Category: Advisors

Zaplee: An Update

I wrote a post a week or so ago that introduced Zaplee – very exciting software that gives small and medium sized businesses access to call centers via Skype which does away with expensive infrastructure and significant delays in setup. A free trial has literally just been launched via Skype Extras. Check it out!

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Overcoming Isolation as a Home Business Owner

As a home business owner, you will be faced with many obstacles. One of the most unexpected challenges for many home business owners is the feeling of isolation. New and seasoned home business owners encounter feelings of being isolated from the rest of the world, and even loneliness, at some point during their careers. The quiet home office is certainly a change from a populated office space at previous jobs.

Owning and operating a small business from home has many advantages, but working in an office with others has the social aspect that a home office lacks. This social aspect is a double-edged sword; most home business owners chose to work from home based on office politics or the independence that comes from going solo. Like it or not, co-workers, colleagues, and supervisors did keep you company at your old job.

How can you fight these feelings when your home office is quiet and you’ve been working alone for hours on end? The key is to feel as though you are part of society while not being distracted. There should be a balance between interruptions and total solitude. There are a few ways that you can feel as though you’re not the Lone Ranger while remaining productive.

Turn On the Radio or Television

Depending on your level of distraction and whether you are taking telephone calls, you could turn on the radio or television to keep you company. Light classical music works wonders, and some people find that having background noise helps cure loneliness. Other people find they get caught up in what is on television or are distracted by music.

Take the Dog (or Cat) to Work

The family dog or cat will definitely keep you company. Dogs are great, because you can also take them out for a walk to get some fresh air. Cats are perfect, as they are usually not distracting and need little attention to be content. If you have no pets, it may be a good time to consider getting one, simply for the companionship they provide. Unlike humans, pets do not require conversation to be companions.

Arrange Business Lunches

Arranging business lunches with clients and colleagues is a great way to network, build relationships, and socialize. Pleasant afternoon coffee outings and lunches with clients will also lead to quality word of mouth advertising. Many professional associations, including local Chambers of Commerce, have weekly or monthly business lunches. These are wonderful resources for new business and to simply get out and meet people in your community.

Join an Online Home Business Forum

There are forums online where home business owners from around the world gather to socialize and share ideas. These are a wonderful way to interact with others with little pressure to keep up a long conversation. Beware the vacuum of the Internet – hours can seem like minutes. Online communities such as Girls with Goals are huge distractions for many people; yet when visited in moderation, they are excellent a great source of human interaction.

Pick Up the Phone for Human Contact

If you are feeling isolated, call one of your clients to “touch base”. Maintaining contact with clients is always welcome; keeping open lines of communication allows you to better understand their needs while you are maintaining a positive presence.

Perhaps your line of business requires cold calling for sales or business leads. When you are feeling lonely, there is no better time to cold call potential customers and pitch your business.

You can plan a predetermined amount of time in your day for personal calls with friends and family. These calls will help you to feel as though you are still part of society even though you are working alone. Friends and family will usually be supportive and help you to remain positive during tough times. It is important to set a time limit, otherwise you may find time slipping away from your business matters.

Remember: You Are Not Alone

Every home business owner has the occasional day when they feel isolated, lonely, and even depressed because they miss daily interaction with co-workers. After hours and hours of being alone in a home office, a trip to the grocery store or dry cleaners can seem like a treat. It is important to remember that you are not alone. There are thousands of people, working frantically in their home offices who also feel isolated from time to time. Focus on your work, maintain a healthy lifestyle away from the home office, and follow these pointers. You’ll feel much better during your busy day.


Erin Hurry
Girls with Goals
“Our Goal is Your Success”

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Word of Mouth Marketing

If you’re trying to market a product on a limited budget, you know what a challenge it can be. Why not harness the power of word of mouth marketing? Word of mouth marketing is one of the best forms of free advertising available to the cash strapped marketer.

To make word of mouth marketing work for your business, you must have a good product at a reasonable price. If customers are impressed with the value your product offers, they’ll enthusiastically spread the word to their friends and family. This is free advertising at its best! Here’s how to put the power of word of marketing to work for your business:

Girls with Goals Steps

1. When you sell a product, give your customers extra business cards or flyers to give to their friends and family. People love to share new discoveries with their acquaintances. Make it easy for them by giving them some of your sales literature.

2. Take brochures and business cards with you wherever you go. Pin them up on bulletin boards, put them into fish bowls at restaurants, and hand them to people you meet throughout the day. This is a quick and easy way to market your business. It’s a great form of free advertising.

3. Tell everyone you know what you do for a living. It’s said that every person you meet knows over 200 other people. By telling one person what you do, you’re reaching a large universe of potential customers. Use word of mouth marketing to spread the word.

4. If you get feedback from a particularly satisfied customer, ask if you can use their comments as a testimonial in your next brochure. Jot down their comments as well as their name and address. Before publishing their comments ask for their written permission by mail. After receiving their written permission, add their testimonial to your marketing brochure when you next update it.

5. Offer your customer a future discount for each person they refer to you. When your customer’s name is mentioned as a referral source, keep track of it in a notebook so you’ll remember to give that customer a discount on their next purchase from you.

6. When a customer buys a product from you, give them a coupon for a 10% discount on their next purchase. At the same time, give them several extra coupons to give to friends and family. People love discounts and will express their gratitude by giving you free advertising.

7. Always over deliver! Give your customers such amazing service that they can’t wait to tell their friends. Truly good customer service is rare these days. Go the extra mile and watch your sales skyrocket!

Isn’t it time for you to harness the power of word of mouth marketing to promote your own product or business? It’s a great form of free advertising. Give it a try and prepare for some great results.

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Lyro Speaks Back: Update~ $350K Virtual Investment ‘Restatement’

Lief Larson here.  One of the founders of Lyro.  Thanks for taking a look.  If we lifted up the skirt on our long-term objectives, that wouldn’t be much fun now would it? )

Plaxo is already following us.  We launched web searchable digital business cards before they did.  We had the social aspects before them.  But that doesn’t matter.  We like Plaxo.  We even like Goliath LinkedIn.  Both companies are good at what they do.  We are focused on the small and independent businesses, the entrepreneurs, the consultants who wants to get more out of the web and have better visibility.  Best of all, we’re asking for nothing in return.  If we help you and you find the site useful, you might upgrade.  It’s a pretty simple value proposition.

With regards to messages, our system is primarily open.  The downside to open is that if anyone can message you freely (or you message others freely)  we’d be setting up a system for abuse.  Nobody has time for “hot webcam chicks” when you’re out trying to find new business and opportunity.

I’m glad you’d have a willingness to put a “Virtual $100k” behind us and I’m looking forward to putting that virtual check to good use!


Thanks for the update and feedback Lief!  I really do appreciate your business and it’s business model and agree with almost all your points. The low ‘virtual’ valuation was driven by nothing more than wondering where the market potential was given the two goliaths we’ve discussed.  The irony is that I’ve been working on a site for sometime that is meant to address some of the weaknesses of the ‘blanket’ or everything to everybody approach by Linked In etc.

I’d like to increase the virtual investment to $350K. After all, us little guys have got to stick together.

Good luck and let us know how you get on with your great business: Lyro

Founder –

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It’s Our Movie: A $500K Virtual Investment 

I can’t tell you how much I love this business concept!  I’m not 110% convinced about the capability to make significant amounts of investor revenues but frankly…that’s just not the point of this neat new business.  So, let me tell you about “It’s Your Movie”.  The basic idea is for the online community to fund, audition and vote for characters in a movie called “The Flirting Club”.  It’s a complete mashup of a number of popular ideas…think “The Producers meets American Idol” and you are some of the way there!

Business Model:

  • Members of the public can buy a ’stake’ in the movie of $10, $100, $100.  What’s not clear on the site is what stakeholders get for their stake although the site does say the higher the stake the more ’say’ in the movie.
  • Advertising is another revenue stream for “Its Our Movie” although as the site currently has a 4,000,000 Alexa ranking the revenue is likely to minimal at this point.
  • Movie Rights and Sale:  I could find no reference to movie rights or sale as it relates to stakeholders but it is a new business so that may appear in their FAQs.

Some Core Functionality/Elements:

  • Auditioning:  To audition for a part, members download the script, choose a character and video themselves. After uploading the Audition to / / the code is then re-pasted within the “Its Our Movie” Website so the community can review and vote on the auditions
  • Characters: A summary of each character is included in the site and video auditions can be added against each character
  • Voting: Members can vote on a 1-10 scale for each audition.  They will also be adding the ability for people to vote via text message/SMS
  • Photos/Videos: Photos and videos of each person auditioning
  • Member blogs
  • Member forums (Is this a Drupal site with a skin? Hummm)

Sometimes new business are not about money…OK, rarely new businesses are not about money because money is oxygen for startups but in this case, its about the excitement of being involved in creating a movie. Doesn’t EVERYONE want to be involved in creating a movie? Even if it’s a bad movie for goodness sake.  Now here’s a little prediction, as momentum grows for this new site then it won’t be long before Simon Cowell and the rest get wind of it.  Before you can say “Teletubbies” I’m guessing that this process may move from the web to other mediums.  When that happens then this could become a significant opportunity for the founders.  If I was a stakeholder, I’d be looking for some reassurances that I’m buying a tiny piece of that potential success. 


  • Be explicit about what stakeholders are getting!  It’s great that you’ve raised $100K but if you want to hit the $1M target then I would outline what those folks were getting…really clearly! 
  • My understanding is that the Director is Alex Jovy. Is it THE Alex Jovy that received an Oscar-nomination for his film Holiday Romance who also went on to produce and direct the thriller Sorted starring Matthew Rhys and Jason Donovan? If so, let us know people! At the moment it looks like some obscure guys idea that is absolutely exciting but we need to know it’s legitimate and this isn’t paying for someone’s extended vacation in the South of Spain.

Additional Opportunities:

  • Plug this into the TV machine and turn it into a show.

My Virtual Investment:
With my virtual $1M, I would personally stake a virtual $500K providing someone gave me virtual percentages of the revenue.

Interested in other articles about Its Our Movie?

Andrew – Founder

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My DNA Fragrance: A Virtual Investment of $250K

And now for something completely different! Not a neat and innovative website but an actual, real product…something you can touch…well, not so much ‘touch’ as smell. My DNA fragrance is a new company which offers individualized perfume based on your own individual DNA. Each fragrance is a one of a kind product which My DNA creates after you submit a swab of your saliva. My DNA then uses a patented and revolutionary new process to create your individual fragrance which arrives in a clinically approved 4oz. aluminum bottle with a fine midst sprayer and if you want to do it properly, create your own bottle too.  As My DNA puts it, it’s not self centered, it’s self scented!

And yes, I know the swab sounds kind of a gross way of giving My DNA your DNA but you only do it once and it’s alot more pleasant than some of the alternative ways of giving up your DNA. 

Business Model:

  • A one time swab kit and lab fee: $99
  • Your own 4oz bottle for women: $89
  • Your own 4oz bottle for men: $59

Some Core Functionality:

  • One time swab process to give your DNA via a kit my DNA send then just re-order
  • Patented fragrance development

Why smell like a guy who’s played polo all day?  Why smell like a suit designer? Wouldn’t it be better to have a fragrance that is in tune with your own smell…sort of like buying white wine to go with the fish? I’m not sure that metaphor actually works but as regular fragrances are created without ‘you’ in mind then how can they compliment your personal fragrance notes? Alright, that’s enough…my real point is this is different and believe or not, my belief is that there are enough people out there who will make a concept like this work and help create a sustainable profitable business.


  • The website needs to be significantly improved. The design is fine but not in keeping with the potential strength of where this brand needs to position itself.  It looks like a website created by a one week contractor. This takes away from the ‘Selling a Dream’ approach and brand that will translate into real and significant revenue. And guys, please use the whole page and pretty please take off the ‘Disney’esk’ sparkles that appear when you move to a navigation button.
  • The price point is a lot less than I expected.  This is NOT a business where you gain traction through a lower price point and increase your prices later.  Increase your prices now!  Double your prices and you should see an increase in volume. 
  • In the website descriptor at the top of the browser it says ‘Discount Perfume, Discount cologne’…no, No, NO!  People don’t spend money on a unique and exclusive fragrance if they’re told it’s discount.  Make it super exclusive…better yet, get some photos at some exhibitions with celebs. Seriously – avoid discount and double your prices.
  • Allow website users to refer others to your site – you’ll be glad you did.
  • The only real worry I have is ‘is this real?’ Will a fragrance be unique because of my DNA or just unique because it get’s pulled out of that moments fragrance catalog – a fragrance lottery if you will.  And if it is created specifically for me and will smell better because of it. Prove it on your website or at least outline the rationale.

Additional Revenue Opportunities:

  • Consider launching personalized shower gels, soaps etc 

My Virtual Investment:
With my virtual $1M, I would bath in my very own citrus notes a virtual $250K and pass it over.

Interested in other articles about My DNA?

Andrew – Founder

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Your Winning Startup Idea: You First (3)

This is the third blog posting on Creating and Moving your own “Winning Startup Idea” into the real world.  The first posting “Create that Winning Startup Idea” included techniques to create your own winning startup idea and the second post You’ve Created Your Winning Startup Idea ~ First Steps (2)/ gave some tips on how to qualify the idea to make sure it’s really the one that you should be investing your heart, soul and time on.

So what do I do next when moving a Winning Startup idea forward? If the idea has really grabbed me my temptation is to start figuring out all of the pieces that are needed to move it from idea to real business.  To start thinking about the people I’ll need to find, figuring out how to test the idea, how much money it’s going to need and the 101 other elements.  It’s at about this time when you need to figure out a few things before you start getting carried away.

Normally at the top of my list is how do I fit in with this idea?

For a product let’s consider just a few of the different steps in the process from idea to real product:

  • Developing product drawings (Engineering Skills)
  • Developing a prototype (Engineering)
  • Prototype testing (Engineering)
  • Determining how to produce it in larger quantities (Engineering)
  • Testing the Market (Marketing)
  • Determining Price Point considering the margins required by the sales channel (Marketing)
  • Sanity checking the numbers (Production costs vs. price point to sales channel) (Finance)
  • Understanding and selling the product into the sales channel (Sales)
  • Marketing the product to retailers and the end consumer (Marketing)
  • Managing the invoicing, customer service, tracking cash (Finance etc)

These are just a few broad steps on the road to making a product idea real.  This list is by no means all inclusive.  The point here is that there are multiple component parts necessary to build a business whether it’s a product, service or website.  When you are sure this idea is the one, begin to map out what the idea needs and to overlay that with your own strengths and capabilities.  This will act as a pointer for you ~ it should help make obvious who you will need to find to join the team either actually or virtually.

Thankfully whether your winning startup idea is a product, service or website there are some relatively fixed ‘categories’ that need to be considered whatever the business. Here are some of the key categories and a few thought jogging questions, there are many more:

The Customer:

  • What are their needs?
  • What are they prepared to pay for? How Much?
  • How do they buy products like this? A store / website / telephone / television? 


  • Where do customers currently buy or go to use products like this?
  • What products or services do they offer?
  • How much do they charge?
  • How do they sell and market their products?
  • How many competitors are there?

The Product:

  • What does it need to do?
  • How will it be much better than what the competition offer?
  • Who can prototype and build it?
  • How much does it cost to produce?
  • What is necessary to produce it?
  • Who will produce it?


  • Where will you sell this product?
  • Who will sell it for you?
  • How will you pay them? Salary or commission or both? Yes, there are sales people who will work for just commission (Blog Post to come)


  • How does it meet the customer need?
  • How is it better than what the competition offers?
  • How much can we reasonably charge?
  • Are we looking for volume of customers or a select group of customers?
  • What do customers need to know that will make them want to buy it?
  • What are the ways to tell potential customers about the product?
  • How much do they cost?
  • Are there any ways of telling potential customers about the products cheaply?

Some of these questions may not work for your idea but most should.  As you go through them more questions should pop up. And don’t worry if you don’t know all of the answers, you won’t. Fact. But you will probably be able to make some really educated guesses in the areas that relate to your personal strengths and won’t have a clue in those areas that are too far out of your own skills and experiences ~ another good pointer the types of people you will need to flesh out the idea and really start the tactical planning of “How to Launch Your Winning Startup Idea”. But again, that is the subject of another blog posting.

I hope this posting helps. Again, questions, comments, relevant rude remarks always welcome and ‘Yes’ this posting could have included much more, in fact, it could have gone on for at least another 50,000 words but like most entrepreneurs I have a tendency towards ADD. Let me know where I should dive deeper and I’ll do my best!


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