Nicolas China

Startup On A Shoestring E-Book

The Startup on a Shoestring E-Book

A young entrepreneur’s firsthand advice on bootstrapping your business

The entirety of Nic China's Startup on a Shoestring Series is now available as a FREE E-Book. 

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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.

REV CYCLE STUDIO

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.

 

JAILBREAK BREWING COMPANY

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 them...so 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!

 

CHRISTOPHER SCHAFER CLOTHIER

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 PIZZA & DRINKS

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

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 www.newsup.me and try your hand!

InceptionPad Tan Lu Startup Baltimore

INCEPTIONPAD

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

INTRINSIC EVENT

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

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

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).

The Startup Scene is the New Wild West. Be a gunslinger.

The Art Of Bartering While Bootstrapping

Nicolas China Baltimore Startup Founder

The Art of Bartering While Bootstrapping: Startup On A Shoestring - Part 6 of 6

Be A Gunslinger.

When you’re building a business, especially bootstrapping and doing it for the first time, plan to fly by the seat of your pants every once in a while. Things move fast, agility is key, and the one who masters his or her resources most efficiently perseveres.

About three years ago, I co-founded a company called Pixilated. Pixilated provides photo booth services for events; weddings, corporate, bar/bat mitzvahs, birthday parties, trade shows, conferences, etc. We built and configured our own equipment to create the most refined, efficient photo booth services company on the east coast.

Without diving too deep into the technical side of the business, allow me to divulge the situation in which Pixilated was launched. We were attempting to build and systemize a highly technical, labor-intensive, trend-driven business with intentions to grow nationally by way of franchise or some other similar turn-key format.

We launched at the end of 2011, while the economy floundered. We were not a necessity at any event; at least not as essential as a caterer, DJ or band, venue…you get the point. We were simply an add-on, an accessory...a photo booth. People weren’t spending money.

Startup Soiree Pixilated Photo Booth

But guess what!? We killed it. We killed it because we made the decision to not work for money, but for value. It was a new angle. A necessity.

Sure, our initial plan has changed course several times since day one, but we continually assess, and thus, continually grow.

Side note: Did I mention my wife was 5 months pregnant when we started the business? Or that my first son was a two month old when I quit my 9 to 5? Or that I had to sell my house to make ends meet when we had our second son only 15 months after the first? We were cash strapped and had a short runway.

It was during this period that I honed one of my greatest skills: the ability to barter.

Barter like it’s the fuckin’ Wild West

What value do you bring to the table? Do people want your services? Do they need your product?

Trading products or services, in some ways is actually better than buying and selling, especially in the early days of a cash-strapped startup. Here are the four reasons why:

  1. Exposure – When you barter, it’s a two-way transaction. It’s a buy and a sale at the same time, assuring your product is alive on the street, or that your service is in action and on display.
  2. Practice – When people are trading, the agreement tends to be a lot more loose than when people are buying or selling. This lax nature lends itself well to trying out new methods, new technology, training employees, etc.
  3. Testing – What a great opportunity for proof of concept, right? Rather than have someone pay for the next big “flop”, a barter agreement for something of lesser value (or even a donation) will relieve the pressure and let you fail quick and move on.
  4. Value – You might have something that people are willing to trade big ticket items for. Test the waters…figure out what your true value is. It may be more than you think.

Assess What You Have. Assess What You Need. But most of All…

Know your COST!

Is it a product? Is it a service? What pain points do you relieve? What’s your value?

There are a lot of factors that play a part in bartering. Most of all, you need to know what your cost is. How much does your product cost to produce & deliver? Be sure to factor in the labor and materials necessary for your service.

What about your time? At the early stages, when you’re broke YOUR TIME is your proverbial “Ace in the hole.” As your business matures, the value of your time as founder/partner/CEO/what-have-you skyrockets and your time must be a factor.

In it’s infancy, your business needs you to add value without cost – so roll up your sleeves, Boss-man.

THOMS EDISON HARD WORK QUOTE

At Pixilated, we focused on trading with big brands for exposure at large events. We traded for ad space with publications both online and offline. We continue to donate our services to large charity events, and often are rewarded with sponsorship status and all that comes with it. We’ve bartered with small bars and restaurants to test new photo booth software and equipment because it guaranteed us a sample audience on an “off-night”.

Interested in bartering with Pixilated? Get in touch!

Bartering Tip, Tricks, “Dos & Don’ts”

  • Know your worth, find the synergy, and equate value. Make sure the trade is fair, but also make sure the other party vibes with you. If you aren’t on the same page from the jump, this isn’t the right trade partner for you.
  • Don’t be cheap!
  • Close the loop. Be very clear about what you are giving and getting. Gray area leaves you vulnerable to be taken advantage of.
  • Let people know you are open to bartering. If you don’t ask, or put it out there, you may be missing opportunities!
  • Convert your trade partners to customers. What better way to demo a product or service? Make it so good that they keep coming back even after they’ve got nothing left to trade (except for $$$!)
  • Only barter with the real decision makers. Typically sales people and account execs are not good trade partners because it doesn’t directly affect their commission. Make sure they can “walk the walk” and deliver on their promises.

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


This article, The Startup Scene Is The New Wild West. Be A Gunslinger is the final part 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 five, Lean Startup Founders: The MacGyvers of Business 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).

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 

YOU'LL NEVER BE READY, JUST DO IT ALREADY!

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.

"YOU'LL NEVER BE READY, JUST DO IT ALREADY!"

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 B...so 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 relationships...it'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!

YOU'LL NEVER BE READY, JUST DO IT ALREADY!

"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! 

DOWNLOAD THE STARTUP ON A SHOESTRING E-BOOK BELOW


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).



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.

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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…

Facebook

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.

Twitter

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.

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Instagram

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!

Google+

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.

Pinterest

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.

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LinkedIn

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!

BONUS TIP: OPTIMIZE YOUR PHOTOS ON ALL SOCIAL PLATFORMS.

Here's a cheat sheet.

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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).

 

 

Startup Soirée has officially launched!

And we are so freakin' excited!

Patrick Rife of Pixilated talks about our January 29th Startup Soirée event in the video below. Take a look!

We kick off january 29, 2015 at 6:30pm

The time has finally come for us to share Startup Soirée with YOU!

Startup Soirée is a monthly gathering focused on connecting and creating meaningful conversations amongst Startup Founders and Owners, Business Leaders, and Game Changers within the local community.

The format of the three hour event is as follows:

6:30-7:30pm Cocktail Hour with beer, wine, and appetizers by Nutreatious.

7:30-8:30pm Town Hall Style Discussion on crowdsourced topics, moderated by Special Guest Moderator, Ethan Giffin of Groove Commerce.

8:30-9:30pm Continued Private Conversations and Party Time! Music and cocktails!

Special Guest Moderator: Ethan Giffin, GROOVE

Ethan Giffin is the Founder and CEO of Baltimore based company Groove, a premier creative digital agency, specializing in eCommerce, web design, inbound marketing, and branding.

Ethan is an industry expert in eCommerce, e-marketing and the dynamic technologies behind them. For years, Ethan has lived and breathed conversion rates, search engine visibility and web analytics.

An entrepreneur at heart, Ethan was managing profitable yard sales at 10-years-old and started a very successful DJ and karaoke service at the age of 16.

When Ethan isn’t obsessing over SEO, conversion rates and eCommerce architecture, he can be found speaking as an industry authority nationwide. In his free time he enjoys, cooking, traveling, DJing and the pursuit of rare pocket squares.

Startup Soirée's official food sponsor: nutreatious

Simplifying the healthy life in the most delicious way.

Nutreatious is a team of chefs who work to bring that simplicity to each client with a smile.  The chefs not only love to cook, but love making a difference in the client’s life each and every day.

The list of services has grown from personal chef services to boutique catering, cooking lessons and kitchen organization.  Nutreatious creates personalized experiences for each and every client, whether that client needs a vegan menu, allergen-free foods, or a classic meal like Boeuf Bourguignon.  Nutreatious currently serves Baltimore, Frederick, Annapolis, DC and surrounding areas. 

CEO and founder, Dana Sicko founded Nutreatious in 2011 while she was working as a nutrition consultant at FX Studios in Hunt Valley, MD.  Many of her clients came to her with similar stories of wanting to be healthy, but not having the time due to work, crazy schedules or a disinterest in cooking.  Dana was always cooking healthy treats for her clients and her boss recommended taking the service to the next level by cooking in the clients' homes. 

She quickly saw that this was the impact she wanted to make in peoples' lives: making the healthy life simple in the most delicious way!

Tickets are on sale now, but it's "invite only" so make sure you let us know that you're interested by filling out the GET INVITED form.

GET INVITED BY FILLING OUT THIS FORM!