3 Smart Steps to take to Grow Your Startup

… Want to grow your startup and you don’t know what elements to focus on? The road to success is different for everyone, however, this article highlights some factors you should consider to grow your business… 

By Azugbene Solomon

Are you taking the right steps to put your ideas into action? How well are you prepared before going into entrepreneurship?

Did you know that only 50 percent of startups survive more than five years? Unfortunately, many startups fail to achieve product-market fit. Without a smart growth strategy in place, startups have no clear roadmap towards long-term success.

Entrepreneurship offers a lot, especially, if you know how to easily get your new business off the ground. However, do you know what it takes to create a business that you believe will serve a need for the public successfully?

The fact is that starting a successful business is not as easy as eating cake. This is a journey you mustn’t start if you don’t have an idea of where you are going.

While you’re anxious to get started, you will realise you’re just another name in a sea of competition. This is why you have to build your brand and develop relationships within and outside the business. This is one of the best ways to gain access to customers and grow your business.

How to grow your startup to the maximum

Do you know how to grow your startup to the maximum? Do you actually know how to keep your company moving forward with smart business expansion principles?

So, how do you start? What elements should you focus on? The road to success is different for everyone, however, position your startup for sustained success and build a growth strategy that actually works by following these simple steps:

1. Network and connect

Some of the most successful businesses have professional ties with other companies in the industry. By developing a network of professionals, you can turn to you have more resources at your fingertips to grow your business.

Networking allows you to share knowledge and ask questions of like-minded professionals. Also, it creates an environment for opportunities and opens you up to other markets and connections.

  • Attend Networking Events and Trade Shows
    There are often networking events for startups and entrepreneurs that you can attend. You can find out about these events by following organizations on social media, joining professional groups and organizations, and checking regularly at local hotels where such events are often held.
  • Host your own event
    There’s no better way to introduce yourself to the professional world than to host your own networking event. With the use of digital tools like a conference app and social media, inviting and updating guests won’t be much of an issue. During the event, you have the opportunity to showcase what your business has to offer and build lasting connections.

2. Build Awareness

Being known among other businesses is a must, however, you can’t grow your business if potential customers don’t know you exist.

Brand awareness is an imperative and continual part of growing your business. As a business owner, you can effectively leverage social media for brand awareness and sales.

While some of this is done by providing quality service, a lot of building brand awareness will come from your ability to market your business. Two common areas of marketing are traditional and digital:

  • Traditional Marketing
    This is your typical marketing tactics that have been used for years. This includes marketing methods like using business cards, flyers, promotional products, signage, cold calls, commercials, radio broadcasts, and other solutions to spread awareness about your brand.
  • Digital Marketing
    Whether you have a physical business location or you run your show from home having a strong online presence is imperative to building brand awareness. A reliable website, social media accounts, blogs, and compelling content all play a crucial role in your brand’s ability to reach your target audience.

3. Develop Relationships

Relationships building is very important when it comes to entrepreneurship. As a business owner, for your business to grow, you must focus on the core purpose for your success – your customers.

When startups take the time to develop authentic business relationships with their customers, they are put in a position where they can better serve them.

This thus results in long-term relationships and repeat business. But how do you develop a positive relationship with your customers?

  • Learn more about the customer
    The trick to selling your products or services is appealing to the needs, wants, and/or interests of your customers. It is imperative that you not only know who your company can best serve but how you can best do this. Customer satisfaction surveys, interaction through social media, and research can help you to learn about your customer.
  • Provide quality services
    You can’t very well expect to develop strong relationships with your customers if you’re not providing quality service. Customer service should be a huge part of your business strategy to grow. Focus on ways to provide friendly, simplified, and convenient services to your customers. Go above and beyond what is expected to ensure that every encounter they have with your business is a good one.

Conclusion

As tartup, like a little baby, has to be nurtured with utmost care and intuitive outlook.

However, while putting in the effort to your brand and products, it’s also important to take smart steps that’ll make the long-run totally worth it at the end of the tunnel.

Hence, smart up and apply the above effective tips to your startup to watch your brand soar beyond bounds.

Reference
1. 3 Smart Steps to take to Grow Your Startup and Take it to the Max by Onaplatterofgold.com

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Ideas Malawi young entrepreneurs summit Thursday at BICC

By Nyasatimes.com (Chris Loka)

Malawi is Thursday hosting the first ever all-youth entrepreneurial summit whose purported goal is to bring together players in the industry to share experiences and discuss viable ideas that can help move the country forward.

Mwendo: An opportunity for young entrepreneurs to come together and push for policies that can allow them to flourish

Joshua Mwendo PR & Marketing Consultancy has partnered with Ideas Malawi for the summit which breathes to life from May 8 to 9 at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in the capital Lilongwe.

The summit, which will run under the theme ‘Breaking Barriers’, will, among others, feature five talk sessions from entrepreneurs.

“It will also be spiced performances and creative exhibitions from existing enterprises being run by the youths apart from being graced by industry leaders and experts that have made it,” said Mwendo, PR & Marketing Consultancy managing director.

According to Mwendo, the summit will be an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to come together and push for policies that can allow them to flourish and grow their businesses.

He said in an interview with Nyasa Times on Tuesday that much as it was possible for one to do things on their own, it was imperative for young people to come together and discuss entrepreneurship for posterity.

“As a young entrepreneur myself, I am certain this will be a great opportunity to connect with fellows and numerous business associates,” he said.

Organizers of the event, Ideas Malawi, a firm geared at enhancing opportunities for the youths has pledged its support to the existing business structures by promoting youth in the business sector with mentorship and starter-up capital.

How to build self-confidence

Featured photo credit: The Stilled Man

By Azugbene Solomon

“Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand brake on.” — Maxwell Maltz

Nobody is born with limitless self-confidence. If someone seems to have incredible self-confidence, it’s because he or she has worked on building it for years. Self-confidence is something that you learn to build up because the challenging world of business, and life in general, can deflate it.

An online negative review, a request for a refund from a customer or a flat rejection from investors can cause our self-confidence to dwindle. Well-meaning but sometimes unkind comments from those closest to us can also hit us hard.

On top of this, we have to deal with our inner critic of self-doubt that constantly tells us that we are not good enough. When bombarded by so many elements that threaten our self-confidence, we need to take charge of building it up for ourselves.

As we teach at Skill Incubator, building a successful business requires a thick skin and unshakable confidence in your ability to overcome obstacles.

10 Things You Can Do to Boost Self-Confidence

Confidence can be a tough thing to build up. We’ve put together some handy tips to help you out.

Here are 10 things you can do to build up your self-confidence.

1. Visualize yourself as you want to be.

“What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.” — Napoleon Hill

Visualization is the technique of seeing an image of yourself that you are proud of, in your own mind. When we struggle with low self-confidence, we have a poor perception of ourselves that is often inaccurate. Practice visualizing a fantastic version of yourself, achieving your goals.

2. Affirm yourself.

“Affirmations are a powerful tool to deliberately install desired beliefs about yourself.” — Nikki Carnevale

We tend to behave in accordance with our own self-image. The trick to making lasting change is to change how you view yourself.

Affirmations are positive and uplifting statements that we say to ourselves. These are normally more effective if said out loud so that you can hear yourself say it. We tend to believe whatever we tell ourselves constantly. For example, if you hate your own physical appearance, practice saying something that you appreciate or like about yourself when you next look in the mirror.

To get your brain to accept your positive statements more quickly, phrase your affirmations as questions such as, “Why am I so good at making deals?” instead of “I am so good at making deals.” Our brains are biologically wired to seek answers to questions, without analyzing whether the question is valid or not.

3. Do one thing that scares you every day.

“If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.” — T. Harv Eker

The best way to overcome fear is to face it head-on. By doing something that scares you every day and gaining confidence from every experience, you will see your self-confidence soar. So get out of your comfort zone and face your fears!

4. Question your inner critic.

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” — Louise L. Hay

Some of the harshest comments that we get come from ourselves, via the “voice of the inner critic.” If you struggle with low self-confidence, there is a possibility that your inner critic has become overactive and inaccurate.

Strategies such as cognitive behavioral therapy help you to question your inner critic, and look for evidence to support or deny the things that your inner critic is saying to you. For example, if you think that you are a failure, ask yourself, “What evidence is there to support the thought that I am a failure?” and “What evidence is there that doesn’t support the thought that I am a failure?”

Find opportunities to congratulate, compliment and reward yourself, even for the smallest successes. As Mark Twain said, “[A] man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.”

5. Take the 100 days of rejection challenge.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

Jia Jiang has become famous for recording his experience of “busting fear” by purposefully making crazy requests of people in order to be rejected over 100 days. His purpose was to desensitize himself to rejection, after he became more upset than he expected over rejection from a potential investor. Busting fear isn’t easy to do, but if you want to have fun while building up your self-confidence, this is a powerful way to do it.

6. Set yourself up to win.

“To establish true self-confidence, we must concentrate on our successes and forget about the failures and the negatives in our lives.” — Denis Waitley

Too many people are discouraged about their abilities because they set themselves goals that are too difficult to achieve. Start by setting yourself small goals that you can win easily.

Once you have built a stream of successes that make you feel good about yourself, you can then move on to harder goals. Make sure that you also keep a list of all your achievements, both large and small, to remind yourself of the times that you have done well.

Instead of focusing only on “to-do” lists, I like to spend time reflecting on “did-it” lists. Reflecting on the major milestones, projects and goals you’ve achieved is a great way to reinforce confidence in your skills.

7. Help someone else.

Helping someone else often enables us to forget about ourselves and to feel grateful for what we have. It also feels good when you are able to make a difference for someone else.

Instead of focusing on your own weaknesses, volunteer to mentor, assist or teach another, and you’ll see your self-confidence grow automatically in the process.

8. Care for yourself.

“Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” — Parker Palmer

Self-confidence depends on a combination of good physical health, emotional health and social health. It is hard to feel good about yourself if you hate your physique or constantly have low energy.

Make time to cultivate great exercise, eating and sleep habits. In addition, dress the way you want to feel. You have heard the saying that “clothes make the man.” Build your self-confidence by making the effort to look after your own needs.

9. Create personal boundaries.

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”– Harvey Fierstein

Learn to say no. Teach others to respect your personal boundaries. If necessary, take classes on how to be more assertive and learn to ask for what you want. The more control and say that you have over your own life, the greater will be your self-confidence.

10. Shift to an equality mentality.

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” — Marilyn Monroe

People with low self-confidence see others as better or more deserving than themselves. Instead of carrying this perception, see yourself as being equal to everyone. They are no better or more deserving than you. Make a mental shift to an equality mentality and you will automatically see an improvement in your self-confidence.

Conclusion
Try to find something that you’re really passionate about. It could be photography, sport, knitting or anything else! When you’ve worked out your passion, commit yourself to giving it a go. Chances are, if you’re interested or passionate about a certain activity, you’re more likely to be motivated and you’ll build skills more quickly.

Sometimes the quick fixes don’t help in the long term. If you’re feeling bad and things just don’t seem to be improving, it’s worth talking to someone who knows how to help.

Reference
10 Things You Can Do to Boost Self-Confidence by Chris W. Dunn. Entrepreneur.com

10 Different Ways To Encourage Youth Entrepreneurship


By Robyn D. Shulman


Social Entrepreneurs


I cover the intersection of education and entrepreneurship.


In 2010, world-renowned education and innovation expert, Sir Ken Robinson released a short animated film, titled Changing Education Paradigms. In the video, Robinson argues that our current education system stifles and anesthetizes creativity while it lowers the capacity for divergent thinking.

Robinson states, “Divergent thinking is not the same thing as creative thinking, but that it is an essential capacity for creativity.” He also refers to a paper clip study in the book Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today, by George Land and Beth Jarman. The paper clip study followed 1,500 kindergarten students through elementary, middle and high school.

As the students moved up through grade levels, the authors asked the question: “How many uses can you think of for a paper clip?” When the authors first proposed the question in kindergarten, 98% of students scored at genius level in divergent thinking. By the age of 10 years old, only 32% of the same group scored as high, and by age 15, only 10% remained at genius level.

Rather than developing the natural gifts of curiosity and high-level thinking, the traditional teaching model we still use today can stifle creativity, innovation, and divergent thinking.

Unfortunately, for most, our current school system does not align with 21st-century student needs, or the rapid changes we see on an economic, social, and global level.

Many parents are not aware of the misalignment between education and the unknown jobs of tomorrow. The common belief about securing a job right out of college no longer holds true. In fact, for many, college is simply not the right path. According to Student Loan Hero, Americans owe over $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, and the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt. Although unemployment rates have dropped, many Millennials work in low-paying, entry-level positions far away from their field of undergraduate studies.

Given these statistics, it is critical for all adults to pave a better road for the next generation and to encourage entrepreneurship.

If you have a young child or work with children, here are ten things you can do now to introduce entrepreneurship skills early.

Encourage divergent thinking:

Through informal discussions, ask open-ended questions, work on problem-solving, share ideas and build on learning experiences together. Teach children to question, research, and ask for further information. Ask them to take notice of things in their daily lives. For example, when they see a problem or feel frustrated about something, ask them how they would solve the issue, or make it better. Let your child guide, discover and make connections on their own. When the opportunity presents itself, practice divergent thinking at home.

Create a safe-space for ideas:

Divergent thinking is most likely to thrive in a safe environment that welcomes all types of ideas, encourages risk-taking and allows for fast failure. Kids who feel safe are more likely to share ideas, step outside of their comfort zones, and take on more challenges. You can support divergent thinking, encourage individual expression and foster creativity by building a safe space for youth.

Challenge ideas:

Encourage your children to ask why we do things in a certain way. Teach them to look at problems and find various solutions. When we make challenges, it forces us to begin thinking of alternatives.

Encourage leaders through ownership:

Praise kids for unique ideas to solving problems, and for having the confidence to share their solutions. You can also refer to their ideas with unique names such as “Stacy’s Solution” or “Anthony’s Answers.”

Build an Idea Box:

When I taught middle school, many parents asked me how to encourage innovation at home. In my classroom, I kept an empty box for students to drop idea notes. When they had an idea, figured out how to solve a problem, or noticed how to make an improvement, they wrote down their thoughts, and added them to the “Idea Box.” At the end of the week, we went through these various ideas together.

You can create an “Idea Box” at home while including the entire family. Using this strategy can encourage everyone to share new possible ventures, foster communication skills, and build confidence in a group setting.

After you’ve gone through some viable ideas, encourage kids to take action.

Provide experiences:

Take your kids to different places and let them explore. Pay attention to their natural curiosities and guide them toward those interests. As they grow, you can begin to see naturally born passions. Their creativity and innovation will come to the forefront when they participate in things they enjoy doing.

Let kids fail:

Let your children fail and teach them how to learn from their mistakes. Show them how to get back up, self-reflect on what they learned, and move on. Failure teaches kids how to be resilient in any situation, and it is critical for building self-confidence and a healthy mindset.

Financial literacy:

Schools do not teach financial literacy nearly as much as they should. Introduce money early on and give them goals and responsibilities for managing their finances. Show them the importance of saving and investing. Open a savings or checking account with them. If possible, give them an incentive to save money by offering a matching contribution.

Model positive relationships:

Entrepreneurs understand the importance of pursuing and building meaningful relationships. People like to work with and purchase goods from those they find likeable. Talk with your kids about their friendships, and focus on the importance of compassion, giving back and listening.

Communicate:

Many nights, my daughter and I chat about my work day and her school day. Through these casual conversations, she understands the power she has to go after her dreams while understanding reality at the same time. Make communication a priority as well as a safe place to talk about ideas, answer questions, and be a sounding board. Communication is key to divergent thinking, creativity, and successful entrepreneurship, and the model must start at home.

By cultivating continuous improvement in these areas, we can give children the confidence to move outside their comfort zones, provide mental tools for growth, encourage creativity and support future entrepreneurs.

Although some schools are embracing this new way of thinking, many are still far behind in the industrial age of teaching and learning. Don’t depend on a school to bring these critical skills and successful life strategies to the forefront.

Always keep the paper clip in mind. Encourage your kids to see their paper clips in many different ways throughout their school years. You may find your child is a natural born entrepreneur.

If you are interested in divergent thinking, education, creativity, and entrepreneurship, you will find tremendous value in the video below presented by RSA Animate and Sir Ken Robinson


I am honored to be named LinkedIn’s #1 Top Voice in Education, 2018. I am also the founder of EdNews Daily and the Managing Editor at Influencer Inc. In addition, I also…MORE
Honored to be named LinkedIn’s #1 Top Voice in Education, 2018. Certified K-9 and ESL teacher, Executive Editor, Influencer Inc and currently run all thought-leadership pieces for 51Talk, China.


This article was first published at www.forbes.com


Plan for Your Future: Tips For Young African Professionals

By Marguerita Cheng

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

The frenetic pace of our digital lives is dizzying! We are constantly on the move! Too many things to do, people to see and places to go. Of course, we all want to be ready for retirement some day, but too often we delay planning for our future. Young professionals, in particular, are so focused on building their careers that they haven’t the time or inclination to think about a time when that career will be behind them. To them, retirement is just a nebulous dream in the distant future. Planning, saving and investing for retirement will just have to wait.

If you have trouble focusing on the savings moves you need to make, changing the conversation from ‘retirement planning’ to ‘planning for your future’ has a better chance of capturing your attention.

Here are some strategies to help young professionals take charge of their financial future:

1. Make a plan.

Identifying the right goals, developing your written plan to reach those goals, and implementing the action steps required to attain those goals can make all the difference between financial success and failure later in life. If you make a plan, you’ll be more motivated to build your savings and start investing.

2. Share your goals.

Doing so is a critical component of goal setting. When you share your goals, you benefit from an instant support network of people who have a vested interest in your savings success. This also leads to conversation around your investing goals so that you can access the insight and knowledge you need to achieve them. Finally, it makes you accountable to others for the realization of your goals – a powerful motivator!

3. Set resolutions.

This can be overwhelming if you put them in all-or-nothing terms. Avoid making resolutions such as, “I will start saving and investing 50 percent of my income each week,” or “I won’t go to Starbucks anymore,” or “I will go to the gym every morning.” These resolutions are so rigid that if you deviate at all from these absolutes, you may feel like a failure. Instead, try setting goals that can advance your progress, such as, “I will go out for coffee two or three times a week instead of every day,” or “I will increase the number of times I go to the gym each week.”

4. Take small steps forward.

While accomplishing your biggest goals may seem daunting, savings and investment goals become attainable when you take baby steps. As you become more comfortable with saving and investing more, it becomes easier to add new goals to your plan. It will also be easier to sustain the growth you’ve accomplished. Be sure to celebrate your financial success along the way!

5. Be patient.

Savings and investment goals provide a sense of purpose and direction, but it’s easy to revert to past habits and abandon your resolutions. Rather than give up when your goals feel elusive, use the opportunity to modify your plan by selecting an alternative activity, perhaps by adjusting the amount of savings or rebalancing your investments.

6. Think realistically.

Suppose you want to save more money for retirement. You initially begin with a goal to reduce your travel and entertainment budget so that you can have savings of $5,000 per year to deposit in a Roth IRA or a savings account. If you find that curtailing your travel and entertainment so drastically makes you feel deprived and miserable, you probably won’t stick to your resolution, and you’ll end up no better off than you are now. In other words, balance is the key. Austerity measures aren’t sustainable for the long haul!

7. Don’t be afraid to take a few risks.

This includes investing your retirement accounts in equities, both domestic and international, for long-term growth, despite the short term volatility you might experience. It may include taking some career risks, such as reaching outside your comfort zone in terms of opportunities you pursue, or assignments you undertake, in order to move up in rank and compensation. Remember, you have time on your side: time to recover and learn from your in the savings and investing spheres and elsewhere, so that your next professional and investment moves become smarter and more strategic.
Rather than espouse the view that it takes discipline and effort to build tangible wealth, I embrace the view that clarity and confidence about your finances contribute to a feeling of empowerment, which is more enduring and sustainable! A CFP® professional can help you stay motivated, too.

This articles was first published on CFP

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Youth With Entrepreneur Mindset

By TM

Countries aiming to reform the educational systems often give importance to introducing entrepreneurship in curriculums to encourage young people branch out in business when they complete their education. It is often difficult to define the elements of entrepreneurship but it generally means the ability to take business risks to make financial gains.

The EU has programmes aimed at encouraging young people to consider becoming entrepreneurs by rewarding creativity, marketing skills and ability to manage finances. But there is a wide reality gap between participating in a school-sponsored entrepreneurship programme and the tough world of business.

The challenges facing young entrepreneurs are addressed by EU studies containing clear recommendations to help young people set up their own business.

Availability of finance is often a critical success factor for any young person trying to earn a living by selling a product or service. MEP Miriam Dalli proposed the “creation of a local crowdfunding platform to help start-ups gain access to finance outside traditional channels”.

Some entrepreneurs are often misinformed about the type of finance commercial banks can provide. Venture capital and seed capital to kickstart a project are not facilities normally available.

The reason is very simple: the financing of new projects led by people with lots of enthusiasm but little experience often presents too much of a risk to banks that have a conservative lending policy. Following the bank failures of the past seven years, regulation has become tougher and it can easily discourage banks from taking high risks on their books.

Crowdfunding, whereby one can borrow money from an informal network of people who are prepared to share in the risk of a new venture in return for adequate reward, is often mentioned as the new way of obtaining finance.

One thing is certain: no one parts with his hard-earned cash if the returns are not guaranteed in some way. Crowdfunding is not built on the concepts of altruism or charity. The harsh world of business invariably links risk with reward – the higher the risk one is prepared to take with his money, the higher the reward that is demanded.

A more viable and proven source of finance for young entrepreneurs is that of the ‘business angels’ system. For many years, successful businesses have put aside part of their profits to encourage young people to come up with ideas on how to develop a creative project into a successful business venture.

Business angels often provide mentorship, business contacts, advice and seed capital to young people to help them navigate in the complex world of business. Some of these ventures turn out to be successful businesses in their own right. Sadly, many others fail and one just hopes that the young people involved in the failed projects will, at least, have gained experience that will see them become more successful in future.

The debate among educators and business leaders on whether one is born or made an entrepreneur is eternal.

It certainly helps to promote from an early age the value of self-reliance and the skill of taking risks and be compensated by adequate rewards.

A well-tailored entrepreneurship programme that involves business leaders, educators and youth organisations can help to promote an entrepreneurial mindset in our young people.

This article was first published on Saturday, August 8, 2015 by Times Of Malta.