IdeakickDenver #1, Jun 23rd, 6:30 PM

Here’s a short notice of Ideakick.org, city of Denver version, of an event that will happen Jun 23rd. Here’s the link and here’s the when and where, ensure you register to get a ticket, even though it’s free:

Jun 23, 2011
Creative Density
1719 Emerson Street
Denver CO
6:30 – 9:30 PM
@ideakickDENVER

 

“Ideakick is a community that springboards budding entrepreneurial ideas and concepts.

Think of Ideakick as a thinktank for your business ideas. You can pitch a business idea that you’ve been thinking about or are currently working on. Gain valuable feedback, industry insight, and/or connect with someone interested in working on the same idea.”

Over 20 people are showing up, register at http://ideakickdenver1.eventbrite.com/ so you can get in and spout your idea out.

Check out my Coworking blog post.

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Startup Weekend Denver, June 3-5th, 54 hours of effort

Image representing Startup Weekend as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

Any startup entrepreneur needs to make connections with others, primarily because they can’t do it all themselves, but it’s best they don’t do it all themselves.

Startup Weekend Denver occurred this past weekend at WorkBrite’s Coworking location. I’ll go into what happened and what I saw.

Purchasing a ticket to attend pays for food and drinks for the weekend. Great for those that “need to get things done” in starting up a business.

Friday Night’s agenda:

  1. Network – meet and greet with 52 Denver and the surrounding area attendees from all backgrounds and skill sets. One was even on his vacation and from out of state to join in the fun since there is not a SW in his area. Maybe he’s looking to start one? You just never know.
  2. Icebreaker – get your body moving and interactive with others in a Rock, Paper, Scissors game to win $50.
  3. Pitch – you have 60 seconds to explain your idea with 30 seconds of Q&A.
  4. Vote – everyone gives their vote to the project that they would like and narrow down the field to 4-8 teams around an idea. You choose which one you want to provide assistance to. Some required coding help, others did not, but most did.

Saturday’s Agenda:

  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner – continental breakfast, lunch and dinner and drinks to keep you “fueled up.” Coffee and soda drinks included where and anything caffeinated was the drink of choice.
  • Build out your business – work toward the Sunday’s goal of presenting your efforts to the judges.

Sunday’s Agenda:

  • Continue to build out the business.
  • At 4 Pm a final push and at 5 PM the last pitch and selection of the finalists.

Overall Friday night is the most hectic as you’re determining the idea to follow and how you can contribute to it. On Saturday it came down to doing the work so it was gelling time, finding out where you fit into the team that you have selected to help out and then getting productive.

Clothes of choice were varied. Short, especially cargo shorts and flipflops were abundant, though, so you’d say it was Saturday casual wear, a notch below casual Friday. Coders usually had laptops and earbuds or headsets to keep focused on their tasks. Of course, laptops where all around.

As a Mac entrepreneur the one thing that I did see was about a 2 to 1 use of Macs over PCs for those attending. Startups know the right hardware/software combinations. So if you want to start a business, Macs are the computer of choice. Smart people use them.

Overall if you have any reason to start a business and have a weekend to learn, Startup Weekend is the place to be to get your feet wet learning about startups. Nothing like getting a baptism of fire for the newbies.

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My last Junior Achievement class for this school year

I had my last Junior Achievement class last Thursday at the school I was volunteering my time. It’s an alternative school so things were a little different than a normal Sept – June school classes. A normal nine month school class was compressed into two months worth of work because they had class four days a week versus a normal once a week class. So we had to cut out some of the stuff normally discussed as there was not enough time to go over it.

Here are some of the comments from the kids (translated somewhat into adultese):

  • “I liked the class because the material was relevant to what were were doing.” They learned information and skills that made nearly immediate sense to them, “Not like some of my other classes that I have.”
  • “I liked the class because I got to participate on a team.”
  • “I did not like the class at first because we didn’t know what were were doing (the class had a beginning business test score of “0,” but ended up with a “78″ overall), but once we learned what were were doing we really moved ahead and got the job done.”
  • “I did not like working with some of the people in my class.” This was sort of universal among the kids. Same with adults.
  • “I did not like paying taxes, especially the RTD tax.” I gave a short civics lesson here that the RTD (Regional Transportation District) tax was voted on by those that had voted. If he wanted to change the tax, he could get his friends and neighbors to vote against it next time. Or even now, to work to make future changes.
  • “I did not like the class toward the end because our customers were mad at us.” The kids had to end the course and the class and their selling their food and drink to “close down” their business. Their customers wanted them to keep selling them their food and drink. The kids were also afraid to talk about their “failures” as it made them look bad, but this is a leadership issue. If leaders use fear to motivate then messengers will not tell the truth. I mentioned that telling the truth means that good decisions can be made now to make changes. But there’s a happy ending from this experience below.
  • “We could not GIVE some of our failed products away.” They saw that some products (in this case Emergen-C) not only did not sell but they could not give it away. Not all products sell well, that’s the nature of business.
  • “I’m able to use the stuff I learned in this class out in the real world now, not later.” This was the best comment I heard from all of the kids. He got it!

Here’s some of the results of the kids actions and attitudes:

  • Since the school does not have a cafeteria, they do have a Cafe that sells food and drink to the kids. They wrote a report to the person responsible for the Cafe what their market research found what the kids wanted to buy.
  • Some of the kids wanted to be able to “make up my grades” with selling more stock and product.
  • Kids that were VP of their company wanted to get better grades because of the amount of work they did compared with others.
  • Their marketing material was taken down from class hallways because it was “tagged” by other school kids. They thought it was a waste of resources and a loss of potential revenue.
  • They spent a lot of time trying to find out why there was a discrepancy in their inventory accounting. Some blamed each other, but then found out that it was just stolen or bad inventory accounting.
  • They wanted to take some of the profit beyond their break-even point and buy a secure cart to keep their product in because it was being stolen. Too little time to buy one, but good thinking on their part.

Here are my observations.

  1. Get our Government and School Boards out of the classroom. Make schools accountable to their community more, directly with their community and less to school boards. By this I mean school boards need to get out of the business of overseeing the curriculum and let great businesses have direct access to influencing school curriculum to improve it. Why? We’ll all spend 1/3 or more of our lives working for others or for ourselves as entrepreneurs, so if kids do not come out of school with business basics, schools have failed to prepare the kids for life. Whether or not kids want jobs or to work for themselves, they need to be prepared for both perspectives because even learning how a business works if they don’t choose to start their own makes them a better employee. The most critical part is now the businesses compete for the kids and the kids compete for jobs. There is a direct response to what the kids have learned and the businesses see how much they can improve the business bottom line.
  2. Schools should have Project Based classes. After seeing what a rural teacher Emily Pilloton’s speech on TED.com was able to get her kids to do, I was inspired to see what I could do. I found that Jefferson County in Colorado had Enterprise Zones that receive tax credits, etc. for development. The enterprise zone map they provide gives us a view that the school I was at and another school was within five minutes of these zones could possibly use student-lead projects to use their schooling to help out those economically depressed areas. Local projects cause the kids to connect with their community, provides a sense of accomplishment (I helped build that), and they see all of the many factors and issues involved with completing a project.
  3. Business involvement creates well being among schools. With businesses involved by providing donated materials and labor costs (i.e. summer jobs for the kids to complete the project they started during the school year) it helps create a sense of community for all involved. The donated materials and labor costs can be split among many companies and they get marketing rights as sponsors.
  4. Kids get valuable life long learned skills. But most of all, the kids get skills they’ll use the rest of the lives and a sense of accomplishment and a “I did that” pointing to what they did in their community. But then, it’s all about getting the kids to be productive with their lives, right?

What comments do you have with Junior Achievement and helping kids?

What could your business be? 14 ways to earn money writing.

Do you think at the right level of your business: writing?

Story. I was at a writers group meeting this past week and as we went around the room we gave our name, what we were writing, and what our day job was. About half of the people were writing already, the other half of the group had little knowledge as to writing or the process of writing and were there to learn. This was great as all of us start somewhere and are at different stages of growing. Me, I’ve been working at writing my first book for over six years and still learning myself. I’m now starting a second, shorter one and putting the first one on hold for the moment.

However, of the writers that were willing to write, half wanted to write non fiction the other half fiction. No problem here, we all want to learn about writing and have different tastes and talents. But here is when it gets interesting. One of the writers there said that they did not like to work with non fiction writers as they were “arrogant.” Why would anyone state such a thing? If you were running a business, such as being a publisher, and you stated that something like that you just lost half of your potential clients! That’s your choice, but what if one of the people there wanted to work with you, a publisher, and were writing non fiction, this person just cut them off. To be so negative to beginning writers showed a real lack of empathy on the part of someone that is “in the know.”

I personally like non fiction more than fiction (I really like science fiction), but I won’t stop or discourage a fiction writer because they like to do it, it’s just bad form. I would certainly not shut people down if someone wanted to do something that I did not want to do, but I would at least point them in the right direction as to who to work with to get them toward their goal.

Break: New ideas about writing for a living. When I first started writing my book six years ago I had considered the more typical avenue: write the book, get a publisher, then do something else. I would have taken one thing off of my life’s To Do list. About two years ago I watched an online video about writing and was blown away by my then current way of thinking. The author stated that anyone can become an author and make money, but it was not the book that was the kicker, but the multiple streams of income FROM the content you were creating. From your content you can produce:

  • Audio books
  • Teleseminars
  • Copywriting
  • Eclasses
  • Blogs
  • Workbooks
  • Coaching
  • Boot Camps
  • Seminars
  • Speaking engagements
  • Offline book sales
  • Online book sales
  • Memberships to web sites
  • Paid Newsletters

WOW!!!

This blew me away as I had not considered that I could do more than just write something.

Having seen that online video it reminded me of seeing the movie “Educating Rita” about a young woman dissatisfied with her life and decided to get an education. The one line in the movie says it all, “Getting an education gives me a choice!” Learning something new gives you a choice, whether you take the other option/path or not.

If you are a writer, what kind of writing do you want to do? Whether it’s fiction or non fiction, any of the above ideas can be applicable to what you intend to write even though you may not think it can be done. I assure you, writing romance novels can turn into a whole list of  products/services for other people. Same goes with the above products that can come from any content that you create!! It CAN give you a choice of doing more with your content. It gives you a choice.

And, you don’t have to wait until your first book is done to consider other avenues of making money.

After I had heard about the various ways of making money from my content I could not stop thinking about these ideas. It also got me to thinking about my book in general, beyond just the writing of it. I began thinking of more than my writing, but the business of my writing!

Story. Now, back to my story about my writers group.

While not everyone may WANT to do the above variations of writing, such as some just want to write their stories and keep writing. That’s OK, but to “restrict” the exposure of these early writers of what they COULD do with their writing, in my view, a bit disheartening to see this happening to beginning writers.

One of the beginning writers last week said she want to write about coffee. Because I’m an idea person (see the About Me section) I saw tons of possibilities with her idea. She had multiple ways of getting her content out in multiple formats, i.e. more than just a book format. This takes her original idea of a book and gathering information and breaks it into a number of different ways, IF she so chose to do this. Rather than taking notes on her laptop, she could video or audio record the conversations and make MP3s out of them and have them transcribed into text for her book. She would not have to write a thing, but let the conversation write the book for her. See how ideas can change your original impression of how you want to do things?

While being a writer may be about creating “art” in what you write, not always do average writers, including me, create art with our writings. Writers that create “art” are at the highest level of writing talent. There is nothing wrong with being an artful author (such as a George Steinbeck or Mark Twain), but some writers such as Richard Kiyosaki of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” fame stated that he wanted to be a bestselling author. Others just want to be an author and nothing more, and that’s OK.

Business of writing. So, as a burgeoning writer, my business is about writing content and to see if my writing “gets legs” of being able to produce multiple books from my content, but also multiple streams of income from it. Same goes with any other business idea. This is an essential idea here. If you are considering writing just one book, look beyond your first book and see what the possibilities COULD be or writing more. Same with your business idea. Even though you can only think of one book/idea, see if there could be more.

So, the business of writing mean it’s about marketing, sales, and the growth of your writing. It’s about the various channels to market your book, the various connections with your audience, etc. Writing is a large part of your writing business, but not the only part. If you are a beginning writer, writing should occupy about 80% of your time and the other 20% should be about learning the business end of writing.

Can you see multiple ways of making money from your writing/business idea? Can you see the potential? This longer term view can help with how you are doing your work today. If the young lady above only saw the writing about coffee, which if she was not exposed to the other ideas, could you see how limiting her potential was? Withholding ideas from someone at the beginning is not different than stopping progress and growth.

Our job on earth is to get to see each others potential and to maximize it with encouragement from others, not the controlling or squelching of it by others.

Here’s a link to getting more out of your writing: 5 ways to make writing more fun

So, what are your thoughts? Do you have any suggestions to add to this?

Update 07/06/2009: If you think you have to be an expert at something to write about it, check out the book Maternal Journal by Matthew Bennett, he was neither married nor had any kids when he wrote this book. All he did was he wrote accurately and filled a market need. It’s about filling a need with a quality product. Creating a book/podcast/etc you now become the expert!!

Firm saves $70K by moving to Macs and using Basecamp

Yep, you read that right. In the blog by Pajama Entrepreneur you can read about what they did. They tossed Microsoft out the door and went with BaseCamp software by 37Signals. Apple profiled the company Quist Valuation from Denver/Boulder (actually Broomfield for those that live down the “street”) and how using Apple products saved them money and time.

Just another reason that smaller companies save in using Apple technologies and in this case, Web 2.0 technologies. Check out the stuff they use and see if it fits your needs.

Business Analysts: bridging the gap between business and IT

As an entrepreneur you’ll start out owning your own computer to get some of your work done and if you do your business right you’ll grow out of the one computer and into more Information Technology (IT) that will automate more of what you do. But one  aspect that most people do not realize is that while an IT person can help you with the technology, they are sometimes like a hammer, always looking for a nail when you need a screwdrivers instead.

About 70-80% of all IT projects are never on time or on budget because of one factor: business requirements not nailed down!

Hiring a business analyst to take a look at your business processes FIRST will help prevent your business and IT growth from consuming valuable resources that are not critical to what you need to have done. Here’s a little video describing what I’m talking about when you try and describe what you are trying to do.

So, if you need some help with designing an IT project as your company grows, check out Bridging the Gap company for more info about how to leverage the technology to build your business.