Thursday, January 31, 2008

Startup Weekend

Are you looking for an intense weekend of which you'll walk away an entrepreneur? Formed in 2007 by Andrew Hyde, Startup Weekend offers you just that! In select cities, they bring together a group of highly motivated individuals and leave with a community focused on creating a brand new business of which all the antendees have a share in. Upcoming weekends will be taking place in Bloomington (Feb 8-10), Portland (May 23-25) and Ann Arbor (June 20-22).

For more information, just go to!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

SBA: Are you ready to start a business?

The U.S. Small Business Administration is a wonderful resource. Yes, it can be fairly bureaucratic at times, depending on what you want to do. And yes, some parts (especially some of their loan programs) are better for smaller, growing businesses rather that brand new start-ups. However, if you take a look at their website, there are many resources there for the taking.

One of the tools offered is a self assessment of 'are you ready to start a business?' This is ideal for those 'wanna-be entrepreneurs.' What I like about the assessment is that based on the answers you provide, they offer suggestions for your next step in the entrepreneurial process and link you to helpful resources.

This is just a sampling of what is available on the SBA's website. In the coming months, I will periodically profile some of the other facets that I think you will find useful.

Monday, January 21, 2008


I remember sitting in my entrepreneurship class while doing my undergrad back at Ripon College, and my professor (who is now a good friend) Mary Avery started talking about passion. Once you find something you are passionate about and enjoy doing, the next step was to find a way to make money doing it. A prime example was the horse ranch that Mary and her husband Tom started up - due to her love of horses and riding since she was small!

Why is being passionate about the business so important? Well, for one, if it is something you are passionate about, you likely have a depth of information about it - which can be leveraged in creating a greater competitive advantage. For instance, my friend Michelle (who actually took the entrepreneurship class with me at Ripon College) just emailed me about the business she was starting - Snappy Scrapping. Michelle is very passionate and knowledgeable about scrap booking, and this results in her ability to identify an opportunity in the industry as well as to be able to create high quality products. The second reason passion is so important is because starting a business requires a LOT of hard work and perseverance. Thus, if it is something you are passionate about, you are likely to have more motivation and work through it.

So, if you are still trying to think of a great business idea, ask yourself: What motivates you? What are your hobbies and interests? What are you passionate about? Then - find a way to make your passion your business.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Updated GEM Data

In my post earlier this week, I discussed how entrepreneurial the U.S. was in comparison to other countries in the world. Yesterday, the latest figures updated for 2007 were released by GEM (thanks to Michael Chmura from Babson for the email letting me know). The U.S. decreased slightly from 10% of adult population undertaking entrepreneurial activity to 9.6%. The most entrepreneurial country in 2007 was Thailand, followed closely by Peru. The least entrepreneurial country was Austria.

Another interesting fact from the 2007 GEM report: 40% of the early stage entrepreneurs surveyed expected 25% or more of their sales to come from outside their country.

Monday, January 14, 2008

How entreprenuerial is the U.S. (in comparison to other countries)?

If you are like most people, your answer would be 'very entrepreneurial.' But the answer is pretty surprising and interesting.

There is an organization called the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) that annually conducts a cross-national assessment of entrepreneurial activity and their latest published assessment from 2006 included 42 countries. They define entrepreneurial activity as people that are in the process of starting their own business or new business owners (of approximately 3 1/2 years or less).

According to their assessment, 10% of the adult population (ages 18-64) in the U.S. in 2006 were considered to be undergoing entrepreneurial activity. The U.S. ranked 15th out of 42, which is pretty good, but definitely not at the top end. The entrepreneurial activity was the highest in Peru (40%), Columbia (22.5) and the Philippines (20.4). The lowest levels of entrepreneurial activity was found in Belgium (2.7%), Japan (2.9) and Sweden (3.5). Here are a few other key findings:

- entrepreneurial activity is generally higher in those countries with lower levels of GDP
- entrepreneurial activity is relatively low in high-income countries (especially the core countries of the EU and Japan)

Is this making any sense yet? Are you surprised that Peru is nearly four times as entrepreneurial as the U.S.? The eye opening part of this study, at least for me, is that people undertake entrepreneurship for different reasons. In the U.S., most of the people start a business because they see an opportunity and want to exploit it. They have other options, but make the choice to become an entrepreneur. However, in many other countries including Peru, entrepreneurship is not always seen as such a luxurious option. For some, other job opportunities do not exist and/or are not satisfactory so entrepreneurship becomes a necessity in order to survive.

So, is the U.S. entrepreneurial? The answer is yes, but don't forget to understand the global context.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

How much do YOU know...

...about entrepreneurship in the U.S.? Take this quiz. You might be surprised. I must admit that I scored an unimpressive 45%! Hope you have better luck and learn a thing or two.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Learning from Franchises

Even if you are not interested in starting a franchised business, there is a lot you can learn from franchises in general.

Take, for instance, the rankings put out by Entrepreneur Magazine. If you look at the top new franchises for 2008, which include Instant Tax Service, Massage Envy and Snap Fitness, you gain insight into some of the latest trends for new businesses. When looking at the top overall franchises, including 7-Eleven, Subway and Dunkin' Donuts, you can further investigate what they are doing right to be able to expand so much (and then possibly replicate their strategies).

When you research an individual franchise that is in an industry that you are considering entering, you can also gather quite a bit of market research to help you put together your business plan. For example, what is their location strategy? Do they only locate in metropolitan areas, near major freeways or in malls? What is their marketing strategy? (it is obviously working and you can learn a thing or two here) What are the capital requirements? What can you expect in sales? Margins? What processes and systems do they have in place to run efficiently? And, yes, you can find this all out. A lot of this information may be on their website and you can also ask to have additional information sent.