Ryan Himmel Curated

CPA, finance technology executive

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This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Ryan Himmel have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Ryan Himmel's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming entrepreneurs. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • How should one be able to use AI beyond what it is able to in terms of business upliftment?

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  • How Entrepreneurs Can Solve the World's Biggest Problems?

    We live in truly tumultuous times. Social distancing, stock-market roller coasters, and the suspension of business operations nationwide have created an uncertain atmosphere, to say the least. Meanwhile, climate change, income inequality, racial unrest, and other issues continue to manifest anxiety, fear, and even anger for many. While these problems can seem overwhelming, history has repeatedly taught us that there is no reason to lose hope. People have consistently found solutions to the world’s biggest problems — and entrepreneurs are often at the forefront. In many ways, today’s technology and resources give entrepreneurs greater opportunity than ever before to help confront our societal ills, daunting though they may seem. Here are just a few examples of how. Increased Global Collaboration Our global society is more interconnected than ever before. Even before 2020, global markets were concerned about how factory shutdowns in China would impact the global supply chain. However, increased globalization also creates new collaborative opportunities that give entrepreneurs access to greater resources for addressing major problems. For example, a case study from the World Economic Forum noted how food manufacturer Africa Improved Foods wanted to address malnourishment in Rwanda. Local stakeholders received input from public and private-sector leaders in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and the Netherlands to determine how best to produce fortified products that would address the country’s malnourishment issues. Global collaborations allow entrepreneurs to get input from other cultures and communities in ways that would have been impossible only a few decades ago. Smarter Technological Solutions By leveraging the resources others have developed or coming up with their own tech products, entrepreneurs can create new solutions that more efficiently solve common problems. This became abundantly clear during a recent email conversation with Damian Merlak, co-founder of NGEN. “Even something as seemingly simple as app development can improve the flexibility, scalability, and redundancy of a problem-solving solution,” he explained, continuing that, “Real-time data collection, remote access, more efficient energy production — all of these can serve as a jumping-off point for developing more effective solutions that reach a wider number of people. Finding new ways to use technology that is available can unlock amazing innovations.” Many of today’s tech solutions don’t just help entrepreneurs innovate with new products and services — they also make it easier to keep a business running smoothly. Cutting costs and automating mundane tasks will leave you with more time to focus your efforts on important problem-solving initiatives. Finding Social Impact Anywhere We live in a time when an increasing number of people want to know that the companies they do business with are having a positive impact on the world. As just one example, a 2015 Nielsen study found that brands with “a demonstrated commitment to sustainability” grew 4 percent year over year, compared to less than 1 percent growth for their competitors. This reflects consumers’ increased desire to buy from brands that have a positive impact on society. Entrepreneurs are innovators, and as such, brands in practically every niche have been able to find ways to make a difference. A Problem-Solving Mindset While today’s resources and opportunities can certainly help entrepreneurs solve the world’s biggest challenges, nothing compares to the unique mindset shared by all entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are born problem-solvers, always looking for new and better ways to do things.

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  • When's the best time to seek additional financing for my startup?

    Congratulations on achieving two key business milestones: developing a patented product and generating revenue. Many startups never even make it that far. The timing of when a startup should seek additional financing really depends on the specific circumstances. Although you have provided some background information, I don't know your company's key financial information such as your debt position, cash balance, working capital, and business pipeline. I think answers to these questions below may help in your decision-making process. Are You Meeting Current Debt Obligations? Many startups that do obtain financing do not ask for enough capital from the lender, whether it be a bank or an independent investor. They feel the need to impress their investors and/or themselves by asking for just enough capital to get the business off the ground. Big mistake, as there are many costs that a startup never even incorporates in their business plan. The result is that they start to burn cash quickly and have trouble meeting their interest payments. If this is the case, you can try to obtain additional financing from investors but it is not going to be easy. You will really need to focus on how you have corrected past mistakes and have a fairly robust business pipeline such as firm commitments from a large distributor (i.e. sporting goods retailer). How Robust Is Your Business Pipeline? It seems as though selling your golf products through a large distribution channel such as a sporting goods retailer offers the most growth potential. However, reaching an agreement with a large retailer will be tough since your company is a startup. The retailer will probably want to see a track-record first before committing to tens of thousands of dollars worth of product. I would ask myself, "how strong is my relationship with these potential distributors?" Perhaps, you need to prove your business model further by selling the rest of the product in the first container. The last thing you want to happen is to obtain additional financing for the product and then have the retailer back out of the deal. Part of being a good entrepreneur is taking risks at the right times. Is this the right time?

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  • How Do I Choose a Merchant Provider?

    There are many options available in the market for choosing a credit card processor. While having choices is helpful for comparison shopping, it also can get quite overwhelming. To select a processor, you really want to focus on the factors that are most pertinent to your company. The fees that processors charge can certainly add up over time. Let's suppose a business process over $1 million per year through a credit card processor. If that business can negotiate a base rate with a provider at 1.75 percent or less, it will save $2,500 or more as compared to working with a processor that charges 2 percent. You will want to make sure that you understand the pricing differences for each of these three variables: volume, dollar value, and credit card types. The setup fees and monthly fees will vary depending on these variables. It's also important to note that stand-alone credit card processors such as First Data or Heartland Payment Systems typically offer lower rates than the merchant services department at a major bank such as Bank of America or Chase. It may seem that it would be more convenient for your bank to be the processor, but bank fees are usually at least one hundred basis points higher. The fees that processors offer usually depend on the volume of transactions and the total amount of revenue generated. You should be selecting a provider based on your business size and the projected growth in the future. You should be choosing from a much different selection of processors if you're generating $50,000 a year with 5,000 transactions than a business with $2 million in annual sales with 100,000 orders. You also need to ask yourself if you're going to be offering processing through an online shopping cart, at your store, via phone, or a combination of these methods. The rates can vary by method. Another factor to consider is cash flow. What do I mean by that? Credit card processors can hold the money from the time it is processed to the time it reaches your bank account. Each processor follows a different system, and some even manage the time to gain the interest income on the "float." In contrast, a payment "wallet" provider such as PayPal offers immediate access to the funds. PayPal can do this because its process integrates the gateway, processor, and merchant account into one step. However, such companies' fees are sometimes not as competitive as those of independent providers. Bottom line: You're going to need to do your own homework for selecting a credit card processor. There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

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  • How Should I Prepare for a Future As an Entrepreneur?

    It's great to learn about your entrepreneurial ideas even before you pursue this next big step in life. It's also refreshing to read of your eagerness to learn how to become an entrepreneur. At the same time, you don't want to follow any specific script; let your skills and entrepreneurial experiences develop naturally. In many cases, an entrepreneur "stumbles upon" a business venture as opposed to coming about it because of a calculated decision to attend this college, to work in this state, to work at this company, and so on. You're also jumping a bit from point A to point D in becoming an entrepreneur. What do I mean? Well, you know you want to become an entrepreneur, but you don't have the experience, support team, industry experience, an "aha" moment that comes when it's time to build a company. It is not your fault, you just haven't had the opportunity to work in the field. What I strongly suggest is to be very open-minded with the various experiences that you come across in life, college, and business. Everything before becoming an entrepreneur is background information and a series of practice tests that prepare you for your business venture. Sure, you'll make quite a few mistakes when you launch your first, second, third companies and so on, but now is really the time when you need to focus on exposing yourself to as many different types of experiences as possible. Think of your head like a sponge and try to fill it up with as much stuff as possible. Many traits are important to becoming a successful entrepreneur. There are a few, though, that I believe are especially important as they helped to guide me as a young entrepreneur myself. First is courage. You need to be willing to take a chance even if it's contrary to the norm. That's the foundation of many fast-growing companies. In many cases, these companies are simply attracting customers from other companies and industries because of their different, but superior value proposition. Second is integrity. You need to be able to display a strong sense of morals and honesty. If not, the people that are most important to you -- your customers, employees, and investors -- will see right through you. The third is the work ethic. You need to be able to put the time into building a new company. It's never quick and it's never easy. It will probably be the hardest thing you do in life, as it has been for me, but it will be worth it if this is what you want to do. Fourth is accountability. When things are going great, you will prosper both financially and personally as a brand. However, you will also need to take the fall for events that occur within your company. The error may not necessarily have been your own doing, but you will still need to hold yourself accountable. The fifth is persistence. You need to be able to push yourself to your goals and to others who will help you reach them. This applies to businesses, especially companies in their infancy stages as they have little if any brand recognition. If you are trying to gain a prospective customer and they say no, you need to be able to push them a little to find out why and what you can do to have them try your product or service. Maybe it's a few follow-up calls or a visit to their office. Of course, you don't want to be annoying, but you need to push yourself to reach your goals.

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  • What Is the Best Degree for Young Entrepreneurs?

    It's impossible to say which college degree or major is best for future entrepreneurs. Believe it or not, some entrepreneurs never even attend or finish college and instead put their time and money into creating a business. While I generally disagree with that course of action, some entrepreneurs made the right choice in taking that path, though it's very rare. Still, there are certain things you need to keep in mind while considering your degree and major. What college, degree, or major you decide on is not nearly as important as how you actually use it to develop into an entrepreneur. Sure, having Harvard Business School or Wharton on your resume can increase the number of opportunities for you in the future. But that in itself will not guarantee that you become a successful entrepreneur. Rather you need to hone in on the higher education opportunities that help you develop the major qualities to become a successful entrepreneur, such as courage, integrity, work ethic, and accountability. You're most likely to develop these qualities when you learn something that interests and excites you. My second piece of advice is to expose yourself to the business sciences, such as finance, accounting, marketing, and business law. You don't necessarily need to major or minor in these areas, but it can certainly help to expose yourself to them, as they are key aspects to every business. My last piece of advice is to be mindful of the future and particularly of the industries that provide the greatest growth prospects. Innovation in technology, healthcare, energy, and education will provide significant opportunities to entrepreneurs in the coming years.

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  • What Entrepreneurial Project Can I Do With 12th Graders?

    That's a very interesting project and the type of learning I strongly support. While textbook reading, essays, and exams provide the student with a basic foundation of learning, they lack the real-life experience element that is critical to entrepreneurial development. The best projects for this type of learning are ones that expose the students to the different facets of being an entrepreneur. I would highly recommend that your students start mock businesses. You can require each student to come up with a business idea and then have the rest of the class vote on the ideas to identify the best ones in the class. Students with winning ideas would essentially become the CEOs or team leaders of the business projects. Instead of just assigning other students to work with the team leaders, I would encourage each team leader to try to solicit and pitch other students to join their team. They can even use stock options and other financial incentives to reach an agreement, as they are all important elements of building a team for any startup business. Once the teams are assembled -- or not, if one or more team leaders choose to go it on their own -- then business plans need to be constructed. The plans should lay the groundwork for how each team will execute their business idea. This includes developing the product or service, building a financial model and a go-to-market strategy, implementing customer service, and performing administrative functions such as legal and accounting. After the planning phase is complete, the teams can then begin taking their products or services to the market. Other students in the school or in your class could be potential customers of each business concept. Instead of actual money, you can use a point system linked to academic performance awards or prizes donated by local businesses. Let's assume that your program runs for 60 days. After the first 30 days, there should be an evaluation of each business so that the team can make improvements for the final 30 days. Each project should be graded at the end based on performance and execution.

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  • What Are the Rewards of Entrepreneurship?

    This is an interesting question and one that should be asked well before ever diving into the world of entrepreneurship. Far too often, this is a question an entrepreneur asks when already knee-deep in starting a company with a basket of problems and growth issues. My first piece of advice is to define what it means to you to be successful. In business and in life, we're constantly weighing our options for going in one direction over the other. For instance, you may be in a situation with a high-paying job when an opportunity presents itself to start a new company in a new market. Sure, you can stay at the high-paying job and maintain that sense of security or you can take a chance with the business venture. If you're seriously considering starting the company, then you should define what it means to be successful versus staying in that cushy job. If it means that your business is a failure unless you start the next Instagram or Pinterest, then chances are you should stay at your current job. If, on the other hand, it's a success if you start the business, generate revenue, gain customers, prove the model and make a living for yourself, then that's a different story. My point is that you want to set a reasonable expectation for what success will be for you so you don't find yourself hitting your head against the wall wishing you had done things differently. My next piece of advice is that you really have to want to experience the journey as an entrepreneur. Most successful entrepreneurs with whom I speak say they had no idea that their venture would be such a success, they just hoped it would work. The great success stories just kind of happened. Sure, it takes a ton of work and planning and you want the right resources in place, but sometimes it just happens and you can never plan for that. My message here is that you have to be willing to accept the bad days (there will be many) as well as the good days to jump into entrepreneurship. It's a lifestyle, and rarely a quick route to financial success. Even the Pinterest and Instagrams of the world went through many growing pains, and it took a great deal of talent and hard work for them to get to where they are today.

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  • How Should We Divide Equity Among Co-Founders?

    There are many different ways to approach equity compensation for the founding team. There is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, I have some specific recommendations based on my experiences starting a company as well as advising many startups. First, discuss compensation upfront with your co-founder(s) before you get to work and put it in writing. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when starting a company is casually discussing equity ownership with your co-founder(s) and deferring the formal agreement until after you get the business started. You should be very clear as to the equity ownership percentages from the very beginning. Try not to be emotional and selfish when discussing equity ownership with your co-founder(s). Ideally, you should share a common vision with your co-founder(s) and acknowledge that the success of the company is more important than your personal interests. Specifically, the amount of equity you and your co-founder(s) receive in the company should be dictated by a methodology that awards the highest-valued contribution and those bearing the largest risks. Factors that you may consider in reaching an appropriate equity percentage for each founder are idea generation, capital contribution, ability to raise capital, business planning, domain expertise, operational management, total responsibilities, and legal responsibilities. My point here is that you shouldn't just split the company 50/50 if there are two founders. Rather, you should construct a list of the most important elements of the business and how much each founder can contribute to that part of the business. Also, you aren't supposed to necessarily reach a final equity percentage with your co-founder(s) quickly. It's supposed to be a discussion and a negotiation. If you'd like to control the decision-making part of the business, you should be the majority owner of the company and have the majority of the board votes or greater than 50 percent. Typically, the chief executive and chairman of the board will be the majority owner of an early-stage company, but it can vary by business.

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  • What Personality Traits Made Steve Jobs Successful?

    Many personality traits helped Steve Jobs become the most successful entrepreneur of our time. We can all learn a lot from him. Also, whether or not you've already reached success, Steve Jobs provides a fantastic blueprint to follow. I personally know many very successful entrepreneurs who still follow several of his principles and traits to this day. The first trait that I think is most important and unique is his unbelievable imagination. It's one thing to envision your company growing and taking market share from another competitor, but it's another thing to envision that your company's products and services will change the way people communicate, work, and live their lives. He built his company under the assumption that Apple's products and services would change the world. His uncanny ability to develop and design technology products (now everyday products) that people love was like no other entrepreneur's before, during, or after his time. He's truly a legend in the concept of innovative and interactive design. He focused on the design and was insistent that it be absolutely perfect. It was his belief that design is a critical component to developing next-generation products that people love. I think there is a lot to be learned here. He made one aspect of building his business (that is, design) very important as opposed to other areas. This evolved into Apple's competitive advantage and the company's brand. He was also extremely passionate and fearless when it came to growing Apple. Many actions in his career were controversial and at certain points risked the future of the company. He had an extraordinary ability to push his company and employees to the limits without going over the edge. Also, if you were a potential customer or an existing one, he made you understand why you had to have Apple's products or services. He was the ultimate salesperson. These are just a few of the many traits Steve Jobs left for us to learn from and embrace with our own companies. Your business journey won't be the same as his, but you can certainly follow many of his revolutionary ways of building a great company.

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  • What Should I Study to Be an Entrepreneur?

    I'm glad to learn that you already have an itch to prepare yourself to become an entrepreneur. There's no question that college is a great place to learn and experiment with different courses that may provide you with the skills and exposure necessary to pursue your venture. I recommend a specific approach. Try to attend classes that interest you and help you develop the skills necessary to become a future entrepreneur. Specifically, focus on the opportunities that help you develop the major qualities to become a successful entrepreneur, such as imagination, courage, integrity, work ethic, and accountability. As I've written before, imagination is one of the crucial qualities that made Steve Jobs one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time. You will also want to expose yourself to the business sciences, such as entrepreneurship, finance, accounting, marketing, and business law. You don't necessarily need to major or minor in these areas, but it can certainly help since they are key aspects of every business. As for whether or not you need to pursue an advanced degree, that really depends on the person and industry you are pursuing. It might be necessary to obtain an advanced degree in medicine for someone in pursuit of starting a healthcare company with a technical focus. If you plan to open a restaurant chain, then having an MBA can help with managing operations and raising capital, although it's possible to do those things without a degree. All of these classes and degrees will help prepare you to become an entrepreneur, but ultimately entrepreneurship comes down to the person and how they use their knowledge to lead a great company. The degrees they possess and the college training they have received are just a few elements of that.

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  • Should I Do an Internship?

    Most aspiring entrepreneurs think they need to follow a specific path to build the next great company. This isn't necessarily the case. Generally speaking, the best entrepreneurs share common traits and expose themselves to many different experiences that help them develop the necessary skills to effectively lead a company. Some of those experiences may occur over time at prior positions held at various companies. Usually, it's not something that is the result of an internship or entry-level position. In most cases, industry experience provides an entrepreneur with a framework for establishing domain expertise, key relationships, and, most importantly, knowledge of the pain points in the market to which a new business could respond. Typically, it’s very difficult to establish this know-how without working in the industry. For instance, if you had your heart set on opening a fashion line targeting a specific customer, it would be very difficult to get the business off the ground without having industry contacts and product knowledge. Even more, due to a lack of industry knowledge, you won’t necessarily be able to easily differentiate between strong and weak candidates when hiring your first few employees. As most entrepreneurs are aware, the first few hires can make or break a new company. While it’s certainly difficult to successfully launch a business without industry experience and knowledge, it’s still possible if you have resources, surround yourself with the right people, and have already developed key leadership skills. For instance, in the news, we often hear of established CEOs being hired that lack specific industry experience. Specifically, the CEO of a financial services company may be named the new CEO of a consumer products enterprise. While the CEO may not have a specific background in the consumer product market, he or she still has the management, communication, and financial skills to lead the company. Thus, work experience in general matters when it comes to developing a strong set of skills to lead any company. This would not necessarily be the case for someone that is right out of college.

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  • What Are Some Good Business Books to Read?

    It's always a smart idea to learn from the knowledge and experience of others. One way to do so is through books written by great leaders. Personally, I try to read as many business books written by as many different types of authors as possible. Before I reveal my favorites, I think it's important to note that while books are great to reference, nothing beats an in-person meeting with a successful entrepreneur. Leadership Book: Sun Tzu, The Art of War There are many fantastic leadership books written by outstanding entrepreneurs. However, this book is one of my favorites. While it’s based on military situations, it provides great inspiration and lessons for any entrepreneur to follow. I find the book to be especially helpful for businesses that are in the early stages of development. as it teaches them to prepare for the many different types of situations they may experience. As we all know, one of the biggest challenges as an early-stage company is to manage the element of the unknown. Strategy and preparation can in many ways guide a company and help mitigate future mistakes. Sales Book: Jeffrey Gitomer, The Little Red Book of Selling This is probably the most enjoyable and easiest book you’ll ever read as far as business goes. It’s especially helpful for those who don’t know squat about sales, or who are scared even to talk about the topic, or who think they know more than they actually do. It’s very educational in teaching readers how the sales process works within a company and how budgets are spent. Management Book: Daniel H. Pink, Drive You may be wondering why I’m choosing a motivational book for the management category. Managing by instructing your staff and tracking their performance is really an antiquated way of running a business. In every sense, this book captures the importance of understanding what motivates people and how a manager can use that information to foster growth. For some, this book may be earth-shattering. Product Book: Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs I typically don’t recommend business biographies as much of the information is personal and it’s easy for the reader’s mind to go off on tangents. However, the Steve Jobs book is an exception to the rule. Why? Walter Isaacson does an exceptional job of articulating Steve’s greatest attributes. For instance, Steve’s extraordinary ability to channel his imagination into innovative product design. Entrepreneurs obviously won’t be able to replicate this gift, but they can certainly learn from Steve’s approach to product design. Business Ethics Book: Stephen M. R. Covey, The Speed of Trust I included an ethics book on this list for the main reason that it’s often overlooked. I find the topic to be very important, as it helps entrepreneurs to remain even-keeled no matter whether their business is going well or whether it's a complete disaster. Furthermore, it’s critical to build and maintain trust with employees, customers, investors. This book trains entrepreneurs to be obsessive about building trust and fearful of ever losing it.

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  • How Can I Pitch My Product to Large Companies?

    Congratulations on developing a finished product. Now for the hard part, monetizing it. I'm glad to learn that you are thinking big with the goal of distributing your product to the masses via a big box brand. Unfortunately, gaining their attention and trust isn't so easy. Still, there are certain steps you can take to help you reach your goals. First and foremost, there must be evidence to suggest that you have proof of concept. While I understand that you developed the product because you believe there's a need for it in the market, there needs to be proof. The best evidence is to show that people are using the product and have paid money for it. It doesn't have to be tens of thousands of customers, but a large enough sample size to support the notion that market acceptance exists. Distributing the product to smaller retailers would be the best place to start. If you're deeply concerned about sharing your product with the public for fears of competitors cloning it, there are other ways to show a need in the market, such as industry research, surveys, and focus groups to show the need. It's not the best evidence, but there's a chance that it might be sufficient when presenting to a big box brand. I would also recommend that you create a list of big box brands that you believe would embrace your product. Once you have a list, then search through your professional network for individuals that are directly connected with business development contacts at these big box brands. Use LinkedIn and other networks to try to find the right person to contact. If you can't identify any direct or third-party connections, you'll need to try to gain introductions through conferences, events, and tradeshows that the company attends. Once you do get the opportunity to speak with the company, you'll need to be prepared to explain the product features, manufacturing process, costs, price, risks, and market opportunity. The more facts you can provide with numbers, plus qualitative evidence suggesting market acceptance from customers, the stronger your case will be for them to agree to distribute your product. Be prepared to answer difficult questions you may not have thought of earlier. Could your product pose a risk to children if misused? If so, what can you do to mitigate that risk? I recommend you put yourself in the shoes of the people to whom you’ll be presenting. Then, think about what you would ask if you worked at this company and an outsider was presenting a new product they'd like you to distribute. Lastly, don't overlook working with a partner or a professional that has specific experience selling products to big box brands. You may have to give up some equity and/or provide compensation, but if it helps you meet your goals, it can certainly be money well spent.

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  • How Can I Grow My Home-Based Business?

    It's ambitious to think big and try to expand your business beyond your home. To do so, you're probably going to have to go out of your comfort zone and explore opportunities that may become challenging without prior experience scaling a business. Still, it’s typically worth it in the end. First, you need to identify specific ways to substantially increase your customer base. You have a few options to consider. You can expand your footprint by opening a physical store in an affluent community and repeating that strategy in other communities. However, for this type of business, I wouldn't recommend that approach as it is very capital intensive with potential high rental rates and marketing costs. Scaling would be difficult as well. Another option you may want to consider is expanding what you're already doing by hiring a sales and delivery force to bring the gift wrapping service to the client’s home. The highly affluent will pay for convenience and personal attention, which is what you can offer without having to spend money on rent. I would also recommend that you incorporate a smartphone application that allows clients to enter days in which they need to buy a gift (i.e. birthdays) as well as the ability to notify you that they are making a gift purchase. The data and functionality will become very valuable as the business scales. I would also try to identify and work with distribution partners. There are many businesses and social clubs that cater to the high-end consumer. You can offer your services through a distribution partner as an add-on to their existing offering. This strategy is effective in that the upfront cost will be limited to your production expenses. However, you'll likely have to work under a revenue share program, which can hurt your margins. Also, the lead times to get a partner on board can be long or at least 90 days. Along with developing a plan to grow your sales, you need to identify the sources of financing to fund production and headcount costs. It's also likely that you'll need to negotiate larger orders with your suppliers as well as hire employees in sales, procurement, and administrative functions. From a financing perspective, a bank loan may be sufficient or you'll need to seek out equity investors such as a consortium of angels. It may also be possible to offer a distribution partner some equity for funding the expansion. Once you have a plan in place, the next and possibly most draining part is pitching your plan to prospective employees, investors, and other interested parties. It will likely take time, but try to get warm introductions, that is, referrals from people you know, and create a smart pitch with a clear slide presentation. You’re not just pitching the business, you’re also pitching yourself.

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  • How Can I Turn Price-Sensitive Shoppers Into Customers?

    Entering a new market can be an exciting yet challenging endeavor for any company. Specifically, many companies run into problems when they allocate too many resources to an unproven product, which in turn detracts from their existing business or what is currently working well. I'm encouraged that you're taking a step back and trying to identify the best approach to target this new market. As to whether you should focus on your pricing strategy or advertising to attract sales, I would recommend the former since advertising can be very expensive when you're testing a new market. Furthermore, the feedback that you receive from even a small sample of customers can be much more valuable in converting future sales opportunities. Based on your question, I would imagine that you're targeting a mid-to-lower end consumer as they're very price-sensitive. You need to be cognizant of the fact that most of these consumers are focused on value. They may think your prices are high because they don't believe they're getting enough product/features for the cost. Before you slash prices, I would recommend first trying to offer additional value. What does that mean? Instead of selling one item, try selling two items as a bundled offering with a slight discount. This approach can be very helpful as the consumer is happy that they're getting more for their money. Also, I would also gain an understanding as to what your competitors are offering this same customer. I would also recommend creating a greater distinction between the high-end items and your new product launch. It's very difficult for the consumer to become comfortable with a product when they don't understand the company brand and the different price points. Remember, you always want to try to make the sales process as easy as possible. Your current strategy may be too confusing for this new customer as the brand still attracts the high-end consumer. You need to get in front of your target audience with a cost-effective and thoughtful marketing strategy. Your existing customer base isn't the answer. Try first experimenting with inexpensive distribution channels such as social media, consumer-related blogs, and working with affiliate partners. The sales may be slow in the beginning, but it should increase gradually as you're targeting the right audience. Even more, you'll be learning more about who your target audience really is without testing it with an expensive advertising campaign.

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  • Without Knowing Much About Technology, How Can I Launch an Online Service Platform?

    The most successful entrepreneurs are typically cognizant of their strengths and weaknesses. Your question indicates that technology isn't one of your strengths – and that's ok. Some entrepreneurs often feel compelled to do it all on their own when it's actually best to try to address your weaknesses with the strengths of other team members. On that note, I would recommend that your first milestone should be to hire a chief technology officer (CTO). This team member should be able to answer the question of what is the best technology platform to run your business. If you're neither a technology enthusiast nor involved with the tech community, you're going to have to network. Utilize your professional network and attend tech events to begin to become familiar with technology platforms and possibly find your CTO. From a marketing perspective, I would focus on developing relationships with companies and organizations that serve a like-minded audience. An affiliation with educational publishers would likely be a significant source of new customers. I would also recommend working on building a large knowledge base of questions and answers as well as video tutorials for search engine optimization purposes, as this type of business has the potential to drive a significant amount of traffic from an online search. Of course, you can also utilize some offline marketing channels by gaining the attention of students in key locations. Whatever path you decide to take, make sure you document what you learn. Part of the process of becoming a great entrepreneur is learning from what worked and even more so from what didn’t.

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  • How can I recruit quality employees?

    After you've identified a few interested individuals, you're going to have to do some due diligence. Specifically, you'll want to do a thorough background check, request personal references, and thoroughly review their past businesses. Think of it less like a new hire and more as an investment. You're going to have to act like an investor and ask them to put together a business plan detailing how they would lead the company. Also, you’re also going to have to sell them on the opportunity and why they should join your mission. It won’t be easy, but if you present to them a great opportunity that they can believe in, you’ll have a new leader.

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  • How Can I Hire Exceptional Individuals?

    Once you've identified the key attributes you're looking for in a leader, you'll need to start reaching out to people in your network and beyond. Ask people that you trust if they know someone with the background you are looking for that might have an interest in the business. It doesn't necessarily have to be someone that is currently looking for a new job, but rather someone interested in a great opportunity. Attending industry and networking events as well as seeking guidance from advisors can be very helpful. Please note that many companies actually can find their key hires from referrals from their board of advisors. If you don't have any advisors, try to seek them out as well.

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  • How Can I Find a CEO for My Startup?

    ’m impressed by your ability to recognize that you aren’t the right person to lead the company. There aren't many entrepreneurs out there that can say they would be able to give up the reins even if it meant a brighter future for the company. I commend you for taking this action. It is my belief that sometimes the people that build the ship aren’t necessarily the best people to sail it. With that in mind, how should you go about finding a CEO for your company? The experience will likely be the greatest factor that you should consider in finding the right CEO for your health-care startup. Try to find someone that complements your skill-set and experience. You can start this process by building a list of all of the attributes that you don't have that you wish you had before developing your business. Given the nature of your question, I would recommend that this person has previously led an early-stage online business through the growth process. Specifically, this person’s experience should cover successful fundraising, building a team, and navigating the unchartered waters of monetizing a new market. The health-care experience will be a plus, but it's not necessarily a must as long as this person can find someone else that can fill that gap. While every business is different, I believe that a strong leader can usually grow any business.

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  • What are the 4 best practices for making a business offer?

    Typically, the buyer does not have to prove to the seller that they are the best party to purchase the company. Sure, current owners will want to have peace of mind that the business they put their blood, sweat, and tears will still be a 'going concern' a year after the sale, but the price will generally be the biggest factor in determining who purchases the business and at what price. Having said that, there are certainly best practices to consider when making an offer. How to approach the seller. While no business deal is exactly the same, anyone involved in a prior acquisition/merger will tell you that the relationship and personalities of the buyer and seller were important factors in finalizing the deal. As such, it would be in your best interest to obtain a very warm introduction from someone you know that also knows the owner of the shop. This will help in gaining the confidence and trust of the seller and it should speed up the process as a whole. Also, if the company is not currently up for sale, you will want to be strategic in determining if, at the right price, the owner may sell. Preliminary due diligence. As a potential buyer, you should be assessing the value and growth prospects of the business. This means reviewing the current employees, company culture, business trends, expansion opportunities, customer feedback, competitive landscape, among other factors. Also, not only do you want to ensure that this is a viable and growing business, but that you are the best person to lead it. Not only will this impress the owner, but your research might help shape the offer you give and strengthen your negotiating power. Formulating your offer. When you prepare to make an offer for the business, it is best to have an understanding of how the current owner values the business. Specifically, if you're going to go through the process of negotiating, it is best to have a sense of how the seller views the valuation. To do this, ask them what key performance indicators (KPI) they review when assessing the health and growth of the overall business. If it's recurring monthly revenue and you have a sense of the size of that customer base, it's easy to gain an understanding of how the owner values the business. Closing due diligence. Once you reach an agreement with the seller, you'll still want to confirm the accuracy of the financial and business data provided by the seller. You may need to work with a few attorneys and possibly an accounting firm to complete this final part of the deal. Hopefully, if your research has been thorough, there will be no unpleasant surprises.

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  • What are the top 5 tax hacks for Entrepreneurs?

    Here are the top tax hacks, some of them well-known and others a little more underused, for entrepreneurs: 1. Home office If you have a home-based office that is used exclusively for activities related to your business, you may be eligible to claim a deduction. There only used to be one method for calculating home-office expenses, which requires complex calculations to determine the correct deduction. The IRS introduced a second, simplified option a few years back that essentially enables you to claim $5 per square foot, up to a maximum of 300 square feet, of business space. Be warned that the deduction maxes out at $1,500. Using the regular method may be beneficial for a business owner with a larger home-office space and subsequent expenses because there’s no limit to the amount of eligible square-footage. Instead, it's determined by calculating the percentage of the home used for business. However, it can raise a red flag with the IRS, so consider having an accountant prepare your taxes if you’re unsure. 2. Depreciation of equipment The purchase of large equipment -- new or used -- during the 2016 tax year allows you to claim a Section 179 Deduction, otherwise known as a Special Depreciation Allowance. This type of deduction is especially useful for service-based businesses that require large machinery or computer systems, and you can claim up to a maximum of $500,000. 3. Retirement planning Even though the tax year itself has already passed, it isn’t too late to open certain retirement plans, such as a SEP-IRA. If you do so before this year’s filing deadline and start putting pre-tax cash towards your retirement fund, they’ll still be tax-deductible. The IRS has a tool to help calculate your plan contribution and reduction. 4. Health insurance costs You may be eligible to deduct the cost of health insurance for you and your spouse and dependents. This particular deduction lowers your adjusted gross income, meaning that there’s less chance of you being rendered ineligible for certain other tax breaks. Be careful when deducting these costs, as you aren’t eligible if you have a separate full-time job that provides a subsidized health plan, or if your spouse has an employer-subsidized health plan. It’s worth noting that eligibility is determined on a month-by-month basis and a few other things. 5. Education expenses There are a few deduction-eligible educational expenses that are seemingly obvious. Conferences, online courses, and textbooks -- these are just some of the resources that can help you maintain or improve your skills related to running your business. Some of the more infrequently considered resources that usually qualify are trade publication subscriptions or donations to business organizations. See the IRS' tool to help determine whether your educational expenses are eligible for deduction. At the end of the day, though, an accountant will be able to offer you the best advice on what you can and can’t claim -- enabling you to get the most bang for your buck. Their professional expertise will pay for itself numerous times over, not to mention their fees are tax-deductible. Plus, they can help mitigate the risk of costly mistakes and for planning that goes beyond the 2016 tax year.

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  • How Do I Move a Product Idea Forward?

    One of the most difficult parts of starting a new business is successfully executing on the idea. Fortunately, you seem to have already figured out the product piece with your prototype and relevant industry experience, which means you’re actually further along with the business plan then you may realize. You've already defined a problem in the market and have created a solution. Still, as you noted, there is more work to do and steps to follow to increase your chances of success. The next step should be to formally construct a business plan. It doesn't have to be a lengthy 20 plus page Word document. Rather, a slide-deck containing all of the key components of a business plan should be sufficient and may even be more useful. It should be a condensed version of a business plan with all of the key elements in a bulleted format or graphical representation. You should include the company's mission, management team/key roles, market opportunity, value proposition, product detail, distribution strategy, competitive analysis, sources and uses of capital, projected financial model, and risk factors. The purpose of the business plan is to provide a road-map for you to follow. It does not need to be perfect, as you’ll constantly be improving upon the plan. One of the reasons why you need to focus on a business plan first is so you can build a team. Unless you've been working with specific team members who share a common vision for the business, you'll need to be prepared to do some convincing. A business plan can help you formulate your pitch and provide answers to questions that you may not have thought of before. Distribution is another key area to focus on while you're working on recruiting team members. I recommend you focus on the distribution channels you believe would be most likely to bring your product to market. You shouldn't waste time and energy with the largest distributors, as it’s likely too early and you’ll first need feedback from the market to help improve your product. Of course, this endeavor will require capital. You'll need to determine whether you'd prefer to seek a traditional bank loan or angel investor or venture capitalist to fund the business. Please note that most venture capitalists will want to see some traction in the product and financial commitments from others before getting their feet wet. It would probably be most efficient to work directly with a bank or angel investor first to get the product to market. Once the product and model are proven, then it will be easier to go after the bigger fish and possibly get a better valuation. Lastly, be prepared to make some mistakes. Every entrepreneur runs into some problems, even Mark Zuckerberg. It's important to not dwell on any one mistake but rather learn from them. This will help you grow as an entrepreneur and company.

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  • What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About the Fed's Rate Rise?

    Citing strong economic progress, the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise rates for the second time since the financial crisis of 2008 has business owners asking when they’ll see banks tack the increase onto capital costs. Announcing the rise at a press conference, Fed Chair Janet L. Yellen told reporters, “I would say at this point that fiscal policy is not obviously needed to provide stimulus to help us get back to full employment.”

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