How To Launch on a Dime

Business on the Cheap: Best Buys and bargains on the Net

by Michelle Madhok
www.Shefinds.com
Incubator member, NYC

For newly minted business owners, one of the biggest challenges is keeping costs down. It seems all forms of marketing, communication and office necessities cut into cash flow. My business is based on helping women shop online so I make it a rule to bargain hunt on the net for my office products and services. Below are a few tips on how to squeeze that last dime out of your high-speed connection.

1. Don’t pay someone else’s rent. I live in Manhattan where real estate is extremely pricey so when I need a printer I don’t want to pay for the copier’s Manhattan address. Search google.com for the service you need. Color copies at the neighborhood copy shop cost .89 cents each. A quick search finds www.colorcopysite.com  in California that will produce the copies for .10 cents each and ship for next day delivery.

2. Cyberscale. Use online businesses where the sole focus is on what you need. For business collateral go virtual. Vistaprint.com is a bargain, offering 250 business cards for $19.99 and 250 postcards for $49.99. Need 200 photos for your press kit? Bonusprint.com charges just 29 cents for a 5×7 print of your digital photo. Compare that to $1 per photo at your local developer.

3. Fair trade. Many people looking to make a career change or get experience in your industry may be willing to trade their expertise for yours. Visit sites such as ryze.com and craigslist.com where you can post a message about the services you need. Personally I found people to help me with marketing, analysis, copy editing and photography all in exchange for my experience or advice.

4. Make it legal. Lawyers are expensive and sometimes you can’t avoid having to pay their fees, but sometimes you can get legal services at a value price. Legalzoom.com will help business owners incorporate at rock bottom prices. A white shoe law firm charges approximately $1,500 to process your corporate documents – legalzoom can do the most basic package for $99. If you do need legal advice sometimes a sole proprietor lawyer can be a better bargain. Remember – avoid overhead whenever possible. You want to pay for an attorney’s brain power, not the fancy carpet on their floor.

5. Get it secondhand. Let your competitors pay retail. On eBay you can get a gently used answering machine for $2, a “like new” Dell laptop for $400 and a closeout HP printer/copier combo for just $8. Visit amazon.com for previously owned books – you’ll enjoy slashed prices on the business books you need to succeed. A copy of Guerilla Publicity with “slight shelf wear” can be had for $6.82 – compare that to the list price of $12.95. You’re making money already.

Six Essentials for Networking

by Christine Comaford-Lynch

Networking is about creating an extended family. It’s about developing connections, caring about people, increasing the size of your “tribe.” Here are a few networking essentials from my book Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality.

1. Practice “palm up” networking. When you network, are you giving, or grasping? Palm up networking embodies the spirit of service, of giving and wanting nothing in return. When you network “palm down” you’re grasping for personal gain. Palm up = heart-oriented interaction. Palm down = greedy grasping. Which attitude results in building relationships, providing value, and ultimately bestows benefits on both parties? You guessed it. The universe has a perfect accounting system. Give to others, it’ll all come back to you in time.

2. Do daily appreciation. Appreciate at least one person daily. Sometimes I do this via e-mail so I can be thorough. And often, to my delight, the recipient will tell me that they are saving the message for when they need a pick-me-up. You can also express appreciation over the phone or in person. Simply tell someone how much you appreciate who they are, what they do, whatever about them moves you. They’ll be flattered and you’ll feel great.

3. Equalize yourself with others. I believe we all have one unit of worth, no more, no less. No one can add to it, no one can take it away. We’re all equal. Just because someone is powerful, rich, famous doesn’t mean they are better than you. Practice equalizing yourself with others—this will enable you to more comfortably interact with others, and to reach out to people of all walks of life.

4. Rolodex dip. This is a fun practice when you want to connect with someone but aren’t sure who. Flip through your contact database and pick a name. Then think of all the things you like about them. Now call them up to see how they are doing. They’ll be surprised and delighted.

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5 Simple Steps To Secure Your Computer

From Malicious Attacks and Expensive Repair Bills

by Diane Hodgdon of Hudson Valley HelpDesk, Inc.

Is your computer safe? The Internet is a big open field. You have access to the world, but on the flip side, the world has access to you. Hackers have programs that automatically scan the Internet for computers connected via cable or DSL connection without a firewall. Once they find one, they access your computer, download vicious programs, and can even use your computer to send viruses to your friends and other computers, all without your knowledge.

If you own a computer that has access to the Internet and e-mail, then you could be exposed to a malicious spyware program, virus, worm, or hacker. Every day we get customers coming in who are experiencing problems due to these threats, and it’s only getting worse.

5 Simple Steps to Keep Your Computer Safe:

1. Always keep an up-to-date anti-virus software running.

2. Use an alternative e-mail program other than Outlook Express. Outlook Express is notorious for security holes. If you don’t have the latest security updates, hackers can send you e-mails with viruses that automatically open and install themselves without you even opening the e-mail and its attachments.

3. Never open suspicious looking e-mails or attachments. This goes without saying because most viruses are replicated via e-mail. If it looks suspicious, delete it!

4. Stop using peer to peer file sharing sites and downloading “cute” programs.  As a rule of thumb, the “cuter” the program, the more dangerous it is. Think of it like “cyber candy”. Hackers use these programs as bait to get you to download their destructive programs. These are guaranteed ways of contracting malicious viruses, spyware, and malware. Also, peer to peer file sharing sites like KaZaa are mine fields of malicious programs. NEVER access those sites or download their programs.

5. Set up a firewall. A firewall is simply a device that acts as a buffer between you and the big, wild world of the Internet to keep your computer safe. Many users will get a DSL or cable Internet connection and plug it into their computer with no firewall in between.

If your computer and the files on it are important to you, get serious about protecting them! Log on to hvhd.com for more information about a FREE Problem Prevention Audit. We’ll check your network’s current security against hacker attacks, theft, worms, viruses, even employee sabotage!

 

Organize Your Finances – FOR GOOD!

by Galia Gichon
DOWN-TO-EARTH FINANCE 
Category – Other, Business 

One of the biggest obstacles to taking control of your finances is getting organized. But once you spend the initial time whipping your system into shape, or hiring a professional organizer to do it for you, it just takes a few minutes every week to stay on top of it. Here are a few changes you can make right away.

Make bill paying as easy as possible. This is particularly important if you are often incurring late fees. It’s also just convenient. You can utilize an automatic bill paying system through your credit card or at your bank. Get certain bills paid onto your credit card automatically every month. This is especially helpful for your cable and electric bill.

What to do with all that paper? Let’s start with investment statements. First, open everything that comes in the mail. You should only keep the following: your most recent statement, a statement if you bought or sold any shares, and the year-end statement. Everything else you can toss (or shred). Setting up individual files for all your separate accounts is worth the initial time. Therefore, when you are doing your financial checkup or getting ready to meet with a financial advisor, you are easily prepared. You should also create a system for your tax receipts. Make it a weekly habit and file them as soon as they come out of your purse, wallet or briefcase. When tax time rolls around, you will be so prepared and much less stressed.

Is personal finance software for you? Many people buy it but always seem to be behind, so it’s not for everyone. But, you should still put pen to paper and come up with a spending plan or budget on a quarterly basis. It is worth the time to rent a safety-deposit box for safe-keeping of your will, life insurance policies, and home ownership papers. Make sure that your beneficiaries have a copy of these papers as well.

Consolidate as many accounts as possible. Transfer your old 401(k)s to your new job or to a rollover IRA. Consolidate all your IRAs into one account and separate taxable statements into one account, as well. You’ll get fewer statements every month and be able to keep track of your accounts easier. Remember, disorganization stands in the way of financial success. Make taking control of your finances a priority!

Building Dream Teams

by Taz, Founder, Massage Therapist &
Integrative Nutritional consultant of Namaste holistics
www.namasteholistics.com

It is very important as an entrepreneur when creating a team to recruit people who share your vision, understand your personality, and most of all complement your strengths. Having worked on managed teams in my corporate career, I have a strong sense of what works and what doesn’t. Now as an entrepreneur I’ve found it all boils down to four major points, separate but interlinked.

Complementary Skill Sets

When you start your own company, you know how you want everything to be. Most entrepreneurs are unwilling to give up control because they fear things may not be “just right”. However, no one excels at everything. It is important to understand your weaknesses and look for these as strengths in other people. A team should be comprised of people who excel in different areas of the business including information technology, writing, giving seminars, marketing and finding leads. Maybe as a typical entrepreneur you thrive in one area and could muddle through the others, but why not find someone who can produce a much better result than you can in half the time? After all, Liberace did not move his own piano. Because of the complementary skill sets you’ll be able to work as a unit.

Community

I have seen that in order to have a well-oiled team, it must consist of people who function as individuals and don’t feel threatened by the others. Each member excelling in one area contributes to the team’s cohesiveness. It is important to create an atmosphere where all opinions are encouraged, heard and considered. This synergy and interpersonal understanding goes hand-in-hand with an atmosphere of democracy, rather than autocracy, and helps keep motivation high.

Encouragement and Acknowledgment

We all look for that “pat on the back” every once in a while to keep us motivated. Acknowledgment of another’s time and effort, regardless of the outcome, is essential to keeping a well-functioning team in place. It doesn’t matter if the end result is not what you had expected. Expressing gratitude for a team member’s work is essential. Of course this is only possible in an atmosphere of respect.

Open Mind and Open Communication

Try an open-communication policy encouraging each team member to speak up when problems arise. I have experienced how quickly a team can break down when there are hidden animosities and frictions among members coupled with a closed mind. Being able to discuss one’s feelings and perceptions openly despite a disagreement is important for any team.

Top 7 Ways to Build Your Database

by Linda Hollander

As an entrepreneur, one of your most valuable business assets is your list. Your database includes customers, prospects and raving fans who can refer you to others.
 
More people on your list mean more sales. If you’re just starting your business, you’ll want to start building your database as soon as possible.



Right now, there are over 15,000 people in my proprietary Wealthy Bag Lady list, but as an entrepreneur just like you, I started out with zero, nothing, zilch, nada!
 


Here are some techniques for building your list.

•  Joint Ventures: Do joint ventures with experts who have an established database. You can leverage their database and credibility by doing teleclasses, webinars, referrals and web links. By doing a teleclass with a woman who had a tremendous fan base, I was able to increase my database by 500 people in one day.

•  Email capture on your web site: Have a way to capture people’s contact information on your web site. Offer an incentive for people to give you their contact information such as a free gift or special report.

•  Write books and articles: You don’t need to publish a traditional hard copy book. You could write an e-book, booklet, articles, special reports and tip sheets. These will give you expert status and grow your database.

•  Networking meetings, trade shows and your own event: People still do business with people, not faceless corporations. Nothing takes the place of meeting someone in person. At networking meetings and trade shows, have some form of lead generation such as a raffle prize. The ultimate way to build your brand is hosting your own event.

•  Public speaking: Speaking builds your platform and gets your message out to more people. Remember to collect the names of the people in the audience. Like most people, I was afraid of public speaking for most of my life. Then I learned to change my fear into excitement.

•  Media releases: My favorite sources are PRWeb.com and PRNewswire.com. Write a media release and submit it to online and traditional media about your business.

•  Social networking web sites: Facebook and LinkedIn have grown my database by leaps and bounds. Remember that with social networking web sites, blatant promotion of your business is frowned upon. Create relationships first. Then tell people about your business.
 

How To Quit Your Job

You’ve attended the Ladies who Launch incubator, the entrepreneur in you has awakened, and you’re determined to start your own company. But one thing is holding you back – your current job.

Changing jobs is one of the most stressful events for women along with divorce and moving. That’s why it’s no surprise that many business women keep jobs that serve no purpose other than to pay the bills. But if it’s time to leave, rest assured there are ways to reduce the anxiety. Consider these tips:

Get a realistic picture of your financial situation. Most women stay in their jobs due to the steady paycheck. Take a serious look at your situation – you might be able to pull off leaving. If you’re starting a new business you’ll need to cover living expenses and start-up costs. Having a realistic financial picture of your future will reduce the anxiety.

Tap into revenue streams that don’t take priority over your own business.
Are there revenue streams you can tap right away? For example, you can sell products such as CAbi (clothes) and Arbonne (skincare) via direct marketing. Find solutions that give you instant income and flexibility.

Leave time between your current job and starting out on your own. If you have been with your current employer for a long time and you’re burned out, you will experience a lack of energy after quitting. This is completely normal and happens to everybody during a change. Listen to your body – it needs rest. Planning a break right after leaving your job will make your transition much more relaxed and enjoyable.

Stay with your current employer until you have a plan. While in the planning phase, continue to perform well at your current job and spend your extra energy working on your own future.

By having a plan, you’ll find yourself taking action. This will reduce anxiety and break down mental barriers.

The writer is Veronika Lervik Wilsher, Principal coach and founder of Northern Lights Coaching, of San Francisco, CA.
If you would like to talk to life coach Veronika Lervik Wilsher about how to make your change, please send her an email at vlwilsher@gmail.com.

7 Financial Steps Every Woman Business Owner Needs To Know

Women are becoming more and more in control of their finances, resulting in an overwhelming number of choices. How do you know where to begin? Here are seven steps to get your finances on track and simplify your life.

1) TAKE A FINANCIAL SNAPSHOT.
Start by taking a 30-second snapshot:

· How much do you OWE?
· How much do you OWN?
· How much do you SPEND?
· How much do you EARN?

2) DEAL WITH YOUR DEBT AND CREDIT REPORT HEAD ON. Before you can start building a solid financial future you have to be debt free. Run a credit report from all three agencies and get your FICO score at www.myfico.com. You can fix any mistakes you might find on their sites. Then consolidate and transfer any credit card debt to a permanent low interest rate credit card. You can find one at www.bankrate.com. Stop using your credit cards for anything new; only use cash. Finally, come up with a payment plan to determine when you will be debt free.

3) CREATE A SPENDING PLAN. Start repairing your finances by living on cash ONLY for the next two months. Then, come up with a set weekly spending amount and stick to it for the week – NO MATTER WHAT! You will find that there is more money left over at the end of the month and now you can pay yourself or go shopping. What woman wouldn’t want to go shopping – guilt free? You can still do the things you love, but you need to prioritize them on a weekly basis.

4) MAKE SAVING FOR RETIREMENT A PRIORITY. As women we have so many things fighting for our time and money that saving for retirement keeps getting pushed to the back burner. Start with at least 3% of your income to your SEP IRA. Another benefit is you will save money on taxes! You can also setup an automatic savings to a ROTH or Traditional IRA at a mutual fund company. See if you can maximize the $4,000 limit by contributing $333 automatically every month.

5) SETUP AUTOMATIC SAVINGS. Changing your financial mindset means making it automatic, automatic, automatic. Even if you can’t afford much, start at $50 a month. Fact – people who put away a small, scheduled amount of money every month end up saving more money than those who put away larger sums but do it sporadically. Consider www.ingdirect.com  or www.Emigrant-Direct.com.  They are currently paying 4.50% and 5.05% on their money market with no fees and no minimums.

6) EXAMINE YOUR INSURANCE. Do you have the cheapest health insurance out there? Visit www.1sthealthinsurancequotes.com. Don’t forget about disability insurance. If you get sick, no one will pay you! While you are at it, is your will up to date? You can also DIY inexpensively with a will program on www.nolo.com.

7) CHANGE A MONEY HABIT. When it comes to finances, women get stuck in ruts. Luckily we’re not afraid to admit our mistakes and learn from them. A few suggestions to see positive changes in your financial life:

· Open all the money envelopes the day they come in
· Make your finances as simple as possible. Close and consolidate accounts.
· Say a daily money affirmation. For example: “I am open to receive financial prosperity and abundance.”
· Call upon other women. A friends, family or financial planners. Don’t complain but ask for support and guidance on how to move forward.

Making Speaking Work For You

The 5 Secrets to Great Speeches

by Lauren Mayer,
Founder of Lauren Mayer Productions

I was giving a presentation to a prospective client, and it was going great – I remembered my points, the audience was receptive, I was on a roll. Then I pulled my media kit from my briefcase and out came – a pacifier. After an awkward pause I ad-libbed – “”Honestly, it’s my baby’s, but I borrow it when I get nervous.” They laughed, and I got the account!


Public speaking is an exercise in anticipating the unexpected, but by using humor and preparation, you can avoid – or cope with – the pitfalls, and use speaking to enhance your business. These 5 tips will help you get the most out of your next speaking opportunity:



PERSONALIZE. Find your unique voice. What is it about you that people respond to and like? Capitalize on your strengths, rather than turning yourself into a carbon copy of everyone else. Start with your genuine self, at your most confident, and THEN add the polish.

PREPARE YOUR SPEECH. There are all sorts of methods, so try a few and see which works best for you. Write it out word for word, edit, and memorize
, speak it aloud into a tape recorder, transcribe, then memorize
, develop an outline and memorize the introduction and conclusion. 
After your first draft, edit, edit, edit – every time you work on it you’ll find new ideas.



POLISH. There are tons of books, videos and coaches out there on formal presentation skills. Some of their information can be helpful, but you don’t need to turn into a politician or lose your genuine self in the process. Make their techniques work for you – for example, most coaches recommend broad slow gestures, but if they’re not comfortable, it shows. A few general tips apply to almost everyone:
 Slow down – audiences don’t know the material and need time to take it in. Posture –you don’t need to stand like a marine, but make sure your weight is evenly distributed, and imagine a string pulling you up from the back of the top of your head.
 Gestures – use slower, bigger versions of gestures that are already natural for you.
 Voice – listen to yourself on tape and make sure the pitch and quality are pleasant.

PRACTICE. Practicing improves any kind of speaking, from formal presentation to a 20-second ‘elevator pitch’. Try a variety of techniques:
 Audio and/or video-record yourself – you see and hear immediately what to fix
. Work in front of a mirror – great for posture, gestures, etc.
 Try a sympathetic audience – a good friend, business partner or spouse
.

PREVENT. Anticipate various things that typically go wrong in speaking situations, and come up with responses. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
 Stage fright – even the most seasoned speakers get it, and fighting stage fright just intensifies the symptoms (shortness of breath, nausea, sweatiness, etc.). The trick is to control your breathing, which will slow down your heart rate and ease the adrenaline rush – slow in & out breaths through the mouth, with a pause in between, are easy and effective, or check out meditation techniques, yoga, etc.
 Technical Mishaps – Powerpoint is famous for going out at key moments, so always make sure you have your material in print with you. When you have a sound system, make sure you get to try the equipment before the speech, and make friends with the tech people!
 Cell phones – No matter how many times you remind people, a phone will go off or someone will start clicking away. If you feel comfortable, try diffusing the situation with humor. (One speaker announces “if your cell phone goes off, we’ll assume it’s your birthday and sing to you”; When I see someone blatantly texting, I say something like “No, tell Oprah I’m not available until NEXT week.”)
 Scowlers – Even seasoned performers like Whoopi Goldberg have said that their eyes always go to the one frowning person in any large crowd, so it’s human nature to be distracted by unfriendly faces. Try to keep refocusing on the smiling, happy people who are enjoying your talk, and remember the scowl often has nothing to do with you. (A colleague of mine was thrown by a particularly sour-looking woman in the front row; the woman approached him after the speech, and when he braced himself for a critique, she said, “Honey, your speech was so good, I almost laughed out loud.”)



By personalizing, preparing, polishing, practicing, and preventing, you can give a speech that will reflect the best of you, enhance your business visibility, and make you look great – even if you end up with a pacifier in your hand!



How To Give A Good Interview: PR Tips for Dummies

HOW TO GIVE A GOOD INTERVIEW

1. Do your homework
Research the publication, show or website and who will be interviewing you. What is the reporter’s expertise and style? If you are being interviewed for radio or television, ask about the set up. Is the interview live or taped? Will you be sitting next to the host or in a studio? Will someone give you time cues so you know when to wrap it up?

2. You are always on the record
It’s fine to make chit chat before the interview starts but remember that unless you explicitly tell the reporter something is off the record, she may use it. This is also extremely important to keep in mind if you are doing a television or radio interview. Never assume the mike isn’t on.

3. Ditch the talking points
Be yourself! If there are specific points you want to make, memorize those little factoids but don’t sound scripted. I often practice in front of my husband or friends so I’m comfortable with my topic. Personal anecdotes help too. I love to tell of the time when I gave a national radio interview, all the while hoping that my twin babies in the next room would be sufficiently entertained by Elmo until I was off the air.

4. Don’t Play the Expert (If You’re Not)
Know your stuff inside and out but it you’re stumped by a question, admit that you’d like to check before you answer. Then gracefully steer the interview to something you do want to discuss. I always like to say – “That’s a great question. What I can tell you is this…” Unless you are a politician, CEO or a celebrity, most interviews will be pretty friendly. There is no reason to pretend you have all the answers if you don’t.

5. Focus on the Interview
If you are doing a telephone interview from home now’s not the time to put away groceries. Find a quiet space so you can concentrate. Turn off your call waiting if possible and make sure you have a hard line available instead of your cell.

6. Network
News reporters are always looking for help. Stay in touch and suggest other opportunities to work together.

7. Tips for TV
Avoid both large and small prints – especially black and white. Green is sometimes a problem. Avoid bright white.
Never ever wear anything you have never worn before. Consider where the microphone will go. Avoid linen and anything that bunches when you sit. Check yourself out beforehand and look for places where fabric pulls or gathers when you sit. Bring your make-up with you and never, ever show up to a studio bare faced. If you are lucky, the show will provide a make up and/or hair stylist for touch ups. Avoid flashy or large jewelry. Everything looks bigger on TV.

The author is Los Angeles Incubator member Heather Cabot, Founder and Publisher, The Well Mom, Inc.