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There used to be a time (yes this is true) that I used to wake up each morning, reach for my phone and – before even checking emails or messages – I’d look up Icanhascheezburger. If you’re not familiar with this internet phenomenon, it’s simply a website full of cat photos accompanied by funny captions. These days, other animals of the non-feline variety also feature on the site.
I used to look up this site because I was guaranteed to have a giggle. And it was a great way to start the day. Such a simple idea, so effective. Since then the site has grown from one person blogging funny pictures of cats into a media empire which has garnered more then $37 million worth of investment.
Behind this empire is entrepreneur Ben Huh. And when I had the opportunity to interview the Seattle-based business owner when he was in Sydney earlier this week, I couldn’t pass it up. His story is this week’s Enterprise post.
I have cats. I like taking photos of them. I love sharing these pictures with my friends.
It’s been a billion years (okay, 24 years) since I’ve visited Berlin. But my interest in the city has been piqued lately because so many friends come back from their holidays raving about it. As it turns out, there is a vibrant startup scene with more than a few Aussies. This inspired this week’s Enterprise post.
German isn’t the easiest language in the world to learn. But when you’re at high level meetings with the investors who are funding your start-up, you pick up the vocabulary pretty quickly. That’s what former Brisbane writer Joel Dullroy is facing in his new life in Berlin as a start-up founder.
Dullroy is co-founder of Deskwanted.com, a site that connects co-working spaces with those looking for a work space. He is part of a growing Australian contingent of entrepreneurs who have embraced the start-up community in Berlin.
“This city has always had a good flow of highly creative Australians,” says Dullroy, 30. “Many artists and bands have spent time here. Us entrepreneurial Australians are a relatively new cohort, but we are quickly making our mark. Australian accents are becoming more common at start-up events.”
An accidental entrepreneur
Dullroy’s journey into the world of start-ups was not planned. He left his hometown of Brisbane at 24, after working as a newspaper journalist. He then spent two years living in Estonia, before moving to Berlin in 2008. “I was instantly drawn to the creativity and energy of the city. It is a magnet for dreamers, drifters, idealists, escapists, creators and opportunists. The rent was cheap and the people inspiring, so I decided to stay.” [...]
I love a good entrepreneurial story. Especially when there’s high risk and high reward. So it was great to chat to Alec Lynch from DesignCrowd. Alec threw in his fancy corporate consulting job to found his own startup. He went home to live with his mother and lived on a shoestring budget in order to make his dreams come true. His story inspired this week’s Enterprise post.
These days, it seems that everyone wants to found a startup. However, it takes more than just a smart idea to become the next Facebook or Airbnb. For every Instagram success story there are thousands of failures or entrepreneurial tales that involve struggle, conflict and drama. Startup entrepreneur Alec Lynch, 29, is a typical protagonist on a journey that has all these elements.
Lynch is the founder of DesignCrowd, an online marketplace that connects businesses looking for graphic designers with a talent pool from all over the world. Business owners can crowdsource graphic design projects – ranging from logo creation to ebook design. Last month, Sydney-based Lynch announced a milestone when DesignCrowd hit over 100,000 designers using his service. Over the last year, Lynch experienced a tipping point in his business and says that the demand for crowdsourcing from small businesses has doubled since late 2012. According to Lynch, DesignCrowd has seen more than 50 per cent growth in posted projects already in 2013 and has processed more than $10 million worth of projects since it was founded in January 2008.
While these numbers may seem impressive, they are the result of sheer hard work, blind faith and the occasional lucky break thrown in. [...]
I’m a big fan of content marketing. In fact, it’s been the cornerstone of how I’ve built my business. So it was great to be able to attend the Content Marketing World Conference in Sydney this week. This inspired this week’s Enterprise post.
One more thing. It’s just one more item for your “to do” list. But it’s one you have to pay attention to. As a small business owner, it’s a list that’s already full of tasks like sales, recruitment, staff management, operations, customer service, administration, you name it. But now there’s another essential item if you want to succeed and grow: content marketing.
At least that’s the concept that hundreds of keen delegates embraced at this week’s Content Marketing World in Sydney (4–6 March, 2013). A conference for … you guessed it … those interested in “content marketing”, it’s an initiative of the US-based Content Marketing Institute. [Aside: I go to a lot of business conferences and this is definitely one of the better ones on the calendar.]
For those of you who are still wondering “content what?”, let me explain. According to Content Marketing Institute (CMI) founder Joe Pulizzi: “Content Marketing is owning, as opposed to renting media. It’s a marketing process to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating content in order to change or enhance consumer behaviour.” [...]
I’m often amazed at the comments I hear from small business owners who seem more afraid of social media than the plague. When social media was still relatively new, I completely understood this trepidation. But now that it’s simpler and quicker to use than ever before, it’s perplexing that some business owners stick their heads in the sand when it comes to learning about it. It’s not rocket science. This inspired this week’s Enterprise post.
Social media is either too hard, too scary or too ridiculous to waste time on. I hear these sentiments constantly from business owners of all ages. Of course, prolific users of social media probably find these attitudes archaic. But they are real – and more common that you’d expect.
For example, I recently met a business owner who runs a small nutrition practice. He told me that he studied Facebook for six months – researching what it does and how it works – before finally registering for an account. Six months! Seriously, Facebook is not akin to nuclear physics. It doesn’t require this level of study.
Similarly, I recently did a video interview with a business owner, profiling her work and products. At the end of the interview, she told me that she didn’t want it on YouTube. I was perplexed. She was happy for us to film, she saw us set up the cameras. I wondered if I had unwittingly offended her or if she was unhappy with the interview. It turns out that she thought the interview was just fine. “I just don’t want it on YouTube.” [...]
This week I chatted to Tony Perkins, the founder and former editor-in-chief of Red Herring. I remember buying my first copy of Red Herring back in the nineties. I was mesmerised by the stories of these innovative companies in Silicon Valley and all the talk about this new-fangled thing called the information superhighway and the internet.
Tony grew up in Silicon Valley and is now focused on globalising the Valley culture by connecting key players with Australian startups. It was great to talk to him this week on Enterprise.
While the startup community in Australia is growing, it’s still a far cry from the dynamic eco-system that is driving the tech epicentre of Silicon Valley. However, entrepreneur and Silicon Valley native Tony Perkins wants to change all that.
Perkins is the founder of AlwaysOn, a US-based media company that has its sights set on the Australian startup scene.
Connecting the players
This week, Perkins is in Sydney to promote what he hopes will be a leading event for startups in Australia, AlwaysOn Australia, which will be held on 11-12 April 2013. While tech events are not new in Australia, Perkins plans to combine this event with a trade mission where he plans to bring 30 CEOs of US tech companies and representatives of US-based venture capital firms to Australia to explore the startup scene.
Perkins hopes that his trade mission will create awareness among US firms about the opportunities available in Australia. “This way they can get the lay of the land and move into this 21 million-person market more rapidly,” he says. “In addition, a lot of these folks are looking at the possibility of establishing in Australia to use it as an outpost to the Asia-Pacific region.”
It’s Valentine’s Day! While you are busy making goo goo eyes at your beloved, consider whether you need to stoke the fires of passion for your business. This auspicious day inspired this week’s Enterprise post.
Happy Valentine’s Day! As couples all over the country celebrate with romantic dinners, bouquets of roses and the odd proposal, it might be a good time to consider if you’re actually still in love with your business.
Whether you’re a new business owner still flush with the excitement of first love, or a seasoned veteran in a long-term relationship, it can be worthwhile to think about whether you’re doing enough to stoke the fires of passion in your business.
This depends on what stage you’re at in your relationship.
Stage 1: Flirting and courting
Before you even start your business, you’ve probably been thinking about it for a while. You might do some research, check out the competition and determine if your potential new love could be the right fit for you.
You toy with the idea, flirt with the concept of whether this business could be The One and daydream about the possibilities.
Recently, I was thrilled to hear that Suzi Dafnis, Community Director of the Australian Businesswomen’s Network had partnered with Australian Scholarships Foundation to provide $20,000 worth of online training and mentoring to not-for-profits and charities. I think it’s great when small businesses integrate structured giving programs into their operations. This in fact inspired this week’s Enterprise post.
You don’t have to be a billionaire like Bill Gates to play a part in alleviating poverty. You don’t need to wait till you’re rich to set up a foundation like Richard Branson.
Some small business owners are making a difference to charities and not-for-profit organisations with “giving” initiatives that range from one-off donations to structured programs. In many cases, the “donation” is the provision of pro bono services, which can sometimes be out of reach for cash-strapped charities.
Suzi Dafnis, community director at the Australian Businesswomen’s Network (ABN) recently announced a partnership with the Australian Scholarships Foundation (ASF) to contribute $20,000 in online training workshops and courses over the next 12 months. The ABN has become known for its accessible online training focusing on business skills and strategy, marketing and social media. It also runs a popular mentoring program for business owners and is a previous winner in the “education and training” category of the City of Sydney Business Awards.
Dafnis says: “I realised that like small businesses, many not-for-profits struggle to master business skills – like marketing, accounting, social media and so on – and that there was an opportunity for ABN to become a part of the great work that ASF does to provide scholarships to not-for-profits. We approached ASF and offered to make a contribution through our courses.”
I’ve recently come across some horror stories about businesses copying other businesses. If you’ve built a strong reputation in your industry, you want to protect this very important asset. This inspired this week’s Enterprise post.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but what happens when another business starts copying your name, products or processes?
This happened to Nicole Kersh, founder of 4Cabling.com.au, a wholesaler, manufacturer and distributor of cables. She founded the business seven years ago and says it is now turning over about $8 million a year. At only 28, she’s built the business is a male-dominated industry and says she has developed her reputation in the industry.
Cashing in on your name
“It’s something we’ve worked hard to grow and we’re very proud of it,” she says. “Like most entrepreneurs, my company’s brand is intimately tied to my own personal brand. People know Virgin for Richard Branson, they know Aussie Home Loans for John Symond, Janine Allis for Boost Juice. And in my industry, my customers know me as the young female founder of 4Cabling.
“That’s why we stood up and took notice when, a few years ago, a guy started up a competing business, using a company name that made it sound like he was a woman. It seemed a little strange at the time but it wasn’t until he started using our trademarked name 4Cabling as a Google AdWord, in what seemed like an obvious attempt to direct traffic to his website, that we began to guess at his motivations. The company appeared to be using our good name and my own hard-fought reputation in order to steal our customers.” [...]
This year has been one of highs, lows, challenges and triumphs. I’ve spoken to A LOT of business owners throughout the year and have heard stories ranging from heartbreak to victory. While some aspects of business never change, the world is evolving at a fast pace. That includes customer expectations, technology and so on. That inspired this week’s Enterprise post.
It’s that time of year again – the silly season. The time when everything cranks up because every man and their respective dogs need to have all their projects “done before Christmas”. Where your team is tired, hanging for the holidays and your customers freely tell you they’re not going to purchase right now because they’re waiting until your products go on sale in the new year.
‘Tis the season when you close your doors on Christmas Eve, brave the crowds for some last minute gift shopping, and head home to eat too much ham and turkey. Then you collapse for a short break and attempt to catch up on some much-needed sleep. You swear that you’re not going to work so hard next year and decide to use the break to get on top of your ever-growing “to do” list. And you commit to never letting your cash flow get to a state where you’re forced to cut your salary to the point where you are the lowest paid person in the business.
Sound familiar? Every year, I have the same conversations with small business owners. And I expect that these themes are still going to be prevalent this year. While many businesses have thrived in 2012, I’ve also been speaking to many business owners who have found the year nothing short of challenging.
What have been the biggest challenges I’ve seen this year and how can you overcome them?