New Business Owner and Biz-In-A-Box Grad Is Enjoying the Sweet Life
If you’ve been to the downtown area of Cookeville lately, you will have noticed a new shop in to town – right on
Broad Street, and we say huzzah- it’s about time they got themselves a proper candy and sweets shop!
Pops and Gumdrops owner Sarah Olson had been talking with her husband about Cookeville needing a shop
like this when they moved to Cookeville from the western suburbs of Chicago in 2014. “In Chicago, everything
is built around the train stations,” explains Olson. “We completely rely on the trains; every 11 minutes, a train
goes through. And all of the major stops have cute little stores offering candy and popcorn.” Olson recognized
the potential for this quaint, nostalgic type of shop in the Upper Cumberland, but kept waiting for someone else
to make it happen. “It was always, ‘Oh, they really need something like this in this town, somebody should do
this.’ It didn’t become ‘we should do this’ until a few years later,” she says.
After some basic research into her idea, Olson came across The Biz Foundry and signed up for the Business-In-A-
Box course. The nine-week course was slated to cover most of what a new business startup would need to know,
from defining the target audience to determining the need for trade marking. “I was already on track to start a
business because I had been putting my startup information together, but where the course really helped me
was in covering things I hadn’t thought about- how to structure my business in a legal sense, maximize my
startup costs, and use my revenue to keep building.” Since finishing the course in the spring of last year, Olson
has successfully opened her shop in a prime location, and is now facing the potential to expand the business
online due to high demand.
The Biz Foundry’s next Business-In-A-Box course begins March 22, 2018 at their new coworking space
on Cedar Avenue in Cookeville, and will take place every Thursday evening for nine weeks. Facilitated by
seasoned business and startup veterans, the course will give its students the ability to develop their business
model, hear expert advice from local legal, accounting, marketing and insurance experts, and learn to tell their
story to attract talent, vendors, customers, and possibly even investors. Classes are hands-on and full of group
discussions, start-up checklist activities, and weekly homework assignments designed to validate participants’
assumptions and refine their business ideas.
“I definitely think it’s helpful to go to that class prepared,” notes Olson, who encourages other new
entrepreneurs or business startup hopefuls to attend. “But if you aren’t prepared, it’s going to help you get
prepared. Those who didn’t walk in with a plan left the class with a blueprint.”
Business In A Box is only offered twice annually, and space is limited. For more information, or to sign up, please
visit www.thebizfoundry.org or contact program manager Mike Ames . And when you go to Pops and Gumdrops, try the buffalo popcorn – I bought some today. It’s amazing.
I’m eating it now as I write this article. And I will not be sharing it with any of you people, so go buy your own.
As a local business owner, you have a lot of responsibilities when it comes to promoting your business. It seems every month, there are more ways to promote or advertise your business. What about content though? How can you put together eye-catching graphics to attract new customers and fans? More importantly, how do you do all of that? Check out these five tools that are available to use.
1. Canva - I could go on and on about Canva. It's very simple graphic design software that can be used for digital or print material. This little gold nugget makes it easy to create quick graphics for social media, flyers, invitations, brochures and so on. What makes this website even better? Each template is already appropriately sized and layouts are available if you are completely clueless when it comes to design.
Check it out here
2. Pexels - I use stock photos for a number of things including websites, social media post and even advertising. Pexels offers free stock photos. (Tip: Never use blurry and low res photos...it looks bad. No, it looks really bad. Do not do it! Go for a crisp, clean look.)
Check it out here
3. Creative Market - This website is great because it offers a ton of templates. I can't say I have used all of their services, but I do visit Creative Market's website for logos. Create a custom logo for your business for $12+. Easy, reasonable and professional.
Check it out here
4. Hootsuite - Every month it seems like a new social media platform is released. As a business owner, posting to social media can be daunting. You have other things to do! Schedule your post using Hootsuite to save time. I suggest planning your posts for the week and then scheduling all posts at the beginning of the week.
Check it out here
5. Tweet Jukebox - Speaking of social media management, check out Tweet Jukebox. This is a great way to schedule recurring tweets on Twitter. Do you want followers to know you offer free shipping, support a local cause or another key factor about your business? Set up tweets to go out on a regular basis. It's always nice to remind fans who you are and what you offer.
Check it out here
Improve Website SEO & Content
Increase web traffic by making sure website SEO is up to par. More web traffic means more sales and conversion in most cases. Most people find or research a business online before making the plunge. On top of having SEO down pat, make sure your website is consistent and clear.
Utilize Social Media
Keep fans and customers up to date on social media. Post sales, business updates or relevant posts about your business or market. Engage with customers by replying to comments or feedback. Find new fans and followers by searching for those interested in similar products or services. If you are hosting a big event or sale, pay a little bit to boost your post. Better yet, utilize analytics and create a targeted ad. Furthermore, make sure social media graphics are eye catching and well designed.
Increase Online Reviews
There are a ton of websites out there that offer business reviews. If you’re like most, you check a business out before visiting or buying products or services. Ask your customers to write a review. A sign can be hung in the door or a link to review websites at the bottom of an online order confirmation. Do you have regular clients or customers that are your biggest fans? Next time they stop by, ask them directly for a review.
Offer Grade A Customer Service
Local businesses, especially in a small town, are well known. Good service comes from a good attitude of the seller and care for the client. Create an atmosphere that is friendly and customer based. A good attitude costs absolute nothing.
Know your Marketing Strategy
What works best in your area? Digital marketing is always a great option but consider word of mouth, presence in the community, printed materials, radio ads, sponsorship or billboards. Work on your branding and recognition instead of strictly sales.
by Thiago Rezende
Chase your dreams. I’m sure you’ve heard that a time or two, right? But what does that really mean? Are we supposed to drop everything right now and go after what we’re passionate about? Or should we plan it carefully and wait for the right moment to dive into our passion? Perhaps find a place in the middle? It’s hard to tell.
The expression “chasing your dreams” is, way too often, given an almost poetic connotation of this impossible quest to find utopian reality where everything works perfectly and success comes flying through the door. Truth is, “Chasing your Dreams” is a very realistic, tangible scenario that involves way more than that.
It would be great if there was a formula to chasing dreams, but the truth is: there ISN’T. The so-called right moment is unique to each and every one of us.
The starter key is to master self-awareness. Get to know yourself. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Find out what your heart is in and only then choose a dream to pursue. You have all the tools in the world available to you through the internet, libraries and networking to figure it out. Be smart about it, use them.
The life of an entrepreneur is a constant conscious gamble. We have plenty ideas to start businesses, to help people, save the world, make money, and those are our dreams. None of them are set to succeed. Not without the hard work to figure out the need, the market, the viability of the product/service offered, and that’s the risk we’re willing to take on every day.
It’s a 50/50 chance. A 50% chance of success after trying it out is worth a whole lot more than a potential 100% chance of success stored in a drawer. Figure out what your dream is, figure out a way to monetize it, and work hard for it.
Only a few hours on Google will reveal stories of people that succeeded and/or failed following their dreams, and they’ve picked the most diverse paths to get there. The common factor in all of them: they never gave up. They were willing to go the extra mile to achieve their dreams. They decided to work harder than anyone else.
Failure is the greatest source of learning, don’t fear it. And if it does happen to you, get back up and start over, better and stronger. You’re then a wiser version of yourself and, because of that, you still win.
People often have great ideas, but are too scared to pursue them and end up failing for not trying. Chasing your dreams is challenging, but extremely rewarding. Realize you can do anything you want as long as you set your mind to it. Don’t let anyone discourage your dreams by saying, “You can’t do this,” and when they try, prove them wrong by doing it.
Life is too short to be wasted doing things we don’t like. Yes, bills have to be paid and you will most likely spend some time in life working places you don’t like. It takes experiencing the bad to learn and value the good. And once you do, it’s time to put in the work and go after it.
So Dream high, Dream big and Pursue it.
At The Biz Foundry, we are dedicated to helping startups and entrepreneurs. One way we do that is by connecting entrepreneurs with others. The best advice comes from those who have travelled the same road. Jeff Brown, President of The Biz Foundry, noticed the Upper Cumberland needed an entrepreneur group for women.
He contacted local business owners Alane Boyd, owner of Two Heartbeats Maternity and part owner of GoFanbase, and Kristi Nixon, owner of Express Employment. He knew if anyone could start and lead something like this, it was these two. Neither had met prior to their initial meeting, but they instantly found things in common.
"Our first meeting was just trying to wrap our heads around what we would want out of having a women's entrepreneur group. After brainstorming ideas and going around in circles, we realized we just needed to first get the other local women business owners together," states Boyd. "After that, we could figure the rest out. Our most important goal was to be able to have women we could relate to, that were going through or had gone through similar experiences."
Soon after the initial meeting, Brown, Boyd and Nixon decided on the name Starter Chicks for the group. "We thought it was a little edgy and fun, like us, but still told our story as a woman entrepreneur," says Nixon.
Starter Chicks held their first meeting on Tuesday, July 26th at Poets South in Cookeville. The ladies told their stories, discussed business challenges they are currently facing, and most importantly, laughed and had fun. Starter Chicks will be having a monthly get together. The next meeting is set for August 23rd, and the location will be announced soon.
You know what happens when you put women entrepreneurs together? They come up with new businesses to start. Cookeville, get ready!
If you know a woman that owns her own business, let them know about Starter Chicks! For more information, contact Alane Boyd.
by Rosemary Fields
What makes an entrepreneur an entrepreneur? Is it the company they started, their mindset or a combination of the two? While everyone is different, most entrepreneurs tend to think alike and possess some of the same characteristics.
1. Creative and innovative: Entrepreneurs tend to seek out new opportunities and problems to solve. It’s all about being resourceful and understanding what they are passionate about.
2. Accepting risk as a factor: Entrepreneurs understand there is an element of risk in most decisions. They assess the pros and cons and become comfortable with making choices. Hard decisions and new challenges are not things they shy away from.
3. Committing to hard work: Entrepreneurs know they must invest time and resources in order to achieve their goals. The normal 9:00-5:00 work day is not expected. They believe their investment will eventually pay off.
4. Self-motivated: Entrepreneurs are self-starters and motivated to reach goals. They are more likely to meet a challenge head-on rather than delay. They have taken the time to clearly define what it is they want to do and have decided it is worth pursuing.
5. Accepting of change. Smart entrepreneurs constantly evolve. Tweaking their business concepts based on market feedback is necessary and they’re not hindered by changing their products.
Do you have the entrepreneurial mindset?
by Thiago Rezende
In a capitalist world where everything revolves around money, the concept of a nonprofit organization may seem strange or just plain extraterrestrial. We’ve heard about these organizations many times, and let’s be honest, most of us still don’t fully understand what they do and how they work. It’s like that super cool new toy everybody talks about but only a few have had the chance to see or play with it and understand what it is.
Nonprofits are involved in many initiatives other than charity, human rights, environmental issues, animal rights, or others. We tend to restrict the definition of the nonprofit organization’s nature. By doing so, other areas that nonprofits are dedicated to go completely unnoticed. The area of business is an example that is commonly overlooked. How can a nonprofit organization be involved with and dedicated to helping businesses if it’s an organization that does not seek profit by default? Can these two opposites coexist? Is it even possible?!
Entrepreneur centers are the answer to these questions and the place where this coexistence exists. The core purpose of the entrepreneur center is to help people achieve their goal of starting their own business. And guess what - most of the services are typically free of charge!
Now you’re probably thinking “Oh ok, that’s pretty cool, but did you say FREE? Why would someone provide services like that at no cost? What’s the catch?”
And that’s ok; it’s a question people ask frequently. We are a society that is accustomed to being charged for everything. When we are offered help and assistance at no cost, we are skeptical and red flags go up. However, the good news is, there is no catch!
The design of the nonprofit is carefully structured to raise funds to sustain the cost of its existence in order to provide free services to the community. Nonprofits don’t offer free services as bait so they can charge you later. The goal is to help people; it’s as simple as that. Entrepreneur centers are no different from any other nonprofit organization.
Let’s look at a few key points on how a nonprofit Entrepreneur Center works:
You may be surprised to learn there are many entrepreneur centers located all over the country. It’s important for people to know services of this nature are available in their communities and to spread the word. There are people with great business ideas but they may have no clue how or where to start. You may even be one of them!
As more people become aware of nonprofits and educate themselves on how these organizations work, the misconceptions that foster taboos will make way for interest and excitement, both for making use of these services and for referring others. The potential creation of new businesses and new jobs can help grow the local economy and strengthen the community. The community, in turn, continues to contribute to the nonprofit in order to further the local economic growth. In the end, everybody wins.
by Rosemary Fields
It's my belief we all have specific talents and gifts that were meant to be used for something good. Those particular talents usually turn into hobbies and become our passion. Have you ever wanted to make turn those hobbies into a small business or company? When contemplating getting started with your own business, it's hard to know what to do or what your first step is. You find yourself discussing the idea with your friends and family, and they may not have the best business advice. An entrepreneur center is meant to help you get started and answer the tough questions. Still have your doubts? Let's cover the basics of an entrepreneur center.
An entrepreneur center is designed to foster the startup and growth of businesses and equip entrepreneurs with the right resources and tools. It's a perfect combination of mentorship, access to technology, office space and an innovative culture. That is who we are at The Biz Foundry. We aim to provide motivation and support regardless of what stage your business is in. Commitment like this will help you build your skillset and experience. You will find yourself surrounded by entrepreneurs who share their valuable wisdom and help you on your path.
At entrepreneur centers, support is available for new businesses that often need help in different aspects of their business. When starting a business, it’s hard to know where to start or if your idea is worth pursuing. We help you work through those challenges by discussing your idea with you and going through things to consider.
We connect you with people that will encourage you along the way and potentially serve as mentors. Mentors will often be business founders or leaders with several years of industry experience and connections. When you’re starting out as an entrepreneur, it may feel like your ideas are jumbled together. You may know where you want to go or end up but not sure how to get there or the steps to take. Having a mentor can help you navigate. These valuable connections are essential but can be time consuming and much harder to find if seeking out by yourself.
At The Biz Foundry and other entrepreneur centers, you will meet other business owners and startups in different roles, industries and capacities. Grow your network and develop authentic relationships with those who are travelling down the same road. This sense of camaraderie is crucial when you’re starting and growing a business.
We also offer the latest technology in virtual reality including the HTC Vive, the HoloLens and 3D printing. Your only limitation is your imagination. If you are a co-working member at The Biz Foundry, you will have access to a desk space, wifi, printing and conference rooms.
For us, the best part of working at an entrepreneur center is witnessing a new business being built that will bring something brand new to the marketplace and has the potential to create jobs. We work exclusively with entrepreneurs and startups in the Upper Cumberland.
Do you have a business idea? Let us help you get started.
by Rosemary Fields
by Rosemary Fields