Monday, June 23, 2008

Women Entrepreneurs

Yesterday, the Connecticut section of the New York Times ran an article about Women Entrepreneurs in the our area. It focused on "Carla Schneider, 40, of Orange, whose product, the WubbaNub, a silicon pacifier with a small stuffed animal attached, has been used in neonatal intensive care units and by mothers of fussy babies around the country." And the article went on to say that "for many female entrepreneurs, necessity is the mother of their venture." I used to belong to the Women's Entrepreneurial Network, which had no end of striving women with their own businesses. It was true that many of the members who had seen real necessity in the marketplace had plenty of success, but a lot were just wannabes. The wannabes were thinking of starting businesses or were in overly crowded markets, where it was hard to make money.

The article points out that more women start businesses than men. But most woman-owned businesses make very little money. Nearly half of businesses owned by women make less than $10,000 in annual revenue.

In my business planning work, I've only had one woman client -- only one woman who realized the great value of a professional plan and was willing to pay for it. In my marketing communications work, again, I've only had one woman client. I've always wondered about that. Are women more conservative with their money? Or do they have lower ambitions and so don't want to spend money on their businesses? I'm a woman, and I've got to admit, I hesitate before spending money on professional advice or help. But I've also mixed my home life with my home-based business. I work out of a home office, which gives me a tremendous amount of freedom and keeps overhead low. I also realize that what I do for my family and home has economic value. Otherwise, I'd have to hire other people to do my "home work". Still, I love having my own business and generating and contributing my own revenue stream to the family. When paying college tuition, every penny helps.

In any event, the article about women entrepreneurs in our area is well worth reading. It really shows how exciting it is to build a business from an idea and how it is possible to be a business owner and a person with a home life. Here is a permanent link to the article.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Organic Growth -- Planning

Organic growth can't happen without a plan. Even though most entrepreneurs find that they can't follow their plan exactly, a good plan will help them achieve their main goal.

In the dead of winter, when the ground is frozen and the sky is bleak, is when I make my plans for my summer garden. I sit down with an empty sheet of paper, pencil and my seed catalogs to plan the future. I can imagine warm sun, colorful flowers and the joy of picking my own organically grown vegetables. But first, I remember where I have planted last year's crops. This is important because rotating the crops cuts down on pests and diseases and keeps the soil from depleting essential nutrients. I also think about what worked last year and what I would like to do differently. What would I like to try that's new? What successes do I want to repeat?

It's important in business planning to take the same approach. To map out what you want to achieve and where you want to go, you need to understand where you've come from. You need to think through past mistakes and successes, in order to make a better future.

Please post how you approach planning your business (or your garden).


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Choosing Your Company Name

I'm taking a moment away from my gardening metaphors because I just read a great article about choosing a company name. The very first step you need to take in choosing your company name is to do a search on Google, Yahoo!, Alta Vista and MSN for the name you're thinking of using. If you choose something that's similar to a company that is already in business, you may be in for trouble.

One of my clients, IntellEnergy, got a cease and desist order from Intel. It didn't matter that my client used two "Ls" or that they were in a totally different market -- highly efficient commercial garage lighting and ice hockey rink lighting. After spending thousands of dollars on lawyer fees, IntellEnergy had to become IntelliEnergy. But you can still find them at

You can read more about this problem at TwistImage -- Choose Your Words Wisely. -

Friday, June 13, 2008

Organic Growth for Your Business

More wisdom from the garden --

How do you deal with competitors? Competitors are like weeds in a garden. They can overwhelm your flowers and vegetables -- sucking the nutrients and water away and stunting the growth of the good stuff.

How do I deal with weeds? I don't like weeding, so I've set up a system to deter more weeds. In my garden, after digging up and disposing of the early weeds, I put down newspapers in my paths and cover them with cedar mulch or straw. In the beds where the flowers and vegetables grow, I put down grass clippings. When I see a new weed, I pull it up.

What does this have to do with a business? Simple. When you're confronting competitors or other potentially distracting and destructive forces, you need a systematic method for dealing with them. You need to read about potential competitors and have a plan for how to deal with them. You must stay aware of the ones that exist or are sprouting up and infringing on your space.

You can make a map of the competitive landscape. It can contain attributes or benefits or price. Put your competitors on the map. Put your company on the map and see where you fit. Figure out how you are different and how to appeal to consumers and customers in a unique way.

If your business can grow in an area that is reletively free from competitors -- because it's in a clear spot (or niche) by itself, you have a better chance for success. Apple has done this repeatedly. Its products are clearly in a market niche all by themselves, even though they compete in a very full and competitive marketplace.

How have you positioned your business in the marketplace? Is it a good spot?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Organic Growth, Gardening and Entrepreneurs

The first time I talked about organic growth with a client, he thought I was making up the term. I assured him that investors talk about organic growth. It's a good thing. You take your earnings and plow them back into the business to generate more growth in revenues.

Yesterday when I was working in my garden, I realized that gardening is a lot like growing a business. This summer I'm going to write about the parallels between gardening and entrepreneurship.

I once had an investments professor in college who used to say, "The stock market is like a garden. You have to cultivate the flowers and pluck the weeds." A business is like a garden, too. You have to cultivate growth and make sure the weeds don't take over.

What are weeds for an entrepreneur? Competitors, creditors and other complications.

What are the weeds in your business? I'd love to know.