Business Lessons Learned in 2012

business lessons learned in 2012

I was reading a Fast Company series this morning in which they asked several innovative thought leaders what each had learned in 2012 and what lessons will carry through to the new year. I’m a sucker for business wisdom from those that have been there and succeeded, so I really appreciated the advice.

Although I’m at a stage right now where I’m also looking for mentors and guidance, I’ve noticed that since I started on my own full-time, I’ve gotten several questions from friends about what I’m up to and how I’m doing what I’m doing.

So here are a few of my own lessons learned in 2012 – from an entrepreneur who is pushing through meeting by meeting and learning every single day.

100% of nothing is still nothing. When starting a business where you are seeking investment and co-founders, you have to consider the obvious: dilution and giving up equity is inevitable. You just have to learn how to slice the pie. Of course there isn’t a right or wrong answer but there are a few tools to help you figure it out.

  • Slicing the Pie – This is a great resource to help you determine how equity should be split in an early stage startup. You can even download the Excel sheet to calculate the values here.
  • Foundrs.com – A co-founder equity calculator that is easy to use and understand.

Weeble wobble but don’t fall down. In an early stage startup you have to be flexible with almost everything because, like it or not, you will pivot. For me, it was the name and branding of the company. I had it in my mind that the name and branding would be something that I had come up with way back when I started thinking about the company. I tried everything to keep it that way but after meetings with my co-founder and months of not loving logo drafts, we decided to change the name entirely and create a whole new brand. Although I was sad to see my original idea disappear, I am thrilled that we made the switch and even happier that it was so early on. Here are a few sites I used to figure out how to name our startup.

Advice is invaluable. It is so important to network and connect with as many people as possible. Seriously, aside from doing A TON of research on your market space and after you have created all of your initial pitch documents (plan, presentation, business model canvas, etc.), make sure to set up multiple meeting with like-minded entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers, accountants, corporate businesspeople, VCs, CEOs, friends, whoever!

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met with in the past 60 days, but I do know that from each and every meeting I gained a little more knowledge and a lot more inspiration. They opened my eyes to ideas I hadn’t thought of and questions I didn’t have answers to. They shared stories of their experiences, things I can expect, things I should watch out for, people I should know and much more. Here are some of the ways that I used these coffee meetups to help improve my startup’s potential.

  • Research. Before your meeting, find out a little about the person you are meeting with so that you can begin the relationship feeling like you already know one another.
  • Bring material. If you have any of the essential items for starting your business, bring them with you. Everyone wants to see a demo, presentation, business plan or even just sketches of the website. It helps them conceptualize your idea and give you honest feedback on your newborn project.
  • Make notes. After the meeting (and sometimes during) I would write in my networking journal: the date, time and place of the meeting and then included a long list of everything that we discussed: feedback, initial thoughts or reactions to my ideas on the software, people that they mentioned who could help with this journey, advice and any books or quotes that they referenced.
  • Do more research. Once you’ve written all of your notes, start looking up the people, websites, tools and books that the person you met with suggested.
  • Follow up. Send a follow up email thanking your new friend for the time and advice. Tell them what you found most inspiring about the meeting or ask them a few follow up questions. Who knows, maybe you can lend them a hand when they need it down the road.

Look, your idea might be amazing… absolutely unbelievable … world changing, even! But it’s just an idea.

In order to turn your idea into a business, you have to work really hard, suck up a lot of pride, realize what you are not-so-good at, find awesome team members to compliment you, get a ton of advice, and find your customers to make the product or service with you.

This post was inspired by this Fast Company series.

Blowing Out My Birthday Candles

There I am, little Janine, blowing out my big girl candles on my birthday with a stack of presents that weren’t wrapped in Christmas gift wrap.

I’ll never remember what was inside of those boxes or what I was wishing for at that very moment but when I look at a picture like this, it makes me so oh-so fortunate to have these kind of memories; to be raised in a household of love and comfort with a homemade birthday cake and even pink icing. Through the years, my friends and family have always been so supportive. I have the world.

This year, when I blow out my birthday candles, I’m going to be wishing for health and peace for all of those that need it most.

Here are a couple of my favorite charities [if you feel the urge to donate]:

  • Pencils of Promise:  Pencils of Promise believes every child should have access to quality education. They create schools, programs, and global communities around the common goal of education for all.
  • Reach Out and Read: Reach Out and Read prepares America’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together.
  • My Stuff Bags: The My Stuff Bags Foundation provides new belongings, comfort and hope to thousands of children each year who must be rescued from abuse, neglect and abandonment across the United States.
  • Canines for Disabled Kids: Canines for Disables Kids supports the creation of child-canine service teams to promote independence and social awareness.

And while we’re talking about giving back, I should tell you that I’m going to be starting a new series on my blog soon called Benevolence. It will feature charities that could use our help and my own experience with volunteer opportunities around Columbus. This will be sprinkled in with the regular blog posts on business, travel and fitness. Can’t wait to share!

Hugs,
The Birthday Girl

Top 10 Gifts For The Startup Entrepreneur

Many entrepreneurs don’t even know it’s time for the holidays until they hear the chimes of bells and holiday music playing in their local coffee-shop. And although most entrepreneurs would agree that the number one thing they want for Christmas this year is more time in a day, that’s not quite something that you can wrap up and slide under the tree. It’s time to give the startup person in your life something they will actually use.

1) Branding and Logo Design 

An essential piece of the startup pie begins with branding and logo design. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone that is just starting a business, talk to a local designer about holiday gift options. Maybe you can purchase a branding consultation or the entire logo design.

2) Liveplan & Business Model Canvas 

These apps are perfect for turning business ideas into actual plans. For $30 (for the business model canvas app) and $20 per month (for Liveplan), your friend will be able to organize his thoughts and set forth on his startup journey.

3) Pack of 5 Top Business Books

4) AquaNotes or Shower Notebook

For those that have all of the greatest ideas in the shower…

5) Sky Wifi Smartpen

Yes! I love this. This smartpen records everything you write AND hear as you’re writing and then wirelessly sends it to your computer. You can also play back the recordings from where you were in your notes by just simply touching the notepad. Perfect for long meetings or seminars.

6) Evernote Smart Notebook

Similar to the Sky pen, this is a notebook by Moleskine (win) that works with Evernote to capture your handwritten notes and make them electronic. This is a much more affordable gift compared to the Sky wifi pen but also serves a great purpose for those, like myself, that love writing in notebooks.

7) Headphones

A nice pair of quality headphones are important for the businessperson that needs to focus on work and block out surrounding noise. Also great for traveling!

8) Field Notes or Moleskine

I can’t get enough beautifully constructed notebooks and with all of the meetings I go to, I make sure to bring one of my Moleskine or Field Notes books to jot down reminders and notes.

9) Business Cards (Moo.com)

Help your favorite entrepreneur make a great first impression with potential clients or investors with new snazzy business cards. I just received a few cards from Moo.com and was highly impressed with the quality, character and packaging.

10) Coffee Shop Gift Cards

You can never go wrong with a coffee-shop gift card. Without the ability to escape to an (out of home) office, most entrepreneurs consider their local coffee shops as a second home. A gift card to Starbucks or even a pound of beans and a fun mug would be just enough to get your startup friend’s creativity brewing.

Are you an entrepreneur with a wish list this holiday season? I’d love to hear what you’re hoping to unwrap. Leave a comment below!

My First REAL Christmas Tree

This year, for the first time (that I can remember) I got a REAL Christmas tree to celebrate the holidays. It makes me feel so happy to be welcomed by a twinkling tree when I walk through my front door.

After searching around for a nearby tree farm, we found a sign that said “TREES” and up the hill we went. Sitting on a bench, were a cluster of hand saws and the tree keeper told us to walk up the path and there would be rows of trees to pick from. How fun!

Investigating each and every tree, I found that most of them had gaps at the bottom, were too small, not full enough or didn’t have the Christmas tree “feel”…. until I spotted this bushy blue spruce. It seemed a little too fat and had very prickly limbs but I knew it had to be mine.

So John got on the ground and sawed it down for me and carried it through the forest.

And the tree keeper pulled it through the tree-wrapper-thing. We tied it to the top of my car with a little bit of twine and hit the road.

A night of decorating along with Christmas music, red wine and pizza was the perfect start to the holiday season.

Just little warm lights and gold glittery balls.

Jaxson loves the real tree. He sleeps by it all day and all night.

Have you already decorated this year? What kind of tree do you usually put up? A real one is a ton of work but a lasting reward!

Holiday Activities in Columbus Ohio

It’s no secret that I love the holidays. From baking cookies to decorating to spending time with family, it’s my favorite time of the year. I wanted to share some of the fun activities going on around Columbus during the holiday season and also a few ideas for you and your family or friends.
  1. Buy a real Christmas tree & decorate!
  2. Listen to holiday music.
  3. Bake Christmas cookies.
  4. Shop & wrap presents.
  5. Roast chestnuts on an open fire.
  6. Make homemade eggnog.
  7. Hit the slopes! (in Ohio… Mad River Mountain or Snow Trails)
  8. Donate coats and toys to shelter.
  9. Send out Christmas cards.
  10. Go ice skating.
  11. Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  12. Make a gingerbread house.
  13. Browse through the Bookloft for hours with a coffee in hand!
  14. Go sledding and drink hot chocolate.
  15. Write a letter to Santa.
  16. Host a Christmas cocktail party, cookie baking party or gift wrapping party.
  17. Curl up on the couch and watch holiday movies.
  • A Christmas Story
  • Christmas Vacation
  • Polar Express
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • Home Alone & Home Alone 2
  • White Christmas
  • Santa Claus
  • The Holiday
  • Love Actually
  • Charlie Brown Christmas
  • Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Elf
  • Four Christmases
  • Scrooged
  • Christmas in Connecticut
  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Family Man
  • Die Hard & Die Hard II (added for Dad)

What are your favorite movies, activities or events to do during this holiday season?