So much great information and advice was dispensed at the Miami Herald Small Business Forum on Thursday. Here are a few key takeaways:
Alberto Perlman, the co-founder and CEO of one of South Florida entrepreneurial success stories -- Zumba -- and the keynote speaker, shared the story -- including the ups and downs -- of launching and growing Zumba, an idea originally sparked by his mom. “Your product has to be magical, it has to be amazing," he said. "You have to give your customers more value than what they are paying for."
He also said it may sound cliché, but it’s true: Doing good is good business. Perlman told the audience that in the next 60 days, Zumba will be unveiling the Great Calorie Drive. “Don’t just burn calories, donate them. We will donate the calories burned as food for the world. “
What he knows now that he wished he knew then, part II: Trademark -- the company didn’t do it soon enough and paid the price, Perlman said.
"What an amazing success story, and it was not all linear," Melissa Krinzman, one of the panelists in other sessions, said afterward. "What was so great is we also heard about the missteps and business opportunities he fell into by mistake" as he and his two co-founders (pictured here) went about growing the amazing global brand it is today.
In a “show me the money” segment, experts represented various forms of funding, from microloans, to bank loans to angel and VC funding.
Boris Hirmas Said of Tres Mares Group advised that he looks for commitment and passion when he looks to invest. “I like clever people, I invest in the person.” He also advised when looking for an investor, look for more than the money. What can they bring to the table in terms of business management, contacts or ideas, for instance?
Cornell Crews of Partners for Self Employment reminded the audience that funding is not the be all-end all. That’s why training is a very important part of all its programs.
Mentoring is critical in both startups and growth stage companies, said Marjorie Weber of SCORE Miami-Dade. Always show a long-term agreement –- whether it’s for a lease, a loan, a partnership agreement or whatever -- to a professional before you sign anything. Last but not least, cleaning up your credit is key –- SCORE can help.
Darius Nevin of G3 Capital Partners said: Do your homework on us. Find out what we are interested in. “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Also, look at companies in your space that have raised capital -– who is investing in them?
In a power of the pitch session, Krinzman of Venture Architects, Michelle Villalobos of Mivista Consulting and the Women’s Success Summit and David Suarez of Interactive Training Solutions gave a pitching workshop where members of the audience volunteered to give their pitch and the panel offered feedback. Here is some of that advice:
* Start with the problem you are solving and then go into the solution.
* Start with the why, then go into the what and end with how and who. You need to end with a call to action.
* Smile, show your passion. If I can feel your passion, I want to be along for the ride. And get those hands out of your pocket. In fact, use your hands. It shows you have nothing to hide.
* Stay focused on what an investor would want to know. Remember to include what state of development you are in and key milestones reached.
* Slow down and simplify. Make sure the most important points of your pitch can be easily conveyed at a cocktalil party.
* Make your opening powerful. Sometimes a surprising statement will do the trick. Sometimes starting with a personal story can be powerful.
* Your pitch is a conversation starter. What are the pieces that would keep me interested?
* Practice, practice, practice.
* Finish by repeating your name and company name.