There’s Nothing Taboo About Failure

Hi, my name is Kristen and I am a handbag junkie.

In fact, I love them SO much that I spent a very large sum of money to design and sell my own. Unfortunately, though I cherished those handbags and saw them having a unique value proposition, my business never did become profitable. I really thought it was on the brink a couple of times but we all know close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades.

InStyle

I lamented my losses for a long while (and continue to do so when I send my monthly loan payments to the bank). Was I really a failure? I mean, from a financial perspective, it definitely was an epic fail. But if I came away armed with useful knowledge and constructive feedback to apply to my next endeavor, maybe it could be chalked up to a lesson learned, albeit a very expensive one.

I have a close friend who is a co-owner of a man’s skincare line, a very difficult niche market to penetrate. But she believed in her product and drove hard to achieve success with her target. We spoke yesterday and she was completely deflated that her last-ditch efforts to generate revenue yielded no benefit at all. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hole and she’s come to the realization that it’s time to say goodbye.

Let me just stop here and tell you, it is HEART WRENCHING to slam the door on your hopes and dreams and downright depressing to see all of your hard work and effort crumble around you. It’s like a bad breakup story. Making the decision to pull the plug is a very humbling experience. Realizing that you couldn’t make it happen? Man, that’s a tough pill to swallow.

I know this all sounds a little dramatic, but if you’ve ever been in the situation, you know all too well how devastating a loss it is. And for a while, you question and second-guess and lament some more, but it won’t change the overall experience. Sometimes, it’s cathartic to just get it all out there, to share your story with anyone who’ll listen. If you have truly lived and learned, you know where you made mistakes. When they are brought to light, maybe next time around you’ll know which pitfalls to avoid. It’s no longer taboo to hold it all in.  More and more entrepreneurs are coming forward with their own stories.  We’re in good company.

Here’s what I can tell you…don’t be too dejected. You can’t crush true entrepreneurial spirit. Don’t give up on it. If it truly resides within you, you’ll achieve your goals. And all the postmortems and lessons learned you’ve collected over time will make you that much more successful in your future endeavors.  I really believe that…

Embrace and nurture that spirit because once you channel it, you can’t turn it off. It’s what makes you a driver. I LOVE the feeling of coming up with new ideas and strategizing about how to make them come to fruition. The creativity charges me.

So even though things may look dismal now, tomorrow, they’ll look a bit better. And the following day, even better than that, until you finally come away with a lot of clarity and direction about how you can launch the next big thing.

Likes, Shares and GIVEAWAYS!!!

I just spent two days in Atlantic City at a leadership offsite where one of the resounding themes was COMMUNICATION. There were a couple of other themes floating around as well….like gambling and drinking but for purposes of this article, I’ll focus on the former. =)

So, to put it very bluntly, communication can make or break your success as an organization. If you publicize effectively, people feel informed, engaged, and empowered. Impactful internal messaging boost employee morale and incent them to drive toward set business goals.

If you communicate poorly and without an executable plan, you’ll experience the opposite effect. Employees become detached, disenchanted and siloed – all leading to a heck of a lot of angst on the part of management.

So what can you do to improve receptiveness?

 

  • Tell people what they did well and how their efforts contributed to a specific goal.
  • Make them feel like they are valued and solicit their ideas for improving planning and delivery of initiatives.
  • Reward them for being active contributors.
  • Target the messages so they are most impactful and relevant to each specific group.

Turning A Prospect Into A Sale

Communication is key…no matter how large or small the company.

This concept applies to startups as much as it does to mature companies.

Furthermore, identifying and resolving gaps in external communications is critical to the growth of your business.

Just as successes can drive employees to achieve, they can also incent prospective customers to BUY.  Forget guerrilla marketing tactics…use accomplishments to your advantage. Celebrate them, ask for feedback, shower them with freebies or discounts, run giveaways for prospects who “like” or “share” something you’ve put out there. Anything to keep their attention focused on your company and what you are selling.

All of the efforts boil down to this objective…getting your name out to the masses. Highlighting awareness enhances credibility and if you are consistent and calculated with the types of communications you disseminate, people will be more likely to take a test drive. That’s your big opportunity to convert them into customers for life.

So don’t mess it up. =)

Courtesy of brendandunne.wordpress.com

Courtesy of brendandunne.wordpress.com

I AM…The Idea Mama

You know the moment when inspiration strikes. The whole EUREKA experience…it’s incredible, isn’t it?

And do you know what’s even better? You mention the fabulous idea to an objective outsider and they’re just as charged about it as you are.  That’s the second you know…you have SOMETHING and it’s BIG!!!

#bestfeelingever (LOL!)

Anyhoo, I’m kind of there now.  Yesterday, I came up with not one but TWO ideas…one is for a new romantic suspense series which I started and LOOOOOVE and one is for a business of sorts.  More to come on the latter…still a bit too pre-beta for discussion.

Ask me if I worked on either tonight.

NOPE!

Sometimes it’s nice to have the ideas, the hope and the promise of what can materialize once the gears start cranking. It’s kind of like a honeymoon period…before you have to do the real work that makes all the fabulousness become a reality.

Yeah, I like the reflection period…before all the stress and anxiety kick in. But that’s all part of the process…and how the magic ultimately happens.  =)

 

I’m So Thankful For….

All of YOU!!!!! <3 <3 <3

So in honor of Thanksgiving, I thought it would be fun to do a GIVEAWAY!!!!!

And who wouldn’t want to win a $25 Amazon gift card, especially this week when the cyber deals are a plenty? Plus, you can also win an e-copy of my newly launched contemporary romance, UNLIKELY VENTURE!!!

So many ways to win!!!  You can add UNLIKELY VENTURE to Goodreads, follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook author page or subscribe to my mailing list!

Click here to enter the Gobble Gobble Giveaway!!!

 HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!!

toon-thanksgiving-turkey

 

 

IT’S LAUNCH DAY!!!!!!!!!

It is finally LAUNCH DAY!!!!  You can find “Unlikely Venture” pretty much everywhere online at a special launch price of $0.99 – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple iBooks, Kobo…take your pick. =)

I am SO thankful for the enthusiasm and support of my family and friends…it’s been a long road but we’re finally here! Today marks the beginning of my exciting new journey!!!

Unlikely Venture_FINAL_high

Anyone who knows me well also knows I am a huge Foo Fighters fan.  Coincidentally, so are James and Jessica. Go figure.  =)

Here’s an awesome video I found on YouTube of Dave Grohl, frontman for the Foo Fighters, talking about the hit song “Everlong.” I absolutely LOVE this tune and it totally inspired the story of James and Jessica.

I learned later that the song wasn’t ever supposed to be on a record but it holds a lot of meaning for the band and ended up putting the Foo Fighters on the map…for everlong.  Guess it was just meant to be.

“Everlong” by the Foo Fighters

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I Want A New Drug

Some people say you should write what you know. It makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, you can deliver a more compelling story if you’re familiar with the subject.

My editor told me from day one to expand out of my comfort zone and do just the opposite.

When I wrote Unlikely Venture, I had a storyline in my head. Okay, that’s not exactly true. I had about a HUNDRED stories in my head before landing on the ONE, and even then I flip-flopped around until I landed on the right resolution. I decided to take a few risks when developing the story but I was always anchored to my original ideas. Two books later, I’ve sufficiently escaped the confines of that comfort zone. I went in directions that I’d have never considered before and I love the result. Hopefully, you all will as well…

Creating…is an addiction.  One I can’t fight.

Now I sit at my laptop scratching my head. Heightened drama, more intrigue, more plot twists…yes, The Venture Series in totality exceeded my expectations. But now what? I’ve written my first contemporary romance series, and though I am completely invested in my characters, it’s…over. Time to say goodbye. Sigh.

I liken it to a breakup. You spend years with someone and eventually part ways because you both want different things out of life. All the time you invested is lost and you need to refocus that energy on developing a new relationship. It’s nerve wracking. How are you going to find someone you think is just as perfect as the former Ms. or Mr. Right? There’s a whole lot of effort involved and you might need to expand your horizons and level set your expectations. You also have to open yourself to the possibility that there may be more heartbreak on the horizon before you find THE ONE.

But then one night, the stars align and you run into the person you were meant to spend the rest of your life with. The initial fear and apprehension may linger…after all, if something is too good to be true…well, you know how that saying goes.

As time goes on, you realize your life would be meaningless without this person and if you hadn’t opened your eyes wide enough to make a change, you would have missed out on meeting your true soul mate. You took a risk and it paid off.

I came to this realization after receiving some sound advice from a fellow author. She opened my eyes to a world where I need to challenge myself and embrace new ideas and direction. It makes perfect sense!

I need to disrupt my writing process, to dig deep and continue mastering my craft. It will take time, dedication and patience (which is always in short-supply). But I’m committed to my end goal…and diversification will be a key driver.

Who says authors aren’t entrepreneurs???

Resounding success is not found overnight, nor is it the result of “playing it safe.” It’s about the journey, not necessarily the destination (unless the destination is the NYT Bestseller list!). And it’s always the biggest risks that pay off the most.

How To Make The Lust Last

Kevin Hale, partner of Y Combinator and founder of Wufoo, recently gave a fab presentation at Stanford as part of the “How To Start a Startup” course. I LOVE these sessions. It’s so great to gain perspective from those who’ve been successful putting their lessons into practice.  You know the saying “those who can’t do, teach?” Not the case with this series of guest lectures.

Aside from the fact that Hale is an entertaining and colorful presenter, he uses dating and marriage analogies when discussing how to build a product with the goal of being embraced by a target audience.  How apropos…totally appeals to my romance author side.

Some key points he hits on are as follows:

  • Build a passionate user base
  • Give them something that will make them successful in some recognizable way
  • Focus on the value used to get your first dollar or customer…if you figure that out, it will help guide you along the path to your first million (with a little luck and a lot of capital – those are my two cents)
  • Build a product you want people to love and form a relationship with

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz_LgBAGYyo

Hale likens attracting a new user to dating and keeping existing users to marriage.  Very clever.

Think about it…when you’re dating, everything is new, exciting, intriguing. First impressions are absolutely key. Little romantic gestures make you melt, butterflies are constantly fluttering about in your belly when you think about the person. It’s pure bliss, right???

Value is established.  But how do you make those feelings last? Because anyone who is in a long-term relationship knows the excitement dies down after a while and it’s only a matter of time before the “dew is off the rose.”

So how do you maintain that value?

You need to keep things fresh and different…always looking for opportunities to enhance.  You can’t sustain a meaningful relationship unless you take your partners’ wants and needs into account and these WILL evolve over time. Trust me. =)

Cater to your faithful customers. Don’t take them for granted. Talk to them, LISTEN to their feedback and incorporate it into your product base to the best offerings possible.  If you want to maintain a healthy rapport with your users, you need to be flexible, communicative and willing to compromise.

 

I’ll Be Wearing Valentino When I Collect My Oscar

Gillian Flynn is living my dream. Not only is she an A-list New York Times best-selling author, but she’s also headed for the Oscars with the film adaptation of “Gone Girl.”  Red carpet, designer gown, borrowed Harry Winston jewels…yes, she is a freaking rock star in my opinion.

My books take me about three-four months to complete. I don’t outline or plan…I just write. I let the characters take me along for the ride. Sometimes I’m surprised at their decisions, sometimes elated at their realizations, sometimes saddened about events for which they lack control, but I’m always excited to find out what happens next.

During the writing process, I get to know my characters.  For example, I wrote a nine-page character sketch on the hero in my latest novel (which is about four scenes away from being in completed draft mode – YAY!). I needed to get inside his head so I could convince my readers who and what he is and why.  I crafted a picture in my mind. I hear his voice in my head as I read his exchanges with other characters. I know his expressions and his mannerisms. He is as real as I am.

So naturally, I can see him on the silver screen.  I’d love the chance to make him as real to the world as he is to me, to create the alternate reality I’ve lived for the past several months.  Gillian Flynn had her chance…and it’s paid off royally….to the point of $77.9 million (as of press time for the 10/24 issue of Entertainment Weekly).

Ahhh…like I said…THE DREAM.

But first things first…gotta hit the lists before I can collect my own Oscar…in Valentino.  =)

I Built The Perfect Product, Now What?

I was overly anxious to get my beloved Krina handbags out to market…and social media was only a glimmer on the horizon…we’re going back about ten years.   So my partner and I had to rely on human contact to make any inroads in the fashion industry – a super-important but near-impossible task.  After all, the first step in building a network is to establish contact…but how were we supposed to find these people…the ones who would determine the fate of our bags?

Finding the Influencers…

Today, startup business owners can easily locate and connect with influencers in their target industries, although now we have a different issue…way too much noise.  How do you navigate around it?  In some instances, the scale definitely tips in the direction of the startup CEOs in that we have a plethora of information available with the stroke of a few keys.  Conversely, it becomes that much harder to stand out from the crowd.

Now, I’m an author so I think in terms of books…

Ten years ago, I could write a book, get it published by a traditional publishing house and it would land on the shelf at a Barnes & Noble where customers may pick it up, peruse the first couple of chapters and if they like it enough, buy it.  Pretty simple.  Finite number of choices, not an overwhelming amount of competition.

Today, if you’re perusing the web for a book, good luck. The choices seem endless and the market is saturated.  And this doesn’t just apply to the publishing industry…it’s much more far-reaching.

Cutting Through the Noise

With tons of information comes a larger mass of information-CREATORS.  Even if you have a great product, how do you get the attention you need without spending a fortune to get recognition for said product?  At the end of the day, what makes someone click to buy?

Heed my words…be careful…do plenty of research…perform your due diligence…spend CAUTIOUSLY.

Trying to launch anything is a daunting task. I’d have paid a small fortune for a plan that laid everything out for me…a checklist of items I could tick off that would catapult me to the land of success and celebrity.  How nice would THAT be?

A Bit of Free Advice

Learn from my mistakes and haphazard spending.  Connect with people who have been successful, study their patterns, follow industry influencers to see how they accomplish their goals, try to get them to notice you, be persistent but don’t stalk.  That will just annoy them.

Make a list of free promotional options and try those routes first.  Then, sprinkle in some lower dollar cost alternatives.  There is no guarantee any of these will yield sales but test them out and study the results to create and refine a publicity campaign that works for you.  For example, lots of entrepreneurs swear by video to make human connection with a target audience.  I’m personally not an advocate. I don’t really watch videos and I definitely don’t like to appear in them. Yeek…nope, definitely not a fan.  I’m no Gary Vaynerchuk. But if it works for you, go for it.

The key is to assemble a plan and work through it.  When I was running promotions for Krina, I was all over the place…trying to boil the ocean.  There was an utter lack of targeted focus.  I’ve since smartened up and while I still don’t know the magic formula for “what works,” I definitely know what doesn’t.

Recipe For A Startup Romance

If you saw my last post “Wanna Learn How To Start A Startup?” you know that running a startup is pretty much a 24 x 7 gig, which begs the question, are there any slivers of time in a given day dedicated to dating and romance? I mean, even entrepreneurs need love, right?

Interesting and intriguing questions, considering I’m a romance author and I basically create love stories out of circumstances that wouldn’t ever materialize in reality.  I can make anything happen…to anyone…and find the perfect resolution for all to end happily.

Courtesy of Entrepreneur

Courtesy of Entrepreneur

But in the real world, things aren’t so simple. They can’t be handled with a few clicks on a keyboard and a couple of glasses of wine.

The Truth About Entrepreneurship And Dating

I read about a company called Underground Attached, a unique dating experience that brings together 40 (20 men and 20 women) prescreened, like-soul and like-minded people for an evening of play (no, get your minds out of the gutter) and hopefully, a few love connections. Put a roomful of driven, ambitious professionals together and hopefully, sparks will fly…as long as they can stay off their iPhones, Galaxies and CrackBerries long enough to exchange business cards.

39 Signs You’re Dating An Entrepreneur

Sounds good in theory.  Of course, if all else fails, they could also find solace in using my brilliant app idea to build their own virtual reality porn star and their own…well, read the post if you can’t figure it out.

Maybe entrepreneurs should look at potential mates as prospective “investors.” You want someone who will support your goals and help drive you to achieve, someone who understands what it takes to be a success and will be patient waiting for the big returns.

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