Weekend Startup School took place June 14 & 15th in Washington, DC. I wrote about my excitement in being a part of this dynamic event, and being able to speak about the importance of creating strategic accountability groups for your business. There were way too many valuable words of wisdom and nuggets to put into one post. But I hope this condensed recap is still valuable for you. You should also follow the hashtag #WeStartUp on Twitter and Instagram for some great shares and inspiration.
A big congrats and shout out to Paul C Brunson and Ella Rucker for creating this amazing event and platform. I met and connected with some rockstar individuals over the course of the two days, and for that I am grateful.
Here are some quick Weekend Startup School highlights from June 2015:
Session 1 kicked off with Amanda Littlejohn: Package Your Genius
Amanda is a rockstart branding and business coach and creating of the Branding Box. She said that the number one problem lies in how you tell your story, and then shared 5 most common mistakes with storytelling:
Mistake #1: Leaving everything to chance and relying only on word of mouth
- You have to tell people what you’re doing, & what you’re working on when starting a new business
Mistake #2: Not keeping track (document your experience)
- Document what works and what doesn’t; keeping track helps to secure future opportunities (check out branded.me)
- Elements of a great case study: story that tells the results you were able to get as a result of a project you completed.
- Journaling is key
Mistake #3: Being too modest, not owning your contributions
- It empowers others to do the same
- It’s okay to take credit for your leadership and acknowledge your own excellence
- Take an in-depth inventory of your past roles: what results were you responsible for? How would outcomes be different without you?
Mistake #4: Storytelling from only one perspective – your own
- You need other people who are willing to share their stories of working with you
- Hearing testimonials from others makes it mean more
Mistake #5: Not tying your story to your customer/audience problems
- What are the top three challenges people come to you with?
- For each challenge, what is your prescription?
- What are your three top pieces of advice or step by step solution to the common problem you see?
- Pay attention to what people are asking you
- Speak to their issues/needs
Session 2 kicked off with Mike Street, SmartBrownVoices.com: How to grow your social media following to 100K in a year
Mike opened up with 5 keys for social growth:
- Have a unique voice
- Great engagement
- Visuals *
- Contact hooks
- Trend jacking (inserting yourself and making a post/comment relevant to what’s trending online – i.e. #CharlestonShooting)
Growth hacking is about testing. Brands don’t understand social media and are looking at platforms to follow. Video is powerful (think Vine, Snapchat, Meerkat and now Periscope)
Tweetfull.com: set up keywords and hashtags; tool will auto favorite and retweet related content (use 1-3 hashtags at most)
Instagress.com (I used it for the free 3 day trial period and got close to 100 new followers): set up key hashtags on Instagram; tool will auto like and post comments on related images; fine tune as needed
Session 3 kicked off with Riche of Bambiniware: Going from Idea to Product Launch
Bambiniware is functional & fashionable designer gear for stylish moms & babies. So Riche shared how she created a product from a need she had of her own as a mom, to then having the opportunity to work with and write for Martha Stewart.
She shared that you can have a mentor from afar, and how when people started comparing her to Martha Stewart, she began to follow her and see her as her virtual mentor. She finally got a chance to meet her at the American Made Summit.
Riche broke us up into teams where we had to come up with a product and a name. The winning team with the most votes got to go through the entire process of getting it from “idea to product launch”.
This helped us to identify some critical questions when it comes to our own product ideas:
- What is your product idea?
- What problem does it solve?
- What’s so innovative about it?
- Who needs or benefits from it?
She talked about the importance of research:
Market: what similar products already exist? Who/what can you learn from?
- Google patents and figure out how you can make it different/better
Consumer: who’s in your target market? What are their buying habits
- Use FB search feature for what people like
- score.org (retired executives meet with you for free; DC office; also offer virtual mentoring)
- Give product a name that pops
- Purchase associated domain names
- Find out who the experts are in your niche
- Create detailed project plan (start from launch date and work backwords)
Remember: Perfect is good, but done is better – Jane Hamill
DAY 2 kicked off with Paul Brunson about negotiations
Paul talked about the importance of anchoring: to put a stake in the ground; people fall within 80% of the range of your anchor (so if you’re asking for $5K, chances are, they will fall within 80% of that asking price.
- Know what other people are paying or receiving for that particular product or service
- Everyone will typically negotiate – everything is up for negotiation
- When negotiating, say, “I can pay this” as opposed to “What are your rates?”
Paul also shared a really great and hilarious story about his nickname Pippy. Let’s just say, you had to be there to hear it. It just wouldn’t be the same if I tried to write it out in a blog post 🙂
We also broke out into groups and did a case study exercise on Rachael Ray (from Harvard Business School). This was definitely a critical thinking exercise to determine which direction her brand should go based off of information we were given in a packet (and from where she was in 2008). Our group was tied with another group, and it made us realize that not everything is black and white.
But one of the biggest takeaway from this session is everything is negotiable. We have to be willing to ask for the negotiation as well as be willing to work with people who are negotiating with us. He talked about how a brand approached him to do a social media campaign and offered him $5K. He told them what he would be willing to do for $25K and they came within 80%.
On Day 2, Session 1, Stacey Ferguson of Be Blogalicious, gave us the scoop on attracting Sponsorships
*** Always first find out what the company/brand’s goals are:
- Make sure you always report about the campaigns : reporting shows the company’s ROI
- Let them know why they need you as a strategic partner
- What do you have to offer them that goes back to their overall goals
- They don’t care about the benefit of your community, they care about their ROI
- Find out what brands share your target market and then go after them
- Put together case studies and then give them a fancy title
- Sponsorship story map:
Since there were sooo many great questions being asked, Stacey boycotted the powerpoint presentation and took us to: Belogalicious.com/sponsor-success. This is a great way to map out your next sponsorship so that it is successful.
- Main characters: Target
- Supporting: sponsors
- Setting: what is it? (event, etc) Blogalicious (intimate)
- Problem: networking, increase brand awareness; sponsors want to increase visibility
- Solution: bring them both together with event
- Exclusivity – means you pay more (for Bloga: it starts at $30K and up – YES!)
Identify your event’s unique USP = unique selling proposition
What makes your event stand out? Use this simple formula to answer this:
“My event is all about _____________________, we do things differently. If you’re into __________________, we’re the only place you can get it.”
Do I need a sales sheet? The 4 P’s
- Packages and pricing
How do you reach brands?
- Tap into existing networks first
- Be aware that people are watching (share strategically)
- Nurture existing relationships
- Put yourself out there
- Be prepared for the next step
- You are not asking for money: you are charging for a service that you provide (#message)
- Think about what brands share your target audience
- Brands want to know numbers: how many people utilized the free offer, how many tweets, etc.
- How can you enhance your sponsors’ experience? Can you offer an ad space, blog post, etc. (wifi password at BLOGA was “thankyoutoyota” and they really loved it and were very appreciative)
Check out sponeasy.com
Session Two was withe the incredible Nichelle McCall: Raising Money for Your Startup
Nichelle is the CEO of Bold Guidance, a web-based software that guides students through their college applications while allowing counselors and parents to view student progress (I sure wish I had this when I was going through the college app process). She discussed how she went from being broke to raising half a million dollars for her startup. Nichelle explained that raising money is about relationships.
There was entirely too much content to share here. But here are a few key takeaways:
What are funders looking for:
- Strong management team
- The problem and solution
- prove out the demand
- create landing pages
- Business model (operations and revenue)
- how are you going to execute upon your solution?
- Is it a realistic and detailed plan?
- Identify revenue and expenses, etc.
- Market opportunity
- How big is your market?
- How many people can you touch
- How much money can you make
- Marketing plan
- How will this info get to the customers
- Competition (who else is in your space? There is ALWAYS competition)
- What’s their business model
- How are they marketing?
- What’s working for them?
- Financial projections
- Exit strategy
- Are you showing your track record: willing to work hard and able to succeed
Show me the money: raising money = strong business
- Setting up milestones and timelines are key
5 Essential Elements to Your Pitch:
- Hook: catchy opening
- Who: company name and your name
- What: what is the service/product
- Why: why needed and why is it beneficial
- Where: online, physical store
- Call-to-action: how should they find you
Click here for the big list of crowdfunding sites shared by Nichelle
Accountability = Success
Next up was Ella and I as we talked about the importance of accountability when it comes to building a successful startup. Be sure to check out my previous post on accountability tips.
Here are a few key points:
- Accountability creates focus, action, and commitment.
- Accountability creates results (we spoke about the different opportunities and projects we’ve completed as a result of being held accountable to an individual or group — books, workshops, speaking opps, performing with Les Nubian – Ella; etc)
- Create a clear plan: start with 10 years, 5 years, 3 years, then 1 year and decide where you want to be, what your life will look like, how much money you’ll have in the bank, how many kids you’ll have, what your business will look like, how you’ll serve people, etc. By starting with 10 years and working your way down to 1 year, you’ll be able to clearly see if you’re on track to getting to where you say you want to be.
- The key to accountability is to FOCUS: Follow One Course Until Successful
Miko Branch closed out the evening with a powerful, heartfelt and inspirational keynote. I’ve already shared her story and interview here. But what I will say is that I really enjoyed not only her story, but the various questions that came from attendees. A powerful moment was when a former client raised her hand and even though she hadn’t seen her in over ten years, Miko immediately recognized her and remembered a bit about her family. There were definitely some tears as well as laughter shared. Be sure to check out the #WeStartup hashtag for some great highlights.
What is some of the best entrepreneurial advice you’ve ever received?