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47 posts from January 2013

January 31, 2013

Take the hassle out of the social media hustle

SusanlinningdownloadBy Susan Linning 

Let’s face it: running a small business is a job that has you constantly wondering, “why are there only 24 hours in a day?!” If you’re a small business owner, incorporating a marketing strategy into your already-hectic schedule may seem overwhelming.

Social media marketing is the new face of small business marketing efforts. Not only are most of the platforms free of charge (perfect for small businesses with little to no marketing budget), but social media also enables a two-way conversation that’s conducive to many small businesses’ customer service goals. Social media is a wonderful way to create an online community and reach out to potential new clients and customers.

So, how much time should you be spending on social media marketing? This helpful infographic by Hubspot examines the breakdown of social media time commitments amongst small business owners. (Below is a portion of the infographic by Hubspot) 


As you might imagine, most of us are tuned into Facebook, with visitors spending almost 7 hours per month on the social media giant (tumblr holds the #2 spot, with 1.5 hours per visitor per month spent on the site). 

Mirroring the individual social media craze, 43% of small businesses spend more than 6 hours per week on social media, focusing primarily on Facebook (90% have a presence) and Twitter (70% have a presence). Depending on the industry and the type of business, as well as where the business falls in the lifecycle (startup, expansion, mature, etc.), brands and businesses are also using Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.

To be successful at social media, it is critical that you are posting and tweeting – on a daily basis – information that is relevant, meaningful, interesting, entertaining and engaging.  Do this, and you have cracked the code: you are on your way to creating and building a solid foundation for social media success.  

And social media success = more revenues, more sales, higher brand recognition and stronger brand affiliation. And in terms of marketing dollars spent, we’re betting your social media platforms are costing you way less than any other form of advertising or marketing. So now ask yourself: what’s the reason I’m not pursuing a social media strategy?

Not in the social media game yet? We can only say it so many times: you’ve gotta be in it to win it! If you’re not a social media player, there’s a good chance that your business is missing out on valuable opportunities.

Questions? Shoot us an email at susan@echomarketingusa.com or visit us at http://www.echomarketingusa.com 

Susan Linning is president of ECHO SOCIAL MEDIA + MARKETING of Miami, which develops and executes social media and integrated marketing strategies, creating custom content and maintaining pages on social media platforms. ECHO also provides blogging and copy-writing services.

Read Susan Linning's recent guest post on blogging here, her post on Pinterest here and her post on her top 5 social media tips here.

January 30, 2013

South Florida mompreneur to jump into "Shark Tank" Friday night

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Susie Taylor and her sister, Heather McCabe, exhibit at Big City Moms event at Jungle Island Tuesday. Taylor is CEO of Bibbitec, which makes multi-tasking bibs and smocks for children, and she will be on Shark Tank Friday night. Photo by Carl Juste of the Miami Herald.   

IT ALL STARTED with a 4 a.m. email nearly a year ago: “Do you think a baby bib could change the world? I do ...”

Then Susie Taylor included a link to her site, bibbitec.com, and off it went to Shark Tank, the popular ABC television show where entrepreneurs pitch their companies to investors on the show — and by extension 7 million viewers.

Four months later, as the mompreneur was leaving her Biscayne Park home to pick up her kids from school, she got a call from the show asking her to pitch on the spot. Driving with her phone on her shoulder she told the Bibbitec story.

Shark Tank bit. After a few more back and forths, her segment was filmed last summer.

Friday night (Feb. 1), Taylor is scheduled to be on the show pitching Bibbitec’s main product, “The Ultimate Bib,” a patented generously sized, stain-resistant and fast-drying child’s bib made in the USA — Hialeah, to be exact. Bibbitec’s $30 bib can be a burp cloth, changing pad, breast feeding shield, full body bib, place mat, art smock and more, Taylor says.

We won’t be getting any details on what happens Friday night when she and her husband, Stephen Taylor, get into the tank with Daymond John, Mark Cuban and the other celebrity sharks; Taylor has been contractually sworn to secrecy. But whatever the outcome, she believes it will be worth it for the marketing pop.

Taylor was inspired to create her bib after a long and very messy plane ride with her two young sons and started her company in 2008. She and her team — her husband is CFO, her sister, Heather McCabe, handles sales and marketing, her uncle, Richard Page, is in charge of production, and her aunt, Marcia Kreitman, advises on design — have expanded the line to include The Ultimate Smock for older children and the Ultimate Mini for babies. Coming soon: a smock for adults.

 Taylor already got a taste of what a national TV show appearance can do for sales. In September Bibbitec’s sales jumped 40 percent after she was on an ABC World News "Made in America" segment. “Within 30 seconds we started getting sales from all over the country and they didn’t even mention our name on the air,” Taylor says. She said that confirmed her belief that a Shark Tank appearance would be well worth it.

Plus, Taylor has been hooked on Shark Tank since the first time she watched it in 2008 as she was developing her product. Trained in theater, she admits she didn’t know much about business and learned from the show. She would practice how she would answer the questions.

“I’m all about empowering women who are sitting on the couch watching, because that’s what I was four years ago,” says Taylor. “All I wanted to do was to be on Shark Tank because I believed if I got on Shark Tank the world will see what I am trying to do and that’s all I need. I know it’s a great product.”

Will that theater training come in handy Friday night? Stay tuned. Shark Tank airs at 9 p.m. on ABC and Taylor hopes viewers will join in on Twitter using the hashtag #sharkbib.

 UPDATE after show: It was no deal from the Sharks -- the Sharks admired her passion but thought her costs were too high and sales strategy needed work and questioned her price point. But Taylor said Sunday evening she got a flood of orders after the episode -- $21,000 in sales in less than 48 hours -- and contacts from investors. She also said she learned a lot from the experience -- and she still loves the show. Starting Gate will fully debrief her soon.   


January 29, 2013

ReStockIt.com of Davie purchased by Acme Paper

ReStockIt.com, a Davie-based ecommerce supplier for small-to-medium sized businesses, has been purchased by Acme Paper & Supply Co., a Baltimore-based distributor of packaging, supplies and equipment for janitorial, foodservices, manufacturing and retail industries.

ReStockIt.com was founded in 2004 by David Redlich and Matt Kuttler. From 2008 to 2011, the company nearly doubled its revenue to $25.6 million. Over the years, Inc. magazine ranked ReStockIt.com on its List of America’s 500 Fastest-Growing Companies and it was a Florida Finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards. The company offers 200,000 products from more than 2,350 manufacturers, in the primary categories of restaurant supplies, cleaning and janitorial supplies, office supplies, industrial packaging and custom-designed packaging.

With the acquisition, Acme is adding 30 full-time ReStockIt.com employees and additional categories to its offerings, including office supplies, electronics and tools, the company said.

Founded in Baltimore in 1946 by Edward and Mildred Attman, Acme Paper & Supply Co. is a third generation family-owned and operated company led by brothers and co-owners Ron, David and Steve Attman together with their father Ed. Acme said it is among the nation’s largest distributors of disposable food service packaging, janitorial equipment and supply, restaurant equipment and supply, retail and industrial packaging, and custom-designed packaging.


3CInteractive No. 1 on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Promising Companies

3Cilogo3Cinteractive, a leading mobile platform company with a strong focus on consumer engagement, announced it ranked #1 on Forbes’ list of “America’s Most Promising Companies.” The third annual list recognizes U.S.-based, high-growth, privately held companies. The full list of companies will be available online at www.forbes.com Feb. 6.

“It is an honor to rank at the top of Forbes’ list of America’s Most Promising Companies,” said John Duffy, 3Cinteractive’s founder and CEO of the Boca Raton-based technology company launched in 2005. “This recognition is a testament to our amazing team and their tireless work ethic, as well as our world-class clients and partners who make our success possible. We will continue to invest in our Switchblade platform to help our clients create stronger engagement with consumers on their mobile devices in ways that drive measurable, profitable results,” he said on 3Ci's blog.

Read the Forbes profile of 3CI and Duffy here, titled “America’s Most Promising Company is redefining mobile: Meet 3CInteractive,” and view a Forbes video here.


January 28, 2013

Venture Hive hosting experts in Lean Startup methodology

Lptlogo_colorLaunch Pad Tech’s Susan Amat says that Patrick Vlaskovits and Brant Cooper, two of the most famous guys in Lean Startup methodology, are coming in to lead two workshops on customer development this week at the new Venture Hive space in downtown Miami.

Californians Patrick and Brant, who will also be mentoring for Launch Pad Tech, are the authors of the  upcoming new book "The Lean Entrepreneur" (published by Wiley). They also co-wrote "Entrepreneurs Guide To Customer Development."

There’s still space available for the two-part event, which begins on Thursday night and continues on Saturday and will be the first of what will be many public tech events at Venture Hive. Brant will lead the workshop on Thursday night that will explore lean methodology, market segmentation, defining your value proposition, and tools for testing your assumptions in the field. Patrick, who was here for Lean Startup Machine last fall, will lead the Saturday afternoon workshop, which will include real world cases. Cost is $100 for the workshops and a signed book.

The workshop size is limited to ensure one-on-one time. More information and to sign up: http://venturehivecustdev-estw.eventbrite.com


FIU offering free online entrepreneurship class, others

Florida International University is offering five online courses that anyone can take, for free.

The courses, which make up FIU’s initial offering of “Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC),” include entrepreneurship, real estate and a class on project management in English and Spanish.

Each course is a self-directed, condensed version of a college-level course and takes about eight hours to complete. Participants can watch a short video of the content of each course as described by the instructor before enrolling.

To sign up, visit www.open.fiu.edu. Students can enroll and complete the course at their own pace. At the end of the course, participants have the option of receiving a certificate of completion. No college credit will be awarded, FIU said.

The five courses are:

Applied Real Estate: What you need to know about buying and selling residential real estate.

Entrepreneurship and New Ventures: Geared to give students practical tools to help them rapidly assess the potential of a new business idea.

Legal and Ethical Governance - A Roadmap for Florida's Public Officials and Employees: The course includes both theoretical and practical approaches to common ethical issues, with an emphasis on Florida law.

Project Management Basics: Aimed at providing key concepts and techniques for successfully managing projects from planning to completion. It is offered in English and Spanish.

FIU said additional courses will be added later this spring.


Call for entries for the 2013 Business Plan Challenge

BizplanchairEntrepreneurs, please don’t let the name of our contest scare you.

As we launch our 15th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge today, we are putting out our annual call for entries. But we aren’t looking for long, laboriously detailed business plans. Quite the contrary.

More and more, today’s investors in very early stage companies want to see a succinct presentation of your concept and how you plan to turn it into a success. We do, too.

If you have a business idea or an operating startup that is less than two years old, you can enter the Challenge, our annual celebration of South Florida entrepreneurship. Sponsored by the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center at Florida International University, our contest has three tracks — a Community Track, open to all South Floridians; an FIU Track, open to students and alumni of that university; and a High School Track, co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

Your entry may be up to three pages and you may attach one additional page for a photo, rendering, diagram or spreadsheet if you wish. Think of it as a meaty executive summary. Experts in all aspects of entrepreneurship — serial entrepreneurs, executives, investors, advisors and finance specialists (see judge bios on MiamiHerald.com/challenge) — will judge your short plan. In doing so, they will be looking at your product or service’s value to the customer, market opportunity, business model, management team and your marketing and financial strategies. See the rules on page 22, which also include tips on preparing your entry.

Your entry is due by 11:59 p.m. March 11. Entries should be sent to challenge@miamiherald.com,
fiuchallenge@miamiherald.com or highschoolchallenge@miamiherald.com.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help!

“Frame your business from your customer’s perspective and not yours. Rather than diving into a detailed explanation of your product or service, a more compelling way to tell your business story is to clearly share the problem that you are solving for your customers and how your business is different, better, faster, cooler, cheaper, smarter,” says Melissa Krinzman, managing director of Venture Architects and a veteran Challenge judge.

On Feb 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Miami Dade College, we’ll host a free Business Plan Bootcamp, where you can bring your working plan with you for advice from experts, including Krinzman. Find the sign-up link on MiamiHerald.com/challenge.

And each week in Business Monday and on MiamiHerald.com/challenge, we’ll be bringing you advice and answering your questions. You can post your questions on the Q&A on MiamiHerald.com/challenge or email your questions to me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com. Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

The top six finalists in the Community and FIU Tracks will present their 90-second elevator pitches for our popular video contest. Last year our People’s Pick contest drew more than 18,000 votes.

On May 6, in a special section of Business Monday, we will profile the winners — the judges’ top three selections in each track plus the People’s Pick winners. Along the way, we will unveil semifinalists and finalists to keep the suspense building.

Today, though, we are looking back on the entrepreneurial journeys of our 2012 winners. Funding was a nearly universal challenge, and many faced setbacks in developing their platforms. Throughout the entry period, we’ll also look back on other winners from the past 14 years.

Read an update on Community Track winners Blend Craft Wines, Agape Marine Ventures and WedWu.

Read an update on FIU Track winners Geopon, ESENEM and BidThatProject.

Read an update on High School Track winners Team Beam, Cupcake 1+2=3 Cookbook and Music Conncection.

Find contest rules and judge bios on MiamiHerald.com/challenge.  

January 27, 2013

Pizza and pitches to a Super (Bowl) splash

(My Business Monday column)

By Nancy Dahlberg ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

TecheggThe six local startups that presented Thursday night during Refresh Miami’s free Demo Night event – DemoHire, Pack, HulaDrive, SpendLo, Geopon and Admobilize – got an opportunity to tell their stories to hundreds of their peers and more than a few investors. Attendance for Refresh Miami’s regular monthly event broke another attendance record; more than 315 packed LAB Miami’s spacious new co-working space in Wynwood for pizza, beer and pitches. Read more about the event here.

While the Refresh Miami crowd looked overly male – and it was – other news of the week gives hope for more diversity in South Florida’s tech community of the future. Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit that provides intense summer programs in all things tech for girls 13-17, will be bringing its programming to Miami starting next year as part of a national expansion funded by the Knight Foundation. Its mission is to take aim at the gender gap in tech.

Here are more recent developments:

Marking new beginnings: Launch Pad Tech’s first accelerator class started last week in the Venture Hive, a huge new space not far from its Terremark base. With a living room large enough for big groups and intimate enough for small discussions, private offices, meeting rooms, quiet rooms and a kitchen, it’s a creative and inspiriing new home for the teams from the 10 accelerator companies -- half of them international -- and 25 local startups (one of them, Tabber, actually hails from Brazil!) in the community program as well as local events and programs.

Continuing the tradition: This week brings the launch of The Miami Herald’s Business Plan Challenge, our 15th year bringing you an entrepreneurship contest. This year in the Community Track we have more judges in the tech space – including Manny Medina, Susan Amat, Adriana Cisneros and Juan Pablo Cappello – and the FIU Track’s judge panel is packed with tech expertise. The deadline for
entries is March 11. Find the contest rules and more on MiamiHerald.com/challenge.

Making a Super (Bowl) splash: Whether or not you watch the big game, you’ve got to watch the commercials, right? This year be sure to watch the .CO brand star in a Super Bowl commercial with Go Daddy. It’s the third year of Super placement for Miami’s own .CO Internet. Get a sneak preview of the Super Bowl ad here.

Read more about all these stories, along with guests posts on the elusive work-life balance and on the state of venture capital in Florida, on The Starting Gate blog. Send your startup news to me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com and follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg

January 26, 2013

Making a Super (Bowl) splash

DotcologoWhether or not you watch the big game, you’ve got to watch the commercials, right? This year be sure to watch the .CO  brand star in a Super Bowl commercial with Go Daddy.  It’s the third year of Super placement for Miami’s own .CO Internet.

Get a sneak peek of the "Your Big Idea" commercial here.

Update: On Tuesday, .CO launched YourBigIdea.co, a fun website tied to the ad, also created by the Deutsch NY team. At YourBigIdea.co, users can type in their big idea, get suggested .CO domain names and see a customized glimpse of their fabulous future.

For more on .CO Internet, read my recent story and accompanying Starting Gate post.

January 25, 2013

Pizza, beer and pitches -- Refresh Miami packs 'em in


The six local startups that pitched Thursday night during  Refresh Miami’s free Demo Night event -- some presenting their companies for the very first time -- got an opportunity to tell their stories and demo their products to hundreds of their friends and peers (and more than a few investors), with video cameras rolling. That’s priceless.

In what is becoming an old story now, attendance for Refresh Miami’s regular monthly event appeared to break another record; more than 300  packed  LAB Miami’s spacious new co-working space in Wynwood.

Take note of the six local companies that presented and support them, said Brian Breslin, Refresh’s founder. DemoHire -– an app to improve the hiring process. Pack –- for creating events and engaging the participants before, during and after (smart move making interaction with the app a part of the event). HulaDrive -– affordable, secure, accessible cloud storage. SpendLo -– you name what you want to spend on a service and be matched with bids from qualified vendors. Geopon -– a comprehensive mobile  application for targeted coupons, loyalty cards, weekly ads and more (Read more about Geopon in The Miami Herald on Monday) . And AdMobilize, the crowd favorite – Advertise your favorite brands just by walking around, and get paid to do it. “We’re like the Robin Hood of advertising. We want to change the way advertising is done,” said Rodolfo Saccoman, who added that AdMobilize wil be launching soon and this was his first demo to a big audience. It's special to be able to present in front of your own community, he added.

Another opportunity to see startups on stage will be Feb. 21-22 at SuperConf, where eight companies will “blast off”  and nine speakers from Silicon valley and elsewhere will share their expertise.. Tickets are still available and there is a discount code on Refresh’s Facebook page, Breslin said.

If you missed the event, Artsoundvideo.com filmed the event and will be providing some footage, which will be posted on YouTube and linked from RefreshMiami.com, Breslin says.

LAB Miami is taking applications now for its founding class, which will start Feb. 1, CEO Wifredo Fernandez said.

Take note of the crowd picture above showing the overwhelmingly male audience. A national nonprofit coming to Miami wants to pack the future community with more geek girls. Check out my earlier post on this here.

(Photo of Fernandez addressing the crowd provided by CVOX Group's Pabla Ayala.)