Monthly Archives: October 2010

Architects of Change – Maria Shriver, The Women’s Conference, Empowering Women/Female Entrepreneurs

October 26, 2010 Business, Entrepreneurship, Women in Business

I have long been a fan of Maria Shriver.  She is a strong woman who uses her voice to implement change and do good. She authored one of my favorite books – “Just Who Will You Be.”  It is a small book with a big message.   In it, she offers up a very candid look into some of her own struggles with her identity and purpose in life.   She then shares a poem that she read at her godson’s college graduation.   The crux of the book is “It is not what you do in your life that matters, it’s who you are”.   The book is ideal for high school and college kids, but really appeals to anyone looking for a life of meaning (which I hope is everybody!).   This book was my Holiday present to absolutely everyone of my family and friends a few years back.

In 2004, Shriver became First Lady of California and took over what, at the time, was a small conference called The Women’s Conference.   She has since turned into the largest one-day conference for women in the nation.   As such, TWC attracts high-profile speakers – world opinion leaders, entrepreneurs, visionaries, tastemakers, spiritual figures, authors, journalists, artists, and, yes, THE OPRAH WINFREY.   It is an event in which women from all walks of life to share perspectives, find common ground, and undergo transformative experiences.   If you are not familiar with this conference, you must spend some time at www.womensconference.org.     This year’s speakers included  Jane FondaDeepak Chopra, Carol Bartz, and Michelle Obama, among a long list of others. You can check out the First Lady’s emotional speech here:  http://www.womensconference.org/michelle-obama/.

 

One of my favorite aspects of TWC is its emphasis on entrepreneurship and women in business.  I believe it is very important for successful women to share their knowledge and experiences with other women through networking and support groups.  I am also a strong proponent of investing time, through volunteer work and mentoring, to teach young women entrepreneurship, as it empowers them to achieve their dreams and take control of their destinies. Check out Ladies Who Launch and SMARTYpeople for the former and Girls Leadership Institute, Girls, Inc., and Girls CEO for the latter.   The following  is a Women’s Conference compilation of “How I did it” stories from successful female entrepreneurs – http://www.womensconference.org/how-i-did-it .  Make sure to read the amazing story of the first female space explorer ANOUSHEH ANSARI, Co-founder of Prodea Systems.   Some of the tips that most resonate with me and the advice I often give to young entrepreneurs are:

Believe in yourself and in your success
Be humble enough to seek guidance from others
Stay flexible
Pay attention to your team and their needs

The last gem I will share about Maria Shriver and her legacy of empowering women is her 10 Ways Women Can Be an Architect of Change.  I am sharing it with every woman I know and I hope you do the same.  My favorite Ghandi quote is  “each of us must be the change we want to see.”   Read this list, get inspired, become empowered, take action, and impact change.

1. Find your own unique voice and listen to what it’s saying.

2. Empower a young woman. Become a mentor by connecting with a young woman in your workplace, neighborhood or place of worship. Find small ways to reach out, listen and support her.

3. Act locally to make a difference globally. Make informed choices about what you buy and consume, as well as how you dispose of items. Reduce your carbon footprint, use energy and water responsibly and green your life.

4. Advocate for a cause that you care deeply about. Your time and expertise could help make a difference as a volunteer, counselor or board member.

5. Invest in women entrepreneurs. Join Team Maria in the WE Invest/Kiva partnership to give women the tools to start or expand their own businesses. For as little as $25, you can “Become a lender. Change a life.”

6. Speak up & ask for what you need. If you need to take time off of your job to care for a child or parent, ask for it. Families need more flexible work schedules, better child care policies and changes in family and medical leave. We need to use our voices collectively to improve workplace policies.

7. Engage your children in the world. As a mother, get your children involved at a young age in seeing the world through the eyes of others, respecting diversity, developing empathy and understanding the gift of giving back.

8. Donate to nonprofits that help women. Instead of purchasing a birthday, anniversary or holiday gift for family, friends and colleagues, make a donation in someone’s name to a nonprofit that works on improving the lives of women and girls.

9. Be an informed citizen. Educate yourself about the world you live in, share your knowledge, educate others and ignite a conversation.

10. Invite 10 of your friends to join The Women’s Conference online community at WWW.WOMENSCONFERENCE.ORG — The Home for Architects of Change.

Startups Uncensored #19 – BOOTSTRAPPING

October 21, 2010 Bootstrapping, Entrepreneurship

Last night was Docstoc’s StartupsUncensored #19. We started SU two months after I began working at Docstoc. The idea was to build up the LA tech community  (a la the kids up North) by holding monthly educational and networking events. The first SU was about 20 people.  It grew quickly and we changed venues to the Santa Monica Library, with folks heading to Docstoc for food, drinks networking after each panel.  Tonight’s event blew my mind, as there were over 400 folks at the Milken Institute and, instead of packing like sardines into the cramped Docstoc office, the “after-party” was also at Milken –  fancy patio with heat-lamps and all.   Congrats to Jason Nazar for creating such an amazing, monthly event!  If you are local and want to attend these events, check out http://www.jasonnazar.com or feel free to contact me.

Tonight’s talk was on bootstrapping.  As a Bus Dev Exec and entrepreneur, I go to ALOT of events, and have helped to organize and produce a number of panels and conferences (see PerfectBusiness 2010 post).  It has always bewildered me why the VCs are the superstars in the room and why there are so many panels on how to raise Venture Capital. First off, most attendees are nowhere near ready for VC money. And, lets be honest, most entrepreneurs will never receive VC money. VC’s are only interested in a BIG idea – a game-changing one – one that will give them a 20x exit. Most upstarts do not and will not qualify.  The fact of the matter is that most businesses are funded via family, friends and taking on some (or a lot) of debt.  And they are built the “old-fashioned” way – through hustle, hardwork and being smart about expenditures & cash flow.

None of the panelists tonight came from money and none of them took VC money to start and grow very successful businesses. T hey were driven by their vision and did whatever they could think of – maxing out their credit cards and taking equity lines of credit – to realize it.  The panelists were:

Paige Craig – successful entrepreneur and one of today’s most prolific Angels
Mark Verge – owner of westsiderentals.com, among 8 other ventures
Josh Hartwell – Co-founder and now CEO of MobileDelux

Here are some of their bootstrapping tips (with some added thoughts from yours truly):

1) Leverage your past relationships – this is why networking is so important folks. And, as a rule, always think about how you can help the person you meet so that when you need something, they are compelled to return the favor.

2) Don’t take office space until necessary – we live in the “cloud” now folks. There is no reason to spend money on office space until you have a team. Even then, I would look into co-working locations, suchas CoLoft in Santa Monica.

3) Make your company seem much bigger than it is. Have someone else leave your voicemail message so it seems as if there is an assistant or office manager. Refer to other departments, even when you may be completing those functions/roles as well.

4) Get creative, go guerilla.  Hosting Startups Uncensored has done a tremendous amount to build up the Docstoc brand amongst our core target market – entrepreneurs and small business owners.  And it has helped to make Docstoc CEO, Jason Nazar, one of the most recognizable names in the Los Angeles Tech game.  The point is – think outside of the box and do whatever it takes to build brand awareness with as few dollars as possible.

5) Be willing to LOSE MONEY on your first customers. Consider them loss-leaders – just make sure you take care of them so they will make referrals and provide testimonials.  This means get to know them –  what are their hobbies, do they have a family, what sports teams do they like, etc.

6) Convey absolute CERTAINTY and FAITH in your vision so that you can defer payments and/or provide equity in lieu of payment. This can help you get employees, legal work, vendors, etc. without, or with very little, cash spend.

7) Last, but certainly not least, build the best possible product or service that you can and deliver it with the best possible customer service that you can.

PerfectBusiness Summit 2010

October 21, 2010 Bootstrapping, Business, Entrepreneurship, Uncategorized

Wow!  I’m exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.  Just got back from The Perfect Business Summit 2010 in Las Vegas.  It was the first-ever national conference for Entrepreneurs & Investors  and, by all accounts, it was a huge success!  The Summit was produced by Dan Bliss, co-founder of PerfectBusiness.com, a  site dedicated to entrepreneurship that provides professional business planning software, startup resources and inspiring interviews with leading entrepreneurs.  PerfectBusiness was one of our first Docstoc partners so I have gotten to know Dan well.  He is a scrappy entrepreneur from the Midwest, as am I, so we have become good buddies.  When Dan shared with me his intention for the Conference, I immediately hopped on-board. 

 As we all know, there is no lack of Conferences or Trade Shows these days.  But they tend to be industry-specific.  There really was no broad-based, national conference addressing the key issues any entrepreneur faces when launching a new venture, regardless of whether he/she is opening a store, has invented a product or is delivering and product or service via the Internet or mobile app.   My role was to wrangle kickass speakers, VCs and angels to participate and solidify marketing partners.  Basically, it was a Bus Dev role for a startup Conference that was focused on starting businesses.  A dream come true for someone passionate about entrepreneurship and fascinated by entrepreneurs and their stories.

 The speaker list for the Conference was outstanding.  We had over 60 great entrepreneurs, across many industries, discussing all manner of relevant concepts from bootstrapping to how to get your invention into stores and how to drive traffic to your site.  Some of the keynote speakers and panelists were:

Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com – his book Delivering Happiness is a must-read.  This is my favorite Tony quote: “Profits are like oxygen. You need it to survive, but ultimately what matters is passion, growth, and a higher purpose.”

Jeff Taylor of Monster.com – this guy is wildly entertaining and lists being a DJ as one of his best talents.  According to Jeff, “Some people think that they’re great at everything. I happen to know that I’m terrible at a lot of things, but I’m good at a few things. So I had the advantage as an entrepreneur of hiring into my weaknesses.”  Love this statement as it is so important to hire a great team that fills your “holes”.  Of course, being able to actually delegate to them and let them take ownership and shine is also another great skillset of successful entrepreneurs.  For more info on Jeff and his fellow panelists on the CEO Roundtable, check out this great article from moderator Laura Petrecca of USAToday.

Kimberly Fowler of YAS Fitness Centers – Kimberly was the lone female entrepreneur on the main stage.  Her talk on bootstrapping and perseverance was inspiring and educational. If you want to learn from her story – check out her amazing DVD Overcoming Obstacles.

You can check out the entire line-up and a schedule of all the break-out session topics here: http://www.perfectbusiness.com/summit/

For more insight into the successful entrepreneurs that shared stories of their “start”, check out this great blogpost from Tina Ong

Hope to see you at next year’s Summit!

 

I’m back – FOR GOOD

October 21, 2010 Uncategorized

Um…yes, it is October 21st, 2010 and my first and last post was February of 2009.  Being a Bus Dev Exec in the Internet/Tech startup space, I very much understood the importance of personal branding via blogging……But being a Bus Dev Exec at one of the fastest-growing LA-based Internet startups also means I was laser-focused and uber-busy building a business.   Still I should have made the time and I did not – and I do regret it.   One of my favorite entrepreneurs and new media personalities, Gary V, is correct in his preachings that all businesspeople and businesses should be blogging.  His book, Crush It, is one of my favorite books this year.   I highly suggest reading it.  All I can say now is that I am back and committed to regular posts about my adventures in entrepreneurship as well as my adventures in life.

Here are some of my adventures these past 20 months:

Docstoc –
Fitness Instructor – Intensati, YAS
Hanggliding – life list