Questions

Question:
Hey Mark!
What’s the best way to go about finding people to make stuff for you? Currently I’m interested in Textiles: T-Shirts and Hats, and also tiny karate belt bracelet type things. Also like mugs and stuff. Would you recommend finding someone local or working with someone you find on the internet, regardless of their location.
On a related note, what do you think of people who talk about the paradigm shift to giving away most or all of your info/knowledge/intangibles for free, and just making money off of swag surrounding it? (Mugs, T-shirts, one-of-a-kind first run comic books…)
For Musicians, there’s a lot of talk about how we need to give our music away or for dirt cheap, and then make our money off of Concert Tickets, and basically anything you can’t digitize.
What do you think about all that?
Rick

 

Rick ,

Google. You can find anything and anyone to make things on google. I shop for price, get three examples and then go with the best. I work with whoever gives me the best product at the best price. I do not care where they are. Do not forget to weigh shipping costs as well.

People make their own prices and models for everything and I LOVE the way things are heading with more and more use it for free and if you like it give us money for more models. My software OTTEROLOGY is exactly that. Use it for free and if you love it then buy it and use all of it. It is the way of the future. People want moe options and companies like Dropbox and Google are showing that you do not need to squeeze every nickel out of a customer to be successful.

Time to start cutting out middlemen in the arts and offer a product directly to the consumer.
With digital music out there its so easy to get it for free the industry is going to have to  figure out a plan to keep afloat. You can not stop progress.

Thanks
Mark

Question time

Question:
So Mark, 
I have been toying with the idea of starting my own business for years … years. It is in the food industry so the thought of failure scares the crap out of me as it would completely drain my husband and I financially if I failed. It’s like my acting “career” … I want to do it so bad but my fear of making myself a fool by failure keeps me from moving forward. You call it a leap, and it is. Im a nurse and while I love my patients and work, I absolutely HATE the politics of it all and want to delve into what I truly lust for my life … the creative arts. Short story long: how do you get past the fear? I think this is a very real point, for many, that holds us back. How do you take that big step off the ledge? What did it for you?

Rhea

 

Rhea,

Short answer is you don’t get rid of the fear. You have to be willing to accept risk and even embrace it. 
I started my first “real” business out of desperation. I was working for a company for 6 years or so and they had doubled the sales force that year. We were all commission sales people and we got paid a higher percentage the more we sold. Doubling the sales people caused my income to drop by 33% despite my still being the top sales guy there. I realized that they controlled my future and income. I had done smaller businesses in the past with success but decided I did not want to do them. So I started with the sole purpose of escaping a 50-60 hour work week in a company that was destroying my will to live. My first year I made nothing. It was one of the lowest points you can imagine. I had worked endless hours to escape and now I would be stuck there. On top of it all I hurt my back at work and could not even go in. I struggled to get better and deal with an owner who did not want me there anymore. I decided to try the business again the following year. I saw what worked and what did not work and adjusted it. About 3 months before the kick off for my business I got a notice that my back injury company wanted to settle for the damage done. The terms were they would give me enough money to kick off my business and pay my bills for 3 months BUT I had to quit working my job and I could not ever come back. I also was not allowed to work in that industry (The industry I had worked for 13 years) as I was on a non-compete.
So I had to make a choice. Keep working at a job where I knew the paychecks would come in and it would be safe or put everything I had on a business that had failed to make a penny the year before. I talked with my wife and she told me to go for it of I would hate myself for the rest of my life. I quit, accepted the pay off and put it all on the business making money. The changes I did allowed the business to more than double sales and I have not had a “job” since then.
It’s 8 years later and we still have ups and downs but I am ever thankful for my wife telling me to just do it.

Or you can spend the rest of your life wondering What If.

Now go watch this.
 http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/larry_smith_why_you_will_fail_to_have_a_great_career.html

Mark 

 

Question

Question:
Is raising investment for business all about the business plan and numbers? How do you value a business that has not begun and in some sense is hypothetical…ie: how did you know how many people would buy sparklers or how many people would visit the lights? Did you even need external investment on either of those? If someone is investing , how do you work out the value of the business they get on something that is really mathematical guesswork in the beginning?

Debs

 

Debs,

Money is always the monster. A lot of this conversation depends on the amounts you are trying to raise. If you have a business idea that would require 5 million to get up and running and have an operations budget for 2 years then you really do have to have your shit together with plans, forecasts, and most likely a working product with some revenue to show it has promise. You also most likely would be talking to strangers.

But lets say you are looking for less. I started my Fireworks business with a $20,000 loan from a friend. I agreed to pay him back $30,000 after the fact. INSANE payback was the only way I could get anyone to fund what I wanted to do. No bank is going to fund a start up.
I try to do most of my own funding but still to this day have investors who loan me money to get fireworks launched every year.

The most important thing in getting someone to give you money, believe it or not, is you. Investors give money to people they believe in. Ideas come and go but drive and motivation are very hard to find.
Have a plan, but make sure it is flexible to change, and talk with people you know that are wiling to invest. Friends and family sounds cliche but it is how almost every single company got started.

 

Chilly question

Question:
For me, the consistent point of failure in running my own business is never being able to wear all of the hats. I simply can’t be the salesman, the legal assistant, the project manager, the engineer, the art director, the visual designer, the developer, the quality assurance tester, the accountant, and ultimately the deadbeat bill collector. What’s worse is trying to handle more than one client simultaneously! I’ve let four freelance businesses go by the wayside because I can’t maintain all of these roles. Somebody with more capital might hire people to pick up some of the responsibility, but how can an entrepreneur start a business solo?

Frost

 

Frost,

There is no simple answer to this other than WORK MORE. Being the boss means you wear all the hats until you can afford to hire people. It means you say no to parties because you are busy. It means you sacrifice A LOT so that in 3,4 or 5 years you can be the guy leaving early and taking vacations. Most people that start businesses, myself included, can not see long term because they are just trying to make it to next month. Work hard and sacrifice and sooner than you think you can afford people to take some of that load off. At some point you have to jump off the cliff and quit the job that supports you so that you can spend more time on it. SCARY time but remember, you can always get another job. That is way easier than spending your entire life wondering “What if”.

Mark 

Question Question who has a question

Question:
How do you manage marketing, finding clients, managing contacts, handling payments, and all the other business stuff, and still have time and energy to do the work that is the core of your business?

Rob

 

Rob,

Its really quite simple. I work constantly. When I started my Fireworks company I worked a full time job for 50 hours a week. That left me 118 hours. Take out 56 a week for sleeping, 10 more for travel and getting ready and I still had 52 hours a week of ME time. I spent my days off working on getting my new business up and running. I spent my lunch hours going to meetings I had set up. I would get home from work at 8:30-9:00 and spend a couple hours with the family and then when they went to bed i would work until 2 AM.
People assume I do not go out or visit because I do not want to. Nonsense, I am busy working.
Stop watching TV. Stop going out. Stop sitting around and use your time well.
If it were easy everyone would do it.

Mark