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What is your why?

Why Knowing Your ‘Why’ is so Important for Your Business

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What is your why?The wafting aroma is the first to invade your senses.

Your fingers warm to the touch, twitching in anticipation. You raise the cup, eager to ignite your taste buds and spark your adrenaline. You don’t just want it, you crave it.


Every morning, millions start the day with all the prerequisites: shower, dress, drive. The day doesn’t really start, however, until that first sip of coffee. According to the National Coffee Association, the number of Americans who drink coffee on a daily basis rose to 62 percent in 2017. On average, coffee drinkers spend about $1,000 a year on coffee at $3 a pop.

We love our magic coffee beans, partially because they taste like manna from heaven, but mainly because coffee revs us up like hi-test gasoline.

The truth is, however, as an entrepreneur, it is not caffeine that really gets you going in the morning. The true source of any entrepreneur’s motivation is an internal spark that drives you toward success. You need a different kind of brew coursing through your veins—no less desirable, no less delicious—but more plentiful and abundant.

It’s your “why,” an internal java you can use to tap into during moments of challenge, to help push beyond your comfort zone and, ultimately, to achieve your goals.

Your “why” is the reason you started this business in the first place, and it goes far beyond the bottom-line. It is about what’s at the heart of your entrepreneurial actions. While your “why” may explain your desire for those tangibles, it’s about more than a single word, like money or fame or success.

As Simon Sinek says in his book Find Your Why, “Money is a result … the question we ask is, what is the reason (people) want the money. Is it for freedom? To travel? To provide a lifestyle for their kids that they didn’t have? The point is, money isn’t the thing that drives people. WHY goes much deeper to understanding what motivates and inspires us.”

Understand, however, your why, your internal cup of coffee, must be a special blend. It’s not some manufactured instant brand you’re dumping out of a tin can and into a coffee maker. It’s a matter of marrying five special tenets together to create the perfect entrepreneurial pot of everyday inspiration.


  • Vision.

    Every entrepreneur needs to envision what they hope to achieve. It’s good to have always dreamed of owning your own business. Now that you’ve embarked on the journey, what’s the destination? What are you striving to achieve? The more clarity you can include in the answer, the more you can heighten the possibilities. To be successful is too vague. You need specific benchmarks, perhaps noting how much you want to make in Year 1, Year 3 and Year 5. Or how many clients you want to attain in those some periods. Why does vision need to be in the blend? Because reaching those milestones will keep you going?

  • Values.

    Now that you’ve targeted a destination, what’s the mode of transportation. Hard work, of course, will be at the core, but your internal belief system will dictate how you reach those benchmarks. Will you do so with integrity and care for others, creating a foundation that will boost your future? Will you keep your principles at the forefront of your decision-making, never losing sight of what’s more important? Knowing that you’re guided by key standards will fuel your drive. Why do values need to be in the blend? Because how you succeed is more important than success alone.

  • Talent

    The word immediately conjures visions of inherent, God-given gifts: Michael Jackson moonwalking across the stage. If you’re bringing natural abilities to the entrepreneurial effort, great. Talent, however, also can be acquired through training. The biggest key is determining the skills you need to succeed, taking a concise inventory of your strengths and weaknesses and then working to supplement them. Why does talent need to be in the blend? Because there’s always room for improvement.

  • Passion.

    Your vision, your values and your talent all must be rooted in your passion. It’s the most essential ingredient in your special blend of why. Passion will make you sharpen your vision, elevate your values and enhance your talent. That love will make it seem like the blood, sweat and tears you’re putting in every day is worth it. It’ll spur you to complete the mundane tasks and nurture your euphoria when you’re truly doing what you love. Why does passion need to be in the blend? Because Mark Twain said, “Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

  • Community.

    No one succeeds on their own. The greatest entrepreneurs had mentors who lent advice, friends who carried them through the struggles and even acquaintances who told them “no” when they needed a dose of reality. No one, especially those just starting their own business, has all the answers. But your “why” is built around a never-ending quest to find those answers. Why does community need to be in the blend? Because asking the right question and asking the right person can be more important than thinking you have the right answer.

At Rising Tide Innovation Center, our “why” centers on our passion for community. We’ve invested in this co-work space not out of necessity, but because building community excites and enriches us. In a word, our “why” is you. We’re passionate about creating a community to support entrepreneurs like you in making your dreams come true so that, together, we can create a positive impact on the world.

It’s why we can’t wait to leap out of bed in the morning. Well, that, and our cappuccino.

How to perfect your elevator pitch

7 Tips to Prepare the Perfect 60-Second Elevator Pitch

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How to perfect your elevator pitch

Since the dawn of time, society has valued storytellers.

Cavemen crafted images on the walls to share a tale. Marathoners run 26.2 miles today because legend has it the messenger Phidippides ran that distance from Marathon to Athens in 490 BC to deliver the message that the Persian Army had been turned away.

In today’s world, storytelling and messaging still holds great value, but how you tell the story, and how you deliver the message has changed. Today’s world is dotted with shorter attention spans, competing interests and hand-held devices that can undermine the most gifted narrators.

The 21st century requires the entrepreneurial storyteller to be concise, captivating and cunning. Your story is a work of art that must be crafted with flexibility and honed through practice.

The classic elevator pitch informs a person who you are, whom you serve and how you serve them, but it’s how the business owner answers those three critical questions that can be the biggest difference between winning over a prospective client or investor or failing to spark their imagination.

Here are seven tips to follow when perfecting your pitch.

  1. Hook at the Start.

    The most important tool when a person goes fishing is not the rod, the reel or the line. It’s the bait. If you never hook the fish, you’ll never reel it into the boat. After you introduce yourself, your next sentence or two has to grab your target. They can be analogous, bold or even a bit mysterious, but they have to pique the person’s interest and make them stop and listen.

  • Analogous? One rising Tampa Bay-based startup, Knack, uses a digital platform to help college students find course expert tutors. That’s a 12-word description, but you can shorten it to: It’s like Uber for college tutoring. That’s half as long and the analogy creates a parallel with one of the world’s most successful companies.
  • Bold? Another entrepreneur might start with the proclamation. I’m going to disrupt the fast-food market with a revolutionary approach. Action verbs like revolutionize, disrupt, change and enhance can be used if they rest of the story backs up the boast. It’s a matter of being confident, but not cocky.
  • Mysterious? This may be the most difficult of the three. Too little information in the first two sentences may cause the person to lose interest. Too much could overwhelm. But the right start creates intrigue. Five years ago I arrived in the balmy Virgin Islands as a lawyer in a hot blue suit and now I’m one of the country’s most critical business owners. OR I never would have become an entrepreneur if my high school girlfriend didn’t show up at my dad’s funeral. Intrigue leads the person to keep listening.
  1. How and Why.

    Once you hook them, snap back on the rod to embed the hook. Offer a summary sentence that lays out the direction of the conversation by succinctly detailing not only what you do, but how you do it and why you’re in this business venture. The “what” bridges the beginning of the conversation to the heart of the solution your business offers. The “how” defines the approach. The “why” reveals the purposeful and passionate foundation of your pitch. These three distinct tenets can be captured in one or two sentences. Consider the founder of a new fast-food chain making a pitch: My name is Joe Smith and I’m going to disrupt the fast-food market with a revolutionary approach. My company will marry the expediency diners have grown accustom to with the rising demand for healthier options by creating an irresistible menu of farm to table options. I created this company because I grew tired of feeding my kids fast food I knew wasn’t healthy.

  2. Create Touchpoints.

    At this point, your listener is engaged. Take a very quick moment to express appreciation and create a touchpoint, a commonality the two of you may share that can propel their interest in you and your story. It requires keen observation skills or a quick question that you can take and related back to your story. Our fast-food entrepreneur may say, Do you ever get frustrated when you take your kids out to eat? Me too. You need a great deal of conversational expertise to pull this off because it must be accomplished quickly, and the question you pose can’t come across as intrusive. The value of the touchpoint can’t be underestimated. People want to listen more if you establish common perspectives.

  3. Add Data.

    Data backs up the assertions with facts, reflect your intelligence and reveals the cogent thoughts behind the business plan. In a sentence, you can show the listener you didn’t just make up your business plan after being unable to sleep one night. You went out and researched your theories and found tangible proof there’s a need and desire for what you’re offering. It can include survey data, economic trends and related successes.

  4. Forecast the Good.

    With the data lending support, you can transition to your positive projections with more fact-based data. It should involve goals and benchmarks in terms of increasing your customer base, generating revenue, attracting investors and, ultimately, what the return you hope to deliver to those investors. However, don’t let the numbers waft about for too long. Circle back to over-arching goal, the purpose and passion of your business. Those sell more than the numbers.

  5. Extend at the End.

    At this point, your conversation may be winding down if it’s a 60-second pitch. You’ll have more to tell, so ask for a chance to extend the conversation at another time. This should include offers to schedule a meeting, email more information or an invitation to your site. If the person doesn’t agree to any of those opportunities, express the hope you will see them again, diligently try to hand them your business card and thank them for their time.

  6. Practice and Pay Attention.

    The University of South Florida Muma College of Business encourages its job-seeking students to constantly work on sharpening the focus of elevator pitches. This involves both rereading and rewriting your pitch, and practicing the pitch with friends and family, and even strangers. Practicing in the mirror is good, but practicing with others allows you to pay attention to what words, sentences and even mannerisms resonate, and what approaches fall flat. Body language is just as important as the words themselves in making a good pitch. The Muma College advises to watch for “confidence, timing, content, appearance and speech flow.” Good advice whether its a job pitch or an entrepreneurial story.

At Rising Tide Innovation Center, we have a passion for community, and our community can help lend the feedback and guidance you need. We’ve invested in this co-work space not out of necessity, but because building community excites and enriches us. We’re passionate about creating a community to help bring the dreams of entrepreneurs to fruition so together, we can revolutionize, disrupt and change the world.

That’s our pitch. Give us a chance to help perfect yours.

Ideas to finance your start-up

5 Financing Alternatives for Funding Your Start-Up

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Ideas to finance your start-upYou have a terrific idea, but how do you raise the capital to turn it into a viable business? It’s one of the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs. Most very quickly discover traditional lenders like banks are reluctant to lend money to start-ups without a significant track record of success, an impeccable credit history, and money already in the bank. If you had that, you wouldn’t need to borrow money!

While a Small Business Administration loan (SBA) loan is backed by the government and, thus, preferred by lenders for small business borrowers, they aren’t usually easy to obtain.

If borrowing from a bank is out, then, what’s an intrepid entrepreneur to do? Here are five financing alternatives to get you started with funding your start-up.

  1. Credit Cards.

    Many new business owners turn first to their credit cards for financing. While not ideal, credit card financing does offer some advantages. First, unless you have a bad credit history, credit cards are easily accessible, so you can get cash fast. Also, you can spread out your debt over multiple cards. You also can play “interest rate roulette.” This is when you move your debt from card to card based on the interest rate. Of course, there are disadvantages to credit cards, to wit:

    1. High interest rates—in some cases 21 to 24%
    2. Very quickly getting into debt over your head
    3. If the business fails, you may be stuck with a pile of unsecured debt and no way to pay it back, which could leave you with ruined credit—and in bankruptcy. If you choose to use credit cards to finance your business, proceed with caution. Set a limit for how much you are willing to invest in your business in unsecured debt before you call it. Or maybe combine credit card debt with other capital sources, such as the next one on the list: side hustle.
  1. Side Hustle.

    Rather than tapping into existing resources such as your day job or your life savings or retirement funds to help you pay for your start up, consider taking on a side hustle such as freelancing work or a part-time job and using that money as investment capital for your new business venture. It’s not a glamorous approach, and it may take you longer to get where you want to go, but it’s a more conservative option.

    For instance, let’s say you want to own your own digital creative advertising agency. You might have a day job at an agency. If your employer permits, you could take on freelance graphic design work on the side, saving up that money for a year until you have enough to start your own business. The downside is you can’t tell your boss to take this job and shove it until you are sure you have enough saved. The upside is: when you do leave, you’ll have a decent-sized portfolio, a few clients of your own, and some seed money to get started.

  2. Friends and Relatives.

    Even though there’s an old adage about never doing business with friends and relatives, this is still a primary source of capital for many start-ups. There are a couple of ways to go about this. The first is to just borrow the money outright: “Mom, Dad, may I borrow $10,000 to open my new business?” The other is the ask several friends and relatives to invest in your business: they put in cash and, in exchange, they become “owners” of a percentage of the business just like any other investor.

    The advantages of borrowing from friends and relatives is that they usually love you and want to support you in your efforts. The disadvantage is if things do not go as anticipated, you could lose not only your money but theirs as well. This could seriously damage relationships. For example, let’s say your parents lend you money from their retirement account, and you to lose it all, while they might forgive you, you might never be able to forgive yourself. Think carefully before borrowing from friends and relatives. If you do borrow, do so only in small amounts, and make sure they only lend what they can afford to lose. Reiterate to them that a start-up is a risky business investment in which there are no guarantees. Also, just as with other investors, make sure every arrangement is in writing.

  3. Investors

    With the popularity of TV shows like Shark Tank, it seems like every start-up gets an opportunity at some point to pitch investors. That’s not usually the case, though. Angel investors and venture capitalists typically look for very specific types of companies in which to invest. Your business may or may not qualify for those types of opportunities. However, it’s always worth being on the lookout for pitch competitions in your industry.

    With this method of financing, founders usually give up ownership of some part of the business in exchange capital. Typically, start-ups seeking venture capital have prepared a strong business plan and a pitch that demonstrates how the money will be used and how the enterprise can become profitable. Investors will be looking for how much of their own time, money and effort the founders have already invested, and the viability of the business opportunity. The number one consideration: profitability. The prospective investors will want to know how quickly they can see a return on their investment and how much of a return they can expect to see.

  4. Borrow from Retirement/Equity.

    Borrowing from your own retirement accounts or against the equity in your home or other investments also are popular options for serious entrepreneurs who are “all-in” on their start-ups. The risk, again, is that if it doesn’t pan out, you’ve lost some serious investments. In Florida, your retirement account and home are protected from creditors in bankruptcy. The minute you borrow against them to invest in a business, however, you put these assets at risk. That said, if you are young enough (to recover if things go wrong), and your business idea is solid enough, it might be a better option to borrow from your own assets than to borrow from others.

So, when it comes to financing your start-up, what’s the right choice? That really depends on the time the type of business you’re opening, how long you think it will take to become profitable, what your goals are for your business, and your risk tolerance. Regardless, it’s important to consider all your options before making a decision.