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    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    Reuter site - How to Bootstrap Your Business

    This article was sent to you from, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

    How to Bootstrap Your Business

    Tue, Nov 22 13:20 PM EST

    Erica Zidel knew trying to raise funds for her startup would be a full-time job. She worried that chasing after capital would distract her from building the best product she could. So, rather than sweat the investment game, she has spent two years holding down a day job while bootstrapping her new company on the side.

    During business hours, the Boston resident works as a management consultant. Evenings and weekends, she puts on her startup hat.

    "I've basically been working two full-time jobs," says Zidel, founder and CEO of Sitting Around, an online community that makes it easy for parents to find and coordinate babysitting co-ops in their neighborhoods. It's a hectic schedule--schizophrenic, even--but it's also thrilling. "When I woke up this morning, I realized that it was Monday, and I got excited," Zidel says.

    What's perhaps more thrilling is that she's been able to self-fund Sitting Around with the money she earns from her consulting work. Besides not getting sidetracked with fundraising, Zidel and her business partner, CTO Ted Tieken, have been able to retain 100 percent ownership of the babysitting venture.

    "Bootstrapping early on means I have complete control over the vision and the product at a time when even small changes can lead to big consequences down the road," Zidel says. "I wanted the flexibility to make the right decisions, free from a board or an investor's influence. When you have just the founders making decisions, you can innovate much faster."

    That focus on innovation has paid off. Sitting Around serves families in 48 states, as well as in Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and the U.K. Since the site launched in June, its user base has doubled every month; the company is on track to have 5,000 users by year's end. Sitting Around also was one of 125 finalists in this year's MassChallenge, a Boston-based startup competition and accelerator program. Perhaps most exciting of all? Shortly after launching the company, Zidel was honored at the White House as a champion of change for her contributions to child care.

    <span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>Money vs. Time</strong></span><br />
    The beauty of moonlighting with a startup is that it lets you test a business idea without jeopardizing your financial well-being, says Pamela Slim, business consultant and author of <em>Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur.</em>

    "When you don&#39;t know where your monthly income is coming from, it often sets up a fight-or-flight response in your brain," Slim says. "And that&#39;s not a good place to be when you&#39;re trying to be creative. So having that psychological cushion is often very important for the development of business ideas."</p>
    <div class="articleimg" style="width:220px;">
    <div class="caption">Juggling jobs: Erica Zidel of Stting Around works days as a management consultant.</div>

    Zidel will attest to that. Thanks to her day job, she&#39;s been able to pour $15,000 to $20,000 of her own money into her business. Not having to take on debt or live like a monk has been a point of pride--but it has also been a necessity. "Since I&#39;m a mother, I have to maintain an adequate standard of living for my son," Zidel explains. "While I&#39;m definitely frugal and very conscious that a dollar spent on lifestyle is a dollar not spent on Sitting Around, I&#39;d rather work two jobs than feed my son ramen."

    But as anyone bootstrapping a business on top of a day job will tell you, seed capital isn&#39;t the only ingredient in the recipe.

    "When I started my journey as an entrepreneur, I thought the most precious resource was money, but it&#39;s actually time," says Aaron Franklin, co-founder of, a web-based productivity tool that launched in August.

    Franklin and LazyMeter co-founder Joshua Runge initially began "messing around" with their idea nights and weekends while working full time at Microsoft. After four months of brainstorming and development, the two felt they could no longer do their day jobs justice. With LazyMeter still in the product-development stage, they resigned from Microsoft at the end of 2009, trading in their steady paychecks for a more flexible web-consulting client.

    "We needed a source of revenue to buy us the time to build the right product. Consulting was really the perfect way to ease this transition," says Franklin, who is based in San Francisco.

    Taking project-based work did more than just allow Franklin and Runge to bootstrap the startup. Because they performed their consulting work under their business entity, they were able to stretch their income further by putting their pre-tax earnings back into their new company.

    Today, LazyMeter has more than 10,000 users. Although currently a free service, the founders plan to introduce premium subscription features as soon as the first quarter of 2012.

    <span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>Juggling Act</strong></span><br />
    Bootstrapping a business is not without its challenges. Besides the long hours and the strain on personal relationships, it can be tricky to split one&#39;s creative juices between two professional pursuits.

    "Being pulled in multiple directions is the hardest," says Sitting Around&#39;s Zidel. "It takes a while for your brain to switch gears. And when things start to collide, it can be hard to say [what] you should be working on."

    To stay productive and sane, Zidel schedules her workdays down to the hour and sticks to a list of non-negotiable items to accomplish each day. Still, she admits, "it&#39;s hard to stop working. I really have to force myself to carve out some personal time."

    Bootstrapping with income earned from not a single employer but a cadre of consulting clients comes with its own set of obstacles.

    "Sometimes customers require a lot of attention, making it difficult to carve out time for your startup," LazyMeter&#39;s Franklin says. Likewise, he adds, "When you start consulting, it can be tempting to work as many hours as they can pay you."

    Either way, your startup loses--which is why it&#39;s important to make an exit plan and stick to it. "If you make enough revenue to last another month but slow down your startup by a month, you&#39;re not getting ahead," Franklin says. "Make sure your efforts are moving you forward, not backward."

    <span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>Knowing When to Leap</strong></span><br />
    How will you know when to quit your day job? Author Slim advises that once you&#39;ve tested your idea in the real world and know there&#39;s a market for it, you should set specific, tangible metrics.

    "For some people, it can be getting a significant amount of traffic on their website or selling a certain number of units," she says. "For some people, it&#39;s when they have X dollars in their savings. For some people, it&#39;s a date--say, 'Come hell or high water, Dec. 31, 2012, I&#39;m quitting my job.&#39;"

    For Nick Cronin, co-founder and CEO of, which connects business owners with lawyers, CPAs and other consultants, the day came when his web startup began to bring in revenue. After spending 15 months growing his site to 10,000 users--7,000 of them experts--Cronin left his gig as a corporate attorney to work on his startup full time in November 2010. Now, he says, "We bring in enough money for a developer and myself to work on [the site] and to cover all expenses, including office space and advertising/marketing."

    Before quitting his job, Cronin spent a year lining his savings account. "I knew that things were going to take time and that we were going to need a little bit of a runway before I could take a salary," says the Chicago-based entrepreneur. "My goal was to have nine months where, if we didn&#39;t make a dollar, I&#39;d be totally fine."

    The escape route looks completely different for Sitting Around&#39;s Zidel. "It&#39;s less the number of users and more the rate of growth. We&#39;ve been testing different components of our business to see what works before we go out to raise money and turn the gas on," she says. "Now we have a lot of great data: what messages resonate, what products make money."

    While she won&#39;t specify revenue, Zidel says her site is making money from its premium subscribers, who pay $15 per year, and from advertisers. In 2012, the company will launch discounted product offers to site members (such as backpacks for kids) and a pay-per-transaction scheduling tool for booking babysitters.

    Until Sitting Around brings in enough to pay a comfortable salary, Zidel says she&#39;s content to juggle CEO duties with her consulting work. And to those who say you&#39;re not a true entrepreneur unless you quit your day job, she cries foul.

    "A lot people think that to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be sleeping on an air mattress and working on your business 80 to 90 hours a week," she says. "But I think that definition of success is silly. I&#39;m living proof that if you have a quality idea and you spend your time well and execute it well, you can wind up with something great."

    <span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>Protecting Your Rep at Your Day Job<br />
    </strong></span>Your boss may not be thrilled to learn that you&#39;re cultivating a side business. To avoid biting the hand that feeds you, follow this advice from Pamela Slim, author of <em>Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur</em>.

    <strong>Check your employment agreement and employee handbook.</strong> Some companies have a no-moonlighting policy. Others have non-compete agreements that prohibit you from doing your own business with their clients. Others--particularly technology companies--have policies that nab the intellectual property rights of anything you create on your own time.

    <strong>Keep quiet about your side project.</strong> Unless your employment agreement requires you to come clean about your after-hours venture, Slim recommends staying mum with managers and colleagues. Yes, some might be supportive of your side pursuit. But, Slim says, once the cat&#39;s out of the bag, "be prepared to be fired, as a worst-case scenario."

    <strong>Don&#39;t work on your startup on company time.</strong> Just because you love your side project more than your job doesn&#39;t give you license to slack off. Resist the urge to use your work phone and e-mail to conduct startup business. "Take the calls on your cell on a break, and, if possible, use your own laptop or mobile device to check personal e-mail," Slim says. "Remember, everything is tracked and monitored in large corporations."

    <strong>Don&#39;t burn bridges.</strong> Guard your professional reputation as though your life depends on it. "It&#39;s never a pleasant thing to be fired for performance," Slim says. "That&#39;s not the way you want to go out." Besides, your current employer might be a future customer or investor.

    This article originally posted on

    Reuter site - Seven Essential Apps for Your Sales Team

    This article was sent to you from, who uses Reuters Mobile Site to get news and information on the go. To access Reuters on your mobile phone, go to:

    Seven Essential Apps for Your Sales Team

    Thu, Dec 08 05:00 AM EST

    Salespeople need not only charm and have a strong nerve, but also be extraordinarily organized. That first meeting with a client might not go anywhere if you don&#39;t remember to follow up in a timely manner. And if you forget a key name or conversation, forget about closing the deal.

    For salespeople juggling all manner of critical information, we&#39;ve assembled a list of seven of the most useful online and mobile apps that can help your sales team become more organized and, most importantly, more productive.

    <strong>1. Salesforce or 37 Signals</strong><br />
    A salesperson&#39;s anchor application should be cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software to record interactions with clients and prospects. One option is, which offers a variety of ways for big and small firms to track client information. Large companies employing IT pros could program additional functions, such as connecting the service to their&nbsp;expense tracking system to show in the client record how much money and time you spent to close a deal. At the other extreme, small companies with five or fewer salespeople can utilized a basic version of Salesforce for just $5 per user each per month.

    Companies with larger sales teams might consider cloud-based 37 Signals, says Wayne Spivak, founder of Bellmore, N.Y.-based financial advice firm SBA Consulting. For $100 per month, Spivak&#39;s 11-person team uses the Highrise app to manage contracts and track deals, as well as the free Writeboard app for document collaboration. But while the fees are manageable, Spivak says the service has some limitations. The iPhone app provides limited access to Highrise, for example, and Writeboard doesn't limit which members of a business team can view a document, he says.

    <strong>2. Scan Biz Cards</strong><br />
    A business card reader, the Scan Biz Cards app for Android ($4.99) and iPhone ($6.99) -- and soon for Windows Phone 7 -- converts photos of business cards into address book entries that can be exported to CRM apps. For $9.99 a year, the app provides online backup.

    <strong>Related: Five Signs You&#39;re Losing a Sale -- And How to Save It</strong><br />
    <br />
    Scan Biz Cards also allows users to add notes and reminders. "You can say, &#39;A week from now, I&#39;ll give you a call,&#39;" says Gabrielle Carsala, who uses it for her Chesapeake Beach, Md.-based startup LocalBucks, which is developing a universal gift card for local merchants.

    If you use the Android version, be prepared for extra finagling. After installation, select the app&#39;s "Settings" menu, then check "Use Device Camera." Otherwise, the app could crash.

    <strong>3. Tout</strong><br />
    This Web-based app lets users create templates for common messages such as meeting follow-ups. Tout also tracks emails, showing who viewed them, clicked on a link or responded.

    A browser plugin automatically scans for any email addresses listed on a Web page, helping you quickly find the person you need. "Click the [contact] you want, click the template button and you&#39;re sending an email in two minutes," says Beth Morgan, vice president of marketing for Palo Alto, Calif.-based healthcare tracking site Simplee.

    A free iPhone app sends template-based emails and displays the status of mailings. Pricing for Tout ranges from free for a barebones account to $199 per month for 25 users.

    <strong>Related: Is Technology Killing Your Productivity?<br />
    <br />
    4. </strong><br />
    Just what it sounds like, FreeConferenceCall offers unlimited calls, as long as six hours each, for up to about 100 people. The Web-based interface makes it simple to set up a conference call without paying for a dedicated service. It also provides free recording of calls, which are stored online and can be downloaded. Users pay standard long-distance charges, but no additional fees.

    The company recently added service to 10 European countries, along with Australia, Canada, South Africa and Japan.

    <strong>5. Tripit</strong><br />
    This Web service acts like a travel manager, consolidating travel itineraries, reservations and appointments. Tripit parses confirmation emails from airlines and hotels to create a calendar you can view online or export to Microsoft Outlook and other apps.

    For $49 a year, Tripit Pro adds features including flight-delay alerts and frequent flier account tracking. Tripit also is accessible from apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows 7 phone.

    <strong>6. Grasshopper</strong><br />
    This call router helps free you from a landline and routes calls to any phone you choose. A client&#39;s call to your company can be automatically redirected to the cellphone of a sales rep who might not necessarily be at his or her desk.<br />
    <br />
    <strong>Related: Three Common Mistakes that Kill a Sale (Video)</strong>

    Grasshopper&#39;s monthly fees range from $9.95 with a six-cents-per-minute charge that could add up fast, to $199 for 10,000 minutes.

    <strong>7. Pocket Mileage HD</strong><br />
    This app allows you to track sales travel by filtering entries based on criteria such as vehicle, driver or purpose. Carsala of LocalBucks uses Pocket Mileage HD to have travel information broken down weekly, monthly or quarterly, and to export the data to a PDF, HTML file or CSV file (for use with Microsoft Excel).

    At $4.99, the app is limited to iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. App developer BlueTags says it has no plans to create Android or BlackBerry versions of the app.<br />

    This article originally posted on

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