Thursday, February 28, 2008

To Blog or not to Blog. That is the question.

So I have officially rolled out my blog. No turning back now. Many of you that received the introduction to my blog have been reading, and giving me the requested feedback. I can't thank you enough!

So what have I learned from the feedback? In one sentence: Blogging is a pretty new marketing phenomenon.

So I thought I'd take a blog or two and talk about what blogging is all about.

Blog (n.) Shortened from the term "web log". An online journal used to convey opinions of the author. Used to open up and maintain conversation between the author and the readers. In business, a powerful marketing tool used mainly to further the relationship with one's clients, potential clients, and referral sources. Expertise given in conversational format.

So I think that is a great definition of "Blog". (And I should....it's my own doing.) I searched for a good definition, but there really weren't any that were short, sweet, and to the point. So I came up with one. However, if you are interested in reading a more in depth definition of blogging, click here.

Moving on.

Many of the questions I have received are: "Why blog?" "Why have you opened yourself up for all of cyberspace to see?" "What is the business benefit?" "How can I do that?" The list goes on...

So I'm not personally going to attempt to answer all of that. But I can give you resources!

  • If blogging is a whole new concept and you would like to learn more about it, click here.
  • If you want to see some other examples of blogs, click here.
  • If you think this whole blog concept is too much, and you prefer to receive your online marketing in a more traditional manner, please click here or here.

I'll be visiting some of the reasons behind blogging in a separate post in the future. But for now, I hope this helps. Again, the point of this blog is to help other entrepreneurs. It's my goal that you can better your business by reading my blog. It's geared for women, because I know there will be some topics that are specific to women. But that doesn't mean that if you are not a woman, you must vacate the premises immediately! We all learn from each other.

Thanks for taking the time to help me along this journey.

Until Next Time,

Jacki

PS...Another really common question is "How do I post a comment on your blog?" See right below this post, where it says a number and then comments in blue (right now the number is 0, but hopefully that will change soon!) It reads just like this:

Posted by Jacki Semerau at 11:13 PM 0 comments

Anyway, just click on that, and a comment box will pop up. Go ahead an type in the comment box and then click "open ID" and then "publish your comment". Hope that helps! Now...here's a test....try it now! Even if you have nothing to say...just say hello! At least then you'll know how for the future.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Starbucks: A small business owner's best friend





Starbucks. Expensive coffee, or cheap office space? You be the judge.

I would say at least 85% of my one-on-one business meetings are held at one of the many Starbucks in my area. In fact, I am sitting in one right now. I'm early for an appointment, and thought this would be an ideal blog topic. I think Starbucks might be responsible for most entrepreneurial ventures in the past decade getting off the ground.

Ok...my appointment is here. I'll come back to this shortly.

I'm back. Thanks for waiting patiently for me to finish this blog (although if you are just now reading the blog for the first time, you just waited an entire 1/100th of a second. But I digress.)

So today I had two Starbucks meetings back-to-back. I had an appointment that lasted from 1:30-3:15. Then another that went from 4:00-5:00. Wow. I was one seriously caffeinated girl. Could that be the reason that I'm up blogging at 1:00 in the morning right now? Naaah. This time of night is the only time I know I can focus without the phone ringing, emails pouring in, kids needing me, etc. (Which, don't get me wrong....all three of the aforementioned things are wonderful things in my life! But we all need some time to focus.)

At any rate, back to my point. Starbucks. I can't imagine trying to start up (or maintain for that matter) any small business venture without this terrific icon of the 21st century as a co-conspirator to my success. I know that it wasn't too long ago that home based businesses actually met their clients...get this...in their home. **Gasp!**

Now we have an overpriced coffee house on every street corner in urban and suburban America where, for approximately $4, we can conduct our business. A neutral trading ground where both the person selling and the person buying feel they are on equal ground. Also a place that provides safety. I can't imagine I'd have been as anxious to meet with strangers if I had to bring them to my home in order to do business. (Not to mention the added business start-up fee of a housekeeper in that case. Geez)

If you are an entrepreneur, or in sales of any kind for that matter, than I'm sure you stand united with me in thanking Starbucks for the role they play in your business. Is there anywhere else (other than a Starbucks competitor) that you go to for client meetings? I'm always looking for a great alternative....especially since I practically dumped my entire Venti Latte into my potential client's lap today, thanks to all the caffeine coursing through my system.

Until Next Time,

Jacki

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pulling Weeds

I have two daughters, ages 9 and 6. The nine year old sure has her mom's entrepreneurial spirit! She decided she wanted to make money, but didn't know how. Without any help from me, she came up with an idea. She was going to pull weeds for the neighbors for $5.

How did she come up with this? She went outside, saw that many of our neighbors had lots of weeds in their front yard, (it's that time of year here in Phoenix) and decided that this would be her new business. So she did what every entrepreneur does:

  • She identified a need
  • She came up with a solution
  • She determined that she was capable of providing the solution
  • She determined what she would charge for her service

She needed a few supplies (gardening gloves and a garbage bag). She came to me. Of course, as her mother, I decided she was a good risk, and lent her the start up fee she needed (approximately $4). I then asked her how she would advertise her service.

"I'll just ring their doorbell and tell them what I'm doing."

Hmmm. There's a Back-To-Basics lesson to be learned here. Just let your potential customers know what you are doing. Interesting concept. I, for one, often get caught up in making sure my entire marketing campaign is thought through, in place, and ready to go before I get out there.

However, when I started up my SendOutCards business, I knew that I didn't have time for all of that. I just needed to get out there and let people know about this great online service that lets you create real greeting cards on the computer, and then just click send. Then SendOutCards will print, stuff, stamp, and mail the cards for you. That's all there was to it. So I set up presentations and started making phone calls. I joined a networking group. I just told people. Some were interested, some weren't. But I just kept telling people. And it's been working.

I'm glad my daughter reminded me of how basic sales can be sometimes.

So she went door to door, her little sister in tow, and started letting the neighbors know what she was doing. The first day out, she was rejected by every single person she talked to. I felt bad for her, knowing how bad she wanted this to succeed. And so I thought this would discourage her and end her weed-pulling career.

To her credit, and my delight, she got out there again the next day she had off of school. And started asking different neighbors. This time, she had success at the first house she went to. And when she was done pulling that person's weeds, she moved on to the next house. Again...success! She would've gone on to a third house, but pulling weeds is tough work.

And so my little 9-year-old entrepreneur reminded me that persistence pays off. And right now, I really needed that reminder.

Until Next Time,

Jacki

Friday, February 22, 2008

Tax Season

I met with my CPA this morning. Ahhh....it's that time of year.

For any of you reading this that have ever stepped foot in my office, you might already realize that I am not the most organized person on Earth. (Big understatement, you may be thinking!) So today I went into my CPA very proud of myself. I had a 7-pocket folder. Each folder had it's own little section (SendOutCards, Real Estate, tax forms, receipts, personal expenses, etc). I figured I had all my bases covered.

Hey, for an unorganized person, I was doing good! But she gave me some great tips to stay organized for next year. As simple as an excel spreadsheet, and what columns I want to track. She suggested I have separate spreadsheets for my SendOutCards business and for my real estate business. She even gave me an assignment to fill the spreadsheet out every month. For me, this simple advice is exactly the thing I needed.

I have Quicken, I have Microsoft Money, I have other assorted organizational software just hanging out on my computer waiting for the proverbial rainy day when I will decide to devote some time to learning how to use them. The problem is, every time I open them up, I am overwhelmed. And time is a precious commodity. I can't waste it on something like this. So my paperwork just piles up waiting for me to figure out how to organize it.

So my hero of the day is my accountant!

Until Next Time,

Jacki

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Entrepreneurs Networking for Change

Have you ever been a part of something bigger than you? Something that started out small and then it morphed into something else? That's happened with a networking group that I'm involved with.

The group recently restructured itself to gain a bigger purpose. Our leadership team felt that we needed a bigger purpose than just growing our businesses. They decided to make our group one that gives back to our community. We are in the process of choosing the charities that we will support, and I have to say...I'm excited about it!

If you live in the Valley of the Sun and are looking for a networking group, contact me right away! We just might have a place for you. You have the opportunity to build your business, network with some of the Valley's GREATEST people, and benefit charitable causes at the same time.

The group has been christened Entrepreneurs Networking for Change. I think that says it all.

If you want to get in on the ground floor of something big, this could be your chance.

Until Next Time,

Jacki

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Standing on Shoulders

OK, this is something I struggle with: asking for help. I am too independent for my own good. And I realize that this problem is fairly common with women entrepreneurs. We tend to think that we CAN do it all (which who am I kidding...of COURSE we can!) and we think that we SHOULD do it all (which we all know is ridiculous.) But it's what we do...or am I the only one with this struggle?

I'm starting to get a little bit better at asking for help, but it's not easy. Here's the thing: I only have so much time in my day. So why am I beating myself up to accomplish tasks that I don't HAVE to do? Is this profitable?

And what about the people that actually are the ones doing the helping? I know that the biggest reason I hate to reach out to them is that I don't want to inconvenience anyone. I don't want to ever be THAT girl. You know, the one that people inwardly groan when they see her coming? The one that has people avoiding her phone calls? Yeah...THAT girl. Secretly, this is one of my biggest fears (OK...not so secret now that I've advertised it to all of cyberspace.)

This is on my mind because today I got past myself and actually reached out to someone to ask them a favor. I'm not sure if she was happy to help, or if she was rolling her eyes on the other end of the phone. But I did it anyway. And she did help out, and accomplished something in about 15 minutes that would've taken me all day (not to mention the cost to purchase the PhotoShop software required for this particular task.) And I am truly grateful. Today, I stood on her shoulders for a brief part of my journey to success.

Until Next Time,

Jacki

Monday, February 18, 2008

When people matter

When I know I matter to someone, I make an effort to use their products or services instead of someone I don't know. I can't even remember the last time I pulled out the Yellow Pages to find someone to give my business to, can you? (Okay, wait. I do remember. It was to call a cab. I guess I don't network with very many cab drivers....so if you own a transportation company, get out there and meet people!)

This is why I started on a venture based on just that...letting people know they matter. This IS the law of attraction in action! When you reach out to people for any reason, it lets them know you care. And when they know you care, they WANT to give back to you. And we all know the adage:

People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you CARE.

When I joined SendOutCards, I made a commitment to send out one unexpected card every day. I've stayed true to that for the most part, and I've seen what it has done for my relationships, both personal and professional. When I started getting phone calls from my clients, saying "thank you" for thinking of them, I was floored. So it's been a truly valuable layer to building and maintaining relationships.

So what do you do that you find to work in building your business relationships?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Who is Jacki Semerau, and why do you care?

So here it is: my blog about being a woman entrepreneur. My journey into entrepreneurship has been a long one. Sometimes fun, sometimes...not so much. But along the way, I've picked up some pretty valuable information. And I am running into new situations every single day. I have no problem admitting that in many cases, I have no idea what to do. But in many other cases, I either DO know how to handle it, or I learn quickly. I figure I'm not unique in that.

So this blog is about me sharing my experiences with you. Sometimes it will be because I am offering advice. And many times, it will be because I'm SEEKING advice from my sister entrepreneurs.

In pondering the all-important question "what should my first entry say", the most logical place to start is by letting you know who I am and why you would care to read my blog. So here goes:

Jacki Semerau is:


Jacki Semerau believes:
  • In the power of positive thinking
  • That I will be successful in any venture I put my mind to
  • In the importance of a strong work ethic
  • In God
  • That you and I are a lot alike and can truly learn from each other
So why read my blog? Why post comments?
Because we have a lot to say! We have a lot to learn! We need each other!
If you and I are going to get ahead in the business world of the 21st Century, we will only be able to accomplish this through supporting each other.
Just a few days ago, I heard Charlie Plumb speak. He is a former Vietnam Vet and POW. He was held prisoner for 6 years in an 8x8 cell. And he credits his survival in large part to the support he received from his fellow prisoners during that 6 year period. (If you're interested in reading a portion of Charlie Plumb's inspirational story, I would highly recommend it!!)
At any rate, I was truly inspired by hearing him speak. And he's right...if we want to survive, we need each other's support. So this blog is meant to be a source of support, from me and for me.
Until Next Time,
Jacki