This > That — My favorite tools for everyday life needs

Ever since my recent career decision, I’ve been doing what I think most new entrepreneurs do… find ways to SIMPLIFY.

I started with a closet clean-out which was a major success. I eliminated all unwanted items in my wardrobe as well as my old mail. From there, I organized all of my business files on my home computer and laptop and decided to store them all on Google Drive so that I can share with my business partner if needed or access from any device (iPad and iPhone included). I also tackled a major project that I’ve been putting off: a collection of over 8,000 songs on my iTunes and 60+ playlists that have been scattered through iCloud, duplicated or missing. Now I have fresh new playlists for every occasion. Finally, I sifted through my emails and unsubscribed to almost everything – seriously. If a smile doesn’t come to my face when it pops up in my inbox… it’s out of here!

So with my new simplify method, I wanted to share a few of my favorite tools, most of which are rising startups.

 

ApartmentList > Craigslist

No matter how you feel about the latest Craigslist/Padmapper lawsuit, I think we can all agree Craigslist needs a face-lift or a strong competitor. Sadly, no single company has been able to take over the entire industry  but lucky for you, there are alternatives to each section.

Zaarly is my new favorite “ask and you shall receive” tool. Rather than looking around through a bunch of junk on Craigslist, you can just post what you’re looking for (services, items, etc.) and Zaarly users will come to you. Perfect.

As for the rental space, I’ve been moving from apartment to apartment for over 10 years and each time, it’s quite a painful process. I would search on Craigslist for a particular area of town, only to find that section of the site completely saturated by the same junky apartment complex on the wrong side of town.

My favorite new apartment finding tool is ApartmentList. Not only is the site beautifully constructed and easy to use, but Listy, the little robot that finds your apartments for you, adds something to the mix that you just can’t get from Craigslist’s hyperlink branding.

 

Hipmunk > Expedia

With so much noise in the travel planning industry, it’s hard to stand out but Hipmunk has found a way to do it. Connect Hipmunk with Airbnb and you’ll have a much more unique trip that isn’t completely overwhelming to plan.  While booking through Expedia or Priceline may have more hotels and airlines on board, you usually end up getting a slew of irrelevant results.

My favorite thing about Hipmunk is the flight timeline. It’s nice to take a quick look and see exactly what time each flight departs and how many stops will be included. And again, the branding with the little spunky chipmunk is memorable. I believe businesses should strive to be memorable.

Songza > Pandora

Have you ever had that embarrassing moment when you’re sitting in the office, getting work done and jamming to your “custom” Pandora station when a cute guy walks over to talk and then an obnoxious Christmas song starts playing? You’re all… “Um, it’s April? What is this? My Pandora station doesn’t know me at all.” As an avid playlist-maker, I’ve been anti-Pandora for quite some time. I’ve tried so many other internet radios and have been quite disappointed until I found Songza.

YES! Finally… an app that tells me what music fits with the activity that I’m doing at the specific time I’m doing it! For example… I open the app on Tuesday evening and it suggests a station for cooking dinner or working out.. upbeat or indie.. and then breaks it down even one more time to the style of music. With no vocal ads popping up in the middle of my playlist, I’m able to sift through songs giving them a thumbs up/thumbs down and even follow the users that created the playlist. Music jackpot.

CrashPlan > External Hardrive

Remember that time someone stole my laptop and I lost everything? I thought that having all of my photos stored on an external drive was sufficient but as soon as I plugged in my external drive to my new laptop, I found that the files were corrupt and deleted. That was the day that I signed up for CrashPlan. There have been times when I was missing information and was so thankful that CrashPlan was there to save it. The system is easy to use and the support is extremely helpful.

OfferBy.Me > Groupon

Anyone else getting tired of the daily deals that never apply to your life? I finally pulled the plug on all of the internet coupons that were flooding my inbox when I realized that none of them were related to things I actually need. It was like I was walking through the grocery store to get bread but someone was chasing after me with a cart full of discounted croutons, crackers, donuts and English muffins…Then they convince me to think “But they’re on sale so I guess I need them…” NO! Stop buying useless crap just because someone tells you it’s cheaper than it was yesterday.

When I was introduced to OffersBy.Me, it just clicked. This is the type of deal site that I can actually use! The consumer is able to specify exactly what she needs, when she needs it, and how much she’d like to pay for it. In turn, the business is able to retrieve that customer by offering her a discount on that specific criteria. It gives the consumer the ability to get a deal on things she was already going to buy and it gives the business the ability to “win” that customer without degrading perceived brand quality. Win-win!

What apps and tools have you discovered that help simplify your life?

 

Pulling the Trigger

Last week, I finally pulled the trigger; I put in my notice with the law firm that I’ve been working for over the past four years.

Starting October 1st, I am going all-in, full-time, on my startup: a legal software company.

Although I’ve been part time at the firm since 2011, I’ve still put a lot of my heart into that company. I’ve been everything from the Salesforce girl, criminal paralegal, courthouse runner, bankruptcy legal assistant, salesperson, blogger and happy hour planner. I’ve spent my early adult years with those guys, learning and growing each day, so it’s hard to believe that in just two weeks, I’ll be completely on my own. But wow, what an awesome feeling to know that I will be working 120% on my own startup.

I know that it’s going to be a complete roller-coaster: climbing slowly to the top, fearful of the drop, but knowing that as I’m falling to the ground, momentum will shoot me back up again. Extreme highs and lows… but I’m ready to pour myself into it.

Photo taken from the cork in my wine bottle last night. Perfect.

What’s On My iPad

I know there are people out there that have an iPad and wonder… ‘What should I do with it?’ Then there are people like me that wonder what to do when they leave it at home. I use my iPad for everything and want to share with you some of my favorite apps and tools.

  1. Business Model Toolbox – This is probably my most talked about app. It is perfect for startups to pitch in business meetings or even just to evaluate your business’s potential growth and revenues.
  2. Slide Shark – This is a reliable tool to share your pitch or PowerPoint presentations.
  3. Awesome Note – An entire life organizer, this app allows you to keep your notes, recipes, travel schedule and to-do’s all in one location.
  4. Dropbox – This is a nice way to access all of your documents and photos from anywhere.
  5. Newsstand: New York Times, Inc., Fast Company, Wired, Entrepreneur

  1. TripIt – Organize your travel itineraries all in one place.
  2. Oyster – This app provides you with thousands of expert hotel reviews with beautiful images.
  3. Jetsetter – Jetsetter is like the Groupon for travel. You have the insider’s access to 50% off hotels and packages.
  4. 1000 Places – Dream, plan, travel. You can tag the places you’ve been or create a bucket list of places you someday want to go.
  5. EveryTrail – This app is perfect for the explorer. You can track maps, share tips and find things to do.
  6. FlightTrack Pro – Working seamlessly with TripIt, you can track your flights and predicts and flight issues.
  7. Newsstand: Traveler, Trvl, Travel + Leisure

  1. Monopoly – The best part about playing Monopoly on the iPad is that no one has to play banker. Fun game for a long flight.
  2. Life – This game is not the most fun of them all but if you want to pick a different career path and live in a mansion, try it out.
  3. Cut the Rope – This game seems to be pretty easy at the beginning but the further you get into it, it becomes rather addicting and quite difficult.
  4. Blackjack – I love brushing up on my Blackjack skills on flights out to Vegas.

  1. Hootsuite – Since I have so many social accounts, I love using Hootsuite to connect them all on one platform.
  2. LinkedIn – I actually think the iPad app is more appealing than the web version.
  3. Twitter – I’ve always found the basic Twitter app to be very intuitive on the iPad.
  4. Flipbook – I enjoy using this app on Sunday mornings with my coffee on the patio. A social version of the Sunday paper.

  1. Bloomberg – Stay up to date with business and finance news and get access to your market portfolio all in one location.
  2. NPR – In a magazine style format, this app allows you to select your favorite programs and put them in a list to read or listen to later.
  3. TechCrunch – Keep up with all of the latest technology news and startup stories.
  4. Music Mine – Discover new up and coming indie music from KCRW.
  5. Zillow – Search for houses are on the market, view photo galleries and save all your favorites.
  6. Snagfilms – Watch a collection of free award winning documentaries at any time.

What are some of your favorite iPad apps? 

 

Startup Resources: Toolboxes and Toys

I can safely say that one thing I am not lacking in entrepreneurism is organization. If you’re planning to pitch, whether it be to angels, VCs or potential co-founders, be sure to cover your bases and anticipate their questions.

Toys:

1) Valuation/Equity Calculator  – This calculator can help determine how much of your revenues will be disbursed between the founders, investors and options within the company.

2) Startup Plays – A cool concept. Online workspaces for building a startup.  How-to’s and step-by-step guides for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs equipped with templates, task lists and expert tips.

3) Startup Tools and Must Haves – I wrote this post a while back and cannot express how helpful Business Model Toolbox and LivePlan have been in my startup journey.

4) Startup Stay – In beta right now, this is the ultimate startup site for the traveling entrepreneur. Find and stay with other like-minded entrepreneurs during your business travels.

Toolboxes:

1) Startup Foundry Toolbox – An amazing resource you need for everything startup related.

2) The Art of the Elevator Pitch – A slideshow tutorial to demonstrate how to craft a beautiful elevator pitch.

3) Startup Tools by Steve Blank – Boom! This site has the works. Everything you ever wanted to know about building an internet business including website setup, SEO tools, CRMs, wireframing tools and so much more!

4) Startup Weekend Resources – Database full of resources from the great Startup Weekend gurus.

5) TechCrunch article about convertible notes – This article explains convertible note seed funding and the advantages.

6) Fundraising 101 Checklist for Entrepreneurs – I love this post because with each number, there is an associated post full of useful information.

7) Tools and Services for a Lean Startup – A comprehensive list of tools and providers to accelerate your business.

8) Books for Startups – Giant list of books for building businesses broken down by strategy and style.

Startup Tools and Must Haves

 

As an entrepreneur, I often face challenges when it comes to deciding on the best business tools for my company. Lately, I’ve started using more practical methods of producing financial reports for investors rather than trying to figure it out with templates and a calculator. These are just a few of my favorite, affordable tools that have helped my business grow starting from the business plan up.

1.) Business Model Toolbox for iPad – $30. What’s great about this app is that you can create a custom business canvas and as you move through each section, not only does the app give you an explanation of the field but it also asks you questions to help you find your answers AND provides examples of what well known companies would answer. All of your thoughts are movable by using little post-its in the section. Once you dig deeper into the financials, the app will help you come up with figures based on the information that you entered.

2.) LivePlan – $20 per month. I’ve read a lot of business books and many tell you that you don’t need to come up with a business plan. If your company isn’t expecting to build extremely high revenues then that’s probably the case but for a business that requires capital, your investors are certainly going to want to see a plan. I’ve tried using other methods and just recently found LivePlan to be exactly what I needed. I love that the formulas are built into the software and there are many examples to help guide you along the way.

3.) Google Apps – Free. I use everything that Google offers: Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Reader,  Analytics, AdWords, Alerts and more. These are great products and they work so cohesively with each other. I have a total of 5 email addresses that are all synced into Gmail and it makes my work flow so much better. If you aren’t using alerts for your business, you need to start now! It’s a greta way to stay on top of industry news and updates. Also, it’ll help you find out who’s talking about your company and what they have to say.

4.) Zoho – Free – $25 per month. I’ve used several CRMs and although I love Salesforce, it is a little pricey. Zoho is very affordable and offers many things that Salesforce does such as scheduling mass emails for marketing, setting up templates, tracking the leads through the sales process and connecting with Google Apps.

5.) RingCentral – $10 per month. RingCentral is where I house my 800 number, the e-fax and I am able to add a local line for each of my clients (if needed) for an additional $3 per month. Each number is set up with a separate voice mail or call center rules. My favorite part of RingCentral is the mobile app. I can ring out from my cell phone from any of the business numbers.

6.) IdeaPaint – When I get an office, I am totally painting it with IdeaPaint. It looks like such a creative way to collaborate, brainstorm and interact with your colleagues!

7.) MailChimp: I love mailchimp’s brand. They offer great resources and advice on email marketing and you can add up to 2,000 subscribers to your newsletter list on the free account. It’s a great way to build and track your email marketing campaign.

8.) Dropbox, Basecamp, Square, Hootsuite… These are some of the other tools I use for business on a daily basis. Square offers free credit card processing (with a low processing fee), Dropbox allows you to share documents seamlessly, Basecamp is a great project management tool and Hootsuite is my favorite social media manager!

What are your favorite business tools?