My Last Lecture
Being an entrepreneur and starting your own business is not for the weak. It may seem like you are fighting an uphill battle, but it does not need to be like this. There are many resources available to help you on the journey and it is important to take advantage of everything.
- Do not jump blindly into business ownership. For a better chance of success, take time to research the options and market conditions.
- Create a solid business plan. If you do not know how to write a business plan, check with your local Small Business Administration (SBA) office for help finding a mentor.
- Talk to other business owners. Do not expect them to share their strategies, but they can share any pitfalls they may have encountered in their journey.
- Pray for guidance. You must ask for help in order to receive help.
- As Randy Pausch stated, “Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick wall are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop other people.” There is always a way around a brick wall. Do not allow yourself to be defeated.
- Surround yourself with supportive people. If others believe in you, you will believe in yourself.
- Find your passion. When you are enthusiastic about your product or service, your customers will follow suite.
- Have fun. It is easy to get caught up in the stress of starting and running a business. If you are not having fun, in the end, all the hard work will be worth nothing.
- Make realistic timelines and goals. Reaching your goals is a great motivator to continue on to the next step. However, if you continually miss the mark, it may be time to pull the plug and try something new.
- Give back. Show your gratitude for all the help you were given by paying it forward. Help your community, become a mentor for other new business owners, or find some other way to serve those around you.
The entrepreneurial journey is one where many people begin, but few reach the finish line. The more prepared you are before starting the journey, the more likely you will be able to handle any twists and turns with ease. When you finally reach the point when your business is thriving, do not walk away and expect the business to continue running itself. Even if it is on a small scale, stay involved in the operations. You put too much time and effort into building the business to let things fall to the wayside. If you can find A+ players to manage daily operations, you will be able to devote more time to working on the business, rather than in the business.
Good luck! Success is in your future. As the great Dr. Seuss wrote, “You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!”
As promised, here is the final version of The Baker’s Dozen PowerPoint project.
Based on the comments I received in the discussion board, everyone loved my business and encouraged me to continue with the company. My family will be going to Disneyland early next year, and this may be a way to help pay for our trip. I am very grateful for this class giving me the opportunity to stretch out of my comfort zone. Not only did I create a viable company, I have been able to explore my Big Idea.
Lessons learned from this week
1). Failure is okay as long as you learn from your mistakes and try again. Even the most successful entrepreneurs have failed multiple times on their path to success. One of my favorite stories from the assignments is James Dyson and his vacuums. I was particularly interested in his story because I have had my Dyson vacuum for 11 years and absolutely love it! James failed over 5,000 times before he came up with a successful prototype. The narrator in the video wondered why James kept counting after he reached 1,000 failures. I don’t know why he kept count, but I am thankful to know if I fail and keep trying with my business, I will join the ranks of some truly great men and women.
2). It is not enough to work in my business, I must also work on my business. This lesson pretty much summarized the entire point of the book we read earlier in the semester,”E-Myth Revisited.” A business cannot be successful if the owner steps back and allows others to run the business without causing problems in operations. That is not to say at some point, years down the road, the owner can’t step back, but at that point, he better be able to hire A+ players to fill his shoes.
This has been one of my favorite classes I have taken at BYU-I. I am sad to see it come to an end, but there are bigger and better things out there in my future. Hopefully one of them will be making a go of my Big Idea, opening a bakery.
This is it…the end of the semester and the last journal post for this class. Building my website has been the highlight of this course and the most enjoyable activity. The past several weeks have been focused on learning how to optimize our websites to attract more customers and hopefully get some conversions. After setting up a Google Analytics account several weeks ago, we delved in deeper to what Analytics can track on our websites.
Building my website was difficult, but one of the activities this week ranked right up there with difficulty. Even though I linked my AdWords and Analytics accounts together, for some reason they were not communicating and the information I needed to retrieve from Analytics was just not there. I spent quite a while on the internet trying to figure out how to get the information, but all I came up with were dead ends. It will take a call to Google Help to figure everything out, but I do not plan to continue my AdWords account. While I will keep the website up and going, at least for the rest of the prepaid year, I do not have any more money to invest in the website right now.
There are things Analytics tracks that I can still use to refine and enhance my website. I am interested in improving the bounce rate by creating more engaging content to hold the attention of the viewer. I would like to add a fishing conditions widget and track to see if this addition will bring in more viewer in the states included in the widget.
While this class was not one I had any desire to take, I am thankful for what I have learned throughout the semester. I am happy with my website, and I think it turned out great! Check it out: The Leaky Waders!
This week I have been working on my final presentation for the $100 Challenge. I have created the PowerPoint, but I am still working on the narration script. I am including the slide deck in this post and plan to include the completed video in next week’s journal post. I was very relieved when I did not have to make any cookies last weekend because I did not have a spare minute for baking. I know my dream of owning a bakery will be a lot more work than my short-lived cookie business, but when I am ready to move forward with my dream, I will not be balancing a full-time job, school, and a cottage industry.
Family businesses was the focus of learning this week. Family business are not for the faint of heart. Our readings this week indicated a vast majority of family businesses never make it past the second generation. My dad owned a medical clinic for twenty years. I always thought I would work side by side with him until he was ready to retire and turn the business over to me. What I realized in my late teens was that being in the medical profession was my dad’s dream and not mine. Unfortunately, my dad was not able to pass the business down to my siblings or me and ended up closing up shop.
Passing a business down to the next generation requires more than just sharing familial ties. There needs to be a structured business arrangement for how the business will be passed on. If there are multiple children who are candidates for ownership, figuring out the best way to leave an equitable share to each child is essential.Care needs to be taken when family members work together in a business venture. Essentially, family relationships need to be left at the door every morning and each family employee treated as a typical employee. Too often, we are willing to let things slide when our loved ones do not meet expectations. However, ignoring mistakes can be costly not only to the business, but also to the relationship. Structuring your company to include accurate descriptions and expectations of each job will help enforce consequences if necessary.
I can see my bakery becoming a family business. I know one of my daughters would willingly join me in the kitchen, but I do not think the other children would be interested. In the event any of my kids change their mind, I will need to have a buy-in option as part of my business structure. There is a lot more to consider when starting your own business than I had previously thought. I am thankful for the all information I have learned this semester to get me started off on the right path.
Social media is quickly replacing traditional advertising mediums. Using social media to optimize my web business makes sense in this technologically savvy world. With so many different platforms available, it is impossible to keep my website front and center on all of the sites. When choosing which platforms to use, it is important to know how they work in order to find the best fit for my purposes.
When I built my website, I also created Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts for my business. I haven’t done much more than create the accounts because I did not know the direction I wanted to go. After delving more deeply into social media this week, I have decided Instagram and Facebook are the best venues to advertise my business. In starting Project 5, I have also realized creating a Google+ page will be helpful in helping to optimize my website.
With Facebook, I can post snippets of blog posts with a link to read more. Using photos and videos is especially important because people often skip over anything with more than a few lines. Instagram is also a great place to post pictures. By using hashtags, I can link my post to other similar interest accounts. One important thing to note is one post a week is not going to create enough interest in my business. It is necessary to make frequent posts to keep my company fresh in the timelines. By inviting my social media friend to “Like” and “Follow” my page, I can begin building a solid social media campaign.
This is it! The last week for my $100 Challenge business, The Baker’s Dozen. This week’s flavor was the Neiman Marcus cookie. The recipe is based on an urban legend which says that a diner in the Neiman Marcus cafe wanted the recipe to the cookies, which the cafe gave to her but then charged her $250 for the recipe. In retaliation, the diner decided to post the recipe online for anyone to have for free. The urban legend is not true, but the cookies are fabulous with chocolate chips, shaved chocolate, walnuts, and oat flour.
While I really enjoyed baking cookies and making people happy, I am glad to see the end of this project. During the week, I would go to work during the day and then do homework at night. My weekends were filled with hours of baking and packaging cookies. Overall, my company was a huge success; my customers loved the cookies and I made a bunch of money. I sold $598 in cookies with $145 in expenses, leaving $453 in profit. One of the keys to my success was the built-in market I had at work. Many co-workers were already familiar with my culinary skills, so there was no risk of a horrible product on their end.
Are there things I would do differently next time? For sure! One change I would make is to eliminate the fussy cookies. By far, I spent the most time on the Oreos and Turtles because of the multiple steps in each recipe. I also need to think about the cost of each recipe. I averaged about 75% profit margin, however I squeaked by with such a high profit margin because the first couple of weeks the recipes were fairly inexpensive to make. As the weeks progressed, my expenses increased significantly mainly due to the inclusion of nuts. This next week I will be working diligently on my Power Point presentation to showcase the $100 Challenge project.
For our weekly lessons, franchising was the topic. Becoming a franchise owner has many benefits such as name brand recognition, an established product or service, and increased chance of business success. Negatives include high franchise fees with ongoing royalty fees, not the actual owner of the business, and required adherence to somewhat restrictive rules. After reading the provided material, conducting an interview, and participating in the discussion, I am fairly confident becoming a franchise owner is not for me. However, if Chipotle ever branches out and franchises their restaurants, I would be very tempted because I love Chipotle. And as Steve Jobs said, “Do what you love.”
SEO and Website Optimization were the focus topics this week. I am in the process of making some minor changes to my website in order to help drive more traffic to the site. There are a lot of considerations when deciding how to best optimize a website. When using Google Adwords, the content of the ad should be relevant to the page users land on when clicking the ad. If the user does not easily see what they are searching for, they will quickly leave your webpage. This action affects the bounce rate. If the ad matches the landing page, then the user will be more likely to stay on your website, and even possibly generate conversions.
With SEO, there are many different factors that can help make your website more searchable to autobots. One of the suggestions I likes is to keep the website content fresh. I also think this is one of the more challenging suggestions because how do you add fresh content to a site that sells products? I am thinking of adding another page to my website where I can put a teaser posts linked to the blog. This way, the new page will be updated every time a new blog post is written.
Another suggestion to increase SEO is to add alt text to images. This is a good idea because as the autobots scan each website, if alt text is available, the image will be added to the search engine index. If a person happens to search for an image using the same description in the alt text, your image will become available in the search results. This may lead to the user clicking to view your website, which could result in a conversion. There are a lot of if, ands, and buts, however the purpose of improving the SEO of a website is make the website more appealing to search engines. Every improvement can potentially improve your ranking so that search engines recommend your website over others.