Startup Roundup | August, 13th 2015

Baltimore Startup Spotlight: Loople

How many times have you had an idea and thought this would make a great app? It seems so easy, but then you think, how do you even begin to start building an app? Along with most of the population, Ryan Gutleber, Phil DiMuro, and I had no idea.

While attending college together, we spent countless late nights brainstorming about “the next big idea.” With no experience in developing an app or building a business, we had to use every resource to our advantage. Whether it was watching countless hours of YouTube tutorials or reading thousands of pages of testimonials, we taught ourselves what it would take to make our dreams of entrepreneurship a reality.

After graduation, we dove into Corporate America working in fields, such as sales, finance, and construction engineering. However, we did not let this stop us from starting Loople. While maintaining full-time jobs, we created the idea, developed a logo, built a business plans, found investors, finalized the LLC, trademarked the idea, created the marketing strategies, and managed development for a year and a half before launching Loople. Finally, we realized we had to devote all of our time and energy in order to make this business a success. We decided to take the ultimate risk. We left great paying jobs, security, and steady career path in hopes to create something bigger then ourselves.

Fast forward two years and we launched Loople in Baltimore in June of 2015.  Loople is a free GPS based mobile application that allows users to search for current bar and restaurant specials around them at any time of the day.  Also, it allows bars and restaurants the opportunity to market their product to the users and highlight the deals they run on a daily basis. Our goal is to simplify your social life and help you explore everything your city has to offer. 

Currently, Loople is only located in Baltimore, MD and 30 miles outside of the city. We plan to grow locally and plan to grow our business from this city.

We plan to strategically expand into new cities when we have perfected our system. In a month and a half, we have 3,500 users, but we are not satisfied. We need to show the Baltimore market the advantages of using Loople.

We plan to form local partnerships and host a series of events and promotions over the next few months to increase our user base. We have received 4.83 out of 5 in both the apple and android app stores. The product is there, we just need to sell it!

Over the past two years, there have been many bumps in the road. However, all of these experiences have helped us learn and grow. Loople has successfully launched and has plans to successfully grow in the future. We are extremely excited to see what the future holds for us. With our team at Loople, we know that our tireless effort, drive, and vision will make Loople a huge success.

For more information visit Loople's website here

This was a guest blog written by Dave Phelan and Phil Dimuro of Loople Mobile LLC

Confessions of an Event Planner: The Power of a Post It.

For those of you that don’t me, I’m an event planner. 

At times, the role of event planner gets a negative connotation. We often get, “Oh, you’re a party planner” or “Oh my, I would NEVER want your job” or the worst, “Geez, your job is so hard, you get to travel, check out awesome venues, seek out the hottest entertainment, make things pretty and have fun all the time”.

Well, my latest blog series lives to show the world, that yes my job is awesome, but it’s also extremely hard, physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, and the ultimate test of strategic thinking, problem solving, and remaining calm under pressure. These stories are true, honest and pretty comical.  Enjoy.

The first of these stories, The Power of a Post It, took place earlier this month.

It was an extremely HOT weekend in Maryland. Intrinsic Events had just come off a Friday night wedding in Washington, D.C. and it was on to Round 2 of the weekend. A beautiful wedding in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore, MD.  We had spent months getting to know this amazing couple, reviewed every detail, secured an amazing line up of vendors, walked through the timeline over and over again, and at one point, my business partner and I looked at each other and said, “This one’s gonna be a piece of cake.”  I spoke too soon.

Rule #1 in Event Planning: Nothing is ever a piece of cake. The moment you let yourself think that, that’s the moment when the unpredictable happens.

Let’s rewind to a few hours earlier that day. The wedding was supposed to begin at 4:30 p.m. and around noon, it was requested that we have the valet company arrive early. Sure, no problem. We pulled out our phones and called the Valet. And called, and called, and left messages, and sent emails, and sent texts, and called, and called again. What the heck? Why was no one answering? Our event was in 4 hours.

Ok, so no big deal, worse comes to worse, they won’t arrive early but they will arrive at their normally scheduled time of 4:00 p.m.


4:00 p.m. came and went with no valet in sight. Guests began to arrive, photographs were being taken, my business partner was on bridal party duty and I was supposed to make sure all other logistics were running like clockwork. That included the valet.

I had the moment of “Oh Sh*t, what do I do? The valet situation was a hot button for our clients, it was NOT going to be Ok if this became an issue.

Think Jessica, Think. So I did what any event planner would do and began to assess my surroundings and my resources. Sorry, I admit, there was no PLAN B back up for the valet not showing up. For a summertime wedding, Rain and heat exhaustion were my biggest concerns.

I immediately looked around and realized OK, well I have a parking lot. Then I thought, “Could I park these cars myself?” – Wait, no way. I’m not exactly the world’s greatest driver and the last thing I need is to be sued by a guest.  

Rule #2 in Event Planning: Never sacrifice yourself or your business liability to please a customer. A lawsuit is never a successful resolution.

Ok, what next? I realized I didn’t need to be a valet, I just needed to stall until the REAL valet decided to show up.  I also needed to make sure the guests were happy, made it to the ceremony on time, and believe that my Plan B was really Plan A.

So, I looked in my purse and found a stack of blue post-its.  LIGHTBULB!

I immediately had a plan.  I’ve seen hundreds of valet companies in action and I certainly was no beginner when it came to creating processes and efficiencies. I would simply create my own valet system with a pen, some post its, a legal pad, and an amazingly good photographic memory.

I told myself, I got this. But first, I had to make friends with the parking attendant for the lot so she didn’t let the guests driving in suspect any shady business. I walked up to her, introduced myself, asked questions about her and her life, then… told her my #WeddingPlannerProblems. She got it, she felt bad, and she immediately became my ally in this mission.  

Rule #3 in Event Planning: Be nice and kind to everyone you meet because you never know when you may need their help.

The first car pulled up, here we go. They were greeted by the attendant, she directed them my way, and I directed them to their parking spot, wrote the #1 on a post it, took notes of year, make and model for car #1, handed them the post it with a smile and a welcome, took their keys and sent them on their way.

And it continued, for 25 cars and 30 minutes, in 100 degree heat, in a black dress and heels, in the middle of a parking lot in Baltimore.  And yes, I did get some strange looks and maybe a little skepticism but no one said a word. They believed me and my process. They were happy because I was friendly and efficient and at the end of the day, all they wanted to do was park their car.

The “real” valet eventually showed up and the parking attendants and I had some fierce conversations. But you know what, it’s not their fault, it’s their boss and I knew that. We talked out how to remedy the situation and everyone left the wedding happy, with their cars in one piece.

And to this day, our Clients never knew there was an issue. I’m sure one day over cocktails, we will tell them the truth and have a great laugh about it all, but for now, it’s our little secret.  All because of the power of a post – it. 

Thank you Romy & Michelle for the invention. I will never go anywhere from now on without post-its in my purse.

Rule # 4 in Event Planning: Nothing is ever as it seems and you can’t stop the earth from rotating.

Life happens and issues arise. It’s a fact that events are stressful and unpredictable obstacles are going to be thrown our way. Yet, the real professional is one who can act quick, develop a workable solution, have confidence in their plan and who can ALWAYS project a fresh, happy-go-lucky aura to all those around them.

The truth is, whether you believe it or not, someone is always watching you. Looking frantic, nervous, tired, and stressed is not an option in our world if you want to be successful.  Crying, pointing fingers, and placing blame is also not an option because it does no one any good. It can ruin events, ruin your reputation, and usually never leads to repeat business.

A large part of an event planners job is to assess situations, maximize your resources, build relationships, prevent crisis, and maintain a (smiling) poker face at all times. It’s not an easy job, but someone has to do it. And I can honestly say, I’m so happy for myself, my business partner, my team, and my clients, that I am the lucky one who has decided to take on the challenge.

Stay tuned for more of my Confessions.  

FOLLOW my business @EventsIntrinsic 

The Baltimore Startup 5: Volume III

The Need-To-Know Startups In Charm City

Back for round three of The Baltimore Startup 5.

Every few weeks, I’m giving you a bit of my perspective on who’s doing innovative & groundbreaking stuff in the Baltimore startup world.

The Startup 5 consists of 5 amazing young Baltimore area businesses that you should know about, if you don’t already.

So here goes, the third group of companies that made the cut in The Baltimore Startup 5.


In just a few short years, Co-Founders Esther Collinetti and Rick Zambrano have turned Baltimore's first cycle studio into so much more than a fitness hub. REV is a community. 

I recently had the opportunity to get to know Esther through a mutual friend who mentioned that she was someone I NEEDED to meet in the Baltimore Fitness Startup Community. Esther blew me away--her drive and passion for her business and the culture she has created around it emanates from her. 

REV's mission reads: "REV Cycle Studio will inspire courage and help others build healthier and happier lives by providing the best indoor cycling experience in the world. We believe fitness is love made visible."

After experiencing the Friday 6AM class with Esther first hand, I can attest that REV Cycle Studio is holding to their mission. I was pushed beyond my physical limits by an incredible leader who was able to create a bond between every cyclist in the room. The core of this business is at the core of its product.

 Think you can handle it? Sign up for your first class!

Check out our podcast with Esther.



As the wave of craft beer popularity continues to build, Jailbreak has come out of nowhere and in just 2 short years has built a beautiful facility and launched several popular (and a few awesomely creative) craft beers.

Co-Founders Justin Bonner and Kasey Turner were our gracious beer sponsors for the February Startup Soiree event...the night I was introduced to their Double IPA, aptly named "Big Punisher". I can proudly say I have been "Big Punished" (drunk off Big Punisher) several times since that night.

All jokes aside, these guys are on to something. They are growing rapidly and they've found a nice niche with their 150 person capacity in-house Taproom. Even better, all the local food trucks flock to be sure to check them out. They're just a short drive from Baltimore, located in Laurel, MD.

This says it all: "Jailbreak is a freedom expression. Beginning in 2013 and becoming fully operational in 2014, our artfully crafted beer is meant to be an escape from whatever drama is present in your life. We are made up of professionals from various industries all brought together by the common desire to make something different and do something with our lives that has more purpose."

I can get on board with that.

Make Tribe

MAKE TRIBE founder Jessica D'Argenio Waller has found great success in bringing makers and creatives together by hosting a series of workshops where craft and conversation collide.

Jess has given MAKE TRIBE a voice, aligning with some of Baltimore's most refined brands and attracting a very cultured client base -- or should I say fan base! These expert-led skill sessions have ranged from topics such as bitters making to floral arranging to butchery to bookbinding!

This "maker movement" is growing fast, so get on board! The upcoming workshop on 5/28/15 featuring Michelle of Make/Do will teach the basics of pantry beauty: making simple and natural skincare products in your kitchen. Mix up coffee scrubs, oatmeal masks and learn more about making do with what you've got. 

Join the Tribe...check out the next MAKE TRIBE event.

And be sure to give our podcast with Jess a listen!



Over the past couple years I've had the pleasure of getting to know Chris Schafer, founder of Christopher Schafer Clothier, and Seth Schafer, his son and partner in crime. 

Tailors by day, musicians and skaters by night, these two dudes have carved out a serious niche. With just a small team of two and a super-loyal client base, Christopher Schafer Clothier specializes in capitalizing on relationships. Their old school mentality coupled with their new school approach will continue to drive their success.

When I first met the Schafers, their team was larger, but less focused and without a common goal. Since trimming their team down to just family, their company has really taken off and they don't show any signs of slowing down. 

I rarely wear a suit, but I can proudly say that I sport a custom CSC suit whenever I need to step my game up.

These are the best custom suits in Baltimore. 


Hersh's co-founders, Josh and Stephanie Hershkovitz describe themselves as "a couple of pizza-loving piglet siblings who love to feed people and liquor ‘em up as much as we love to eat and drink ourselves."

After getting to meet Stephanie, I can say that her I'm-not-afraid-to-fail attitude along with Josh's culinary wizardry is what drives this hip South Baltimore spot to always stay ahead of the curve. They stick to their guns. They're authentic. The look and feel of the restaurant is cozy and inviting. A great place to get drunk and laugh.

Like the others on this list, Hersh's has built a powerful brand in a short amount of time. It's been great to see it become a household name in SoBo. The local food scene could use more place like this, places that aren't just about the image or the location or the money, but focus on the most important things, like people, pizza and drinks!


I love you Charm City.

Follow Nicolas China on Twitter @Nico_C7.

Nic is co-founder and owner of Pixilated (@PixilatedPhoto) &Startup Soiree (@StartupSoiree).


The Baltimore Startup 5: Volume II

Nic China Baltimore Startup 5

The Need-To-Know Startups In Charm City

Back for round two of The Baltimore Startup 5.

Every other week over a 10 week period, I’m giving you a bit of my perspective on who’s doing innovative & groundbreaking stuff in the Baltimore startup world.

The bi-weekly Startup 5 consists of 5 amazing young Baltimore area businesses that you should know about, if you don’t already.

So here goes, the second group of companies that made the cut in The Baltimore Startup 5.

NewsUp Baltimore Startup


NewsUp was founded by Andrew Schuster and Coleman Anderson in 2012. Their founding premise was to make keeping up with the news just as fun as playing games. 

So what happens when you cross-breed the two ideas of keeping up with the news and playing games? You get NewsUp, a trivia game for informed people in the form of an online platform to "play the news".

NewsUp is designed to make it fun to keep up with your favorite topics and challenge your knowledge of current events. All of the questions are fact-checked to maintain the highest quality of content, while their goal is to provide you with a ridiculously fun, yet thought provoking experience. 

NewsUp has done a great job of making current events fun, but in my opinion the underlying value is the in the format. Their trivia style multiple choice questions are fact based, removing bias and provoking retention to memory, more so than any news article or TV story.

So pop on over to and try your hand!

InceptionPad Tan Lu Startup Baltimore


Founded in 2011, InceptionPad provides cost effective and scalable design and development services for mobile applications and custom websites. 

The InceptionPad website states, "We are proud to deliver beautiful web and mobile apps that iterate your vision to perfection and surpass your expectations at a fraction of the cost and delivery time. Let us brainstorm with you on requirements and design, and build you a technical team carefully selected from hundreds of developers who live to code." 

Yes, you read the second part of that right, but I'll reiterate: "build you a technical team carefully selected from hundreds of developers".

This is what sets InceptionPad apart from the others, their business structure and their highly targeted technical approach.

Founder and  CEO Tan Lu has built his executive team and project management team in Baltimore, but has teamed up with Beijing University of Post and Telecomunication (considered to be the "MIT of China") to put together a robust team of up to 300 graduate student developers. 

This large pool of young talented developers makes InceptionPad extremely agile. They can cherry pick for specific skills, put together small teams and large teams, and work within any timeline. Whether you need a team of 5 for 3 months or a team of 10 for a year, InceptionPad has your project covered. 

So when you come up with the next great app idea, InceptionPad will help you bring it to life! 

Intrinsic Events Baltimore Startup


For those of you who may already read the Startup Soiree blog, you're well aware of Intrinsic Events. Co-founders of Intrinsic, Jessica Gignac and Rachel Robinson are also partners of mine in the Startup Soiree movement and fellow Baltimore entrepreneurs. Knowing that these movers and shakers are focused on helping develop the Baltimore Startup landscape, I would be remiss to leave them off this list.

Intrinsic Events is a full service event management company, whose multi-faceted team covers everything from weddings to destination management to corporate events and conventions. 

After honing their skills as event planners working for a large corporation, Jessica and Rachel took the plunge and went out on their own to create an Events Empire. With a solid base of know-how and --you guessed it -- intrinsic motivation, this company is growing fast and picking up steam. 

Whether you are looking for quantifiable ROI for the trade show you are putting on, or just looking to throw a blowout party, Intrinsic Events is your best ally.

Baltimore Rex News Startup


Baltimore Rex was founded in 2014 by Daric Snyder and is rapidly catching fire. Its focus is creating local news and content apps, tools, and services that put the needs of a mobile/digital audience first.

The first product that Daric has rolled out is Daily Draft – a weekday email delivering the most important, interesting news in Baltimore. As a subscriber for the last several months, I can honestly say that Baltimore Rex has kept me more in-the-know with local news than ever before. 

For the entrepreneur, or really anyone with a busy, "on-the-go" schedule, Baltimore Rex is the perfect way to consume daily news in under two minutes. It is easy to scan, easy to share, and best of all? It's ad free!

Baltimore Rex aims to "declare war on lousy online advertising on local media sites" There are a lot of unmet needs, unheard voices, and unsolved problems in local media worth chasing after, especially in Baltimore.

Daric plans to roll out more products in support of his Daily Draft in the near future, so stay tuned! For now, go subscribe to the Baltimore Rex weekday email. You won't regret it.

Flyboost Chris Riddle Baltimore Startup


Flyboost was founded by Chris Riddle and Nick Cuttonaro in 2014. It is a tool for DJs, venues, and entertainment professionals to integrate the power of social media at parties, promotions, and events in real-time.

The Flyboost platform formats social media content for display on any TV or screen.  By using a designated #hashtag, people can see themselves on TV -- and everyone loves to be in the spotlight and have their moment of fame!

Co-founder Chris Riddle says: "Since Flyboost can add real value to any business, our goal is to have our technology running in as many places as possible, including bars, restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, weddings, and trade shows."  

Flyboost also plans to offer a fully managed event service for clients who would prefer to take a more "hands-off" approach but still want to use this cutting-edge social technology.

This is a product that you really have to see to get a feel for, so check this out: Video of Flyboost in action! 

I love you Charm City.

Follow Nicolas China on Twitter @Nico_C7.

Nic is co-founder and owner of Pixilated (@PixilatedPhoto) &Startup Soiree (@StartupSoiree).

The Baltimore Startup 5: Volume I

Baltimore Startup Nicolas China

The Need-To-Know Startups In Charm City

I’d like to introduce my new series on the Startup Soiree blog: The Baltimore Startup 5.

Every other week for the next 10 weeks, I’m going to give you a bit of my perspective on who’s doing innovative & groundbreaking stuff in the Baltimore startup world.

The bi-weekly Startup 5 will consist of 5 amazing young Baltimore area businesses that you should know about, if you don’t already.

So without further adieu, I’d like to announce the first group of companies that made the cut in The Baltimore Startup 5.


Chris Sachse Horsetail Technologies

Horsetail Technologies

Horsetail Technologies provides IT services and support for credit unions. This Federal Hill based company has chosen Baltimore as its home, but manages clients all across the nation.

Co-founder and CEO Chris Sachse is a leader in the credit union tech niche and speaks to the credit union community on a number of topics; from innovation to operational efficiency to security and digital marketing strategies.

In addition to his passion for the credit union movement, Chris has a vision to help evolve the Baltimore entrepreneurial community through innovation and technology.


Mozell Films Baltimore Startup Lee Morton

Mozell Films

Mozell Films is a Baltimore based film-making company driven by adventure and designed to enthrall. 

With a knack for storytelling, Creative Director & Lead Explorer Lee Morton founded the company paralleling his successful wedding film business, Clickspark.

Lee named his company “Mozell” after his grandmother, who embodied the values of his vision. Lee’s grandmother represented hospitality, authenticity and work ethic. She instilled in him, and thus his company, the values of resourcefulness, perfectionism, love and leadership.

Gundalow Juice

Gundalow Juice is the first cold-pressed juice wholesaler in Maryland.

Although only in the “juice game” at the moment, founder & CEO Dana Sicko has a vision for Gundalow to provide convenient, healthy and great tasting foods and drinks that fuel ambition. 

Dana sees Baltimore as a permanent home for Gundalow and views it as a place rich with opportunity. The product has been received incredibly well in its short existence and Baltimore is lucky to have Gundalow as a part of its startup ecosystem.


Treason Toting Co.

Treason Toting Co. creates quality toting goods, accessories, and lifestyle products right here in Maryland. They “create things we need and hope you love.”

Co-founders Jason Bass & Aaron Jones have found a way to seamlessly blend style, craftsmanship, and utility. Their true vision lies in the power of their brand, and what it stands for. Their mantra is “Bury Your Worries, Carry Your Stories”.

Keep an eye on Treason Toting Co., as they take their brand to the next level.


Yet Analytics Margaret Roth

Yet Analytics

Yet Analytics is a Baltimore based tech startup that is focused on “improving human capital through big data analytics.”

Founded in 2014 by Shelly Blake-Plock, Margaret Roth & Rose Burt, these Bmore enthusiasts have created a data analysis platform that aggregates, connects, visualizes and analyzes data from any source in real-time. Yet’s B2B solution creates the opportunity for companies to effectively measure employee training, efficiency and effectiveness.

Yet Analytics is making big data easy to understand. The opportunities are endless!

Be sure to keep the pulse of these 5 Baltimore startups. Big things are on the horizon!

I love you Charm City.

Follow Nicolas China on Twitter @Nico_C7.

Nic is co-founder and owner of Pixilated (@PixilatedPhoto) &Startup Soiree (@StartupSoiree).

Events: Why They Are Important For Your Company's Growth

The WHAT, WHY, & WHERE surrounding your company’s event marketing strategy 


As an Event Planner, I see various companies struggle year in and year out over this question. The question as to whether or not their company should include events as part of their yearly marketing plan.

Having been on the corporate side of things as an in house marketing/event professional and now being on the business owner side running an event management company, if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that events should ALWAYS be a part of your company’s marketing strategy.


Bringing it back to Marketing 101, we all know a company’s marketing strategy always includes product, price, place, and promotion. But what these strategy plans often lack is a major “P” – PEOPLE.

Marketing is all about the people, whether it’s your employees, your executives, or your customers. These people are the ones who drive the other 4 P’s of a marketing strategy. Therefore, it should never be a question as to whether or not events should take place, let alone be a critical part of your marketing strategy.


Meetings and events create value to stakeholders. This is accomplished by influencing the behavior of your event participants. If the event doesn’t make participants do something they would otherwise not have done, there is no value.

Hosting events is the best way for your business to engage your clients, motivate your employees, connect with prospects, get your brand in front of the right people, and ultimately create strategic relationships that lead to increased growth.

Even if you don’t have a strategic events strategy built into your current marketing plan, it’s never too late to start small, host events the right way by hiring a professional, and work with that professional to measure the ROI surrounding your events.


Outlined below are key questions to consider before implementing an events strategy, no matter what the purpose, size or budget. I’ve also included a simplified breakdown of event types, the goals/purpose of each event type, and some of my company’s, Intrinsic Events,  top locations to host these events.

Before you develop your strategic event plan, you must ask yourself these critical questions:

1.     What goals does our company want to achieve this year?  

2.     What events will assist our company in achieving these goals?

3.     What is the purpose of each event?

4.     What are the determining success factors for each event and how will they be measured?

5.     What professional resources does our company have in place to execute these events and measure their ROI? 


Contact Intrinsic Events at




Lean Startup Founders: The MacGyvers of Business

A Startup Entrepreneur's Guide To Resourcefulness

Nicolas China, Lean Startup Founders

A Startup Entrepreneur's Guide To Resourcefulness: Startup On A Shoestring - Part 5 of 6 


Back when I used to work a 9-to-5, I would obsess about quitting my job and going out on my own. The problem was I had no direction...and worst of all, I was absolutely paralyzed by the fear of failure. This fear was my worst enemy. It was producing excuses and causing me to procrastinate and ultimately stagnate. 

While I was at work, in between projects and during every bit of downtime I could find, I'd read business books, I'd fill up notebooks with off-the-wall ideas and rudimentary business plans, but most of all I would DAYDREAM. I would dream about the life I wanted to lead...a life filled with freedom and creative opportunities.

Every evening I would come home from work and "talk the talk" about my next great business idea. And then every morning I wouldn't "walk the walk". I'd go back to work just as I had done the day before.

I felt my creative edge start to dwindle, my confidence sunk and my freedom felt dictated. I became depressed. It sucked.


My girlfriend at the time (now my beautiful wife!) said this to me. It was something I knew, something I felt, something I thought; but to finally hear someone else say it to me aloud, it felt different. It resonated like nothing before. These words echoed in my head...and finally woke me up.

I realized that my fears weren't actually rooted in my abilities or self-confidence, but instead they were caused by what I thought I knew. I thought I needed money. I thought I needed connections. I thought I was too young. I thought no one would take me seriously. 

This realization was epic for me. I had made a final decision to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. There was no Plan I went all-in on Plan A.

Time to get my MacGyver on.

Day after day, month after month, I focused on all of the things that I thought I needed to start my own business. My "AHA" moment occurred when I realized that my focus should be on all of the things I already have: my resources.

So if you haven't ever seen the old TV show "MacGyver", I'm assuming you at least know who he is. For those of you who have never heard of MacGyver, please click the "X" in the upper corner of your web browser and stop reading...Just kidding! 

MacGyver is resourcefulness personified. The Swiss Army Knife of men. He can literally make a grenade out of a kitten and a paper clip.

Find your inner MacGyver.

What do you have at your disposal? What are your intangibles? Skills, talents, motives, driving forces?

What have you always been good at? How do other people view you? These are questions that you have to ask yourself if you decide to venture out on your own. If you can figure out what you are good at and what you struggle with, then you are on the right track to identifying your internal resources: your inner MacGyver.

Once you can recognize your skill set (and sometimes lack thereof), your direction becomes clearer. You can identify where you fit, where you don't, where you need help and where you can help others.

What (and who) do you have access to?

After figuring out where your skills and talents lie, it is also necessary to assess the external factors that can help. People, information, you name it.

First, look at family, friends and other existing's an easy and comfortable starting point. Who can help you? Who do you know that "walks the walk"? Seek them out and talk to them! 

One of the most important resources you can ever have is a sound mentor. If you can find these types of people within your existing network, it is an invaluable resource. Who better to talk to than someone who has already blazed their own trail!? 

Second, if you don't have anyone to help you in a certain area of expertise, think again. We all have access to a common friend named Google; effectively giving you the power to learn just about anything

Finally, with the ever-evolving world of technology, making the entrepreneurial leap is easier than ever before. Companies who are bootstrapping have a plethora of apps, tools and free services available that have never existed before. 

Here is a bonus list of my 5 Favorite FREE Productivity Apps

  1. Google Drive - Get access to files anywhere through secure cloud storage and file backup for your photos, videos, files and more. Easy for teams to share files and store in one place.
  2. Tiny Scan - A mobile PDF scanner for documents, photos and more. No need to buy an expensive, clunky scanner anymore!
  3. Evernote - A digital workspace to store and share notes, ideas, photos and more. It is a great app for brainstorming and ideas sessions.
  4. Dashboard - Have your Google Analytics key performance indicators all on one screen. It is a really effective way to keep the pulse of your company website without an insane amount of data.
  5. Buffer - A great tool for preparing, scheduling and tracking your social media. Integrated with most of the major platforms including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Set it and forget it (just like those old rotisserie ovens!). Then look back and see how your posts perform. Tweak, optimize, repeat!


"The competitive flair that built our country--entrepreneurship--is one of the most undersold resources that we have as a nation." -Kevin Plank, Under Armour


Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks! 


This article, Lean Startup Founders: The MacGyvers of Business is part five of my six part Startup On A Shoestring series. 

Part one, 5 Tips To Starting A Business On A Shoestring Budget can be found HERE.

Part two, Blood, Sweat and Tears can be found HERE.

Part three, Lean, Mean Cash Flow Machine can be found HERE.

Part four, Master Social FREE-dia can be found HERE.

Part six, The Startup Scene Is The New Wild West. Be A Gunslinger can be found HERE.

For more tips, follow Nicolas China on Twitter @Nico_C7.

Nicolas China is co-founder and owner of Pixilated (@PixilatedPhoto) & Startup Soiree (@StartupSoiree).

Action vs. Inaction | Launch That Podcast!

Launch Wagon

Very excited to announce the launch of the Startup Soirée Podcast! We've had this project in the works for a few months and I'm excited to say that it's finally come to fruition. We did a soft-launch a few weeks ago so we could test the waters and make sure we understood how things were working and so far we've had a pretty great response.

The Startup Soirée Podcast will be waiting for you every Monday morning; eager to bring you the most awesome founder chats this side of Kentucky. The format for our podcast is short and sweet; a one-on-one stream of Q&A's by a founder (yours truly) to a founder (maybe you?) with the sole purpose of capturing a snap-shot of what makes us tick. tick. tick. 


We've predicated the entire concept of Startup Soirée on the understanding that we as founders deal in a secret language; one that is expressed and articulated by challenges unique to our set. At Pixilated we meet with amazing business owners everyday and it's always the best part of my day. Those conversations are inspiring, re-affirming and fun and that's exactly what we're aiming to bring you with the Startup Soirée Podcast.


Who the Hell is Whom?

The first three SoiréeCasts (as I like to call 'em) were guested by three diverse founders from our Baltimore community so when you head over to the iTunes store and SUBSCRIBE you're gonna have three excellent episodes waiting for you. Then you'll have something to binge on. Your welcome! Wait, you wanna know whom? Ok, ok, ok.

Startup Soirée Podcast Episode No. 001 | Marc DeLeonibus | QuotePie

Marc DeLeonibus is the Founder and CEO of QuotePie and a Graduate of the Virginia Tech, Pamplin College of Business B.S. Finance. Before starting QuotePie in December 2013 he spent over 4.5 years in the commercial insurance industry on the broker side.  During that time Marc realized that the process that a business has to go through to buy insurance for their business was terribly inefficient and confusing. Marc knew that this process could be drastically improved, and that is how QuotePie came to be.

Startup Soirée Podcast Episode No. 002 | Lee Morton | Clickspark | Mozell

Owner and Chief Storyteller at Clickspark & Mozell. Winner of international competitions, featured expert in Baltimore Bride magazine, and awarded #1 wedding cinematographer in the DC/MD/VA market. Regularly speaks at local colleges and universities. Leads a passionate and collaborative team of 4 associate cinematographers and editors. Dreamer and creative at heart inspired by family, strong coffee, and great stories.

Startup Soirée Podcast Episode No. 003 | Max Sobol | Idea Evolver

Max is "Passionate about startups: getting them built, staffed, supported, optimized, growing and then some. He is a twenty year industry veteran and progressive thinker with extensive experience leading Internet technology companies from startup mode to more efficient and profitable operations.”


Show Notes, Extras and Add-Ons

Alright homies, you get the idea, here are the rest of the details. You can SUBSCRIBE to our podcast currently in the iTunes store or by using that fresh little Podcast app Apple graciously places amongst your IOS devices out there. We'll also be live on Stitcher, BB and the other major Podcasting platforms soon. 


You can also find a secondary blog on that our podcasts will publish to called, wait for it, wait for it, Podcast! There you'll also be able to check out any show notes or cool tools we refer to in each episode as well as all of the pertinent contact info for our wicked awesome guests.

SUBSCRIBE, Don't Make Me Yell!

When you SUBSCRIBE you do a ton for our efforts when you take a moment to go and leave us a REVIEW you make a unicorn smile, a baby laugh and the stars twinkle. How's that for ROI? No seriously, if you like what you hear let us know!. If you have questions you want asked, let us know! If you wanna get on this thang and chat, you get it right?

Alright folks, until next time...

Follow me @PatrickRife for Info, Hugs and PhotoBooths...

Master Social FREE-dia

Nic China

Master Social FREE-dia: Startup On A Shoestring - Part 4 of 6 

Build a reputation. Create a following. Influence.

In a technologically driven, social media addicted age, exposure for broke, young business owners is easier to get than ever before. Think about it…every thought in your overflowing brain can easily be out there in the universe with the click of a mouse or tap of a finger.

The beauty of it all!? IT’S FREE!

Or is it?

My fourth tip in 5 Tips To Starting A Business On A Shoestring Budget is:  “Become a master of social free-dia.”

So before Facebook or Twitter ever existed, if someone would have told you that you could expose your brand to thousands or even millions of people without spending an exorbitant amount of dough, you would’ve probably never believed it.

Say Whaaat

Social media makes that entirely possible, and it gives bootstrapped startups the ability to market brand culture and awareness with little capital. It gives you the power to create a fan base which will ultimately influence your client base.


Without further ado, I’m going to do a quick dive into each of the major social media platforms. I’ll briefly describe one aspect of each social site that I like and one aspect that I hate. I’ll also give you a single tip; some tidbit that we implement on my companies’ social pages regularly. I’ve also included a quick “cheat sheet” graphic to help you optimize your social media photos across all platforms. 

Let’s start with…


What I like.

There is a very broad demographic, so the sheer volume alone makes it attractive for exposure. If a post's engagement picks up traction, it will be shown to a wider and wider network of users and can go viral.

What I hate.

The same algorithms that Facebook uses to help your posts take off can kill them just as fast…especially with Facebook for business. Personal pages are given preferential treatment over business pages. It sucks that you can have 10,000 people following your biz page, yet maybe only 500 are shown your posts. BS, right!?

Also, clutter. Facebook is just littered with crap, ads, and lots of morons.

Tip: Upload video directly to Facebook.

It will perform much stronger than shared video links. Facebook is trying to compete with the likes of YouTube and Vimeo, so they are favoring their direct video content over the others'. They also give analytics on video performance and allow you to customize CTA’s (calls-to-action) at the video conclusion.


What I like.

The ability to tailor your news and information is a HUGE benefit to Twitter. You only have to follow who you want to follow, and your followers have to choose to follow you. My entire Twitter feed is filled with things that I want to see. And when I tweet, my followers are interested in what I have to say (at least I hope so!) or why would they follow me?

What I hate.

The learning curve. It can take some time to get accustomed to the Twitter-verse, and I think a lot of users quit before they figure it out.

Oh, and also The Kardashians. 

Tip: Check out Hashtagify.

Hashtagify is a really cool web tool that helps you choose how to #Hashtag your post. You just enter the main theme or topic of your post and it populates other relevant hashtags to use that will help your post get the most targeted exposure.



What I like.

Instagram is my absolute favorite social media platform. Simple and easy to post and peruse your feed. Strictly photos and captions with minimal advertising give it a pure feel. It also has the Twitter-esque tailored feed, only showing those users who you want to see, and vice-versa.

What I hate.

There isn’t much to hate…but one of my biggest frustrations with Instagram is that you can’t put links in your captions. (It took me a while to think of this.)

Tip: Use Iconosquare to grow your fan base fast.

Iconosquare is a third party tool that kicks back analytics on your Instagram account. It reports your total number of likes received, your most liked photos ever, your average number of likes and comments per photo, your follower growth charts, and more. With these simple analytics, it makes it easy to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

If it doesn’t perform well, stop doing it. Duh!


What I like.

I’ll be honest…there isn’t much that I like about this platform. I hate to say it, and now Google will probably bury this blog post so deep that it will be unsearchable…LOL.

What I hate.

This platform has been force-fed to us as the apparent alternative to Facebook. For whatever reason it hasn’t caught on, and I think it’s because people aren’t looking for an alternative to Facebook, they are looking for something different altogether. Facebook, although still very relevant, is going out of style as fast as it came in, so why is Google+ trying to imitate? 

Tip: Suck it up and exist on Google+ anyway.

The truth of it is, as long as Google pretty much has control of the internet, you might as well appease and feed their social platform. Why? Because it carries weight with your Google ranking. Maintaining a G+ page is a small price to pay for the boost it’ll give your SEO.


What I like.

Pinterest is amazing for niche businesses. It’s an awesome way to display expertise within a field, and to showcase products and ideas. Not only are pin boards a great tool for display, but Pinterest is an incredible inspiration resource.

What I hate.

Sometimes there can almost be too much. The over-saturation can sometimes make it hard to navigate what you’re really looking for and, in effect can make it difficult for others to find you.

Tip: Pin other people’s products…especially things that accompany or accessorize your own product.

Create pin boards for each of your products or services so you can routinely be updating and re-framing to show that your business is active and alive. You also want to create inspiration pin boards of other cool products that parallel your own. It can help bring attention to you within your industry and can get others to discover you when they aren't really sure yet what they might be looking for.



What I like.

Legitimacy. LinkedIn has done a great job of getting its users to fully build out their profiles and has done so from a “professional” perspective. This makes it very easy to get a quick snapshot of who does what, and what their goals are.

What I hate.

The down side of the LinkedIn profile is that, much like a resume, there are a lot of legitimate people with horrible profiles (or none at all) and a lot of phonies with smoke-and-mirror filled profile descriptions.

Tip: Publish long form posts on LinkedIn to drive people to your website.

Are you already preparing content for your business? Blogging? A tactic we are using with this very post that you are reading has been used on LinkedIn. Any time you write a blog post for your website, publish it as a long form post on LinkedIn. Here’s the kicker…only publish about half of it. At that point, insert a link that directs the reader to your website to finish reading. Drive the traffic to your site. Thanks LinkedIn!


Here's a cheat sheet.


This article, Master Social FREE-dia is part four of my six part Startup On A Shoestring series. 

Part one, 5 Tips To Starting A Business On A Shoestring Budget can be found HERE.

Part two, Blood, Sweat and Tears can be found HERE.

Part three, Lean, Mean Cash Flow Machine can be found HERE.

Part five, Lean Startup Founders: The MacGyvers of Business can be found HERE.

Part six, The Startup Scene Is The New Wild West. Be A Gunslinger can be found HERE.

For more tips, follow Nicolas China on Twitter @Nico_C7.

Nicolas China is co-founder and owner of Pixilated (@PixilatedPhoto) & Startup Soiree (@StartupSoiree).






It’s the beginning of a New Year and you know what that means. The gym is way too over-crowded, Whole Foods can’t maintain stock in your favorite brand of organic almond milk, and networking events are sold out in a matter of minutes.

For all of us 24/7, 365 days-a-year hustlers out there, the New Year can be an extremely frustrating time of year, especially when it comes to networking.


For me, the frustration lies in the fact that because I do all things out of intrinsic motivation, I expect that others do the same.  I network because I love talking about my company. I meet new people because I receive pleasure in hearing their stories. I go to events because I get enjoyment in checking out a new venue. I offer my services because I know I can help others achieve their goals.

However, the sad truth is, the majority of the people I meet at networking events are there because of extrinsic factors such as punishment from their boss if they do not go to X number of events per month or hand out 100 business cards per week. They are there because they want a free cocktail on their company’s dime. They are there to practice their elevator pitch. They are there for a chance to win the IPAD raffle prize.


Time & People

As entrepreneurs, time is money and the most valuable asset in our daily lives. 2nd to time is people and relationships. Networking is a necessity for entrepreneurs and something we SHOULD be looking forward to, not avoiding.

By true definition, “Networking is a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having common interest.”

As entrepreneurs it is up to us to bring networking back to creating this support system.

But How? How do we create this system in an environment flooded with extrinsically motivated individuals?

Be Autonomy Supportive.

A study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine proves that the power of choice promotes the experience of autonomy, which enhances intrinsic motivation.

What does this mean in terms of networking?

It means giving others the CHOICE to engage in conversation with you, not FORCING them to engage in conversation with you.

It means actively listening to what they have to say in order to offer opportunities that are relevant.

It means giving them the opportunity to listen to what you offer and deciding for themselves if they need what you provide.

It means encouraging conversation and self-initiation in others to do the same.

It means offering optimal educational opportunities for them to learn.

It means creating cooperative networking opportunities by introducing them to others you know

Be autonomy supportive in your networking, enhance intrinsic motivation among the attendees, and create a supportive system for you and your business. By doing this, you are bringing networking back to what it should be.


Intrinsically vs. Extrinsically Motivated Networking: How do you know until you go?

You don’t. And really, any networking event is what YOU make of it.

However, if we bring it back to time and people being our most valuable assets, then we need to be wise in our networking selections. In my vast networking experiences, I do have critical components that I look out for in networking events. If 3 out of the 5 factors are present, I politely decline as those are the times I find the most extrinsically motivated attendees.

Extrinsic Motivators

1.     Giveaways or Raffle Prizes

2.     No educational component or program

3.     No support of an online or physical community pre, during & post the event

4.     Event capacity is 200+

5.     No commonality among attendees

On the flip side, if a networking event has 3 of the 5 following factors, I make it a point to attend because I know I will genuinely enjoy the time with the people I meet.

Intrinsic Motivators

1.     Guest speaker or educational value

2.     The host of the event is present and engaged

3.     Event capacity is 100-150 max

4.     Shared interests among like-minded attendees is apparent

5.     Opportunity to connect and build relationships pre, during & post the event


Bringing it back.

In 2015, I am so excited for the true networking support system that Startup Soirée will create among the entrepreneur community in Baltimore. Through intrinsically providing a networking environment that brings together like-minded individuals to collaborate, learn, inspire, grow, and build a community where autonomy is at the forefront is something that is truly motivating. We are bringing networking back to what it can and should be. 


FOLLOW me @jesgignac 

FOLLOW my company @EventsIntrinsic for updates & upcoming events.




Lean, Mean Cash Flow Machine

Nicolas China

Lean, Mean Cash Flow Machine: Startup On A Shoestring - Part 3 of 6


Truer words have never been spoken.  My Dad, a lifelong entrepreneur used to kick around the above phrase like it was going out of style (and my guess is that he probably still does, I just don’t see him every day to hear it!) Heck, he even had signs made with these affirmations written in big, bold letters.

Rick China and Nicolas China

As I blaze my own entrepreneurial trail, I want to slip in a quick "thanks" to my Old Man. He is my mentor and sounding board, and without him I don't think my path would have been the same.

My third tip in 5 Tips To Starting A Business On A Shoestring Budget is: “Turn your company into a lean, mean cash flow machine.”

So back to it...

Revenue is vanity. Margin is sanity. Cash is king!

Revenue, without cash flow, is simply that: vanity. Although so many people in the business world measure success in terms of revenue, you would be remiss to think simply more revenue translates to more cash. What if you sold $100 worth of straw? Sounds good right? Not if it cost you $110! Context is key!

Profit margin can be deceiving, too. Say this time you sold $100 worth of sticks, and now your cost is only $50. A 50% profit margin! Awesome, right!? Well, sort of…but what happens if your customer waits to pay you for 6 months? That means that there is still no money (read: CASH) to pay the bills!

Cash is king. Cash is king! CASH IS KING!

Cash flow is the reality of your business. On the simplest level, cash flow is the movement of money coming into your business less the money going out of your business. It is a more dynamic measurable than the other two because it factors in the timing of the movement of the money. 

This time, you sold $100 worth of bricks, with a cost of $50. You then negotiated terms with your "brick guy" to pay him in 30 days. Meanwhile, you deliver the bricks to your customer, who pays upon receipt. Now you have $100 cash in hand, with 30 days left to pay your $50 invoice. Now go sell more bricks, continue to bring in cash faster than it goes out, and create more and more runway for your business. Soon enough you'll have enough runway to take off!

Companies that cash flow positive on a regular basis have the capacity to reinvest and spark growth. Companies that don’t, can’t.

Now it’s time for you to get lean.

If you’re truly launching your startup on a shoestring budget, you need to prioritize. Big time.

What is important? Where do you make your money? What is your focus? Are you focused on the right thing?

Asking yourself these questions will help you to avoid “spinning your wheels”. If you can be clear and concise about your goals, you’ll be surprised how clear and concise your decisions, and thus, actions will become thereafter.

A lack of focus typically ends with a lack of accomplishment. Without a plan, money will get wasted on the wrong things. So spend effectively and efficiently.

It goes without saying (hopefully) that cushy leather chairs, waterfront views, and a company leased Mercedes are out of the question (for now)!

Your team needs to be lean, too.


At the early stages, find people with multiple skills who can wear various hats. Find an office manager with graphic design skills, an assistant who has a bookkeeping background, or a manager who happens to double as the office handy man. You get the point. Utilize any and all skill sets!

There is a time that this will change and specialization will be key, but agility and flexibility within your team is key in the beginning.

And don’t forget to be mean!

You don’t actually have to be “mean” like a bully, haha. Think: Tenacious and Persistent.

Make sure that your company can sustain a high level of effort and production to drive sales and execute work. But a lot of startups fail to put the same emphasis on collecting money owed. This is where cash flow comes back into play.

If you can’t collect the cash to pay your bills and reinvest for growth, you will fail.

At the end of the day, if you sell a lot, execute a lot, and put more money into your business than it spends on a regular basis, you’ll be just fine.

Don’t forget though, it’s all about timing!


Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks! 

This article, Lean, Mean Cash Flow Machine is part three of my six part Startup On A Shoestring series. 

Part one, 5 Tips To Starting A Business On A Shoestring Budget can be found HERE.

Part two, Blood, Sweat and Tears can be found HERE.

Part four, Master Social FREE-dia can be found HERE.

Part five, Lean Startup Founders: The MacGyvers of Business can be found HERE.

Part six, The Startup Scene Is The New Wild West. Be A Gunslinger can be found HERE.

For more tips, follow Nicolas China on Twitter @Nico_C7.

Nicolas China is co-founder and owner of Pixilated (@PixilatedPhoto) & Startup Soiree (@StartupSoiree).