Thursday, October 30, 2008

Free Online Resources: It is just a matter of looking

One of the things that I enjoyed about doing market research is that, 9 out of 10 times, the information was out there -- it was just a matter of finding it. That meant doing some exhaustive web searching or going to the library to talk with the librarians (who are in my mind extremely brilliant and knowledgeable).

I have since come to realize the same thing when looking for web applications. If there is some sort of online service that you want, more often than not, it is already being produced and out there. And, many times, those applications are free. This is great news for the bootstrapping entrepreneur that is trying to save a dime or two.

In the coming months, I will attempt to periodically profile some of the applications that I think are useful. And, I'll start with a few right now that might surprise you.

Launched in 2000, the intent of is to provide people with access to public events. This is accomplished by giving away free web-based calendars. From an entrepreneurial standpoint, I am not that interested in publicizing my events through their website -- but I am very interested in providing an interactive calendar on my website where my customers / suppliers can see what is going on. What I like about this application (besides it being free) is that it is easy to update on their website and then I can incorporate it into my own website by either providing a link or embedding it as an actual interactive calendar. [Delivered by Mailman logo]

Listserves are another great resource for any small business. It allows users to subscribe to your mailing list, and then you can correspond with news, updates or promotions. Our business has historically used this service via, and it has worked well for us - and I do appreciate the extra graphic options that it provides. However, I have also come across some free applications for listserves (with unlimited usage) that I am now using for another organization and recommend you consider. The free application I used is Mailman, and is definitely worth checking out.

By now, is starting to become a household name of sorts! But, think of it from an entrepreneur's perspective -- what a great way to advertise (FOR FREE) your products and services, or your employment needs.

imageA family member recently referred me to For some businesses, creating a scrapblog of sorts may be a good marketing tool or a good way to showcase some of your products. However, I found it to be helpful for other reasons. Specifically, I found it very helpful and user friendly to create a customized website header (and saves you the cost of purchasing a photo editing software and in my mind, is much easier to work with). It is also helpful from a marketing standpoint to create customized, professional looks to help with your marketing material.

On a marketing note, the new HP Creative Studio is also pretty neat. It is an online application that allows you to create business cards, logos, flyers, brochures, websites and more. They do charge for some of their higher level services, but also offer free templates for the cash strapped small business owner.

If you have come across any free online resources that you feel are particularly helpful, feel free to let us know!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Podcasts: Learning on the Go

A colleague recently shared with me that she frequently downloads podcasts (for free) from iTunes in order to keep up to date on the iTunes screenshotlatest business news while she is on the go. They can be played on either your iPod or your computer. After taking a look at iTunes, I was quite impressed as they literally have 1000's of free podcasts available for download.

Within the 'business' category of available podcasts, the top 10 audio podcasts include:

1. NPR: Planet Money Broadcast

2. The Dave Ramsey Show - The Truth about Life and Money

3. Wall Street Journal This Morning

4. APM - Marketplace

5. Bloomberg on the Economy

6. World Business News

7. Harvard Business Ideacast

8. Get-it-done Guy's Quick and Dirty Tips to work Less and do More

9. Wall Street Journal's What's News

10. Bloomberg Economics

There are also many podcasts available that pertain specifically to entrepreneurship. By far, the most popular downloaded podcast was Rich Dad's Podcast by Robert Kiyosaki (who I have recommended previously on this blog). Overall, there were 86 podcasts that came up in a search on the word 'entrepreneur.'

Regardless of whether or not you are an entrepreneur, one of the keys to being successful in life in constant learning.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Economics of Pumpkins

I just returned from a local pumpkin farm with my family -- and I must say first off that I was very impressed with the entire experience.  It is only open on weekends in Sept/Oct, so I wasn't expecting a whole lot of infrastructure, but I was wrong. There were so many activities and it all looked brand new (although I know it has been there for a while). It exceeded my expectations to say the least.

They really have a great business concept.  It is marketed to families during the day and they get a lot of youth groups and teenagers in the evenings as they are open until 10 pm. They have activities that appeal both to families (pony rides, corn sand box, bouncy barn, farm animals, etc.) and teenagers (corn maze, fire pit, hay rides, etc.). Everything was high quality and the workers (likely family and friends) held a sense of pride and happiness. Perhaps that is because it is only only 7 weekends out of the year, and there isn't necessarily a drainage of energy. It is surrounded by gardens of beautiful sunflowers. Most surprising was that there prices were reasonable. And, did I mention that it is in the middle of nowhere?

And...of course...I began to wonder about the economics of this little (or not so little) pumpkins. One of the workers mentioned that they bring in 4000-5000 visitors a weekend. So, if we average this to 4,500 over 7 weekends, this brings us to an estimated 31,500 visitors. We spent $40 for our family of 4 (including our 5 pumpkins), averaging $10 per person. This is probably a pretty conservative average spending considering that while we purchased a few snacks, we did not have lunch there and our two girls were under 5 and got in free. But still, 31,500 visitors at $10 per visitor comes to $315,000 for the season. Not bad, huh?

After doing a bit more research, I found out that the owner is an out-of-town lawyer that spends his weekends working on this ranch and donates a portion to charities every year. What a nice ending. I'm definitely happy for this entrepreneur -- for providing a great product in a great way that I hope to return to year after year.