The business of bespoke design

Enterprise 25 April The business of bespoke design

Andrew Ganesan, lambada.com.au

I love the idea of bespoke accessories and fashion. And now there is an increasing number of businesses that let you design your own bag/shoes/clothes online. I’ve often wondered how in the world these businesses are able to create effective systems to ensure that customers get the product they are expecting. With this interest piqued, I interviewed two entrepreneurs who have created online stores supplying custom-made bags and suits in this week’s Enterprise post.

In the past, it would cost a small fortune to design your very own unique handbag, or get suits tailor-made to your measurements. Even you if managed to find a cheap tailor while on holidays in Thailand, you could only buy your custom-made goodies on your annual beach vacation.

However, smart entrepreneurs are cashing in on the fact that some people are keen to sport bespoke garments and accessories. Andrew Ganesan, 27, is banking on this trend and is taking bespoke design to the masses.

His family has run a leather bag manufacturing company for 25 years and his mother used to save leather offcuts and turn them into her own handbag creations.

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DOs and DON’Ts of going on the telly

DOs and DONTs of going on the telly Valerie Khoo

Last week, I was on Sky Business to talk about personal branding alongside Trevor Young, author of microDOMINATION: How to leverage social media and content marketing to build a mini-business empire around your personal brand.

We were interviewed by Nigel Freitas on the “Technology Behind Business” show. I’ve already written a lot about personal branding so I won’t repeat that here.

In case you get the opportunity to be interviewed on the telly, here are my DOs and DON’Ts.

DON’T assume they will do your hair and makeup. Some shows, like Sunrise, will give you the whole works so that you look like a Glamazon. Not all shows have the budget to do this so make sure you’ve done your makeup before you get there.

My tips for television: Mascara is your best friend. It gives your eyes definition and helps them to stand out. Concealer is your second best friend, don’t leave home without it. And powder is also vital because you can get pretty shiny under those studio lights.

On air with host Nigel Freitas and Trevor Young

DO turn up early.… Read more ...

The pros and cons of entering business awards

The pros and cons of entering business awards HERO

Last week, I was interviewed by the wonderful Robert Gerrish on The Coaching Couch radio show. Robert is the brains behind the dynamic Flying Solo community of small business owners.

We chatted about the pros and cons of entering business awards. My businesses have been fortunate enough to win multiple awards. There are many benefits (some of them very unexpected) but, for some awards, you do have to invest a great deal of time in the submissions process. Is it worth it? We find out. I hope you enjoy the interview.

Robert Gerrish

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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Promoting yourself in the digital age

Enterprise post 19 April 2013 Trevor Young

 

I’m a big believer in the power of building your personal brand. And Trevor Young’s new book microDOMINATION is all about just that. His book inspired this week’s Enterprise post.

The owner of one of my favourite cafes recently started using Twitter and Facebook. However, when you interact with her business online, you get very little sense of the woman behind it. Her online footprint is polite but, frankly, it lacks personality. In reality, she is a larger than life character who epitomises her brand. She lives and breathes her cafe — and is well known (in real life) for her food, unique decor and events.

She told me: “I just don’t want to be in the spotlight. I want people to interact with my business, not with me. I don’t want to be the centre of attention.”

Fair enough. However, in a world where consumers are bombarded with marketing and advertising messages, some experts believe we are living in an age where personal branding is vital for success. And that means NOT shying away from the spotlight.

That doesn’t mean you need to sign up for a reality show or bare all the skeletons in your closet.

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3 business books that changed my life: Eddie Machaalani, co-founder and co-CEO Bigcommerce

Eddie Machaalani 3 Business Books

 

Eddie Machaalani is the co-founder and co-CEO of Bigcommerce, the leading e-commerce platform for small businesses looking to grow their revenues faster. Starting with $20,000 in credit card debt from a rented office above a friend’s shop in Sydney, Australia, the company has grown over 100% year-over-year, has raised $35M in capital and processed over $1 billion in transactions.

Eddie holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Technology, Sydney and is an active angel investor and speaker.

A prodigious reader, he has found business books to be an invaluable resource as he’s built his business along with partner Mitch Harper, and we’re delighted to have him share his choices in this latest instalment of the continuing series, “3 business books that changed my life” …

Extreme Revenue Growth: Startup Secrets to Growing Your Sales from $1 Million to $25 Million in Any Industry by Victor Cheng
An incredible, “best kept secret” book for startups that touches on every part of the business and really drives home the strategies of all great businesses and how to fuel revenue growth.… Read more ...

Sh*t Social Media Chicks say

Sht Social Media Chicks say

 

And now for something completely different …
This is what happens when my social media buddies Allison Tait, Kerri Sackville and I get together.

Both Allison and Kerri are presenters at the Australian Writers’ Centre. And we’re all slightly obsessed with social media. To celebrate our podcast SMaC Talk (Social Media Chicks), we filmed a video. And may well live to regret it.

 

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Revheads, V8 Supercars … and me

Revheads V8 Supercars … and me POST

 

“Valerie Khoo” and “V8 Supercars” are rarely found in the same sentence. So it would probably surprise most people that I attended the Tasmania Microsoft Office 365 V8 Supercars event last weekend near Launceston.

Let me put this in context. My partner is a V8 Supercar NUT. He owns two V8s, is constantly admiring the sounds of their engines and, when he’s not watching AFL or golf, the television is regularly emanating the dulcet tones of those blessed cars.

So when I received that invitation to attend the Tasmania Microsoft Office 365 V8 Supercars last weekend as a guest of Microsoft … put it this way … I did it for love.

Having said that, I’ll admit … it was a fascinating experience. I now know more about V8 Supercars than I ever thought possible. I even discovered a business angle and wrote about that in my Enterprise column here.

The experience also enabled me to test out my new favourite app, Vine. These are six-second videos which I’ve embedded here, which hopefully give you a sneak peek into the event.… Read more ...

My life in a minute: In your seat pocket, billion dollar announcement, and where to find me

My Life in a Minute plane

Flying: In your seat pocket
This month, if you’re flying Virgin, reach into your seat pocket and you’ll find a huge report written by yours truly in the Virgin inflight magazine. It’s a comprehensive guide to setting up a small business. The guide starts on page 105. You can view the online version of the April issue here.

I'll pop into your life in the most unexpected places, even your airline seat pocket. (Photo: via @jbarouch)

Cuddling: Gus the Boxer at the Haul wrap party. Years ago, a dog called @GusTheBoxer started following me on Twitter. At first, I didn’t follow him back. I thought: “A dog. On Twitter. I mean really.” Plus, I was in Sydney. Gus was in Melbourne. It would never have worked.

But Gus was so funny and engaging that I ended up not only meeting Gus in real life, but also his human @scottkilmartin. Turns out that Scott was the brains behind sustainable streetwear brand Haul.

I’ve loved Haul products for years now so it was sad to see it close its doors recently. I was honoured to go to the wrap party, cuddle @GusTheBoxer, bid the Fitzroy store good-bye and wave owner Scott Kilmartin off on his next big adventure!… Read more ...

Adapt your business to the fast lane

Enterprise 11 April 2013 Valerie Khoo

My recent visit to V8 Supercars event in Tasmania was an eye-opening experience. It inspired this week’s Enterprise post on “4 ways to adapt your business to the fast lane”.

The last time I went to a motor racing event I was 19, it was Mount Panorama at Bathurst, and I swore I’d never go to another one ever again. I spent most of the day trying to avoid drunken louts perched on sofas which they brought to the track on the back of utes. They were surrounded by endless slabs of beer and some smoked dubious smelling substances. At the end of the day, these sofas were unceremoniously torched after the final race and the aforesaid louts left the track with a sea of carnage in their wake.

So when I went to the Tasmania Microsoft Office 365 V8 Supercar event last weekend, I wasn’t prepared to find cappuccinos, a Disney amusement park for kids, and a crowd so well behaved you would be forgiven for thinking you were at a church picnic. (Just a very noisy one.)

The business of motor sport is, after all, a business.

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Killing your darlings: getting rid of products to improve profits

Enterprise Kill Your Darlings

Off with her head! That’s been the theme for this week. I’ve been watching The Tudors on DVD – and Henry VIII sure loved a good beheading when it came to getting rid of the traitors (or wives) that got in his way. I channelled Henry when I did the gardening earlier this week and got immense satisfaction from dead-heading 93 roses in the backyard (yes, I counted). Then I heard that publishing house Bauer Media axed another two magazines (Madison and UFC) after already putting Grazia on the chopping block. This inspires this week’s Enterprise post.

Earlier this week, publishing house Bauer Media announced the axing of two magazines: monthly fashion magazine Madison and martial arts magazine UFC. This comes hot on the heels of its decision to shut down weekly fashion rag Grazia.

These kinds of decisions are never easy – for management, owners, staff or readers – but sometimes, the best strategy is to clean house as swiftly as you can so you are not bogged down by under-performing products.

The same can be said for the products and services offered by small business owners.

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I like cats. I like blogging. So I can build a $37 million company right?

Ben Huh

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.

Rexy in a Meme

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.

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Dual citizenship – what I’ve learned from living in Sydney AND Melbourne

Sydney - Melbourne

I’ve turned into someone with dual citizenship. And I have to say that navigating life with one foot placed in the sparkling city of Sydney and the other foot in the culture-and-cafe scene of Melbourne has its challenges. But I love the fact that I’m getting the best of both worlds.

Regular readers will now that I’ve been based in Sydney for most of my life. And when we decided to expand the Australian Writers’ Centre to Melbourne, I firmly believed that I could commute. You know, like all those people you see catching those early morning interstate flights, only to be home later in the evening after a full day of work in another city.

I was seriously DELUDED to think I could do this. Expanding to a new city is like starting a business from scratch. Despite the wonders of the internet and social media, you have to be there in person to: inspect new premises, deepen relationships and become a true member of the community. If you want to fast track your business growth, there’s certainly a lot that you can do online – but a lot MORE you can do in person.… Read more ...

Aussies embracing Berlin as hot startup hub

Enterprise 21 March 2013 POST
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."

Introducing … my new podcast: SMaC Talk

smactalk HERO
I love social media. Whether it's blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin – or whatever social media platform is the new kid on the block – I love the way these tools can help us forge connections, build relationships and nurture communities of fans, followers and customers.

However, there is a LOT going on the social web. Every time you look, there is a new photo-sharing website, or must-read blog post or innovative strategy that the SMEGs (Social Media Gurus) are touting as the answer to all your prayers.

There's so much happening that every time I catch up with my friends IRL (in real life), we end up talking about what's going on online.

So in true social media style, we want to share this conversation with you – and encourage you to join in the discussion. I'm thrilled to announced the launch of SMaC Talk – a new weekly podcast that I'm doing with fellow Social Media Chicks (SMaC) Kerri Sackville and Allison Tait.

My life in a minute: Candace Bushnell, new jewellery and posters of cats

Life in a minute 15 March 2013 POST
Loving: This awesome poster from PosterCandy.com.au.
This is a great new service where you can turn your Instagram photos into a poster. It's all done online and, using the PosterCandy application, you can drag and drop the photos you want into posters of various sizes.

I chose a poster that's 100cm x 70cms, it arrived last week and I love it! Apparently, it fits standard IKEA frames so I'm going get that next time I visit that monolith.

(And no, this is not a sponsored post. I just think this is really cool!)

Featured on:
* Social Media Knowledge did this interview with me here.

* 612 ABC Brisbane radio. I did a 10 minute segment on "The 7 Deadly Sins of Social Media" this week.

Reading: The latest issue of Latte
Well, since I'm editor of Latte magazine (published by Business Chicks), I've obviously already know it intimately. But there's nothing like the feeling when the printed copy finally lands in your hands. In this issue, I interview best-selling author and creator of Sex and the City, Candace Bushnell.

Anatomy of a startup – the DesignCrowd story

Alec Lynch POST
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.

Should I feel offended, amused or guilty?

Should I feel offended amused or guilty POST
This week I got invited to an event for women over 50. Specifically, the website for this event states:

2013 is going to be your year for change!! Discover how women over 50 escape the rat race and turn dreams into new careers and business!

At first, I wasn't sure whether to feel: (a) offended that the person sending me the invitation (a woman) thought I looked over 50. I'm about a decade off. (b) bemused that the event organiser thought it would be a good idea to use this language (c) totally guilty that I felt (a). After all, what's wrong with being over 50 right?

It's kind of like going up to a woman who is not pregnant, glancing at her stomach and then asking her: "How exciting! When are you due?"

Are you an abdicator or activator?

Abdicator or activator
Timothy* is an abdicator. He has an amazing business that has a lot of potential to grow, and a service that's in high demand. And yet, even though he's been in business for seven years, he just can't seem to get to the next level.

The reason? He's an abdicator. Timothy is afraid to make decisions about his business that will move it forward. So he either delays making these decisions, or makes them the responsibility of someone else - so that he has someone to blame if it all doesn't go to plan.

Do you recognise any of this behaviour in the people you deal with – or maybe even in yourself?

1. Abdicators find suppliers they can blame. I'm all for delegating and outsourcing. However, there is a huge difference between delegating and abdicating.

Timothy wants to hand over important functions of his business to suppliers and then expects them to work miracles, with little support or input from himself. The reality is that while he can delegate the role to them, he still needs to take responsibility for this decision. He might need to: * ensure they are fully briefed on the overall business and how their roles fits within that * be clear on his expectations of them, and query their expectations from him * consider a regular monitoring or "catch up" meeting to see that everything is on track * most importantly, gain a minimum level of understanding of their skill or at least their KPIs to be clear on whether they are doing a good job.

The five steps to successful content marketing

The five steps to successful content marketing POST
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.”

My life in a minute: Chocolate, foot therapy and a brand new office

Life in a Minute 6 March POST
Excited: That we have got the keys to our new premises in Melbourne. I'm so thrilled that we're now one of the arts and culture organisations at The Abbotsford Convent. This precinct is a thriving creative and artistic community and our new neighbours include Drama Victoria, Illustrators Australia, Complete Works Theatre, The Creativity Institute and more.

The Abbotsford Convent is located right in the heart of inner city Melbourne (the nearest station is Collingwood). The grounds are beautiful, there are two bars, gallery spaces, a bakery, restaurants, 3MBSFM, stunning gardens and lots of training rooms where we’ll be holding our courses.

Loving: Best. Invitation. Ever. I love this clever invitation from Dell. It's the size of a computer, my photo is included on the top right, and the whole thing is MADE OUT OF CHOCOLATE. Did I mention that it's the size of a computer … that's a lot of eating …

Welcoming: Phoebe is the newest member to join our team. It's her first week at the Australian Writers' Centre and it's as if she's already been here for ages. Welcome Phoebe!

Honoured: To be included in Shopify's list of "30 books that will help you increase sales".

I'm so honoured that my book "Power Stories: The 8 stories you MUST tell to build an epic business" is in the same company as books that I've admired for ages. These include Robert Cialdini's "Influence"; Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink"; and Anthony Robbins' "Unlimited Power". Catching up with: I love catching up with my writerly buddies Kerri Sackville and Allison Tait. There's nothing quite like a lunchtime discussion on agents, readers, and the writing process that's guaranteed to be full of everything from angst to inspiration. These talented women are a wonderful support and are full of sage advice.