Growth Hacker Raymond Fong on Taking Your Startup From Zero to 60

Raymond Fong is co-author of “Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley’s Best Kept Secret” and co-founder of Deviate Labs, a marketing agency that has consulted for companies including Dollar Shave Club, HelloGiggles, Shoedazzle and several businesses that have appeared on “Shark Tank.”

We recently caught up with Fong to find out how startup founders can maximize their marketing ROI, why they need to grow their lists and when it’s smart to hire a growth hacker. The following conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Related: How Your Startup Can Adopt the Growth Hacking Mindset

StartupNation: What does the term growth hacking mean, and how does it apply to startups?

Raymond Fong: We define growth hacking as highly resourceful and creative marketing strategies singularly focused on high-leverage growth. It’s about getting rid of all the fluff of typical marketing.

What is the intention of growth hacking? To get you growth and increase your ROI.

Startups are very interested in getting results quickly. They don’t have a war chest of marketing dollars, so traditional channels of marketing can be too resource-intensive for most startups. What growth hacking does is helps compress time and provides a lower barrier to entry for startups.

StartupNation: What are some examples?

Raymond Fong

(Raymond Fong)

Fong: A famous growth hack, and one often quoted by literature, is PayPal’s referral program in which PayPal gave you $10 for every friend you referred, and your friend received $10 for signing up, as well.

One growth hack that we ourselves implemented on behalf of a client, an online pet company, was to leverage the fact that folks are rabid fans of dogs and/or cats. As a part of their pre-launch, the client wanted massive publicity and more subscribers. We developed a social media-based “Dogs vs. Cats” competition where folks voted with their social media accounts and referred others to vote. We also enlisted the help of animal shelters across the nation and also top pet brands that sponsored some of the prizes for massive exposure and viral exposure.  

StartupNation: What are some things that can hinder a startup’s growth?

Fong: There are three words that I really want every startup entrepreneur to remember: product market fit. It’s a very simple concept. Have a really, really good product, not just an okay product and not the same product my competitor down the street has. Knowing that, find a market that desperately wants it and is willing to pay for it. If you don’t have a market that’s going to buy your product, there’s no way you’re going to run a business. It’s a cycle.

You should have a product that you think there’s a market for. If you can’t find that market, that tells you two things. Either that market doesn’t exist or your product sucks. Go back to your product and figure out what you can do to it to tweak it to make it stand out and make it amazing.

A big hindrance to a startup’s growth is not knowing your market.

It’s easy to go, “if I like something, I’m sure that other people will like it.” We tend to be biased based off our own opinion of our own products. If you have a market, ask them. Survey them, get feedback on them. What do they love? What don’t they love about your product? Know what features they want and what nightmares keep them up at night, what solutions they’re looking for. Listen to that and then implement those appropriately to your product and your marketing, and you’ll have a winning strategy.

StartupNation: When does it or doesn’t it make sense for a startup to hire a growth hacker?

Fong: If you’re a startup owner who’s getting started, hire a growth hacker out of a position of strength and not weakness. A position of weakness is, “Oh my goodness, I’m too tired. I just want somebody else to come in and growth hack my business.”

Position of strength comes from “I understand my business, I understand my market, and I know my product inside and out, and I’m tapped out. I have reached the ends of basically my creativity or my ability to produce for my company, but I recognize that I need a true expert to come in and help me grow my business.”

The time for somebody to hire a growth hacker is after you’ve demonstrated product market fit and you have some traction. I call it from zero to 60. That’s when a growth hacker would come in to help grow that business. But again, if your product sucks, you don’t have a market, what’s a multiple of zero? Still zero.

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StartupNation: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?

Fong: This is something that I believe is universally applicable whether you’re online or offline or they’re doing a multimillion dollar business or a mom-and-pop shop down the street, but that is the concept of building a list. A list of folks, whether that’s a list of emails or phone numbers or addresses, just some way to contact potential customers and/or existing customers.

Just about every company needs a list of people they market to, to keep in touch with and foster that relationship with.

It is much more cost effective to continue to market and build a relationship with an existing customer or somebody that’s already inside your sales funnel and aware of your brand, than trying to find a complete stranger and trying to convert them into a fan and into a buyer.

“Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley’s Best Kept Secret” is available now for purchase at fine booksellers and at

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7 Tips to Secure Financing for Your Small Business

Commercial lenders are conservative by nature. They want to know their money is secure. They need to be confident that the borrower will be able to repay the loan or that assets that can be liquidated in case of default. Securing financing for a startup is especially challenging, as it is inherently more risky than financing an existing business.

Without a solid track record, and time to build up equity, the lender bases their financing decision primarily on the business plan and on the owner’s ability to execute the plan. In order to be successful in securing financing for your startup, it is essential that you be well prepared and do all you can to give the lender confidence that you and your business will be successful.

Related: Business Builder eBook Series: Finance Fundamentals [Free Download]

Seven tips to help secure financing for your small business

  1. Provide a detailed, realistic business plan
    • Show the potential lender you have done your research, know your market and have the expertise and systems in place to execute your plan.
    • Include a 12-month cash flow projection. Provide best, likely and worst case scenarios.
    • Include your resume to show you have the experience to execute the plan.
  2. Know what you need. Be able to succinctly, and in detail, explain:
    • How much you need
    • What the funds will be used for
    • How long will you need the funds
    • How do you intent to pay it back
  3. Have strong personal credit
    • Run your personal credit score before applying for a business loan. If it is low, spend a couple of months working to improve it. Focus on paying bills on time and in full. If you can show lenders you are being proactive in repairing a poor credit score, it will improve your chances of being approved.
    • If there are red flags on your credit history, be prepared to explain why and what steps you are taking to repair them.
    • If you have limited personal credit history, get a credit card and pay it off in full and on time, to build your credit history.
    • If your business is already operating, request a line of credit, or payment terms, from some of your suppliers so you can build your business credit score.
  4.  If your business is already operating, provide details on your current situation
    • Provide a report card with key performance indicators from your business plan. Show that you are successfully executing your plan and/or making changes to improve your results.
    • Present accurate, up-to-date financials including a balance sheet, income statement, accounts receivable and accounts payable reports. It is worth it to have a bookkeeper or accountant prepare your statements for the presentation.
    • Understand your financials and be able to discuss the results with the potential lender.
    • Make sure you are up to date on all your government remittances.
  5.  Follow up promptly and thoroughly
    • After an initial meeting or online application, the lender may request additional information. Provide the information quickly and in detail. Show them you are organized and meet your commitments.
    • Don’t hide negative results. Be forthcoming and explain the situation and steps you are taking to rectify it. Not being truthful and forthcoming will surely mean your request will be rejected.
  6.  Consider alternative sources of funding. Banks are usually the first stop, but there are other sources of funding for your business. These include:
    • Credit unions
    • Factoring companies
    • Crowdfunding
    • Equity investors
    • Family and friends
  7.  Don’t give up
    • Find out why your application was rejected. Get as many specifics as possible.
    • Use this information to adjust your plan, presentation and ask.
    • Ask for recommendations to other potential lenders. It may be that your business simply does not fit with their funding model, but they may know other lenders that like your type of business or are more open to startups.

Related: Sign up to receive the StartupNation newsletter!

Don’t be discouraged if your funding request is rejected. Use it as a learning experience. Find out why your request was rejected and work on improving any areas of concern. Look beyond traditional bank financing and be open to alternative lenders.

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Amazon Hiring In Monee – Apply Now

Amazon Hiring In Monee; Applicants Can Get Assistance At Will County Workforce Center

The electronic industry giant has full-time openings at its Fulfillment Center on Monee-Manhattan Road.

JOLIET, IL — Full-time jobs are open at Amazon’s new Fulfillment Center in Monee. The electronic giant has several openings for full-time associates at the Will County location at 6605 W. Monee-Manhattan Road, according to a report from WJOL. Amazon also plans to help those interested through the job application process.

Those who need help applying for the job can visit the Will County Workforce Center, 2400 Glenwood Avenue in Joliet, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, June 29. Computers will be available to assist job seekers with setting up an email account, which is a requirement for applicants.

Amazon jobs come with benefits including medical insurance, dental insurances, 401k and bonuses. Employees pick, pack and ship small items to customers such as books, electronics and consumer goods at the Monee location that opened in 2016.

More via WJOL 

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Selfie Culture: Branding Your Startup and Engaging with Customers

These days, everyone is a photographer, and it can be truly annoying to find yourself in the way of someone else’s selfie. Entrepreneurs are faced with camera-wielding customers (and employees) every day. Managing that can help. Much of this is part of a broader social media plan, so if yours is out of date, it may be worth spending some time on revision.

Photos are like any other tool: they can be used for good or for bad. Here are some ideas to help you manage the shutterbugs who come through your door.

Hashtags and selfie spots

If your small business has not already done so, get accounts set up on Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat. This is a good project for a summer intern. Having them in place makes it easy for customers to do some of the work by tagging your business.

Then, come up with a hashtag. It could be as simple as your company name. Before promoting it widely, though, have a good look at it to make sure there isn’t a profanity or bad pun hidden in it.

Some companies take it a step further, creating selfie spots on-site. You may want to set up a backdrop in your waiting area or in a corner space to encourage people to take their pictures there. This can help you control your brand and manage some of the disruption in a selfie culture. For example, there is a huge privacy risk to selfies taken in dressing rooms or gym locker rooms. Get your customers to show off their potential purposes in good lighting and your gym customers to show their progress in front of a flattering backdrop, and you’ll get some promotional mileage.

Related: How to Use Snapchat in Your Small Business Branding Strategy

Opting out of selfie culture?

Some small businesses don’t want customers snapping photos on-site. The reasons are excellent: preserving the privacy of other customers; protecting trade secrets; limiting showrooming; and wanting to create a phone-free atmosphere. To make an anti-selfie policy work, you have to communicate it to customers nicely.

Write out a policy and a script for employees to follow. A running store might use something like, “We’d love it if you’d mention us in your race photos rather than take pictures here.” A restaurant might choose, “We’re worried that it will bother other customers, but we’d love it if you’d send a tweet instead of a photo.” Otherwise, someone snaps “You can’t take pictures here,” and a potential customer leaves in a huff.

Related: Sign up to receive the StartupNation newsletter!

Engaging customers and employees

Some businesses are skittish about photos because of the many viral disasters out there. There are two ways to head that off. The first is to encourage employees to post pictures related to positive aspects of the business. Your business account can show people having fun on the job, doing community work or assisting customers. You don’t have to show off products or prices this way, either.

Another is to run contests for customers. Imagine if an airline offered 1,000 frequent flier miles or a free snack box to people who posted videos of employees doing something positive. In no time, social media would be flooded with happy stories to help offset videos of passengers being dragged down the aisle. If your customers are generally happy, you can use a small perk or create a fun promotion around your hashtag.

It’s sometimes easy to let social media fall by the wayside, but summer is as good a time as any to refresh your startup’s feed.

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Calvert Retail Draws Customers in with Google AdWords

Eric Brinsfield founded Calvert Retail, a kitchenware business, in 1999, catering to consumers who love to cook, bake, grill and entertain. He’s since expanded to eight stores and three brands—Kitchen & Company, Reading China & Glass, and Southern Season.

“Everyone loves to eat,” says Marketing Manager Stephanie Graves, who describes store visitors as “anyone who loves to cook for their family or invite friends over for drinks, as well as chefs and restaurateurs.” Today, the company uses the power of the web to draw “guests,” as Stephanie and other Calvert Retail employees call them, into their brick-and-mortar stores. “When you walk into one of our locations, it’s like you’re walking into our home. We want you to have the best possible experience.”

“Our web presence gives us authority and helps us build trust with the community.”

Stephanie Graves, Marketing Manager

Related: Junzi Kitchen [Google Case Study]

AdWords, Google’s advertising program, helps Calvert Retail attract consumers searching for a range of cooking and home-entertainment items.

“We just want to show people that there’s a local and relaxing shopping option with friendly, knowledgeable staff,” explains Stephanie. “AdWords lets us do that.”

Their Google My Business listings keep guests up-to-date on all of their stores’ information, especially during holiday seasons. Stephanie notes that the listings are always accurate, which eliminates confusion and builds trust with their communities. They use Google Analytics to measure the success of their online campaigns. “Three clicks, and I have the data I need,” she adds. And G Suite tools, including Gmail, Docs, and Drive, keep internal operations cooking. “Google is very user-friendly. We can jump in and do things without a big learning curve. That’s a huge relief for a small business.”

Calvert Retail has 300 employees.

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Calvert Retail is “small, but mighty,” Stephanie says. They host canned-food drives that benefit food banks all across the East Coast and try to support programs that teach kids the importance of nutrition and developing confidence in the kitchen. They plan to open more stores in the mid-Atlantic and southern states and hope their community impact will grow alongside their locations.

“We love to see our stores packed with happy people,” Stephanie says. “It’d be great to share our vast selection of products, company values, and the great things that we do now with everyone.”

For more information on the Calvert Retail case study, visit

Content provided by Google.

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How to Make a Killer Crowdfunding Campaign Video [Book Excerpt]

The following is excerpted from “The Crowdsourceress: Get Smart, Get Funded and Kickstart Your Next Big Idea,” by Alex Daly. Copyright © 2017. Available from PublicAffairs, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

At our core, humans are storytelling machines. We connect best to an idea when it has a narrative. It’s the same reason movies have such emotional power—when we go see a film, our own feelings, stories and memories come to life before our eyes. In crowdfunding, the campaign video presents a huge opportunity for creators to harness the power of storytelling to connect with backers. When your campaign message reaches backers on a personal, intimate, individual basis, that’s when it can inspire them to take action. This lesson isn’t just valuable for crowdfunders: it’s critical for anyone trying to build a brand, promote their idea or project, connect with new audiences, and captivate people online. In other words, you always need to tell a great story.

Pressing play

Some of my favorite campaign videos of ours have been the ones that felt the least like fundraising videos.

And as I learned with the PonoPlayer, there’s no standard length or style or formula that equals success. Each project will be different, but you can follow best practices. Here are seven things you should keep in mind.

  1. Use the right tools—and/or hire a professional

Please don’t sit in front of your laptop camera and shoot a video of yourself explaining why people should give money to your project. It’s tempting, I know—and so cheap. Don’t do it! I find that potential donors will assume that if your video is low quality, your product will probably be low quality, too. Show the world that you put care and time into the work you do. Rent the right equipment, or even better, hire a professional— because, let’s be real, you might not even know how to use that equipment by yourself). If you have no cash up front, try to get creative. Do a trade with a filmmaker friend. You might be able to work out a deal where you can pay them upon success of the campaign.

In a post I wrote for CNBC, Hamish Smyth—our design director and my frequent collaborator—nailed the importance of a well-produced video when he said, “It is no longer good enough to skimp on production and put something out there half-baked. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

Related: Engage Your Community in a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

  1. Keep it short

Neil Young produced a killer 11-minute minute campaign video. It worked because he conveyed the power of an audio product that backers couldn’t hear through a group of experts who conveyed it for him. Chances are, though, you won’t need 11 minutes to tell your story.

In general, I recommend keeping your video length to under four minutes. If you communicate the most important information about your project within that period of time, potential backers can likely make an informed decision. After that, you can use your project page to further explain any details or technical aspects about your project or product—in another video, in text, and/or in visual form. Especially if you have a complicated product design, or if there are a lot of technical details, aim to focus the video on the top few things you want backers to know, and then expand on the rest in the page.

In 2016, we used a unique video approach when we worked with Anicorn Watches on a campaign to fund their special battery-free Anicorn Series K452 Watches. Because the Anicorn Series K452 was all about space-inspired mechanics and design, the team produced an unconventional 90-second video combining images of space with images of the watches. The video, which featured up-close shots of the watches as if they’re floating like satellites, had no voiceover or interview with the creators. It was pretty abstract, but also super cool, and it fit perfectly with their brand and product.

Still, we needed to tell a story. To accomplish that, we added a second five minute video at the top of the project page where the two founders explained their connection, their project, and their passion for their watch. Boom. The campaign went on to reach the goal within the first 24 hours. This kind of two-video approach can work for certain projects, particularly if you have the budget and resources, and it makes sense for the brand.

  1. Get feedback

Pono wasn’t the only campaign where I broke my four minute rule. In 2014, we did a Kickstarter for a documentary about Joan Didion. The video was on the longer side—just shy of 6 minutes—but I road tested it by sending it to friends and colleagues for feedback. When almost everyone responded saying they watched it to the end without tuning out, I knew it was a good sign the video would work.

Don’t cut your video off mid-story because you’re trying to keep it short. Use your best judgment and share various cuts of the video with all kinds of people who can provide valuable feedback throughout the pre-launch process.

  1. Get to the point

One of the most important pieces of advice I give to clients about their videos is to get to the most essential point of your project within the first 30 seconds. Otherwise, backers can lose interest. Be punchy, direct, and clear, right off the bat. Even though you love this project and you could ramble on about it forever, strangers may not feel the same way, and you have to draw in as many as you can right away.

  1. Tell a story (that also gives viewers all the important information)

People want to be a part of your project. They want to feel a connection to it on a deeper level than if they were just shopping at a department store. This is one of the really special things about crowdfunding! Backers want to donate to a person with intention and motivation—someone who has a story. In your video, create a story that shows how your experience is a journey and invite backers along for the ride.

Campaign videos should typically address these core questions.

  • How did the project came about?
  • What is it?
  • What does or will the idea/product do? What problem does it solve?
  • Where is it in development right now?
  • Why are you crowdfunding?
  • Where is the money going?
  1. Write a script and make a storyboard

Create a list of the essential points you need to nail in the video, and then write a script. The script will include the key talking points for the video and an idea of who will say them (you, your partner creator, or someone else you’re interviewing for the video). Remember to create a narrative: there should be a beginning, a middle, and an end. Then create a storyboard by adding what you plan to show on the screen to correspond with each part of the script.

Making a script and storyboard means that when you go to shoot and produce your video, you’re likely to be much more efficient with your time and costly resources. You’ll probably end up revising your storyboard after you shoot your interview(s), and that’s okay. The exercise is valuable for distilling your message, staying focused, and optimizing your time.

Related: Sign up to receive the StartupNation newsletter!

  1. Be yourself

People are not just buying into your project, but you, too. It’s key to show your genuine, authentic, passionate self in your video in order to establish a connection with potential backers. So be you! If you’re raising money for a comedic web series, for example, make your video funny so that backers can experience your sense of humor. If you go against who you are or what your project is trying to be, it won’t work.

Of course, some of us are camera shy, and it can feel like a lot of pressure to get in front of a camera and share a project, idea, and dream. For our campaign to raise funds for the documentary “Art and Craft,” which follows one of the most prolific art forgers in U.S. history, the filmmakers were uncomfortable talking on camera. They were filmmakers, not actors, and being in front of the camera made them squirm—mostly when it came to “the ask” for support of their project. So they got creative— and had a little fun. They introduced themselves with a quick clip in the introduction and then asked their siblings to narrate the video. One is an actress, the other is a theater director, so they were a bit less camera shy! It worked out really well, and the video was a big success. So was the campaign.

“The Crowdsourceress: Get Smart, Get Funded and Kickstart Your Next Big Idea” is available now at fine booksellers and is available for purchase via StartupNation.

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Why is Confidence a Growth Opportunity?

Successful entrepreneurs all have something big in common: courage! According to the Hiscox American Courage Index, business owners show a higher level of courage than the general population, and for good reason. It takes confidence to persist in the face of ambiguity and failure.

High confidence is a crucial element in thinking big. Part of that comes from being prepared and having strong knowledge about an opportunity. It allows you to see less risk and seek out potential. Best of all, confidence is something that can be cultivated. You don’t have to be born with it, but rather you can grow it over time using these five tips:

Related: If You’re Not Thinking Big, You’re Thinking Small [Book Excerpt]

  1. Get self-aware. Facing hard truths is not easy, but it provides opportunity to fine-tune strengths, overcome weakness and pinpoint areas where growth is necessary. Not only does seeing your vulnerabilities allow you to work on them, it prevents you from having to face them without warning.
  2. Recognize that you think small. It’s human nature. Very few people are true visionaries. Most of us tend to say no and have a tendency to fear what is new. But you can push yourself beyond it.
  3. Define “thinking big” and put it into action. My own definition of thinking big is delivering the greatest value to the greatest number of people as efficiently as possible. It may mean something completely different to you.
    Once you’ve determined your thinking big, achieve forward progress. Focus on long-term sustainability and learn, grow skills and improve along the way. Then start planning for “next.”
  4. Be able to answer why. Ask yourself questions like why did you say no? And why you don’t have confidence in an idea? Good entrepreneurs turn over every stone and evaluate every opportunity. And they have a logical plan for saying yes to even the best option. Work on your yes mindset until it comes naturally, and that starts with digging deep and getting answers into your own thinking.
  5. Mitigate risk, but be willing to fail. Embrace failure, for there is always something powerful gained. Failure is fuel that helps you realize your next big idea.

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Thinking big doesn’t require you to have all the answers to think big, but you do need to have confidence in your potential success. Your own self-assurance will have influence on your decision making, and those critical business decisions will trickle down to your staff. When you set goals and make plans for growth, include confidence as a measurable metric and hold yourself to meeting benchmarks. The payoff will be exponential.

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4 SEO Basics: Getting Your Small Business Started

As a small business owner, there are many aspects you need to oversee in order for your business to succeed. However, one aspect you might be overlooking is search engine optimization (SEO). With SEO, you can better grow your organic presence in market. Organic presence means non-paid placement in search engine results. For example, if you own a retail shop, and Google “summer dresses,” the organic results are what are below paid ads.

SEO is a vital marketing aspect to expand your brand.

In fact, only 19.2 percent of clicks go to the first two paid advertisements on Google’s search results page.

Practicing good SEO tactics isn’t always easy. If you’re not familiar with marketing or SEO, here are some basics to help you begin.

Check your rankings

Before you can begin an SEO strategy, you need to know where you stand amongst your competitors. Rankings are important for traffic going to your online store.

The number one position in Google results gets 33 percent of traffic, and the percentage only declines from there.

You want to make sure you’re ranking on the first results page and at least in the top five positions.

There are plenty of tools out there that can help you see how you’re ranking for terms in your industry. Using these rankings, you can see who is ahead of you and look at what they are producing to get them such high rankings. Of course, you shouldn’t compare yourself too much with large chains. Look to these chains for inspiration and as a guide to your content, but focus on outranking any local competitors.

Related: 9 Tips for SEO Success

Content is king

Having high quality content is a necessity for your rankings. Google wants to see that you’re an authority figure in your industry. Blogs are a great way to publish high quality content for your site. With a blog, you’ll have more opportunities to rank higher in your industry. For example, if you run an accounting business, your blog could offer accounting tips and resources for other small business owners and individuals who might not be great at personal financing. People will come to your site for your help and eventually might even purchase one of your services.

It’s also important to post enough to keep up interest, but not so much to where people will unsubscribe from an email list. Posting high quality content two or three times a week is more valuable than posting decent content every single day. On social media channels, the number of times you should post varies, but the quality should always be high.

Optimize for keywords

In your content, you’ll want to include keywords you’d like to rank for that also pertain to the content’s topic. Google will crawl your content and then index it in its search. You don’t want to include too much of the same keyword, however, as Google could assume your website is spam and will penalize you for it.

For example, if you own a retail shop and run a blog about summer trends, you don’t want a paragraph that has the term “summer trends” in every sentence. If this is something you struggle with, Text Optimizer is a great, free tool to help you see how well you’re optimizing for keywords in your content.

Related: Sign up to receive the StartupNation newsletter!

Look for link building opportunities

Once you have your site optimized for SEO, reach out to influencers who could link back to your site with a “follow” link. Link juice from a high domain ranked site will increase your site’s domain rankings, which will then increase your rankings on Google.

Two popular ways to do this are guest blogging and reaching out to influencers. You can guest post for a popular blog, which will give your business a shout out in the author bio, or you can send an influencer your product or service to try out for free. If they like it, they can recommend it to their followers. Both will provide links back to your business’s online site, increasing your domain rank.

SEO overview

As a small business owner, you have a lot on your plate, so you might be overlooking SEO in your marketing strategy. It’s important to remember that SEO takes time to see results. While quick results and turnaround are good, they’re not as permanent. Once you improve your domain authority, you’ll see longer-lasting results than you would from paid ads. These results will increase traffic to your online store, which will in turn give you a higher chance of making a sale.

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3 Reasons Why Facebook Live is Essential for Entrepreneurs

In 2016, Socialbakers reported that the usage of Facebook Live had been steadily increasing for the better part of the year across pages. Celebrity and company pages have enjoyed an increase of 8 percent and 10 percent, respectively, with media and brands choosing to use Facebook Live over other live streaming apps like Periscope.

If this is the continuing trend for live streaming video, then what’s the draw for opting to do it on Facebook versus other social platforms like Instagram? And how can small businesses, which tend to be much more limited on funds and fans than established brands and influencers, get in on the fun?

If you’re not already using Facebook Live, but are curious about getting started, here’s a look at the benefits it can give to businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Related: 10 Ways to Make Facebook Live an Effective Marketing Tool

Facebook Live for startups

  1. Easy to use with a wide, built-in audience

With more than 1 billion active monthly users, the Facebook community alone may be argument enough for a small business to incorporate live video into its social media strategy. If that hasn’t sold you yet, keep in mind that going live essentially allows you to interact with fans in real time.

For example, if you’re conducting a Q&A session, encourage fans to leave questions on your video. Since Facebook Live occurs in real-time, it also spurs a stronger conversation with more than 10 times the comments left behind than non-live videos.

Throughout the broadcast, you may notice thumbs ups, hearts and emojis floating across your screen. These are Live Reactions, which can help you gauge how your filming is going. At the top of the screen right next to the live button, you’ll also be able to see how many viewers are watching your live broadcast at any given time.

Still not swayed by the size of the audience or ease in filming a broadcast? How about the fact that you can go live completely through your Facebook app and not have to film through another app? Head into your Facebook app (or through the Facebook Pages app, if you’re filming from a brand account) and click on the “live” button to start your broadcast.

  1. These videos stick around so fans can keep watching and engaging with them

While we’re becoming accustomed to filming videos that come with an expiration date (like Instagram Stories), Live isn’t cut from the same cloth. After they broadcast, these videos may be saved onto a page’s timeline, allowing fans to revisit and rewatch them again.

You can also save and post the video to your blog, guaranteeing that the video will reach even more of your audience.

Related: Sign up to receive the StartupNation newsletter!

  1. Go beyond the sale and behind the scenes at your business

Make it a point to use some of Facebook Live’s best practices for filming, including alerting your fans when you’re going live beforehand, writing up a catchy caption for what the viewer is about to watch and broadcasting for long periods to allow more viewers the chance to tune in.

Most of all, have fun with the platform. Give your viewers a glimpse at the real “you” and what your startup environment is like. It’s your chance to be a little silly and creative, while showing your audience the real people that they’re doing business with (especially if your company is based online).

So, go behind the scenes with your business on Facebook Live! Film an interview, host a demo or comment on current events. Celebrate what makes your inner workings and team so special and share this world with interested viewers everywhere as often as you like.

The post 3 Reasons Why Facebook Live is Essential for Entrepreneurs appeared first on StartupNation.

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How to Call Out Bad Behavior Within Your Organization


I know a leader, an entrepreneur named Marcia, who many years ago caught a staff member criticizing her to a couple of other members of the team while they were making coffee.

Marcia suspected that it was going on, undermining her authority and causing friction amongst the group, but this was the first time she had actually witnessed it. It was unprofessional, and uncalled for, and the staff member in question had not once voiced her concerns with Marcia directly, but preferred instead to gossip and spread negativity when she had an audience in the lunch room.

When the young woman finished speaking, Marcia spoke up, as she’d been quietly listening at the door.

“Frances, please come into my office straight away,” was all she said.

When they were alone, Marcia asked Frances to tell her exactly what her grievances were. The young woman could not say. She was embarrassed at being caught out.

After a little while of waiting, Marcia told Frances how important open communication was to her and asked her why she did not feel like she could approach her directly with her views on how the company was being run and any ideas she might have to improve things. Frances said nothing. She asked Frances how long she’d been feeling that way. Still, Frances said nothing.

More silence continued, so Marcia began to explain that regrettably, Frances would need to leave the company if she would not discuss it because there was no way the two of them could continue working productively together while Frances had such a grudge that she was not willing to talk about.

Related: How To Motivate Your Employees

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept

Marcia waited a little more. Frances still said nothing. She just stared at her hands in her lap. Eventually Marcia dismissed Frances and then a couple of hours later, Frances walked into Marcia’s office and handed in her resignation. Marcia thanked her and promised her all of her entitlements.

Frances left the company the same day, never to return. But years later the two women ran into each other at a shopping center and with a big smile, Frances said hello to Marcia. Shyly, she told her that “that day” was one of the most difficult, but also one of the best in her whole life.

Frances explained that out of the situation, she was forced to look at herself. She said the conversation between the two women was the wake up call she needed to stop behaving like a teenager in a school yard, and to start behaving more like an adult operating as part of a team with an important job to do.

Frances took self-esteem courses and ones in personal communication and moved forward in her career, but she never forgot that her altercation with Marcia. She called it a “blessing in disguise.”

I love that story, but it still surprises me to this day that many individuals, leaders and teams don’t call out bad behavior in the workplace.

The problem is this: by not calling out bad behavior, we are just as much to blame. We are encouraging others to behave this way. In some instances we may even be rewarding bad behavior by going along with it.

And you know what? Fear is what stands in the way of us doing anything about it.

The truth of the matter is this; behavior is 95 percent unconscious, which means that the offending party is not even aware they’re doing it. Yup. You heard right.

Ever witnessed someone just losing it? I mean really, really losing it? And asking yourself, “Hey, what the hell is going on?”

Most bad behaviors come from insecurity; it is so much more than what we see, so it’s important to call it gently, but in a timely way, the sooner the better.

Seize the moment

When we accept bad behavior, we’re making a big impact on the culture of the team and the organization.

So don’t wait a month or two. It’s all in the timing, and it is essential to have that conversation there and then, when you witness the bad behavior.

There are a couple of ways to play this.

Perhaps you could address it there and then with a question like, “Are you okay?” Be compassionate. There will be underlying causes you know nothing about.

Or, you could share how you’re feeling, something as simple as:

“I am really not comfortable with how you are speaking to this individual right now.” Check in with how you’re feeling, too. If your buttons have been pushed and you’re boiling with rage, it’s best to step back and cool down, but don’t let the situation fester, and don’t ignore it. Remember, timing is crucial to a productive outcome. Always express your feelings in a non-threatening way, allowing others to feel safe and receptive without conflict.

Remember, the more specific you are about how this situation has affected you, the less chance of a blowout.

Related: Sign up to receive the StartupNation newsletter!

Learn to respond to bad behavior with composure

Quite often we fall into “assuming an outcome” or assuming how others feel and that does nothing but raise the defenses, so stick to how you’re feeling, as it’s the only thing you know with accuracy. Don’t blame; you’re feeling the way you do, not because anyone made you feel that way, but because the situation is making you feel that way. There’s a difference. Often if you gently open up and express yourself, people will respond, because it’s non-threatening, and you can start to talk about the issue at hand.

The kooky thing is that if you don’t address a situation when you are most annoyed with a person’s bad behavior, then most likely you will hold a grudge or end up disliking this person entirely.

This is so counterproductive when it’s possible to calmly get to the root cause of the matter and work things out.

You are doing them a favor

True leadership means taking the time to respond (rather than react) and really find out what’s going on. Then it’s possible to help the other person to get clarity on the situation, and you might just be surprised what you learn.

When you come from a place of empathy, you are not blaming the other person, you’re in fact doing the opposite – you’re sharing the responsibility for the situation that got them all fired up to begin with!

Courageous leaders call out bad behavior from a place of kindness and curiosity to determine the intent behind the behavior and to encourage the other person to understand the impact they have on others.

Calling out bad behavior within your startup creates respect, collaboration, growth and change within an organization and culture, but most importantly, at an individual level.

It’s not only something you give the person in question, but something you give your team, as well.

The post How to Call Out Bad Behavior Within Your Organization appeared first on StartupNation.

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Babson College Professor Shares the Number One Characteristic of Successful Entrepreneurs


The following excerpt is provided exclusively to StartupNation by “The Entrepreneur’s Playbook: More than 100 Proven Strategies, Tips, and Techniques to Build a Radically Successful Business” by Leonard C. Green with Paul Brown © 2017 Leonard C. Green All rights reserved. Published by AMACOM Books. Division of American Management Association. 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

Successful entrepreneurs are not risk-takers; they are calculated risk-takers

Here’s a question most of my students get wrong, and you likely will too. (Don’t feel bad; just about everyone answers it incorrectly).

Ready? What is the number one characteristic of an entrepreneur?

The vast majority of my students—and everyone else I ask—-usually say, “They’re risk-takers.” If I’m feeling generous, I’ll reward my students with partial credit for this answer, but I probably shouldn’t.

The number one characteristic of successful entrepreneurs is that they are Calculated Risk-Takers. The difference between risk-takers and calculated risk-takers is the difference between failure and success.

Risk-takers bet it all on one roll of the dice. If they fail, they fail spectacularly—and in such a way that they don’t live to fight another day. They literally go out in a blaze of attempted glory.

This is not what the best entrepreneurs do. They figure out a way to reduce risk with every step they take. They follow the Act. Learn. Build. Repeat. model that we talked about in Principle 4 and they take small steps toward their goals. Before they take those small steps, they figure out a way to minimize their modest investment even further. They ask, “How can I take this step more cheaply (and/or by using someone else’s money); how can I do it faster (so I don’t have to invest as much time), and how can I do it better than I had initially planned?”

Indeed, the process of minimizing risks begins long before you take this first step:

What are others doing wrong?

What are others doing right?

Let’s start at the beginning. Before you make any move to create a new product or service, you want to study not only the specific area where you think you’re going to concentrate, but also the industry as a whole, in order to be able to select a niche where you can excel. (You can see why this principle—which deals with minimizing risks—follows the last one, How to Spot an Opportunity).

Related: Improve Your Skills, Increase Your Value [Book Excerpt]

No, you will never know what’s truly going on in a market before you enter it. And no, you don’t want to do a lot of homework, because you don’t want your potential opportunity to pass you by while you are doing research. But before you invest your time and money, you do want to gain a thorough understanding—either by yourself or by creating a team of people who have knowledge of the industry—of what the competition is doing.

Almost always, when I say this, people instantly jump to what the competition is doing wrong and what opportunities they’re missing. And it is, indeed, an extremely important thing to do. You want to find places that they may have overlooked, or could be underserving. The list in the last chapter—where we talked about the importance of upgrading, downgrading, bundling, etc.—could help you a lot here.

What you want to do is find ways you are different.

Minimizing risks 101

If you’re going into business with other people, the Act. Learn. Build. Repeat. model we talked about in Principle 4 is a great way to minimize the risks that come with starting a new company.

But even before you take your first steps toward creating anything new, there are things you can do administratively to reduce your risks even further. For some of you, the following advice is going to seem basic, but you would be amazed by how many people don’t take one or more of these following four steps:

  1. Form a business organization/entity that provides tax and business flexibility and protects your assets. I usually recommend a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) so creditors cannot go after your personal assets should your venture fail
  2. Have liability insurance
  3. If you have partners, create an operating agreement that covers what happens to the business if one of you dies, gets divorced, becomes seriously ill or leaves the business
  4. Create a buy/sell agreement. Agree on criteria for the valuation of the company. I recommend that the agreement reflect that the parties will agree on a valuation expert to establish the valuation, and that that decision is binding

These four simple steps go a long way toward minimizing risks.

Important note: draw up this arrangement as the venture is just getting under way. It’ll be easier to get everyone in agreement, since no one will know who might be affected in the future.

For example, you run a small hardware store and see that Home Depot and Lowe’s are moving into your neighborhood. Instead of saying, “We’re doomed,” really study their stores. If you do, you’ll see that their very size can be used against them. Sure, they carry just about everything, but it’s extremely difficult to find any one specific item within their acres of selling space and their service—to be kind—is spotty. If you have a helpful staff and carry most things that people need to fix up and enjoy their homes, you should continue to do very well.

And don’t forget to look at what the competition is doing right: that’s another way of minimizing risk. There may be a way to build off what they have already proven to work. This is one of our great strengths at Blue Buffalo pet food company. We now have more than six hundred different product offerings. Most of the ideas stem from our CEO, Bill Bishop, who was also the marketing man behind SoBe beverages. Bill is always keeping his eye on the competition. While I’ve never stopped to count, my guess is that a large number of the ideas for our new products came from an improvement of a competitor’s product.

For example, Blue Buffalo saw that one of the smaller pet-care companies was selling a new kind of kitty litter, one made from wood chips. We started looking into the concept of using wood, and eventually that led us to begin experimenting with crushed walnut shells, which proved to be an excellent deodorizer. Our walnut-based kitty litter is a solid seller for us.

Minimizing risks should be an integral part of your company’s strategy.

I can’t begin to tell you the number of companies that get lax about this as they grow, always to their detriment.

Often people resist borrowing (and then improving) ideas that someone else had first. This is just silly. If your intent is to reduce the chances of failing, why wouldn’t you want to borrow something that has already proven to be successful and improve upon it, taking advantage of your strengths? In Blue Buffalo’s case, once we improve an existing idea, we can plug the product into our distribution networks. Stores are always looking for new products. Blue Buffalo has grown in sales and shelf space by constantly adding new products our customers want to buy.

You can’t assume you know everything. If you think you do, it will cripple your organization.

You shouldn’t care about where the idea was invented if it helps solve your customers’ needs. The idea is to always deliver new products and services as cheaply and simply as possible, with little risk, while providing value that the customer will appreciate.

Related: Sign up to receive the StartupNation newsletter!

“The Entrepreneur’s Playbook” is available now wherever fine books are sold, and at

The post Babson College Professor Shares the Number One Characteristic of Successful Entrepreneurs appeared first on StartupNation.

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3 Small Business Payroll Myths Debunked


When you’re first starting out in business, it seems like everyone and their grandmother has advice to give. Some of it’s good (yes, you can have weekends off), while some of it’s not so good (do not buy a vacation on your first corporate credit card). It can be easy to mistake bad advice for good and perpetuate the myths that lead entrepreneurs down treacherous paths, especially when it coms to employee payroll.

Starting your own business is challenging enough, but starting off on the right foot is easier than you think! Rather than experiencing the pitfalls entrepreneurs before you have made, try learning from their mistakes. To make things that much easier, we’ve compiled our top three small business payroll mistakes.

Related: Simple Ways to Reduce Your Startup’s Overhead Expenses

Myth #1: You must provide paid time off (PTO) to all employees

Years of working for someone else might have led you to believe that a benefit such as paid time off was inherent to your job. So it might surprise you to know that allowing employees to accrue PTO isn’t mandatory practice. According to Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requirements, you aren’t required to provide employees with paid time off or sick leave.

But before you check this box, let’s consider this: If you weren’t working for yourself, wouldn’t you like to have PTO? Paid time off isn’t an expensive detriment to your startup. While you don’t have to provide paid time off, doing so can only increase employee morale and prevent turnover — two things you definitely can’t afford so early in your career as a small business owner.

Myth #2: You can hire and pay seasonal help under the table

Starting your own business, you might be eager to hire on a few extra hands. Maybe you have a teenage son who needs to earn his keep in the summer. Maybe you have a niece who’s working her way through college and you want to do your part by offering her a part-time position in your office. Both are great ideas, but don’t complicate payroll (or rather, try to cut corners) in the process.

You might be tempted to pass cash to these employees under the table, but such a practice can land you in hot water down the road. It’s important you classify each employee correctly when you run payroll. For example: Under the FLSA, if your son is part-time, but he works more than 30 hours in a week, he could be eligible for certain benefits.

On top of that, seasonal employees must still be paid the minimum wage. Handing your niece a crisp $50 at the end of an eight-hour shift means you’re $1 short per hour. Keep your business on the right track and classify all your workers and process their pay correctly.

Related: Sign up to receive the StartupNation newsletter!

Myth #3: Running payroll must take hours or days to complete

As an entrepreneur, you might be dreading payroll. You certainly weren’t envious of the bookkeeper at your last job. The image of papers stacked high and late nights in the office are enough to scare any small business owner. But processing payroll doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, investing in the right tools can help you avoid the top two small business payroll pitfalls!

When you invest in simple, automated time tracking, you can run payroll with ease. Much of what you dread about payroll can be avoided by taking paper time cards out of the equation. With an automated system, clocking in and out takes mere seconds — and all seconds worked are accounted for.

Plus, an automated time tracking system can help you keep a record of all the PTO your employees have used and still have left. And because a time tracking system does all the math for you, you’ll know, down to the second, how much time your seasonal employees have worked. You never have to guess if you’re over or underpaying employees, or when it’s time to send workers home for the day.

The post 3 Small Business Payroll Myths Debunked appeared first on StartupNation.

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Navigating The Summer Job Market

Navigating The Summer Job Market


Most people believe summer is the worst time to conduct a job search. Between college students and high school students eating up the market, vacations, lagging budgets, etc. hiring would seem to lag during the summer making it a bad time to conduct a job search. In reality, summer is a very good time to job hunt. Here are some tips to make your summer-time job search more effective:

Summer Jobs and Opportunities for Teenagers: A Planning Guide (Lifeworks Guide)
Spiff up your telephone skills. With people on vacation, you will be receiving more voice mail messages than usual as you try to reach people in your job search network. Always make calls with a notepad or organizer nearby and take note of when your contacts will be back in the office. Set an email up to be delivered the day *after* the person’s return and set a reminder to call again the second day after he/she returns.

Make sure you leave a clear, informative voice mail. Make sure you state your name twice, your telephone number twice, and your message once. Give a good time for a call-back. The following is a general formula for an effective voice mail.

“Hello , this is . My number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. I am calling because . The best time to get back in touch with me is . Again, this is and my number is XXX-XXX-XXXX. Thank you!”
Summer Jobs and Opportunities for Teenagers: A Planning Guide (Lifeworks Guide)

Always include your area code with your telephone number. Many times, people cannot return calls because they are not sure where the caller is calling from. Giving your time zone helps the recipient of the message know where you are located and helps them know exactly when to call you back. Speak slowly and clearly, especially if English is not your native tongue. Spell your name if the spelling is not easily recognizable. Provide more than one number if possible and repeat both of them twice.

Take advantage of summer social activities for your job search. Most jobs are filled through word-of-mouth. That means the more people with whom you talk, the more effective your job search. Summertime is chock-full of social activities from picnics to family reunions to ball games. Make the most of gatherings of people to gather information for your search and extend your network toward your target companies.

Volunteer. Summer seems packed with opportunities to volunteer. Volunteering not only gains additional network contacts for your search but it has many emotional rewards, too. Looking for a job, especially for those who have been engaged in long searches (more than 3 months) is emotionally exhausting. The warm fuzzies you receive from volunteering go a long way toward boosting your mental attitude.

Be persistent. Since many job searchers slack off in the summer thinking they are wasting their time, your competition is less. Take advantage of that and redouble your efforts in your search.
Summer Jobs and Opportunities for Teenagers: A Planning Guide (Lifeworks Guide)

Search for Summer Jobs Here

7 Ways to make Money this Summer

Create Your Own Summer Job: 7 Ways to Make Money This Summer


Funds in the sun

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 own boss this summer:

  1. 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 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.

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 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 into your local sales tax requirements. Also, permits may be required at beaches, parks, and other public areas.

Best web resource: — Largest directory of wholesale general merchandise vendors on the Web.

  1. Lawn and yard care

People who care for their own 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: — Lots of books and other things for sale, but a great collection of free resources, too.

  1. 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.
Summer Jobs and Opportunities for Teenagers: A Planning Guide (Lifeworks Guide)

Best web resource: How to Start a Pet Sitting Service — Detailed advice on marketing, operations, and startup costs.

  1. Mobile car detailing

People love 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 pick-up 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 upholstey 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: — Tons of articles, discussion forums, marketing tips, and more.

  1. 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 day care. Or, charge more for added services, like pet care or light house cleaning.
Summer Jobs and Opportunities for Teenagers: A Planning Guide (Lifeworks Guide)

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 — A non-profit association dedicated to promoting quality in-home child care. Lots of free articles, plus information about government regulations for all U.S. states.

  1. Tutoring and teaching

Opportunities abound for the entrepreneurially-minded person with knowledge to share. Some kids need help catching up on one or two subjects, homeschoolers 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 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 kind of special licensing, but check your local regulations to make sure that you don’t end up falling under the day care regulations if you have multiple kids.

Best web resource: Tutor Nation —There’s a listing fee, but they also offer lots of free resources and linke to other sites with information on tutoring. With a one-year membership, you also get a book on tutoring.
Summer Jobs and Opportunities for Teenagers: A Planning Guide (Lifeworks Guide)

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.

  1. 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.

Spend the $20 on: $10 signup fee, and $10 on brochures and a few samples.

Summer Jobs and Opportunities for Teenagers: A Planning Guide (Lifeworks Guide)

Land Your Dream Job Anywhere: The Complete Mac’s List Guide to Finding Work You Can Love

Search for Summer Jobs Here

Google Tools Help Junzi Kitchen Reach its Startup Dreams

Junzi Kitchen serves innovative Northern Chinese cuisine, but its culture reaches far beyond the food. Founded in 2015 by Yale University graduate students who missed the flavors of their hometowns in Northern China, Junzi “uses food as a starting point to bring cultures together,” says events and communications director Reed Immer. Co-founder Yong Zhao sees Junzi as a model for “how a foreign culture can share its true values through a business in modern society.” It’s a “platform for collaborative projects between local chefs, artists, and entrepreneurs,” Reed adds. Connecting with today’s culture is core to Junzi’s business model, and they’ve found the internet to be an indispensable tool for reaching their audience.

“The whole Google suite of tools has been essential in enabling us to get where we are today.”

Yong Zhao, Co-founder

Related: RuMe [Google Case Study]

In terms of foot traffic, Reed considers Google Search a basic necessity. Junzi stays on top of their search results with Google Analytics, which helps them optimize both the discoverability and functionality of their website. Google Analytics also reveals how their site is performing as a channel for storytelling.

“Understanding how users move from our menu page to our about page, which tells the deeper brand story, helps us understand how visitors get curious about the story behind our food,” Reed explains.

As for their block parties, summer cookouts and other community-wide events, Junzi relies on G Suite tools to keep the planning process running smoothly. “Google Drive is where all of our collaborative work with chefs, artists and advisors from around the world happens. Google tools allow us to measure and create the things that we want. Without them, this would all be a dream way off in the future,” Reed says.

Junzi Kitchen has 30 employees.

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More Junzi dreams will be realized on the heels of 500 percent annual revenue growth. Junzi Kitchen plans to open two more restaurants in New York City in 2017 and more than double their workforce. As they grow into the new locations, they hope to highlight the “special aspects of each neighborhood, while tying in Junzi’s larger story.” From New Haven to New York, they will continue to be “a platform that features the creative work and ideas of awesome people in the community.”

For more information on the Junzi Kitchen case study, visit

Content provided by Google.

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Business Builder eBook Series: Finance Fundamentals [Free Download]


StartupNation’s Business Builder eBook Series provides you with a FREE downloadable guide to help you start, grow or manage your business.

In this Finance Fundamentals eBook, you’ll learn key insights into raising and managing finances for small business. After developing the idea for your startup, now comes the difficult part: financing your project.

Click here to download StartupNation’s FREE Finance Fundamentals eBook!

finance fundamentals

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Financing your small business requires a variety of funding options, such as self-funded bootstrapping, online lending options, crowdfunding and applying for business grants. Startups require capital to grow, and in order to avoid getting into cash flow problems (or debt) early on, smart budgeting is essential to your success.

In this Finance Fundamentals eBook, our contributing authors, thought leaders and industry experts address finance-related issues and strategies to help you prepare your financials for the bank.

Included in Finance Fundamentals eBook

  • Entrepreneur John Rampton, who addresses social finance and retirement account loans
  • Ann Logue, a business and financial writer who writes about Fintech and venture capital
  • David Iafrate, founder and CEO of International Bancard, shares the top four reasons why your business should accept credit cards
  • Exclusive book and audio excerpt from author and entrepreneur Ed “Skip” McLaughlin’s, “The Purpose is Profit”
  • BONUS: The eBook features an exclusive introduction from StartupNation co-founder, Jeff Sloan, who offers four essential tips to guide your journey in raising and managing your startup’s finances

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Click here to download StartupNation’s FREE Finance Fundamentals eBook!

We hope you enjoy the articles compiled in StartupNation’s Finance Fundamentals eBook, and look forward to your feedback.

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PR Tips for Entrepreneurs: Gain Brand Credibility and Coverage


As an entrepreneur, you’re undoubtedly wearing many hats. You’ve found yourself becoming a marketer, business development manager, accountant and perhaps an employer. Amongst all of this, perhaps much further down the “to do” list, is PR. You’d love to hire a public relations agency some day, or perhaps you’d like to do it yourself, if only you had the spare time to enroll in a course.

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However, PR needn’t sit on a wish list. It is much more doable than you think it is once you have the know-how and confidence. It’s about taking bite-size chunks and building upon your expertise. The good news is, you can master PR for your brand, whilst still running your business.

You simply need some basic PR know-how, and an understanding of how your story fits in with what journalists are looking for.

In its essence, PR is about good storytelling. Whether you run a startup with four staff in a funky office space, or are building your empire from your home office, you can use PR to gain invaluable coverage and credibility for your brand. Read on for a little bit of PR 101.

What is PR?

In the simplest terms, PR is the practice of working with influencers, from press to broadcasters to online media outlets, in order to raise awareness or influence public opinion of a particular person, organization, issue or event.

A PR consultant will sell or pitch stories to relevant members of the press, and it is up to the journalist and his or her editors or producers to decide whether or not to include the story in their publication. A skilled PR consultant knows to tailor the story to the particular publication, and finds the most interesting angle in order to maximize the chance of getting it published.

Crucially, unlike advertising and advertorials, coverage generated from PR is not paid for; it is earned entirely on the quality of the story.

Related: 7 Steps to Get Press for Your Startup

How can PR benefit your small business?

PR gives you way more than column inches in a newspaper or free press on a news station. Every startup needs positive publicity to grow and develop. It’s natural to focus on word-of-mouth at the beginning. Though this is powerful, it is largely out of the hands of the business, and is at the mercy of whether or not a past client or contact had a positive experience and will remember to recommend you.

For example, an article about your new product line, or an advisory piece on your area of expertise, is a much better testimony to your work than a paid-for advert. PR in itself, which is an external endorsement via the media, adds a level of credibility to your business, and also makes people more aware of what you do.

Also, how you market your PR can make a huge difference to your business. For example, putting thumbnails of any coverage you have received on your website gives automatic gravitas to your business. Similarly, an “as featured in” note at the bottom of your email signature or marketing literature with logos of the publications in which you’ve been featured also shows that you mean business. Many of my clients have reported that deals have been sealed after a prospect has seen their article in a newspaper or magazine, while others enjoyed a boost in traffic after a website they were featured in gave an all-important backlink.

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How you can get some of that PR magic for yourself

    1. Find out what your audience is reading, and see what stories are featured there. It might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s an often-overlook first step to growing your brand. Do you know what newspapers, magazines and websites your target audience reads? For example, if you’ve got a clothing line, is your target audience pouring over fashion magazines? Identifying these titles is the first step. After that, take a detailed look at the publications. Are the stories aligned with your startup? What makes the news? What is the key point of interest? What angle does the journalist go for? What is the underlying message? Doing this research upfront will pay off later in your PR efforts.

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  1. Think of what stories you have that they might like to cover. For example, if it’s a local newspaper, they often have a business section dedicated to championing local businesses. They might be interested to hear about launches, anniversaries, business growth (such as new hires) and more. Take a look at this storyfinding toolkit here to help with this step.
  2. Get your pitch nailed down. To get a journalist’s attention initially, you need to summarize your story in one or two sentences. Ask yourself, what is the main point? At this point, it’s easy to waffle on about your key objectives, mission, etc., but remain focused on what is priority for the journalists you are pitching and what they would be interested in, not what is a priority for you. Cut out the jargon, keep your pitch tight and concise. Have your key facts ready to read over the phone or email, and convey the key points quickly and effectively.
  3. Make the story about yourself, as well as your startup. Journalists love a good human interest angle, so think about your own personal reason for setting up your business. Why did you choose to work in your sector? Were you frustrated by a gap in the market? What does your product or service provide that was previously lacking?
  4. Get the journalist’s details. For this, Google is your best friend. Most publications have the details of their editors and reporters online. So grab their email and telephone number, and have your pitch at hand.
  5. Get your approach right. There is a bit of an art to approaching journalists, as getting it wrong the first time can be costly. I detail my best advice on how and when to pitch to a journalist here.

Good luck! Let us know how these PR tactics worked in action in the comments section below.

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4 Ways to Improve Your Client Relationships Through Automation


The word automation doesn’t exactly evoke excitement. However, automation doesn’t have to mean mundane and robot-like. In marketing terms, automation can help promote brand consistency, which in turn, can create reliability and trust. 

As entrepreneurs, we all know what it’s like to take part in endless back-and-forth email chains with clients. When we talk about efficient client communication, email isn’t necessarily at the top of the list. Client communication shouldn’t have to be so difficult, especially when it comes to content approvals for example.

Fortunately, there are many cases where automation can come in to save the day, as well as your client relationships. Automation can make all the difference; just check out these four ways it can help your startup below.

Automate content approvals

Soliciting your clients for approval can often be as much of an ordeal for you as it is for them. With continuous conversations and the influx of information, it’s important to establish clear and organized funnels of communication. The less work for your clients, the better. If neither side benefits from endless emails, it sounds like a lose-lose, right?

With projects come emails and attachments, along with emails about those attachments and general feedback discussions. What could be a simple email can snowball into a larger, more complicated ordeal. Often, more people who are related to the project get involved just to ensure that everyone is up-to-date. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Though email is consistent and mostly universal, its disparities tend to outweigh the benefits of its transparency. Using a tool that automates the approval process can help your team notify the right people at the right time, gather feedback from clients and stakeholders, and move the process along for you until everything is approved. No excessive emailing necessary.

When email is taken out of the mix, the workflow between your internal team and external clients or approvers can be significantly streamlined. It allows you to communicate with clients via email only when it’s vital, and dedicate more of your time to concentrate on other aspects of your campaigns, like audience engagement and customer analysis. Instead of keeping up with last week’s email chain, your clients can also be involved in other areas of your work, such as the brainstorming stage, rather than simply acting as final approvers.

Related: 4 Reasons Why Learning is the Key to Staying Ahead in Entrepreneurship

Automate the feedback process

There never seems to be enough hours in the work day, but you can save a few when you automate the process of gathering feedback. With an automated feedback process, your team can cut down the time it takes to gather client requests for project revisions, as well as content approvals. Instead of bombarding clients for feedback and suggestions, have an automated process notify them at the right time, which helps keep workflows consistent.

With an automated feedback system, your clients can include their input directly on projects when it’s their turn, removing all confusion about whose feedback is needed and at what time. Ultimately, distractions can be greatly reduced through feedback automation, and efficiency can be greatly increased.

Automate learning more about your clients and their industries

Staying up-to-date on the latest news and tools within your client’s industry should always be a top priority. While it’s easy to make a promise to stay informed, it’s vital that you make it a habit. Market knowledge is the best advantage over your competitors. By automating your learning, you can make a solid commitment and impress your clients when you sound like an expert.

You should always be learning and improving your techniques, alongside ever-changing technology. Automating your learning can be as simple as scouring the web for current trends and events. Our team does a weekly news scan, where we search for our favorite buzzwords so we can stay on top of the latest marketing news. When you’re not scouring the web for the latest trends, make sure to enable Google Alerts that will notify your team at any mention of your brand, client, etc.

In addition to Google, there are all sorts of tools out there to assist your automated learning. It can be as simple as subscribing to a news site or downloading a new app to do the work for you. Feedly, for example, is an application that automatically compiles personalized news from multiple channels on one platform. There’s no excuse for being uninformed when there are so many tools to do it for you.

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Automate your reporting

For the number crunchers and non-number crunchers alike, data is important. Clients want to know that you’re doing your job and numbers always seem to do the trick. You also know that working out analytics can be a chore unless of course, you automate your reporting. Simply telling your clients that your “numbers are up” isn’t going to cut it.

Tools like Google Analytics are a must. An automated reporting system can help track the traffic to your website and provide the numbers to help you evaluate progress. By consistently evaluating metrics and automating your reporting, you can show your clients positive growth over time.

Automation conclusion 

When you’re representing a brand or a client, consistency is not just important, it’s necessary.

Thankfully, automation and consistency go hand-in-hand. Speaking from experience, when communication is unorganized, the whole work equilibrium can get off balance.

Using automation tools can help you regain that balance and encourage collaboration between your team and your clients, alike. Once you automate normal tasks like getting content approved, gathering client feedback and reporting on your efforts, it’s quite simple to make a habit out of it.

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RuMe Uses Google Tools and Google AdWords to Drive Sales


For business co-founders Jae and Katy Lee, success is in the bag—and on the internet. The husband-and-wife team started RuMe (short for “reuse me”) on Earth Day 2010, marketing one medium-sized reusable shopping bag.

“We wanted to bring a little fashion to the checkout line,” Jae says. “We wanted to create a product, a line, and a brand that was about function and style, incorporating sustainability into an on-the-go lifestyle.”

The business started as a brick-and-mortar operation, but the Lees soon found that showcasing their brand online let them test new products faster, rather than waiting months between trade shows.

“With online sales, the speed at which we can test and design concepts and target different consumers is far better than any other channel,” Jae says. “With Google tools, we can come up with a product concept on Monday and have it in the market on Friday.”

“Internet sales is our primary growth driver.”

Jae Lee, CEO and co-founder

Related: SAGE Millimeter [Google Case Study]

RuMe has expanded their designs and product lines to include customizable totes, travel bags and accessories such as luggage tags. Jae credits AdWords, Google’s advertising program, for making this accelerated growth possible. In particular, Google Shopping campaigns help consumers find their fashionable, eco-friendly designs. RuMe also uses Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Drive to power the back office and keep staff, including salespeople, connected on the fly. “Google has helped us bootstrap ourselves over the hump from being a two-person startup to a 70-employee company that markets through multiple channels,” says President Dan Frailey. Google Analytics provides a constant stream of information that tells RuMe which marketing concepts and tactics are working and which need to be bagged.

RuMe has 70 employees.

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In addition to marketing products on their own e-commerce website, the company sells wholesale and through major retailers. They’re now expanding into corporate sales and Asian markets. “We’ve grown about 500 percent in the last few years,” Jae says. “Ultimately, the online channel is our highway to rapid growth.”

For more information on the RuMe case study, visit

Content provided by Google.

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