Do you think it’s possible to build a Million Dollar Business while working part time (the premise of this insider’s series within the Hot Mommas Project blog for business junkies?)
Welcome, my home slices, to a new (or renewed) belief system.
The short version: If you want to Build a Million Dollar Business, Cameron Herold is the man to help you do it. If you can’t afford Cameron in person, then just buy his book Double Double and his DVD sets based on this and his first book: BackPocket COO. (And, for the jaded… no, I am not Cameron’s sister or something).
The long version: Entrepreneurs are basically nuts. You’ve got to be to handle the ups, the downs, the doubts. But it’s tiring. After leading, innovating, fire fighting, and getting up the next day and to do it all over again, there is the desperate need for guidance, structure, and an answer. Cameron gives entrepreneurs that answer. To that, many of you will say:
Read the rest of this post on our main blog, HERE.
My husband and I are both entrepreneurs. Everyone we know has had to lay people off, us included. It’s a tough time. The other night we were on the porch talking for the umteenth time about how he is worried about cash flow in his business. My old boss and mentor Zane used to pace the halls when cash flow was at a worrisome level. However, THEN I did not take that problem home. NOW, I do. We do. It’s hard. It’s money, it’s home, it’s family, it’s “Am I successful?”, it’s all of that. Everything is tied together when you’re an entrepreneur.* Read more…
Do you suffer from AOOPS (Appearance of Organized Person Syndrome). Here is a test:
So here is really what is going on the morning of announcing judges for The Hot Mommas Project. Read more…
This is the second of two posts reflecting on what has worked, and what hasn’t, since conceiving and implementing the Hot Mommas Project case study competition. See first Confessions and Reflections post.
Pictured here, I am “relaxing” with my computer open. Quite unsightly on a number of levels. First confession: I may be a part time working mom physically, but I am full time-plus mentally. I am constantly thinking about the project. I’m freaking exhausted. I seriously think I have carpal tunnel in my shoulder. Read more…
Here is a little review of what held true and what didn’t for the Hot Mommas Project journey since March (when this insider’s blog was started). Things that turned out not to be true – that was not by design. I think I was just hopeful. You know, like, “Here’s how we’re going to do this. YEAH!” Then, reality unfolds. Read more…
For whatever reason I cannot post a comment to my own blog, which I find highly annoying – so, I am making a Q&A post. Here are two questions people have asked me in emails/tweets/and posts.
1. Is your mom okay? (From many).
I was really touched by this question. Thanks, so much. Yes. She is a new woman. (As some of you may have seen, my mom had a near-death experience due to truly weird complications after knee surgery.)
2. Any ideas on VC resources? (From Brent in Hawaii)
First of all, your site www.greencollartech.com is cool. Okay, re VC resources…
Brent, Without knowing more detail on what kinds of VC resources you’re looking for (e.g., finding avenues for deal flow, etc.) I make the following assumption: You’re LOOKING for financing.
Below are some general links for learning about and connecting with VCs. Pardon the “square 1″ discussion if you already know all this. Of course, the #1 thing is usually a connection into the firm, so asking around is key. The #2 thing is understanding what stage they invest in, as well as their “personality” to make sure you all will play well together. If you are the CEO, prepare to get ousted and lose control if you bring in a VC. That is the worst case scenario aside from failure. (Is that very doomsday? Sorry if so. But, gotta put on your big boy/big girl Underoos to play with VCs.) I would go to a VC for two things:
A. Money (a lot) to get big fast, and
B. Expertise and connections.
If you have B, you could go to an angel. Most entrepreneurs start with FFF first (friends, family, fool hearty). RE: debt – this is a tough market for debt, as many know.
Here are some places I would start for VC info:
1. Guy Kawasaki (since you got to us via his Twitter stream)
(good link from his blog, there are many others).
2. The people at Angel Soft:
“The ecosystem for early stage investing”
3. The people at NCVA (National Venture Capital Association)
4. The people at EMPEA (if you’re into emerging markets)
5. The MIT Enterprise forum –
. Don’t see one in Hawaii, but, if you know a motivated MIT alum, maybe you could start one there. Otherwise, just try to get in on the CA ones (if they’re any good). Here in DC, they seem to be one of the most visible entities for bringing investors and entrepreneurs together.
6. TAG (The Accelration Group) –
Connecting angels and entrepreneurs when I last spoke with them, always looking for deal flow.
EXTRA BONUS RESOURCE for WOMEN: Springboard Enterprises
7. UNIVERSITIES – always a good locus for VC activity. E.g., Any local business plan contests at universities near you in which VCs are involved. For instance, when I search for “Hawaii University Venture Capital” many relevant links come up, particularly the following:
You will also be in an interesting situation due to your location because my guess is:
A. Lots of pretty well-off VCs and Angels have homes/retire in Hawaii
B. They didn’t get rich by sitting on their tush, and are probably looking for an occasional venture or cause with which to involve themselves part time, even if they are “retired.”
Hope this helps!
P.s. Here is my basis for answering your question (about VCs, not my mom):
1. Hanging out with entrepreneurs
2. Hanging out with VCs
3. Raising $8 from New York Life with a sr. mgt team (of which I was a part) for an aging/health venture (after speaking w/ many VCs)
5. Being taught (e.g. going to these forums – and even back to my MBA – and getting the scoop from VCs…which, theoretically, is #2).
P.s.s. And, BTW, just when you think $2 or $5 or $8 million is a lot, talk to someone who invests tens or hundreds of millions in ventures. In a strange way, it can make things less intimidating. We know someone who invests only $50 to $500 million! Ha! Asking for $5k or $20k sponsorships seemed less intimidating after learning that.
P.s.s.s. Feel free, everyone, to comment on your favorite resources or push back on my assessment. This is just a quick and dirty.
The alternative title to this post is, “How to fake like you’re a big company” or “Running it lean and mean.” Let’s get right into it since I’m on vacation in Vermont. One little story, then onto the top 7.
(Note: See past posts for our long-standing, co-dependent relationship with coffee. Nintendo recently rejected a sponsorship request from us. Starbucks MUST be involved in some way. WE ARE SOLICITING ANY AND ALL IDEAS FOR SPONSORS FOR OUR CASE STUDY LIBRARY, KICKED OFF BY OUR COMPETITION OCT 13.)
Hey everyone, welcome Achin to The Hot Mommas Project! He is a George Washington University MBA student. Here, he holds the Indian equivalent of Starbucks. He is in India right now and will join us in the fall.
INTERLUDE [Samba music plays, rudely interrupted by "You are My Friend" the horrific Barney themesong]
Setting: The Posh Frey Honda Pilot (recently downgraded from an Acura MDX as Kathy has a gripping phobia of investing in depreciating assets).
Location: Driving from Lake George (our rainy-day plan) back to Vermont (our vacation location, where there is nothing to do in bad weather).
Josh (my husband): [Seeing a shirtless, blonde Grizzly Adams looking hitchhiker] “Hey! Let’s pick him up.”
Kathy: “Ha! Yeah.” [Pause] “Well, we do need to start looking for a new au pair.”
Josh: [After passing shirtless Grizzly Adams] “He could have been a good one.”
Kathy: [Feigning "interested friend" voice] “Your new aupair is so great! Where did you find him?” [Feigning response] “Oh, we found him on the side of the road one day on vacation.”
Josh: [Feigning response] “Yeah! Just south of a federal correctional institution in New York! No problem.”
And so goes the cost-effective search for a new au pair for the Frey family.
END INTERLUDE [Barney Theme song ends]
P.s. Did you know there is a full-on anti-Barney trend? Riveting.
This is a really odd, tangential method of transitioning into the Top 7 Low/No Cost resources for businesses (no, we will not suggest you pick up Grizzly Adams hitchhikers for subsidized staff members):
1. Advice. Advice is the best free thing you can get. How to get good advice:
- KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW. If you are someone who thinks, “Oh, I’ll just figure it out” you’re in trouble. I’ve noticed the willingness/ tendency/ propensity in certain people to spend 5 hours on the internet searching for something versus 5 minutes on the phone solving the problem. I make sure my interns don’t do this (see item #7). I have a list: “STUFF I DON’T KNOW THAT IS CRITICAL TO THE SUCCESS OF THE HOT MOMMAS PROJECT.” Then, I search for smart people who can help me with those issues (see next item).
- HOW TO GET A NETWORK: Social media allows for relationships never before available to folks outside of the right schools or social circles. Go to www.Alltop.com to see who the players are in your industry. If they’re blogging, you can reach them. I have also seen entrepreneurs benefit tremendously from EO (forum) and like groups. Personally, I have relied on all of the above plus I have specifically sought out role models/business luminaries I admire and am in varying stages of contacting them/working with them. For example: Ted Leonsis, Bob Prosen, Guy Kawasaki, and Stewart Friedman. The latest are Tim Ferriss, Chris Brogan, Robert Scoble, and I am trying to get in touch with Gina Bianchini who co-founded Ning with Marc Andreesson of Netscape. Based on this, Esther – my right hand woman – approached Senator Lieberman (whom she idolizes) at the movies, told him about the Hot Mommas Project, and is emailing with him. Go Esther!
- EXAMPLE: I posted the following on Twitter the other day
how atrocious is our website? We need free help for exposure. anyone? www.hotmommas.org
2. Low Cost Web Templates. I thought I was all cost efficient using the $5 GoDaddy template when I first took the Hot Mommas Project online. Good: It’s cheap. Bad: It sucks. As we became more tech-savvy, I realized: a. It was pathetic-looking and b. It was incredibly slow (shared server, not dedicated server). Here are some resources suggested by Frank Gorton (fgorton on Twitter), who is a social media expert and worked with AOL and Monster.com, among others, during his career:
– Good templates, says Frank. Even though I am doing our insiders blog on wordpress, I didn’t realize that you could use a wordpress template for your whole site (click here for Hot Mommas Project non-insiders blog). Frank recommended this to us based on our needs at this stage of the project (Nutshell of our project: Building world’s largest women’s case study library. Kicking off w/ case study competition launching October 13, 2008. Read more here.)
- Frank told us about this, and Achin (new intern) had heard of it too. I have zero time (as I am doing this part time, have two kids, and yada yada) and really need to rely on others to cut through the mess and act as the social media Consumer Reports for me.
. Everyone thinks Ning is awesome (“awesome” word count from past 2 blog posts: 3). You can start a community for free using their software (with a Ning address), and for a nominal fee use your own address. It was founded by Gina Bianchini and Mark Andreesson. Here is a cool video c/o Robert Scoble.
3. Low Cost “Other Stuff” for Our Site. Aside from the basic “how to pimp out your blog” items (see first post reference to Seth Godin’s article on this), Frank specifically noted the following beyond the basic widgets and RSS stuff:
- www.Vimeo.com – get a free account and build video content. Frank suggested we film our Hot Mommas Project case study protagonists to connect people with our educational tools and take “role models on paper” to “role models on film.” We had dreamed of doing this for a long time, and were even approached by some Hollywood folk, but this is quick and does the job.
- www.Brightcove.com – Here are some syndication products from Brightcove (think “Alliare” – inventors of ColdFusion software). This could be useful if the above (Hot Mommas video case studies) are a hit or there is other content we want to syndicate (like our research on best practices in work life balance).
- Twitter – it’s everywhere. Frank suggested having a Twitter widget on our site would, again, humanize it and help connect people with our cause: Providing academic tools to serve as role models for women and girls (Cool Daddies beta – too!).
If you’ve ever gotten an email from Guy Kawasaki, here is something he uses that he lists as part of his signature: SpinVox(will convert voicemail to email). You can also usually find lots of fun widgets on Guy’s blog.
4. Low Cost Developers and Designers. Achin, our newest addition, found a developer in India to convert our whole site onto a blog template if we don’t have the fortitude to do it ourselves. Frank uses a developer who charges him about $12 per hour. Contact Frank (fgorton) if you want to know who this is. Here is who Achin found for us:
P.s. Re Designers, I’ve heard of folks using eLance. I use Brad Imburgia who developed the Hot Mommas Project logo. I also used our interns to do some work. (see #7) I’m sure India also has designers.
6. Low Cost and Professional Looking Printing. Big fan of Vista Print. If you plan far enough in advance, can be UNBELIEVABLY cheap.
7. INTERNS. This is a biggie, so, if you do not care about interns stop reading now. When thinking low or no cost, my personal favorite is interns. My favorite place to list them is at GW’s career site. You can also integrate your post in with NACElink which lists nationally. I also have friends who have used Craig’s list (under part time or your industry). In 1 or 2 years, these interns are going to cost someone $40,000 to $70,000 plus benefits. So, why not receive help from their fabulous brains NOW. I have had to learn to do the following to be successful with interns:
- LIST AT THE RIGHT TIME. Think student. When are they looking for internships? Post in between January-April for the spring semester (by May you’ve probably lost them to finals). Post by early August for Fall. Post in the Fall before Thanksgiving for the Spring semester. I cannot tell you how many business owners contact me during finals in May and say, “Can you tell your students about this internship?” I give it a 1 in 100 chance at that point.
- BE GOOD AT TRAINING If you suck at mentoring, or don’t have the time or interest, don’t bother.
- HAVE AN “IT” or specific thing they can do. There is no such thing as too much definition or clarity. Consultants, project managers, and individuals who think this way can usually easily get their brains around this.
- HAVE A WAY TO MONITOR the “it.” I discuss this in an earlier post. It is easier if you have done a good job setting a clear goal or “it” (mentioned above). I am CONSTANTLY adjusting this based on what I see in the person’s performance (e.g., If I sense they are overloaded, I stop sending lists of things to do and re-focus them a la ”HERE’S WHAT WE MUST DO BY TODAY.” I will ask them to tell me, with hours by tasks, how they are spending their day…in this way, we work on time management together).
- HAVE SPACE FOR THEM. I have had experience with the student population through teaching. One thing I’ve learned is: It is HARD for most to work on their own and deliver what they say unless they are EXTRAORINARY. So, ixnay on the virtual/independent working.
- SELECT GOOD ONES. I try to select interns where I see a minimum 1/4 ratio. That is, for every 1 hour I spend with them, they can do 4 hours of work. If I can combine several interns into the one hour, great, that is an exponential amount of work being done when everyone goes on their merry way to do a project. A list of questions I ask is below:
HOW TO INTERVIEW INTERNS:
Interview #1: Phone interview. Min = 15 mins, Max = 1 hour
a. What drew you to the Hot Mommas Project? (Desired answer = They are interested in/passionate about the project. This is KEY.)
b. Tell us about _______________. (Ask about several items on resume to get a sense of responsibilities). We ask about GPA if there is a problem. Below a 3.0 is a red flag (see “e” and “f” below).
c. What are your top 3 strengths? Draw from group projects, other internships? (We like to see social sophistication and a drive to succeed. If this is not apparent, we ask another question later).
d. What is something on which you’d like to work or improve. (We like to hear them admit a real weakness vs. some B.S. At this point we figure they are an over-achiever type anyway, a couple chinks in the armor show self-awareness which is ESSENTIAL for self-correction).
e. How do you organize yourself? Explain an example – beginning to end – using a major assignment or work project. (We like to see someone with an actual process for organization. If they suck at organizing themselves this means your tasks will not get done, as much as you may like them in the interview. You can turn a B+ into an A, you cannot turn a C or D into an A is our experience).
f. Do you tend to overextend yourself? (This is BEYOND CRITICAL for students who are doing MANY MANY things and often will get into the semester, freak out, then bail on you. Ask this up front. Dig a bit.)
g. What questions do you have for us? (We like smart questions, but, many are overwhelmed so we assign it to them for the next interview. We say, “Come with three questions to the next interview” if they proceed to the second round.)
h. Of the items I’ve described, what sound the most interesting to you? (If you have some flexibility and can match the intern’s interests to specific functions, you’ll have a greater chance of a happy worker.)
Interview #2 (if we ran out of time, but had a good vibe about the person, we’ll send some of the above questions for them to answer via email in between Interview 1 and 2).
a. What additional questions do you have about the project? (They should have been assigned 3).
b. What ideas do you have for the project? (They were assigned a “task” of coming up with 1-3 ideas to make sure they “get” the project).
c. Are you interested in the project (usually already apparent by end of first interview and email interactions in between interviews 1 and 2)? (If we like them) Rate your interest from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. If not a 10, what would make it a 10? (Take notes to integrate into their job during the internship to – again – create happy workers).
d. (If we like them) We’d like to formally offer you the __________internship. (Discuss start date, weekly schedule, their ability to continue beyond one semester, confirming they understand the internship is unpaid, making for-credit arrangements, other logistics. WRITE THIS DOWN and make sure you EACH HAVE A COPY.)
PARTING THOUGHTS: Gotta run, on vacation, need to go look for hitchhikers.
We got our first set of sponsors for The Hot Mommas® Project 2008 Case Study Competition. This blog talks about who they are, and how we got them. The bottom line is RELATIONSHIPS. (Click here to get to the main Hot Mommas Project site which has links about the case study competition).
Pictured left is my son, Maxwell, and daughter Lilah who is traumatized by Maxwell hitting her with one of those noodle toys people use in the pool. If Maxwell could read, he would learn from this post that relationships make everything happen and that he should not – I repeat NOT – hit his sister with the noodle.
What is the Hot Mommas Project: In case you are lost, the Hot Mommas Project (www.HotMommas.org) is an award-winning research and curriculum endeavor on how successful professional women balance it all. Click here for main blog. Our goal this year is to build and launch a global case study competition in which women write their own case, tell their story, help others in doing so, and might get just get in one of the nation’s top business textbooks by Prentice Hall! (Let’s not forget the cash and prizes). Click here and type “CSC” in the subject line if you would like to nominate someone you know, or be notified when the competition is live. Now, onto our post (How We Got our First Sponsors):
1. Consult with experts.
First we consulted with social entrepreneur Julie Silard Kantor of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) on how to approach sponsors. She ran one of NFTE’s top offices in the nation. Now she works for NFTE national. She gave us the following advice:
a. What’s in it for me? Be sure to answer this question for sponsors. For some it’s the networking at an event, for others its the visibility, for others a combination and/or other goals.
b. Ask, don’t tell. Ask them what they liked and didn’t like about past sponsorships. Be cognizant of this during your interactions.
c. Search Guidestar. Julie also encouraged us to search www.guidestar.com and print the c90s (tax forms) of similar causes to get a flavor for who is sponsoring what.
e. Develop host committee. Getting a host committee going was another suggestion – this formally honors champions who are tapping their networks for your cause. We’ve decided to tap people who are willing to email their network of over 100 people.
2. Develop a sponsor packet.
Click here for our sponsor and partner packet. It is a pretty shameless copy of NFTE Greater Washington’s. As a rule, I like to find friends who are willing to share their templates. I do the same thing from my end.
3. Develop measurable/trackable goals, make asks.
Esther and I (Esther is my “right hand man” – see previous post) have developed a very specific goal of 5 asks per day (each). This is a little more involved than it sounds, because many pre steps must happen before we can approach a potential sponsor or partner (research, writing letters, editing letters, getting coffee, etc.). Having a TARGET NUMBER has helped us a great deal. We agree that the 5 asks per day (and – this is part time – so it is 2 days per week) is our number one priority. Although, one might not guess this based on how miserably behind I am on my target. But, 5, each, Tuesday and Thursday is the target.
Because this is the first Case Competition we are willing to operate without salaries and cover costs only. Of course, the ideal is to have a salary and have a cash reserve for next year. We have developed a budget, which I’m sure will change. Click this link ( module-3-exercise-3-4_33108) for a really basic financial planning curriculum I developed for NFIB’s Young Entrepreneur Foundation and Visa’s Practical Money Skills (start at page 7 if you want to build very simple financials).
4. Results – Secure Sponsors.
Here are the sponsors we just confirmed this week. We want sponsors to INCREASE our revenue, and/or DECREASE our expense line items.
- The George Washington University, Center For Entrepreneurial Excellence (through the generosity of Linda Rabbitt). Dr. Erik Winslow – who is pretty much the mac daddy of the Women’s Leadership Program at GW – walked into my office last week. He tells me Linda Rabbitt – big time entrepreneur and donor to GW – was interested in the Hot Mommas Project and part of a donation is being earmarked for us. That is the REVENUE side. GW also donates office space to the Hot Mommas Project thus allowing us to reduce an EXPENSE line item.
Linda Rabbitt: Click here or here for additional info on major stud Linda Rabbitt. At the bottom of this post, you will find article from when she was honored as a Washingtonian of the Year. She is such an incredible person I had to include the entire piece.
-FMS, Inc. FMS is our technology partner. They are reducing an EXPENSE line item for us. FMS is owned by Luke Chung (an EO member). Veteran FMS employee Dave Juth (a GWU Alum) is our project lead. What can we offer? Aside from being fun and interesting, we included them in some news coverage of the Hot Mommas Project coming out of GW. Click here to see article.
What led to this: I have been friends with Luke Chung for years. I am a huge fan. When I needed to talk with a tech expert, he came to mind first. I was shocked when Luke said they could help us out. Because we are cause-related, they are giving us a discount.
The big takeaway here is the people you know can help you. We are in a good position because of the connections with which we are starting. This is why people say networking is important. But I don’t like it when people are just users. My goal and approach is to be a decent person and maintain the relationship out of genuine interest, not because of what the project or I can get. I love these guys (mentioned above). Lots of good business karma going around as a result.
5. Looking ahead: Diversification
For ongoing sponsorship development, I’ve been advised by Tony Sudler – head of the Alzheimer’s Association, National Capital Area - to diversify the sponsor base…ideally 25% for each category an organization might have (e.g., planned gifts, corporate, individual, etc.). This is a smart tactic which helped the association post 9-11 and post Tsunami when many donors’ dollars were diverted.
6. Other resources.
The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit was recommended to me, but I have not been using it. I have used it in the past.
from The Washingtonian
“My father taught me to always leave things better than you found them.”
“Volunteering is a way of life for me,” says Linda Rabbitt. Owner of Rand Construction, a business she built from the ground up, she is involved in so many community groups that her husband has threatened to enroll her in “Just Say No” school.
Rabbitt is the immediate past chair of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, only the third woman to head the 115-year-old organization. She spearheaded creation of the Washington Collaborative, moving the Board of Trade and community organizations that work with the business community into one building where they could share space, resources, and ideas. Rabbitt also raised almost $1 million in in-kind contributions to rehab that building. “We’re building communications through physical space,” she says.
As CEO of the area’s third-largest female-owned business and a leader of the Washington Building Congress and CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women), Rabbitt has encouraged women to build careers in construction and commercial real estate. As president of the International Women’s Forum, she pushed for creation of a Leadership Foundation to fund a fellows program for women moving up the corporate ladder.
Three years ago, Rabbitt survived breast cancer. Even before she’d recovered, she was working with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Rand Construction built the coalition’s new offices pro bono. In her spare time, Rabbitt has helped raise funds for My Sister’s Place, a program for battered women.
If you ask her, she says she does so much for selfish reasons. “The only things you really keep are what you give away,” Rabbitt says.
I am so thankful for the incredible, and generous people and companies involving themselves with The Hot Mommas® Project. Reading about Linda Rabbitt has been so inspirational (here is ANOTHER link…page down for story). Can’t wait to see what happens next.