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5 Marketing Elements to Turn Moments into Movements 

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Small business marketingSamyr Qureshi and his partners launched their business, Knack, in 2015 with a belief a peer-to-peer college student tutoring app akin to Uber would enjoy success.

Just as Uber connects passengers with drivers, the app Qureshi and his University of Florida student partners developed linked tutors who had earned high grades in specific courses to students struggling with the same courses.

Yet they knew they had to connect their idea to the students and tutors to make it flourish. They knew they had to have a marketing plan. They decided to do more than employ traditional approaches.

One approach was to incentive the tutors.

“We launched a tutor rewards program,” Qureshi said. “Essentially we built a tutor store for them to order personalized marketing collateral they could use to kickstart their marketing efforts on-campus. After a Knack Tutor’s first session, they’d get free credit to spend in the store.”

The tutor store not only helped them grow the business at UF, it played a key role in spurring its development into a national company. Now Knack is active on 40 college campuses across the country and considered a top start-up.

Marketing remains a key tool in helping entrepreneurs turn moments into movements. A strategic plan creates a network of connectivity that attracts and retains customers, creates buy-in and spurs business development. Here are the five elements of marketing you must master if you want to grow a thriving, sustainable business beyond the start-up phase.

 

#1. Master the Message

Your message is your magic; it’s how you solve your prospective client’s wake-up-in-the-morning problem in a way that is unique. You must be able to communicate your message powerfully and effectively whether you have an hour and 100 PowerPoint slides, or only 30 seconds in a rickety elevator. Too often the message gets muddled in fuzzy acronyms and what Inc. contributing writer Geoffrey James calls “corporate speak.” It’s best to build your brand around a message with familiar concepts, clear analogies and concise language. When Qureshi says, “It’s like Uber for tutoring,” he capsulizes the aim of Knack in seconds. His prospects know exactly what Knack and for whom. It may be tempting to skimp on this part because you think “Eh, it’s only a few words.” The fewer the words, the greater the impact. For example, test yourself and see how many of these messages you immediately associate with a brand (Hint: some are no longer used, but are so powerful they have become part of the American lexicon.):

  1. “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
  2. “Always low prices.”
  3. “Where shopping is a pleasure.”
  4. “We try harder.”
  5. “Think different.”
  6. “For life.”
  7. “Imagination at work.”
  8. “Just do it.”
  9. “Two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onion-on-a-sesame-seed-bun.”
  10. “Have it your way.”

(The answers are at the bottom of this blog.)

Maybe your message won’t be a clever tagline. If you aren’t particularly clever with words and can’t yet afford an agency to help you come up with a catchy slogan, just start with this statement: “We help [describe who you help for example: “women over 40”] with [insert the problem you solve for example: “look a decade younger in just 30 days”] [hint at how you solve it in a unique way “without wasting hundreds of dollars on expensive department store lotions and potions that don’t work anyway.”]

 

#2 Manage the Media

Once you master your message, explore ways to propel it into the stratosphere through various social media platforms and generate buzz about your business.

There are three keys to success on social media:

1) Go where your prospective clients and/or referral sources hang out. If they are mostly on Instagram, you don’t want to be spending all day on LinkedIn or Twitter. If they love memes and lots of chit chat, don’t keep giving them soliloquys. Go where they are and speak their language.

2) Tailor your message for each outlet. The different platforms target different audiences, and the rules of each platform vary. Know the rules so you can play by them—and then disrupt them when you are ready. Words win out on Facebook, but it’s all about pics on Instagram and Pinterest. Everybody loves a good video—even LinkedIn is getting in the video game. Start with creating your own YouTube channel.

3) Don’t just “connect and forget.” Be sure to engage consistently and frequently. Don’t send the wrong signal with a Twitter account that’s grown inactive or a Facebook page that simply promotes your business without engaging others. Quality content can drive traffic and help build your Internet presence. Word of Mouth Marketing Association president Suzanne Fanning told Forbes, “Brands are too caught up in collecting social media fans and they are forgetting to actually connect with them.”

Finally, don’t underestimate the value of traditional media. A story on a reputable web site or an appearance on a popular television or radio show lends credibility and authenticity to your content marketing strategy and your brand. Social media is great but learn to write a media release that catches a journalist’s attention as well.

 

#3 Meet the Mentors

Mentors can be key to not only offering wisdom but opening the doors to greater opportunities. An established business leader can help you master the message, manage the media, and then they can introduce you to key figures in your industry. Entrée into a networking group can lead to pivotal connections. A meaningful conversation over lunch, a round of golf, or during Wine Down Wednesday can be rocket fuel for your marketing. Think about how many entrepreneurs who have crafted winning ideas on a cocktail napkin. How do you meet a great mentor? Community involvement – such as professional organizations, civic organizations, or a cowork space – can provide the pipeline to sage advisors.

 

#4 Manufacture Ambassadors

A team of folks who champion you, your idea and your spirit can prove invaluable. Message, media and mentoring can get you in the game, but ultimately you must win over every day community members and get them talking about your product. Angel investor Neil Patel refers to this tactic as creating “brand evangelists,” people willing to go out and preach the word about your product or service. It’s certainly clients whose satisfaction you can convert into testimonials, but it’s also family members, friends Nielsen research indicates that 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends over every form of advertising. “Hey grandma, do you have a Twitter account?” Go beyond those who love you unconditionally and hire people with strong reputations who can meet your needs and promote your idea. And, connect with people who like you Facebook posts or heart your tweets. Let them know it’s appreciated and ask them to spread the word. There are countless stories about how companies got a bounce by creating a buzz among everyday citizens. If the United States has more than 180 ambassadors, you should aim to have just as many.

 

#5 Maximize the Brand

Whether you are a start-up with little budget or Nike, Inc., smart businesses find ways to leverage investments.  And, swag is a great and often, low barrier method to get your brand and messaging out to larger audiences.  First, internally, as the leaders at Knack knew – give your own team some swag that easily enables them to spread your message to prospective employees or clients.  People are (often) proud of where they work and likely to promote outside of the office.  Additionally, if you’re a company that’s working events, tradeshows or conferences – using your brand color creatively — from scarves, ties and shoes can be an easy conversation starter.  ChappellRoberts, a Tampa-based advertising and marketing agency, launched a big new brand for a financial services company, and one of the investments that company made was in well-made apparel and accessories for the team because they do so many client facing events.  More than five years later, the representation of this company brand at tradeshows is still a large differentiator for them. Second, externally, swag gives you opportunity to build brand loyalty and affinity with your paying customers.  Customers or clients want to know you get them, if you’re an innovation company – surprise your audience with something that relates to your unique industry and potentially makes their lives easier such as portable chargers or cell phone lights. If nothing else, get some company T-shirts and wear them everywhere you go. You might be surprised how many people ask you about what you do.

Need more ideas about marketing? Come hang out with us at Rising Tide Innovation Center. We believe in collaboration, community and the power of co-working for success.

 

1.FedEx 2. Walmart 3. Publix 4. Avis 5. Apple 6. Volvo 7. G.E. 8. Nike 9. McDonald’s 10. Burger King

Coworking

7 Ways Coworking Can Help You Grow Your Business

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CoworkingSometimes the home office grows a little too homey.

The entrepreneur can thrive working out of the house, until the call of the couch and the temptation of the television prove too much.

Who can work when The Breakfast Club flashes onto the screen for the 4,037th time? Your efforts to generate the next great idea aren’t quite as lonely when you’re hanging in the high school library with Molly, Judd, Emilio, Ally and Anthony.

“Don’t mess with the bull, young man, you’ll get the horns.”

Even the focused worker who leaves the TV off may find the silence of home a bit too deafening. So, they retreat to a coffee shop. There, they nestle among strangers and hope that parent doesn’t arrive with a distracting child who insists he deserves a cookie.

When the piercing pleas of a toddler or the gossipy laughs of neighbors don’t disrupt morning routines, ambitious start-up owners still worry someone will pilfer their laptop each time they go to the bathroom or step outside to take a call.

The solution? The cowork space. It’s a place that can lead to laser-focus efforts without laser-like costs, a place that offers the ambient noise of an office and the professional support more commonly found in the corporate world.

Most of all, you get community. The cowork space fosters work ethic while allowing for meaningful connections. Here are seven coworking benefits that have helped the industry become one of the nation’s fastest-growing business trends.

1. Escape the House

Working from home may hold some financial advantages, but the distractions—be it television, sofa or food—eat away at productivity. Devoting your energy to getting up, getting dressed and going to a dedicated work space lends purpose to your work day. Studies indicate people generate greater focus and achieve more when dressed for the day instead of sitting down in their pajamas and fuzzy slippers. Officevibe, a company that monitors and measures employee satisfaction, revealed in a recent survey that 68 percent of coworkers possess a greater focus while in the space, and 64 percent are better able to complete tasks on time. The cowork space also allows entrepreneurs to enhance the intrinsic value of separating work from home.

2. Add the Amenities

The cowork space offers services an entrepreneur may not possess at home: a business address, business mail service, copying and printing, and in some cases, a receptionist and other support staff.  It also features advantages seldom found in the neighborhood coffee shop, including viable Internet services, Skype capabilities, conference rooms and isolated rooms for phone conversations. In the effort to expand your business with face-to-face meetings, the cowork space proves more professional than the home and more discreet than the Starbucks.

3. Keep it Simple

Utilizing cowork space allows for greater flexibility and freedom than renting your own office space. Overhead is minimized because of the shared resources approach, freeing up precious financial resources for other needs. It also reduces the need to work 9-5 in “your office.” Because of the shared approach, someone can mind the store while you’re out lunching with prospective clients, connecting with disrupters, furthering your business or even devoting some midday hours to a family need.

4. Acquire New Skills

Most cowork spaces offer classes and events that can enhance the skill set of folks who own small businesses and start-up companies. Look for the cowork space that fills its calendars with how-to presentations and easily accessible seminars about succeeding in the 21st century business. The chance to expand your knowledge base may be one of the most important amenities offered by a cowork space.

5. Amp the Atmosphere

Entering an office space with like-minded individuals can sharpen focus, boost energy and increase productivity. When people put themselves among other entrepreneurs all looking to fuel their dreams, they can channel that entrepreneurial spirit into their own efforts. The independent mindset that’s so germane to co-work spaces not only fosters a stronger perspective, but it can lend to support when the aspiring business person encounters disappointing days or suffers a setback.

6. Conquer Loneliness

Working at home or squirreling away in a coffee shop can lead to feelings of isolation or loneliness. This not only applies to the enterprising entrepreneurs but to the growing number of corporate employees who are being asked to telecommute. Emergent Research shared its recent findings in a Harvard Business Review article, and the numbers were striking: 87 percent of coworking members meet other members for social reasons; 83 percent decrease their sense of loneliness and 89 percent are happier.

7. Collaborate with Community

Once entrepreneurs and workers find their way into the cowork space, they often discover a sense of collaboration and community. A tech worker looking to develop a new application may connect with a fellow cowork member who can help him market the product. A public relations practitioner may be steered towards a new client thanks to a reference from a fellow cowork member. Infinite networking possibilities exist, and all of them can generate greater success.

The Rising Tide Innovation Center possesses all the above benefits and a few more (like a cereal bar!). With Fletcher & Fischer. P.L. operating the center, Rising Tide members can reach out to a legal team that serves developers, lenders and businesses in Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They also can tap into the firm’s genuine passion for building community, which has served as a cornerstone for the firm. Says partner Leigh Fletcher: “Community building is so exciting and enriching to me. It makes me a better business person, a better lawyer and a better person, in general. I want to create the opportunity for others to have that.”

If you’re looking for the right co-work space, visit the center and discover how a rising tide lifts all boats.

Business Plan for Start-Ups

One-Page Business Plan to Jump-Start Your Start-Up

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Business Plan for Start-UpsBusiness plans come in all shapes and sizes, depending on their purpose. Lenders typically require much more formal and detailed business plans, complete with financial projections, tax returns, and other financial records and disclosures attached. The Small Business Administration (SBA), in particular, since it guarantees government-backed loans, expects to see a voluminous and detailed business plan and presentation. Just when you think you have it nailed, they are likely to ask for some more documents.

Venture capitalists and investors will eventually want to see all the details of your plan, but initially, they are going to want to see a presentation that captures their imagination. Some just want you to get right to the numbers—or at least that’s what they say. Read “Pitch Anything,” by Oren Klaff, though, before you buy that line.

Marketers and agencies who’ll be running your campaigns, on the other hand, will want to know all about your ideal clients/target audience, unique sales proposition, competitors and the like, but won’t care at all about your personal tax returns from 2008.

So, if you are getting ready to start a business, do you need a business plan? And if you do, what type of business plan, exactly do you need?

The answer to the first question is: Yes, you need a plan.

Think of it this way. If we were to start out on a road trip, let’s say from St. Petersburg to Las Vegas, and we just hopped in the car and began driving without a map or a GPS or any directions at all, we might eventually wind up in Vegas. Or not. Of course, if we did make it, it would take you a whole lot longer, and we likely would wind up going down many, many wrong paths and getting lost before we got there.

But, if we put the address to our destination in the GPS and let it map out the exact route, well, we still might take a wrong turn here or there, but we’d likely course-correct pretty quickly and get back on the right road faster. In no time (35 hours, exactly, if we didn’t stop), we’d end up in in Vegas, partying our asses off at The Bellagio.

It’s the same with a business plan. We could build a business without a plan, but with a plan makes a whole lot more sense.

The next step, then, is to decide what kind of plan you need. If you are seeking funding, then you need to find out from the potential source of your funding what they would expect to see in a plan because, as stated earlier, lenders and investors can be picky.

If, however, you just need a plan for YOU, and you really aren’t that great at planning or excited about it, then try this simple, one-page business plan to help you get started.

Set aside a morning, with a fresh cup of coffee and no distractions, to work on your simple plan. The purpose of this plan is to help you get your business idea down on paper and out of your head so you can start assessing its viability.

This is not a be-all-end-all plan, it’s a starting point. Over time, you may want to elaborate on this plan. When you are ready, you can check of resources like SCORE, a service of the SBA designed to help small business owners with issues like preparing business plans, or you can buy a few books (there are many on Amazon), or simply Google “business plans for small businesses,” and you’ll find lots of options.

Ready to get started? Click here for your plan.

Manhattan Casino

Member Spotlight: Mario Farias, Farias Consulting Group

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Mario FariasWhen Mario Farias rides around South St. Petersburg, he sees a district longing to recapture its once legendary status as an economic hub.

He sees the Manhattan Casino, where two restaurants and an event center have found a new home thanks to his help.

He sees Commerce Park, where his guidance will help place a marine equipment systems consortium led by EMP Industries.

Most of all, he sees home.

The CEO-managing director of the Farias Consulting Group spent his childhood in South St. Petersburg, and after a whirlwind career, he has returned to put a positive imprint on a place he cherishes for its past glory and its future potential.

His career has taken him to New York University for college, around the world as an employee of a Brazilian airline and up the corporate ladder in the auto dealer industry. These days, however, Farias finds himself spurring economic development in St. Petersburg, including key projects in Midtown and at Harborage Marina, the first and only full-service mega yacht port on Florida’s west coast.

And he’s making his most impactful decisions from his office inside the Rising Tide Innovation Center on Central Avenue.

Farias recently shared his outlook on his key projects, the source of his ambitions and why he has chosen the benefits of a cowork space.

When you look at the role you’ve played in bringing about positive change to South St. Petersburg, a place you grew up, what’s the emotion?

That’s the thing that really turns me on, the legacy that it builds is everything. Somebody told me a long time ago that legacy isn’t what you leave for somebody, it’s what you leave in somebody. Just the idea that I helped create a couple of dozen jobs motivates me to do it again, do it again, and do it again.

You’ve worked with a number of companies over the years, but you take particular pride in your work with the Callaloo Group in bringing new life to the historic Manhattan Casino. The landmark building on 22nd Street — “The Deuces” — that once hosted some of the country’s most famous African-American performers is thriving. Tell us about it.

I grew up going to the “Deuces,” going to those businesses, so when the opportunity arose last year for myself and my partners, it was pretty amazing. I got to do something in an iconic building. We’ve built two great restaurants there and the upstairs (event space) is flourishing and doing what it’s supposed to do. We do events there with up to 300 people. We’ve done corporate events, we’ve done weddings, we’ve done concerts, we’ve done everything up there in the short time we’ve own it.

And you feel like the restaurants are where the “real magic” happens?

Callaloo is a Southern faire restaurant that we’ve injected with some Caribbean flavor to give it a different feel for St. Petersburg. There’s no other restaurant like it in St. Petersburg, there’s no one else who carries our menu. Then we have Pipo’s, the Cuban restaurant chain. So, we have two restaurants and the event space. The fourth component is the huge kitchen which serves as a commissary not just for our restaurants, but for catering. We do 30 outside events a year, weekend-type events in parks. It’s given us an opportunity to train people coming out of culinary school to not only work in the kitchen — but we’re looking to find the right partners to open up additional restaurants.

You’re teaching them the business lessons as well as giving them the culinary training?

Right. That’s a legacy piece of my design. When I left St. Petersburg in 1975, there was nothing here. It was a sleepy little town. … There was nothing happening. When I came back, I said if I ever have the opportunity, I will make sure that no kid has to leave here. The only way to do that is by creating jobs and creating opportunities.

Are you focusing on hiring people from South St. Petersburg at Callaloo?

Absolutely. If you go into our kitchen, I would say 90 percent of our staff is local. Most of them walk to work. And we’re looking to do the same thing in Commerce Park.

It must feel good to help reinfuse where you grew up.

It’s a resurrection of what it was. South St. Petersburg was a vibrant area. There was a lot of pride in South St. Pete for those of us who lived there, who grew up there. My wife was born and raised in St. Petersburg. When we drive by places, we remember all the businesses that were there that are now gone. It doesn’t resemble what I remember growing up. I remember growing up, riding my bike with my brother and my cousins — we all lived near each other — and there would be little places for us to do things. And they’re not there now. That’s why two years ago I took on the project of making St. Petersburg the winter home for the Tall Ship Lynx. I remember being able to ride my bike down to The Pier and play on the Bounty.

So, you pull together the different marine companies, builders and municipal contributions and brought that project to fruition. Tell us about the end result.

Last year, they had more than 1,000 kids experience the ship. The Lynx is truly a learning vessel and, it teaches kids the history and brings them close to the water. To see those kids and how they interacted with the crew, it was all joy.

They’ve probably never been on a boat.

Yes, and they’re first experience is on a tall ship? That’s amazing. You have the marine science industry here, and at the same time, you have Marinetek North America, the world’s largest floating dock manufacturer, EMP Industries, which manufacturers the components that go into marinas, And the Harborage wants to expand. So, you see all these things are starting to work together.

With all your success, you could be in the high rise down the street or have a free-standing office. But you’ve chosen the Rising Tide Innovation Center. Why?

Relationship. Real simple. Leigh Fletcher has been a friend of mine for several years, we were having lunch and she said, “Let me show you what I’m doing.” And I said, “Okay.” It was that simple.

I would imagine this historic space appealed to you. It’s nice.

Absolutely. This space — there’s nothing like it. It was definitely not something I ever intended to do. I really don’t need an office. I work out of the house, but I’ve found I get more work done here than I do at my house. My house has the TV and the dog and my wife. So, it’s good here.

How much does it help to have a law firm right here?

There are a lot of times I need a legal question answered, and instead of picking up the phone to call Leigh, I walk around the corner. She said, I feel very comfortable knowing you’re around the corner, and I feel the same way about her. It’s about relationships. Her and Tina and the staff are an amazing group of people.

What advice would you offer for entrepreneurs and business owners looking to spark their efforts?

Listen more than you talk. Don’t take no as a no, take it as a not yet. Surround yourself with the best people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And know that there’s always someone smarter than you.

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.

Coffee.

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

By | All Articles, Business 'How-To' | No Comments

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.