Wednesday, 9 August 2017

How to Launch Your Own Clothing Line

Have you ever dreamed of being a fashion designer? Maybe you could never find clothes you liked so you made your own, or maybe you fell in love with your home-ec class in middle school. However this path started for you, it has the potential to end in a successful fashion brand.
You might not be showing your line at New York Fashion Week, but you can still create and launch your own line. The founders of independent clothing lines shared their secrets to success.
Matthew Johnson, owner and designer at Seventhfury Studios and Seventh.Ink Shirts and Apparel, founded Seventh.Ink in 2007 as a way to showcase his artwork on clothing. Before he began producing and selling his shirts, hoodies and accessories, which includes patches, pins, and art, he took the time to learn everything he could about the fashion industry.
"It really does pay to do your research," Johnson told Business News Daily. "Read articles and interviews from your favorite brands, talk to those brands and check out websites like How to Start a Clothing Company (HTSACC) to get as much insight as you can."
In an article for Entrepreneur, contributor Toby Nwazor said that knowing where to produce the clothing line is an extremely important decision because the clothing line's initial quality will be what the business' reputation is based on, for better or for worse.
The fashion market has always been a crowded one, so to stand out, you need something truly unique. Albam Clothing, a U.K.-based menswear brand started in 2006, started with co-founder Alastair Rae and his business partner designing with eight original styles, which would become Albam's line of high-quality men's fashion.
"The idea was borne out of a joint frustration that we had over the price and quality of men's clothing available at the time," Rae said.
Albam's success stems from its founders' dedication to producing something different than what was out there on the market. Similarly, Johnson stressed the importance of bringing something fresh to the table.
"If you squeeze out the same thing that everyone else is making, people are going to go with the existing brand instead of you," he said.
To build up your initial inventory, you'll need the money to produce it. HTSACC defines an "indie" clothing line as one that wants to produce high-quality products and plans to expand in the future once the brand grows. The site estimates that indie brands need a minimum of $500 to get going. If you want in-house production, it could take as much as $10,000 in startup costs. Five hundred dollars to $2500 is usually where most indie brands land.
"I ended up doing preorder designs once I got the hang of the business," Johnson said.  "I was able to get an idea of what was selling and have the funds up front to pay for production."
Nwazor wrote that to ensure a profit, the entrepreneur must establish wholesale and retail rates higher than the expenses. A target for these rates would be to earn a profit margin 30 to 50 percent higher than associated expenses, he said.
Making your own clothes by hand is fine when you only have a few customers, but as your brand grows, you may need to outsource in order to scale your operation. Johnson enlisted the help of a screen-printing friend to produce the clothing for his Florida-based company. Rae, on the other hand, was developing new fabrics for Albam clothes and wanted to find local manufacturers right off the bat.
"A big challenge for us was convincing factories that we were serious about manufacturing in the U.K.," Rae said. "They were not used to new businesses approaching them."
To prepare for manufacturing, Nwazor suggested securing capital through investments from others, typically loans, or from the entrepreneur's personal money. The initial investment will range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending upon inventory and quality.
Knowing how to market is critical for success. Having a good website for you brand makes it easier for customers to shop for your products, but advertising is what drives them to the site. Johnson quickly learned that paid advertising just wasn't worth it. [See Related Story: When Customer Loyalty Isn't Enough, Turn to Word-of-Mouth]
"I realized that word of mouth was the best way to spread the news about my brand without dropping a lot of money," he said.
Nwazor agrees that a great online presence is important.
"You have a lot to lose if you don't move your business online, because the online commerce market is more important than brick-and-mortar location," he wrote.
"Listen to your customers' feedback," Rae advised. "Don't be afraid to remake old styles that customers are asking for, or kill a best-seller if it feels like the right thing to do."
Johnson also recommended getting customer input before making major changes, and if you do modify your brand, do it slowly.
"A sudden switch is not only going to make customers question [your brand], but it'll likely cause sales to plummet because people have a tough time with major changes when they have a good thing going," Johnson said.
Like any startup, clothing lines take a lot of hard work and dedication. You will meet some challenges along the way, but if you believe in yourself and your brand, you'll succeed.
"Owning a clothing line isn't an easy or glamorous endeavor," Johnson said. "It's tough work that pays off successfully if you give it your all and enjoy what you do."
_Jennifer Post
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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Business Idea: Home Staging

Did you know that 35 million Americans plan on moving out of their homes this year? That means that millions of houses in the United States will soon be fair game for real estate agents, brokers and — most importantly for budding entrepreneurs — home stagers .
Home staging, or real estate enhancement, is the act of making a home more attractive to potential buyers through interior design, re-organization and de-cluttering. Surveys by the Real Estate Staging Association suggest that homes staged by professionals usually sell within two months or fewer after being listed. Homes that weren't staged prior to going on the market were found to take nearly four times as long to find a buyer.
Sellers like to hire home stagers because of the potential value that the services can add to the selling price of a property. real estate brokers may also wish to employ stagers to increase the value of a sale and help a house move faster.
Starting your own staging business can be as simple as creating a website for your company and building your reputation. There are no licenses or special qualifications needed to begin staging.
However, there are many training programs to help those interested in home staging get started. And it might behoove beginners to get an education on what services they should provide their clients before jumping into the ring.
There is also plenty of information available online for those who wish to learn more about what home staging entails. And as with any business, it would behoove a prospective home stager to do some research on the market in his or her area before writing a business plan. Check out the competition from other home staging businesses as well as the general climate of real estate in your locale.
Home staging businesses are also highly customizable. If you find that the staging market is slow in your area, you can expand your services to include home organizing or design consulting.
The right social media marketing strategy will allow you to advertise your business to the appropriate demographic, build a solid reputation, and better cater to the needs of home owners in your local market.
_Elizabeth Peterson
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Sunday, 6 August 2017

5 Tips for Attracting Angel Investors

What do you do when you have a great business idea, but don't have the money to fund it? While some entrepreneurs turn to small business loans or crowdfunding, others seek out angel investors, individuals or groups of individuals who invest in startups in exchange for an equity share of the company. 

An angel investor is an attractive funding option for startups that are too small to attract venture capitalists, who generally invest larger sums of money. According to recent research, angel investing is on the rise, and many angels plan to increase the number and dollar amount of the investments they make in 2014.
Chris Camillo, an author, entrepreneur and angel investor whose recent ventures include automotive software company eCarList and social analysis platform HedgeChatter, has worked with many early-stage startups to help bring their business ideas to life. Camillo offered these five tips to entrepreneurs who want to appeal to angel investors: [What Are Angel Investors?]
Create adream team. Angels invest in people and ideas, not valuation models. Investors must perceive the management team as capable of delivering on the company's vision and goals. Choose partners and other key team members based on complementary skills. For example, a technology startup could have one highly business-savvy founder and a highly technical one.
Be transparent. Attractive startups understand both what angels are excited by and what they're scared of. In particular, they are transparent and address questions of risk upfront. Losing money is a fear, but not necessarily the biggest one early on, which is often perceived untrustworthiness and other character flaws.
Know whom you're pitching. This may seem overly simple, but entrepreneurs will have the most success when they seek out the ideal investors for their project. Many angels tend to favor a particular sector, and angel-investing groups can revolve around a theme, such as clean tech, biotech, consumer products or even female-owned companies. Targeting your pitches is preferable to an impersonal mass pitching approach.
Prove your worth. Startups need to properly vet their idea and business model before they can expect to receive large amounts of investment capital. Crowdfunding is an excellent way to prove market validation, especially for consumer technology and product companies. Angels and even some venture capitalists may use this as a filter to determine if a startup is promising.
Focus your efforts. Many startups are understandably worried all the time about how to keep the lights on. Startups should focus on building the best possible product/service/company for their target customers. If they get that part right, the other pieces — like funding — will fall into place.
_Nicole Fallon
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4 Ways to Win Startup Investors

4 Ways to Win Startup Investors

It's rare for entrepreneurs to have all the capital they need to start a business at the exact moment a great idea strikes. More often than not, a startup needs a little bit of financial help before it can get off the ground.
A business can raise funds a number of ways, including through business loans, crowdfunding and large-scale investors. Raad Mobrem, CEO and co-founder of tech startup Lettuce, took the investor route for his company, and successfully secured several million dollars during his first round of fundraising. Mobrem offered these four tips to help you win over potential investors.

    • Be prepared. One sure-fire way to lose a potential investor is by showing you don't know your own company inside and out. You should be able to list every single relevant number off the top of your head if an investor brings it up. [How to Attract Angel Investors]
    • Never cold call an investorThe best way to get familiar with an investor you don't know is to get introduced by someone they do know. This could be another investor in your company, or even someone at another company that the specific investor has previously supported. By getting introduced to a potential investor through a mutual connection, you're already positioning yourself as a worthwhile investment.
    • Ask for adviceAsking investors for advice is a great way to share your startup idea without directly asking for funding. This is especially helpful if you find yourself with a lack of connections. Ask for tips on pitching other investors, how to best present yourself, who they can introduce you to, etc. If they show interest in your company, you can sweeten the deal by offering a small equity stake.
    • Remember that you are the investment. Most startup entrepreneurs don't realize it, but in the initial fundraising phase, potential investors aren't really investing in an idea or a company; they are investing in the entrepreneur. When securing seed funding, be polished. Know all the numbers and nuances of your idea and company, and present yourself in a way that will create confidence in your abilities as a business owner. Potential investors are deciding if they think you can run a company and manage the hardships of a startup, not whether your company is a viable business venture.
    While funding can help get a great startup idea going, it shouldn't necessarily be your lifeline. Instead, Mobrem advised taking the time to build a successful enterprise, regardless of immediate funding.
    "A startup is in trouble if they are dependent on funding, so it is great to start out lean," Mobrem said. "By being lean, you can organically grow and re-invest your profits to increase your company's rate of growth. As entrepreneurs, we convince ourselves that we need to grow fast, or competition will defeat us. Instead, focus on what will make your company successful, even if that means taking 20 years to build it."
    _Nicole Fallon
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    Why These Founders Train Their Employees to Quit

    Craig Handley and Tony Ricciardi started a company that speaks their customers’ language—literally.
    Their business, ListenTrust, is a bilingual, live-agent, English-Spanish sales and customer service company. When consumers need help in English or Spanish, there’s a good chance a ListenTrust agent answers the phone and fixes the problem in either tongue.
    In a decade, they’ve generated over $1 billion in sales for clients. They’re on track to boost revenue by almost 60 percent over the next two years. And when disaster struck (twice), they saved the company from the brink—thanks to unbelievable hard work and perseverance.
    It started when Handley and Ricciardi saw a gap in the call center market back in 2001: Spanish-speaking sales and customer service agents were rare. Few companies saw the need to communicate with Spanish speakers in their native language. But Handley and Ricciardi saw the demographic was a growing economic force—one that would want to buy, sell and receive service support in Spanish.
    Fast forward to today: ListenTrust employs more than 1,000 agents who speak Spanish, English or both. Clients source ListenTrust to handle sales and customer service calls—and ListenTrust is good at selling their clients’ products on these calls.
    “We have skilled agents who deeply understand the sales process and how to sell our clients’ products in Spanish and English,” says Handley. He says these customer service calls consist of around 25 percent sales and 75 percent customer service inquiries, which he predicts will be 50/50 within a few years.
    The result is happy customers for ListenTrust and its clients. So happy, the company is on track to do an estimated $17 million in revenue this year, a substantial increase from the $13.5 million achieved in 2016.  That revenue comes from the money ListenTrust makes on a per minute, per hour, or performance basis for each call.
    How has the company come from nowhere to dominate this market, despite experiencing every challenge in the entrepreneur's playbook? Their secret is a laser-focus on culture, both that in their company and of the Spanish-speaking market.

    Training employees to quit.

    ListenTrust’s company culture starts with a simple, and shocking, premise.
    “When we hire you, we tell you exactly what we’re doing: training you to quit,” enthuses Handley. This isn’t some BS corporate policy that employees secretly roll their eyes about. Handley, Ricciardi, and upper management work directly with employees to chart where they want to go in their lives and exactly how to get there.
    The program targets six pillars of personal development from career goals to intellectual growth. The result is a clear blueprint for each employee on how to achieve their dreams and how ListenTrust fits into that picture. Employees then receive one-on-one mentorship, online training, and live events to get them there.

    Image credit: ListenTrust
    The result is positive and pragmatic.
    “People see that the fastest way for their dreams to come true is to master our sales process and become an expert,” says Handley.
    The program is called DreamTrust internally, and it has created market-beating success.
    ListenTrust today averages a “save rate” (preventing a return or cancellation) of 15 out of every 100. The competition averages one or two out of every 100.
    With one client, ListenTrust outperformed significantly less expensive call centers in India and the Philippines. Even though they had a higher cost than those locations, they created enough revenue to add several million dollars in additional profit to their client’s bottom line.
    When ListenTrust moved into English-speaking call centers, they continued to dominate. The company took a campaign from another center doing $8 in revenue per call and within a month ListenTrust agents produced $24 per call on the same campaign.
    “Even with live U.S.-based agents, competitors couldn’t come within $6 of our revenue per call,” says Handley. Handley and Ricciardi believe DreamTrust creates a competitive moat that competitors can’t touch. “People think we’re a call center,” says Ricciardi. “But we’re really providing positive ripples in everyone’s lives that make them better in every area.”
    “Our turnover since starting DreamTrust has dropped from 24 percent to 4 percent,” says Handley.

    How to build a bulletproof company and culture.

    “We’ve been working toward the culture we have now for over a decade,” says Ricciardi. But it wasn’t always easy.
    Early in the company’s life, Handley got blindsided by a couple of major client reversals. ListenTrust went from making $50,000 a week in profit to losing $70,000 a week, overnight. Handley literally lived out of the company offices in Mexico for months to turn the business around.
    “We went to every one of our suppliers with extreme cuts,” says Handley. ListenTrust’s suppliers tried to negotiate, so Handley closed nearly all his supplier accounts.
    “We had nothing to lose since we were going out of business if we couldn’t turn revenue around,” explains Handley. He let suppliers sit for up to two weeks, then told each they had one last opportunity to earn ListenTrust’s business back. The strategy worked. Handley and Ricciardi shaved $4 million off its annual expenses and turned the company around.
    Image credit: ListenTrust
    This type of hustle, resilience and good humor in the face of adversity are trademark Handley and Ricciardi—their personalities are the secret ingredients to the ListenTrust success story.
    They laughingly describe themselves as “goofballs,” and it’s easy to get the impression these guys are having just too much fun while making money hand-over-fist.
    Handley is fond of talking about all his insane adventures. He’s driven a snowmobile across a live volcano, jumped out of a plane from over 30,000 feet (one of fewer than 200 civilians to do so) and with his abiding interest in music, performed as the opening act at one of the concerts for the rapper Coolio. He even scored an invite to billionaire Richard Branson’s private island after impersonating a security guard to get backstage at an event Branson was speaking at.
    “I’m a strong-looking guy, so I dressed in something a security guard might wear and walked in the back, flashing a badge with a piece of paper stuck on it that said ‘Security,’” laughs Handley. “I walked up to Richard, handed him my business card wrapped in a $20 bill and said ‘This is the first $20 we’re going to make together.’” Branson loved the approach. Handley’s been back to Necker Island half a dozen times since.
    Handley’s no stranger to this type of fearless hustle. He got his start cold calling for customers in his mom’s basement and failed his way through three different companies before striking gold with ListenTrust. His reasoning: if he can live the life of his dreams, anyone willing to work hard enough can too.
    Ricciardi’s background makes him just as passionate about building a company where employees can achieve their dreams. After previously working in toxic corporate work environments, he made it his career mission to create a bulletproof company culture.
    But there was pushback against some of the firm’s efforts to build an incredible culture—and it came from their own staff in Mexico. Employees didn’t want to talk about personal issues with managers and executives, especially sensitive topics that might have related to their personal goals, like eliminating personal debt.
    “Many people were guarded at first and didn’t want to talk about issues like that,” says Ricciardi. "You can’t blame them. They weren’t used to managers who cared about their personal goals and well-being." Handley adds, “A lot of companies in Mexico and internationally don’t view or treat their employees like we do.”
    But over time, Handley and Ricciardi won.
    Image credit: ListenTrust
    DreamTrust started to work as more people bought into the program’s initiatives. With more employees bought in, Handley and Ricciardi had the excuse they needed to pursue their obsession with culture.
    They quickly found out that their obsession was rewarding — personally and financially.
    “Forrester Research came in to do a study to see how we could improve happiness. There were 45 total questions around things like the cleanliness of the building, our security, and the parking situation,” says Handley.
    It turned out that a raise of 50 cents an hour increased performance, but happiness stayed the same. Interestingly, giving that money to charity instead ending up improving both performance and happiness. Happier employees were found to have higher close rates. The lesson? “It was profitable to do good,” says Handley.

    Machine learning with a human advantage.

    Today, ListenTrust is busy solidifying its diligently forged culture across every part of the company.
    That's more important than ever, given the firm’s growth trajectory. With advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, Handley and Ricciardi see the future of the call center business as one where humans and machines work hand in hand to provide better service. “We believe AI, predictive models, and algorithms are really going to change the type of calls we’re going to handle and how those calls are processed,” says Ricciardi.
    This technological shift could help the company better identify who wants to buy and who doesn’t and tailor offers appropriately for the best possible outcome. That means better service and prices for customers.
    Image credit: ListenTrust
    But it also means Handley and Ricciardi are committed to keeping ListenTrust’s human connection to its clients and their customers as strong as possible. So far, Handley and Ricciardi have done that by fanning the spark of culture at ListenTrust into a flame, giving the firm an immense advantage over its rivals.
    It’s an advantage that shows no signs of abating. “When you ignite something, the fire gets stronger. We’re on fire,” adds Ricciardi.
    Read more »

    Saturday, 5 August 2017

    How to Start a Pop-Up Business

    During the holiday season, most major U.S. cities open up temporary public marketplaces for people to purchase gifts, treats and other seasonal items. But pop-up stores aren't just for the holidays — all year round, both new and established brands set up limited-time retail locations to generate buzz about their products.

    Whether you're an e-commerce merchant testing out your goods in a brick-and-mortar setting or an entrepreneur scouting out a good permanent location, a pop-up store can help you achieve your business goals. Business News Daily spoke with two industry experts about why pop-ups work, and how to open one successfully.
    The pop-up model's temporary nature offers several advantages over a traditional brick-and-mortar storefront.For one,pop-up store owners can afford to be more creative and experimental in the design of their short-term space, said Jeremy Baras, author of "PopUp Republic: How to Start Your Own Successful Pop-Up Space, Shop, or Restaurant" (Wiley, 2015). There are also fewer inherent risks when you don't have the long-term commitment of a commercial lease.
    Melissa Gonzalez, founder of the Lion'esque Group and author of "The Pop Up Paradigm: How Brands Build Human Connections in a Digital Age" (Lioncrest Publishing, 2014), agreed that pop-up stores' limited engagements give them an edge, especially when it comes to establishing corporate partnerships.
    "You can test partnerships [with a pop-up]," Gonzalez said. "They can share a space [with you] and see if [you] work well together."
    Consumers love pop-ups, too. Gonzalez said that shoppers come into a pop-up store with a different mind-set — instead of expecting consistency as they do from regular retail stores, they're coming into pop-ups to discover new things and "be surprised and delighted."
    "Customers love a F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out) experience, and given the exclusive, 'here-today-gone-tomorrow' type of atmosphere that pop-ups offer, customers are naturally drawn to them," Baras added.
    Despite their benefits, pop-ups do have to deal with a few challenges that traditional retail businesses don't face. One of the biggest issues relates to the process of planning and marketing. Opening any type of store requires an enormous amount of work to coordinate all the logistics. But whereas regular brick-and-mortars have time to build momentum, pop-ups need to generate tons of interest and sales right off the bat to make their investment worth it.
    "Marketing is challenging because you're there in a temporary space," Gonzalez said. "If you're Marc Jacobs and have millions of followers, you put it out on social [that you're doing a pop-up], and people will show up. As a new brand ... make sure there's a proper plan to notify your following and build your digital footprint ... throughout the duration of the pop-up, so people know."
    To achieve this goal, Gonzalez recommended a slightly longer pop-up time frame (several weeks instead of several days) to allow time for word of mouth to travel. She also said to set a large enough budget to give you room for the right location, d├ęcor, staff and promotional activities.
    The other major challenge pop-up stores face is the ability to properly license their business. Pop-ups aren't quite a mainstream retail concept yet, so there haven't been any special licenses or permits developed specifically for them. Baras said securing the appropriate documentation will become easier as economic development and local government officials learn about the benefits of pop-ups and how they can affect communities.
    Gonzalez and Baras offered the following advice for entrepreneurs looking to succeed with a pop-up model.
    Have a goal. Don't open a pop-up just for the sake of doing it, Gonzalez said. You should have a larger objective in mind for your brand.
    "Be clear on your goal [and make it] something specific," she said. "It should be to test a new product, enter a new market, educate [consumers], etc. Then, understand the customer you want to go after."
    Review your options. You don't necessarily have to seek out a full-scale storefront for your temporary shop. Baras said that the "store-within-a-store" concept — setting up a small booth inside an existing store to sell similar, complementary products — is becoming popular, and Gonzalez noted that mobile units and kiosks are great ways to enter the pop-up space.
    If you do decide to go for a brick-and-mortar location, apps like Storefrontcan help you find available retail space in the city you want to open your pop-up in. Storefront allows you to search by geographic location, and the rental fees for most of the locations are listed as the price per day.
    Keep the customer relationship going. Your relationship with the people who shopped at your pop-up doesn't end when the store closes. Gonzalez said it's important to think about the long-term marketing implications of the data you gather during your pop-up event.
    "Your pop-up is open for a week and you make some sales, but it's the information you're collecting about customers that drive sales throughout the next two quarters," she said. "Where are they sharing information — Facebook over Twitter? Instagram over Facebook? What products, colors, etc. [did they buy]? How many people are coming inside [and] converting?"
    Technology can also help you stay connected with customers after they've left the store. Customers often use pop-ups for "showrooming" — visiting a physical retail location to see and touch a product, and then purchasing it online later. With technology like in-store tablets and augmented reality, pop-up owners are able to extend their inventory offering without bringing the actual items into the store, Gonzalez said.
    Enjoy the ride. As with any entrepreneurial venture, you'll have a lot more success with your pop-up store if you're passionate about it and truly enjoy what you're doing.
    "Everyone has a hobby, and pop-ups allow individuals to turn their hobbies into a business," Baras said. "By being creative and having fun with it, 'popupreneurs' can create a concept that stands out, generates significant foot traffic and enhances their brand. And who knows? Maybe a successful pop-up can, in fact, turn someone's hobby into a successful business."
    _Nicole Fallon
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    New Business Idea? How to Test It Before Launching

    Do you have an idea for the "next big thing"? You may think your idea is perfect the way it is, but it's wise to test it out before you spend a lot of time and money developing a business or product for which there's no market. Here are six steps to help you make sure your product is something the world wants, before you launch it.

    1. First wait; then build a prototype or test service.
    Although you're excited about your new business idea, you might want to wait a while before testing it, Greg Isenberg, a venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur, said in a 2014 interview.
    "After I've gone through the process of writing down a bunch of ideas, I don't like to rush into building a business plan or recruiting the team," Isenberg said. "I like to wait a few weeks, [to] see which ideas really stick with me."
    Isenberg said he only moves forward if he has a burning feeling that the world really needs his idea.
    "Once I'm through that, the best way to test a business idea is to build some prototype and show it to people to get some honest and authentic feedback," he said. [Looking for a business idea? Visit our Business Idea Page]
    2. Build a minimum viable product.
    A minimum viable product, or MVP, is "the simplest form of your idea that you can actually sell as product," said Eric Ries, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur and the author of "The Lean Startup" (Crown Business, 2011). Using the principles of Lean Six Sigma, Ries' book advocates having a version of the product to test and market early in the development process so that any tweaks or changes are in response to real feedback from the target audience.
    3. Run it by a group of critics.
    When you have your first prototype or test service ready, take it to your potential target customers.
    "You should talk [to] and/or survey at least 50 potential customers, to see if they identify with the problem the same way you do," said Wayde Gilchrist, a startup consultant and host at "In other words, you need to find out if this is a real problem for a majority of your target market, or just a few," he said.
    However, to really put your new business idea to the test, select your 50 potential clients or customers carefully.
    "Identify people in that target you know to be skeptical and critical," said Chip Bell, founder of the business consultancy firm The Chip Bell Group. "These people could be irate customers from previous encounters, or friends who always take the glass-half-empty perspective."
    Bell advised handpicking your test group and then asking these people to pick your ideas apart.
    4. Tweak it to suit your test market.
    Isenberg took a similar approach to testing 5by, an Internet video finder app he developed and has since sold. Isenberg and his team went to college campuses and showed mock-ups of what the product was going to look like. They found the feedback from students invaluable in fine-tuning the original idea. 
    "We were able to quickly gauge that people ... were frustrated that they couldn't open an app and just be able to find the best Internet videos in whatever they were interested in with just a tap of a button," he said.
    Isenberg realized that although his initial business idea and mock-up were a good start, they needed tweaking.
    "We quickly knew we were onto something, and then focused on building out the product, raising money, etc.," he said.
    5. Create a test website with social media tie-ins.
    Once the word is out about your product or business, the target market needs a place to get more information about it or to show it to their friends. Building a simple website and using social media are ideal tools to provide information and monitor how many people are interested in what you are selling.
    "You'll be able to tell if the idea will get traction from the number of click-throughs on the ads, and the number of people who fill in your form," Gilchrist said. 
    6. Create a marketing plan and use it.
    All of the preparatory work means nothing if you do not perform enough actions to get a good measure of response. Once you have a viable product, you need to be able to act on the interest in it, said Ryan Clements, a consultant to entrepreneurs on marketing and sales strategy.
    "Having worked with many startups — both on my own account as entrepreneur and as an adviser to others — I like to use a rule I call 100 / 1,000," Clements wrote in a blog post on IvyExec. "Make a list of 100 things you can do to market the product, and then execute that list of 100, and in the process, speak with 1,000 people about the product."
    If you do this, you will have data on your product, Clements said. You'll know who is interested in it, what marketing strategies worked and didn't work, and how you can improve, all of which are invaluable steps in getting your idea and business off the ground, he added.
    _Marci Martin
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