See A Need, Fill A Need

Yes, I stole the title from the movie “Robots.”  But I just credited them, so we’re good.  It’s a powerful statement, one that begs a question…

Are people going to pay for your idea or service?

This is the very first question you need to ask yourself as an entrepreneur.  And answer it honestly because if you don’t, you’re going to spend a lot of money chasing down market share that you will never be able to capture.

Something needs to set your offering apart from the rest, otherwise it will become noise.  And people tune out noise.

When my best friend and I created our first handbag collection, we foolishly thought high quality leathers and hardware in vibrant colors would set us apart.  And if that didn’t do it, we always had our little “story” to fall back on.  Krina handbags were designed for the “thinking” woman.  So we included a penny hidden in the lining of each bag.  It was our cute little thing.  Guess what?  Nobody cared.  We loved that design element but it didn’t sell the bags.  It was different, but alas, not different enough.

Ever hear of the Butler bag?  I wasn’t a fan, because the styles didn’t do much for me. Plus, I’m too much of a handbag snob to carry a non-designer bag.  But the utility is what captured the hearts of women everywhere, proof positive that a large chunk of my target market was more concerned with function than fashion. My pennies couldn’t hold up to Jen Groover’s clever way of compartmentalizing life into a structurally-sound handbag.

 

 

 

 

She identified a need and created the solution.  It’s made her a raging success.  Her prices were competitive early on and she was able to claim her market share.  As time has gone on, the pricing increased but her fan base hasn’t wavered.  Kudos, Jen!

Jen Groover addressed a major pain point for women struggling for some degree of organization in their busy lives.  And that’s the name of the game.

Please Brand Me Now!!!!

Branding.

Argh.  Sooo challenging…and so permanent.  It needs to be just right.

Identifying your “brand” is kind of like going to college, where the goal is trying to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life.  But at eighteen, who really knows THAT?

You have to pick a major but what are the odds that in a few years you’ll even be interested in pursuing a career in the field?  Your scope of interests expands, you identify and refine your skill sets, you grow as a person. So at the end of the four years, are you where you thought you’d eventually end up?

Haha, not me!

I started out pre-law then decided to become a biology major with grandiose plans of becoming a patent lawyer.  That didn’t work too well, so I tried psychology next, then political science.  Finally, I landed on accounting.  Never used my degree, and the extent of my accounting knowledge is limited to distinguishing a debit from a credit.

The point is, we aren’t the same people at 18 as we are at 25 and then at 40.  We develop and expand our horizons.  So while it’s important to figure out how you’re going to differentiate yourself from the competition, you don’t always know out of the gate who and what you will ultimately become.  The reality may be vastly different than what you imagined.  And that impacts your branding.

I can tell you from personal experience I’ve branded and rebranded myself many times over the years, trying to figure out how I want the world to know me.  This became even more challenging for me as an author because at the end of the day, I write romance novels.  But I am much more multi-faceted – how can I reflect that in my platform?  I finally figured it out, but it was a journey.

I first did an exercise where I created a word cloud.  I wrote down every single interest and skill I have.  It became a little unwieldy, so I narrowed it down.  Way too much for a tagline and nothing of real value popped out.

More introspection followed.

Courtesy of melodyhossaini.com

Courtesy of melodyhossaini.com

I’ve blogged for years, primarily about the trials and tribulations of being a working mother with three kids.  Maybe that would be a good platform.  But what’s the hook?  How does that differentiate me from other romance authors?  I’m not the only one with kids and a lot of angst.

It may make me relatable but…it doesn’t set me apart.

I consulted with the experts, read books and articles, searching for inspiration.  I created a bunch of different taglines using the thesaurus app on my phone.  I blogged some more.  I made notes about themes from my books.  Nothing, nothing, NOTHING.

Fast forward a few months.

As I prepared for my upcoming book launch, I realized I needed business cards….and a tagline.  Darn it!  Back to the drawing board.  There was no way I was ordering business cards without a logo from Fiverr.  That site rocks!  And I couldn’t get a logo unless I established a BRAND!

So how can I tie my interests to my books?  I write romance…set in Silicon Valley.  Think venture capitalists, startup CEOs and IPOs…

And now I blog about innovation and entrepreneurship and…IDEAS!  My own personal business experiences combined with interesting startup concepts.

The rest, as they say, is history.  I finally figured myself out.  I am “The Idea Mama, Vogue Entrepreneur and Author.”

It was a good day…and my business cards look fabulous!

The Flower Power Entrepreneur

Do you know what I absolutely hate spending money on?

Greeting cards.

I spend tons on cards for people that may be displayed on a counter for a couple of days and then casually get tossed into the trash.  Even the “discount” cards are still around $2.99.  And let’s not even discuss the dollar store cards.  Much cheaper but…scary-looking!  You know what I mean?  If you’ve ever seen one, we’re on the same page.

But a friend of mine recently formed a business that fundamentally changes the lifecycle of a card.

Channeling her passion for photography, she creates high-quality greeting cards featuring removable photos of exotic florals.  So not only are you presenting a card, but a photo that the recipient can display and enjoy long after the occasion.

Her website, www.flowerpowerphotocards.com, displays 13 different designs, reasonably priced at $2.75 per card plus shipping. The 4″ x 6″ photographs are mounted on fine card stock. The blank card measures 4.5″ x 6.25″ and an envelope is included.

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Nobody in their right mind would throw THESE cards away!

It Can’t Just Be Smart…It Needs To Be Vogue

It can’t just be a “smart” watch.

Because Apple would effectively eliminate and alienate every style-and-label-conscious consumer in its target audience.

Common objection to an iDevice gracing my wrist – Why do I need a smart watch?  I’d rather sport a Chanel J-12 or my Cartier Balloon Bleu.  I have an iPhone…with a super blingy case…I’m good.

Well, I guess Apple got the memo because the company recently added some big designer names to its payroll – Burberry Chief Executive Angela Ahrendts, Yves Saint Laurent’s Paul Deneve, Nike’s Ben Shaffer and now Marc Newson.

And the designs?

Let’s just say Apple should definitely see a positive ROI under the direction of their recent hires.

The watch designs combine fashion and function.  A selection of elements – from bands to faces to color, textures and metals – will certainly satisfy varied tastes of the masses.  Your watch can emulate your personal style – and still deliver on the smart part.

Check out Apple’s website for all of the combinations.  You can go as high-end as you want and select leather complimented with an 18 karat gold finish.  Or maybe you’d prefer something more sporty – go for the space gray aluminum and a more modular face.  The customizable possibilities are extensive.  There really is a style for everyone.

2015 should be a pretty lucrative year for Apple.   =)

Jersey Girls Love Their Barefoot Sandals!

Ahhh…Oyster Fest 2014.

Lobster rolls, crab cakes, clams, oysters, beer and…bling?

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Something I’ve always loved about the festivals in Jersey is that they celebrate small business owners.  We always find interesting products in our travels and if they are any bit girly, Lulu is at the table, front and center, ready to patronize.

Yesterday was no exception.  Lulu found Jersey Girl Barefoot Sandals and fell in love.  It really is such a clever product – jewelry for your feet that you can wear with or without sandals.  There were all types of designs to choose from.  Of course, Lulu decided she needed an anklet to match each of the sandals.  She’s such an easy sell…just like her mother.  =)

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Here is a snap of Lulu and Bev Beveridge, entrepreneur and one of the co-owners of this super-creative venture, showing off their foot candy!

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I was really impressed with the selection of styles and the price was reasonable – we paid $10 per sandal, which any woman knows is a bargain for bling!

This is a pic of yours truly and Bev.

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Check them out on Facebook!

And don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card by clicking here:  http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/f30243524/.

 

Yet Another Teaser & Giveaway…YAY!!!!!

Hubby was just on Facebook and pointed to a picture of a girl named Gina who just had a Scrabble piece of the letter “G” tattooed to her ankle.  He said, “Would you ever do that?”  And I shook my head vehemently.  “No, absolutely not.  My name doesn’t begin with a ‘G’.”

LOL.  But seriously….

I’m so excited to plan for the launch of “Unlikely Venture!”  It’s been a long time preparing for this and I can’t believe the launch is almost here!

So I had to release yet another fabulous teaser…accompanied by a giveaway!

Enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card but clicking here:  http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/f30243524/

All you need to do is: sign up for my mailing list, like my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter or friend me on Booktropolous Social.  You can enter once or up to four times!  It’s super easy!!

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How Much Of A Sucker Are You???

Grandpa took the crew to football tonight.  I am super-excited  It’s been a long week and I really need to kick back with a glass of vino.  Ahhh.  I hear the chardonnay screaming at me to take the first refreshing sip.  But I resist, I just need to put away a few more stray toys.  Only then can I relax.

Or, maybe not.

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Can you tell what this is?  If not, you must not have little boys.  They are LEGOS.  Teeny tiny pieces of plastic ALL OVER MY KITCHEN FLOOR because dippy Mommy picked up a container by the unlocked lid.  Freaking brilliant, right?

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I eye the wine glass and bite my tongue to halt the expletives threatening to escape my mouth.

And as I pick up the pieces, only a couple at a time because you really can’t grab more than that, I have a brilliant thought.  I need a sucker.  No, I’m not talking about my Hubby (hee hee).

“The Sucker” is a contraption that you can use to “suck up” these annoying little health hazards.  I say health hazards because heaven forbid you step on one in your bare feet.  Nothing can stop THOSE expletives from exploding, trust me.

My invention would collect these annoyingly tiny pieces and you could pop open a trap door to unload them into a box in your playroom!  The best part is that “The Sucker” would be designed to pick up these pieces, so you’d never have to worry about ruining the belt, the engine, the roller and whatever other parts of a vacuum you’d otherwise destroy by accidentally picking up that kind of crap.

I need to get this on Kickstarter.  Anyone with kids would LOVE it!

And now, I’d like to enjoy my wine.  FINALLY!  Before the crew gets back. =)

How Can I Find Key Influencers In My Niche?

Start-ups are typically cash-poor, at least in their very early days. So how the heck are CEOs supposed to get the word out about their fabulous offerings? Marketing firms, publicists, advertisers…everything costs MONEY! CEOs need boku bucks in order to develop their ideas into something saleable but then they need even MORE money to reach customers.

But not if they can appeal to key influencers in their market segments.

Influencers are people who have a respected voice in a specific niche area. They have an avid group of followers that holds their opinions in high regard. They are a trusted source of information and opinions about a given area.

They trick is to figure out WHO the influencers are in your niche.  There are tools you can use to find them.  I’ve used Klout and Kred but i found another one I like better called Followerwonk. You look up keywords and search results are presented with a ranking.  Pick out 10-20 influencers and then the fun really begins because you’ll need to incent them to endorse your product or service. They may accept payment, although this is not as effective as getting editorial review for your company. Positive affirmation from an unpaid source is always preferable, just not always possible.

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Sometimes incentives come in the form of some type of gift, like product, tickets to an exclusive company-hosted event, or swag of some sort.  But what happens if what you have to offer isn’t really enticing enough?  This is the issue for most of us, if you were wondering.  =)

That’s when you have to get creative.  And believe me, it isn’t easy.  I’ve tried a few different things as an indie author to raise interest in my books.  Most times, it doesn’t work.  On rare occasions, my efforts pay off.  It’s those few and far between wins that I choose to focus on, because maybe it’ll be one of those influencers that will ultimately help me spread the word.  Too bad I don’t have any more Krina handbags to send out.  What romance aficionado wouldn’t love to tote around a luxurious leather handbag for an e-reader and some assorted favorite novels?  And maybe a bag of Starburst jelly beans.

Wouldn’t It Be Awesome If I Was A Developer Who Could Program My Own Freaking Ideas??

I’ve been extremely occupied with edits for my second novel, “Nothing Ventured,” this week.  And I thought there was no creativity left in my overworked brain to pour into the old entrepreneurial arsenal.  Thoughts of Mia and Chris incessantly swarm my mind and my sole focus is to finesse their love story to the satisfaction of my editor.  In fact, I think I’ve dreamed in italicized subtitles for the past few nights.

I didn’t think I had anything left.

But then I came up with..ta-da!!!!  An idea.

In my past life, like a waaaaay long time ago, I was responsible for putting together business requirements for system development projects.  Of course there were endless Microsoft Word doc templates available for this exercise, with tables of contents so long they’d rival the length of the actual document.

I’m exaggerating. Kind of.  =)

But then software packages were developed to simplify the process and analysts could input their requirements into a program and answer a whole slew of questions that would translate into a section of the overall deliverable.  The software package would tie all the components together and take the work out of building the narrative.  Analysts input the pertinent information, the software does the rest.

Not that I’m suggesting authors write books with this type of software but think about applying this concept to the editing process.  Developmental edits are a huge pain.  If an author needs to move chunks of a manuscript around, it becomes very tedious to track all the downstream changes.  Plus, sometimes an author may want to “test” a scene out in a different location but wants to see how it might impact the overall story WITHOUT messing everything up.

A software package that could help with this process would be super useful.  Instead, authors (read: ME) end up saving multiple versions of the manuscript, trying to test out various scenarios and often forgetting which one is the gold copy.  To mitigate the risk of THAT, my titles are normally something like this…

NothingVentured v1.12.3.4 ChrisGetsDrunkMiaGoesOverboard.docx

Not confusing at all, right?

 

What’s Inside Your Closet??

How many times have you spotted someone who’s rocking a killer pair of booties or swinging around the most delectable piece of arm candy you can imagine? How about catching a glimpse of someone who just really knows how to piece together an awesome outfit? Someone whose style you’re just dying to emulate?

I came across an article in Venture Beat for a brand-new digital concept in fashion. Poshmark, in Menlo Park, CA, is launching a women’s fashion marketplace in app form where members can follow the closets of fellow fashionistas and buy coveted items at up to 70% off retail. No longer do you need to chase after these style mavens at the mall! LOL, am I the only one who actually does this and looks like a crazed stalker in the process??

Courtesy of Venture Beat

Courtesy of Venture Beat

It’s fabulous, socialization of looks and trends for fashion lovers! You can even sell your own wares!  Based on your tastes and closet browsing history, you’ll get a feed from the app that connects you to your fave designer duds and style icons. When you follow others or make purchases from their closets or other retailers, the app will craft your own unique Style Genome. And the best part is that you can have a split fashion personality – boho and preppy, glam and grunge…you’ll never be pigeon-holed into one category again!

Absolutely BRILLIANT concept. And they’ve gotten millions upon millions from angel investors like Aston Kutcher and Rachel Zoe to prove it.

 

 

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