Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Entrepreneurs: The Risk Taking Spirit

Entrepreneurs need to be armed with a risk taking spirit to make the bold moves necessary to start a new business from scratch. The would-be entrepreneur has an idea for a business, along with a vision of how to execute it. Driven by the will to realize their vision and armed with confidence, the true entrepreneur sees opportunity and acts on it. They bring a flair for making bold decisions and mobilizing resources to their start up businesses.

Starting Young

Entrepreneurs Rich Aberman and Bill Clerico recommend starting a business upon graduation from college. According to a profile by journalist Joel Holland in Entrepreneur magazine, the pair had a great start-up idea upon getting their bachelors degrees. They envisioned a unique online payment processing business. Amid risk concerns, they opted instead to begin jobs and graduate school. After several months, Clerico left his job and Aberman quit law school. They took the plunge and founded WePay, a payment service aimed at groups. In their first year, they raised $2 million form internet investors to launch their business and signed up several thousand users. "If you wait until you work for a few years or go to graduate school, you are just piling on reasons not to take the risk, and you reduce the chances that you ever will.", says Cerico

Seeing Opportunity

Entrepreneurs assess risk differently from business people who are inclined to a traditional rational approach. The entrepreneur's decisions are made not on the basis of risk assessment, but based on the perception of available opportunities. The confident entrepreneurial spirit fosters the ability to create multiple options to problem solving and to frequently spot opportunities.


Starting a business takes an unusual tolerance for risk. The entrepreneur bets their resources and reputation on an unknown outcome. “Entrepreneurs seem to represent a high-adaptive form of risk-taking behavior,” says Barbara Sahakian, a neuropsychology professor at the University of Cambridge. She tested 35 business people on their decision making processes, half of whom were entrepreneurial. The test subjects were scored on rational decision making and risky decision making. All the business people scored similar results on the rational decisions, but the entrepreneurs displayed an inclination to take on risk. Sahakian notes that emotion plays a significant role in making the risky decisions.
Not comfortable with risk? Maybe you're not a true entrepreneur!

Vision is the driver of risk taking in entrepreneurs. They have an internal focus, combining their rational and emotional processes to bring their ideas into the physical world. In bringing their ideas to fruition, entrepreneurs create value for their companies. Their innovation also brings social and cultural value into being.
In pursuit of realizing their visions, entrepreneurs are confident in their ability to overcome risk and uncertainty. They trust in their vision and themselves enough to work through any fear factor, making choices based on possibility rather than fear.

Steve Lafler
Manx Media Custom Screen Printing

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

SBIC Financing for Small Business

IN my minds eye, I see a new screen printing plant for my business with direct to garment capability along with in-house embroidery.

If I was really gonna go for it, I'd apply for financing via a Small Business Investment Company (SBIC). These small business financiers are licensed and regulated by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Monster T-Shirts for Halloween

Just in time for Halloween, I've put up some Monster T-Shirts at my web store. Check here for details.

Steve Lafler
Manx Media Custom Screen Printing

How to Start A T Shirt Printing Business

I'm writing this in September 2012. We are four years into the worst economy I've lived through in my 30+ years in the T-Shirt business (thanks Bush!).

The amazing thing is that I've always been able to make a decent living in the T Shirt printing biz through every recession since 1980, when I graduated from college. I argue that the T Shirt business is as recession proof as any. Nearly everyone wears T Shirts. When I started printing shirts as an undergrad in 1978, there was a general sense that imprinted sportswear was a fad that would pass. I knew it wouldn't.
We print other garments too.

A few days ago I posted a piece on how to start a T Shirt printing business on my other blog (Self Employment for Bohemians). Take a look if this subject interests you. Just click through the link. My motivation is to help people get a good start in successful self employment.

Steve Lafler

Manx Media Custom Screen Printing

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How to Start an Online T Shirt Brand

The basics of opening up for biz with your own T Shirt brand are pretty straightforward. Shop around for the best deals on domain name and web hosting, and don't forget you are looking to put up a site with shopping capability. Check out Fat Cow and Blue Host, but don't take my word for it. Do your own comparison shopping. Putting up a seamless site that works as well as entertains and informs is essential.

The tricky part is creating an amazing brand with killer designs. Bottom line, know your market. It's probably best is your line dovetails with something you are passionate about. Be it Kick Boxing or Norwegian Death Metal, if you know your subject inside out, then you are in a position to connect with your audience. With hundreds of players vying for attention, your brand needs something singular going for it to stand out from the crowd.

Alternatively, point your line at a clearly defined sub-culture or market niche. You need to be crystal clear on exactly what audience you are targeting.
Check out the top 50 T Shirt shops on Facebook to get an idea of what is working for people.

Create a narrative about your brand. Think of your brand as a person and give it a personality that resonates with your target market. Put yourself in your customers shoes. What can you give them that they respond to on an emotional level?

Create your designs and run them by friends and colleagues before releasing them to the public. Don't be afraid to rework your ideas until they pop.

Marketing madness is next. Sure you have a cool web site but who is going to go there and buy designs? Create buzz about product launches by maintaining a blog and a Facebook business page for your line.

This is just the start of your social marketing. Use Twitter, Tumblr, Linkedin, Stumble Upon, Reddit and buzzfeed to get the word around. Facebook alone has 30 ways to put your message out. Social media users want to build relationships with their friends and gain status in their networks. What can you put in your marketing that will motivate them to share your message?

Cultivate relationships with bloggers and social network friends who hold a position of authority in their niche. Send your promotional messages to them and encourage them to pass it along to their networks.

Consider paid advertising on Adsense, Twitter, Facebook and others. You can target your audience with keywords, location and demographic information with these ad services. You set your daily budget and click through bids and can track results on a daily basis. Facebook is now sending ads to mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, the fastest growing area of digital advertising.

Fulfillment poses no problem, as you can use a Print on Demand service like Cafe Press to do your production. At higher volumes, shop around your local area for a competent direct to garment digital printer. Develop a relationship with a digital garment decorator that will allow you to sell at a higher margin.

Should you have a design that sells like hotcakes, consider buying your own digital direct to garment equipment. This is a serous investment as prices start around $12,000.

Another option for a hot design is to order in quantity from a custom screen printer. For a sure seller, this is the best way to get the biggest margin per shirt.

Steve Lafler
Manx Media Custom Screen Printing

Monday, September 10, 2012

Four Guerrilla Marketing Concepts

Hats off to Guerrilla Marketing guru Jay Conrad Levinson. I can't recommend his book Guerrilla Marketing, 4th edition: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business enough.

In my life as a small business owner, I've used the concepts in the book to build a clientele that has supported me since the 80s. Certainly I have my own ideas about marketing my screen print business, but almost all my ideas dovetail with the philosophy of Guerrilla Marketing. Use your brain and apply lots of energy. Do not throw lots of money at expensive traditional advertising.

Here's a few of the basic concepts underpinning the whole approach that Levinson advocates.

A typical business counts money at the end of each month. As a guerrilla marketer, count new business relationships on a monthly basis. Recognize that the existence of your business depends on the successful nurturing and navigation of ongoing relationships with your customers. Solicit client input on how to better serve their needs. Building successful long term relationships is the key to creating repeat business and garnering positive word of mouth referrals from satisfied customers.

Jay Conrad Levinson. This dude is allright.

While guerrilla marketers understand the traditional approach of growing their business by adding new customers, they seek to grow their business geometrically by doing more business with their existing client list. Look to expand the size of transactions and add more frequent transactions with each client per sales cycle. Dedicate your business to offering superior followup service after the sale. Offering superior service keeps the existing customers returning for more while they fuel your traditional growth by giving you referrals.

The rise of digital technology gives small business marketers access to tools that allow them to pinpoint potential customers and deliver personalized marketing messages to them. In the past, the technology of marketing and advertising was expensive and in the hands of experts such as ad agencies, graphic designers and printers. Today, guerrilla marketers make a point of being tech-savvy. They use social media, websites and blogs to communicate with existing and potential clients. Internet and mobile ads are used to bring marketing messages to prospects based on keywords, location and past buying habits.

Traditional marketing relies on distinct marketing techniques such as paid print or television advertising. Guerrilla marketers use combination of marketing techniques welded together under the umbrella of a unified marketing strategy. For example, a guerrilla campaign utilizing email, direct mail and websites along with traditional marketing brings a consistent message to a focused group of consumers, reinforcing it across a variety of media.

Steve Lafler
Manx Media Custom Screen Printing

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Non-Profit Organizations & Guerrilla Marketing

So called Guerrilla Marketing has been a buzzword in small business circles for almost three decades, but now Guerrilla Marketing guru Jay Conrad Levinson has applied his ideas to the non-profit sector too. Here are a few tips culled from Levinson's book Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits.

Non-profit organizations develop low cost guerrilla marketing strategies in order to define their mission and boost the bottom line. Guerrilla marketers leverage bright ideas and hard work into cash flow from donors using combinations of research, technology and media. They foster relationships with donors in order to inspire trust insure long term success.

Non-profits focus their marketing strategy on their mission. Guerrilla non-profit marketers distill their message to it's essence to quickly and effectively communicate a mission statement to a well defined target audience. Successful non-profit marketers seek to take a leading position in their niche, owning the category. Focusing on a niche brings credibility, helps build an audience and separates a non-profit from the competition. Non-profits focus their marketing on a niche to build skills in their category, and improve the overall performance of the organization.

Non-profits conduct primary research in their niche to better serve their mission. They invest time and energy studying the people they want to reach. Knowledge gained from conducting original research delivers manifold benefits to the non-profit. Research helps define overall marketing strategy. Listening to constituents provides feedback that focuses the purpose of the non-profit and delivers a real-time picture of the current state of the organization. The best media choices and marketing mix come into focus based on what actually works. Non-profits conducting their own research gain insight into which programs and products set them apart from their competition.

Guerrilla non-profit marketers work to expand their relationships with their current donors. While it is important to attract new donors, the cost of doing business with current donors is less. Guerrilla non-profits stay in touch with donors and build trusting relationships with them, delivering the message that they have their best interests in mind. Financial information on the non-profit is shared with donors, instilling confidence. They are encouraged to feel personal fulfillment from their involvement with the non-profit organization. The goal is to increase donations while spending less on marketing.

Non-profit guerrilla marketers are tech savvy, embracing digital technologies in implementing marketing strategies. The message of the non-profit is condensed into an easy to understand meme that can be grasped instantly and passed on. The meme is tweeted, used in Facebook updates and incorporated into the overall marketing program. Contacts made in social media environments are channeled to the non-profit blog, website, or other digital location including a call to action. Online content is formatted so that it is easy to share, with social bookmark tabs and video embed codes included in posts.

Steve Lafler
Manx Media Custom TShirt Printing

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Mobile Marketing for T-Shirt Geeks

There are now more mobile phones than people in the United States, with Smartphones in the hands of more than 50% of mobile users. I've been looking at articles from the NY Times, Forbes and Inc, and they all report that mobile advertising and marketing is growing, uh, wicked fast.

I'm no expert on mobile marketing, but clearly it's time for custom T-Shirt printers (hey, that's me!) to add mobile to our marketing mix.

How are we gonna do that? Well, I'll take the easy way out and refer readers to some slick guys in Australia, Oz Promo TShirts, who've put in the work and have posted a darn good article about Mobile Marketing for Custom T-Shirt Printers. I note that most of their comments apply to small business as a whole.

Turns out we're shifting to making tools now (apps), not websites, to aid our marketing efforts.

Steve Lafler