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Welcome to the WISE newsletter, a program of
The Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University

Monday, April 30, 2007

Article: The Art Of The Business Pitch

Trying to get financing for your business? Not sure what to say in your "pitch"? According to Wil Schroter, CEO of the Go BIG Network, "A good pitch is a short pitch." However, the details do matter. For tips on creating the right pitch, read this Forbes article.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Is your business helping to protect the Earth?

If you think the answer is "yes," check again. You may have instituted changes that are meant to have a positive impact on the Earth, but is your staff carrying out those changes? For example, many hotels say they will not change linens every day unless they are asked by their guests. However, those who work in housekeeping see it as part of their job to keep the rooms fresh and clean, which means changing the linens every day (which they do). So what the management says it is doing and what the staff really is doing are two different things.

If you have instituted ideas in your business to help save the environment, take time this week to check on how those ideas have been implemented. Make sure that your staff understands what you want and why you want it. Ensure that they are "on board" with the idea. The Earth will thank you!

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

WISE2007: Final Thoughts

What a day! People who had been to multiple WISE symposiums said this one was the best. It was the first one with two tracks: startup and growth. That seemed to make a difference. And overall, the speakers were excellent.

As I think back on the day, these are the things that stand out to me:
  • It is always heartening to see who comes to this event and where they are from. Women came from the greater Syracuse area, Rochester, Ithaca and the Southern Tier (that I noticed). This is a "mecca" event that draws women together to learn, network, and be inspired.
  • Speakers taught without sounding like they were teaching. For example, B. Smith and Randy Snow told stories, yet those stories were filled with lessons. Taking notes for this blog helped me find the lessons. Likely others heard things I missed. (Please feel free to leave comments on these blog posts with information from the event that you want to share.)
  • So many speakers, so little time! With two sets of concurrent sessions (16 sessions total), what I captured was a fraction of the content. (Those that I covered were Randy Snow and Mary Cantando.)
  • The WISE symposium has outgrown the OnCenter. Although the ballroom was amazingly able to acommodate this year's crowd, the breakout rooms were slightly too small. And the hallways and open area (where a mini-trade show was held), really were not meant for the crowd on hand. Moving nearly 800 people through those areas at once required a lot of patience on everyone's part. Since there is not a larger facility in the area, the challenge for the organizing committee will be figuring out how to continue to accommodate the crowd that they get.
They did not announce the date of next year's symposium. It should be on about the same date in April 2008. Look for announcements towards the end of this year here and on distribution lists geared towards women business owners.

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WISE2007: B. Smith

The final speaker was Barbara “B” Smith, the founder of B. Smith Enterprises. A former model, she now has her own line of furniture, jewelry, and bedding. She owns three successful; restaurants.

“Whatever you do, just do it with style.”

She is from Western Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh). Her mother was a wonderful cook. Her father could build anything.

She went to modeling school in Pittsburgh and modeled there. Then moved in New York City.

She says she is a serial re-inventor. She wants use to be the same. At any age, we can re-invent ourselves and what we do.

Lessons (pulled from her talk):

  • Ÿ Make contacts.
  • Ÿ Tell people what you need.
  • Ÿ Be your own business.
  • Do your homework.
  • Talk to the universe. Tell the universe what you need.
  • ŸContinue to learn.
  • ŸHave balance in your life.
  • Everything you touch will not turn to gold. But there are things that you touch that will turn to gold.
  • ŸNothing is a given.
  • ŸYou are a brand.
  • Ÿ Be willing (and ready) to re-invent your self.
  • ŸGive back to your community.
  • ŸHave fun.
  • ŸTell people your dreams.
  • Ÿ Be fearless.

She recommended the book Think & Grow Rich.

She worked in a restaurant for a year (while modeling) before opening her own restaurant. She convinced those owners to partner with her, which allowed her to open a large restaurant. She’s now been in the restaurant business for more than 20 years.

She met her husband through the restaurant (a TV producer). They are now business partners.

Question – How do we get to where she is? Hard work. But be careful what you wish for.

Question – How can someone start their own line of….? Go to trade shows. Talk to your suppliers. Talk to the reps that visit you. If you have to, close the shop and attend the right trade show. You must ask for it or you may not get it. Invest your time in your business and in growing it.

Question – How do you know when it is time to re-invent yourself? How do you expect the fact that you need to change? Look at the passion in your life. Find ways of exploring the things that bring you passion. Be willing to change with the times. Have people around you that will help you change.

Question – Has she considered franchising? They have thought about.

Question – When will she go back into media? She is working on a TV show. She’s on the radio.

She ended by singing part of a Stevie Wonder song (Child’s Life?).

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WISE2007: Three Keys to Entrepreneurial Success

  • Doreen Garrett, Founder & CEO, Otis Technology Inc.
  • Ÿ Patience Brewster, Founder, Patience Brewster Inc.
  • Ÿ Victoria MacKenzie-Childs, Founder, Mackenzie-Childs (1983) and Victoria & Richard Emprise (founded after the cessation of the genuine MacKenzie-Childs)

Mike Morris – Entrepreneurship is not a job. It is a mindset. It is about values. Values matter.

Courage & Will – Doreen Garrett (Lyons Falls, NY) – She started her business when she was 15 years old (22 years ago). It has grown tremendously with clients around the world. Her success has allowed her to contribute to the community. She recently had a daycare center built in the community (September 2006).

Are entrepreneur and courage the same?

She did her first trade show in Houston when she was 16. (She had to look 18 in order to get in, even though she was the president of the company.)

Don’t always listen to the first person you turn to for advice. The first patent attorney she talked to thought they had nothing to patent. She didn’t listen and now they have 30 patents.

She reminded us that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Up until two years ago, they never have a facility that was truly built for what they did. She took the risk of building the facility in Lyons Falls (and not move the business elsewhere), and has paid off.

Passion & Integrity – Patience Brewster (Skaneateles, NY) – she has done many things including illustrating and writing books. She now does gift cards and other items in her own business.

Entrepreneurs have ways of doing things – even at a young age – that are different.

She got frustrated being edited by others. She wanted complete creative control. She heard, “I love what you do, but I don’t think anyone will understand it.” Companies didn’t understand that consumers are smart.

At her first trade show, she received enough order to ensure the success of her business plan.

An entrepreneur loves her business and is not just doing it for money. Remember why you started doing what you’re doing.

Being an entrepreneur is a lot of work but there are tremendous rewards.

Imagination – Victoria MacKenzie-Childs (Aurora, NY) –

Mike Morris – Entrepreneurship is where discipline meets imagination. Imagination is the life blood.

Imagination is innate. We all have it.

Inspiration = breathing.

Entrepreneurs have a short memory. We forget how hard our work is.

She believes there is a point when entrepreneurs want to work out of being entrepreneurs. There is a beginning of entrepreneurs. At some point, you want the idea to live on without your personality. A desire to help others. Realize that the work is a joint venture between you and your employees/partners.

The entrepreneurs may start something, but it is others who must finish it.

The creation of “Mild Zanie Checks” is how they raised initial funding for their new business. It was a way of bringing investors onboard.

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WISE2007: Randy Snow

Randy Snow works for R&R Partners. His session was entitled “What happens here, stays here:why your brand is built around your customer.” R&R Partners did the ads about Las Vegas that everyone admires.

Every ad campaign depends on one basic thng – to establish a brand and connect that brand with your customers. It is an emotional connection. The brand is a relationship betweena product and its customers. A brand is the best insurance against becoming a commodity. A brand is not a product. A brand exists in the heads of your customers. Marketers can try to direct that thinking.

They’ve worked with Las Vegas visitor center for about 30 years. Every ad campaign has come from their interaction with the customer.

In 1999, they were doing marketing the same way that other destination marketing was done (a video brochure on TV). Not a lot of concept or connection. It showed the product.

In 2000, the nature of Las Vegas had changed. More casinos in the nation. 48 out of 50 states had legalized gambling (not Hawaii or Utah). So Vegas is more than just gambling. What was it? Did an 18 month aqccount planning product. What is it about Vegas that draws people back? A common theme was freedom. Freedom to be a different person in Vegas than at home. When I’m in Vegas, my current reality melts away. Vegas is a state of mind.

The buildings are important, but they don’t provide an emotion connection.

There is also plenty of Las Vegas imagery out there already.

Fall 2000, Freedom Campaign – “Las Vegas: The Freedom to Start Your Own Party.” Their own presidential candidate.

Freedom Campaign – “Mud-flap girls” – About wanting to be in Vegas (Vegas or Bust).

Then 9-11 happened. Imagine working for a client (Vegas) that its clients have to fly to? They went and talked to people who were stuck in Vegas after 9-11. People said they should do what they’ve been doing. Don’t change anything. People knew that they would need a break and would want to go to Vegas.

When you think of Las Vegas, what is the first thing that comes to your head? Surveyed 2000 people. Did a new ad campaign (“It’s Time for You”).

Las Vegas when to pre 9-11 visitor levels faster than any other vacation area in the country, and has continued to grow.

Summer 2000 – “Vegas Calling”

2003 – Time for Vegas to embrace its adult-ness. Create a serious of ads – odd open-ended stories. “What happens here, stays here.™” No scripts, no stories. Let the actors run with the scenarios. Their customer trusted them.

You can get a lot of bang for very few dollars. They wanted to buy Super Bowl ads (2004), but the NFL banned the ads. They got a lot of mileage out of the news stories about the ban. News stories ran the ads. In the course of three days, they got $3 million in free airtime (with $200 of dubbed ads).

The actors and the talent have made this campaign.

Allow yourself to do something different. When opportunity knocks, allow yourself to open the door. Allow magic to happen.

2005 – The power of the campaign is that you decide what has happened. You can create your own fantasies. Engage your customers. Remember the brand is in the mind. The brand is fragile. You must take care of it and feed it.

How do they know that an ad has run its course? When the letters of complaint stop coming.

“Be anyone in Las Vegas.”

They have done print ads and associated web sites.

Personal Note: Once I heard that Randy Snow was going to speak at WISE, I knew that I wanted to hear him. I, like many others, admire those ads. It was very interesting to hear how the ad campaign was born and how it has changed over time. It was also interesting to hear about the market research they have done. For example, right after 9-11, when air travel came to a standstill, they surveyed people who were stuck in Vegas in order to understand what message Vegas needed to convey to vacationers in the wake of what surely was going to be a changed vacation market. What they heard was to not change anything, and that people who come back to Vegas.

They also tested -- for example -- the first "Freedom" ad to hear what women thought about it. The findings? Women loved it! (The woman in a limo going to the airport.)

He demonstrated the need for continued market research in order to understand how consumers are reacting to the brand.

I'm glad I did get to hear Randy Snow. He did not disappoint! Unlike Vegas, I hope that the lessons people learned from his presentation are discussed and passed along.

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WISE2007: Lunch program & awards

During lunch, two awards were given:
  • Ÿ Ann Michel WISE Distinguished Entrepreneur Award for Small Business – Carol R. Fletcher, C.R. Fletcher Associates, Inc.
  • Ÿ Ann Michel WISE Distinguished Entrepreneur Award for High Growth Business – Doreen Garrett, Otis Technology Inc.

Quoting Carol Fletcher:

Success is who you surround yourself with

Also during lunch, Michael Morris was thanked for envisioning and starting the WISE symposium five years ago. He had done similar efforts in Ohio and Hawaii, but this undoubtedly is the best. In addition, Key Bank was thanked for their financial support of WISE for the last five years (and for next year, too).

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WISE2007: Mary Cantando

Mary Cantando is a Growth Expert with WomenBusinessOwner.com. She spoke on “Open the Floodgates! Discover how your business is stronger than the competition and get that message to prospects & customers.”

Her Ya Ya (Ya Ya Sisters) name is “Countess who wants it all.” She wants it all for herself and for every women business owner.

The exercise we did was part of her The Women’s Advantage Workbook. Process she developed to help us differentiate our brands.

Over the past 15 years, she has built and sold two technology businesses. She sold the last one in 2001 (when the economy was changing). She now helps women business owners grow their businesses.

She worked with us on four questions that asked how our clients view us and our strongest competitors, both in words used to describe us (and our competitors) and words that would not be used to describe us (and our competitors). The bottom line was to figure out how to talk about what differentiates us from our competitors. (A very interactive session!)

Tip -- Make sure your web site is focused on (for) your target market.

Understand the difference between features and benefits. Think about the features and benefits of your services to your specific markets (e.g., corporate clients).

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WISE2007: Seattle Sutton

Seattle Sutton is the founder and president of Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating. Her presentation was entitled “Life Begins at 50: My Entrepreneurial Journey.” The company was founded in 1985 when she was 53 years old and with only $1000 of startuo capital.

Her name really is Seattle Sutton. Her three daughters are all nurses like herself and her daughter (Paula) works for the company. She has always been interested in nutrition. She began her career by working for her husband (a doctor) in his office. Her light bulb moment came when someone said that he wouldn’t eat well on his own, but he would eat well if she did it for him.

Her business started small and has grown to be nationwide.

Tip – surround yourself with honest, ambitious people who know what they are doing. They will make mistakes…and if they do, just move on.

She like incentives. Her “distributors” are customers, who then bring in other customers.

Companies that are using her product line often offer incentives to their employees.

She believes in serving people what they should it.

Food in delivered by DHL on the same schedule everywhere (Monday & Thursday).

Don’t stay stagnant. Follow trends. Know what changes are coming.

Look who is sending customers you way. Help that group of people. Help them sell your product.

One of the things she talked about is that we are becoming a nation that doesn’t cook. Although she doesn’t seem think that trends is what we should have, it is a trend that feeds into her company’s growth. She ‘s capitalizing on a trend.

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WISE2007: Tips

Tips from Donna Adamo:

  1. Perfect time to hold a press conference is 10:00 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. That’s when the news crews are rally looking for a story.
  2. There are two things people will remember about you: performance and potential. What you did and what you could do (or what you could have done).

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WISE2007: Susan Duffy

Dr. Susan Duffy is from George Washington University ands teaches in their entrepreneurship program.

Lessons leader from women entrepreneurs: Six steps to entrepreneurial success

Entrepreneur your life – Build the competence and confidence to believe: You can do it!

Tap into your entrepreneurial past. Likely you’ve already done something that is entrepreneurial.

She talked about a fast food place she worked for and the lessons they learned (and the mistakes they made). They didn’t do their research and the business closed six months after opening.

Her latest venture is the entrepreneurial program at GWU. They think of the program as an entrepreneurial venture. They did their market research, etc.

Tour de entrepreneurship (think if bike riding)

  1. The big wheel: Identify & build on your passion and core strengths. What is your core strength? What is your asset that is different from everyone else? Figure out what you are great at and own it. Do a passion inventory. What are you good at? What activities are effortless? What jobs do you look at and think that you’d like to do?
  2. The training wheels. Develop the tools you need for success. It is about the bike and the rider. It is about the business and the woman (business owner).
    1. What are your value proposition, market, competition, and financials? Put your financials in context. They still the story of your day-to-day operation. Know your leadership strengths and weaknesses. What are you good at? What don’t you like doing? Not only hire people who are good at your weaknesses, but hire people with similar strengths (who can take over for you).
    2. Build leadership skills: effective communications, negotiation, and selling. (Book Selling for Women) Learn the process of negotiation (Book Getting to Yes). Learn to negotiate for yourself (Book Learning to Ask). Learn how to make a pitch and close the deal. Notice the sales styles and techniques around you.
  3. The supportive push-off. Seek out role models. Find mentors. Build network. Look for people who have what you want. You don’t need mentors just for your business, but also for your personal life. You will have different questions for different mentors. How do you find a mentor? They are everywhere. Life gets down through relationships (networks).Networking is very strategic. Spend your precious time and energy in places where there is something you need to capture.
  4. The banana seat bike. Managing and growing your post-startup business.
    1. Be prepared to evolve. Everything you did pre-launch was a plan. It may not work the same way. You will now have real data.
    2. DROOM – DROOM: Don’t run out of money. Don’t run out of money. Keep track of your financial indicators. Don’t look backwards, look forwards. What is coming?
    3. Commit to continuous improvement. (Externally) Learn from customers. (Internally) How did you do? Learn from your successes and mistakes.
    4. Managing your team. “So you have to learn how to step back and let them be great.”
    5. Managing your board. Your board will want feedback. They will be interested in your business. Figure out how to communicate with them efficiently and effectively.
  5. The 10-speed: Expect the unexpected. The 10-speed offers unlimited choices. Unexpected key events.
    1. Managing human capital – employment laws, partnership agreements, and policies.
    2. Sales – building customer relationships. Spread out your customer relationships with a client. Don’t just have one contact.
    3. Role of CEO – You’re going to grow. Negotiate your agreements with employees with a bit more distance. You can’t be their friends (always). Be aware of how you set boundaries.
    4. Financial management
  6. The spin bike: stay tapped into the energy of others. Talk to other entrepreneurs. Join peer groups of similar sized businesses. Peer forums. This is the way people like to learn.

Keep up with the maintenance of your bike!

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WISE2007: Susan Lacz

The first speaker was Susan Lacz, CEO of Ridgewells Catering in Washington, D.C. She began by talking about her mother and early family life. She was brought up with a strong work ethic. She worked in high school and seemed to work around food.

She went to college in Virginia and received a bachelor’s degree in marketing. In college she worked in a bar (still selling, still marketing). After college, she sold microcomputers.

She spoke about her family and calls “home” her second shift. As women, we work, then go home to work.

She started at Ridgewells in 1986. She actually applied to the company in 1985, but was told she didn’t have the right experience. When she was finally hired, she reached her goal in three months. The next year, her goal was more than one million in sales and met that.

She eventually moved into the director of major events. She got the contract for the U.S. Golf Association and they still have the contract.

Then she talked about how she came to purchase the company, which grew out of a failed deal, and the realization that she could turn the company into a truly profitable venture.

She purchased the company in May 1997 with funding from a venture capitalist ($12.4 million in revenue at the time). The sons of the original owners (Ridgewell) sold the company in 1984, but are still involved. Lacz calls on them for advice. (BTW the company has been in existence for more than 75 years.)

In 1997, she had a web site built and did exciting things to reposition the company.

Where are they today? Now over $30 million in revenue.

  • Ÿ Corporate
  • Ÿ Social
  • Ÿ Major events
  • Ÿ Quick-n-Haute® ($5.2 million in revenues)

Takes their led from the fashion industry (in color, etc.). Update menus, etc, twice a year. They don’t stand still. They are high-end – boutique – caterers.

They are now the caterers for FedEx field (Redskins football, etc.). They now do Super Bowl Sunday for the NFL (hospitality). They’ve done that for three years.

2002 created Haute on the Hill by Ridgewells. They have an exclusive contract with House of Representatives and now will be doing the Pentagon. In 2006, more than $6 million in revenue. And a new contract will be more than $11 million in revenue.

How did they get to $40 million dollars? $1.1 million on advertising. Wonderful advertising. Very, very professional. She does her own PR. She is very active in Washington. She is out there and visible, even does a lot of charity work. She noted that charity work gets her “access.” She is now part of the Young Presidents Organization (she‘s 46 years old).

One of the volunteer efforts she does is Camp CEO, an event done by the Girl Scouts.

Top 10 List – Advice for us: (These are in reverse order…)

  • Have faith, believe in something
  • Ÿ Eat dinner with your family as often as possible
  • Ÿ Have the courage to do what feels right
  • Ÿ Have passion, then follow your passion
  • Ÿ Surround yourself with smart people
  • Ÿ Let go, know how to delegate
  • Ÿ Take risks
  • Ÿ Never lose your own identity
  • Ÿ Give back, give often, give always
  • Ÿ Think big

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WISE2007: Opening Session

The 2007 WISE symposium was opened by the president of Key Bank, then by Dr. Eric Spina, the Vice Chancellor and Provost of Syracuse University. Dr. Spina noted the importance of women owned business to the U.S. economy. Women owned businesses have a tremendous impact on our economic growth. Many people are employed by women owned businesses.

This fifth annual WISE symposium has nearly 800 people in attendance, including a few men.

Next Nola Miyasaki, Executive Director of the Falcone Center, spoke. She noted that the first symposium has 300 women. Oh how this event has grown. However, she wanted to talk about where we are going (not where we have been). She talked about the gentleman in Bangladesh who has made a tremendous impact on women-owned businesses through micro-credit loan programs. Women owned businesses are growing worldwide.

According to Miyasaki, women-owned businesses in Central NY will lead our economic expansion. Entrepreneurship is not an easy route. It is not for the faint hearted. But there are great rewards. She is asking us to dream and dream big. WISE is about women in CNY changing our area one venture at a time.

Miyasaki then introduced the emcee for the day, Donna Adamo, from WTVH-5 in Syracuse.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

In her own words: B. Smith

I think a lot of people are afraid of failure, so they don't try. It amazes me how many people like to gamble, even at the slot machines, but they never take a business risk.

Barbara "B" Smith
Quoted in Port-Standard
April 1, 2007, p. D-3

B. Smith is one of the speakers at this year's WISE conference to be held in Syracuse on April 12.

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