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Entrepreneur Mom

with Aliza Sherman

If you own a business - home-based or otherwise - this is the blog where you'll find practical tips and smart ideas about entrepreneurship. I've started and run 4 different businesses so "been there, done that." I'll also invite successful entrepreneurs to share their best advice with you.

To learn more about Aliza, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! and her website, www.mediaegg.com.

6 do’s and don’ts for startup entrepreneurs

Categories: Startup Tips

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I’ve been thinking long and hard about what it means to be an entrepreneur. I’m not talking business owner here. We’re talking entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word.

Like entrepreneur (founder of Buyosphere) and author Tara Hunt says: “You aren’t a startup entrepreneur until you are ALL IN. Until you are 100% focused on what you are doing and willing to make the ultimate sacrifices, it won’t work.”

I was recently asked for some talking points about lessons I personally learned as an Internet - more specifically Dot Com Era - entrepreneur in New York City in the 90s.
Here’s the list I compiled.

1. Don’t think of your company as “your baby.” Think of it as a vehicle to get you to a specific destination.
2. Do be ready to give up majority share of your company. Don’t hold on so tightly that you control a whole lot of nothing.
3. Do have multiple revenue streams. Create a robust and recession-proof business model that is diverse yet focused.
4. Do hire smarter. Don’t just hire the worker bees. Hire the smart talent that can catapult your business beyond what you can do alone. (Be willing to give them a piece of the action if you cannot pay the high salaries).
5. Do know when to let go. Whether on a day-to-day basis delegating or simply knowing when you need to step away from the company you founded because YOU are the one holding it back.
6. Don’t take it personally. This is just business. You are replaceable. You are not your business, the business is not you. Check your ego at the door.
What do YOU think are the most important things for startup entrepreneurs to do? Or NOT do?

Our Biggest Business Fears

Categories: Startup Tips, Tech & Net

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There are always debates raging in social media channels about the dearth of women tech entrepreneurs and the lack of women-helmed companies getting funded and even the lack of representation of women as keynoters at top tech, business and venture events.

Some of the comments in the debate point a finger at women as standing in their own ways when it comes to starting high-growth tech businesses, going after venture capital, or putting themselves out there to speak. This line of conversation creates anger and defensiveness, especially among women.

But the truth is women do stand in their own way. Not every woman, not in every situation, but even I find myself doing this despite my business experience and successes.

As I start a new venture, I am battling tidal waves of fear and am practically paralyzed. Writing this post is one way I’m working to shake the negativity and push forward.

What are my fears?
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A Mind-Body Connection Keeps You on Track

Categories: Infrastructure, Startup Tips, Uncategorized

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Problogger, Gina Blitstein, discusses the mind-body connection and offers up ways to promote harmony by balancing mind and body.

Stress is a fact of life, whether you’re a CEO, parent, student or all of the above. Stress can be felt in your mind and in your body too. Ideally, your mind and body are in sync, helping each other get through the challenges of the day. When the body and mind are not working in harmony, both suffer.

"Finding ways to keep your sanity and balance in life is necessary for a happy mind and healthy body." says Renee Rayles, author of The Super, Sexy, Single Mom on a Budget . Renee practices "Me Time" every day in order to stay balanced in her busy life. She suggests the following practices:

  • Journaling , writing a gratitude journal that will help you focus on the positive aspects of your life.
  • Yoga.
  • Take a long, hot bath with candles and wine.
  • A girls’ night out if not every weekend then every other weekend to let loose and catch up with your girls!

Renee’s philosophy inspired me to think about how I deal with stress. When I imagine feeling my best, I immediately think of the importance of strength and vitality. Maintaining the feeling that I am able to take on the challenges of my life requires a daily commitment. I try to take care of myself physically through living a healthy lifestyle which includes eating well and getting enough exercise. I’m no fanatic about it by any stretch of the imagination but the fact remains that the more diligent I am at caring for my health, the better I feel.

The second – and equally vital - component of feeling my best is keeping my mind in good shape. Since I tend to live in my head, I find my thoughts are commonly a barrier to accomplishing what I want to do. Sometimes my body seems to go one way and my mind another! Fortunately, I have discovered something that helps me keep both body and mind in more harmonious coexistence: The practice of yoga.

Simply defined, yoga is a collection of movements which stretch the entire body, leading to increased flexibility and strength. Through practice of the poses, the mind is released from outward distraction as concentration is focused inward on the physical effort required of the poses. Thus yoga forges a connection between the body and the mind. Repeating the poses reinforces this mind-body connection, so that over time the two communicate with increasing ease.

It is an absolutely liberating experience to become so engrossed in a pose that you forget to worry or ruminate or plan! Yoga teaches the skill of living in the moment, which is a healthy thing for someone who prides herself on being the ‘Planner Extraordinaire!’ It’s a great way to find balance in my life between the me who “does” and the me who “is.”

The most valuable aspect of yoga for me is that it is a process – or journey. There is no competition; no winning or losing. It is strictly between me and my body. The point is that you practice the pose not that you achieve the pose. The point is the striving toward and releasing yourself – body and mind – into the pose. With each attempt, your body gives in more freely and with increased confidence. The only things to master are the physical and mental connections within yourself.

Many people consider that connection of the physical and mental a spiritual experience. For me there’s no better way of creating, celebrating and nurturing my inner and outer strength and vitality. Neither my body or mind can be strong if they aren’t working in unison.

Yoga teacher and founder of Iyengar Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar, had this to say about the benefits of yoga, “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”

Could yoga be a way for you to conquer stress in your mind and body?

When do you need a business ghostbuster?

Categories: Business Essentials, Startup Tips

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This morning, I couldn’t get the theme song of the movie Ghostbusters out of my head. Then it occurred to me that any business - and especially any startup business - could really use a Ghostbuster now and then. In the case of startups, it can actually be more often than not!

Here are some of the things you may be encountering with some tips and suggestions on what type of “ghostbuster” to get.

1. Cash Flow Crunch

Finding that there isn’t always enough cash before the next bit of money comes in? That’s a very common issue for any startup business, but if you aren’t a startup, you may not have someone properly watching the influx of cash or managing the outflow.

Who you gonna call? A strategic CPA can take a look at your numbers, identify patterns - both good and bad - and make recommendations that could help unstick the stuck parts of your cash that isn’t flowing properly.

2. Personnel Issue

“Lots of entrepreneurs are hesitant to add employees to the payroll,” says Adelaide Lancaster, co-founder, in good company workplaces. “Often employees seem to cost more time and money than they are worth.”

However since your company’s success is dependent on you focusing on what you do best and finding other people to fill in the gaps, says Lancaster, it may be in your best interest to bite the bullet and bring on some help.

“The right resources can make all the difference for you as boss, so make sure you do it right!”

Who you gonna call?

According to Lancaster, a reputable and reliable Payroll Company can make sure everyone gets paid – including the government plus an HR consultant or outsourced HR company who will make sure you are in compliance with the most recent laws and regulations and who can help you provide better health care coverage by pooling your firm with their other clients. If you are dealing with a personnel issue specifically, contact a Leadership and Management Coach - especially if managing people is something that you haven’t enjoyed in the past - to help manage a situation and hone you leadership style, a crucial part of any company culture.

3. Growing Pains

“Growing is important and necessary for any business, (but) if you’re growing too fast or too slowly, your business needs a strategy,” says Tery Spataro, veteran Digital Strategist.

Who you gonna call?

A Business Consultant can help you evaluate your overall business strategy and help you determine your company’s direction, says Spataro.

4. Legal Dispute

Someone else is infringing on your trademark. Or somebody has breached a contract with you, but you’re not sure what to do next. Whatever the legal issues, remember that there are legal ramifications that you as a business owner might not be able to anticipate.

Who you gonna call?

You need a good lawyer, particularly one who knows your industry well so they can help you anticipate potential pitfalls and set up your legal paperwork in a way to nip legal problems in the bud. They can also be there for you when you’re faced with a legal snafu that is over your head. Choose a legal advisor you can genuinely trust.

5. Work Burnout

Work burnout is prevalent especially when economy is bad, says Spataro. “Longer hours means less enthusiasm and motivation for what was once loved.”

Lancaster attributes some burnout to not being sure what road to take in your business (and life).

Says Lancaster, “Every business has multiple possible outcomes; the difficult part is knowing which option is right for you, based on your goals and motivations. Once you are clear which option best meets your needs you need to find the most financial strategic way to achieve that plan.”

Who you gonna call?

Both Lancaster and Spataro suggest calling a Business or Career Coach who will help retool and inspire you to a new direction in your life and career. She also adds a Yoga Master to help you work out the kinks and get you moving around and breathing. Oxygen is key when your brain is losing focus!

No matter what you are experiencing in business today, there is someone out there who can be YOUR ghostbuster.

Who is one of your top ghostbusters who has helped your company at a critical time? Share your stories here!

She’s an entrepreneur: Hannah Teter - Olympic gold medalist, founder Hannah’s Gold

Categories: Startup Tips

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Hannah\'s Gold - Photo Courtesy of NBC-USOCWe had the opportunity to interview Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter about her entrepreneurial venture. Teter is leveraging her celebrity status to feed orphaned Africans in Kirindon, Kenya.

For the past three years, Hannah’s Gold has sold bottles of amber Vermont maple syrup in order to help with numerous projects including water purification, farming tools, seeds, fertilizers, sustainable farming initiatives, and much more.

Teter’s business works symbiotically with her Olympic snowboarding career: Snowboarding drives Hannah’s Gold which, in turn, drives Hannah to snowboard her best for the success of her charity.

Q: How did your business come about?

It came about after the 2006 winter Olympics in Italy. I wanted to start a nonprofit that would raise money and awareness for children in struggling areas.

Q: What was a challenge you overcame getting started and how did you overcome it?

I overcame the challenge of wanting to do something that wasn’t self focused and outside my realm of experience. I over came this by researching statistics on the areas in need, other charities in the space, and watching videos on living situations in the 3rd world.

Q: How do you “juggle” sports commitments and running a business?

I put a lot of time and effort into both! They are very important in each of their own ways. Both supplement my passion for the other. It gives me even more of a passion to do well in my snowboarding career to benefit my charity, so I try to give it all I got on both sides.

Q: How do you manage to run your business from the road?

My mom plays the biggest part on helping to manage and keep things on track. She is really the most “on it” person I know and helps keep it all together.

Q: What tools, sites, applications, and devices do you use to help you do your work especially when on the road?

Well, I try to advertise through MySpace, Facebook, and go211.com to get people stoked on the charity.

Q: What do you think being involved in sports - particularly at the Olympic level - brings to your involvement with business? i.e. how does being an Olympian affect your work as an entrepreneur or vice versa?

It provides an elevated platform that partially guarantees the fact that, if you got something to say, people are going to listen a little more than the average person. So when I realized this, I wanted to start to know everything and anything and share with people what I’ve discovered. I’ve started to talk a lot about the importance of eating organic, non-genetically modified food, and being healthy because I know a lot of sickness and disease stem from body and mind health. I want to be an information source to young people, and because I am an Olympian, people might listen to me a little more than if I was not. I’m able to raise more money for my charity because I have that platform. Without it, I don’t think it would be as successful.

How have you sweetened your success with charitable work or donations? Which is your favorite celebrity charity?

Photos Courtesy: NBC-USOC

Good Uses for Conference Call Applications

Categories: Books & Articles, Business Essentials, Startup Tips, Tech & Net

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phoneI haven’t participated in a lot of conference calls, mostly because I do a lot of my communications via email. Also, more recently, I use Skype to make free long distance calls and for conferencing people from California to Australia. But lately, I have been checking out a number of free conference call applications  on the Web (that do require calling a TOLL number) and thinking about how they might help me in my business. Those apps include FreeConference.com, Rondee, and I’m also going to check out Palbee and DimDim.

In the last few weeks, I’ve actually been putting one of the applications - Calliflower - to use. I’ve been corresponding with several other women and doing some brainstorming and mutual pep talks as each of us try to take our careers and businesses to the next level. We have a lot of ideas for ways we can help one another as well as work together.

Email was just not sufficient for our “talks.” So we’ve set up a regular weekly conference call with the four of us. And if one of us can’t make it? Calliflower lets us record the call and save it as an MP3 file that we can access later if we missed the call.

How else can you take advantage of the free conferencing apps out there? Let me count the ways…


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It is OK to Divorce Your Bank

Categories: Biz Nuts & Bolts, Business Essentials, Infrastructure, Startup Tips, Uncategorized

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BankI’m in the middle of a company crisis and have decided to do a series of blog posts about how I’m solving the situation. Don’t worry - my company is actually thriving. The crisis is…more complicated, and I’m probably not yet ready to talk about it at this time.

One small component of the crisis has led me to re-evaluate my business relationship with my current bank and to suck it up and leave this bank for another one. This move has been long overdue and has only been held back by my own personal (and unfounded) fears.

The bank I’m currently with has been a nightmare from Day 1. The problems started with the new bank employee who set up our company account in January 2005 and made a slew of errors including mispelling our names multiple times which continued to haunt us over time. I ended up with a 5-page, single spaced typed document outlining every egregious error that the bank made (almost every one of them that they admitted to doing) that cost us time, money and sanity. To this day, I still have not had my call returned when I left a customer service voicemail - per their instructions - asking for a supervisor to call me back to address my complaints. That was 2 plus years ago.


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Gadget Schmadget: Paper vs. Tech

Categories: Biz Nuts & Bolts, Startup Tips, Tech & Net

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paper and penA client of mine teased me the other day when she saw me pull out my calendar book to write down an entry.

“I thought you were so tech, and here you are with a paper calendar,” she said by way of explanation.

“But I have a 30Boxes calendar as well!” I retorted. “And it sends me text message reminders to my cellphone!”

I don’t know why I felt that I needed to prove my tech savvy by rattling off how wired I really am and that the paper calendar is just my first line of defense against my progressively bad memory.

I just like the tangible feeling of a paper calendar. I like the feeling of pen on paper. I like seeing what I write on a page. Our words are so digitized these days with reading and writing emails, reading our news on Web sites, connecting with others through online social networks - that for me, writing things down on paper really grounds me.

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Naming Your Business or How I Named Mine

Categories: Business Essentials, Startup Tips, Uncategorized

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Coming up with a name for your new company can be tough. Do you use your own name such as Aliza Sherman and Associates, adding the “Associates” part even though you are only a company of one just so you sound bigger? Do you come up with a strange new word for your name like “Azila Multimedia.” which is Aliza spelled backwords, by the way. And with the Web being so essential to your overall brand, finding a domain name that isn’t yet taken is a challenge.

I thought I’d share how I came up with my business names over the years and also include anecdotes from other women about how they named their businesses. Also check out this previous post that includes some tips on naming your business.
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The Entrepreneur’s Life - Does Reality Bite?

Categories: Business Essentials, Startup Tips, Uncategorized, Work/Life

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cluttered desk

This question was recently posed to WorkItMom:

“If I am going to start a business, does it mean that I will have to work 10 hours a day from the start?”

The quick and easy answer to this question is: It depends what kind of business you want to start.

But even hearing the question makes me wonder what people think business ownership is all about.
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