Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Steps for Opening a Business with your Spouse/Significant Other

Thinking of going into business with your significant other? Read these tips from Debra Neiman before taking the next step!!!!

Give yourselves a timetable to startup. You might be tempted to give notice tomorrow morning, but it's much wiser to lay out a timetable over the coming months with specific tasks, goals and objectives.

Study the viability of your business model. Talk about worst-case scenarios. Bring in trusted advisors to ask tough questions about what you're planning to do and the viability of your idea. Convincing each other you'll make it work isn't enough. You need to understand the marketplace you're walking into and the roles each of you will fill. Perhaps you will notice gaps in skill sets that will necessitate additional staff.

Draft a business plan. Even if you don't anticipate the need to seek outside financing, it is always a good idea to formalize your ideas with a business plan. Include profit and loss projections, so that you have a benchmark for evaluating your progress at a given point in time. Factor in both best- and worst-case scenarios, which could help with decisions down the road.

Determine which business structure makes sense. Depending on the nature of the business, you may wish to incorporate. However, incorporating is a bit more complicated than running a business as a sole proprietorship. Consult with an accountant and attorney who specialize in business startups to determine which structure makes sense for you. Your financial planner can help here as well.

Understand how your tax situation will change. Depending on which business structure you choose, you may need to plan for income taxes, self-employment taxes and payroll taxes. You want to make sure you have reserves set aside for these liabilities. Again, your tax professional can help you get a handle on this.

Set a spending plan for your business and personal life. A financial planner can help you establish a spending plan for supporting your business as well as your life at home. Since startups have unpredictable cash inflows, you will want to establish adequate emergency funds--both business and personal--to carry you through the startup phase.

Make sure your legal documents are in order. If you haven't had your estate planning documents updated in a while or don't have them at all, this is a great time to have them drafted. Don't forget to tell your attorney about your new business venture, which should be factored into the equation.

Plan for your kids in the business. There may be good opportunities to employ children for work commensurate with their skills.

Get your insurance in order. Before leaving your current employer, figure out the cost of insurance you'll need to incur for the entire family, including health, life, home, business, disability and, if you're over 50, long-term care coverage. These expenses may be enough to encourage one of you to stay at your old job, at least for a while to keep those benefits going while the other devotes more time to the startup.

Have an exit plan if you break up. It may be hard to imagine now, but a breakup of your relationship with no financial plan for the business can be devastating. Whether you're married or living together, a successful business is an important source of wealth. So you should have a contingency plan in the event that one of you potentially wants to buy the business or be bought out. This legal agreement would include provisions to safeguard capital investments and non-cash contributions.

Set boundaries. Couples who live and work together need to assess whether they want to keep their work and personal lives separate. Some people are comfortable discussing their personal lives at work, while others make it clear that during working hours, they are at work and won't discuss personal matters. While there is no right or wrong here, you have to do what's right for you.

Excerpted from Entrepreneur.com.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fashion at the Oscars

Red Carpet Glamour

Russell, Cotillard and Diaz wow in Nina Ricci, Jean Paul Gaultier and Dior.

Garner, Cruz and Swank are fab in Oscar de la Renta, Chanel Couture and Versace.

Hathaway and Klum rule in Marchesa and Dior.

And for the new couple moment? There's always one........Sean Penn & Petra Nemcova--

Photos Source

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ten Low-Cost Ways to Market Your Business

Joanna L. Krotz presents 10 low-cost ways to market your biz.

1. Take steps to make customers feel special. Customers respond to being recognized, especially in these rush-rush, get-the-lowest-price times. "Even with a Web-based business, good customer service is possible," says Denise McMillan, co-owner of Plush Creations (www.plushcreations.com), an online retailer of handcrafted travel bags. McMillan encloses a small, rose-scented sachet in every jewelry and lingerie bag she sells and also sends a handwritten thank-you note. "The sachet and note cost pennies but add something special to the purchase," she says.

2. Create business cards that prospects keep. Most business cards are tossed within hours of a meeting. Instead of having your card tossed, create one that recipients actually will use — say, a good-looking notepad with your contact info and tagline on every page. "The business card notepad is referred to almost daily, kept for 30 days or so and carries a high remembrance factor," says Elliott Black, a Northbrook, Ill., marketing consultant who specializes in small businesses.

3. Stop servicing break-even customers. If this idea makes you gasp, think harder. You're falling for the fallacy of increasing sales instead of boosting profits. If you stop marketing to unprofitable customers, you have more time and resources for customers who actually grow your business. "More than likely, 20% of your customer base is contributing 150% to 200% of total annualized profit (TAP); 70% is breaking even; and 10% is costing you 50% to 100% of TAP," says Atlanta marketing consultant Michael King. Take a detailed look at your customer profitability data and then direct premium services and marketing to customers who count. (Microsoft Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager can help you analyze customer histories.)

4. Develop an electronic mailing list and send old-fashioned letters. Most businesses have harnessed the power of e-newsletters — and you definitely should be sending out one, too. It's very cost-effective. (See Microsoft List Builder for more). But exactly because e-mail marketing is now nearly ubiquitous, you can quickly stand out by occasionally sending personal, surface mail letters to customers and prospects.Just make sure the letter delivers something customers want to read, whether an analysis of recent events in your field, premium offers or a sweetener personalized for the recipient (a discount on his next purchase of whatever he last purchased, for instance). "This mailing has to have value to those that read it, so it reflects the value of what you offer," says Leslie Ungar, an executive coach in Akron, Ohio. "Remember, the best way to sell is to tell."The process is simplified by creating a letter template and envelope or customer label mailing list in Microsoft Office Word, which you can print out. The mailing list is easily created in Excel and then imported into Word (learn more by reading this article).

5. Boost your profile at trade shows and conferences. You can quickly create signage, glossy postcards with your contact information, product news inserts or an event mini Web site — all with Microsoft Office Publisher. Check out its versatile features.

6. Combine business with pleasure — and charity. Spearhead an event, party or conference for a cause you care about. That puts you in the position of getting to know lots of people, and shows off your leadership skills. "I host an annual baseball game where I take hundreds of clients to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field," says Kate Koziol, who owns a public relations agency in Chicago. "Last year, I took 300 people and we raised $10,000 for a local children's hospital. Few people turn down a game and it's a great networking opportunity for guests. It lets me reconnect with current clients and impress potential clients."

7. Create a destination. Bookstore chain Barnes & Noble has its coffee bars. Furnishings giant Ikea offers child-care centers and cafeterias. Why? So customers gravitate to the stores to enjoy an experience, to hang out for a while. Sunday morning at Barnes & Noble becomes a pleasant weekend routine, rather than a shopping errand. Steal this idea.This tip isn't limited to offline destinations, either. Using pay-per-click advertising, you can cheaply drive traffic to a one-time news event or specialty offerings, points out Jay Lipe, a small-business marketing consultant based in Minneapolis. Lipe recently set up a Web site for Games by James (www.gamesbyjames.biz), a retailer of board games, and quickly attracted customers via pay-per-click ads. "The effect was overnight," says Lipe. "Traditionally in the marketing world, it takes weeks or even months to generate acceptable awareness and traffic. Here we saw traffic spike overnight." (For more about pay-per-click marketing, see this article.)Other tips to become a destination:

8. Become an online expert. This is the "free sample" approach to bringing in business. Research active e-mail discussion lists and online bulletin boards that are relevant to your business and audience. Join several and start posting expert advice to solve problems or answer questions. You may need to keep this up for a bit. But the rewards come back in paying clients and referrals. "E-mail discussion lists have been my single largest source of clients over the last eight years," says Shel Horowitz, a small-business marketing consultant based in Northampton, Mass.

9. Court local media. Editorial features convey more credibility with prospective clients than paid advertising does. To get coverage from the local media, whether from the town newspaper, from TV or radio stations, or from trade journals, you need a fresh, timely story. It's usually worthwhile to hire an experienced publicist to position the stories, target appropriate media representative and write and send press releases. Usually, you can work on a short-term or contingency basis.

10. Finally, don't let customers simply slip away. Make an effort to reel them back in. It costs a lot less to retain a disgruntled or inactive customer than to acquire a new one. If you haven't heard from a customer in awhile, send a personalized e-mail (you can automate this process), inquiring whether all is well. For a customer who suffered a bad experience, pick up the phone, acknowledging the unpleasantness and ask if there's anything you can do. A discount can't hurt either.Being kind to customers is the smartest low-cost marketing you can do.

Excerpted from Small Business Resources. Joanna L. Krotz writes about small-business marketing and management issues. She is the co-author of the "Microsoft Small Business Kit" and runs Muse2Muse Productions, a New York City-based custom publisher.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fierce Friday!!! Random Friday!!! Kelly Rowland at Brit Awards; McDreamy at Versace Show; JLo Gives Birth to Twins; Will and Jada; Tom and Katie

I actually LOVE this look!!! What do you think of Kelly Rowland's outfit?

Cute Couples of the Week!!! - Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith & Tom and Katie Cruise at the First Annual Essence Black Women In Hollywood Luncheon.

McDreamy and Mrs McDreamy at the Versace Fashion Show in Milan.

Congratulations!!!!! JLo and Marc Anthony Welcomed their twin bundles of joy this morning.

The babies were born early Friday in Long Island, N.Y. The girl was born at 12:12 a.m. and weighed 5 lbs. 7 oz., and the boy followed at 12:23 a.m., weighing 6 lbs.

Cute Family Photo - Demi, Ashton and Rumer attend the First Hollywood Domino Tournament.

David Beckham and his team lost lost 1-0 in the Pan Pacific Championship ......

And then, there's LiL Kim...........who is rapidly morphing into a tiger, courtesy of her plastic surgeon... Self-hatred sucks!!!

Kelly Rowland at Brit Awards
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Mr and Mrs McDreamy
Jlo and Marc
cute family photo
David Beckham and Galaxy Team lose
Lil Kim

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tips for Creating a Fabulous Business Logo

Your business logo is an extension of your business - your ideas, your business dreams and your brand. Below are a few tips by John Williams - Excerpted from Entrepreneur.com.

1. Your branding efforts not only start with your logo but are dictated by it. Your logo appears on all your sales tools, from your business cards and stationary to your website. As a result, your logo design influences the design of all your sales tools--for better or worse. A professional-looking logo can be leveraged to create professional-looking materials. A poorly designed logo can't. In other words, you need a "brandable" logo--one you can make use of when designing other materials to brand your company.

Brandable logos are scalable, memorable and meaningful. If people can't remember what your logo looks like, they won't remember your brand. Think of the logos of some of the popular brands today. Do you think of M-shaped arches, a shell or a swoosh? All are simple concepts, effectively employed by McDonalds, Shell and Nike. How can you tell if a logo's going to be memorable? If you can't look at a logo for fewer than 10 seconds and re-draw it with decent accuracy, it's probably too complex to be easily remembered. (Besides being difficult to remember, most complex logos can't effectively be reduced in size or rendered in black and white, making them useless for such elements as fax cover sheets and other business forms.)

2. Your logo is a quick visual cue that conveys the essence of your brand in an age when image is everything and time is short. Perhaps you've heard the writer's lament that "nobody reads anymore." In today's markets, not only do you face ever-increasing competition, you also face an audience accustomed to visually stimulating media, convenience and instant gratification. Sure, a few people may read your entire ad, more may read some of it--but everyone will SEE it. The overwhelming amount of choices faced by time-crunched consumers forces them to identify shortcuts. Your logo is such a shortcut: it instantly conveys your brand message and emotional appeal.

3. Awareness and familiarity are keys to growing your business, and your logo is instrumental in both areas. Your logo is your brand's most basic graphic element. It ties together all your sales materials--in fact, your logo may be the only visual element your materials have in common. The right logo helps solidify customer loyalty while differentiating you from the competition.

4. Your logo may be the only thing by which a potential customer can judge your business. Think of small newspaper or Yellow Pages ads. Often all that fits in these small spaces is your contact information and your logo. If your logo projects the right image, it may be the sole reason someone decides to try your company. Conversely, if it looks unprofessional or unclear, it alone may be the reason they choose to look somewhere else.

5. Your logo affords a unique opportunity for you to look like a bigger (that is, more established) business than what you are. With the right logo, you can look like a larger company that's been around for awhile even if you have only one employee and just opened your doors last month. People who see it will associate the positive attributes of big companies--like security and financial stability--with your company. And you can still deliver the entrepreneurial qualities--like personal attention and superior customer service--that you're known for.

Building a solid brand identity is pivotal to success in business today. Lay the right foundation with a professional, brandable logo.

John Williams is Entrepreneur.com's "Image & Branding" columnist and the founder and president of LogoYes.com, the world's first do-it-yourself logo design website. During John's 25 years in advertising, he's created brand standards for Fortune 100 companies like Mitsubishi and won numerous awards for his design work.

Tips for Turning Shoppers into Buyers

Brad Sugars' 6 Tips for Turning Shoppers into Buyers - Excerpted from Entrepreneur.com.

There's nothing more painful for a new business owner than seeing a shopper walk in the door and walk out empty-handed.

1. Stress your unique selling proposition. Figure out what makes you different from the competition and deliver that message loud and clear. For example, one wedding/event facility touted the credentials of a new head chef they had hired from the best restaurant in town, pushing its conversion rate from 60 to 73 percent.

2. Identify bottlenecks in your sales process. Analyze the steps required to get customers to buy from you and determine your weak spots. Let's say you're in the deck building business. To make a sale, you need to schedule an appointment, show photos of your work, take measurements, propose a design, price the job, provide references and so on. Do you need new photos for your portfolio? Does your proposal package need sprucing up? Are you failing to make follow-up phone calls? Fix the flaws, and sales will follow.

3. Use the magic question for telephone inquiries. Never let a caller get away with simply asking for price information. Train your staff to say, "Thanks for your call. So that I can be of the biggest help to you, can I ask you a couple of questions?" This opens the door to engaging the customer. One tire retailer I know doubled his business by adopting this technique and coaching salespeople to ask about callers' driving patterns, typical number of passengers and preference for low-priced versus longer-lasting tires.

4. Outlaw "Can I help you?" on the retail floor. Inevitably, the customer will answer "No thanks, I'm just looking" and end the conversation. Instead, instruct salespeople to ask, "Hi, have you been in our store before?" If they say no, the answer should be "Let me show you around." If they say yes, the response should be, "Welcome back, let me show you a couple of new things we just got in." That way, you don't give them an opportunity to say they want to be left alone.

5. Rewrite your sales script. A lot of what goes wrong in selling can be traced to sending the wrong message. Consider the home security firm whose telemarketers introduced themselves by saying, "We heard there have been break-ins in your neighborhood, and we'd like to talk to you about installing a security system." After a business coach determined that approach was a turnoff and changed the script, the firm's conversion rates doubled overall and quadrupled for the strongest team members.

6. Adjust your sales pitch to the customer. It sounds basic, but most people don't do it. Train your sales team to ask questions to flesh out the customer's needs and to cater to different buying styles. One method called DISC divides the public into dominant, influencer, stability and compliance buyers. This applies to sales scripts as well as face-to-face selling. One jewelry store boosted its conversion rate from 26 to 65 percent by using role-playing and other training methods to help the staff adapt to different customer scenarios.

Remember, marketing can help make the phone ring or bring people in the door, but you can't win the war unless you turn a high percentage of your "live" prospects into paying customers. Give your sales team the right tools, and you'll have a lot fewer shoppers getting away.

Brad Sugars is Entrepreneur.com's Startup Basics columnist and the writer of 14 business books including The Business Coach, Instant Cashflow, Successful Franchising and Billionaire in Training.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Side Hustle - Hollywood Stylists - 50th Annual Grammy Awards

It's Grammy night in Tinseltown and I don't know what to say about Beyonce and Fantasia's stylists - hair and clothing. If you were their stylists, would you let them leave the house like this? Well, Beyonce is wearing her usual glittery costume, so no surprise there............ I'm assuming Fantasia is going for the classy-elegant-edgy-i'm-confused-look..... What do you think?

After seeing these photos, would you hire or fire the stylists responsible for all the looks below?

Click HERE and HERE to learn how you can become an image consultant or fashion stylist.

Rihanna's outfit is ........ you decide......[i guess she's probably one of few that can pull that one off]

Alicia Keys looks regal........

Miley and Carrie Underwood look good. I like Miley's classy Celine dress, but I don't know if its age appropriate for her though. ......... Is Miley starting to look a lot older? Is it the makeup? Fergie has the Josh-Duhamel-loves-me-eat-your-heart-out-glow.........and as for Nas & Kellis, I have no words.....

and for those of you saying ......."there's no way she can weave a Beckham story into this post." You're wrong. At a pre-Grammy party, Dave made one fan faint. Literally......... Here's an excerpt of the story from People Magazine with the headline "A Kiss from David Beckham Makes Fan Faint"-

While Victoria Beckham was checking out all the latest in fashion at New York Fashion Week, across the country plenty of women were checking out her husband, David Beckham, during Jermaine Dupri's pre-Grammy party at Hollywood's Club Central.

"Beckham rolled in at about 1 a.m.," a fellow party-goer tells PEOPLE. "He looked like he was having a great time hanging with Jermaine and talking to Janet [Jackson]."

While Beckham played it cool with the party's hosts, it's safe to say he was heating things up among the women at the party. In fact, when one young female fan approached the soccer star and got a quick kiss on the cheek, she literally went weak in the knees – and fainted!

Beckham's reaction: "He looked like it was an ordinary everyday thing," an observer tells PEOPLE. "He just said 'Get her some water. She'll be ok.'"

In other Beckham news, during Madonna's charity event (raising funds for Malawi Orphans) Salma Hayek outbid Vogue Editor, Anna Wintour, coughing up $350,000 to spend an hour alone with Beckham. Go Salma...... and its for a great cause!!!

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Tax Reprieve Sweepstakes - (February 10 - March 31)

Congratulations to Nikki, winner of the Boutique Mix Tax Reprieve Sweepstakes. Please send your mailing information to boutique-mix@hotmail.com.

Don't forget to enter our new sweepstakes!!!!

Leave a comment anywhere on this blog or Online Daters Annonymous or Rebuilding Sierra Leone and you will automatically be entered into Boutique Mix's Tax Reprieve Sweepstakes to win one tote (ARV $30).............. Winner will be picked at 11.59 Est on March 31st. Goodluck!!!! Open to All.

Valentine's Day Sweepstakes Prizes

For those of you who have claimed your prizes, these should be in your mailbox before Valentine's day. Enjoy!!!

Gift Basket Winners - Knikki from Popularly Unpopular, and Stan109

Fashion Necklace Winner - Lesha

Fashion Necklace Winner - Jess from Foster Communications

I am still waiting to hear back from the other MiMi Necklaces and Fashion Necklaces winners. Please send your P.O.Box address or other mailing address to boutique-mix@hotmail.com and I will mail your prizes to you. If I don't hear from you before February 29th, I'll pick alternate winners. Thanks.

Don't forget to enter the Tax Reprieve Sweepstakes!!!! Goodluck!!!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Side Hustle - Magazine Designer

I actually have absolutely no idea what a magazine cover designer does - i guess design magazine covers. Someone asked me to research and post the information. It's their dream side hustle. Well, here we go. I still have no idea what the job entails, but click here to learn more. Meanwhile, here are a few March magazine covers that will be hitting the shelves next week..........Cosmopolitan Magazine, Glamour Magazine, InStyle Magazine, Hapers Bazaar Magazine and Shape Magazine. I couldn't find covers for the other March mags.......Enjoy!!!

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glamour magazine

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