Part 5 of my Funding 101 Series on TheNextWoman.com is live: Angel Investing

Click here to find out if seeking angel investment is right for you.

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Funding 101 – Part 4 is live!

Looking for funding? Check out Part 4 of my funding 101 series on TheNextWomen.com on business plan competitions.

Part 3 of TheNextWomen.com Funding 101 Series is live

Ever wonder the difference between an incubator and accelerator and whether they make sense for your business?

Read Part 3: Incubators & Accelerators in my Funding 101 Series for TheNextWomen.com

Business Training + Financing for Women

Thank you to the FoundingMoms Community for the opportunity to present to their fabulous group of women entrepreneurs.

Here are some of the business training programs discussed yesterday, specifically designed to serve and support women:

Women’s Initiative – training + micro financing. Centers throughout California and just launching in New York City. www.womensinitiative.org

Thypin Oltchik Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship –  training + financing. Based in New York City. Deadline for $5000 interest-free loan is Feb. 28, 2013. www.yourfutureinbusiness.org

Center for Women & Enterprise – training + mentorship. Based in Boston, Worchester and Providence. www.cweonline.org

Bad Girl Ventures  – training + $25,000 loan competition per class. Programs in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus. www.badgirlventures.com

Accion – training + loans. Nationwide. www.accion.org Not exclusively for women but target underserved populations.

Funding 101, Part I: The Bootstrap

I am pleased to announce that I will be writing a 12-part series as a regular contributor for The Next Women, an award-winning online magazine dedicated to female entrepreneurs, executives and investors.

Click here to read: Funding 101, Part I: The Bootstrap. Next up will be an article on incubators and accelerators.

Join me for a Webinar with the Founding Moms Community

Am thrilled to be offering my Think Big, Start Small – Launching & Financing Your Own Business Webinar to the Founding Moms Community.
Event details:
DATE: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
TIME: 12:00-1:00pm EST
PLACE:  Founding Moms Community

Please note you must be a Founding Moms Community member to attend. Click here to join.

What’s the most important factor to a business’s success?

In my role as investor and business owner, I’m frequently asked the above question. Clearly there is no silver bullet or secret sauce that will guarantee a business to launch and be successful. Surely, it’s a combination of factors including access to resources, leadership, scrappiness, regulatory friendliness, talent, creativity, drive, timing and even luck, yes luck.

But I’m willing to go on record citing determination as the single most important ingredient to the business building recipe. And by determination, I don’t mean the hard- headed, stubborn garden variety. I mean the problem-solving focused type of determination. In Valley parlance this is referred to as “the pivot” but what it really boils down to is making a commitment to start a business and sticking to it.

I want to bring you an example from Eastern Europe, specifically, a luxury shoe manufacturer based in Cluj, Romania. I was lucky enough this past summer to meet with the owners, the employees and get a tour of their 40 worker strong operation. I was struck by the pure force of determination that has kept this business thriving.

Quick background: the company started from a cultural strength – an artisan level tradition of working with glass beads. The genesis of their business: working with the beads in an nontraditional medium, leather shoes, producing luxury designs mostly from the exclusive French fashion houses. The women bead workers produced the French designs, working the leather and beads by hand, meticulously and lovingly. But what would happen to their good, steady jobs in a friendly and supportive environment when the beaded shoe trend became passe?

The owners were determined to keep the business going and so they took a suggestion from their Italian partners that seems obvious today. Why make just beaded shoes? The Italians assured the Romanians that with their top-notch level of leather working, they could make any shoe. (The Italians and Romanians collaborate to create the exclusive French designs. The Romanians producing the uppers and the Italians producing the soles and putting the two together. In a testament to the Romanians desire to be good partners, they speak Italian with their Italian partners and French with their French clients.) And so, the company convinced their French clients that the range of their skills extended far beyond beads. With a couple of years of trust built into the relationship, the French were willing to take a risk and clearly they are happy with the results. Our Romanian shoe manufacturer made the switch to non-beaded shoes more than 8 years ago.

I asked about how the global recession how impacted their business and interestingly, they have been not only insulated from it rather they have continued to grow. The reason? Their French clients’ market is so high end that money continues to be no object.

However, the owners aren’t resting on their laurels. They have recently committed to expanding their product line. Despite their relatively “safe” client roster, they began looking around at the literally tons of premium leather scraps at their disposable. Compelled to find  a way to salvage these scraps, I have no doubt that this most recent pivot will keep the company thriving for years. I’ve put in my request for a truly elegant smartphone case……fingers crossed.

And so, their determination to continue to grow their business, provide good, steady jobs to 40 artisans and find new ways to leverage their workers talent will indeed keep them thriving.  How determined are you to keep your business thriving?  What are you doing to change your business today?

Join me for an online chat

Thursday November 14 at 9AM PST and noon EST InterviewFest has graciously invited me to host a series of online chats. This will be the first in a series regarding financing and funding for new businesses.

InterviewFest features innovators in the arts, technology and the start up world.  Read my “interview” here. To connect people further to share information and ideas, InterviewFest is hosting chat events. Please contact: jennie.y.ko@gmail.com to reserve your spot.

Join me for a webinar with the Founding Moms Community

Am thrilled to be offering my Think Big, Start Small – Launching & Financing Your Own Business Webinar to the Founding Moms Community.
Event details:
DATE: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
TIME: 12:00-1:00pm EST
PLACE:  Founding Moms Community

Please note you must be a Founding Moms Community member to attend. Click here to join.

Looking for funding? How about your customers?

Financing and funding comes in all shapes and sizes from all sorts of sources but word to the wise: look first to your customers/clients. This point was driven home over the last couple of days, since I heard first-hand of three companies getting their seed capital from their target audience.

Although seemingly obvious, this strategy is one of the absolute best ways to fund your company. Think about it. Your customers/clients actually know what the heck you are talking about with your busines, and their is no clearer vote of support than having your target audience pay you to build them a solution they need. What’s more, they may actually help you build your product/service by being the perfect guinea pig of a customer. In one of the cases that I heard this week, the founder was able to secure $900,000 from a single investor/customer. The long and short of their conversation was if you can build xyz, I will not only be your customer, but I will be your funding angel. Think about the time this founder saved by securing one mega-angel versus cobbling together bits and pieces from friends, family and doing the angel network rounds. I was certainly envious and I’m not even raising capital at the moment!

And just in case you’re thinking this is a new idea….it isn’t. It is simply the old idea of patronage updated to 21st century capitalist norms. So if your looking for money, look to your current circle of customers/clients to be your modern-day patron. Together, you may do great things.