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Thursday, March 3, 2016

How I built a hoverboard company and then blew it up

I was first introduced to Hoverboards while watching Casey Neistat’s daily vlogs on YouTube. I thought, “Wow. That’s pretty cool!” and started searching online to purchase one myself. When I looked at the cost of an IOHawk at $1,800 or the Phunkeeduck at $1,500, I thought there had to be a cheaper way. That’s when I found out how cheap they would be if you bought them online in bulk straight from the manufacturer.
That was an intriguing idea, so I decided it wouldn’t hurt to order straight from China. I thought I would keep one and sell one, and if I could sell one, then maybe I could sell more. So I began the process.
This was my first experience using Alibaba. It wasn’t too bad. It just took a little bit of patience and some time to try to understand the broken English. I put an order request out there and received a ton of responses. I ended up going with Shenzhen Uwheel Technology Co., Ltd and after negotiating with a little haggling on the price, I got them to create logo stickers to brand the hoverboards, and it was time to pay.                                           





At this point, it starts feeling like it might be some sort of scam because payment is not handled through Alibaba. My options were either a Western Union money order or, for an additional, 4 percent of the order, using PayPal. I decided to go with PayPal because it just seemed safer and a lot easier.

I’m not a designer

Now I needed to come up with a name to brand these generic “smart balancing two wheel scooters.” It had to be something where the domain name was simple and also available. That’s where good old thesaurus.com comes in handy. Fastboards, hoverwheels, techboards? A couple of iterations later I landed on SwiftDecks* (swiftdeck.com was owned by a wood deck company). Oh well, in my book, name didn’t really matter anyway. It is better to spend more time focusing on real things instead of names. That whole naming process only took me three minutes. I jumped on Godaddy and snatched swiftdecks.com up. [*These boards are being called hoverboards and two-wheel smart balance scooters and swagways and a variety of other names. I called them SwiftDecks because that was the domain name I was able to get.]
After I purchased the URL, I hopped on Fiverr and hired the first person I saw who could create a logo. The logo was only $5, but I paid extra to have it get to me more quickly. I hate waiting. (Again, don’t spend too much time on this either. It’s version one; nobody cares. I went with the first logo that came back to me.)




I guess it’s better than my original name and logo for the company.

I’m Not An Engineer

I then needed to create a website to look legit, too legit, maybe even too legit to quit. So, I jumped on weebly.com. Why Weebly? Because it’s easy to set up and has an e-commerce side that is simple to use. There are other website builders you can use. They are all pretty much the same. I just prefer Weebly. Also, I didn’t want to pay for anybody to work on this.
Again, this is a V1 and all one big test. If the idea overall is validated and there is money coming in, then that’s when to think about moving on to bigger things. I then set up a Stripe account to handle credit card transactions and thankfully Stripe integrates directly into Weebly. Boom! Done with that.

I’m Not A Shipping and Logistics Jedi

I knew shipping would be a B-word and a big B-word. I didn’t want any one thing taking up too much of my time, so I resorted to using Shyp for any of the shipping I had to do. That was a godsend — so easy to use and saved me a ton of time. As for prepping each product to be sent out it was as simple as throwing a sticker on a hoverboard. Done.

I Am A Content Creator

Working at TechCrunch has given me the skill of creating media very fast — like super effin’ fast. So, I made two videos, shooting and editing each one within an hour. I also shot a couple of photos and just like that I had all my product shots added to the website. Now I was a slick professional-ish company.


I’m Not A Marketing Genius

The beauty about Hoverboards is that these things pretty much sell themselves. They’re cool and they’re all the rage right now. Here is a list of the marketing that I did. (Some of them are just opportunities that came up, being prepared/luck.)
  •  I created a Facebook account, a Twitter account, a YouTube account and an Instagram account.
  • On Facebook, to get likes on the page and not look like a noob, I created a video asking my friends to like the page. I was straight up and honest with them. Prime those likes a little.
  • A friend created shirts for me that said “Ask me about my Swiftdeck.” We wore them and went to a couple locations with cards with promo codes for 10 percent off and let people try them out themselves.
    • Music Video: Logic – Young Jesus (Explicit) ft. Big Lenbo
      I have a friend who works with Logic (the rapper) and managed to send him a free SwiftDeck and he did a tweet and an Instagram post which got close to 30 thousand likes. He also put it in his music video!
    • I did one Facebook advertisement – (spent $20).
    • In the end, I got the most sales from my little brother (10 years old) and sister (7 years old) just riding them around town. Also through the parking attendant of the TechCrunch building (high-five, Mike!) The boards are fun and visually compelling. When they saw them in person, people wanted to try them out and then were willing to buy it.
  • At TC Disrupt SF, I rode it around between working on things. At the end of Disrupt SF, I threw it at the feet of the writers on stage to use as a foot rest. (No sales came from that; easy opportunity though.)
    TC Disrupt San Francisco 2015
  • I had two at the TC Disrupt office that anyone could ride around. From that, word of mouth started coming that I was slinging SwiftDecks.
  • One of the first SwiftDecks I sold to someone that I didn’t know was from a TC writer tagging me in a tweet of a guy that was looking for one. This tweet.

How much did everything cost?

  • 1st round of Product (2 units and another product I was testing) – $899.00
  • 2nd round of Product (10 units) – $3,280.00
  • 3rd round of Product (20 units) – $6073.00
  • URL Purchase – $45.48
  • Website (Pro Tier) – $299.00
  • Logo (Fiverr) – $69.00
  • Shirts (8 units) – $237.00
  • Shipping – $23.00
  • Units sold 32 (Price after free ones and discounted ones for family $375 a unit)
  • Total cost: $10,925.48
  • Total made: 32 Units X $375.00: $12,000
  • Profit: $1074.52
Time spent on everything: Maybe four 8-hour days spent total, but were spread out as a couple hours on weekends and couple hours after work a couple days. Everything was able to be done very quickly.

Bye, SwiftDecks!

SwiftDecks was a startup experiment that I tried, because I liked the product and thought it was fun. I also thought that it would be fun to try and build something and make a quick buck, but now the market has become so saturated with these things you can find them next to the eggs and milk in your grocery store.
Also, I don’t want to put any more time into SwiftDecks. I believe the hoverboards are a fad and they will be fun while they are here, but they will pass like Beanie Babies and Tomogotchis. We’re already starting to see them pass. To really compete in the market you have to be buying from hundreds to thousands of these at a time to considerably bring the cost down and make good margins. The shipping from China is the killer.

There are a couple of things that are guaranteed to happen if you start a hoverboard company. You will be tagged and sent every single video that has anything to do with hoverboards in it. Everybody will tell you where they have seen it for cheaper and still want to buy yours below cost. You’ll have friends tell you those are the lamest things they have ever seen anyone on, yet they can’t but have the biggest smile once they finally try it out. Also, did you know they blow up, because if you don’t, a million people will now tell you that.
With SwiftDecks I stayed lean and moved forward with different scenarios based on feedback. I only ever used money from the profits to never be too much out of pocket and I never wanted to be sitting on too much inventory. Would I ever buy a weird product and sell it?
In John Biggs’s 2016 tech predictions, one is The Era of Hardware Memes approaches and he foresees, “Just as the hoverboard became an overnight sensation…there will be a lot more cultish fascination that will bring us many more hardware memes, devices that appear and disappear like electronic Pet Rocks.”
If you can get in early enough on one of these pieces of tech that are cheap to manufacture and you can show that its growing then there is possibility of making some good money.
It’s a fad, though, so you really have to jump in and out and do it quickly. In the end if the product was right and I wanted to take a risk, I think I would try selling another product and making some quick cash. I would definitely only see this type of business as being a supplemental income and not something I’d want to do full time.
If you’re looking to start a hoverboard company or any company for that matter, go for it; just do it! Don’t wait and put it off for tomorrow or wait for the perfect moment. If any of my learnings can apply to you, then awesome! Just make it happen.

Timeline

  •      First introduced to hoverboards.
  •      Found a supplier through Alibaba.com
  •      Created a name and registered www.swiftdecks.com
  •      Created a logo on Fiverr
  •      Sent the logo to the supplier in China
  •      Test Run: Ordered two SwiftDecks from supplier
  •      Created website using weebly.com
  •      Set up social media only Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
  •      Created 2 videos to use for promotion and took some photos
  •      Ordered 10 more Swiftdecks from Supplier
  •      Made first online sale through getting tagged on a twitter post
  •      Sold those 10 almost all by referrals/word of mouth
  •      Got Swiftdecks in an Logic music video (Link to Video)
  •      Got a celebrity shoutout on social media (Huge site traffic, little sales) (Link to Instagram)
  •      Ordered 20 more Swiftdecks from Supplier
  •      Rode them around TC Disrupt SF for fun.
  •      Used Shyp.com for any shipping I have done, which hasn’t been much.
  •      Sold these twenty slowly over the last month.
  •      Shut down company

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Small Businesses You Can Start With Less Than $1,000

 

SOME PRETTY BOSS IDEAS

Starting a small business doesn't have to cost a fortune, even if it can potentially earn thousands in revenue. Here are 10 businesses, online and traditional, that require less than $1,000 to start and even less to run.

 

TUTOR

  • Start-up costs: $0 to $700
  • Tools and equipment: laptop, high-speed Internet, word processor

Private tutors are in demand through all education levels, subjects, and ages. Students preparing for college entrance exams, second-language learners, and children struggling with reading comprehension are just a few of the types of clients private tutors work with, and parents, adult learners, and college students are willing to pay upward of $50 an hour for the help. Luckily, most of the equipment needed to begin a tutoring business includes regular household items, such as a working computer and high-speed Internet. Private tutors also need reference books, such as a dictionary, thesaurus, or style guide. All of the necessary materials, including a computer, can be bought for less than $1,000. There are no special credentials or licenses required to begin tutoring services; a thorough knowledge of a field and basic tutoring skills are all that's needed.

 

IN-HOME COMPANION

  • Start-up costs: depends on the state and existing credentials
  • Tools and equipment: reliable transportation, website, working cellphone

Most anyone with solid, reliable transportation and experience caring for people with disabilities or the elderly could start a lucrative in-home companionship business. In-home companions provide nonmedical services and care to those needing help with daily activities. An in-home care business can be started with $1,000 or less, with initial costs potentially earned back in a month or two. Depending on the location and credentials, in-home companions can earn $9 to $30 an hour. CPR, First Aid, or defibrillator certification provides clients and their primary caretakers with a sense of security and can boost an in-home companion's marketability. The American Red Cross, community colleges, and other training centers offer these courses, which can cost less than $100. In addition to the suggested certifications, licensure may be required, depending on the state. All in all, certifications, licensure, and marketing efforts can total less than $1,000.

 

PERSONAL FITNESS TRAINER

  • Start-up costs: $0 to $700
  • Tools and equipment: fitness apparel, transportation, certification, liability insurance

Personal fitness trainers work with a wide range of clients, from people battling obesity to prospective brides and grooms getting ready for their wedding. Personal trainers are in high demand, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this field will continue to grow through at least 2022. Technically speaking, there are no major requirements to start a personal fitness business, although having a certification, such as an ACE Personal Trainer Certification from the American Council on Exercise, could increase a noncertified trainer's client base and hourly rate. The ACE's standard personal fitness trainer course starts at $599, which includes materials. With some personal trainers charging up to $100 an hour, they could earn in one day what they spend on start-up costs. Other than a certification, personal trainers will need appropriate fitness apparel and reliable transportation. Some trainers opt to have liability insurance, which covers some or all of the costs of at-fault injuries.

 

SPECIALTY PHOTOGRAPHY

  • Start-up costs: $0 to $1,000
  • Tools and equipment: computer, camera, website/online portfolio, business license, tax license

Thankfully, expert photographers attest that a good picture is the result of skill, not an expensive camera. Several photographers have won awards for photos taken with a smartphone. But a basic DSLR, or digital single-lens reflex, camera is the type of camera that will most likely be needed to capture money-making moments, and eBay carries top-brand DSLR cameras for less than $500.

A used camera will be even cheaper and still get the job done, leaving money for the necessary lenses to fit the camera body as well as for photography courses. Many photographers take advantage of free social media websites to showcase their work, including Facebook and Instagram, or make their own sites with free services such as WordPress.

Specialty photographers sell their pictures online, at art fairs, or at flea markets. Stock photographs are gaining popularity as online businesses and ecommerce continues to expand. The website Stock Photo Secrets lists the latest photography trends in stock photography. Depending on the home state, a professional photographer may be required to have a sales tax license and a business license.

 

TRANSLATION SERVICES

  • Start-up costs: $0 to $700
  • Tools and equipment: laptop, recording device, translation software

Initial costs for independent translator businesses are low, especially for those fluent in two or more languages and who don't need additional training. The basic equipment to start professional translation services are just a computer and word processor to type documents, a recording device (these days, that's often a smartphone), and software that speeds up the most repetitive parts of the job. With an increase in competition from software, it helps for translators to have a specialty, such as in the health fields, and certification. Several agencies offer certification, including the American Translators Association. That might cost $300, but in 2012, the average translator earned nearly $48,000 a year.

 

ONLINE JEWELRY BOUTIQUE

  • Start-up costs: $20 to $100
  • Tools and equipment: high-speed Internet access, laptop, jewelry kit, online store

Unique or custom jewelry is a top-trending and top-selling item online. Etsy, an online marketplace for unconventional products, lists jewelry as one of its most sold items, and it is just one of several, along with Shopify, Storenvy, and Bigcartel, where people can capitalize on their creativity. Artisans should research which ecommerce system will work best for their needs; for instance, at Etsy, probably the best-known name for starting an online boutique, there are no start-up costs, but the site charges to post an item, collects a percentage of the final sale, and has limitations on the number and styles of listings.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING EXPERT

  • Start-up costs: $0 to $500
  • Tools and equipment: computer, marketing experience, writing skills, search engine optimization knowledge

<strong>Start-up costs:</strong> $0 to $500<strong>Tools and equipment:</strong> computer, marketing experience, writing skills, search engine optimization knowledgeSocial media marketing strategists use their knowledge of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, to increase companies' presence and revenue. With the proper knowledge and technical savvy, social media experts can build a client base and make money without having to spend too much. In fact, web-savvy people can start a social media marketing consultancy with minimal equipment. With a computer and reliable Internet access, the only other thing needed is skill: marketing experience, writing skills, search engine optimization knowledge, and a knack for social media.Once equipped, an entrepreneur can begin reaching out to potential clients, including family, friends, and businesses with a low social media or Internet presence.Social media marketing strategists use their knowledge of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, to increase companies' presence and revenue. With the proper knowledge and technical savvy, social media experts can build a client base and make money without having to spend too much. In fact, web-savvy people can start a social media marketing consultancy with minimal equipment. With a computer and reliable Internet access, the only other thing needed is skill: marketing experience, writing skills, search engine optimization knowledge, and a knack for social media.

Once equipped, an entrepreneur can begin reaching out to potential clients, including family, friends, and businesses with a low social media or Internet presence.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Time-Management Tips For Young Professionals - Business Insider

 

Time-Management Tips For Young Professionals - Business Insider

Montreal-based designer Étienne Garbugli spent most of his 20s equating long hours of hard work with success. But as he got older, he learned better ways to manage his workload and schedule his days.

Garbugli's presentation "26 Time Management Hacks I Wish I'd Known At 20" was viewed millions of times and became SlideShare's "Most Liked" presentation of 2013. He's now raising money via a Kickstarter campaign for an in-depth book on the subject, "Hacking Time."

Here, he's shared his new presentation, which includes more productivity hacks he's learned himself and from entrepreneurs.

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

From "Rules of Productivity."

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Étienne Garbugli

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/time-management-tips-for-young-professionals-2015-1?op=1#ixzz3OOMDWD00

Thursday, November 6, 2014

14 secrets of the perfect business pitch

 

Do you see your little business idea growing into "the next Facebook?"

Every startup owner does, and there are thousands of them out there, competing for attention.

So how do you make sure your enterprise stands out? Here are the top tips from investors, venture capitalists and successful startup owners at Dublin's Web Summit.

1. Pick the right investor

If you are hoping to get funding for your e-commerce company, there is no point in pitching to investors interested only in educational apps. Yet wannabe entrepreneurs do it all the time. Look for the right people. "If you look at my Twitter, find me on LinkedIn and read my blog, you will immediately know what makes me excited," says Ciaran O'Leary, a partner in international venture capital firm Early Bird.

2. Tell a story

"Too many people come to us to speak about themselves or their little piece of technology," says Ekaterina Gianelli from venture capital company Inventure. "We like to hear about a problem and your solution to it. Tell us a story to remember."

3. Keep it short

You don't need hundreds of pages or PowerPoint slides to pitch your idea. Keep it brief and simple. "Some of the best ideas in the world can be described in one or two sentences," O'Leary says.

4. Present the whole package

Many startup owners think they can simply present their idea and big name investors will give them money. But the real world doesn't work like TV's "Shark Tank." Have an early prototype to hand and show the investors its potential. Make sure you have a clear vision and a realistic business plan.

"What investors want is a half-inflated balloon, which will inflate into something amazing if they invest their bucks in it," says Byron Smith, the owner of a startup Blue.

5. Be open

If something is not quite right in your books or the details of your product are a bit fishy, potential investors will find out, so don't try to hide stuff from them. "It's important to build openness and trust from the beginning," Gianelli says.

6. Learn from your mistakes

Knowing why an investor rejected you is crucial -- because it leads to success. "Every time someone says no, ask why," Smith says. He spoke to over 100 investors during the process that eventually led to his startup securing close to $1 million in funding.

7. Don't fool yourself

"It's nice to say that you have 50,000 users, but if only a handful are really using your product on daily basis, it's not great," Ekaterina said.

8. Go crazy

Don't be afraid to be passionate about your product. O'Leary says many top startup owners are "crazy, passionate maniacs." Determination to succeed is key, because starting a business is high-risk. "You can sense a real entrepreneur. They are quite stubborn, nothing will stop them," he says.

9. Nobody likes arrogance

But don't overdo the self-confidence. If a potential investor points out a weakness in your plan, don't get defensive. "Too many people come to us with 'we know how to do it' attitude," says Timo Tirkkonen, a partner in Inventure. The first step to improvement is accepting there is a problem to work on.

10. Be yourself

For many investors, chemistry is one of the key factors -- if they like you as a person, they are more likely to invest. But that doesn't mean you should pretend to be someone you are not to impress an investor -- "Because you will find someone who will like you at some point," Tirkkonen says.

11. Hire people who are smarter than you

Many entrepreneurs think they are the smartest people in the world -- a red flag for the investors. "Those who succeed understand that there are people out there who are smarter than them and hire them to do the job," Tirkkonen says.

12. Trust your team

A disagreement between co-owners or partners is one of the most common reasons for complete failure. "Flying to the moon is a dangerous mission, so you need to be able to build a good team," O'Leary says.

13. Think ahead

Have a vision of how you can grow from a small enterprise to a global game-changer and show the investor you have a plan. "We shouldn't be discussing what your product is now, but what it could be in the future," O'Leary says.

14. Make them want to know more

"Don't overload your audience with information, you want to leave some questions unanswered," Ekaterina Gianelli says.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

How To Choose Your Startup Idea

- Greg McAdoo

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Greg McAdoo, Airbnb board member, partner at Sequoia Capital, and Sequoia’s lead on their partnership with Y Combinator. Sequoia is an investor in Airbnb, Cue, Dropbox, Stripe, Weebly and Y Combinator and was an early backer of PayPal.

Tomorrow hundreds will meet up for Startup School, YC’s annual event for gutsy hackers thinking about founding a company. It’s one of my favorite events, and this year’s attendees will get to hear from everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to Stripe’s Patrick Collison to Weebly’s David Rusenko. It’s oversubscribed again, so here are some thoughts on how to choose an idea for your startup for those who can’t make it.
Investors always tell you to pursue big ideas, find your passion and iterate rapidly.That’s valuable advice, but there are some other important considerations that you don’t hear very often: tackle a small market, look for bizarre behavior, don’t make waves, and be unwilling to do anything else. Paul Graham also has some helpful suggestions here and here.

1. Tackle a small market. Most people tell you to address a large market. But what you really want is a small market today that will be big tomorrow. If it’s too big now the incumbents will come in too early and crush you; if it’s too small tomorrow then you’ll never build anything of enduring value. So go for a small market today where something is changing to make it a big market tomorrow. Like GitHub, which is serving the software development market, but is well positioned to expand into other large markets like developer recruiting, PaaS, analytics, content management and more. Make sure you’re very clear in your own mind what the change is — it’s the only thing that keeps you warm at night when things look grim.

2. Look for bizarre behavior. You’ll know it’s the right problem because others are desperately trying to solve it. If there’s acute pain, people will be hacking shortcuts and cobbling together workarounds. Long before your wonderful solution there will be 10-20 imperfect ones. That’s a strong signal.
Another one is strange behavior. Drew Houston asked why people were always emailing large files to themselves. Patrick Collison asked why accepting a credit card on the web was so hard. Daniel Gross asked why he had to check six different apps to find out what his day looked like. For similar reasons, beware of an issue that no one’s tackling — superficially it may sound like an opportunity but it’s more likely a dead end. Also, don’t just create businesses to serve yourself: many students think starting something that caters to students is a great idea. Sometimes it is, often it’s not.

3. Don’t make waves. Whether it was the major transition from terminals to PC that fueled the likes of Dell and Microsoft, the massive adoption of the Internet that drove Cisco’s rise, or more recently the structural shift towards collaborative consumption that is propelling Airbnb, the disruptive companies didn’t create the waves they rode. Like surfers who aspire to greatness, the founders sought out their wave, often seeing it much sooner than almost anyone else.
They had the foresight to see the future first, the insight to build the right kind of surfboard, the courage to paddle very far out into the ocean amongst the sharks (and naysayers) long before the wave hit, and ultimately the steely determination to ride atop the wave, even as it rose to scary heights, and broke in ways they couldn’t foresee.

4. Be unwilling to do anything else. If you’d have thought joining PayPal as employee #9 was attractive — and it was very attractive — you were not ready at the time. The great founders won’t do anything else. They’re willing to strain their most important relationships, work around the clock, and take risks that to others seem insane. They’re maniacally driven and have selective blindness. If they understood all the risks most of them wouldn’t move forward.
I’ll never forget the advice I received when I was thinking about targeting the DSL business in 1997 at SourceComm. An important early advisor, Jim Gallagher, told me great founders are dumb enough not to understand the risks and smart enough to overcome them once they see them.
Just because you’re not ready now doesn’t mean you won’t be.
Just look at how many people emerged from PayPal and went on to found remarkable companies: SteveChen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim (YouTube), Nathan Gettings (Palantir), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), David Sacks (Yammer), and Jeremy Stoppelman and Russ Simmons (Yelp). In the world of start-ups where impatience is often rewarded, there are times when patience may make you a better founder.
 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Set-up for a Film School Student

Mon May 22, 2006 6:36PM EDT - Article in Yahoo

In this episode we help a struggling student get the gear she needs to take on film school.          

Oluwaseun (Seun for short- rhymes with own) lives in Brooklyn with her mom and sister. She's a student at Hunter College and desperately wants to be the next Sofia Coppola or Quentin Tarantino. But for a student on a budget, buying your own gear is next to impossible. And accessing the school's shared cameras, editing equipment, and online film resources is tough.

Who wouldn't want to help a starving student? Seun is a great candidate for a Hook Me Up, so I dispatch Jon Chase to help take her video aspirations to a high tech level.        

The Expert Jon is a technology journalist, gadget reviewer, and tech support for his entire family. Most importantly, he's a big fan of all the new technology that's available for video enthusiasts.         

The Budget This sector of the consumer market has changed radically in the last ten years. High quality video cameras and editing equipment used to cost thousands of dollars. But our goal is to get Seun shooting and cutting video for less than $5000.                                                     

The Problem Seun needs a camera and a computer to get her Hollywood dreams started. On a budget of $5000, we will have to make some sacrifices. The Goal: new computer, camera, and video accessories for under $5K.                                                                         

The Camera For semi-serious video (anything more than the family videos), Seun should have either a 3 CCD camera or an HD camera using a CMOS chip. CMOS chips and CCD sensors are the components in the camera that capture images and transform them into digital data. Traditionally CCD sensors have been higher quality than the less expensive CMOS chips, but the introduction of High Definition CMOS processing is starting to change that perception.     

Sony HDR-HC3 Jon decides to outfit Seun with a Sony High Def camcorder, the HDR-HC3 model. Its suggested price is $1599, but we got it for $1152. The upside on this camera is that it can record high definition video: creating crisp images and bright colors for display on a high definition TV. It can also record in the letterbox format, 16:9.                                                  



Aspect Ratio Most camcorders record standard analog images in the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio. Aspect ratio refers to the shape of the picture. 4:3 is mostly square; the shape of a traditional TV set. But some cameras are able to record in 16:9, the aspect ratio of movies, otherwise known as ‘letterbox' or ‘cinema display.' The Sony HDR-HC3 can do both.                       

Video output The HDR-HC3 is a very versatile camera: especially when it comes to the way you output your video. It has all the necessary video outputs: firewire (for transferring video to your computer) component video (for watching high definition video on an HDTV), and composite video out (for watching video on a standard definition analog TV).                             

Tape/data format There are multiple media formats you can record onto these days: Mini-DV, Hi-8, DVD-RAM, DVD-R, Micro-MV, Compact Flash, Smart Media....

For some people this is the hardest decision to make: what media should my camera use?         

Here is what Jon decided to do for Seun: most videographers in the TV industry use Beta- this is a high-end, broadcast-quality video format that no struggling student could afford. After Beta, the most popular recording format in the industry is Mini-DV. It records onto small tapes that are easy to carry and store, it records a clear picture- 500 lines of vertical resolution, and tapes store an average of 60 to 90 minutes of video. The HDR-HC3 records onto Mini-DV.

NEXT: The Computer In my next post I evaluate the computer Jon got for Seun and tell you the one thing he didn't get that's a must for all videographers.

6 steps to being your own boss

6 steps to being your own boss

Young entrepreneurs have to work hard to overcome inexperience and gain credibility. These tips increase your odds of success when starting out and starting up.
By Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine


Got that entrepreneurial spirit? You aren't alone. In fact, two out of three teen-agers who completed last year's Junior Achievement "Interprise" Poll on Teens and Entrepreneurship said they hope to start their own business one day. But it takes more than a good idea and a desire to be your own boss to launch a successful venture.
Just ask Max Durovic. At 18, he increased his odds of making it with formal and thorough business planning. By taking the right steps, he built a booming business before he even graduated from college.
While a sophomore at Georgetown University, Durovic founded the inventive street-advertising company Aarrow Advertising. He began hiring 14- to 24-year-old students to carry sandwich-board sign ads for nearby retail chains and to perform trademarked tricks, spinning and tossing the signs to attract attention. The sign spinners received hourly pay with a 10-cent increase for mastering each new trick. Durovic turned the idea into a booming livelihood by crafting a complementary team with an expert mentor, meticulously writing a business plan to focus his vision, following the financial feedback and continuing to plan. Now at age 22, he leads 200 employees in five cities and has revenues that have grown at an average rate of 10% per month.
Early on, Durovic faced one of the biggest challenges of enterprising young adults: the credibility gap. Most entrepreneurs endure long hours, challenging management decisions and months without income, but young entrepreneurs may face larger hurdles. With minimal work experience, limited financial resources, fledgling credit histories and no startup experience, they often have difficulty convincing people to take their business ideas seriously. Startups are already risky -- inexperience adds more risk. In fact, one in three new businesses fails by their second year.
How can you minimize your risks? Use our checklist to get ready. We'll help you carefully weigh whether to trade valuable years of traditional work experience for your new business dream -- and then how to pull it off when you're ready.

Get some experience

If you've never clocked a day of work in your life, you might consider taking a job before striking out on your own -- even if the thought of doing time in a cubicle makes you shudder. Work experience in the field you want to break into may be the most productive use of your energy. Think of it as a paid research position. In a couple of years, you can give your business a go. By then, you'll have learned the ins and outs of the real world and reduced the risk of total inexperience.
"Financial literacy is the language of owning a business," says Irwin Rudick, the vice president of the San Diego chapter of SCORE, a nonprofit firm that gives advice and training to small business owners. So, if you're still in school, take classes in business, management or entrepreneurship. If you've already graduated, sign up for night classes. Durovic, an international business and marketing major, says that his formal business education has been integral to his success. "Nothing brings the classes to life like running your own business," he says.

Build a winning team

Bring on people who complement your skills and fill in the gaps. Mary Beth Metrey, a 24-year-old Spanish literature master's student at Georgetown University, had always dreamed of opening a boutique, but her short stint in retail didn't provide all of the details of running a shop. But Heather White, her hometown friend from Wyckoff, N.J., had studied fashion design and merchandizing. Naturally, Metrey asked White to be her business partner when she opened her charming new shop, Valise, in Georgetown this spring.

Fight inexperience with advice

Universities and alumni networks are great sources for mentors. Durovic found business plan help in a Georgetown entrepreneurship class, and he continues to consult with his former professor on business decisions. Ryan Comfort, a 22-year-old grad of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and founder of the online art sales business Comfort2020.com also found cost-cutting connections through his school's alumni network.
The Internet is another great place to get free advice. SCORE, for example, boasts a mentor network of more than 10,000 mostly retired entrepreneurs nationwide. You can search by related background and meet the mentor locally or by email. You can also get feedback online from 12,000 peer entrepreneurs at YoungEntrepreneur.com.
And seek out local organizations. This spring, New Yorker Leah Alani, 27, founded SophieSays.com, an online boutique for stationery and gifts for special events. She gained the confidence and the practical skills to accelerate the startup date after taking a four-week class with Ladies Who Launch, which has local chapters in metropolitan areas.

Write a bulletproof business plan

One of the biggest mistakes a young entrepreneur can make is simply failing to write a business plan. There is no other single process that can be more useful in beginning business problem-solving than addressing the risks and thoughtfully forecasting by writing the plan. Don't fall into the excuse that you have the business plan in your head. "That's a fantasy," says SCORE's Rudick. "It only becomes a reality when you put it into writing because when it's in your head, no one else can see it."
Not only is it a good planning tool, but a solid business plan is also your key to raising capital -- the money you need to get your show on the road. Although you may not have had time to build a long credit history to show that you are financially responsible, you can demonstrate your penchant for using sound judgment by crafting a document that sells your business and lures financers on board. It's your greatest opportunity to fill the credibility gap.
A business plan will showcase your product or service, how you plan to make a profit and the exceptional team who can bring the business to success. It should include market data and tests to show the service or product will sell, the essential skills that will drive profits, estimates for startup costs, projections for sales and profits, a break-even analysis and long-term goals for the company.
If, while writing the business plan, you decide from your research that the business isn't as sensible or profitable as you originally thought, the plan has served its purpose. Rather than cost you money and effort, you've spared yourself any loss. Once you've crafted a plan that satisfies you, show it to your mentor or entrepreneur friends and ask for their input on how to improve it.
Find inspiration from sample plans at bplans.com. But be sure your plan shows your original thinking for the unique situation so that readers can see how the team problem-solves and relates to the business, says Stever Robbins, business consultant and startup veteran of nine companies.
The top-rated Business Plan Pro 2006 ($100 and up) from Palo Alto Software will walk you through the entire planning process. It includes cash-flow projections and a useful tool to help you understand when you'll break even. With the $200 Premier edition, you can collaborate with other teammates and split up specific parts of the plan to streamline the process. Best of all, it includes freebies like a company logo crafter and a guide to small business law.

Raise money

Your business plan should overestimate how much money you will need from the beginning because it's easier to raise money before the launch than it is after you've failed to meet projections. To minimize risk, limit the amount of personal money that you put into the business, says H. Irving Grousbeck, co-director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Stanford Business School. Also, you'll be tempted to use credit cards, but credit-card debt is the most expensive debt you can have. Try to steer clear.
Clutching a business plan that sells, go first to a bank to request a loan. "Banks are conservative, and they're still in business," says Robbins. If you have a FICO credit score of 680 or more and you're seeking a loan for less than $50,000, you'll likely be granted the loan, says SCORE's Rudick. Even if the banker can't offer you a loan, ask for his or her advice about how to improve the plan so you can try again.
If your credit history is too short, friends and family may be your best shot. But tread carefully: Set the loan up like a formal business transaction that explicitly states when it will be repaid. A smart way to manage a loan between family or friends is with a professionally-administered loan from CircleLending. The company will send statements and track payments -- and provide healthy distance.

Follow the money

Count on a cash cushion to live on for at least the first six months because you likely won't have an income. Conserve your money before you start. (See Build Your Financial Foundation to learn more about how to build your stash -- and where to keep it.) Once the business launches, regularly compare your actual income and expenses to your original forecasts to take the pulse of your company. Intuit's QuickBooks software ($200 and up for Pro and more advanced versions) features many bookkeeping tools and services such as expense tracking, check printing and payroll managing. Another plus is that you can export your information to Business Plan Pro to simplify your comparisons.
And stay focused on your financial goals. One of the biggest causes of failure is diffusion of focus, Grousbeck says. The first year you should have two overarching goals: meeting or exceeding your projections and treating your customers right.
By Elizabeth Kountze