Here’s How One Woman Became An Entrepreneur

Digital Marketing Strategist

Sherry Tingley – Digital Marketing Strategist

Sherry Tingley didn’t become an entrepreneur overnight. It was a step-by-step learning process, with many a detour and slip en route. She’s still learning, she says, but she’s no longer a tyro.

In a recent interview with Mint, the personal finance management website, she tells how her business, primarily developing websites on the Internet, has steadily grown and is now providing the underpinning for rapid growth and improvement.

Checks? Haven’t they become an anachronism, given the rise of online banking, debit cards and digital wallets? Not even close. American banks process more than 24 billion checks annually, she says. Many people, even while using new technologies to make their everyday purchases, bring out the checkbook for paying regular bills and make other financial exchanges. Small businesses use them to pay vendors, employees and other expenses. Deluxe Corporation, largest of the check-printing companies, has seen a rise in stocks from $16.18 per share in July 2009 to $59.71 per share in July 2014.

Sherry shares her experience and growing expertise via a personal finance blog housed on the CoolChecks site. The site focuses on general finance wisdom as well as updates on the check-printing world, including the most popular check designs and changes (how about skull-and-crossbones, a range of jungle prints and the latest Disney characters?)

She began her venture into e-marketing from square one. Like millions of Americans, she had little practical knowledge of personal finances, beyond the most basic household management. High school and college had done little to add to that base. At 51, she was the mother of two teenagers, still renting and earning less than $30,000 per year. She looked at the reality and decided it needed to change.

“I decided to educate myself about anything I could do to control my financial future,” she told Mint. “I vowed I would try everything in my power to avoid personal financial mistakes and focus on increasing my income.” She drew on available resources such as Fool.com forums and began to understand how she could make better use of the money she had. She received a lot of encouragement and support after paying off $5,000 in credit card debt and kept going. She read everything she could find that expounded on personal finance, from Dave Ramsey to Suze Orman. She consciously looked for ways to increase income without going into debt.

Some of the money-making approaches she tried didn’t work. But instead of throwing in the towel, she began to teach herself web design, PHP programming and the effective use of MySQL databases. More successes in affiliate marketing followed as she added to her knowledge about money management, wise investing and web development skills.

There is a long road behind, but she now is looking at financial security. She has two residential properties, invests regularly in mutual funds and has a savings account for emergencies. “Most importantly, I make much better financial decisions on a regular basis than I did in the past,” she says.

Her blog is aimed at anyone who needs help with finances. She focuses on setting budgets, controlling spending and distinguishing between needs and wants. She looks for ways to save money on media bills and other expenses. “I abhor the way that credit card companies entice people to spend more and more. The consequences of uncontrolled credit card debt can be devastating. Most of my articles help people deal with human mistakes in financial judgment.” Another area of emphasis is entrepreneurship. Sharing success stories of start-ups that make it is one of the ways she does that

Sherry sees the tendency of Americans to want what they want when they want it as one of the greatest challenges to wise money management. A little patience and a little time spent on comparison shopping, along with some realistic analysis between what is needed and what is merely wanted can help resolve this weakness, she says.

A careful and honest look at resources and necessary outlay is the place to begin to build a good budget, Sherry advises. Spreadsheets are available to help in the process. Then make a monthly evaluation of that budget the basis for spending. You can’t reach financial goals without knowing where you are, where you want to be and how you can get there. Whether you earn $15,000 a year or over $250,000 a year, the formula remains the same.

Money is not the objective per se, but what it can do for you, she tells the Mint readers. Living within a budget and saving for the future can open opportunities not possible by using haphazard finance practices. Sherry takes counsel from “Invictus,” a poem by Ernest Henley: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

Today’s checks, she told Mint, are a far cry from the past. Her CoolChecks.net site offers more than 6,367 products all check related. In all, the database has more than 20,000 items. Unique designs give buys the opportunity to express themselves with every check they use. There even is the option of printing one’s own picture on checks. The most popular designs of the moment are animals prints, with a pink zebra leading the pack. Girly themes (such as high heels) are hot with the ladies and sports checks, including Harley-Davidson designs, rank high with the men. The idea is to give you a lift each time you write a check. It’s a matter of expressing your own individuality.

Options for business checks are consistent with the varieties of check-printing equipment most companies use. The Quickbooks checks tend to be popular with small businesses. Travel checks top business choices today.

Checks are her thing, Sherry emphasizes, but the same business and financial principles apply to any product. Successful entrepreneurship lies in preparing and then applying sound business practices. Her own experience shows that it can and does work.

Mink 3D Printer Produces Eye Shadows And Makeup

Grace Choi presenting at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2014

Grace Choi presenting at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2014

More and more people are looking for ways to make 3D printing pay. Grace Choi is one of those who has found a practical use for the technology. She invented Mink as a way to “print” makeup allowing users to pick designer colors from images.

The Next Big Thing

3D printing is being touted as the next big thing in computer technology, a process in which a computer replicates an item by adding layers of a chosen material, following a digital pattern. It is expected to blossom over the next few years into multiple uses as diverse as body replacement parts and food products.

Choi explained her Mink process to interested critics during the TechCrunch Disrupt NY2014 meeting in early May. It was held at the Manhattan Center in New York and was an opportunity for innovators to share their concepts incorporating 3D printing.

Mink's 3D Printer Prints Eye Shadow, Lipstick And More

Mink’s 3D Printer Prints Eye Shadow, Lipstick And More

Make Up Ingredients

Choi started from the premise that almost all makeup products are created from basic substrates, whether it ends up in pricey high-class shops or on the shelves of the neighborhood has-it-all shopping center. Problem is, these outlets don’t cover the waterfront in color and shade, but tend to cater to a mid-range of customers. Mink allows endless choices.

Computer Generated Color Selections

She looked at the principle that the basic contents of makeup are the same and developed that concept into computer-generated makeup that can employ any color imaginable to suit the maker. Using software that already exists, the operator can print powder, blush, eye shadow, lip gloss or any other type of makeup. Imagine getting up in the morning and custom-designing your makeup to match your clothing selection for the day. (And the gurus predict that some day, 3D printing will be used to produce that dress you want to match, as well!)

3D printer technology allows picking colors directly from digital photos.

3D printer technology allows picking colors directly from digital photos.

Choi told the New York panel that her pre-production research showed that those who buy makeup don’t tend to be resolutely loyal to any particular brand, but are looking for convenience. What’s more convenient than your own home?

Serial Inventor

The young woman innovator, who terms herself a “serial inventor,” said she had plenty of failures as she worked toward Mink. But she is looking forward to putting her product on the market later this year, at a suggested price of $200 per unit. The target buyer group will be those 13 to 21, a demographic that is not firmly set in its makeup-buying habits.

Future Plans

At the same time, she will keep researching and hoping to alliances with companies that can enhance the prospects for success. She will be talking with some of the big printers such as Epson to see if deals can be made that would be rewarding for her and for them as the role of 3D printing increases. She continues to study how she can make Mink competitive with the mass market. Her big selling point is the number and variety of colors that can be used in Mink.

She is keeping a finger on the pulse of fashion and talking with those who influence fashion trends.

Look for more uses for 3D printing as innovators such as Choi really get down to the job.

Visit Coolchecks.net/blog for more 3D Printer stories.

Small Business Tips From Entrepreneur Kirk Taylor

Serial entrepreneur Kirk Taylor

Kirk Taylor, Serial Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Kirk Taylor has been successful at building many companies from scratch. As a serial entrepreneur  with experience stretching back 34 years ago, he is happy to share what he has learned to help  small business owners. Although success and building new companies is somewhat akin to riding a roller coaster. Ups and downs are bound to occur.

Working Hard

His first company project was launching and building  LimoLink, a website that catered to transportation needs for people all over the world who were seeking elegant rides.  A second company was built after that experience. It was successful enough to produce revenues of $20 million annually within a three year period of time.  The company was recognized as one of the fastest growing private companies by INC magazine. He was also awarded Entrepreneur of the year for small-midsize companies in Iowa.He reveled in sales tallying in the neighborhood of $20 million in three years.

He left the company in 2002 eager to move on to bigger and greener pastures and start on a new project.  “I’m not a CEO-type guy,” he says. “I like the starting-up phase.”  But he was wise enough to take what he’d learned in his first experiences with him, and creating new opportunities in other niches.

Seeking Opportunities

Catching on quick to an opportunity and moving double quick to get it functional is what real entrepreneurs do, Taylor says.

Kirk Taylor knew a good thing when he saw it.  “It” was the weekly ABC Shark Tank Show. Entrepreneurs who have what they are convinced is a good business idea have an opportunity to try to raise capital if their idea is appealing to the panel members.  Panel members are five recognized business geniuses who are millionaires, and billionaires ready to invest in new ideas. The panel members listen to the pitch, then offer (or don’t offer)  partnerships providing money and sometimes expertise to the entrepreneur.

Taylor assumed, rightly, that the show was going to attract a huge audience of people itching to get into business or to improve a business already established. He piggy-backed by creating a blog focused on Shark Tank’s entrepreneur interviews. Communication then opened up between Shark Tank producers and Kirk.

One of the people who has been very helpful to him is Barbara Corcoran, one of the Sharks who swims weekly in the ABC Tank.  On his blog, he interviews contestants of the show and publishes those interviews.  The blog has become very popular,” he says. “She has given me scoops regarding things that are likely to happen, but we have no direct conversation. It’s a trust relationship,” he says, “and I work hard at keeping that trust. I’m careful not to abuse it.”

Be Realistic

Over his years as a successful serial entrepreneur, Taylor has learned a thing or two (or a whole lot more) about the relative roles of idealism and realism . Without the dream, nothing happens, “But there has to be realism, too.” Most entrepreneurs, in his very educated opinion, are strong-willed people who learn to recognize that magic spot where idealism has to be set aside for the sake of facing up to the real business world.

Get Funded

The barrier that trips up many would-be businesses short of success is the money issue, he says. “Every entrepreneur has to raise capital.”  Trying to go solo on that challenge without any understanding of the  process has sunk many a newcomer to the competition. He suggests involving others who know the ropes and can find the most suitable investors to back your idea. Often the entrepreneur has friends with expertise. “Work them all.”

Small Business Mistakes

His own biggest mistakes in building companies, he admits, have been in turning too much control over to managers. When he associated himself with people who had been successful in big companies, the tendency then became to let them supplant him at the top of the decision-making pyramid. “That’s been a real disaster,” he says. It’s the entrepreneur’s life, financial well-being and ability to keep expanding that’s on the line — too much personal investment to turn it over to someone else without restraints, he has learned.

Goals

The most important goal, according to Kirk, is to get to a point in life where you and your company are completely debt free. In 2008, he turned to affiliate marketing, building yet another new source of income. “I like it,” he says. He sees “huge potential in sales with relatively low start up expenses.” He likes the independence it offers and the feeling of not being bound to others when decisions need to be made.

Life Is Crap? Entrepreneur Capitalizes On The Fact

Everyone who is actually inhaling and exhaling on a regular basis knows it. Life is crap. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we end up in the soup. Anyone over two has already learned to expect the unexpected. (Actually, it starts long before you reach two, but Mom takes care of it. It’s part of her crappy life.)

So, what’s a person to do? Paul Wheeler believes the only answer is laughter. The whole focus of his company — predictably named Life is Crap — is to take the inevitable, put it up front and visible and laugh it off. “It’s our mission,” says Wheeler of his Manchester, Vt., company. Together with his partner, Ken Lefevre, they have successful brought the company to the marketplace.

“Everything we do revolves around the idea that crap happens and that laughter is the cure.”

That means the message shows up on T-shirts, caps —anywhere an individual can make a statement on the way things are in this troubled world. The company is now expanding into cheap checks that give folks a frequent opportunity to reflect on the vagaries of life and apply their sense of humor. “We’ve seen what works, now we’re scaling up. We’re always looking for ways to expand.” Always within the boundaries of the basic concept, he adds. That careful attention to sticking to initial principles has turned Life is Crap into a $10 million dollar enterprise.

If you ended up with a bad split in the bowling alley, there it is—a shirt showing the ball rolling easily between the two widely separated pins. Out of wine? Lament the fact with a public display of the empty glass. The bicycle depicted crashing into the pile of dirt at the bottom of the hill? It has happened to all of us. Wheeler and crew simply take the universal hazards of everyday living and put them out there where everyone can laugh along. The company customizes such items as magnets, books, calendars, shirt, caps, towels, hoodies, key rings, shot glasses, beer steins, decals, greeting cards, page a day calendars items— any desired surface that will accommodate an image.

Looking at the irritations of life might seem like a negative approach, but those who retail his products don’t seem to mind, Wheeler has found. No one has ever complained. Of course, that means finding the best outlets for Life is Crap merchandise. Someone lacking the sense of humor to appreciate the products, obviously, isn’t the one to present them to his purchasing public, Wheeler has found. The bah-humbuggers who refuse to find humor in life are to be avoided. And there are, believe it or not, some “crap” areas that don’t translate well to the buying public.

There have been some bombs along the learning curve. The company thought that politics was a logical target for its kind of humor and found that, in fact, no serious person of any political persuasion wanted anyone publicly poking fun at their well-known areas of crap. That venture was a failed effort that cost time and money, he said.

Another spot too sensitive to subject it to humor, the company found, is the current economy. No merchant wanted his customers reminded that times are tough. The popular idea of what’s funny changes with time and events, Life is Crap has found, but there is always plenty of grist for its mill in just the ongoing, everlasting irritations that humans endure. The company expects to continue to thrive on items that make the enduring easier.

The whole road to success, Wheeler said, has been a process of trial and error. When the group started, they were up against the same basic questions each new small business faces. How to put their ideas into concrete products. How to find the best business model to meet their goals. How to allocate the existing resources most effectively. Where to find the most effective market outlets. They spent a year in development.

To date, the company has developed some 500 images, licensed them and marketed through over 1100 stores. As the small business got a toe hold in the market, the next logical step was putting the goods online, he said. “We buy back product from the manufacturer and sell it online. We’ve done well and have seen it grow. Now we are focused on getting traffic to our site.”

The basic concept for Life is Crap requires employees who are in tune, he said. The group is small—just five employees—but they comprise the gamut of artistic and business savvy that is making Life is Crap a growing concern. Being constantly alert to possibilities has contributed to the growing of the company’s product lines. Pure serendipity, in fact, had a hand in bringing designer checks into the fold. Wheeler, et al, met the owner of Carousel Checks during a trade show. There was an exchange of ideas and voila! Another licensing arrangement was born.

Life Is Crap T-Shirts

Fun T-Shirts By Life Is Crap


In 2012, the company will be focused in building and expanding our direct to consumer internet business. New products to be launched include several other related sub-brands: Life is Poop — for infants, Life is Ruff for dog lovers, Old Life is Crap for Senior Citizens, College Life is Crap for College Students and Life is Beer — for BEER LOVERS.

The fact that life is crappy is not likely to end soon. There is always the bird overhead looking for a place to unload. That bodes well for Wheeler and Life is Crap as they look for new targets for their brand of humor.

Facebook Used to Make Money Online

Brian Campbell made $25,000 in 21 days on Facebook

Brian Campbell made an initial claim on his Facebook page that he could make $10,000 in 37 days.

Well, he surpassed his original claim and made $25,000 in 21 days. He decided to pay it forward and gifted John Chow $10,000.

So, how do you make money using Facebook?

To begin with, sign up for an account and learn how to use various applications of Facebook to reprint your website blog feed, find and communicate with friends, post videos, provide valuable content to your visitors and provide leadership to anyone who wants to improve their financial condition.

History of the Development of the Facebook Website

In 2008, Forbes Magazine declared the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, 24 years-old, the youngest self-made billionaire on earth with an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion U.S. dollars. Described as a young geeky computer programmer, Mark is the mogul who is guiding the extraordinary growth of Facebook.

In 2006, Yahoo offered to buy Facebook for a billion dollars, but Mark Zuckerberg declined. Microsoft then made him an offer of $240 million dollars to gain 1.6% of the company. Based on this information, some analysts came to the conclusion that Facebook is worth $15 Billion dollars. Not all analyst agree on that valuation.

Mark Zuckerberg is not new to the field of computer programming. He wrote his first software program in the 6th grade. In high school he was approached by both Microsoft and AOL due to a hacking project he was involved in. He decided to go to Harvard University instead.

He built the original Facebook site in two weeks, while attending Harvard. Within a short period of time, more than 2/3 of the student body at Harvard was using the program. Within four months they had launched the program to over 40 colleges. He expanded Facebook to be used in high schools and then in 2006, he opened it up to the public.

Facebook now has more than 700 employees, has hired a lawyer, shares more than ten billion photos, has 100-million-plus users and is connecting people with each other like they have never been able to connect before.

Facebook Helps Entrepreneurs

It has been said that marketing in 2008 begins with conversations and what better way to have conversations with people than being an active member of the Facebook community? People around the world are using Facebook to connect with each other for social purposes and that provides the ultimate medium to network and share your personal recommendations for a huge variety of products and purposes. What kind of marketing system can you create on Facebook?

Watch the interview with Mark Zuckerberg on 60 Minutes here:

 

Updated October 21, 2013

In 2013, Facebook and Google reached an agreement about advertising. In a few months, Google will be able to buy ads on the Facebook ad exchange. A similar agreement was also made with Amazon.com. With Facebook being the advertiser’s nirvana, this may be the biggest surge forward to this date.

Forbes magazine, Sept., 2013 reported Zuckerberg to be worth $19 billion coming in a #20 of the Forbes 400 richest Americans.