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Investment / Eight start-ups to get Tk 8cr investment
« on: March 07, 2023, 03:28:34 PM »
Eight start-ups to get Tk 8cr investment

Robi's flagship digital entrepreneurship contest r-ventures 3.0 concluded on March 5 with eight start-ups being given the promise of being provided investments of over Tk 8 crore in total.

Four digital start-ups received over Tk 2 crore investment from RedDot Digital Limited, a subsidiary of Robi Axiata Ltd and sponsor of r-ventures private equity fund, Robi said in a press release.

At the same time, SBK Tech Ventures and angel investor Kaniz Almas Khan pledged to invest Tk 3.5 crore in four start-ups.

At the event, Startup Bangladesh Limited, the venture capital fund of ICT Division, also pledged an investment of Tk 2.5 crore in the start-ups.

Following a thorough screening process, 11 digital start-ups took part in the grand finale at Sheraton hotel in Dhaka.

Zunaid Ahmed Palak, the state minister for ICT, announced an investment of Tk 10 lakh from the ICT Division to all the top 11 teams of the competition.

Robi's Chief Commercial Officer Shihab Ahmad and RedDot Digital's CEO Hasib Mustabsir also attended the programme.


Business Information / Fundraising and the art of the seed round
« on: March 04, 2023, 05:30:38 PM »
    Fundraising and the art of the seed round

    Let's get this out of the way: Fundraising is only a part of a much larger process. While it provides some short-term validation and buzz, it does not guarantee actual success. The value of a startup at its Seed or Series A stage is largely irrelevant if it cannot build something meaningful that someone will eventually pay for. For that, customers need to be listened to, the product needs to be improved upon and the company needs access to expertise, resources and meaningful capital.

    As usual, though this article is focused on the Bangladeshi startup ecosystem, much of it is relevant to companies and founders all around the world.

    Here's what will be covered:

    What are the goals of fundraising?
    Is it absolutely necessary to fundraise?
    Different types of capital
    How does a venture capital fund work?
    How do institutional investors add value?
    How do institutional funds differ from angels or corporate investors?
    How should you structure your Seed round?
    Should you include angels in your Seed round?
    The importance of institutional investors
    Quality of capital matters—valuation does not
    Quick caveats on raising your Seed round
    Raise when you don't need money
    Is there a capital shortage for Bangladeshi startups?

    What are the goals of fundraising?
    On the surface, fundraising is about getting capital to grow your business. In practice, it's much, much more:

    Getting access to global resources
    Getting access to domain experts
    Getting access to more capital
    Putting your company in a stronger position vs. competitors[/li][/list]

    Is it absolutely necessary to fundraise?
    In short: No. Companies can be financially sustainable via three key methods:

    1. By having positive cashflow to grow organically
    2. By receiving grants and donor funding (as is common with NGOs and social enterprises)
    3. By raising external funding, either via equity or debt, to fuel growth and competitiveness

    It entirely depends on the founders and the type of business. Certain businesses with low overhead and operational costs do not need to fundraise in order to grow steadily. They may choose to fundraise if they want to accelerate growth or expand their business further. This is especially common for product-driven SaaS (software-as-a-service).

    By nature, many startups tend to solve complex problems requiring significant amounts of capital to get started. For such companies, investors with risk-tolerant capital are required.

    What is risk-tolerant capital and how does it differ?

    Different types of capital
    Below is a risk vs. reward assessment of different types of capital. The term "risk-tolerant" indicates capital that is on the farther right side of this chart. Accordingly, these types of capital (especially venture capital) require a very high rate of return to justify the risk it undertakes.

    Think of it this way: If you have $100, you may be willing to lose $1 if that $1 has the chance to return you $10. However, you wouldn't do that with $50 or even $20 of the $100. 

    Most investors typically allocate their money into a blend of bonds, real estate and mutual funds/equities, keeping only a small amount to allocate to venture capital.

    How does a venture capital fund work?

    When wealthy individuals, families or organizations (such as pension funds, sovereign funds or endowments) want to invest in venture capital, they will usually allocate their money to an "institutional" venture capital fund. What does this mean?

    Institutional venture capital funds (such as Anchorless Bangladesh) are professionally managed funds that invest on behalf of external investors in return for a management and performance fee. In other words, fund managers only get paid if their investors make money. Typically, a venture capital fund takes 2% management fee plus a 20% performance fee. While the actual math can be a bit more complicated, it basically means if someone is running a $10 million fund, they can take $200,000 in management fee every year to run the fund. In addition, if the portfolio returns a value of $50 million, then the fund takes a 20% performance fee, or in this case, $8 million (20% of $50 million minus the initial $10 million).

    How do institutional investors add value?
    The #1 priority for institutional funds is providing a return to their investors. In order to achieve this, these funds are often structured to support founders in various ways:

    -Funds will typically reserve around 50% of their capital for follow-on investments into existing portfolio companies. This is critical for founders. If Fund X decides to invest in Company A, and Company A successfully scales the business and achieves its ideal metrics, it's possible Company A will want to raise more money for further growth. At that point it can ask its institutional investors for additional capital. In most cases, such investors will double or even triple down on their investment. That means the startup does not have to bring in all new investors into the round; they get a headstart with their existing investors already agreeing to a lot of it.
    -Funds will help their startups raise capital. This can include everything from introductions to other investors to even asking the fund's even larger investors to come and support the portfolio companies on a co-investment basis. This is especially key as an institutional fund can share its existing due diligence materials and be a reference check for companies to speed up the fundraising process.
    -Funds often have additional in-house resources to allocate to founders. For instance, Andreessen Horowitz is widely known for helping startups hire good talent.  Other resources include in-house CFO services and access to global mentors with expertise in specific fields.
    -Funds will often use their networks to help founders do business development per the founders' needs.

    How do institutional funds differ from angels or corporate investors?
    Angels are individual investors who often manage their own personal portfolios in addition to their day job. Then there are some "super" angels who make a living out of it, especially when they've had a couple of big success stories. The quality of angels can vary quite a bit depending on experience and know-how. However, the key difference between an angel and an institutional fund is the fund has a fiduciary duty to continue supporting companies in the portfolio on behalf of their investors as long as it makes sense on a return basis. Angels, if they wish, can walk away at any time. This is why it's important that founders and angels understand each other well before they commit to each other.

    Corporate venture capital is generally investment that's done off of a company's balance sheet. While strategic corporate investment can be valuable to a company's success (especially in later stages), it comes with one major caveat: If the corporate investor changes its business strategy and/or management, it's possible the investment will no longer be looked upon as a priority.

    In both of these cases, institutional funds are, again, mandated to support their investments financially (using their reserve capital) and via additional resources (such as hiring and business development), whereas angels and corporate venture investors are not. This is especially relevant when you realize venture capital fund managers don't get paid unless the fund does well!

    How should you structure your Seed round?
    Once you understand 1) where in the risk vs. reward scale startups and venture capital are, and 2) how institutional venture funds, angels and corporate venture differ, it's easier to construct an ideal Seed round.

    The goal for every startup for its Seed should be to have an institutional venture capital fund lead. What does a lead do?

    - It runs due diligence on the company to confirm the business is real and the personnel are qualified
    - It sets a valuation for the round
    - It prepares relevant legal documents for the deal
    - Most importantly, it gives confidence to other investors who want to participate in the deal along with them

    If you want to know which funds tend to lead, you can check out Crunchbase. For instance, Wavemaker Partners (who most recently led a round for Shikho) has led 116 of their 507 investments:

    Information on funds and deals is often publicly available on sites like Crunchbase. Every startup founder needs to be familiar with it.

    In addition to a lead institutional investor, it's preferable to have another one or two institutional funds participate, meaning they write a smaller check along with the lead with hopes that they can possibly participate or even lead the round after. Incidentally, before Wavemaker Partners led Shikho's latest round, they previously participated in the previous round (which was co-led by Anchorless Bangladesh and Learn Capital).

    Should you include angels in your Seed round?
    Absolutely! However, it is critical to make sure they can add value to your company. Ultimately, you want folks on your cap table (or shareholding structure) who you want to work with for 5+ years, who can add value to the specific work that you're doing and who you see eye to eye with. In Shikho's Seed round, the startup had a strategic angel investor in Ankur Nagpal who previously had sold an edtech startup for US$250 million. Ankur not only brought domain knowledge to Shikho but also went on to participate again, this time through his own fund Vibe Capital, into the next round.

    The importance of institutional investors
    This is worth repeating: Institutional investors typically are mandated to support startups through multiple rounds because fund managers do not get paid unless portfolio companies are successful. This becomes even more relevant when a startup goes to raise another round.

    For instance, Shikho closed US$1.3 million in funding in July 2021 and then another US$4 million in March 2022—and every investor from the first round participated in an even larger size in the second round. In fact, existing investors wanted to fund nearly the whole round, meaning the founders at Shikho didn't have to start their fundraising from square one. Instead, they could go to the market having the confidence that their existing investors were supporting them. This gave a strong signal to incoming investors and made Shahir and Zeeshan's ability to raise capital much, much easier—and the round ended up being oversubscribed to the point where the founders could decide who they wanted and how they wanted to allocate.

    The best Bangladeshi example of what happens when you have strong institutional investors backing you may be ShopUp:

    Omidyar Network, who led the initial Seed round in 2018, came back in 2020 to invest in Series A (under Flourish Ventures, a spin-off from Omidyar Network focused on impact fintech) alongside Sequoia India, which runs the Surge accelerator. This means Afeef and the team at ShopUp had support on day one from two key investors that then helped them raise a subsequent US$174 million!

    Realistically, investors don't want founders to just fundraise—they want them to spend their time running the company! So, the more an investor can help a company close rounds of capital, the better it is for both parties.

    Quality of capital matters—valuation does not
    Not all money is the same. As a founder, if you're looking to give up 20% of your company in a round, you want to make sure the money you bring in has long-term value. It's best to have a blend of investors whom you believe can be meaningful to your company's goal, including institutional investors and strategic angels. Remember that the earliest investors will often be the most incentivized to see you succeed (as their valuations will likely be the lowest). So, you want to take your time and find investors who you want to get into a relationship with.

    Unfortunately, many founders overestimate the valuation of a company too early. What really matters is the value of a founder's equity over multiple rounds, over a longer period of time. Below is a hypothetical comparison between two companies that bring in high-quality investors at a lower valuation vs. random investors at a higher valuation:

    What is most important to remember here is that the jump from Seed to A and A to B is the hardest because it requires the company to break through significant market barriers in scaling and access. This is where high-quality investors matter the most.

    The key takeaway is that incentivizing high-quality investors to fight for the company can pay off in the longer term. Remember, just because someone "values" you at $5 million doesn't mean you can actually sell the company for that much. The valuation takes into effect future value, most of which you may not have even created or built yet… and in order for you to realize that value, you will need investors who can help you get there.

    Quick caveats on raising your Seed round
    - Expect to speak to a lot of investors. Because of this, your initial filtering process should target mostly institutional VCs who are likely to lead your round. Here is a fundraising funnel template to assist you.
    - Understand mandates. An Indian fund that's been told by its investors to only invest in India is likely not going to invest in Bangladesh even if they're "close by." A U.S. fund that has a global strategy just might, however.
    - Get warm introductions. VCs get tons of pitches every week. It's best to stand out by getting a referral from someone they trust so you stand out.
    - It takes longer than you think. Expect 6 months minimum and up to 9-12 months. Even after receiving a term sheet, there's usually additional due diligence and followed by period where parties have to agree to the deal and legal terms.
    - Give yourself a window to make a decision. You can always "get a better deal" theoretically, but it may come at the expense of your company's ability to keep momentum. Or it may never come—which many, especially in the SaaS space—have just experienced with the recent economic downturn.
    - Be honest with yourself. It's easy to blame others for shortfalls in fundraising, but the truth is nobody is entitled to capital. There must be an agreement between two parties, each with separate ideologies and interests, in order to make a deal happen. It's important to note where the disconnects are, including where the founders/startups have shortfalls. On that note, I suggest reading this self-reflective piece by Airwrk Co-Founder & CEO Sayem Faruk on what he's learned so far.

    Raise when you don't need money
    One of the most common mistakes founders make is waiting too late to raise capital. When a startup has little runway, they lose their ability to negotiate on terms. However, when a startup has the cash, it can comfortably go into an investor pitch and say, "We're comfortable for 18 months. However, we'd like to strengthen our position and are raising X amount." Not only does that send a signal to investors that the founders are thinking ahead, it also excites them that they can be part of a successful journey.

    Is there a capital shortage for Bangladeshi startups?
    The answer is simple: No. In fact, there is more interest to invest in Bangladeshi startups than there has ever been.

    Bangladesh continues to be a vast, growing consumption powerhouse of 170 million people, including 35 million in the middle and rising middle class. With valuations being regionally low, startups that solve for this market should have little problem attracting capital. The key remains for founders to focus on institutional rounds so that capital for future growth is more readily available.

    A disciplined, clinical fundraising strategy combined with a qualified, experienced founding team and a visible, executable go-to-market strategy are the cornerstones of closing a proper Seed round that sets up a startup for long-term success.

    The author is the Founding Partner & CEO of Anchorless Bangladesh


    Case Studies / How Sweden became the Silicon Valley of Europe
    « on: August 12, 2021, 10:42:37 AM »
    How Sweden became the Silicon Valley of Europe

    Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski in the company's office in Stockholm, Sweden, August 25, 2020 Reuters

    Sweden's home computer drive, and concurrent early investment in internet connectivity, help explain why its capital Stockholm has become such rich soil for startups, birthing and incubating the likes of Spotify, Skype and Klarna, even though it has some of the highest tax rates in the world

    As Klarna's billionaire founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski prepares to stage one of the biggest-ever European fintech company listings, a feast of capitalism, he credits an unlikely backer for his runaway success: the Swedish welfare state.

    In particular, the 39-year-old pinpoints a late-1990s government policy to put a computer in every home.

    "Computers were inaccessible for low-income families such as mine, but when the reform came into play, my mother bought us a computer the very next day," he told Reuters.

    Siemiatkowski began coding on that computer when he was 16. Fast-forward more than two decades, and his payments firm Klarna is valued at $46 billion and plans to go public. It hasn't given details, though many bankers predict it will list in New York early next year.

    Sweden's home computer drive, and concurrent early investment in internet connectivity, help explain why its capital Stockholm has become such rich soil for startups, birthing and incubating the likes of Spotify, Skype and Klarna, even though it has some of the highest tax rates in the world.

    That's the view of Siemiatkowski and several tech CEOs and venture capitalists interviewed by Reuters.

    In the three years the scheme ran, 1998-2001, 850,000 home computers were purchased through it, reaching almost a quarter of the country's then-four million households, who didn't have to pay for the machines and thus included many people who were otherwise unable to afford them.

    In 2005, when Klarna was founded, there were 28 broadband subscriptions per 100 people in Sweden, compared with 17 in the United States - where dial-up was still far more common - and a global average of 3.7, according to data from the World Bank.

    Spotify allowed users to stream music when Apple's iTunes was still download-based, which gave the Swedish company the upper-hand when streaming became the norm around the world.

    "That could only happen in a country where broadband was the standard much earlier, while in other markets the connection was too slow," Siemiatkowski said.

    "That allowed our society to be a couple of years ahead."

    Some executives and campaigners say the Scandinavian nation demonstrates that a deep social safety net, often viewed as counter to entrepreneurial spirit, can foster innovation. It's an outcome that might not have been envisaged by the architects of Sweden's welfare state in the 1950s.

    Childcare is, for the most part, free. A range of income insurance funds can protect you if your business fails or you lose your job, guaranteeing up to 80% of your previous salary for the first 300 days of unemployment.

    "The social safety net we have in Sweden allows us to be less vulnerable to taking risks," said Gohar Avagyan, the 31-year-old co-founder of Vaam, a video messaging service used for sales pitches and customer communication.

    Startup rate vs Silicon Valley

    Although overall investments are larger in the bigger European economies of Britain and France and their longstanding finance hubs, Sweden punches above its weight in some regards.

    It has the third highest startup rate in the world, behind Turkey and Spain, with 20 startups per 1000 employees and the highest three year survival rate for startups anywhere, at 74%, according to a 2018 study by OECD economists.

    Stockholm is second only to Silicon Valley in terms of unicorns - startups valued at above $1 billion - per capita, at around 0.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to Sarah Guemouri at venture capital firm Atomico.

    Silicon Valley - San Francisco and the Bay Area - boasts 1.4 unicorns per 100,000, said Guemouri, co-author of a 2020 report on European tech companies.

    No one can say for sure if the boom will last, though, in a country where capital gains are taxed at 30 percent and income tax can be as high as 60 percent.

    In 2016, Spotify said it was considering moving its headquarters out of the country, arguing high taxes made it difficult to attract overseas talent, though it hasn't done so.

    Yusuf Ozdalga, partner at venture capital firm QED Investors, said access to funding and administrative or legal tasks connected with founding a company could also prove tough to navigate for non-Swedish speakers.

    He contrasted that to Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, where the government adopted English as an official language in April to make life easier for international companies.

    'Interesting dilemma' for VC

    Jeppe Zink, partner at London-based venture capital firm Northzone, said a third of all the exit value from fintech companies in Europe - the amount received by investors when they cash out - came from Sweden alone.

    Government policy had contributed to this trend, he added.

    "Its an interesting dilemma for us venture capitalists as we're not used to regulation creating markets, in fact we are inherently nervous about regulation."

    Sweden's digital minister Anders Ygeman said that social regulation could make it "possible to fail" and then "be up and running again" for innovators.

    Peter Carlsson, CEO of startup Northvolt, which makes Lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and is valued at $11.75 billion, said that ultimately success bred success.

    "You're really creating ripple effects when you're seeing the success of somebody else and I think that's perhaps the most important thing in order to create local ecosystems."


    Entrepreneurship not about making money but having a purpose: Kiran Majumdar-Shaw

    Entrepreneurship is not about making money but about having a purpose, renowned businesswoman Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw told Delhi government school students on Wednesday.

    She was speaking during an online session organised by the government’s Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum team.

    “Entrepreneurship is not just about making money. Have a vision of how you can make a difference in the life of others. You should always have a purpose. That purpose will drive you to succeed. You should always think of giving back to society,” she told the students.

    Shaw is the Chairperson and Managing Director of Biocon, Asia’s leading bio-pharmaceuticals enterprise.

    She touched upon various aspects of becoming an entrepreneur during the interaction.

    “When I came back from Australia after completing my post-graduation and bagging top rank in my college, I was extremely confident of getting a good job. Instead, I did not get a single offer as nobody wanted to offer a job to a woman.

    “I was completely shattered, but my father gave me the strength and did not let me lose hope. Ultimately I trusted my skill set and believed in myself. Eventually, I started my own business,” she said.

    “The journey of becoming a successful entrepreneur has not been an easy one. During my initial days, nobody was willing to give me a loan for my business as they did not understand biotechnology and therefore, did not understand my business idea.

    “But there was one person who found it interesting and agreed to provide me the loan. Therefore, whenever you feel stuck in a situation, there will always be a person who will listen to you, you just need to be patient and do not give up,” Shaw added.

    The session was chaired by Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

    “Entrepreneurship mindset means we should look at every opportunity with a new perspective, irrespective of the career option we choose. A student may become an engineer, doctor, or anything else, but they should also have that mindset that if required, they can set up their own business and become a job provider,” he told the students.


    Investment / Bangladesh Investment Handbook - A Guide for Investors
    « on: August 19, 2020, 10:59:45 AM »
    Bangladesh Investment Handbook - A Guide for Investors

    See the full (220 pages) Guideline for Investors:

    Download from the DIU Library:

    Passive Income: How to Earn More and Work Less

    If you don't want to continue working 50 or more hours per week for the rest of your life, consider building your sources of passive income. Until you can remove yourself from being directly involved in doing the work that generates income, there's always going to be a limit to how much you can earn, and it can increase only very slowly.

    Passive income, on the other hand, is income that does not require your direct involvement. Rental properties, royalties on an invention or creative work, and network marketing are common examples.

    If you want to earn more, work less, and have a comfortable retirement, it's important to start creating passive income streams. Whether you're just starting your business, or you've been running it a while, the sooner you start thinking about how you are going to shift your business model to create more passive income, the sooner you can achieve personal and financial freedom.

    There are two basic types of passive income and a third type of income that, while not passive, still is a key strategy for earning more and working less.

    Residual Income

    Residual income is revenue that occurs over time from work done one time. Some examples include:

        An insurance agent who gets a commission every year when a customer renews his policy.
        A network marketing or direct sales rep's income from her direct customers when they reorder product every month.
        An aerobics instructor who produces a video and sells it at the gyms where she teaches.
        A marketing consultant who creates a workbook and sells it in e-book format on the Internet.
        A photographer who makes his photos available through a stock photography clearinghouse and gets paid a royalty whenever someone buys one of his images.

        A restaurant or retail owner who has grown to the point of hiring a trustworthy manager.

    There are many different ways to generate residual income across a wide variety of businesses. It may be recurring income from the same customers or the sales of a product to new customers. It may require no personal involvement whatsoever, such as an e-book sold on a website, or it may require some personal interaction, such as the insurance agent calling the customer to remind them about their renewal. Often, it's something that you can delegate to an assistant.

    Note that this is different from recurring income which may still require your involvement to earn the income. For example, a coach or consultant on a monthly retainer, or a caterer who delivers lunch every Monday to the local school board has recurring income, but it comes from recurring work which limits on your earning capacity based on your own personal production capacity.

    Leveraged Income

    This leverages the work of other people to create income for you. Some examples of leveraged income include:

        An e-book author selling her e-book through affiliates who promote the product.
        A network marketer who builds a downline and receives commissions on the sales made by people in his downline.
        A general contractor who makes a profit margin on the work done by subcontractors.
        Franchising your business model to other entrepreneurs (the ultimate leveraged income).

    Again, there are many different models in many different businesses. The key is that you are making money off of other people's labor, rather than primarily your own. Note that leveraged income may or may not also be residual income. When you combine them, that's even better.

    Active Leveraged Income

    This type of income requires your direct participation, but you can make more money by having more people involved. This generally involves a one-time event, such as:

        A seminar or class.
        A conference or convention.
        Concerts and dance recitals.
        Raves and other parties.

    Although these require your direct participation, your earning potential is much higher than if someone was just paying you a direct hourly rate. Fill a room with 1,000 people paying $50 each and you can cover your facility cost, promotional cost, and staffing fees and still have a nice chunk of change left over.


    5 of Our Favorite Ways to Make Money From Home

    Making money from home sounds like one of those unattainable dreams. You read about it from bestselling business authors like Tim Ferriss, hear keynote speakers delivering talks about how to set up an online business that delivers enough passive income to ditch your day job forever.

    The reality is that making money from home and earning a pass to permanently work in your pajamas is much more attainable today than it's ever been. With the right business idea, a solid plan of action and a lot of hard work, the great news is that it's not difficult to get started with making money from home

    5 Best Ways to Make Money From Home Doing What You Love

    Choosing to start making money from home in the time outside of your full-time job, during the evening after your kids go to sleep, or in the hours you can squeeze in on weekends can be a powerful investment in your future.

    Even more, if you select the right type of business, you could create the foundation for a full-time source of income that replaces your day job and allows you to make money from home for the years to come.

    1. Find a Passive Income Stream

    What's "passive income"? It's simple -- finding a way to earn money while you sleep, of course!

    There's a saying in the corporate world: "Don't make yourself irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted." As an entrepreneur, this is still true in its own way. Let's think of "being promoted" as earning more and working less. You can raise your prices, but until you can remove yourself from being directly involved in doing the work that generates the income, there's always going to be a limit to how much you can earn, and it can only increase very slowly.

    2. Do Affiliate Marketing the Smart Way

    Affiliate marketing is sometimes touted as "get rich quick schemes" by shady sites offering pyramid schemes that promise quick cash for little effort. Make no mistake -- successful affiliate marketers put in a lot of effort toward building an audience and quality content that will bring in sustainable passive income. Expect to do a lot of legwork up front -- but if you play your cards right you can build a solid source of revenue over time

    3. Build a Blog on a Specialty Niche

    If you create a specialty blog that brings in a reasonable amount of traffic, you can enjoy income on ads you place on the site. One good way is to craft a specialty blog with product reviews and recommendations. Be sure to pick a topic that you enjoy and know something about. If you can't stay passionate about the topic, that will show, and it also won't hold your interest. Choose a narrow enough niche to be distinctive, e.g., bands from your city, left-handed guitarists, music for a certain kind of dancing, authors of a certain religion, books about arts & crafts, etc.

    4. Make Money Doing Something You Love

    You don't have to be a professional photographer to sell your photos for money. People are constantly in need of stock photography for websites, presentations, brochures and so on, and are willing to pay for the right image. People generally search for images on stock photography sites by keywords, not by photographer, so you have the same chance as anyone else of having your image picked. Just be careful that you don't have images of trademarked brands, copyrighted art or people's faces that are readily identifiable (unless you have a model release), but just about anything else is fair game, and I promise - you'd be amazed what people need pictures of, so don't make any assumptions.

    If it's a decent photo, upload it. Some sites to get you started include Fotolia, ShutterStock, Dreamstime,  and iStockphoto. The great thing about this is that it's truly "set it and forget it".

    5. Build an Information Products Business

    If you have a knack for teaching or making complex material more digestible, consider the field of information products. You can create your own webinar or ebook using low-cost tools, such as Camtasia, YouTube, and Powerpoint. If you are interested in using the resources of a larger company, new educational startups like Udemy and Skillshare allow anyone to create and sell classes through their platform. Though they take a small percentage of your profits, you can take advantage of their built-in communities and marketing lists.


    Great Cash-Generating Ideas for Budding Mompreneurs

    Mompreneurs are everywhere—they are moms who juggle the demands of raising kids with the demands of raising a business. While that's no easy task, mompreneurs apply their creativity to making money from home while bringing up babies.

    So what are some of the best gigs for "work at home" moms? From blogging your passion, freelance writing, affiliate marketing, to call center work, these are some of the best jobs for entrepreneur moms.


    Mommy bloggers have taken the web by storm—Dooce might be the best example of a blogging superstar who turned a quirky personal brand into a profitable business. But all over the web, you'll find mompreneur bloggers with specialty niches like healthy eating, parenting, adopting, allergies, special needs, crafts and more.

    What is the great thing about blogging? It has very low start-up costs and its something you can do on the side until you can begin to make a profit or set up sponsorship deals.

    Call Center

    Can you provide pleasant customer service for the most harried of customers? Have a knack for sales? Then a call center job might be for you. Many of these positions can be done from home on a somewhat flexible schedule for a variety of different companies. Call center jobs are usually either inbound (customer service-related) or outbound (sales related).

    Affiliate Marketing

    Affiliate marketing is sometimes touted as "get rich quick schemes" by shady sites offering pyramid schemes that promise quick cash for little effort. Make no mistake—successful affiliate marketers put in a lot of effort toward building an audience and quality content that will bring in sustainable passive income. Expect to do a lot of legwork up front—but if you play your cards right, you can build a solid source of revenue over time. A niche market can be a great way to go. Look for a market that has a clearly defined need and willing audience.

    Information Products

    If you have a knack for teaching or making the complex material more digestible, consider the field of information products. You can create your own webinar or ebook using low-cost tools, such as Camtasia, YouTube, and Powerpoint. If you are interested in using the resources of a larger company, new educational startups like Udemy and Skillshare allow anyone to create and sell classes through their platform. Though they take a small percentage of your profits, you can take advantage of their built-in communities and marketing lists.

    Freelance Writing

    Are you a wordsmith? Think about your subject matter expertise and chances are there's a paying venue out there on the web for you. There are also a number of specialty publishers, such as Demand Studios and Skyword, that will help to connect you to writing assignments you can do on your own time.
    Other Ideas You Can Try on a Small Budget

    Want to take the plunge but don't have any up-front cash to start a business? Petsitter, daycare, consultant, interior decorator—the number of possible options is endless when you start to think about businesses you can start on a low budget.


    15 Steps to Making Money Online with an Amazon Affiliate Site

    If you've got a credit card with at least $20 on it, you may be well on your way to making decent extra income online through an Amazon affiliate site. Building your own site is low cost and low effort, and only takes a day to set up.

    Building your Amazon affiliate site is just one step, though. The challenge is attracting the right traffic that'll convert into product sales once they click through to Amazon. You'll see the best results from choosing the right niche for your site.

    1. Learn Some Basic HTML

    Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the standard markup language for creating web pages and web applications. This step is important to keep your costs down and still get what you want. If you're not familiar with basic HTML and basic concepts about running a website, invest in the time to learn; it will be well worth the outlay in the long run. Even if the site is basically a template for you to use, you're still going to need to know how to insert images, create hyperlinks, and do some text formatting.

    If you have to rely on purchased software, you won't be able to get exactly what you want, you won't know what to do when things go wrong, and you'll end up spending money you don't need.

    2. Pick Your Niche

    You're going to be doing product reviews and recommendations, so pick a topic that you enjoy and about which you can demonstrate some expertise. Choose a narrow enough niche to be distinctive—for example, bands from your city, left-handed guitarists, music for a certain kind of dancing, authors of a certain religion, books about business, or arts and crafts resources. If you can't stay passionate about the topic, that will show.

    3. Set Up Your Web Hosting

    This is where most people get burned. For an Amazon affiliate site, you do not have to pay handsomely per month for web hosting. Resources like Online Business Guide have a list of cheap web hosting services. Some are a paltry monthly fee, with unlimited domains. That means you can run several sites like this on the same hosting package.

    4. Choose Your Domain Name

    Make it keyword-rich, not clever. Think how people will find your site in the search engines. Here are some ideas, some of which already exist in the marketplace:


    5. Register Your Domain Name

    If you're not technically inclined at all, register your domain wherever you set up your hosting. Otherwise, you can save a few dollars by choosing a lower-cost provider. This is not a big deal for one or two sites, but it can be for 10 or 20. GoDaddy is a good option because it offers great domain management tools and at a low cost annually. One of the least expensive and reputable in the market is 1&1. Prices start at the low end of the spectrum for the first year with increases, sometimes significant for each subsequent year, depending on what plan you choose.

    6. Install Word press

    "Blog, you say?" Yes. It will give your site all the structure you need, plus make it easy to quickly post new content. WordPress, which is free, is easy to install and use, yet powerful. Many hosts have a one-step installation process for it, or you can download it and follow their installation instructions.

    7. Make It Pretty

    One of the great things about WordPress is the huge variety of templates available on it. This gives you much more freedom and control in the look-and-feel of your site.

    8. Set Up Categories

    Most blog software allows you to create subcategories to help organize your entries. Categories help visitors hone in even more specifically on their interests. For example, might have one group of categories for the genre—rock, country, or blues—and another for the city of origin—Austin, Dallas, Houston, or San Antonio.

    9. Sign Up as an Amazon Associate (Affiliate)

    It's simple and free. Simply visit Amazon and click on the Join Associates link at the bottom of the page. Your site should already have at least the basic setup done, even if you don't have any content there yet. Amazon reviews the site manually before approval.

    10. Create Your Blog Posting Bookmarks and Links

    At the bottom of the posting page of your blog software, an item called a "bookmarklet" should appear. Click on the link and drag it up to your Links toolbar in your browser or your Favorites menu. This allows you to blog about a product with one mouse click.

    11. Create Your Amazon Build-A-Link Bookmark and Link

    This step makes it easy to build the link with your affiliate ID built in. Log in to Associates Central, look in the left navigation sidebar, go to Build-A-Link, and under Static Links, find Individual Items. Click and drag this onto your Links toolbar or Favorites menu.

    12. Build Your First Link

    Go to Amazon and log in with your Associates account. Find the product you want to review and use the Site Stripe, which is the gray stripe at the top of the screen that you'll see once you're logged in as an Associate to get your personalized link to the item. Amazon also offers a variety of other options for creating links and banners.

    13. Blog Your Review

    Now click on your blog posting link (Press This by default in WordPress). If you're using WordPress, you should now see two pieces of link code in your posting form, the first one ending with "Associates Build-A-Link >< /a >". Delete through that point. The second part is a link to the product with your Amazon Associate ID built in. Now just write your product review, choose the appropriate categories for it, and hit Publish.

    14. Build Out Your Amazon Affiliate Site

    Before you promote your site, you want to have some substantial content there. Write several product reviews. Have at least two to three in each category you've created. You may also want to create categories for articles, news, and commentary about your topic. The more content your site has, the better. And the great thing is that while you're writing all this, the search engines are getting notified automatically, assuming you turned on the necessary notifications.

    15. Promote Your Amazon Affiliate Site

    The best free way to do this is to communicate with other bloggers writing about similar topics and to participate in online communities where your topic is discussed. See the Online Business Networking category for ideas, as well as the Internet Marketing category.

    Bonus Tips

    Some additional considerations for Amazon Affiliate sites are as follows:

        Music may perform better than books and other products, mainly because you can listen to the clips of an entire album in roughly 10 minutes and get a good enough feel for it without buying it to write a short review. If you have another topic that you're passionate about, great, but make sure you have a unique angle on the topic. People can get reviews about a lot of those consumer products anywhere. You need to give them a reason to visit your site.
        To pick up some extra pennies, sign up for Google AdSense. It probably won't generate a lot of revenue, but it's free to sign up and completely effortless to maintain.

        Set reasonable expectations for earnings. You've only invested $20. You're going to make 5 percent on most products. That means that you need to sell $400 worth of stuff to make back your investment. You get credit for purchases customers make while at Amazon besides just the product you linked to, so it's not as hard as it may sound. It won't make you rich, but it's not hard to be profitable, and the income builds over time.


    Business Advice & Mentorship / How to Make Money During the Summer
    « on: April 06, 2019, 01:16:15 PM »
    How to Make Money During the Summer

    Summer's here, and opportunities for quick money abound. If you're a recent graduate, a teacher or student off for the summer, or anyone else looking for some quick cash, summer's a great time to start a business. With a little money, some hard work, and a lot of entrepreneurial spirit, you can start turning a profit immediately. And all of these ideas are things you can still walk away from in September if you want to. Here are six ways you can be your boss this summer:

    Go Where It's Hot, and Help People Keep Cool

    There are plenty of public places that don't have snack bars, and even the convenience store's not convenient enough. Bottled water, sports drinks, visors, cheap sunglasses, and battery-powered fans will sell anywhere there's sunshine. Try parks, the beach, baseball practice field, or even a busy street corner near popular summer destinations.

        What You'll Need: Transportation, a decent cooler (28 quart or larger), four bags of ice, two cases of bottled water, two cases of sports drinks, a half-dozen sunglasses, a half-dozen visors, and a half-dozen battery-powered fans.
        Estimated Startup Cost: Under $100. Buy the sunglasses, visors, and fans at your local dollar store for starters.
        How Much You Can Make: Even buying at retail prices, you should be able to charge double or triple your cost, or even more for the bottled water. At a good location, you should be able to sell out every few hours, which comes out to $15-$30 per hour.

        How to Grow: Once you've figured out which products are moving best, you can order them wholesale at a fraction of the cost.
        Things to Watch out For: Check your local sales tax requirements. Also, permits may be required at beaches, parks, and other public areas.

    Lawn and Yard Care

    People who care for their yard the rest of the year may not want to keep up with it in the summer when it needs to be mowed every 1-2 weeks (at least where I live). And full-time professional yard maintenance services want to set up regular contracts. Offer a low price and don't try to push the ongoing contracts. Be opportunistic. Drive through neighborhoods looking for yards that need mowing and leave a flyer. It's hard work, but decent money if you control your costs.

        What You'll Need: A heavy-duty self-propelled mower, an edger/trimmer, blower, hedge clippers, a gas can, and something to transport them all in.
        Estimated Startup Cost: $1,000 new, $500 used, or you can rent the equipment you need for about $100 a day to get you started.
        How Much You Can Make: About $25-$40 per yard, on average. It will take a couple of dollars of gas per yard, and figure another dollar or so for trimmer line, mower blades, etc. If you don't have too much travel time, you should be able to do each yard in less than an hour.

        How to Grow: Own the equipment. Hire a friend to help. Offer additional services, such as weeding, planting, landscaping, etc.
        Things to Watch out For: Equipment maintenance can eat up all your profits very quickly. Keep it well-oiled, clean, and sharp. Also, don't chintz on the equipment. The right equipment will allow you to work twice as fast. The wrong equipment will make some yards impossible.
        Best Web Resource: Lawn has lots of books and other things for sale, but a great collection of free resources, too.

    House Sitting and Pet Sitting

    Summer is family vacation time, and someone has to watch the pets and take the mail and newspaper in when everybody leaves for a week or two. If you can target your marketing to families, that will be most effective.

        What You'll Need: Flyers and a couple of classifieds in your local papers, insurance, transportation.
        Estimated Startup Cost: $200-$300
        How Much You Can Make: The going rates on pet sitting and house sitting range from $5 to $15 per visit, depending on the number and type of pets, frequency of visit, and expectations (long walks, etc.).
        How to Grow: Offer additional services such as house cleaning and pet grooming that can be done while you're there.
        Things to Watch out For: Trust is everything in this business. Be prepared to provide personal references. Network with everyone you know to let them know you're looking for this kind of work. Referrals will be your best lead source.

        Best Web Resource: How to Start a Pet Sitting Service has detailed advice on marketing, operations, and startup costs.

    Mobile Car Detailing

    People love the convenience, and the idea of having your car cleaned while it's already sitting there at their home or office sure beats the heck out of taking it someplace and having to wait on it. Luxury car owners may be reluctant to use machine washes, and especially owners of high-top vans and pickup trucks may not even be able to.

        What You'll Need: Transportation, business cards to leave on windshields, portable vacuum, a bucket, sponges, chamois, cleaning supplies.
        Estimated Startup Cost: Under $100 to offer basic car wash services, up to $1,000 or more to offer specialized services.
        How Much You Can Make: $20-$30 per car for basic wash and interior on up to $100 or so for complete detailing (engine cleaning, etc.)
        How to Grow: Reinvest some of your money in equipment to offer higher-end services like engine cleaning or upholstery steam cleaning, or other related services like dent removal and windshield chip repair.

        Things to Watch out For: Know the Environmental Protection Agency regulations on the chemicals you use and local water usage rules.
        Best Web Resource: Mobile has tons of articles, discussion forums, marketing tips, and more.

    Summer Nanny/Babysitter

    For working parents of school-age kids, summer presents a real challenge. Summer camp may take care of a few weeks, a family trip another week or two, but then what about the rest of the summer? Find two or three families, or one with several kids, and take care of the kids during the day.

        What You'll Need: Clean, reliable transportation, some classified ads, a love of kids.
        Estimated Startup Cost: Under $50 for classified ads.
        How Much You Can Make: $8-$12 an hour, depending on the number of kids. It's less money than some of the other options, but it's generally easier work.
        How to Grow: Take in more kids and turn into a home daycare. Or, charge more for added services, like pet care or light house cleaning.
        Things to Watch out For: Caring for multiple children, not in the same family will generally require licensing and will require the facilities to meet certain requirements. There's a big step from watching 2-3 kids from 1-2 families in one of their homes to watching 4-5 kids in your own home. Some states have licensing requirements for nannies, as well.

        Best Web Resource: International Nanny Association is a non-profit association dedicated to promoting quality in-home childcare. Lots of free articles, plus information about government regulations for all U.S. states.

    Tutoring and Teaching

    Opportunities abound for the entrepreneurial-minded person with knowledge to share. Some kids need help catching up on one or two subjects, home schooners usually school year 'round, and many parents put their kids in summer classes on a fun topic like science, drama, or creative writing. You can tutor individual kids, or put together a group workshop or week-long class.

        What You'll Need: Some advertising and a facility if you want to do group classes.
        Estimated Startup Cost: Under $100 for flyers and advertising. For a facility, check local community centers, YMCA, etc., where you can usually rent a room for $10-$30 for 60-90 minutes, or $30-$50 for a half day.
        How Much You Can Make: $10-$20 an hour for one-on-one tutoring, depending on your qualifications. Classes vary widely in price, but with even a small turn-out, you should be able to make $50-$100 per teaching hour, but that doesn't count marketing and preparation time.

        How to Grow: It takes the same amount of time to teach 20 kids as it does to teach 10. Marketing & advertising is what will drive your growth.
        Things to Watch out For: Generally, teaching short classes that are not for credit doesn't require any special licensing, but check your local regulations to make sure that you don't end up falling under the daycare regulations if you have multiple kids.

    All of the above business ideas can be started on a minimal budget and bootstrapped by reinvesting some of your profits. While they have a seasonal element to them, they also all offer the potential of growing into a full-time, year-round business if you choose, but they're all also things you can walk away from in the fall.


    Business Advice & Mentorship / Business Ideas on a Budget
    « on: April 06, 2019, 01:10:24 PM »
    Business Ideas on a Budget

    Whether you're starting a business on the side while still employed elsewhere, a student or homemaker looking for extra income, or unemployed and trying to figure out what to do, there are plenty of business ideas you can start for under $20 and grow into a profitable company.

    It's unlikely any of these budget business ideas will make you a full-time living within the first few months, but they all have the potential to grow into meaningful sources of income with enough hard work and persistence. Let's take a look at 10 of these cheapest business ideas with strong potential and we'll show you exactly what to do with the $20 you'll invest in getting it off the ground.


    It's what everyone who's ever surfed the Web dreams of—just launch a simple website and watch the cash roll in. Well, that just doesn't happen overnight, but the fact of the matter is that it's really not very difficult or expensive to start a blog. To do it right, start by picking a subject matter you know a lot about. Then get a domain name and create a website.

    Choose an easy-to-learn platform like Word press to build your website on and start creating original content that'll eventually help your audience solve meaningful problems within your niche. Now find some appropriate affiliate programs—that's where your revenues are going to come from.

    Next, learn everything you can about search engine marketing, build relationships with other bloggers and website owners within your niche and promote your site heavily. Last of all, set aside time every week to put new content on the site, delete dead links, and other maintenance. Now do this three or four times, and you've chosen your topics well, you might actually have some decent income from it.


    Getting into consulting is relatively simple if you've built up an expertise throughout your career. All you have to do is know how to do something better than most people do, and be able to either teach people how to do it or be willing to do it for them on a contract basis. Networking is the key to success in this budget business idea, so start by making a list of everyone you know that could use your services and giving them all a call.

    Housesitter & Petsitter

    Particularly since 9/11, people feel an increased need for security, and housesitting gives them some reassurance while they're out of town—making it a great budget business idea. Moreover, this opportunity requires no particular skills, just trustworthiness, and reliability. Be sure to have personal references available, and you'll also need reliable transportation. If you're an animal lover, pet-sitting is an easy add-on.

    Professional Organizer

    So many people these days are simply overwhelmed by their "stuff". While there is an ever-growing trend of people wanting to simplify their lives, most of us haven't done it yet. It's not that people really have no clue how to get organized, it just keeps moving to the bottom of the stack, both figuratively and literally. There's a prime opportunity for people to come in at a reasonable rate and get houses organized. And while there is a National Association of Professional Organizers that you can join when you're ready, mostly it takes common sense, organizational skills, and a familiarity with what can be had at your local office supply and The Container Store.

    Avon Independent Sales Representative

    Cosmetics is a virtually recession-proof business because it's an inexpensive way for people to feel good about themselves. Avon is the largest consumer direct sales company in the world, with annual sales of nearly $6 billion. In business for well over 100 years, they have both a highly reputable product line and one of the few highly reputable multi-level marketing structures (in fact, they invented it). They also offer fashion and wellness products in addition to their beauty products. And while they bill themselves as "The Company for Women", a fairly substantial number of men have actually been very successful as Avon reps.

    The secret to making a living at it rather than just a little extra spending money? Build your downline—just like with any other network marketing or direct selling business.

    Personal Services—Shopping & Errands

    This is a great business idea especially heading into the holiday season. Believe it or not, there are people who wouldn't be caught dead going anywhere near a mall, but they're not comfortable with buying certain items online, either. Alternatively, signing up to run errands on an app like Task Rabbit or deliver food through services like Postmates, can immediately provide you an existing client base. If your car's not reliable, pick something else.

    Also, you won't need cash, but you'll need available credit on your credit cards if you're not working through an app like the two above. Consider an American Express or a Diner's Club that don't have preset spending limits. Or use a card that gives cash back rewards or frequent flyer miles, and you'll make a nice little bonus for yourself.

    Graphic Design and Desktop Publishing

    It's amazing how many people have a computer and still don't know how to make flyers, presentation decks, and other visual assets for their business. If you've got a good design sense, are familiar with your word processor and already have a laser or high-quality inkjet printer, you can get into desktop publishing. Create a really great-looking portfolio for yourself and go door-to-door.


    With the growing dissatisfaction with our education system and the huge growth in homeschooling, there's an unprecedented need for tutors these days for kids of all ages—even adults. If you've got a topic you've learned a lot about through work or have retained well since school that you can tutor in, contact the local schools, particularly private ones, local homeschool groups and offer your services. Don't be concerned if your topic is highly specialized-even those are in demand, especially at local colleges and universities.

    eBay Selling

    Yes, there really are people who make a decent living buying things at garage sales and flea markets and selling them on eBay. The big secrets? Stick to products you know (or learn before you start) extremely well, package your goods carefully, and provide impeccable customer service. It helps to have a digital camera or a scanner, but it's not required.

    Secretarial Service—Typing, Transcription, and Proofreading

    Many small businesses and individuals have a need for these services, but not enough need to hire a full-time employee or temp through an agency. Assuming you've got a computer, a printer, and email (and the necessary skills), you're all set. Be prepared to charge by the job, not by the hour.

    One last thing—beware of home-based business scams that require a substantial buy-in, such as envelope stuffing or craft item assembly. You may not lose money on it if you stick with it long enough to get really fast at it, but you'll probably never make the kind of money you're expecting to. Better to do something on your own. Also, consider low-cost franchises.


    Are Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) and Network Marketing Legal?

    The extreme polar views on the topic of multi-level marketing and network marketing can make it a difficult topic to discuss. Some people are passionate about it in the extreme, and there are even top celebrity authors like Robert Allen, Mark Victor Hansen, and Robert Kiyosaki doing it and advocating it.

    Yet, in many circles, you might as well declare yourself a leper rather than admit to being in network marketing.

    Are Multi-Level Marketing and Network Marketing Legal?

    Well, the short answer is yes—it's legal in the U.S. when executed properly, under the right regulations.

    The problem is multi-level marketing and network marketing companies are usually intentionally complicated, vague on important details, and it's often difficult to tell whether or not the business is built around consumption of an actual product or the premise that you need to bring more people in "under" you in order to succeed.
    Problems With Multi-Level Marketing and Network Marketing

    Maybe it's the pyramid structure, but you can't really take issue with the tiered compensation structure. Almost every large sales organization in the world has that. Salespeople get commission, and sales managers get overrides or bonuses on top of that, and sales directors on top of that, and VPs on top of that.

    Maybe it's the fact that you have to pay to participate in it? But that can't be it; that's a standard franchising model. The franchise fee of most traditional franchises dwarfs the sign-up cost of any MLM program by comparison.

    Now certainly, there are illegal pyramid, or "Ponzi," schemes. This is where the money is all being made off of signing up other people, with little or no real product ever being delivered. But in spite of whatever perceptions people may have, the fact is that Amway, Excel, Herbalife, Melaleuca, PrePaid Legal, USANA, and many others have sold millions upon millions of dollars of products to customers, many of whom are not also reps.

    So, there may be a perception problem here, but if so, the perception is out of line with the reality.

    Are Bad Multi-Level Marketing Reputations Based on Facts and Research?

    The real problem with MLM is not MLM itself, but some of the people it attracts. Network marketing is just a business model, and it really amounts to "micro-franchising." Its upside is that it has a very low cost of entry, with the potential for exceptional revenue, and there are those who achieve that.

    Yet those same things that make it attractive make it attractive to many who are not really qualified or prepared to become business owners. The salient characteristics of MLM make it attractive to people who:

        Have not done well in their business or profession and have little money saved up to invest
        Have no previous experience owning or running a business
        Have no previous experience in sales
        Have little or no experience developing business relationships other than that of employer/employee/co-worker
        Are not satisfied with their current level of income
        Have unrealistic expectations of the amount of work involved compared to the revenue realized

    As a result, many network marketers end up:

        Over-selling the opportunity
        Inappropriately discussing business in social situations
        Coming across as desperate
        Over-focused on new recruits and neglecting existing customers as a result
        Being either inaccurate or deceptive when talking about their business

    To pre-judge someone based on the basis of a small minority of people in that group is horribly unfair, but we must realize that most prejudices have some basis in reality, even if it has been distorted.

    The Solution

    There's a first time for everything, and network marketing/MLM is a great opportunity for people to have their first business, their first sales role, etc. Recognize it for what it is: it's a business, and you are a business owner. If you've never owned a business before, if you've never done sales before, if you've never networked before, you need to learn about how to do so, not just from the network marketing/MLM experts, but from established experts in those fields.

    Network marketers who are serious about building a business should be reading and learning about business fundamentals, the latest sales and marketing techniques, strategies for networking and business development, etc., not just swapping tips at your team's weekly or monthly meeting. Act like a small business owner, and people will treat you like one.


    Network Marketing: Worth It, or Too Good to Be True?

    Network marketing can be lucrative, but only a small percentage of people make serious money. Often referred to as multilevel marketing (MLM) or direct marketing, the idea of making money without any special skills or major investment with immediacy is appealing. And the promise of residual income fuels the desire to never wind up in your current financial position again if you've found yourself in a somewhat tough spot.

    Some highly reputable companies have been built on this marketing and distribution structure: Avon, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, and many more. But you may be asking yourself questions like, "Do I really want to pitch this to all my friends?" "Can I actually make money at it?" and "How do I know it's not a scam?"

    If you're considering multilevel marketing (MLM), consumer direct marketing (CDM), or a network marketing opportunity, ask these six questions to determine whether any of them are worth your time, effort, and money.

    Who Is Your Upline? ​

    Take it all the way to the top. Ask yourself questions about the person who introduced you to the opportunity and whether you can trust what they tell you. Make sure to ask if they are willing to divulge exactly how much they've been making. Probe into the founders of the company, assuming it's a newer company. Research whether they have been successful and reputable in their previous businesses. Investigate your entire upline just like you would a business partner you've never met before.

    What Is the Product? ​

    Determine if it's something that would sell well in a retail store or via other traditional marketing and distribution channels. Examine the competition. You also have to consider how convincing you are going to have to be in order to sign up customers. If you're not an experienced salesperson, don't expect to become one overnight. You're going to have to become an evangelist for the product, so make sure you believe in it.

    When Will You Start Actually Making Money? ​

    Don't fall for the line that it takes months or even years to show a profit. You should be able to recoup any investment and start earning income within just a few weeks if there's a real demand for the product. Making a living at it is another story. You need to be able to work part-time in addition to other steadier income sources. Assess whether or not you truly will be able to make money with this company.

    Where Is the Product Being Promoted and Where Can You Promote It? ​

    Determine if the company is handling advertising and publicity on its own to help create demand for the product. Find out what restrictions are there on where and how you can promote it, such as advertising and websites. There's not a right or wrong answer to that question. A wide-open policy is more flexible for you, and for everyone else, too. If you're prepared to be highly competitive, that's fine, but if not, you may prefer to work with a company whose policy is more restrictive.

    How Were You Recruited? ​

    Think back to when you were recruited and consider if it was primarily as a customer, with just a mention of "income opportunity," or if the primary pitch was for the business opportunity. The ethical way to build a downline is to sign up people as customers first, and then if they like the product, they'll be drawn to becoming a rep. A hard sell on signing up as a rep right at the outset should send up a red flag for you.

    Why Are You Doing This? ​

    This is perhaps the most important question of all. If you're doing it because you think it's going to help you get out of a cash crunch, forget it. If you're doing it because you think you're going to be rich in a year, well, it's fine to have a vision but don't bank on it. On the other hand, if you really believe in the product, that gives you the best likelihood of success with it.

    Many people have made a lot of money in network marketing, but ​many more have ended up wasting a great deal of time and money chasing a pipe dream. Ensure your success by researching carefully that you're seizing the right opportunity in the first place, and have reasonable expectations up front.


    Business Advice & Mentorship / Lessons from Network Marketing
    « on: April 06, 2019, 12:55:20 PM »
    Lessons from Network Marketing

    Network marketing, or multi-level marketing, is one of the fastest-growing business models of the past few decades. Between 1993 and 2003, total direct selling revenues grew by 7.1% annually, dramatically above the rate of growth of the economy -- and of total retail sales (according to the Direct Selling Association).

    The most prominent examples of direct selling companies include Amway, Avon, Mary Kay, Nu Skin, and Herbalife, which recently went public. In 2003, U.S. total direct selling sales totaled more than $29 billion, or almost 1% of the over $3,397 billion for total U.S. retail sales (U.S. Census Bureau).

    Any business model that has achieved this kind of success probably has lessons that all business people can learn from. We define this family of business models as a method of distribution in which people are paid for sales volume generated by people they have recruited into the distribution network. 20% of American adults reported they are now (6%) or have been (14%) a direct selling representative -- defined as:

        the sale of a consumer product or service, person-to-person, away from a fixed retail location.

    In 2000, 55% of American adults reported having, at some time, purchased goods or services from a direct selling representative.

    A significant number of network marketers have negative experiences with the industry. That is why 70% of all people who have ever been a direct selling representative are no longer in the industry. For the purposes of this column, we will not go into the challenges and problems in the network marketing model. There are plenty of Web sites on that topic.

    We all work for ourselves. Gone are the days of being a "company man" -- your career is your business. Multi-level marketing just makes that explicit. Yet one of the things that make the sector most attractive, the low barrier to entry, also creates some its greatest dangers. Many people get into it without the necessary skills to run a successful business.

    We are primarily interested in what lessons all business people can learn from successful network marketing practices. We recently interviewed some of the industry's top experts and found seven lessons that all sales and marketing professionals can use to be more effective, regardless of their industry:

    Every business is a relationship-based business.

    So says John Milton Fogg, founding editor of Networking Times, author of The Greatest Networker in the World, and one of the most successful teachers of network marketing. You cannot sell an inferior product with a superior relationship, but you need at least a functional relationship to sell your product. That is particularly apparent in multi-level marketing, an industry built around belly-to-belly sales.

    Think analytically about your network.

    Shaul Gabbay, in his book Social Capital in the Creation of Financial Capital: The Case of Network Marketing, reports that the fastest-rising group of entrepreneurs [of the direct selling representatives whom he studied] were those who had initial weak ties to dense networks. In other words, successful salespeople penetrate an untouched market and then work to gain a high market share in that market. This is easier to do if that untouched market is highly dense; everyone in it knows all the players.

    Why? Because word of mouth in that type of network will spread more rapidly about the value of your product or service. This principle is particularly evident in network marketing, an industry where "networks go to work." However, the same idea applies to almost any business.

    Create a community around your product.

    One of the great ironies of the software business is that not only do many software companies outsource their development offshore; many also outsource their customer support to their own customers! When Best Software encourages you to visit their user forums to discuss your issues in using Act! software, that is a very cheap way for Best to support their product. Multi-level marketing companies rely almost exclusively on their communities for sales, support, follow-up, and recruiting.

    Leverage the unleveraged.

    In 2002, 79.9% of the direct selling sales force was female. 56% completed only a partial college education, technical or trade school, or have only high school education. This sales force looks very unlike the traditional American corporate sales force, which typically is much more male and has a higher level of education. However, the direct selling sales force looks just like their customers. People can be very effective salespeople when selling to their own community because the common culture and interests create a foundation to build strong relationships more quickly.

        Build a relationship first: "Internet marketers and network marketers share a common, terminal disease," Fogg says. "If you think of the whole process like dating, we bring someone to our Web site, and then we ask them to have sex immediately. There has to be some courtship first." One of the delicate aspects of network marketing is that people leverage their personal relationships to sell a product. Although that leverage makes some people queasy, the success of the network marketing model shows that many people do comfortably build multiplex relationships: Their friends are their customers and vice versa. With delicacy, you can do the same thing.

        Not everyone is a prospect: One mistake some network marketers make, as do many other salespeople and marketers, is thinking of everyone they meet as a prospect. In network marketing, this is known as the "Three-Foot Rule", i.e., anyone within three feet of you is a prospect. But top network marketers don't do this. Max Steingart, creator of the "Success Online" training course for network marketers, says that it's not just about figuring out when to make your pitch, but even if to make your pitch. "You just build relationships with a lot of people. Some will become prospects and some won't," he says. "There's no timetable. If the time is right, you'll know."

        Use online networks: The network marketing industry is a particularly good industry for leveraging online networks. Steingart teaches people how to "make the world your warm market," specifically by using online networks. He reports that when he instant-messages someone to start a conversation about potentially joining his distribution network, 50% of the people he contacts will respond to the conversation. More and more sales and marketing professionals will use online networks to accelerate their sales.


    How to Come up With a Great Business Idea

    You want to start a business but you don't know where to begin. That's only natural. The process of starting a business can be quite daunting. Here are five great ideas on how to start out with a great business idea.

    01 Start With Something You Love

    A common thread for new entrepreneurs is starting with something they really love and believe in, as evidenced in the new businesses at the Women's Entrepreneur Festival.

    Tanya Menendez is the co-founder of a company called Maker’s Row, which was designed to help American manufacturers source materials and labor from within the States. Though a challenging, fragmented market, she says she didn't worry about a competitor beating her to the punch: "We had confidence in our execution. No one else had lived our lives."

    Kara Goldin, chief executive officer and founder of San Francisco based hint Inc., which produces all-natural essence waters, was thankful for the early doubters: "They are like bad coaches," she said. "They are there to get me to show them I can do it."

    02 Start With Something People Need

    Can you really start a business with less than a hundred bucks? Yes, if you focus on what people need. For example, consider this summer business idea: There are plenty of public places that don't have snack bars, and even the convenience store's just not convenient enough. Bottled water, sports drinks, visors, cheap sunglasses, and battery-powered fans will sell anywhere there's sun. Try parks, the beach, baseball practice field, or even a busy street corner near popular summer destinations.

    03. Start With a Twist

    Rebecca and Daniel Dengrove are the brother-and-sister team that co-founded Brewla, a line of all-natural ice pops that are based on brewed ingredients like tea. They have been named "Startup of the Year" by the Wall Street Journal and were featured in a series of videos on that WSJ.

    "We wanted to reengineer a classic, and also make it healthier," explained Daniel of the product, and because his sister and co-founder is a food scientist, their experimentation bore plenty of fruit. And while the business started small (via a cart), the siblings now have their sights set on getting the artisanal ice pop in more retailers nationwide.

    More on family food businesses here.

    04 Start With Something You Can Test

    The goal of a minimum viable product (MVP) is to test out a business hypothesis through a quickly produced, stripped-down model of a product that can be brought to market quickly and inexpensively. Examples include Zappos, which, early on, took photos of shoes in local stores, posted them online and then bought the shoes from the stores and shipped them out instead of building a large inventory. Groupon also launched with an incredibly simple version of its eventual daily deal email -- it was simply a PDF and a WordPress site to begin with.

    05 Start With Something You Can Do on the Side

    Jesse Phillips, a co-founder of the calendar company NeuYear, explains a "muse" business as such: "an automated business that gives you your target monthly income number, so you can do what you want." Phillips was very inspired by Ferriss's book in starting a company to deliver well-designed calendars to help people track and achieve their goals over the course of a year.

    "We started NeuYear to help people achieve their dreams," he explained. "One of the best ways to focus your effort toward achieving your dreams is to plan and pursue goals. This doesn't have to be a crazy big or detailed thing, it's as simple as thinking about the steps to achieve something, and making deadlines for each step." In crafting a large, design-focused calendar, he and his cohorts aimed to make that process as simple as possible.


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