Friday, April 25, 2008

What is in a name?

When you start your own business, one of the first things that you do is choose a name for your business. Here are a few considerations:
  • Be unique! This will help you be remembered.
  • Even if you are starting out with a single product/service, think about what products/services you want to be selling 10-20 years from now. Make sure your name is inclusive of them.
  • If selling overseas is a possibility down the road, consider the translations.
  • Look into the legal restrictions depending upon what type of legal entity you will be.
  • Is a corresponding domain name available? This is a key component is today's world.
  • Conduct some trademark research to make sure that the name is not already taken.

My last piece of advice is simple: Don't make the business name all about you! Why? First, it makes it difficult if you ever want to sell the business. Second, it ties you to the business. It will create a loyalty to YOU rather than the business, and your customers will always want to personally interact with YOU. Thus, instead of a name like 'Joe's Pizza,' go for 'Pizazz Pizzeria!'

Monday, April 21, 2008

More than a great idea

Have you ever wondered why Pizza Hut doesn't expand into the 'take-n-bake' aspect of the pizza business? Papa Murphys has found a way to not only enter a very mature and relatively saturated industry, but also a way to THRIVE in it! Instead of delivering pizzas (while trying to keep them warm from the oven), Papa Murphys prepares fresh pizzas in a Subway-line fashion and has you pick them up. So, it would seem logical to me that instead of expanding into the pasta delivery market (like they recently announced), Pizza Hut might instead exploit their delivery system to this fast-growing market. Really, how nice would it be to have a fresh ready-to-bake pizza from Pizza Hut delivered to your door?

I have asked a few people and they fully agree that it would be a great idea. So, what is holding me back? To be quite frank, it is near impossible for me to sell the idea to Pizza Hut. Why? Because you cannot simply patent ideas such as this.

Thus, the remaining option to take advantage of my idea would be to start my own business. It wouldn't be quite as good as Pizza Hut leveraging their name to enter this portion of the industry, but I have yet to see a replica of Papa Murphy's pop up that offers delivery. Here again, however, is a dead end. You see, entrepreneurship requires more than a great idea. It also requires the motivation as well as the capacity to exploit the idea. In terms of motivation, I need to be willing to take on the risks of entrepreneurship and devote the time necessary. For capacity, I need to have the money, equipment, network, industry knowledge, credit, and much more.

Unfortunately, I am a bit lacking on the motivation side as the pizza industry is not an area that I am passionate enough about in order to give up how I currently spend my time. But, perhaps the next idea I come across just might...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Types of Opportunities

When brainstorming a new business idea, many people get too hung up on trying to come up with a brand new product/service that has never existed before. But, I'll let you into a little secret -- it doesn't have to be that difficult!

You see, opportunities can present themselves in many different ways. Let me explain.

1. NEW product / service - This is by far the hardest opportunity to identify, but ironically, where most people think they need to start.

2. NEW way of organizing - Is there a different way to organize or sell an existing product/service? A prime example is Amazon or Ebay -- which took EXISTING products (bookstore) and services (auction) and simply sold them online. Other examples are the many different candle, jewelry and clothing parties being sold in people's homes, similar to how Tuppaware started out. Another favorite example of mine is Papa Murphy's who is rapidly gaining in the pizza industry simply by selling their pizza uncooked and requiring customers to pick them up!

3. NEW market - Is there a different market to sell an existing product/service? First, you can think geographically. What businesses have you seen elsewhere that would fit well in your hometown? Second, you can think demographics. For instance, many existing services are now being targeted towards youth - such as yoga, fitness centers, cell phones, etc.

4. NEW method of production - Can you produce an existing product/service differently? Back in Iowa, several engineering students had come up with a new freezing process to manufacture ice cream -- which gave rise to the emergence of Blue Sky Creamery.

5. NEW raw material - Can you produce an existing product/service with a new raw material? Think about the silicone hot pads and pans that have come out.

Of course, sometimes the best ideas can be those that combine some of the above options. Can you think of any other innovative examples?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Xtreme Examples

I previously blogged about finding something that you are passionate about and then making a business out of it. Here are a few more examples found on of some Xtreme entrepreneurs -- that have found ways to follow their passion and make a buck or two!

Carey Hart, Professional freestyle motocrossrider and reality TV star
Business ventures - Owner and founder of Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company, a tattoo shop and clothing line with locations in Honolulu; Las Vegas; Orlando, Florida; and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; owner and founder of Wasted Space, a new rock-inspired nightclub set to open this spring at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas

Eric Robinson, Off-road dirt bike rider, motocross rider, mountain biker, snowboarder and triathlete
Business ventures - College Park Industries, manufacturer of prosthetic feet, and founder of the Extremity Games, a sports event for athletes with limb loss and limb difference

Marc Frank Montoya and Liko S. Smith, Snowboarders; Montoya boards professionally
Business ventures - Co-founders of THE BLOCK Hotels, a chain of hotels designed for snowboarders with locations in Lake Tahoe and Big Bear Lake, California; Montoya is also co-owner of Sound Outerwear, maker of snowboarding gear and founder of DumbFounded PerduKshinz, a DJ company; Smith is also founder of Rogue Hospitality

Izzy and Coco Tihanyi, Surfers; Izzy formerly surfedcompetitively
Business venture - Surf Diva, a surf school and surf apparel company for women

For the full article, follow this link.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

So many ways to communicate, So little time

With the rise of the Internet, the way business is conducted has changed. There are many web resources (and a lot of them are free) that can help you as an entrepreneur to communicate, network and ultimately, increase your chances of being successful.  Of course, due to the high number of web applications, you do need to spend your time wisely or you can easily become swept up. Thus, you need to determine which applications are most important to you. That question can be answered by determining which applications are most important and/or being used by your key stakeholders. Where will your existing and future customers be looking? What about your suppliers, investors, lenders, potential employees, etc.? When choosing among the many different web applications, you may also want to consider the cost, time required (upfront and going forward), usage, reputation and functionality.

Online telephone - In addition to being able to put your entire phone system on the Internet through a company such as Vonage (and thus bypassing the local, old-fashioned system all together - while saving a few bucks), you can also talk through many of the instant messaging systems and/or the rising favorite Skype.

Email - Free services are offered through many sites, although some of the more popular include Hotmail, Google or Yahoo. Or, for a small fee, you can have a customized email created such as one that goes with your website domain. This is an essential base for communication is today's world.

Internet Fax Services - You can easily send a fax from your computer. For a small fee, you can also have your faxes emailed to you (instead of printing off on your fax machine) -- which can be very beneficial for keeping an electronic copy of your faxes as well as being able to retrieve your faxes while traveling. Many different companies exist - check out!

Website - This is becoming an essential way of broadly communicating to the public what you do and who you are - while showing that you are a legitimate business. There are several build-it-yourself website hosts (i.e. godaddy, msn) or this is something that you can sub out to one of the many firms that exist.

Blogging (such as Blogger) - Like the blog you are reading, blogs can be used to offer information. Other uses include product updates, press releases, or simply to keep others updated on your day to day activities.

Social Networking - More and more social networking sites are popping up. Some of the most popular include MySpace or FaceBook. However, there are also many social networking sites that are specific to a specific industry or objective. For instance, is a networking site for entrepreneurs. 

File Sharing - If you have created helpful documents, or if you are looking for something in particular, you might also go to one of the many file sharing websites. One that is relevant to entrepreneurs and business owners is Docstoc.

Instant Messaging (such as Windows Live Messenger) - This is a great way to communicate in a way that I consider to be a cross between telephone and email. You can chat with others online in a real time environment. Who might these 'others' be? Well, some companies use instant messaging for usage between fellow employees while others offer 'chat' customer service.

Tweeting - Formed in 2006, allows users to 'stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?' It can become a bit addictive...but can also be used to get to know others better (or allow others to get to know you). Depending on your industry, this could be important.

Online Meetings - Need to schedule a meeting or training session across the country or in that matter, the world? Check out some of the online meeting websites (webex, GoToMeeting, etc.) where in addition to conferencing the voice aspect, you can also conduct a group chat and give a presentation!

Online Profiles - Similar to the bulky telephone book that you may have sitting on your desk, there are many, many different 'yellow page' sites on the web that show your profile. There are many other 'yellow page' type sites that await to hear from you to add and/or customize your profile. Such profiling sites can be general (i.e., industry specific (find your trade association online and get into their directory), geographic (such as your local city/county directory) or cater to some miscellaneous purpose.  

If you know of other web applications that you have come across, but that are not listed here, please leave a post!