Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Guest Speaker, Erik Hanberg

The guest speaker to our Entrepreneurship and Technology class, Erik Hanberg, had quite a story to tell. As a fellow entrepreneur, I could relate to his story on SO. MANY. LEVELS. I have often had friends tell me that I never finish anything I start, but that is just because I have so many things I am passionate about, and my brain works non-stop on ideas to monetize those passions.

Mr. Hanberg told his story of personal choices blending with his entrepreneurial vision. There are many things over the years I haven't embarked fully on because of kids, family, or other life choices in play at the moment. There are also times I didn't pay my house power bill because I needed to buy supplies for my business. When you are a small entrepreneur, your personal life and business life become so intertwined that it is hard to see the difference between them and they really affect each other. That is a story I can sure relate to.

I feel a kinship with Erik's story because he has kept his passion for writing as he works on all his other passions and endeavors... his failed theater, his work with Metro Parks, his business partnerships with his wife and her skills... but still, he writes. And he publishes his work; self-published, no less. I love to write, especially when I am inspired, but I rarely carve out time to do so. An important reminder to make more time for that. (As I am currently inspired, hence catching up on the blog posts...)

There were two big takeaways for me from his visit... One, a reminder of one of my favorite sayings as an entrepreneur... "Opportunity is lost because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work". I think that is what makes an entrepreneurial brain work just a bit differently from everyone else's; we see the opportunity in its overalls and all, and are not scared off by the work it looks like. We embrace it.

The second cool thing for me was the statement of "Sell your time, or sell something else". I have made a career of selling my time as a nail tech... now I need to sell my experience in my field. I need to monetize all this experience to help other nail techs who are just starting out on the road I have already walked for 18 years. Sort of a "If I had known then what I know now" share, so others CAN know what they need to know now, when they are at the beginning. Definitely helps me focus my vision on my business plan of software development for nail techs...

Thanks for the inspirational story, Mr. Hanberg. And thank you for taking time out to share it with our class.

I'm out for the night. I will pick up with Amy Sallin after some shut eye. Hasta luego, fans!

Michelle :)

3 business ideas!

Those of you who know me also know that my little entrepreneurial brain is always at work. The problem with this assignment was narrowing my extensive list of business ideas down to a mere 3 that would be the most workable for this class AND provide a real, functional framework for actually using it to start a business.

Since I am behind on my blog posts, I will say that any ideas I had of being a blogger for a business are long gone! I have lots of ideas and I like to share them with the world, but I can only write when I am feeling it, and that doesn't always work on a blog type deadline (or a classroom one, for that matter). My beloved English teacher from TCC (shout out to Alexis Clifton-McMillian! Woot!) would be both disappointed in this revelation and excited that I had the self awareness to see it. So, no, one of my business ideas is NOT blogger. It wouldn't be able to get big enough for the purpose of writing the business plan anyway. I doubt that even Vani Hari aka "Food Babe" has a staff of 60+ working for her, and her blog is HUGE.

Anyhoo, I believe that the best money to be made, and far more likely to happen, is not to invent a product or idea that is revolutionary, but to "build a better mousetrap", so to speak. It is in that spirit that I think of business ideas. Target an existing product to a niche market and make it so absolutely perfect for them that it changes the entire market. That is my philosophy. That being said, here are my 3 business ideas....

1. Solar powered smartphones.

It was pointed out to me by my International Marketing teacher the first week of class, incorrectly I might add, that this was not a viable new product because it has already been done. That part is true enough, but to look at it that way is a truly imperialistic view on the cell phone as it pertains to the world market. Some quick research led to an unmet need and some cost effective ideas on capitalizing on that need. There is a company in Finland that manufactures cell phones via plants in China, and they can design and customize just about anything. Currently, a basic smart phone can be had on Alibaba for about $10 USD wholesale, but there is a lack of infrastructure to charge that phone in many parts of the world. Especially parts of the world that have, oh I don't know, a lot of SUN!! And $10 USD is still a lot of money for most other countries in the world, especially emerging market countries. Also, current solar cell phones have their charging panel on the back... now who in the hell is going to carry their phone out so that it can charge? And there is no sun in a pocket! So, designing a cell phone that does not have a color screen is also cheaper to produce and faster to charge, and also holds a charge longer. It looks that with customization, a phone could be made with 3G capability and wifi, no color screen, in a Blackberry style format, with a small solar panel that could clip on a backpack or back collar of a shirt and a cord to the phone in a pocket, for under $8 USD. The slightly lower price could make it affordable, especially if broken into a pay as you go plan and not needing to pay for the expensive electricity to charge it. There could be a huge market for this in emerging markets in Africa and South America. It could be further expanded for uses domestically for homeless people in the southern states, and for thru-hikers who would not be able to access power for charging but wanted a phone for emergencies. I really like this idea.

2. Complete software solution for running an independent nail business.

There are software solutions for online booking, accounting, marketing ideas, etc for the nail business but none of them are an affordable COMPLETE solution for the average booth-renter nail tech. I answer all kinds of questions online in forums about tax structure, accounting, marketing to get new clients, what someone needs to start up on their own, and on and on. Nobody is filling this need. Most systems are geared to multiple stylist/tech salons with payroll modules that a sole proprietor doesn't need, and is missing the integration that they do need. There is marketing help in online booking programs, but it is not targeted to nail techs specifically. And with a small tweak in programming to allow for different currency types, this could be scale-able to a global market of nail techs. It should be cloud-based to eliminate the investment in expensive software and hardware, and start on the iOS platform for the apps since that is what the majority of techs use. Many companies have the pieces, but nobody has the whole pie. See, better mousetrap.

3. Business card app.

While I don't think this idea is scale-able large enough for the purpose of this project, I have full intent on doing it someday. I need to give credit where it's due... the general idea was actually LTB's when he was struggling to find someone's card one day. It is an app for your phone that is a cross between social media and an electronic Rolodex (remember those? Or is my age showing again?! LOL!). The basic premise is that users develop an electronic business card and can "give it" to another app user. When information on the card needs to be changed, the card owner changes it and it updates on the app of everyone they have given the card to. Everyone always has their phone, and nobody likes to wonder if they are calling a former place of employment to reach a contact. Problem solved with technology. Now this is here in writing, so if someone steals the idea and does it, I can sue them. Be warned. (I need to use the lesson on Intellectual Property that Mr. Fry gave us......)

So, there are my 3 business ideas. I already know which one I am doing my business plan on, but those were the ones that were in the running when I should have written this blog post. At least my instructor can't say I am trying to slide under the radar... I know he is more intelligent than that and has been checking our blogs anyway. :)

Next blog post... A guest speaker summary... Mr. Erik Hanberg.

Until next time,

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"" Movie review...

So, better late than never, I suppose. I'm not sure that my instructor, Andrew Fry, will agree; however late it may be, I am doing my required blog posts anyway.

For those of you late to the party (not that I arrived at the party much before you, apparently!), I am in an Entrepreneurship and Technology class this quarter at the University of Washington Tacoma. We have blog posts assigned to us for various topics along the quarter, and since I am behind, they are going to come rapid-fire here for a bit.

This particular post is a review of the movie "". If you have not seen it and are too young to have lived through the dot com boom of yesteryear, it is definitely worth a view. The movie documents the story of high school friends Tom and Kaleil as they embark on developing a new website called Back in the early development days of the internet, the desire to be the first to offer something new and cool that could be done on a webpage was at a feverish pace. Everyone wanted in on the action, and there was big money to be made. And lost. More on that in a minute...

The website that the friends had dreamed up would be to search and pay online for any bill you may have to a government agency... parking tickets, renewing drivers licenses, etc. Now, in 2015, it seems silly to think of this as a big deal- but it was a revolutionary idea in 1999. The movie, released in 2001, chronicles the journey in the rise and fall of this great idea.

To be honest, the movie was frustrating for me to watch. For one, I am old enough to remember life before everything computers and online. So, it was a bit like the adage of "hindsight is 20/20" as I looked through it with my Applied Computing minor glasses on 41 year old eyes. I kept face-palming myself during the movie (both times I watched it) as I thought to myself Damn, no wonder it took forever for the internet to get rolling! Dumb asses.

Secondly, from a business perspective, I felt like they really went after their idea half-assed. That's right, I said it. People who got to sit with Bill Clinton and hang with a bunch of rich people took a great idea (clearly, since it is commonplace today) and botched it. From the beginning, they had a complete lack of clear vision and focus for their company. Kaleil kept wavering on the name until the last second, and still continued to second guess himself even after the choice was final. They went into venture capital meetings unprepared because they were not clear on the vision for their idea in process, just the end result. It is lucky they ever got any investors at all.

Finally, Tom and Kaleil violated the fundamental strength of a successful partnership- each partner doing what they do best and butting out of the other partners doing what THEY do best. Tom had no business being in the meetings for the capital search, and Kaleil needed to stay out of the development process. Tom was really not as emotionally invested in the company as Kaleil, as evidenced by his lackadaisical candor when discussing the impeding failure possibility with Kaleil, and I think he never got as emotionally invested as he could have been because he wasn't focused strictly on what he was good at. If Tom would have been nose-in on the tech side the entire ride, they may not have had as many delays getting up and going, not had the debacle, and might have beat their competitor to market.

Spoiler alert: In the end, the only person who made any money was the third partner who they bought out early on. He got $4 million, and everyone else got squat when it crashed. Tom didn't see that affected by the loss, which was probably a part of the problem all along. It seems their friendship, although strained, survived the experience.

And they all lived happily ever after, I suppose. Check it out if you get a chance; especially if you are looking to start a business and want some good ideas on what NOT to do.

Next up... 3 business ideas for my Business Plan for the class :)