7 Lessons Of A First Year Startup

Exactly one year ago today I arrived in Los Angeles to start my new business.  At the time I had almost no revenue and only vague plans for how I was going to get more.

Today I have a small but growing collection of small business clients and they are people I am really excited to work with.  I have dozens of contractors who work under me as well as an excellent client rep (Denise!) in the Bay Area.  What have I learned?

Startup Lesson #1: Do great work for your clients and it will pay dividends far into the future. Happy clients will be your evangelists and will bring you more clients and will give you powerful word of mouth advertising.  Many of them will even allow you to use the work you have done for them to showcase your abilities in case studies for future sales.

Startup Lesson #2: Raise your prices (thanks Levi). Don’t just charge the hourly rate you were paid when you worked a corporate job- you need to be able to pay for all the offline time and work it takes to run a business.  Office space, computers, employees, and marketing all are expensive and need to be factored in.  Also a dirty little secret of business I have discovered that some of my clients who pay 1/3 as much as others actually require the same amount of work as the others.  I now track the time & effort required and allocate it according to the client’s budget.

Startup Lesson #3: You can’t do everything. As you grow, you will begin to find yourself stretched beyond your human limits of work ability and will need to hire other people to help carry the load.  Recognize this and try to deal with it before you break.  I have had a couple of times where I became so overwhelmed I lost track of everything I had to get done and dropped some balls.  I now try to allocate tasks to other people before I reach this point because my clients deserve the best possible service.

Startup Lesson #4: Build relationships. People are far more likely to entrust you with helping their business if they have met you, shook your hand, and talked to you about their issues.  If you do extra work for people that goes above and beyond what your initial scope of work is, they usually will be grateful and understanding. Some won’t, but it will be worth it to do anyways because most will recognize it and help you in turn.

Startup Lesson #5: Be honest. This builds upon the last lesson- if you are honest in your promises and assessments to your prospects and clients, they will trust you and want to work with you much more.

Startup Lesson #6: Backup EVERYTHING. Modern business is run heavily on computers and servers, and as we all know computers and servers are FAR from reliable.  Always make sure to keep backups of all your websites independent of your web designers and also keep backups of your personal computer systems.  You should also keep online backups of paper records in case of emergency (fire or water damage, earthquakes, robberies and other events do occasionally happen).

Startup Lesson #7: Be persistent and keep your head up. Starting a business is really tough and requires many days of work when it seems like you will never make any headway.  Stop every so often and pull your head out of the details and look at the big picture to keep yourself motivated to achieve your goals.

As I continue to move my business forward, I am really excited about the prospects for the future.

San Francisco

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Driving to san fran on business right now.

American Pet Industry Worse Polluters than Auto Industries

Quick question: What is the most harmful industry to the environment in America?

You might be surprised by the answer.

Pet dogs devastate environment
Pet dogs devastate environment

The pet industry is by far the largest cause of pollution in the United States just by looking at the amount of food consumed by pets and the amount of waste produced.

Below are the total number of pets in the United States:

Total Number of Pets Owned in the U.S. (millions)

Bird 15.0
Cat 93.6
Dog 77.5
Equine 13.3
Freshwater Fish 171.7
Saltwater Fish 11.2
Reptile 13.6
Small Animal 15.9

Horses alone eat 7,000 pounds of hay per year. 7,000 lbs * 13,300,000 horses in the U.S.A. = 93,100,000,000 pounds of hay. That number is not a misprint- horses eat over 93 BILLION pounds of hay per year! Horses obviously no longer provide any economic value and consume vast amounts of food and produce equally vast amounts of waste.

Dogs are far, far worse.

The average dog eats 400 pounds of dog food per year (mostly protein from chickens, cows, pork, horses, and other scrap meat. Many owners though now feed their dogs premium dog food containing premium meat that is far better than that eaten by people in third world countries. 400 pounds of dog food * 77.5 million dogs = 31,000,000,000 pounds of dog food consumed in the USA per year. 31 BILLION POUNDS OF MEAT EATEN BY DOGS PER YEAR!

Cows worse for environment than cars, trucks, planes & trains
Cows worse for environment than cars, trucks, planes & trains

Dogs are worse than horses since they eat meat, which must be derived from other animals.  It takes roughly 2,500 gallons of water to make one pound of meat.  It takes 16 pounds of grain to make 1 pound of meat.  A 1,000 pound steer requires 2.5 million gallons of water through the course of its life.  To support the ravenous appetites of Americans pet dog population, 31 million steers must die each year. Basically this means dogs require 496 billion pounds of hay per year – more than 5x what horses require!

Humans in America by contrast eat only 200 pounds of meat per year (though there are more of us at 307 million). 61,400,000,000 pounds of meat eaten by Americans. We eat roughly double what dogs eat. However if you include the pet reptile, cat, bird & fish population I think you would find the amount of meat eaten by pets is greater than that eaten by humans.

What this all should mean to you:

  • Cow emissions are far more harmful to the environment than vehicle emissions.  A recent 400 page UN report showed that cows are responsible for more pollution than cars, trucks, airplanes, trains, and all other forms of transportation COMBINED.
  • Pets require more meat than humans in America.
  • Neutering/spaying all pets in America and eliminating the pet industry would provide far more good than completely shutting down all cars, trucks, airplanes, trains, etc- and it would free up huge amounts of human time and attention for more productive pursuits.

Environmentally-conscious people should NEVER own pets.  Pet ownership is by far the biggest source of consumption, waste, and pollution in the United States of America.

30 Day Challenge

I am going to try doing 30 day challenges starting on October 1st. Basically a 30 day challenge is finding a specific goal or task and doing it for 30 days which is the length of time to form a habit.

I am not sure what ill do first. Maybe run 3 miles per day on top of my regular workout or finish one of my programming books.  You have any ideas?

Swype for droid rocks

I hated the default keyboard got the droid x so I switched to the swype keyboard which you use by simply wiggling your finger on the keyboard. Very unique and ingenious.

Frida Pools in Shower

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Awesome.

Battle of the Shopping Carts: BigCommerce vs. CoreCommerce

Updated 2012 Shopify vs BigCommerce review here.

If you are running your own online store, you will definitely want the best in order to excel in the competitive market. One of the things that can ensure you of being a hit with online customers is the efficiency of your e-commerce solution, i.e. your shopping cart. There are so many e-commerce solutions out there, yet, when it comes to choosing the best, some online businessmen nominate BigCommerce while others vote for CoreCommerce. To see other ecommerce solutions reviewed together click here.

So, rather than being misled by what others say, here is a short review of both in order to help you be the judge of which one is the best shopping cart in cyberspace.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is one of the established e-commerce solutions. Over the span of seven years in the business, this shopping cart has grown in popularity, and now has over 40,000 satisfied clients. Some of the features which add to BigCommerce’s appeal include:

  • Search Engine Optimization – This feature is definitely what makes BigCommerce stand out from others. The SEO expert, Aaron Wall, is the mastermind behind the SEO mechanism used in the software. Thus, you can rest assured that your online store will have more exposure than any of your competitors.
  • Once-Click Shopping: Your shoppers will appreciate the fact that they won’t need to be redirected to different pages whenever they decide to purchase something.
  • Enhanced Photo Display: You can upload many photos for your products and then display them in your store. BigCommerce’s system will automatically create thumbnail versions, which will display the larger version in a separate popup window. You clients will also love the fact that they can zoom into the pictures of your products to get a better idea about them.
  • Facebook Connectivity: If you’re using Facebook to promote your goods, BigCommerce can allow your fans and customers to directly buy your products from the social media site.

These are just a few of the features which make BigCommerce the apple of online businessmen’s eyes. However, to be objective, BigCommerce has one downfall. The services offered by the shopping cart’s office in Texas are not as good as the Australian one. Yet, that can be negligible with all the benefits in store.

CoreCommerce

CoreCommerce is one of the well-known e-commerce solutions around. So far, the company has been known to provide its services to important clients such as Clear Channel Radio and Michigan State. CoreCommerce also boasts about providing services to clientele in 50 states and 60 countries. If you plan on using CoreCommerce, you will have access to the following features:

  • Reliability: Rackspace, which is one of the best hosting solution providers around, is in charge of keeping stores up and running.
  • Category Management: Users of CoreCommerce can have their products categorized properly in any way they want. By choosing CoreCommerce, you will be able to create as many categories and subcategories as you like, have full control over them, and easily manipulate the images of your products.
  • Website Look and Feel: This is a great feature for those who do not know much about designing webpages.  The software offers an interface that allows you to drag and drop elements of your website to make it just the way you want it to be. You can also design your store’s layout to be easily accessible through your clients’ smartphones.
  • Customer Tools: Your clients will have the chance to interact with your e-commerce solution in a way that will make them come again and again to you. Your customers can choose to create accounts or shop anonymously, drop comments for feedback, or redeem any points you may decide to award them.

However, despite these, there are some disadvantages which hinder CoreCommerce from winning the hearts of all. One of the biggest detriments is that the cost of CoreCommerce is much higher than other e-commerce solutions around. In addition, the web design templates offered are not updated nor up to the mark.

Now, the decision is all yours as to whether you want to use BigCommerce or CoreCommerce. However, after a quick look at the above, you must have realized that BigCommerce will offer you great advantages for a price that is lesser than CoreCommerce. Thus, BigCommerce proves that it is the best e-commerce solution around.

Go daddy vs Shopify vs BigCommerce: What’s Best?

New post comparing shopping carts here.

Setting up an Ecommerce store can be quite difficult these days due to the sheer number of companies that offer this service. The same question is asked from time to time. Who takes the cake when it comes to offering the best service and package for your Ecommerce needs? However, with the overload of information available on the internet these days, the most reliable thing to do is find the answer after some practical research. Comparing the top 3 companies that offer Ecommerce services seems to be a good way to begin. These companies are Godaddy, Shopify, and BigCommerce.

GoDaddy Review

Within the past few years, GoDaddy has entered with a bang into the domain and hosting providing business, in addition to introducing other products and services.  The most famous and recent product they have introduced is a hosted e-commerce shopping cart application by the name of Quick Shopping Cart.

They provide reasonable options such as multiple payment gateways and integrated (UPS and USPS) shipping calculators, to name a few.  To start off with basic aesthetics, Godaddy comes in short to both its opponents. You basically end up with a run of the mill look to your online store along with a lagging interface that can cause you to occasionally lose time. In this aspect, both Shopify and BigCommerce have the clear advantage.  Even if you consider yourself to be a novice Ecommerce manager, you can comparatively receive better options elsewhere.   On top of that if you ever end up with a problem regarding your online ecommerce store, you will not enjoy waiting endlessly for someone to actually resolve your problem. This happens often with Godaddy.

GoDaddy’s Inventory Management System lacks in flexibility and versatility. Most online store owners enjoy customizable features and accuracy when managing their inventory.   GoDaddy is already offering so many other services besides running an online store, they are unable to give the time required to small businesses.

Shopify Review

Moving on to our second contender, Shopify wins hands down when it comes to customizing the appearance of your store with the minimal amount of hassle.  In addition, Shopify Professional gives you the prospect of selling up to 2,500 products, but doesn’t support selling goods which can be downloaded. Their simple and easy to use feature of real time statistics allows you to monitor every activity, from traffic to sales. Their real-time statistics feature is simple and easy to use, allowing you to see exactly what’s going on with your eCommerce site. However, there are a few aspects that are more important than appearance in which Shopify struggles. In order to change title tags and Meta tags, you have to learn their programming language called Liquid. This might not be such a strenuous process but what’s most bothersome is the fact that Shopify charges 2% of all your transactions, which can lower your profit considerably if you’re making sales in large volume.

BigCommerce Review

BigCommerce is the newest name in the industry of online shopping carts. Based out of Australia it offers a range of products for ecommerce solutions.  What makes BigCommerce different than other shopping cart options is the ease of set up, and very affordable pricing options. Even though they have entered the market recently, they are quickly gaining precedence thanks to their happy customers.  BigCommerce is gaining so much popularity because it is suitable for all kinds of ecommerce store owners.

Even if you have few technical skills, you will not have much trouble setting up your online store. On the other hand, if you are a serious online store owner who wants to accommodate a larger, more complex site with thousands of products, BigCommerce can meet your needs. Merchants can quickly create their designs with the existing templates. On the other hand, more advanced users can integrate their websites using Dreamweaver.

BigCommerce also gives you a wide variety of marketing tools such as promotions, coupons codes, gift certificates, discounts, and Google Analytics. Since it’s based in Australia, BigCommerce it is the most efficient company . To add to your benefit, BigCommerce is the only ecommerce software assessed by the world’s #1 SEO guru, Aaron Wall. This can spell out higher profits for you in terms of getting more traffic at your store.

Conclusion

In the overall research, one can be quick to make this competition from a best of three to a best of two. GoDaddy was far from fulfilling many Ecommerce needs, especially after seeing its competition. Then remained the two contenders, Shopify and BigCommerce. It would be unfair to include Shopify in the same group as GoDaddy because the previous manages to woo you at many occasions. Eventually what will change your mind about Shopify is their unreasonable charge of 2% on all transactions. With the amount of hard work put in to managing your online store, any online store owner deserves more of the profit they make rather than giving it to Shopify. BigCommerce was surprising and least to say in a good way. From the attitude to its staff support, they were spot on with all their aspects. What is most commendable is that this company is still fairly new and if they keep up with it, they can easily surpass their competitors. BigCommerce is by far the best shopping cart software available.

Santa Barbara with the Walters

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Visited Santa Barbara with Tara and her mom and Frida today.