One of my favorite blog posts ever appeared exactly eight years ago in the Daily Reckoning, titled, “The Three Things Rich People Do All Day.”
In the piece, Chris Mayer concludes that reading, conversing with people who know what you’d like to know, and thinking are the three things rich people do all day.
After hanging out with some pretty high achievers the last couple years, and aspiring to be one of the wealthy myself, I have to agree with him.
On the ride home from my Ultimate Writing Retreat™ in Chicago nine days ago, I came up with my own list of 5 things that prosperous copywriters do all day:
1. Read. Read classic copywriting books by Eugene Schwartz, David Ogilvy, and Claude Hopkins. Read contemporary classics by Dan Kennedy, Clayton Makepeace, Gary Halbert, and John Carlton.
Read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and your local paper (if you have local clients.) Read classic literature by Hemingway and Hugo, as well as airport paperbacks by John Grisham and Stephen King. Read!
2. Think. You simply have to spend time deep thinking about Big Ideas. How else are you going to come up with a new angle for a client promotion? It’s not all nose-to-the-grindstone, furious writing time that accomplishes that.
Or think about Big Ideas for your own business.
How are you going to convince your prospects to do business with you instead of the dozens of other copywriters who are just as good as you, in the same niche? How can you provide more value while working faster and making sure your clients get a good return on investment? What is your Big “off the chart” Idea that could send your business soaring?
3. Talk to interesting people.
I spent 67 hours recently hanging out with some very interesting people in Chicago. We coined at least three new terms that you’ll probably be hearing about in the next few months. We launched two new businesses, re-launched two more, and came up with strategy that could turn two of them into million-dollar businesses.
When I’m in my office, I probably spend two hours a day on average conversing with copywriters who are trying to get to the next level. I ask questions to get them thinking in a different way. I challenge them. I offer critiques if they ask. I give offbeat advice.
Once in a while, I inspire someone to go out and do really big things. Very rewarding, all of it. I benefit from these conversations, too.
Be selective about the company you keep, and spend the time in meaningful discussions.
4. Write stuff that other people will pay you for. Ask yourself at every turn, “Is this making me money?” or “Is it leading me quickly to a place where I’ll make money doing it?”
If you’re writing a special report that prospects will download to get on your mailing list, which you’ll then use to market your other services to them, the answer is “yes.” Writing an article for “exposure” and the promise of possible work down the road? Your call, but I’d say “no.”
5. Write things that build your own business. One of the “eureka” moments at the Chicago retreat was that you don’t have to figure out how to write copy for clients. Create a business around something you love, and write all the marketing copy for it.
When you’re writing copy for your own high-end luxury watch tours to Basel, Switzerland, or for helping CEOs become insanely great at presentation skills, things get pretty fun! Think of copywriting as a means to an end.
If you were a fly on the wall of my office, those are the five things you’d find me doing every day. Reading, thinking, talking to interesting people, writing stuff that people pay me for, and writing to build my own business.
Do you have any others you’d add to the list? Any you’d take off this list? Where can you do all five of these at once, in a three-day intensive writing experience like you’ve never seen before? Asheville, North Carolina, of course. July 17-20.
We all know them. Those damn lucky bastards at the helm of billion-dollar empires and in command of countless employees. From Oprah Winfrey to Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, rich people always helped shape the world we live in. Not only that, but they haunt us with their quotes. It’s annoying because the all principles from their quotations are correct. But their so damn hard to apply! It’s one thing to know the right path. Quite a different thing to walk it. These guys talk the talk because they’ve walked the walk.
Regardless, whether rich or poor, we can at least enjoy the philosophy from this rich folks and forget for a moment that they’re worth zillions of dollars. In the end, we’re all the same. Most of the people from the list below started out with nothing at all. They were dirt poor. I don’t believe in destiny or luck. There must have be something else at play in their equation ofgetting rich.
Let’s see if they are willing to share their insight and maybe we’ll catch a glimpse of how they made pennies from their thoughts.
One of the start-up world’s favorite words, in addition to disrupt, pivot, and on-demand, is community. Kickstarter identifies as “a community of people committed to bringing new things to life.” “The heart and soul of Etsy,” begins the About Etsy page, “is our global community.” Airbnb calls itself “the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company.” You’re not, in other words, just joining a platform where you can fund your screenplay, or hawk your hand-knit iPhone koozies, or rent your apartment — no, you’re belonging to something bigger than yourself.
But back in 2009, perhaps before the word had lost all meaning, a small-time-invention start-up called Quirky built a community that really acted like one. It told the first-world-problem solver in all of us — the one who thought up single-serve French-fry-makers and foldable coffee mugs and musical footballs while out walking the dog — that she no longer had to innovate in a vacuum. Anybody could join. On Quirky’s website, users would assess and workshop each other’s inventions. The most successful ideas, as determined by a vote, would be designed and built by the company. In some cases, the inventors made a lot of money. And it is for that tiny dreamer that the company’s recent death spiral feels like a true loss.
It all came to a head on what seemed like a typical Thursday evening this July, during the weekly Quirky ritual known as Eval. A studio audience of about 100 people gathered in the company’s former-rail-car-terminal headquarters in Chelsea. Lit by webcams from above and a bank of futuristic equipment behind, Quirky’s 28-year-old founder, Ben Kaufman, stood at a lectern in his usual black V-neck tee and announced a panel of product-evaluation experts by nickname: Anna “Make a Buck” Buchbauer, Justin “J-Bomb” Seidenfeld, Aaron Dignan, a.k.a. El Presidente. Ideas submitted and voted on by the Quirky community — watching the livestream from their living rooms — were presented via pitch videos and commentary from Kaufman: a voice-activated lightbulb, a paper-thin Bluetooth speaker that fits in your back pocket, an on-the-go beverage carbonator. The masterminds who won majority approval would hear the rallying mantra “Congratulations, you’re a Quirky inventor!” and have the chance to be like fellow Eval winner Garthen Leslie, a 63-year-old IT consultant from Columbia, Maryland. Leslie came up with the idea of a smart air conditioner during his morning commute, uploaded a rough diagram of the idea to the Quirky platform, and found the community waiting to help him refine it, suggesting additional features and weighing in on the sizing, specs, and the name, which would be Aros. And keeping with Quirky’s leave-the-rest-to-us business model, the company then patented, manufactured, marketed, and sold the unit into Walmart and Amazon, returning 10 percent of the profits to the inventor and those that played Watson to his Graham Bell (in this exceptional case, that’s amounted to more than $400,000 for Leslie and more than $200,000 for the community).
But this Thursday, July 16, it would turn out, was not an ordinary Eval. In fact, it would be the next to last one Kaufman ever did. Following the broadcast, he tacked on what he called an “after-party” — a.k.a. a crisis-management session aimed at addressing recent bad press that the company had gotten. In June, in a sweaty interview onstage at the Fortune Brainstorm conference, Kaufman admitted the company was all but “out of money,” which had once amounted to $185 million in funding from investors like Andreessen Horowitz and GE. In July came the news that nearly the entire New York City staff would be laid off. By August 1, Kaufman would officially step down from the company he started at age 22. It so happened that for every Aros-type success, the community had waved in many more duds like the Beat Booster, a wireless speaker with a built-in charging station that by one account cost the company $388,000 to develop but only sold about 30 units.
It’s not surprising that Kaufman used the word transparency no fewer than three times in the first five minutes of that after-party, the bottom line of which was that he frankly didn’t know if the company would survive — Quirky’s fate was in the investors’ hands. Because, for all the aspirational, rarefied Bushwick-bar vibes telegraphed by the Evals, Quirky was, of course, all about being real. Its cluster of a million members included folks like — to cite some of the most recent inventors featured on the website — Tony Lytle, a welder and proud grandfather from Larwill, Indiana, who’d dreamed up the Pawcett, a step-on drinking fountain for dogs; and Hadar Ferris, a licensed cosmetologist in Oceanside, California, responsible for decorative muffin-top molds called Bake Shapes; and Pennsylvania-based Navy veteran Jason Hunter, who gave birth to the Porkfolio app-enabled piggy bank. (In the age of artisanal everything, just as we want to know where our pickles were brined and our former-church-pew coffee tables were carved, here, too, was the meaningful personal backstory behind your magnetic bottle opener.)
A few weeks after he was ousted, Kaufman emailed with me from his first-ever personal email account: “It’s weird waking up one day and not even having an email address,” he later said on the phone. “This had been my whole life.” He was a small-time inventor himself at first, for a range of iPod accessories he started in high school that went on to become the company Mophie. At the 2007 Macworld Expo, he handed out pens and sketchpads and asked people to help design Mophie’s 2007 product line (sound familiar?) and then held a vote for the top three ideas. That same year, he sold Mophie, reappropriated the Macworld crowdsourcing schtick, and tried to launch a similar concept to Quirky. What helped Quirky finally get off the ground in 2009 was the recession-driven push for alternative incomes (no coincidence that Kickstarter as well as the entrepreneur-competition show Shark Tank, another bastion of scrappy innovation, also launched in 2009). Plus, there was more of a universal comfort with the practice of online sharing: We were now very used to telling our Facebook friends what we ate for breakfast, and by extension, we might as well tell the Quirky forum about our concept for a better egg-yolk extractor. Our notion of community, then, was evolving, and Kaufman — Mark Zuckerberg wrapped in a teddy-bear build, with the mischievous smile of your son or younger brother (depending on where you fell in Quirky’s wide-ranging age demographics) — was a relatable leader.
On the consumer end, seeing these ordinary tinkerers immortalized on the shelves of the Container Store (a big Quirky perk was that inventors’ names and faces appeared on their products’ packaging) was like watching the Spanx lady on QVC for the first time in the early aughts — a humble fax-machine salesperson from Clearwater, Florida, who just wanted to wear control-top pantyhose without the hose. Inventors were just like us! And now everybody could be the Spanx lady (albeit for only a tiny fraction of the profits), because unlike her, we didn’t have to side-hustle all alone. Next it could be my cousin in Westchester, who had four kids but no one to help her prototype her idea for a mother-baby bath towel. Next it could be my semi-retired father, who was in a private war with his never-shuts-properly pantry door and needed a constructive, supportive outlet for his aggression. Next it could be my friend Sarah, who was full of lightbulb moments — an Oreo-dunking robot claw, a universal key for all your locks — but was too stoned to sort through the mechanics by herself.
Quirky was catnip for the press: The Sundance Channel produced a short-lived reality show on the company in 2011. Kaufman appeared on Leno. This magazine featured it as a Boom Brand of 2013, noting, “It’s a pretty rare company that’s so hippieish — Let’s have everyone get a say! — yet so purely free-market.” The Times devoted several thousand words to a piece called “The Invention Mob, Brought to You by Quirky” just last February (by then its financially unsustainable business model had given way to a pivot — a smart-home subsidiary called Wink — that was too little too late).\
Another Timespiece, from this past April, cited Quirky as a springboard for the realest of all Real People: older people. “There’s a boom in inventing by people over 50,” John Calvert, the executive director of the United Inventors Association, told the paper. And indeed, Quirky had plenty of them in its hive — like 59-year-old Lorin Ryle, a full-time caretaker for her dementia-stricken mother. When her clip-on baby monitor for the elderly won at Eval, she says she cried, watching from her Hutto, Texas, home. It never actually made it to development (in fact, only about half of the Eval winners ever do), but for Ryle that didn’t take away from the experience of “working with people to make something work,” she says. “I’ve made lifelong friends on there.” (Another Quirky boomer, Marc Rumaner, who came up with a nifty little wine-bottle anchor called Vine Stop, has even gone so far as to host barbecues for fellow community members in his Chicago area.)
Of course, the inmates didn’t always like running the asylum. There was much talk in the forums that the Eval system seemed too democratic. “I failed to see how any of us could know what a product scout from a company like GE or Mattel could know,” says one community member. And indeed, when you look at misfires like the Drift, a $200 wooden balance board that simulates snowboarding and surfing, or the $80 Egg Minder, an app-enabled egg tray that signals to your smartphone when you’re running low on eggs, it would appear that the company’s raison d’être was also the reason for its downfall, a colony of amateurs green-lighting unscalable solutions to nonexistent issues. Quirky brought more than 400 products to market in just six years.
Yet Kaufman points out that the community had much less say than all the high-pressure voting would suggest; the real decisions were made when the cameras stopped rolling and he and the actual experts did the math on a product’s marketability. (So, maybe not so much power to the people, after all.) But, he adds of Eval, “There had to be a thing to look forward to on a regular basis — otherwise how are you going to keep the community engaged?” Quirky steered the ship, you might say, but the community was still the North Star.
Steering the ship — handling all of the engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and retailing, even when you’re taking 90 percent of the subsequent profits — was ultimately too expensive of a proposition, especially in comparison to other, less-handholding-oriented start-ups. “The reason why Kickstarter makes a ton of money is they don’t have to do anything besides put up a website,” Kaufman notes. After that, the failure (and let’s face it, many Kickstarter-funded products go on to fail) is all on the individual. Which is not meant to be a dig, Kaufman clarifies. He won’t confirm his next venture but says, “I love Kickstarter.” And: “I will likely use it.”
You may live as the King Fish in a small pond for as long as you wish but one thing you will never do is cause the pond to grow any larger. Therefore if you would truly reach your real mass you must swim for the sea.
BETA READERS for my fictional writings and novels and (if you wish) the poetry and songs that I intend to publish. I want only brutally honest opinions, and I want a wide range of readers/reader-types. (There will be no pay but I will exchange favors and see to it that you are provided with free copies of the finished works). Confidentiality regarding my writings will be expected of course, and I will restrict my beta readers to maybe 6 to 8 people, but I will treat you right.
A good, decent, hard-working, and ambitious LITERARY AGENT (to match myself).
An EMPLOYEE TEAM for my start-ups. (People to run the businesses, handle marketing, and run day to day operations while I and my partners handle funding and investors, etc.) More on that later.
A TEAM OF BUSINESS BUILDERS/DEVELOPERS AND INVESTORS (start-ups primarily but we may also handle brokerage and turn-arounds on rare occasions) to be put together to found and profit from new business ventures. More on that soon.
PARTNERS to work with me on developing and designing (CAD and prototype designs) my inventions and app designs.
GAME DESIGN PARTNERS who can take the games I’ve designed and/or written and either build physical products out of them or in the case of computer and video games program basic builds that we can use to pitch to game studios.
A brief word of explanation on the above:
Beta Readers – I tend to write my fictional works, short stories, and novels in the following genres: children’s stories, detective and mysteries, espionage, fantasy and myth, historical fiction, horror, and science fiction. My current novel is a high fantasy/myth about Prester John and the Byzantine Empire. I tend to insert a lot of historical and literary references into most of my works. I would not expect my Beta Readers to provide me with detailed critiques or edits, though if you wished to do so that’s up to you. I’m really just looking for basic opinions and do you like the plot, stories, works, etc., and do you have any advice for improvements? As I said I’m open to favor exchanges and free copies of my works.
Also, when it comes to my songs I write the lyrics but I have no real time right now for composing. If you are a composer or lyricist and you wish to enter into a song-writing partnership with me then we will split the credits and your contributions and shares of any successful songs will be protected by contract.
Literary Agent – I want a literary agent with a wide range of interests and one with whom I can develop both a professional relationship and a personal friendship. (I much prefer doing business with people I enjoy.) I want a literary agent who is ambitious, as I am, and one who can help me make my writings successful so that we may both profit handsomely.
Employee Team – more on this later but I’m looking for a good employee team as well as a strong, tight, efficient, and profitable team of administrators, managers, and officers.
Business Builder/Investor/Investment Team – more on this later but I need good people from all areas/sections of the country, and possibly members from outside the US, who can look realistically at start-ups and help develop and fund them into successful enterprises. Backgrounds in brokerage, business building and development, communications, entrepreneurship, investment, and deal-making most desired. But we can also look at other backgrounds. Realistically risk will be high, and loss always possible, but profits should be considerable on successful ventures. This will be both a business creation and development and investment team, sort of like an Investment Club but with a far wider range of interests and with more hands on developmental involvement.
Invention Partners – partners in design and prototyping and product development. We’ll start out with my inventions and maybe yours as well and possibly graduate to taking stakes in other inventions and related businesses if the idea seems solid and viable.
Game Design Partners – people who can take my game designs, and your own, and build programs or physical products out of them. Depending on how much you contribute we’ll take profit shares on sales of the games, regardless of whether it is by the game or we sell the designs outright. As with the inventions your work will always be attributed in the design and protected as a share of profit by contract.
Finally you should know that in working with me my very basic and fundamental Worldview is that I am a Christian by religion, spirituality, philosophy, and nature, a Conservative (with some strong Libertarian leanings) in cultural and political and social matters, and a Capitalist when it comes to economics and monetary affairs.
Therefore I am a disciple and proponent of the teachings of Christ (Truth, Justice, Personal Honor, Honesty, and Fair Treatment of all based on individual behavior are extremely important to me, and I tend to like Charity and Philanthropy), God is my mentor and my best friend, I am Conservative in nature and very much believe in Hard Work and Personal Effort and Individual Initiative and Self-Discipline, and I am pro-Business, Development, Entrepreneurship, and Wealth. I also like to see people exploit their own talents and benefit and profit thereby. I set extremely high goals for both myself and others, and I expect much, but think I am fair and just to work with. I do discriminate and unapologetically so, but not regarding matters of background, class, race, or sex. I only discriminate between good and bad behavior, and between industry and laziness. As a boss or partner I will not long endure intentionally bad or destructive or self-destructive or foolish or apathetic behavior. I am not at all bothered by failure if you seek to improve and advance the next time.
If that all sounds fine by you and you are interested in any of these ventures then please contact me via email or by my Facebook or Linked-In pages or through my blogs or other webpages. We’ll begin Work.
Much of my morning will be spent writing up my proposal for a new business project and the functional and operational structure of the business itself. Or, to be more accurate, transcribing my formulation notes into a proper form for developing the body of the actual proposal.
Later today, in the afternoon, I’ll be devising much of the pitch, assessing the projected financials (it should be able to generate more than one income/revenue stream, and should be able to be funded in more than one way), and so forth.
By the end of the week I plan to present the idea to some potential partners and maybe even an investor or two.
I’m looking forward to this as it is an excellent idea and in a field/industry that interests me a great deal.
Some people get more done than others — a lot more.
Sure, they work hard. And they work smart. (While “smarter, not harder” is fine, smarter and harder is way better.) But they also possess a few other qualities that make a major impact on their performance:
1. They do the work in spite of disapproval or ridicule.
Work too hard, strive too hard, appear to be too ambitious, try to stand out from the crowd… and the average person resents you. It’s a lot easier and much more comfortable to dial it back and fit in.
At times we all lack motivation and self-discipline. At times we’re easily distracted. At times we all fear failure — and success.
Procrastination is a part of what makes people human; it’s not possible to totally overcome any of those shortcomings. Wanting to put off a difficult task is normal. Avoiding a challenge is normal.
But think about a time you put off a task, finally got started, and then once into it, thought, “I don’t know why I kept putting this off — it’s going really well. And it didn’t turn out to be nearly as hard as I imagined.”
(That’s no surprise; it’s always easier than we think.)
I’m always thinking about Work (not just business, though that’s part of it, but all of my Work – business, careers, inventing, writing, etc. which short of God and family are my most interesting and vital concerns), and I constantly go without sleep.
The rest of these to a slightly lesser degree, but I know exactly what the man is saying and why.
Every entrepreneur starts out with big dreams and excitement.
As an entrepreneur, you control your own destiny, and with the right ideas, the right skillset and unflinching dedication, you can build wealth or establish an enterprise to serve as your legacy.
This is the bright side of entrepreneurship, but unfortunately, there’s also a darker side.
The rigors of entrepreneurship demand sacrifices, and if you don’t make those sacrifices you’ll never be able to succeed. Business is, at its core, a give-and-take process. The more you invest, and the more you’re willing to part with, the more you’ll reap in rewards in kind.
These are the five sacrifices that every entrepreneur needs to make:
You’re starting a new venture, and there’s no guarantee you’re going to succeed. The foundation of your company, even if your idea and plans are solid, is rocky at best, and there’s no telling which direction your business is headed until you’re several months, or often much longer, into running things. If you haven’t already sacrificed a comfortable, well-paying, stable job to follow this route, odds are you’ll have to sacrifice some other kind of stability before you can move forward.
Entrepreneurship is, by nature, an unstable path to follow. Don’t be surprised if you encounter multiple, unpredictable shifts in your fortune as your work progresses. It’s natural and part of the process. Eventually, if you work hard with a clear vision, things will stabilize.
2. Work/life split
When you become an entrepreneur, the lines between your working life and your personal life will blur. You’ll start thinking about business even when you’re away from the office, sometimes because you want to and sometimes because you can’t help it. You’ll also get calls and emails urgently needing your attention because you’re the boss and there’s nobody else to answer them.
Your downtime will become “light” business time, but the flip side is that your time in the office will feel more like personal time because you’ll want to be there. Remember, it’s still important for you to balance your work priorities and your personal ones — always make time for your family and your mental health — but the firm split between personal and professional time is going to go away no matter how you try to handle it.
This goes along with the stability sacrifice, but for the first few years of your business, you’re probably not going to be making much money. In most businesses, entrepreneurs and their families end up investing heaps of their own money to get the business going. If this is the case for you, you’ll be making even more of a sacrifice since your potential safety net will be gone.
Since you’ll be deciding where the money goes, you can set your own salary, but many entrepreneurs don’t even take a salary during their first several months of operations, at least not until there’s a steady line of revenue backing them up. Be prepared for this. You’ll need a strong marketing plan to overcome barriers to entry and gain a share of the market in your industry.
Sleep is vitally important, but no matter how hard you try to preserve healthy sleeping habits, you’re going to sacrifice some sleep in order to run your business. In some cases, you’ll be pulling all-nighters to get that last proposal together. In other cases, you’ll be getting up super early to make a meeting or get all your tasks in order. In still other cases, you’ll be lying awake at night, restless and wondering about the future of your company.
Whatever the case may be, your sleeping habits are going to change when you become an entrepreneur, and you’ll have to make the best of them no matter how they end up.
Being the boss of your own company means the buck stops with you. You’re going to have to wear dozens of hats, make decisions you’ve never made before and delve into subjects you’ve never before considered. Part of being an entrepreneur means stepping out of your comfort zone, often multiple times every day.
The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who approach uncomfortable situations with confidence and a degree of excitement. Learn to thrive in uncomfortable environments, and you’ll find yourself much more at peace with your job.
Don’t think of these sacrifices as literal sacrifices. You’ll be giving something up, sure, but try to think of it as a type of investment. You’re giving up intangible luxuries in exchange for something better down the road. You’re paying for the opportunity to find success in your own enterprise, and your sacrifices will be rewarded many times over so long as you stay committed in your chosen path.
Remember, as an unidentified student of Warren G. Tracy said, “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so you can spend the rest of your life like most people cant.”
Start Blogging, Start a Business, and Build an Authentic Brand
Bestselling author and successful entrepreneur Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere on building a thriving business.
BY JEFF HADEN
Some months ago I published a post about commonly misused words. Several hundred thousand people read it, so it was reasonably popular, but as with most posts, in time the views slowed.
Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, tens of thousands of people read it.
I did a little digging and learned that all those readers came from one small link in a post called “Links I Love” on the fashion, food, and lifestyle inspiration blog Cupcakes and Cashmere. That’s far and away the most readers an external link has generated for one of my posts, including tweets from people with millions of Twitter followers.
Tell me where the idea came from, what you were doing at the time, what your hopes were.
I started my blog in 2008 as a purely creative endeavor. I was working in online ad sales at the time, which was a good job, but didn’t provide any sort of outlet for creativity or cover any of my passions, which are fashion, food, beauty and home decor.
I didn’t have any specific goals or ambitions, other than to document ideas and create simple content that I enjoyed and perhaps a handful of others would appreciate. Over the first six months I noticed a slight increase in traffic, which led me to think I might be able to earn a little extra income to supplement my normal salary.
Early on, what challenges did you face and what mistakes did you make?
One of the biggest challenges I faced early on was trying to do everything by myself, rather than delegating or working with other skilled people. I’m not tech savvy, so when my site would crash or I wanted to add a new feature I would spend hours looking up tutorials and sloppily coding pieces into the backend of my site… which would often make things worse.
I eventually turned to people (specifically my then boyfriend, now husband) to help find support for the growing site. Thankfully he worked in the digital media space and called in a few favors, but I definitely learned you can’t build or run a successful enterprise singlehandedly.
How did you differentiate yourself in such crowded space?
One advantage I have is longevity. I started my site when blogging (specifically fashion/lifestyle) was still a nascent area of media, so the fact that I’ve been doing it for over seven years has provided a little bit of legitimacy. I’ve also evolved over time, so rather than focusing on the same content I’ve tried to diversify and expand on the categories I cover.
A lot of the readers have grown up with me, so there is a very personal connection we share and they relate to a lot of the experiences I’ve showcased (like getting married, buying a home, having a baby) that provide a more authentic experience than simply sharing pretty photographs.
Lastly, consistency is key. I haven’t missed a post in seven years, so readers know there will be something new each morning… and I’ve heard from a lot of them that they love starting their day with a cup of coffee and reading the latest post.
Tell me about your overall theme, “aspirational meets attainable.” Intuitively I get it, but I would think striking that balance is tough.
This has been the core idea of the site since day one primarily because I wasn’t making a lot of money–so my goal was to create a lifestyle that felt elevated without draining my bank account. (A lot of this stemmed from my experience at Teen Vogue where I was exposed to a mix of amazing designers and media that was semi-relatable but simply out of reach.)
As my business has grown and I’ve been lucky enough to increase my income, I’ve worked hard to maintain the tenets of the “attainable” tone, primarily through the data we’ve collected. We know the price points readers respond to, we know the retailers they prefer… so while not every piece of content will resonate, we make sure most of what we put out is in line with what people expect to see and makes them feel comfortable.
There are a lot of blogs that suddenly change their tone or content once they begin to grow, but I feel a big part of my long-term success is built on knowing the audience and not straying from the core messaging.
How do you decide on your topic mix? You have food, clothing, household items, career advice, fashion…
Every topic is based on something I’m passionate about, but we also have a set editorial calendar to make planning easier. This has evolved and been refined over the years, based on audience response, but we look at it kind of like TV programming (i.e. Monday = Fashion & Decor, Tuesday = Food & DIY, etc.)
I think consistency and knowing what to expect on a certain day gives the audience a sense of comfort.
You make your living with your blog, which means partnerships and advertising. A great offer from a potential advertiser has to be tempting, even if it isn’t great for your brand or your audience. It’s always tough to turn away revenue.
As with many bloggers in this category I receive dozens of advertising opportunities each week, almost all of which I don’t accept.
However, the advertisers I do work with are a natural fit for the content we’re producing; you wouldn’t see me driving a Hummer in a post.
That’s not one of the advertisers I’ve turned down, but I have had offers from companies who clearly have never read my blog and have offered a lot of money to integrate a product into the site, regardless of whether their audience was even remotely aligned aligned.
You get dozens and often hundreds of comments on every post. Why do you think your audience is so engaged?
I don’t mean to sound redundant, but consistency and authenticity are the key elements to building an engaged audience.
The readers have built an emotional connection with the site and ultimately they look at it as more than just some text and words. I’ve had people approach me on the street and say, “You’re Cupcakes and Cashmere,” rather than calling me by my name, so there is sometimes a disconnect between the brand and myself… but either way, the connection is real and they relate to what I’m creating.
You’ve published one bestselling book and have another book in the works. How have you leveraged your online presence to offline products and ventures? And do you have a longer-term strategy?
My second book, Cupcakes and Cashmere at Home, comes out on May 19 and I can’t wait to share some of my favorite interior design and entertaining tips.
I’ve been working with a licensing agent for the past two years to explore and expand retail opportunities with the brand and we’re actually launching a new product line this summer. I can’t say more about it yet but it is within one of the main categories I cover on the site. We’ve locked in two large retail partners (one is brick/mortar online, one purely e-comm) and we’ve been in the process of developing two other product lines within another category.
The long-term goal is to establish a successful line of branded products that benefit from the blog but are a stand-alone business.
Say I meet you in an airport lounge, find out what you do, and say, “I’ve always wanted to start a site on (my passion.) Any quick tips you’d give me, and common mistakes to avoid?
Be patient with your goals since success will most likely come slowly, if at all.
If you’re creating original content, be prepared for it to consume a lot of your time.
For areas that you’re not skilled in, find great collaborators.
Get a basic understanding of the digital media landscape. Learn about analytics, do some research on advertising, and be able to speak about your audience value.
Be authentic and learn to differentiate yourself. Most likely the category you’ll cover is overly saturated with content, so you need to find a way to make your work stand out.
Mistakes to avoid:
Sacrificing quality over quantity. Your audience will be built on trust and the entertainment value you provide. If your quality slips, so will they.
Taking every offer that comes your way. At first it’s very tempting to accept offers from an advertiser, but ultimately, it degrades your credibility if you become an advocate for anyone willing to pay you. Be selective.
The best employees will be able to easily recall their struggles, says SpaceX’s CEO.
By Laura Montini
If your company frequently runs into complex-problem issues, it helps to be surrounded by a team of experienced problem solvers.
While that might sound overly obvious, the hard part is detecting this skill during the hiring process. You’ll want to make sure that your employees have cracked tough codes by themselves–not just by blindly following someone else’s instructions, says Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
That’s why, as a hiring rule, Musk asks job candidates to recall a problem they solved. Then he has them explain how they arrived at each and every step, up until the solution.
“If someone was really the person that solved it, they’ll be able to answer multiple levels. They’ll be able to go down to the brass tacks,” Musk said in an interview at Ignition, an annual Business Insider event. “Anyone who’s struggled hard with a problem never forgets it.”
Note that when a candidate says he or she was able to arrive at a conclusion by asking someone else or consulting a book, that’s a perfectly acceptable answer. Musk said this is exactly how he’s been studying rocket science for more than a decade. The grueling process has made him more confident in his abilities.
“When you struggle with a problem, that’s when you understand it,” he said.
I don’t know this guy from Adam, and I don’t care much for modern rap. But I will say this, many rappers (not all, but many) seem to have a good eye for business and turn out to be excellent entrepreneurs. So it is no surprise to me at all that they would turn their attention to or be involved in Capital Ventures and Start-Up operations.
So I say let the boy run as far as he can run, and Godspeed to his ventures. Hope they are enormously successful.
And I fully and definitely agree with this sentiment on the part of the author of this article: No man should restrict himself to a single venture when he could master many.
In a letter penned by VC Mark Susterexplaining the head-turning week he’s had at Upfront Ventures in Los Angeles, he explains the presence of a new face around the office: Chamillionaire. The same Chamillionaire who was showing us how to get our respective shines on not a decade ago. But if Kanye has taught us anything, it’s that we can find success in multiple creative outlets. In the past five years or so, Cham has been quietly but actively involved in the tech startup scene, from speaking on social media engagement in the music industry to hanging out with Y Combinator associates.
He’s also been making some investments himself. He was one of the earliest investors in Maker Studios, an online video network founded in 2009 and sold to Disney for $500 million last year. The firm he’s currently hanging with and advising, Upfront Ventures, has a vast portfolio that includes some acquired startups such as Bill Me Later (Rick Ross may or may not have been referring to this method of monetary transaction on his verse for Nicki Minaj’s “I Am Your Leader”). Suffice it to say that Chamillionaire has transcended the days when he explained on YouTube how Michael Jordan sonned him, or maybe that was just an early example of his Internet savvy and ability to manipulate viral stories and plant social media engagement. At any rate, in a world in which Internet entrepreneurs like Ben Horowitz make business decisions through the inspiration of rap songs, it’s not surprising to see that we now have rappers getting their own piece of the pie.
We can all agree that Chamillionaire should be given a platform to speak at the next TechCrunch Disrupt conference.
All men are, and should be regarded as, equal in public consideration and general value, but not so in personal behavior, character, and nature.
Equality as a universal concept is psychological and sociological in origin; behavior and character are entirely individual properties and pursuits.
You can make a man equal under the law, but you can make no law that will yield equals, great or small. You can declare a man equal in potential, but not so in action, ambition, or achievement. What a man eventually becomes, high or low, is entirely his own enterprise.
If you understand that then you will attempt great personal enterprises, if you do not apprehend this then no great enterprise will ever yield a profitable you.
Over the past few months, we have been talking to many entrepreneurs about their knowledge-gap around intellectual property (IP) and other important startup matters that actually impact IP or intangibles (and therefore valuation and ultimately their success). This is the first in a three part series detailing the lessons learned by these early stage companies.
First, what do I mean by traditional IP? I often joke that if I had a dollar for every person who told me they didn’t have any IP in their business, and a second dollar for those who think IP is only patents, I would be rich. Traditional IP to me is the patent or trademark protection. That is not to say that copyrights, trade secrets, and so on are not IP—far from it—but the most common IP is patents and trademarks. Unfortunately there remain some big misconceptions around protecting traditional IP.
A few brave entrepreneurs have shared their stories to help others learn about the importance of IP identification early and often.
Timing is everything
Phillip Felice, Founder of Bridge Optix, described his recent brush with IP horror in a single sentence: “I realized I have underestimated intellectual property timing importance.” Phillip was weeks away from a public release of his product when he was grilled on his company’s IP protection and strategy. He realized that his patents needed to be filed before his public product release.
We have heard other horror stories where companies have spent thousands on branding for websites, signage, or product packaging without first securing rights to a name, including trademarks. Register and secure rights before spending too much of your limited startup capital.
Location, location, location
Patents filed with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) only cover the US. The same goes for trademarks and copyrights filed with the US Copyright office.
Any entrepreneur will tell you that startup life is not for the easily daunted. Rejection, product failures, and isolation are just a few of the tests that many entrepreneurs are put through on a routine basis. Add youth and inexperience to the list of things working against you—and you can see how a startup can seem like nothing but a harsh, uphill endeavor. Luckily, entrepreneurs tend to be more optimistic than other workers, a factor that keeps them pitching to prospects and looking for ways to prove their value.
As I gather my thoughts for a panel tomorrow on how to build credibility as a young entrepreneur, I’ve been reflecting on what has helped my partners and clients say “Yes” to the diversity consulting and training pitches I’ve put in front of them over the last five years. Mind you, even if it’s not your age that presents a credibility issue, some other factor (industry experience, knowledge of a certain product type, geographic reach) may put you or your business in an ‘underdog’ position.
Here are my top strategies for proving your worth, regardless of your age, experience level or other factors you’re being judged on:
Identify What’s Sacred To Your Customer: What quickens the pulse of the group you’re pitching to? What most excites them or eludes them regardless of their efforts? In my case, a focus on amassing lots of cutting-edge inclusion best practices and focusing on Gen X and Y women helped turn pitch meetings into signed contracts. Additionally, tying innovation payoffs to diversity efforts more often than not grabbed clients’ interest. Still, what ‘did the trick’ last year for many entrepreneurs won’t necessarily pay off now. Who can inform you about what this group cares about most now? What groups and discussions are they participating in on LinkedIn? What types of events or publications do they promote and with what angle?
Don’t Wait To Go After Whales: As a new entrepreneur, I pitched to top business programs around the nation to train their students on the lessons in my first book, The Next Generation of Women Leaders. Plenty of deans and career offices didn’t respond. But thanks to casting a big net, plenty of people said “Yes.” To my sheer delight—and admittedly, terror—the first client to invite me to speak was Harvard University. That wonderful opportunity served as an instrumental “door opener” for future pitches, helping me get into Princeton, London Business School, Duke and inside many large organizations. As a new entity, many people will advise you to start small or go after the “low hanging fruit.” Don’t. Aim high.
Borrow Credibility Where Needed: Many a deal has been closed thanks to a warm introduction being made early on. When a trusted professional enthusiastically introduces you to a corporate insider, you’re getting an endorsement, and therefore a chance, that others won’t. Even if you don’t have deep relationships inside the company, go through the exercise of asking yourself who in your network could act as a strategic partner or co-creator of a compelling pitch. Your partner may have age and experience you don’t, a value added service, a Fortune 500 company on their resume, or experience in a key area that you lack. I have personally benefitted from partnership and found repeatedly that two minds were better than one, especially in client meetings.
Forecast Future Success: Even if the vision for Year 3 of your business depends heavily on performance in Year 1 and 2, have a clear path forward to share with your clients. The fact that you may be adjusting your plans minute to minute is not going to be compelling to decision makers. In a large bid that a partner and I made and won, one of the last questions we were grilled on was, “Where do you see yourself making an impact in 3-4 years?” We had a ready answer about an exciting area of research we wanted to spearhead and how we’d devise services around our learning. How can you look ahead and create a vision for the future? Your prospect may not be looking for total certainty, but they need to know you have a strategy with future mile markers of value.
More than anything, if you want to get hired, you need to promote trust. Are you creating certainty that you’ll deliver ably on what you’re selling? Even more important, are you demonstrating to prospects that if you take a wrong step or a crisis erupts on their end, that you’ll have the kind of smarts and agility to correct your course of action or manage the change?
What has worked for you to build credibility? Would do you think that young entrepreneurs need to know most?
Selena Rezvani is a women’s leadership speaker, workplace consultant, and author of Pushback: How Smart Women Ask–and Stand Up–for What They Want. Connect with her at nextgenwomen.com and @SelenaRezvani on Twitter.
Many people do not understand the relationship between their habits and their character, or between their outlook and their Nature. Yet it is evidently and obviously there in all we do. The great thing is all parts of our selves are under our own control. If we wish them to be.
Most people interpret fears as obstacles and tend to run away from them. People who live their purpose successfully have developed the capacity to see fear as a sign of what they really need to go for and put all their courage and energy into it.
2. They see life as a game.
Having this vision of life opens up space for playfulness and creativity instead of limitation. This also cultivates qualities of resilience, problem solving and confidence that helps them take risks to get to the next big place.
3. Living the life they want is the only option.
They’re so committed to making their dreams a reality that they banish any possibility of a backup plan whatsoever from their mind. They don’t think things like, “If it doesn’t work, I’ll just go get a job.”
4. They always speak their truth.
They’re able to speak it because they make a conscious effort to connect to their truest desires, their inner voice, and their spirituality without fear of judgment. This connection is typically fostered through meditation, journaling, being mentored and being surrounded by like minded-people…”