. User-Generated Content. Gamify your sticky. If you have a bit of an audience--say, over a few thousand--maybe let them have a crack at it. You could even go so far as to have them vote on which one they like best. It gives them ownership of the marketing and gives you an idea how they view your company. This works especially well if you have a lifestyle brand. Get creative with the prizes too: maybe a job, a year's supply, or just invite them to your Holiday party so you can clap at them. Here are some great ones done by huge brands, but the same could work just as well for a smaller brand with an active audience. Also, this one is just funny. I miss John Stewart.

  4. Offer to guest blog or speak. This one is a bit meta (given that I am, in fact, guest blogging here), but offering to share knowledge and ideas is the cheapest marketing you can do. Show the world what you know. Find some blogs that speak to your target audience and write something they can actually use. The only downside is that if you’re doing it right, they may not need to call you at all.

  5. Homemade PR. That local newspaper? That industry journal? That thing that your target customer is already reading? Read it too. Find a few reporters that write about companies and people like you and drop them a note. Be friendly, interesting, and respectful. Realize that they probably get fifty of these a day, and you’ll need to give them a reason why they and their readers should care (aside from you’re new and awesome). Some will ask not to to be contacted anymore. That’s okay. Thank them for their time and move on. If they’re really nice they will forward you to someone that might be interested in you. Don’t focus on the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, either. For one, they don’t care and for two, you want a more specific audience. If you send a 100 emails and only 5% respond, than you’ve got 5 good articles. I would take 5 good targeted articles over almost anything. Remember: people come to these publications to read the articles, not the ads. The articles are free.

    This little hack may work, or it may backfire. Nothing beats a personal email, but it could save you time--use with caution.  

  6. Contests. If you’re just starting out and trying to grow your social audience, give them a reason to share. I have a buddy that’s great at this. He owns a local film production gear rental house, and promotes his social media pages by giving away things for sharing the page. You need shares and the words to be spread through the land; they want free stuff. The giveaways can be free trials, free demos, some schwag, or a coupon.

   6 ¾. Knock on doors. There is no replacing face to face contact. Go to events, get coffee, shake hands, kiss babies, talk about the weather. In all stages, knowing people helps. From service business to product companies, B2B to B2G; having a list of contacts is essential. You never know where meeting one person will lead. Better yet, this doesn’t even require imagination and there is usually free food.

Hopefully you’re not bootstrapping forever, but take advantage of it while you can. You’ll never be this flexible, this nimble again. What you lack in cash, you’ll have to make up for in imagination--but there’s something really inspiring in that, isn’t there?


Dan Schepleng is the founder of Kapowza—a full service creative agency that specializes in startups. Dan has been on the creative side of advertising since he was hired to edit a commercial at 15. He was paid in golf clubs and used them twice.

School of Food Soirée | Food Entrepreneur Demo Day

Join Startup Soirée and School of Food for our Food Entrepreneur Demo Day on Tuesday, November 10th at 6:30pm at the Pixilated HQ

Learn about 5 emerging food businesses in Baltimore and provide feedback on their product, pitch, and packaging (brand). The crowd (you!) will vote on your favorite in each category, and the winner of demo day will walk away with a prize — 1-on-1 time with buyers from major anchor institutions.

**food & drink provided by our featured participants, included in your ticket price. 

School of Food is not a one size fits all business training program; it’s made to order based on your needs. Find the tools for on the job success online and in person. Our personalized curriculum takes current and future food biz owners on a trip that starts with the basics (defining a mission, writing a pitch), moves into the nitty gritty (financial forecasting, quickbooks, health code info) and ends with all the fun stuff you need to know when going to market (branding, distribution, winning at negotiation). 

Our Featured Food Entrepreneurs:

  • Nutreatious / Gundalow Juice - 

    Gundalow is a Baltimore based company that brings you delicious cold-pressed juices.  Our juices are only made with fruits and vegetables; there are no added sugars, preservatives or caffeine. We believe in fueling your ambitions and therefore we are devoted to bringing you delicious, convenient, and nutritious juice. 

         At Nutreatious, we are passionate about all things cooking and                  kitchen. Through our personal chef, catering and kitchen                              organization services, our clients are able to spend their time doing          more of the things they love without sacrificing excellent meals.

  • Diamondback Brewery - 

    Diamondback Brewing Co. is a craft beer company based out of Baltimore, Maryland. Diamondback was founded in Fall of 2014 by local Baltimore boys. In the pursuit of our craft, we aim to find the perfect balance between drinkability and uncompromised flavor. Our mission is to bring great beer to great people, and sacrifice nothing along the way. Even the boldest of our beers are brewed with the desire to be appreciated by all drinkers alike.

  • Tessamae's - 

    As the mother of three athletic boys, Tesse had to figure out a way to get them to eat their veggies while staying healthy. Because serving a dressing full of artificial ingredients was not an option, she created and perfected her own all-natural recipe. When her oldest son, Greg, realized how great it was, he said, “Mom, let’s go into business together and make this for the world!” As Tessemae's All Natural grows its product line around the globe, the commitment to healthy eating and healthy living remains the core of the company's mission.

  • Tenth Harvest - 

    Tenth Harvest is a boutique importer and distributor of wine, beer and spirits. We buy direct from small farmers around the world, currently in Italy, France, Oregon and Washington state. Our customers are restaurants and retailers in Maryland and Washington DC, small businesses who invest in the highest quality products and knowledgeable staff. Our primary focus is wine: an agricultural product, hand-crafted by farmers who use sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming practices. Our audience is the educated consumer who desires sustainably sourced products, and most of all enjoys the pleasure of good food and wine.

  • 2am Bakery - 

    2AM Bakery “Where the Dough Rises” is a small Wholesale Shop that has been in operation for the last 7 years in some form. Its mission is to provide the consumer with an unforgettable confectionery experience. One of the Founders, Gregory Carpenter (Shamsuddin Abdul Mateen), was released from incarceration in 1994 after serving twenty years. In 1996, he had the opportunity to make make the pilgrimage to Mecca. While on pilgrimage he met Mikal Abdul Mateen (Co-Founder) who was studying abroad at the time. They began talking, realizing they both shared a love for cooking and baking, and agreed to open a bakery together some day. Years later, 2AM Bakery was formed. They chose the name 2AM Bakery because Mikal is “Abdul Mateen” and Greg adopted the name “Abdul Mateen,” thus you have 2AM Bakery ”Where the Dough Rises."

  • Elaine's Brown Sugar - 

    Elaine's Brown Sugar was started in 2011 by Daryl (DJ) Flood when the craving for delicious treats and the passion for baking became one, and after following the foot steps of those before. We take pride in using high quality ingredients and local products, so that every bite is of pure perfection. Originally from the Washington, DC while on a trip to Baltimore, DJ realized that there weren't a place to get a great quick salad or certain types of specialty baked goods. Utilizing recipes passed down from DJ's grandmother Elaine, they stepped out on Faith to form Elaine's Brown Sugar...

The Consequences of Inaction by Greg Cangialosi

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of speaking at #FailFest as part of Baltimore Innovation Week. Occasionally, when I give a talk, I will write a summary here on my blog as a point of reference. Given the response to my topic, I chose to elaborate on what I discussed in my FailFest talk which was titled “The Consequences of Inaction.”

First off, FailFest is an event where folks come to speak about failure and their experiences with failure. Athough I have spoken at FailFest in the past, this time I decided to start my talk off with my definition / understanding of what failure actually is.

Defining Failure:

The definition of failure to me is not necessarily defined as singular event. Rather failure is an experience that takes place when something happens that is not in line with the originally intended outcome. Think about it, sure there can be specific events that depict a failure, but more often than not any form of failure can be stated as an experience that takes place that is not in line with the originally intended outcome.

A simple example as it relates to software development is as follows: Your company has a plan to develop the next version of your tech platform and launch it at the end of Q1 2014. Unfortunately, you find yourself almost a year and a half later in 2015 just now starting to put clients on your rebuilt platform. A delay that is still not up to speed with where you want it. This is not necessarily a failure defined as an event, but rather an experience, and one with consequences.

Over the years, one action that I have found to be a mindtrap for failure is a flawed belief in the truth, or being disconnected from reality. Simply said, the experience of failure has origins in the belief system that things “will work out”, when they clearly are not working out and have repeated themselves over and over again.

Or said another way, is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results. If the results are bad, this is not good. Believing things will work out when all of the signs in front of you say they are not is delusional. You are disconnected with your intuition and the reality of the situation. You may want to believe something to be true, but history has already shown that what you believe is simply not the case.

I wanted to take the opportunity to expand failure into two categories. Failing professionally and failing personally. To me, both experiences of failure have unique sets of circumstances.

Failing Professionally:

We have all heard the term “paralysis by analysis.” In the business world, this experience often comes with great consequences when one can’t break out of their “paralysis.”

Professionally speaking, there always seems to be reasons why something may continue in a downward cycle. Often due to a lack of complete information regarding a circumstance, one may think and say things like: “Lets give them one more week,” “Do you really think they are lying to us? “No, it will work out,” “Lets give them the benefit of the doubt” “Lets see what happens tomorrow,” “They said that they just need another week to finish.”

Yet, that week comes and goes, and yet another week comes and goes, and yet another….

A colleague of mine said something to me on this topic that hit home. Its simple, “For every week you wait it will cost you a month.” Or said another way, for every week that you wait to take action, it costs you a month to get to where you want to be. For every week you wait, a month. That puts things into perspective, and I can tell you that I have experienced this first hand when it comes to business and projects.

As simple as it may seem, in order to break this cycle you have to ACT, you have to BREAK the cycle; you have to RIP the band aid off the wound and TAKE ACTION. The only way to CHANGE the situation is to CREATE THE CHANGE that is required. Simple, yes, however sometimes, and often, it’s just not that easy to do.

I’ve seen it first-hand too many times in business. Whether you are a founder, a CEO, a manager, or a team member that has fallen into the rut of “hoping for the best” when things are clearly showing you they are not going well, its ok, it happens. Often though with many dynamics involved. Why do we do this? The question is valid for me as an entrepreneur. I am an eternal optimist. I paint a vision of progress, hope and genuinely believe things will work out (they always do in their own way), but occasionally I have allowed my eternal optimism to cloud my judgement and therefore my actions.

In business, this type of paralysis can come with big consequences. Depending on the exact situation there can be financial implications, missed deadlines and delays, the possibility of missed market opportunities, the loss of business / customers, etc. In the end, a lot of costly events can take place in business for NOT taking action in a timely manner. Don’t fall into this rut and always remember, for every week you wait will cost you a month to get there!

Failing Personally:

On the personal side, much of the same dynamics discussed above are involved, but in a different manner. The consequences of inaction are different on a personal level. Things can be much more subjective in these cases.

If you need to make a change in your life but over analyze it due to fear, the effects can be similar to that in business but in this case more often than not they are psychological.

As an example, maybe you want to eat healthier, or maybe you want to change the role or job you are in, or maybe you are depressed and need to make a change to turn your life around. Maybe you need to work a regular exercise and fitness routine into your life. Whatever the specific case may be, paralysis by analysis in this case leads to personal inaction. This inaction leads to excuses.

I’ve seen many friends and I have also experienced this in my own life. INACTION comes with consequences when you know that you need to do something in your life, when you know you need to make a change, and almost always when you IGNORE your INNER VOICE. When this happens, you are effectively IGNORING what’s best for you. Is that what you think you deserve? To hold yourself back?

Negative consequences come when you close yourself down to your own voice because you are always coming up with mindless distractions like; “What will people think?” “I will get on that tomorrow, what’s another day?” “I’m concerned I’m going to hurt someone’s feelings” “That’s a tough conversation to have so I’ll put it off,” etc..

There are numerous amounts of reasons why we can suggest to ourselves that now is not the right time to do something. Simply put: these are excuses and distractions that ultimately lead us to holding ourselves back from progressing forward in our path.

Personally, the consequences of such inaction could lead to things like missing new opportunities may come if you make a change. You may magnetize new people and new situations if you made a specific change. You may feel or look the best you ever have in your life as a result of your actions. However, these positive effects may never occur because you find yourself in your complacency and won’t create the changes that are necessary for you to evolve.

Consequences can also manifest in other ways as well when it comes to our personal lives. Failure to act in certain situations can manifest health issues, depression, home / family issues, substance and alcohol abuse, and many other personal ways too many to list, but you get the gist. The rabbit hole goes deep when it comes to our own human experience.

Bringing it Home:

To summarize the above, whether it’s a professional or personal situation, there are always consequences when there is a lack of action regarding a scenario that is negative or one that needs to be changed for the better.

When things are not going the way you think they should, or not flowing the way they should be, its best to LOOK THINGS DIRECTLY IN THE EYE. Take a hold of the situation and TAKE ACTION. There is a thing we all have in us called our “inner voice” or “gut feel.” Inevitably, when we ignore our gut feeling things tend to not turn out well. I have tested this time and time and time again and it always rings true. We are much more intuitive than we can imagine.

This all seems very simple, but I see to many people resist the action around the change that is required in both business and personal scenarios to allow for resolution, progess and growth. The sooner you take action and create the change you want the happier you will be and the faster you will reach your goals.

And always remember, for every week you wait, it takes a month to get to where you want to be. On a final note, think about this: There is no time like the present, and there is no present like the time.

Onward.

- Greg Cangialosi

** Special thanks to Laura Black for some editing love.

YOLO: Failing at Life

At this year's Baltimore Innovation Week I was invited to speak at #FailFest amongst a handful of other excellent local business people. I have to be honest, I went into it with absolutely nothing in mind to focus my talk on. Staying on topic isn't my strongest attribute anyway, so I figured fuck it! At the very least, I could fail pretty hard on my talk right? Or find magic.

It was interesting to listen to the different perspectives that each of my fellow speaker's talks focused on. They were diverse, they were passionate, and some of them were truly inspiring. Failure is an interesting word in our culture. It occupies a unique space in our collective minds. I don't know if it stems from not wanting to be proven wrong by the Queen or what but we're super aware. 

My journey began in front of a slide that read "YOLO." Typically I wouldn't really use the word yolo. Not because I don't use faddish slang, anyone who reads my blogs knows that's totes not the case, I just think it's kind of dumb. But....in this instance it seemed like the best idea. As a life mantra it's perfect, an internal promise that if there is pain to come it won't last forever. 

Photo Credit: Jacqueline Albright

Photo Credit: Jacqueline Albright

Failing in business to me doesn't necessarily mean I sank the battleship; although that option is still on the table. In my world I fail almost constantly, I'm failing at life every single day; but it's not what you think. In my world one of the greatest attributes a human can possess (IMO) is humility. When you suffer humility you learn from your experiences. In that light, my greatest moments of failure have lead way to humility which in turn has given me the opportunity to learn something about myself, how others perceive me, and the impact I have on the universe I live in. 

I'm NOT trying to get too hippy dippy with you but ultimately I seek harmony with my environment and see failure as the pruning of dis-harmony. The individual moments that happen along the way enlighten and inspire us to make changes for the better. That statement is as true in business as it is in any other compartment of life, you just need to look for it. 

In the Startup world, the "Fail Fast" slogan gets thrown around as much as the cash does but rarely is it truly internalized by the practitioners sloganeering. Taking "Fail Fast" as a loose suggestion to close the feedback loop, adjust, launch in greater intervals, and reduce stress points early on exclusively loses it's philosophical essence; and the potential for massive insight. 

As an entrepreneur, artist, free thinker, and human being I have a responsibility to grow and get better every single day. Failure and humility are my best assets in accomplishing that goal. 

Check out my #Failfest talk below and a big thanks to Lisa Quigly from RealFlexi for capturing it on Periscope. 

FOLLOW @PatrickRife 

Extra, Extra! Startup Soirée Moves to City Garage

Startup Soirée is moving to City Garage in Port Covington effective immediately.


Fellow Startup Soirée people! We've been hinting at a bunch of big news in the future and we're finally ready to let the cat out of the bag! Startup Soirée is moving to City Garage in Port Covington effective immediately.

While PixilatedHQ has been an exceptional home for our community, a move to City Garage will enable us to scale the message and create a broader Startup Soirée community. A win for everyone.

City Garage. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)  

City Garage. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)
 

So, what's to be expected?

Well, for starters the A/V in the space will be far superior to that at Pixilated. We'll be able to screen brand trailers that are being created by community businesses as well as our own brand trailer that features so many of you! 

We'll also find ourselves in a MUCH larger venue which couldn't come sooner as we had our greatest attendance yet at last month's Soirée with Deb Tillett. The goal is to scale the size of the monthly soirées in an effort to bring in more industry diversity.

Who is our first moderator at City Garage? 

We're bringing in Greg Cangialosi from Betamore,  Baltimore Angels, Mission Tix and formerly of Blue Sky Factory to lead a group conversation on Bootstrapping your business. If you're not familiar you can check out a little more about Greg here!

What can you do to help?


Well for starters, help us spread the word! If you're in an incubator, co-working space or other startup environment - tell people about Startup Soirée! Let them know it's free and totally about business owners.

If you have a friend with a business, get them to sign-up! Know someone who's on the fence? Bring them along and we can push them in the right direction. Is there a local business that you love? Ask to speak with the owner and then invite her.

That's right people, this platform is yours as much as it is ours. Help us make it an even more incredible representation of the thriving business community here in Baltimore.

Can't wait to see you all, 

Patrick, Nic, Rachel & Jes

Startup Roundup | October 4th, 2015

Startup Roundup | September 27th, 2015

Trade-Show Double Down: Meetup Juke Joint

I’m always looking for a way to hack my business experiences to provide a greater ROI. From my perspective, any time I spend working on my business is “all-in” so I want to be sure I’m extracting the greatest amount of value from my time spent.

This year marks an interesting new chapter for my business partner and I. We’ve spent the last four years building a first rate event photo booth company called Pixilated. While we’ve done exceedingly well in that space, the nature of that business, i.e. Hyper-local, intensely predicated on industry relationships, and a young industry to boot, has kept me in-town and largely out of the conference space.

That said, we’re nearing the launch of our new company Eco Photo Booth that will produce American made, eco friendly, open-air photo booths for sale on the global market. In short, we’re going into the world of products, which will mean some significant changes in our marketing plan.

I’m looking at a lot of conferences and expos in 2016 as a new creative way to spread the word about our company and products, get a feel for my competitors “in-person” value propositions, and garner a better understanding of what the market place we need to succeed in is looking for.

Realizing that time away from Baltimore means time away from my children, my wife, and my team, makes me want to develop some plans to wring every last drop of value from each of these trips. I’ve come up with a few cool ideas I’m eager to try so I thought I’d share them with you.

One of the greatest opportunities we have at conferences is connecting with other people in our space. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than having a product to sell in a room FULL of people that want/need/desire that type of product, right? So meeting and connecting with volumes of people in a sincere way is paramount to success. The rub? Well, the more thoroughly you get to know someone you’ve just met in the conference hall means the less time you can spend meeting more people.

My solution? Meetups! Meetups are an incredible way to extend the conversations you’ve started during the day without taxing all of your focus time. It also sets you up for the follow-up chat, which for me, is always the “door slammer.”

Now when I say move it to a Meetup later, I don’t mean to be a spammy networker crushing into people’s circles, flinging cards like ninja stars and you’re ghost. In fact, don’t’ ever do that shit under any circumstance. You will suck for it and so will your business. You have to be sure to always connect with someone on a sincere level otherwise they’ll have no reason and no interest in getting back together with you.

But…once you’ve vibed with them, the sky is the limit. Let them know, “I don’t want to take up any more of your time here as there are a ton of other people who you should meet. However, if you’re interested, I’m hosting a small Meetup later tonight at the Bellagio. It’s going to be a small group of people whom I’ve connected with today. It’ll be a great opportunity for me to learn more about your business and there’s an excellent chance you’ll meet some other incredible people in our industry.”

Easy right? And you’re acting cool too. You see, people always appreciate the value you’re trying to bring them. Make sure to keep your “ask” clear and concise, don’t’ be desperate, and be prepared that they may be busy.

If your new connection is interested in attending the Meetup, let them know you’ll email or text them a link to the Meetup so that they know pertinent details. Then, encourage them to bring a friend, co-worker, or new acquaintance along. After all, the more the merrier right?

While there are a ton of connections to be made on the trade-show floor, there is also a lot that you can do before the convention even starts. Almost all conventions publish a list of attendees and vendors on their website in the weeks or months leading up to the event. Make use of this opportunity by writing to as many of those contacts as you can.

Introduce yourself and your company, acknowledge that you’re both in the same industry, and propose a Meetup where you can get together in the hosting city to learn more about each others business. Ideally what happens is you kick start the conversation so that by the time you’re trading stories over Vodka Tonics, the formalities are out of the way. You’re buds. This is going to be a great three days!

The other silent victory here is that the people you’ve taken the time to connect with in advance have already become your evangelists and you there’s. You can be sure that, when they’re speaking with someone who you haven’t met and it seems like you should, they’re going to make the intro. They’re going to try and help that person find you because they know your product is a great fit for them and they want to return the value you gave them. Its just how humans work. Trust me.

See you in Vegas?

For more marketing and branding tips be sure to Follow Me below:

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Do you Snapchat or Periscope? Me too! Watch out for me @PatrickRife!


Startup Roundup | September 20th, 2015

Startup Roundup | August, 13th 2015