Friday, May 30, 2008

2008 Mother of Invention

2008 Mother of Invention  | Whirlpool Brand Mother of Invention Grant

Whirlpool knows moms are identifying challenges and coming up with creative solutions every day. To recognize this motherly ingenuity, the 2008 Whirlpool® Brand Mother of Invention Grant will provide winning moms with the necessary business resources to help bring their ideas to life.

The deadline is July 31st and grants range from $5-20K. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


In the media today, we are hearing more about concerns with the economy and the increased number of foreclosures. Now, this can be pretty depressing. However, if you start to think entrepreneurially, you can see that there are two sides to everything. And, yes, in a down market such as ours today, many opportunities still exist. It just depends on how you look at it.Foreclosure Bug

My husband and I own a real estate business, Renewing Properties, that specializes in acquiring foreclosure properties and then selling them on a lease-to-own program. And, to let you in on a little secret, the business is thriving in today's economy! Why? Well, there are many more foreclosure deals to find. And, secondly, there are many more potential home buyers that are facing difficulty in obtaining a traditional mortgage and/or prefer a lease-to-own program as it helps them build up equity.

Can you think of any other opportunities that exist because of the state of the economy? What about staffing services that can help corporations outsource or help employees for plants that are shutting down? What about entrepreneurial training and consulting services as many individuals may in turn consider starting their own business if they lose their job? What about check-to-cash businesses? Discount retail outlets (as Americans start to become more price conscious again)? Bus services and/or technological services that enables communication without having to drive somewhere (and thus saving gas)?

Just start thinking --- and I assure you that the ideas will start to flow!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Selling Options

Have you ever noticed that sales people are among the most highest paid within many organizations? The reason is fairly simple: selling is crucial AND difficult to master. As a new business, one of the first decisions you need to make is your selling strategy and which route(s) make most sense to pursue. outlines the following different options:

Direct Sales: involving face-to-face contact

  • retail or consumer
  • door-to-door or traveling salesman
  • party plan

Industrial/Professional Sales: selling from one business to another

  • business-to-business

Indirect: human-mediated but with indirect contact

  • telemarketing or telesales
  • mail-order


  • web B2B, B2C
  • EDI


  • consignment
  • multi-level marketing
  • sales agents (real estate, manufacturing)

When you are developing your sales strategy, it is helpful to see what avenues your competitors are taking. However, it sometimes can give you a competitive edge to go against the norm. A good example is Cabi, a custom-designed clothing line for women formed in 2001. Instead of selling the traditional way via retail stores, Cabi sells exclusively through home-based consultants (i.e. the Tupperware way) and appears to be very successful thus far!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Commercializing your new product

Coming up with a new idea is an essential part of the entrepreneurial process, but that idea alone will not turn you into a successful entrepreneur. Sometimes I even think that coming up with the idea is the easy part, and that turning an idea into a business is really the hard part. VentureNet Iowa is a new organization that is dedicated to helping Iowans in the commercialization process. Their model below is a great representation of the many key questions that need to be asked throughout this process.












In my experience, I have found that individuals tend to have specialized knowledge in different aspects of this model. For instance, you might have an inventor or an engineer that is great at coming up with ideas, but they might not have that much knowledge of the marketability or how to write a business plan, or vice versa. The answer it to know where your strengths lie and then surround yourself by people that can help you. This is valid for both independent entrepreneurs as well as corporate entrepreneurs. Before pursuing my Ph.D., I worked for Brady Corporation and at the time they were spending a significant amount of time and effort to create teams across the product/market/business arenas as they knew it would enhance their ability to better commercialize products successfully.

Many thanks to my former student and respected colleague, Cris Grunewald, for passing this model along.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Six Degrees of Separation & Facebook

A while back, I discussed the importance of networking and how we are all closely connected to the resources we need to start a business - it is just a matter of finding out who knows who and utilizing those connections.

Six Degrees of Separation

I recently received an invitation from a friend to participate in the Six Degrees of Separation experiment being conducted by Steve Jackson on Facebook. The theory suggests that everyone is separated by only six other people. In order to see how many people were within reaching distance of his network, Steve Jackson originally invited his friends to this Facebook group, and then asked his friends to invite their friends, and so on. When I joined, the group had expanded to a whopping 4,693,230 members!  As concluded by Steve:

Have I managed to contact every single person on Facebook? I like to think so, but unfortunately I have no way of knowing that for sure. The fact is that more than four million of you took the time to join, and that is nothing short of a miracle. As progress marches on, the world gets smaller. That’s inevitable. Whether we’re separated by six degrees or ten degrees or one degree isn’t important. What is important is the idea that we are connected.

Yes, I agree, that the idea that we are all connected is most important. And, given online social networking tools such as Facebook - just think about the possibilities of being better able to discover and exploit those networks!

Monday, May 12, 2008


Are inventors really entrepreneurs? I believe they are. The entrepreneurial process involves identifying, evaluating, exploiting and managing the opportunity. While some entrepreneurs participate in the entire process, others, like inventors, participate in just a part of it. Inventors typically are the ones that identify the opportunities, which is the essential base to any new business.

Can you guess what these inventors were famous for?

(1) Alexander Graham Bell

(2) Elisha Otis

Elisha Graves Otis

(3) Bette Nesmith Graham

Bette Nesmith Graham, with son Michael.

For the answers to these and to see many more inventors, check out Wikipedia's inventory page.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Cooperative Artist - The ARTrepreneur

If you are an artist and want to sell your products, what options do you have? While a storefront might be ideal, many artists cannot afford the expenses associated with it and/or lack some of the business skills necessary. An alternative that I encourage you to consider is an cooperative gallery. As explained by

The idea of an artists' cooperative is really very simple - a group of artists get together to divide expenses and chores so that they can exhibit and sell their work. They rent communal space; they volunteer their time and contribute to shared expenses. Their hope is that they will find a reliable place to exhibit work and that they will mutually benefit from being in the business of selling work in addition to creating it.

How do you get started? The first step is organizing a group of artists in your community, and then, like any other business venture, get started on figuring our the details of your business plan.