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Three amazing small business innovators

Small business innovators that make the biggest impact are not usually revolutionaries or inventors, rather they evolve current ideas. Here are three admirable small business innovators and how they have achieved their growth.

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Changing the world

High visibility innovators have revolutionary ideas and are changing our world. Apple. Intel. Microsoft. Google. Amazon. These companies have ground breaking, big ideas that shake the status quo, turn their leaders into global icons and grow into hundred billion dollar valuations. These huge innovations are risky and expensive – and when they work they have enormous returns. But…

Often times, the most successful small business innovators aren’t revolutionary concepts or technologies – they are companies that evolve current ideas. It is easier to manage risk and cost in these environments. As an investor, I look for companies applying proven ideas in new ways, or opportunities where small improvements in service and efficiency can steal market share. Below are three of my current favorite high-growth innovators:

Have to Have

HaveToHave.com/

In-store retail has been around for millenniums and online retail is a significant and important part of our culture. Social media and sharing has been established as a game changer with huge momentum. Mobile has blurred the lines between online and offline. Have to Have is the first company to develop a platform that seamlessly blends all of the above to create a universal shopping experience whenever, wherever you are. Their online and mobile applications allow users to share, register save money and buy their favorite items without having to conform to conventional boundaries. Additionally, Have to Have provides a powerful platform for retailers and brands to reach their best customers (with information, discounts and more).

No need to reinvent shopping and sharing – just combine them and make them better!

Maine Mead Works

MaineMeadWorks.com

Mead (a delicious alcoholic beverage made from honey) is the world’s oldest fermented beverage. During medieval times honey became expensive, and consumption shifted from the masses to only the very elite. While mead remained “the drink of kings,” this trend halted innovation and relevance of the product for more than five hundred years. In the late twentieth century, mead made a resurgence and now has a growing following with a new batch of enthusiasts.

Maine Mead Works capitalized on this trend and launched its HoneyMaker brand of meads. Instead of working with old styles and technologies, MMW utilizes a totally new fermentation process along with creative aging and flavoring methodologies. Add in that they use 100% all natural and locally sourced honey (actually for all of their ingredients) and you have a socially conscious company making a great product for loyal fans. It simply tastes better than other meads – and holds it own against any of your favorites too.

No need to invent a new alcohol – just made the world’s oldest existing one much better!

myFootpath

myFootpath.com

Education is one of the most important social and economic issues of our time. It has also become a large and growing industry. MyFootpath capitalizes on both as they help people navigate life’s “footpath” from high school, maybe on to college, through a career, maybe graduate school, and from ordinary to life-changing experiences. Their goal is to provide thoughts, advice and experience on how best to find this footpath and to navigate all the twists and turns in one’s journey.

myFootpath’s innovation is bringing true consultation and exceptional service to the relatively new education industry, an industry where most competitors seem to just be treating people like numbers. MyFootpath advisors (yes real live people), along with leading edge technology, help students and people with careers develop a more satisfying and success life. They are making a real difference.

Additionally, the company works closely with colleges and schools to manage risk and enrollments, with specific focus on new federal legislation as well as career services, finances and more. This close relationship with traditional and non-traditional institutions of higher learning allows myFootpath to continually evolve their service and set the customer experience bar higher and higher.

No need to create a new pathway for people – just help them find their own in a better way.

Just do it.

If you believe you have a world-changing idea, go for it. Be prepared to take big risks, raise huge amounts of capital and bring on a very smart team to help you lead. If you want to attack an industry you love with evolutionary (verses revolutionary) improvements to the business model and customer experience, then you think like me. And who knows, perhaps Morgan Investments can help you with tactics and strategy, and even finance your venture too!

Hoyt David Morgan is an entrepreneur, angel investor and business strategy leader. He is an investor and/or adviser to a handful of exciting and high growth companies, and has been a part of several high-value exits. He is passionate about customer experience, smart business and helping innovative companies grow... and sailing.

Business Entrepreneur

7 books every entrepreneur should read

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You’ve heard it said, “do as I say and not as I do.” Read these books from authors who have figured out what works and what doesn’t when starting a business.

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The power of books

If you’re thinking about leading a startup, but not sure where to go, the internet is often the first place we look. Surely, you can find dozens of blogs, articles, stories, and opinionated editorials that can help give you something to think about.

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However, there are tons and tons of great books that can help you think about what you need to get started, how you need to change your mindset, or challenges you may confront as you begin your startup journey. Take a look at the following 7 you may want to add to your bookshelf.

1. The Startup Checklist: 25 Steps to a Scalable, High-Growth Business
This text not only boasts a 5 start rating on Amazon, but offers what few books do – practical, tangible, down to earth advice. Where lots of books try to tell you a story, talk strategy, and share wins, author David Rose instead focuses on advice that assumes no prior experience – and breaks it down from the fundamentals.

2. Nail It then Scale It: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Creating and Managing Breakthrough Innovation
Nathan Furr and Paul Ahlstrom focus on creating a lean startup by offering a step-by-step process that focuses on nailing the product, saving time, and saving money. The first step is about testing assumptions about your business, and then adjusting to growing it (hence: Nail It and Scale It). Strong aspects of this book include a great theoretical foundation, and an easy to follow framework.

3. The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls that Can Sink a Startup
Wasserman’s strength here is that he focuses not only on the financial challenges, but identifies the human cost of bad relationships – ultimately how bad decisions at the inception of a start-up set the stage for its downfall. This book is a great tool to proactively avoid future legal challenges down the row, and also discusses the importance of getting it right from the start.

4. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
Horowitz writes about his experiences, taken from his blog, in a way that even inexperienced managers can touch and learn. The advice here really focuses on leading a start-up, and what lessons his experience has given him. Presented in a humorous, honest, and poignantly profane way.

5. The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company
Blank and Dorf here standout due the sheer mass of this text. A comprehensive volume at 573 pages, my favorite piece for new investors is a focus on valued metrics – leveraging data to fuel growth.

6. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
A personal favorite of mine, this book is recommended for entrepreneurs not because it’s focus on business, but as a reminder that those of you wanting to start up are people. You have limited resources to manage as a person, and will need to adjust your perspective on what you care about. This book is about changing your mindset to pick your battles and be more focused.

7. Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup
Bill Aulet starts with an approach that entrepreneurs can be taught, and breaks down the process into 24 steps, highlighting the role of focus, the challenges you may encounter, and the use of innovation. This text wins due to its practicality for new start-ups, and a specific method for creating new ventures. It also features a workbook as an additional, optional resource. Check it out on Amazon

GET READING!

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Business Entrepreneur

Business pro tip: when pricing your product, think like a photographer

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) On of the growing pains associated with starting your own business is knowing how much to charge for goods and services. Use these helpful tips one photographer uses for pricing a photo and get the ball rolling!

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More than a thousand words

A picture may say a thousand words, but a photo doesn’t just tell a story. A simple photo can be an excellent example on how to price your next business product.

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Photography blogger Sarah Petty wrote her method of pricing a simple 8×10 inch photograph for as advice for her fellow photography business owners. But her advice can actually be applied beyond the world of studios and darkrooms. Here’s how to think like a photographer whenever developing the cost of your next good or service.

Step One: Know thyself (and know thy client)

Your first step in knowing your next price for your next best selling item or service is knowing what type of business you run. This is solved by answering the simple question: are you a high volume seller with lower prices or lower volume seller with higher prices?

This question can be answered by looking at your sales for the past month. Are your trends indicating your customers prefer a more personalized, boutique approach to the things they purchase from you (with higher prices), or do you move a lot of product (with lower prices)?

When you understand what type of business sales trend you’re following, move onto step two.

Step Two: Understand your sunk costs.

A sunk, or fixed cost, is the price to manufacture or deliver a good that will not change (unless reacting to the market’s inflation). What is the basic core cost of manufacturing the product you intend to put in your store? That amount, your cost of goods sold (CGOS), is the baseline from which your ultimate price will come from. Now to step three.

Step Three: Look at your other overhead for producing your product.

So you know your CGOS, so all you do now is just add what money you want to make off that? Wrong. You’re forgetting that you’re not just making that product. You are maintaining a store or electronic storefront, you’ve got office space, human resource costs, and other things that may slip by whenever you’re trying to develop your price for your next big thing. This doesn’t mean you’re charging a customer a month’s rent for consultation fee, of course, but knowing that you’re going to need a comfortable cushion whenever figuring this product’s cost out. According to the federal Small Business Administration you should allocate a portion of the profit “to each service performed or product produced” and this cost should be calculated annually. Finished, now to step four.

Step Four: Profit!

Finally, after factoring your CGOS and your overhead, now you can decide what you want to make by selling. Petty personally uses the approximation of making 4 or 5 times her CGOS plus her overhead per item. Whatever the ultimate cost is, it has to be able to lend you the ability to live comfortably in order for you to be able to manufacture more in the future.

The next time you have to develop a price for a new product, don’t forget to step into the world of photography for awhile. You’ll be saying cheese all the way to the bank.

#KnowYourPrice

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Business Entrepreneur

Startup helps freelancers find trusted partners for overflow work

(BUSINESS NEWS) Covailnt is a service for freelancers that takes the mystery out of collaborating, helping us all to focus on what’s in front of us.

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covailnt freelancers overflow

Trying to balance work and networking can be a huge pain even as a traditional worker; for freelancers, maintaining both categories is often downright impossible. If you’re struggling to make meaningful partnerships in the freelancing world, Covailnt may have a solution for you.

Covailnt takes the mystery out of freelancing, which—unlike romance—could do with a bit less guesswork. The service is best described as a combination of a workflow app and a social network, but its core function is to serve as a database of freelancers. Each person who signs up for Covailnt fills out a profile which includes skills, availability, location, and a portfolio; as a Covailnt user, you can use this information to determine whether you want to work with the person.

The ability to review a freelancer’s highlight reel without having to initiate a conversation is sure to be a time-saver, and you get to avoid the awkward follow-up conversation to boot.

Time efficiency is clearly a strong influence on Covailnt’s platform: each freelancer’s surface-level profile prioritizes the preview window to display their level of business, using metrics from “Not Working” all the way through “Slammed”. Having this information front-and-center makes it easy to differentiate between who in your network might be available for overflow work and who you shouldn’t contact for the time being.

Covailnt also makes it easy to find compatible people with whom to collaborate. In what always seems to be the case when a group project emerges, your go-to collaborator might be too busy to handle a joint effort, and not everyone has the time to troll through the classifieds in search of a temporary partner. Searching for a like-minded, similarly skilled freelancer via Covailnt can significantly cut down on the time you spend looking and help you prioritize the work itself.

Beyond its site-level features, the coolest part of this service is that it allows you to build a network of talented people with whom you share interests, goals, and workstyles. Once you’ve established such a network, you may find your work queue filling up with things you actually care about, enabling you to push some of your less enjoyable work to someone in your network who will give it the care it deserves.

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