Tag: start up business phoenix

SCORE Success Story: AZ Social Media Wiz

I have a unique relationship with Greater Phoenix SCORE. I am a volunteer as I manage their social media and teach a workshop at least once a month. I’m also a vendor – they pay me monthly to manage this very blog site and to send out the weekly email newsletter and email promotions for their seminars. But I wouldn’t be where I am today, with out the free mentoring. And since I spend so much time there, I get to pick their brains every whenever I have a question.

I’ve been doing Internet marketing in one form or another since 1995. I moved to Phoenix 10 years ago and was working in various sales and marketing jobs till September 2008 when I got laid off. I was unemployed for 2 years. When I lost my job, I started a blog, “Internet Marketing Tips” and became active on LinkedIn. Those two efforts got me a job doing online marketing and events for a financial planner. I got laid off after a year and I saw it as a blessing in disguise. Having learned all about blogging and social media marketing on-the-job, I gave a presentation on blogging and Twitter for a group of writers and I saw that there was a huge opportunity training small business owners, over 40, on how to use social media marketing to promote themselves.

SCORE Success Story: AZ Social Media WizHence, I took the leap of faith and started AZ Social Media Wiz, providing 1:1 training, set-ups, strategic plans and implementation. I went first to the AZ Small Business Development Council (AZSBDC) (a sister organization to SCORE) to get help with my business plan.

I first encountered SCORE at a NetworkingPhoenix.com event and asked them, “who do I need to talk to about holding classes for SCORE.” That started it. My first class was a joint seminar with SCORE and the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce.

I was about 3 months into my start-up when I attended the free SCORE’s ABCs of Starting a New Business at the Phoenix Public Library that they present every first Saturday. (You can see their schedule here.)

A few months later, I was contacted by Scott Schreiber, now retired, about writing a couple of blog posts a month. In the summer of 2013, Scott asked me to help promote their upcoming Symposium on social media. I informed him that you can’t just start doing social media and stop after an event. People will think you fell of the face of the earth. It’s an on-going effort. That’s how I became a volunteer managing their social media. (My post, “11 LinkedIn Reputation Killers“, is the most popular post in their blog!)

Besides doing the 1:1 training and providing the social media services, I thought of recording training videos and offering them online. The challenge is that social media changes constantly and as soon as something is published — book or video — it’s obsolete. The other challenge was taking the time to record the videos. I remodeled my business plan in attempts to get some funding so I can take 3 months off to record the videos. I met with several SCORE mentors, Rod Houston, Andy Beran regarding my “pitch” for an Indigogo crowdfunding campaign and I also picked the brain of Tom FitzSimons when I thought of bringing on a business partner.

My problem – no collateral and lousy credit history. Crowdfunding didn’t work for me.

I ditched the video idea and decided to hold more local classes for the Phoenix-area entrepreneurs. I searched for the right space, rented a room at a computer school for a while, but I felt the best way to go was to find my own retail space. Problem came back to: no funding.

At the annual SCORE volunteer appreciation dinner, I sat next to Mike Levy. Not wanting to miss the opportunity of picking his brain, I started, “I’ve been growing my business with just the income – no funding or investors.”

SCORE Success Story: AZ Social Media Wiz“You’ve been bootstrapping,” he said.

“Yes, I want to open a training center in a retail location, but I have to buy tables, chairs and equipment. Any ideas?”

He said, “Try ACCION. They’re here in the Southwest and they help minority business owners with loans – and you cover 2 minority – Hispanic woman.”

I ran with it. The next day, I applied and I got an $8,000 loan. The SCORE dinner was a Wednesday night, the money was in my bank account Friday. Wow!

July 28, 2015, I signed a lease for a 1250 sq. ft. space in North Phoenix and opened the AZ Social Media Wiz Training Center. It’s a dream come true!

If you’re a business, no matter what stage you’re in: just thinking about it, starting-up, growing or established, you can benefit from either the free mentoring sessions and/or the local workshops and even online webinars! They also have free templates and tools to help you put together your business and marketing plans, budget, financial statements, etc.

Thank you, SCORE for all your continued help! Oh, and you’ll all get an invite to the grand opening!

Giselle Aguiar
Owner, AZ Social Media Wiz

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SCORE Success Story: Heartsweet Cakes

Heartsweet Cakes, a SCORE Success Story“When starting your business, you are going to need a plan A, B, C, and D,” said my SCORE mentor Roger Robinson, at one of our first meetings together. I left this meeting frustrated and discouraged because I only had a plan A.

Upon graduating college with a degree in business, I moved to Chicago and began working downtown at a marketing research firm, working only the left side of my brain in a cubicle for three years. From day one, I yearned for something more. I knew I wanted a career that I was passionate about and fulfilling. I went back to my love of art and design and began searching for cake decorating programs at culinary schools. I enrolled at the prestigious French Pastry School and I never looked back.

A couple of internships later, I worked my way up and managed the top cake shop in the city. I honed my skills and learned as much as I could about the industry and cake design. It was at this shop where my vision and dream for Heartsweet Cakes began to take shape. I drafted a 40-page business plan, complete with a 600+ item inventory list with prices and suppliers, and I estimated all of my start-up costs.

I moved to Arizona with a plan, a single plan, a plan A. I knew what I wanted my business to become and I was confident that I had the skills and talent to achieve it, but I reached a point in the process where I needed some help. Specifically, I was looking for advice in finding a commercial property and financing support/advice. I reached out to the local SCORE office in Phoenix and both Roger Robinson and Bill Robinson were assigned as my mentors.

Haley Cairns of HeartSweet Cakes - a SCORE Success StoryOnce Roger and Bill had a chance to review my business plan, we dove into some in-depth discussions and analysis of my financials. This was when my plan A started to seem like something that may be too risky financially. They asked me, “Is there a less risky way to start your business but still produce the same product to the same client market?” The answer was “yes”, and I truly feel like they both guided me into a less risky start of my company.  I decided to begin my business out of my home and I installed all of my commercial equipment into a spare room with a separate entrance. I am able to produce the same quality product that my clientele expects from me with less overhead and minimal construction costs. I was able to invest my startup capital into my branding, website, high-quality equipment and materials. I now have room to steadily grow my business with less pressure and financial risk and I will have a lot more control over my work-life balance.

I owe a big thank you to SCORE and the mentors that devoted their time, knowledge, advice, and support to me with my journey of making Heartsweet Cakes a reality. I believed that I could start my business with my plan A but, along the way, I was guided into a plan B, which was the smarter way to achieve my dream and I can attribute this to my experience with SCORE. Thank you to my mentors, Roger and Bill, and all of the other SCORE mentors who support entrepreneurs like me, who are willing to work hard to turn their dreams into a reality.

Haley Cairns
Owner of Heartsweet Cakes – Phoenix, AZ

You can be a SCORE success story! Get free business mentoring no matter where you are in your business: thinking of starting, start-up, growing or established. Click here to schedule a mentoring session with a mentor in one of our many Phoenix Valley locations.

Are you a SCORE Success? We’d love to feature you here in our blog and in our newsletter! Contact your SCORE mentor or the SCORE office with your story.

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Arizona Corporation Commission Launches new eCorp Website for Businesses

The Arizona Corporation Commission Launches eCorp – A Site Providing Enhanced Services for Businesses: http://eCorp.azcc.gov

Arizona Corporation CommissionIf you’re starting a business in Arizona, you need to file the appropriate forms with the Corporation Commission. This new site makes it easy to:

  • Search to see if your business name is available
  • Learn where to start
  • Get statistical data about Arizona businesses
  • Get copies of your company’s filing and status
  • Get their current processing times
  • A Services page for quick access to available services such as online Certificates of Good Standing, annual report email reminders, and records requests
  • Ten Steps to Starting a Business in Arizona.
  • It’s compatible with the major web browsers and mobile devices.

Here’s a video tour and tutorial of the site:

All corporations and LLCs doing business in Arizona must file their business entity documents with the Corporation Commission. There are approximately 198,145 corporations and 643,498 LLCs registered to do business in our state. Last year, the Commission received 373,067 business filings.

If you need help deciding which type of entity you should be, a SCORE mentor can help you with that for free!!! Click here to schedule a meeting. We have several locations in the Phoenix Valley.

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Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary: His Best Advice Yet

Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary: His Best Advice Yet They call him “Mr. Wonderful” on ABC’s Shark Tank. Kevin O’Leary seems mean, but he’s got a point. If you don’t understand how your business makes money, then you shouldn’t be in business!

“Don’t let the fear of failure make you fail!”

What does he look for in a company to invest in?

He prefers to invest in entrepreneurs who have failed in the past.

Entrepreneurs who have failed understand why they failed and they’ve learned from it. They see the mistakes they made and they won’t make them again.

“It’s that 3rd or 4th time that they hit it out of the park…”

“Money is either your most powerful ally in your whole life or it’s your most wicked enemy.” ~Kevin O’Leary

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It’s Time to Lean into ‘Lean’

By Donovan Ray Hardenbrook

W. Edwards Deming (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia)W. Edwards Deming is widely recognized as the father of the quality movement. Since the 1950’s, Mr. Deming has been highly revered in Japan. The principles Mr. Deming espoused were enthusiastically embraced by Toyota for manufacturing, supply chain and new product development. As these ideas expanded into other industries and functions, they evolved into what we know today as Lean. Lean is now being used in healthcare, software, project management, and construction. Lean principles are also being used in business start-ups and have been documented in the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Interestingly, the term Lean was first coined by John Krafcik who at the time worked at the Lean Enterprise Institute. Mr. Krafcik was recently the CEO of Hyundai which has gone from worst class to world class in quality.

The Lean Startup challenges the conventional wisdom that entrepreneurs need to start with a business plan to be successful. Supporters contend that a start-up needs to be in search of a sustainable business model. Without a viable business model, a business plan will be full of assumptions that are flawed! Why? Because these assumptions haven’t been validated. What is the point of perfectly executing a business plan if the assumptions that your strategies and tactics are built on are flawed?

Finding a viable business model is why the principles espoused in The Lean Startup have been embraced by thousands in the fast-paced world of high-tech and software. I hope that terms such as validated learning, Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and pivot or persevere will become part of your everyday vocabulary.

Do these principles still apply even if you aren’t a start-up? Absolutely! Adapting the principles of The Lean Startup may be the missing ingredient to taking your business to the next level.

You may have heard the old adage that “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail”. My spin is “Those who fail to learn, learn to fail.” Learning must come before doing. In this fast-paced and ever changing world we live in today, we must become life-long learners. It could be the difference between just surviving and thriving in business. So stay tuned and get ready to lean into Lean!

Don HardenbrookDonovan Ray Hardenbrook, principal of Tempe-based Leap Innovation LLC, has a passion for helping entrepreneurs solve their complex business challenges. He is a certified New Product Development Professional and Project Management Professional. Donovan is also a founding partner of the John Maxwell Team and is a certified leadership coach, speaker and trainer. Donovan holds Masters Degrees in Business Administration and Electrical Engineering.


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Who Needs A Business Plan?

If you are an aspiring entrepreneur or own an existing business, December is a great time to write a business plan or, if you have one, to dust it off and revisit your plan. You may ask why December?

Because December is National Write a Business Plan Month.

December is National Write a Business Plan Month
This can be a start for your business plan. Then you need to put it on paper.

The old saying, “if you don’t know where you are going, how are you going to get there?” applies to travel as well as business plans. Without a plan, the business death rate is more than twice as high as businesses that have well thought out and written plans.  And think about this – investors and banks won’t loan you money if you can’t support the need for capital with a rationale that makes sense.

Does the plan have to be very long, complicated and intimidating? The answer is an emphatic NO! But it does have to be well thought out, and incorporate the following:

Company Description, market analysis, service or product line, marketing and sales, financial projections, and funding request.

Another way to look at this is to answer the following questions:

  • What is the customer’s problem?
  • What is your solution?
  • What is your business model? (How will you make money)
  • Who is your customer and how many of them are there? (Target market)
  • What is your competitive advantage?
  • Who are your management team members?
  • What are your financial projections?
  • What funding do you require?

You can make your business plan stand out among the reams of business plans if you incorporate the following:

  • Be clear about what you have to offer. What are you really selling? What is your market niche?
  • Understand what makes your business unique. What needs does your product or service fulfill?
  • Understand your competitors, which areas they focus on, which areas they ignore, and your potential opportunities.
  • In other words, what benefits do you offer customers, what differentiates you from the others, and how will your business stand out in the crowd?

Whether it’s a brand new business or an effort to put new vitality in an existing business, December is a great time to initiate a plan to achieve success, or greater success in 2015. Your investment in time will pay big dividends.

SCORE, a resource partner of the US Small Business Administration, can provide expert advice (FREE!) to help you create a “great” business plan. With more than 70 mentors in Greater Phoenix SCORE can help you execute your plan to maximize your success.

2 steps:

  1. Click here to download free business plan templates from SCORE.
  2. Start writing your plan, filling out all applicable information
  3. Click here to schedule an appointment with a SCORE mentor to have your plan reviewed for free.

About the Author:

George Obst, Certified SCORE MentorGeorge Obst is a Certified SCORE mentor with more than 30 years experience profitably managing and growing businesses, including start-ups, purchasing, financing and selling businesses.


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