People have many reasons for taking a chance on their business ideas, but if you look for commonality, it’s the passionate desire to build, regardless. Entrepreneurs are always doing something they want or something that will get them what they want. Still, the desire by itself is insufficient. What distinguishes them from dreamers is that they act and they persist.
OutBuro is striving to provide LGBTQ startups with tools, insights, information, and education with new business ideas and be well-prepared to launch, structure, fund, manage and grow their dream of being a business owner to a reality.
Being an entrepreneur is challenging. The LGBTQ entrepreneur can face additional challenges that our couterparts likely won’t face such as biased limitations to captial funding to launch or grow your business, access to business mentors, hurdles to reach revenue growth due to biases, lack of strong suplier diversity practices, and so much more. This can lead to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer business owner to still in today’s time hide their true self causing yet other stresses.
Happiness is important. There are some LGBTQ entrepreneurs who have sacrificed their health, sanity, happiness, life balance, and personal relationships in pursuit of success. Like all professionals, LGBTQ entrepreneurs who are authentically happy, are those who have found a way to balance all of the various facets of their life.
Happiness matters, more than you might realize. It’s important to your physical and mental health and in your resiliency in the face of challenges and crises. Additionally, your happiness is important to the happiness of those close to you, the community at large, and the success of your business.
Are You Happy?
- Do you feel you are working on supporting your big “why” that sparked your passion that sparked the idea of your startup in the beginning?
- Do you feel you have quality time with your life-partner, family, and friends?
- Are you taking the time to focus on your physical health – taking care of yourself?
- Are you “out” in your professional life?
Would You Change?
It is often said that no one on their death bed wishes they spent more time at the office, more time marketing and pursuing customers or more time perfecting the fundraising pitch deck. Most say they wish they spent more time being present physically and mentally with those they care about.
Take a moment, now or schedule it. Take a walk and really think about this. Are you happy in all facets of your full life and if not why?
What small changes can you make to work on that? We’d love for you to comment and begin a discussion of the struggles, opportunities, strategies, and success – in happiness you have encountered. Are you putting on your busy calendar time for yourself and time with others? If not, give yourself permission to just do it.
As we are going through the COVID-19 it has added a whole other level of stresses. Things to consider putting on our calender as you can while still being safe:
- Once a month catch up call with a long distant relative or friend.
- Weekly or bi-weekly special date night with your life-partner – doing something that makes the day or evening special quality time to stay deeply connected. Share some ideas in the comments.
- Do you have kids? Consider a board game night or other unplugged activities that allow interaction, discussion, and fun. What other ideas do you have?
- Consider some alone time too – maybe that is walking around your neighborhood or parks. While walking listen to the birds and crickets, relaxing music, or even podcasts on topics you enjoy. Maybe your alone time is starting or rekindling a meditation practice. What activities work for you that you could recommend to others?
- Are you involved in any local charities? If not, consider volunteering a few hours a month.
- Get and stay fit. Exercising releases happy mood endorphins. With COVID-19 you might be stuck in-home workouts, but luckily there are tons of free instructional videos on YouTube with both male and female instructors.
- Due to COVID-19 are you in or near financial ruin? Have you considered bankruptcy? How are you dealing with that?
- If not out as a business owner, would you like to talk to others and to get their stories and support?
What resources would you recommend to others? What has been working well for you? What areas would you like to find support in?
Please share those in the comments.
Consider joining the private Out:Startups group here on OutBüro to connect with other business owners, share ideas, methods, and all tactics in a safe space where you can be yourself.
The first step to any budding LGBTQ entrepreneur no matter what startup’s business may focus on it is understanding your “why”. It is important to have, acknowledge, and understand your “why.” Why is this important to you? This is vital because if you have your “why” that you believe in you are in a better position. You can push yourself through and over the hurdles that will inevitably arise. Being an entrepreneur is tough, risky, high pressure, challenging, and can often feel lonely. Your “why” becomes your mission, your passion, and your drive.
It likely will shape the products or services you offer. It can become a core part of your marketing. All great marketing is rooted in “why” and leveraging that to tell the story and connect the client/consumer with the brand and its products/services. An authentic “why” can help get others on board in the early stages to support your business venture. It becomes a tool for measuring your own definition of success and helps to keep you focused.
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”Maya Angelou
Your “why” might strike you all a sudden or it may develop over time. It could be that something inspired you from your childhood. Maby you see a problem in the world and aim to be a part of creating a solution. Your “why” may have been inspired in a countless number of ways.
Questions to Ask to Get to the Heart the “Why” of Your Business
- Why do I do what I do? Or Why do I want to do this?
- What does it mean to me, my family, my life, the community, others?
- What is the purpose for me, my family, my life, the community, others?
- How can it help me, my family, my life, the community, others?
- How can will it make a difference for me, my family, my life, the community, others?
- How will it support me, my family, my life, the community, others? In what ways?
- How will make me feel fulfilled and happy?
- What are there gaps that it might be able to be a part of filling and why does that matter?
“Why” and Your Story
Your “why” can become of your company origin story being the foundation of your mission, driving your vision, and demonstrating your commitment. It can lead customers to identify with it, fall in love, and become brand champions. With businesses and consumers being overwhelmed with social media, emails, text, and more your well-crafted message has the challenge and opportunity to stand out as authentic. If your target audience sees and feels your passion, they are more likely to appreciate it, connect with it and do more than become a client/customer to becoming a valued brand champion sharing it with all they know.
Your “Why” is Not Money
Well, technically it could be money, such as the desire to help LGBTQ people with their personal finances like my buddies at The Dept Free Guys. Their branding has their “why” message clearly throughout. John and David were $50,000 in dept. They made a plan and became debt-free. They want to help others do the same.
A true “why” is not “I want to get rich“. Businesses rarely make profits right away, so the dream of money alone will not be reason enough to see it through. Could your “why” lead to financial gain, comfort, and success as you define it? Sure. Amazing if it does. Naturally, as you build your business plan and start executing on making it a reality you’ll set targets.
On a pure financial front, maybe your “way” is simply so that you can support yourself and your family while being your own boss. That is perfectly fine. There are lots of entrepreneur ventures matched with your skills than can if well executed fulfill that worthy “why”. Maybe a franchise would be a good fit with a business model, suppliers, and marketing pretty much done for you. But if its a mindset of only greed and to hell with anyone or anything else, you will likely live a miserable life doing crap you really don’t enjoy and feel zero personal satisfaction doing it regardless of the money. Money cannot buy true happiness.
Surround Yourself with Support
It is often said, and I wholeheartedly believe, that no matter if you are an entrepreneur or building your professional career, you must surround yourself with likeminded people who support your vision and lift you up even if they don’t totally understand it right now. That support can be in person or even online. Ideally, you will have also have one or more mentors who can guide you as well as hold you accountable to reach the heights of what your “why” can contribute to yourself, the community, and those your serve.
Having your immediate and extended family support can be helpful. As LGBTQ persons sometimes that is not a reality due to homophia and learned biases. But if you are one of the lucky ones that you being LGBTQ does not negatively affect your personal family relationship, they also can support you in your entrepreneur startup vision. This support might be that they just lend an ear when you need to talk or it could be that they are the first finanical investors in your business.
I and most industry leaders believe that having a life partner who supports your entrepreneurial interests is vital to your potential success. You are taking a huge risk, will have sleepless nights, likely work long hours, and may have financial ups and downs. If your life-partner doesn’t fully support you, it WILL strain the relationship. As early as appropriate, start the dialog with your life-partner about your ideas. Does that person support you and have as best as possible an understanding of all the risks, challenges, and commitment involved? If so, GREAT! Be sure along your journey that you keep the lines of communication open so they are part of your journey and sense when you need that extra effort from them.
A personal Note
My ex-husband was not very supportive of my entrepreneurial drive. He was more comfortable with the illusion of stability working for someone else, commuting every day to an office, and sitting in a cubicle. We got into many heated discussions over the topic. He had a difficult time understanding that my entrepreneurial drive is at the foundation of who I am. The best years of our relationship were when I did business travel 50-80% but was also miserable due to that. So, for many reasons after 17 years we parted ways and divorced – now 3 years ago. I’ve been single since and hope to eventually stumble upon a life-partner that supports, challenges, balances, and compliments me – and me him.
Friends – Supportive, Negotiate and Edit
This also goes for people you consider friends. As you start and work to grow your business, as mentioned you may be working long and irregular hours. You’ll likely often be stressed out. You may have financial struggles. Are your friends really your friends? Are they there for you as best they can be or are they superficial who will complain when you are no longer as accessible or don’t have the time or funds to join them all the time for activities like you might have before? If you value that person, at the first sign of them being frankly clueless and/or selfish, schedule a time to have an honest conversation. Then time will tell if they are a supportive friend or not. If need be for those that prove to be superficial as quickly and kindly as possible either edit them out completely or move them to the occasional acquaintance category.
It is perfectly fine if a friend doesn’t understand your business or why you work so much. But a good friend will strive to understand that it is important to you and be there when you are able to hit the beach, go out dancing, go on a hike or bike ride, and also lend an ear when you need someone to talk to.
Seek Out Other Entrepreneurs
As an entrepreneur it is a great idea to build a network other entrepreneurs who do get you and what you are going through. They might also be a great resource to bounce ideas off of. They could be a good barter partner for services your business needs and referral source. They can be a great business and community resources. They can become great personal friends. And who knows, if the timing is right a mutual attraction, who knows maybe become a life partner. Who better to understand your and your entrepreneur’s journey than another entrepreneur?
Your “Why” Is Your Strength
When you boil down to your “why” it will give you strength. When you whole-heartedly believe in your message and your mission it’s easy to stop feeling self-conscious and just do it! You, like me, have something more important than your own insecurities to share. Your audience, customers, clients, constituents, employees, members, life-partner, family, friends, and the community, need you to shake away the clutter, identify and live your why and be as awesome, amazing, inspiring, and as kick-ass as you can be. They deserve it. You deserve it. You have the potential to be a great LGBTQ entrepreneur but they’ll never know it if you don’t step up, own it, and grow into your “why’s” potential. Plan don’t get stifled in thinking perfection is needed before starting. Most entrepreneurs, if honest, learn as they grow, and grow as they learn. Your first step is “why”.
As an LGBTQ entrepreneur with startup business should a competitor analysis to help you launch, remain focused, grow, adapt and own your market.
There are an estimated 1.4 million LGBTQ businesses total in the United States, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. As LGBTQ business owners we can face challenges others do not, Some of these include disclosing their sexuality to their angel and venture capital investors, traditional loan officers, staff, co-workers and customers, landlords perhaps, and being a victim of harassment and discrimination based on who they are. This could be an outright blatant, conscious yet not visible and simple unconscious bias of others.
Why bother? I know what I’m doing.
There are many things a LGBTQ entrepreneur with startup business should have to help them launch, remain focused and grow including a business plan, a clear understanding of your target audience, a clear mission & vision, general marketing, great content marketing in all forms and clear understanding of the direct and indirect competition to become the front runner in the competitive landscape you are trying to grow your business in.
Completing a competitive analysis will help you to better understand your industry market trends, identify your competitors, evaluate opportunities, analyze threats to your business or organization, adjust your go-to-market and positioning strategy accordingly. Looking at our competitors analytically uncovers what works and doesn’t work. It helps you find that golden nugget of how to differentiate yourself in the market. Unknowingly they are essentially being a mentor to you and your startup.
So, let’s get growing your LGBTQ owned business so you can create job opportunities for others and grow your personal financial freedom and hopefully give support to the great LGBTQ non-profits supporting our community.
How Gay is This?
Now is creating such documents uniquely GAY? Of course not. Your sexual orientation does not play a role in the mechanics of creating a business plan or doing competitive analysis. However, the individual(s) who are LGBTQ entrepreneurs can face challenges their heteronomative competitors may not. There is little entrepreneur content out there that is LGBTQ centric – so we are helping to create it and OutBüro is a publishing platform for you to add to the collective knowledge and resources via posting your own articles. It can be leveraged as marketing your knowledge, skills, products, and services targeting predominantly LGBTQ professionals and other entrepreneurs.
Perceived Competitor Maybe Synergy
I’d also like to add that we’d love to think that everyone in the LGBTQ community is open, welcoming and supportive of all other LGBTQ. That sadly is not the case. In business, it is the same. You may have other LGBTQ businesses and even non-profits view your business as a competitor. Maybe you are. Maybe there’s some overlap of products and services yet the majority is different. Unfortunately, even if another LGBTQ owned business or non-profit perceives you are in some way and scope encroaching on what they believe to be their domain – you are their competitor. So you might as well do a competitive analysis on them to better understand their mindset. Maybe you are a competitor. Or maybe it’s an opportunity to partner. After having done your homework, if they accept a call/meeting with you, you would be able to clearly articulate the synergies and joint opportunities and dispell their assumptions and maybe a partnership would improve both companies/organizations.
Get the OutBüro Competitive Analysis Worksheet
Get the OutBüro LGBTQ Business Owners Competitive Analysis Worksheet in Excel spreadsheet format. Click the image to download it now so you may reference it as you continue reading this resource article.
Competitive Strategy Benefits
Your competitors can come in many forms depending on the type of business you have. Maybe you are a dentist opening an office in an underserved community. It’s a potential that a medical non-profit serving that area could view you as a competitor since their funding may be based on numbers served.
Your competitors have likely been operating for a while. They have clients/customers and therefore making money. Those clients/customers to some degree like them, find value in them and respect them. No matter if you are opening a new local ice cream shop, bar, legal office, dentist office, or launching a potential industry disruptive technology, in all cases, you must understand your real and perceived competitors to ensure:
- What they’re doing better than you right now so that you can strive to do it better?
- What are their marketing strategies and tactics that seem to be working>?
- What mistakes in your humble opinion or that’s been publically reported that you can strive to avoid and possibly capitalize on?
- Don’t be modest here. What do you believe you are doing better? How are you different? Leverage these in your marketing.
Competitor as a Mentor
Well, most competitors won’t sit down over coffee and share their entrepreneur journey or provide business advice to help you not make the mistakes they have made. But they have achieved, to a level of success, what you strive for serving a similar target audience. Think like that, they’d make the great mentor. You still can learn a lot from what you can observe through completing a competitive analysis.
Even just one insight into how your competitor operates can give you great ideas. But after a full competitive analysis, all the gathered can drive your competitive strategy.
Who are your competitors?
There are two kinds of competitors to consider:
Companies/organizations who have similar products or services – i.e. McDonald’s and Wendy’s
Companies/organizations that have different products or services but who compete for the same dollar – i.e. McDonald’s and Papa John’s Pizza
Consider the example of Hulu. They don’t just compete with other streaming services, they compete with movie theaters, cable TV, YouTube. They are competing for your couch time. So the gym, social events, social media, and gaming could all be considered competition. Focus on your direct competitors first and then expand to consider indirect competitors too.
Questions while completing a competitor analysis
Starting off with the big questions like:
- Who are the major players serving this market?
- Use internet searches and other resources to locate them for the geographic area you intend to cover
- How is the market split up between them?
- If there aren’t reports, you might find their revenue reported on their website, or in articles and lastly, you might find the company tax reports.
Next go a little deeper, with more specific questions like:
- How does the market think about these competitors?
- Check out online reviews. Search for articles online.
- What is their target demographic? Do they market to a target age group or income level? If B2B what size and kind of company is their ideal client/customer?
- What sort of experience are they offering?
- If a physical location, check out their office/store. Interact with employees. How is their customer service?
- If they offer professional services such as consulting, check out their employee profiles on sites like LinkedIn. To be a real sleuth, create a temporary account so the competitor employees don’t see that it’s you checking them out.
- How does their product or service look and feel? How does it work?
- If local, check them out. If online and you’d like to sign up for their email marketing newsletters and maybe have a sales discussion including a product demo then again being a sleuth, use a pseudo name (i.e. John Smith), create a new Gmail email account, get a Google Voice phone number to use.
- How are they delivering?
- What do they charge? How do customers order? What reviews do they get?
- Search, search and then search more.
Along the way keep asking if your business can differentiate itself in some way.
Identify competitor strengths and weaknesses
You’ll begin to see which ones will challenge you most as you learn more about your competitors. They might be in your region, or they might target the exact same market segment as you. List the strengths and weaknesses of these competitors.
Strengths might include things like:
- huge brand awareness – they’ve been around forever and people trust them
- great distribution – they’re in all kinds of shops, all over the place
- really good networks – they’ve built lots of great relationships with buyers
- low price point – It may be impossible for you to compete on the price. However, in many markets leading on price can be perceived as low quality.
Weaknesses might include things like:
- Reputation – clients/customers don’t get a thrill buying from or interacting with them
- Cheap packaging – their product packaging is not aligned with the target audience’s expectations
- Lack of depth – the competitor has remained limited in service or scope that you may offer
- Bad reviews/perception – clients/customers aren’t have left bad reviews online or you hear industry talk of clients/customers desiring an alternative
- Poor client/customer service – consumers don’t feel valued which may tie into bad reviews
- Lack of innovation – their product or service offering has not improved or evolved over time
- Poor messaging – their online and offline marketing content is dated, stale and lacks excitement.
By understanding your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, you can figure out what differentiates you – and where you fit in the
When doing a competitor analysis, it’s important to consider your advantages. There may be things about your business that others can’t replicate, like:
- Patents or licenses: Are you the only business that can produce a certain product?
- Exclusive supply arrangements: You might be the only business in your area that can sell certain products.
- Special processes: You might have a way of working that others don’t know about.
- Innovation: Maybe your product or service is an industry disruptor.
- Costs: Maybe you offer a wider service or better products at a similar cost. Again, don’t just try to be the lowest-priced offering.
- Social reach: Maybe you are good at social media and content creation to attract the attention of clients/customers/members.
- Customer Happiness: Maybe you provide such a great service/product and in all touchpoints, you and your team excel at customer service creating happy customers/clients.
It’s important to know where you have advantages like these. Leverage them in your online and offline marketing.
Do it again and again
Be sure to schedule at least every 6 months to update your competitor analysis and ask:
- Have new competitors popped up?
- How difficult would it be for a current competitor or a new company/organization to replicate you product/service and strategy? If easy, what can you do to make it more difficult?
- Have current competitors made changes to their business/organization?
- Have they improved on their weaknesses?
- Have they added new products or services?
- Have they updated their marketing?
- Have these changes affected your own competitive advantage positively or negatively? If so, adjust to the evolving market in whatever manner is most effective to regain your competitive advantage.
Start your competitor analysis today
You don’t have to have an exhaustive competitor analysis to get started. It can take weeks to complete your first version working it into your business daily and weekly schedule. But, put it on your calendar so you are to be sure to get it done with as many competitors as possible at first, even if that is only 2-5. Fill in what you can find easily and then add to it as you go to learn more. It won’t complete itself and is a vital tool to understand your competitors and ensure your product/service and marketing is on target.
GO GET ‘EM
By Andy Smith – Updated May 14, 2019, for current accuracy by Dennis Velco.
First appearing on Edge Media Network
Since 2008, Dennis Velco founded and has nurtured LinkedIn’s largest LGBTQ networking group from a concept to an international networking resource with over 46,000 global members – that grows daily. Velco is a social entrepreneur with a passion for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.
It was the driving force for Velco to launch the LGBT media crowd-sourced corporate social justice tech startup OutBüro. Additionally, OutBüro is a growing site of LGBT related business news, information, resources, and stories of careers and business owners.
Velco continues to moderate and grow the LinkedIn group yet now branded as and supported as a service of OutBüro.
OutBüro on LinkedIn welcomes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT), queer, intersex and questioning professionals and entrepreneurs, along with friends, allies, recruiters and diversity professionals seeking to connect, network and communicate to advance their careers.
A Persistent Pioneer – How it began
“I’ve been on LinkedIn since way before people knew what it was, when I was living in New York City 16 years ago,” says Velco, now based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Back then it wasn’t as prominent as it is today. I put it on the backburner for a couple of years. As more clients began to mention it in casual conversation in late in 2007, I got more involved and did what most people do-I filled it out like a resume and began to prospect on it.”
As he became more involved, Velco began noticing other features of the networking service, especially the preponderance of collegiate alumni association groups listed on people’s profiles.
“I scoured LinkedIn searching for an LGBT Group and looking up very prominent LGBT community members to see if their profiles had any LGBT group listed. I found nothing,” he says. After several patient inquiries and a few months of back and forth, it turned out the site wasn’t hosting an LGBTQ networking group.
Velco contacted LinkedIn providing a strong case for an LGBT group on the site. Eventually, LinkedIn gave the green light, and Velco agreed to be the group’s owner and moderator voluntarily donating his time and resources.
He approached the project with fervor and a sense of mission. “I felt and continue to feel it is vital to have a strong open and out LGBT presence on the world’s largest professional networking site,” he says. “People are much more likely to be out on Facebook yet still hesitant to be out on LinkedIn.” At Velco’s request, all groups on LinkedIn offer the option to hide a group’s membership on public profiles.
Adding Members & Content
Once LinkedIn signed off, Velco jumped in with both feet, embracing the project, donating hours of time each day – including weekends – to building the group, taking a labor-intensive, trial-and-error approach.
“I would search LinkedIn and find profiles of people that had ‘LGBT, GLBT, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer and so forth’ in their listing and send them invitations to join the group. I’d have to be careful to weed out people who have ‘Gay’ in their names,” he says. “I then would send each person a personalized invitation to join the group.”
Building and maintaining this group has been a labor of love. “My past life partner thought I was crazy in the beginning of building it due to the amount of time and personal money I was investing in the group. The first several years I would spend anywhere from two to six hours a day combing the Internet for pertinent content to post,” Velco recalls.
“March 2018 will mark ten years that I’ve done this voluntarily,” he says.
In addition to writing pieces for the group, Velco searched international news sites to curate LGBTQ-focused, business-oriented pieces. “I would strive to stay non-political and avoid content that would alienate members,” he says. “I’d try to get global content because I didn’t want it to just be an echo chamber of U.S. and Canadian content. I can’t wait until LinkedIn gets automatic translations because I would like all members to be able to contribute, view and participate in their native language. I believe that being an English only site is a deterrent to many. Having such a feature I believe would increase member active participation.”
Nixing NSFW Content
Despite what a handful of aspiring members might think, LinkedIn is not an adjunct to Grindr or a Circuit Party Facebook page. Deflecting accusations of being sex-negative, Velco has spent a fair amount of time screening out applicants who submit genital images as their profile photos. As a business-oriented (rather than social) site, even shirtless pictures are typically verboten.
“Policing the group is important because while Facebook is typically banned at most businesses via the company internet, LinkedIn is not,” he emphasizes. I want OutBüro main site and our channels such as OutBüro on LinkedIn to remain Fortune 1000 level office friendly.
“I hold to LinkedIn’s terms of service. I’ve had to moderate and get involved with spats and even had a stalker who ended up banned from LinkedIn for life. I’ve had blatant anti-LGBT content in profiles. Every single person’s profile in the group must be reviewed by me to a degree.”
Today he’s exploring his new home town of Wilton Manors and the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area.
The group has from high school students through White House staff of both the Obama and Trump administration and every role in between. “Knowing that people at that level value the group enough to have an open LGBT or they are friendly representatives present makes me feel great. My effort to date has been well spent.”
Nevertheless, Dennis and his passionate quest continue with OutBüro being part of the evolution. He states, “I feel good because OutBüro is about helping people and companies/organization be better and make good decisions be being a resource and a tool of communication, growth, and change.”
BringMeGift Vacation & Business Travel App and OutBüro have partnered for a fun contest/game.Download the BringMeGift App, Register as a Service provider, create your fun and interesting service offer listings for vacation and business travelers between Oct 31 and Nov 7, 2018. The individual with the most offers listed will win $200 from BringMeGift.
Also, for those that download the BringMeGift App, also the first 100 people to also register for free on www.OutBuro.com will receive a discount code for 50% your BringMeGift monthly service provider fees. After registering on both, send a short message to OutBüro via Support Contact form to receive one of only 100 discount codes for BringMeApp.
OutBüro – The LGBTQ Employer Reviews/Ratings, Job Portal, and Professional & Entrepreneur Networking Community
Are you aware of a company that would like to reach the LGBTQ professional and entrepreneur community? Contact us to explore a potential partnership opportunity.
BringMeGift is the brainchild of Viсtor Semeniaka a Belarusian developer who had the vision to bring the global gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer community a unique tool to make your next travel exciting and personal.
To take the BringMeGift to the next level he moved to New York City and was accepted to participate in the startup accelerator at Starta Ventures. Further, BringMeGift has made a smart move in creating a relationship with Mr. Matt Skallerud, founder of Pink Banana Media, who is very adept at reaching the target LGBT market through online marketing. BringMeGift is a unique approach and seeking investors who share their vision.
This is built on an invite-only trusted network concept. Mr. Semeniaka believes that this will make users of the amazing new app feel more confident in creating the vacation experience of a lifetime. What makes this new travel tool so interesting is the ability to either pay directly for a service offered, or barter – offering a gift, thus the name BringMeGift. For example, say you have a favorite Spanish wine that can only be purchased there. If you live in the US, you cannot get it. So, if you offer a service, say the use of your spare room, be a local guide for an afternoon or more to a Spanish traveler you may request they bring you a few bottles of that so much loved wine in return. Then sit back and sip away.
Offer a home cooked meal for example coupled with great conversation. What a great way to be a global citizen and make new friends. Offer the use of your car for a few hours or a day. Offer to be a hiking guide in local parks. Offer to be a shopping guide. Nearly anything can be offered and requested in return.
This is not just for your vacation. As a past extensive business traveler myself, I would have absolutely loved an app like this during those times. Business travels can be so mundane with few options to get out of the hotel after work. I spent many evenings sipping cocktails at bars just so I’d have someone to talk to that wasn’t work related. With BringMeGift, on your business travels you can offer to bring a token of your appreciation and explore the city with a local and make great friends if you find yourself in that location again.
Naturally, the participants will have to keep country customs and airline baggage restrictions in mind.
Download the BringMeGift app from iTunes today to start connecting with your global community. The app will also soon be available for Android too.
About Starta Ventures: Starta Accelerator’s mission is to introduce startups with European R&D roots to best practices, trusted advisors and mentors, and overcome cultural differences through a customized educational program that helps startups gain traction in the United States and become part of the local startup and investing ecosystem. To put it simply we do everything we can and everything that you need to expand into the American market and succeed globally.
About Pink Banana Media: Pink Banana integrate s the power and reach of content & social media marketing with traditional online strategies including banner ads and e-mail campaigns. We merge PR, Advertising, Marketing & Social Media.
Send us your news tip regarding LGBT owned businesses and/or companies focusing on the LGBT community.
An increasing number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer professionals are exploring the potential of starting their own company to become an LGBT entrepreneur. It sounds like an ideal job to work for yourself, to have no ceiling on your income potential, set your own daily schedule and do something you are passionate about and really believe in. And who knows. From being a dog groomer to dreams of becoming the next billion-dollar tech startup. The possibilities are almost limitless.
However, the harsh reality is, being self-employed can quickly become a burden and headache if not tackled in the right way. 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% of small business fail in their second year, and 50% of small businesses fail after five years in business. Finally, 30% of small business owners fail in their 10th year in business. Such statistics are scary, but it reinforces the importance of knowing the key principles of entrepreneurship before setting off on an expensive venture.
1. Passion Drives
When looking at all the of hard work, long hours and financial commitment being passionate about what the business, industry, and clients can go a long way to sustain you during the startup and down times. Check out our article titled “Want to be an LGBT Entrepreneur? How to Start Business
2. Research It
No matter how much passion you have for something you also need to be somewhat convenienced that there is a market for your business. Check out our article titled ““>Market Research for LGBT Business Startups for a bit more information.
Hopefully, you have the family, a life partner, and friends who believe in your vision and support you in any way they can. If not already consider joining your local LGBT Chamber of Commerce in your area. It’s a great way to not only stir business opportunities but also to network with peers for business coaching success support. Consider finding a mentor in that group or via OutBüro to be a business coach mentor either overall or within a particular area such as marketing or finance. As a small startup, you may be very knowledgeable about what you do, but as a business owner starting out you have to wear many hats and do it all or pay for it to be done. Getting coaching guidance can help you be effective and cut valuable dollars from hiring others. If you have success and talent to share with a startup entrepreneur you may also consider being a mentor to someone else and help grow the LGBT business community.
4. You have a Life – Hopefully
Launching and growing a business can be mentally and physically draining, in addition, to financially which all can add a huge amount of stress to your life. You have to take care of yourself first, your family, love and social relationships. Schedule time for the gym or other physical activities and outings with those that love and support you. If needed actually schedule this time so that your calendar app automatically reminds you of these important activities. This will aid in maintaining a balanced life and so can give your business all your energy when it’s time to focus on that. Ensure the business doesn’t 120% consume you.
5. Start Local/Small
Every business has to start small. Even Facebook and LinkedIn had small beginnings. Check out our article titled “The LGBT Entrepreneur10 Steps to the Perfect Business Plan”. Every business no matter the industry needs to prove there is an existing market. To get a good idea of your market review our article titled “Market Research for LGBT Business Startups”.
6. Cash Flow
Entrepreneurs have varying definitions of what this means, but at its core, cash flow is the most important factor in your early business’ success or failure. Without a positive cash flow, even the best business ideas will be bankrupt.
7. Lean and Mean
It’s easy to churn through cash in the business start-up stage when new entrepreneurs put their valuable early limited funds toward things like a cool downtown office space and provide employee perks that make working in the office seem like a trip to Dave and Busters.
It’s important to keep overhead low, especially during the startup phase. Keep a lean team and don’t sign up for unnecessary ongoing expenses. There are many ways to raise business capital. For ideas take a look at our article titled “How to Raise Money for Your LGBT Owned Business”. Check out our resource article titled “LGBT Entrepreneur Startup Venture Capital Funding” for a listing of venture capital who are LGBT themselves and/or open to business owners just like you.
8. Simple and Focused
So many entrepreneurs get exuberant about investing in trademarks, patents, complicated legal agreements, and company structures. However, these can drain your funds and time when you may be better off focusing on building your product or service, creating brand recognition in the most cost-effective manner you can, and an initial customer/client base.
9. Minimum and Grow
Craw, walk and then run is a great way to consider launching your business. In business, this is also termed as the minimum viable product (MVP), which is a product/service with just enough features/services to gain early customers and provide them with the value they appreciate and that you can do well. During this time is where you’ll acquire valuable feedback from the clients/customers/users to hone and grow your product/service.
10. Just Enough Talent
As an entrepreneur, you have to do so many jobs. It’s tempting to add staff, but really consider what a minimum viable team looks like before investing in employees. Check out our articles titled “LGBT Entrepreneurs Hiring Your First Employee”, and “How to Build a Great Team in Your LGBT Owned Business”.
We hope you found this and the related articles helpful. Do you have other tips? Please comment below. Join an OutBüro to discuss topics of related business ownership with your peers. If you don’t see a group you’d like, start it or use the Support | Contact Us form to request a new group be created. You may further use your OutBüro profile to post blog articles about your business or industry and content for all LGBT professionals and entrepreneurs to learn from. It is your community. Become an active part of it today.
You are an LGBT entrepreneur and working hard to build your business. Eventually, you’ll leave your business someday, so how do you make sure it’s on the best possible terms? We asked business advisors and brokers on how to prepare a sound exit strategy. Here’s their advice.
Every LGBT Entrepreneur needs one. So, what is a business exit strategy?
An exit strategy is a plan for winding down the involvement you contribute in your GBLT owned business. For many entrepreneurs, that means getting the business ready for a sale and thus a change of ownership. Preparing, documenting and following a well-thought-out exit strategy can improve your company value, while providing the company you worked so hard to build has the best chance to thrive after you are no longer directly involved.
No matter if you plan to leave your business in two, six, or twelve years, planning on an exit is a smart idea that helps you in your business strategy. Getting a business ready for a sale and new owner can take a considerable about on time depending on the complexity of the business it could take years.
Having a business exit strategy in place will assist in the process. It also provides a bit of freedom in that if you’re ready to sell, you may do it at any time. That provides you options and peace of mind.
If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, business will be much more fun. Connect with other LGBT entrepreneurs, startups, business leaders and professionals here on OutBüro – the LGBT business, entrepreneur, and professional global community.
How to plan an exit strategy for your LGBT owned business
Business experts advise following these nine steps to building your business succession plan.
1. Plan for your most likely buyer
Be sure to have a business plan to guide your company direction and growth. The type of most likely buyer will greatly be dependent on the type of business you own and if you intend to sell to another company or perhaps to pass it to a family member.
- Family / Close Friends: If you’re selling to family, take extra precautions to make everything transparent and fair. You don’t want the business transaction to cause tension or conflict between family or close friends.
- Current staff: You might find that a current employee would like to buy the company. This could be a great idea for the continuity of running the business. However it is not often an employee who will not have the funds available to pay in a lump sum, so be prepared for staggered payments.
- Highest bidder: Gaining the highest sale amount can be a reward for all your hard work. However, it does require the most effort during the sale process and transition to the new owners. All the business records will need to be in order else they won’t have any idea how you operate or the value of the company.
2. How quickly would you like to plan your exit
Not all buyers are equal. Some buyers, such as friends, family, or staff, may not have the funds to fully pay right away. Can you live with receiving a deposit and being paid the rest from future business income? To guarantee the continued success of the business and thus your payment you might need to remain involved in the business to a degree and diminish that and your level of ownership as your payments progress successfully. If a complete break is what you want, then, selling the business to the highest offer is likely your best path if your transition is well laid out and the purchasing party can assume your business without major disruption to operations and clients. If there is a risk of disruption, you might be contracted as part of the sale to remain involved for a period of time to ensure clients remain/customers happy.
3. Get and keep your financial records in shape
Smart buyers will ask to see at least two years’ worth of clean and dependable financial records. Are you maximizing your cash flow? If your bookkeeping isn’t all it could be, get it fixed now. And if there’s something you can do to improve profitability, do it as soon as possible. You want that upswing to show in your accounts as a sustainable trend rather than as a recent spike.
4. Make yourself expendable
It may sound odd that you’d want to make yourself expendable, unimportant, and replaceable in your own company when you have the right team of employees. However, why would someone else or another company purchase your business if it’s future continued success rest squarely and solely on your shoulders? Nope. Won’t happen. So you must get to the point of leading your company and allow your team to do their jobs with the training and authority to succeed. This will also mean being less involved with the clients and customers. You may even – GASP – need to force yourself to take more time away from the office and delegate decision making.
5. Get lean and document EVERYTHING
Review everything you, your company, and your employees, contractors, and service providers do. Document the business process by job function. How do things get done? Who does it? What is the prerequisite to each step and what’s the next step? Have job descriptions in place for roles remembering that a person might be filling multiple functional roles. Search the internet for job description templates – why reinvent the wheel. It might give your insight and make you consider things not thought of on your own. Review dependencies such as any vendors that provide services, finished or raw products documenting what each does and provides, why, and how it contributes to the operations. Also, document all the technology that supports your business functions. Document how you market your business, the social media channels, and any promotional events or organizations the business participates in. Review all legal documents be it with landlords, suppliers, partners, vendors, and employees. If you have employees, be sure to have written human resource policies in place. Doing an internet search can provide loads of HR policies ready for your business to leverage.
6. Leverage technology
Today there’s an app for almost anything. While reviewing the company processes above consider what online software solutions you can leverage to get and remain organized.
- Employee time tracking
- Client billing
- Mileage tracking
- Financial accounting
- Sales funnel tracking
- Customer relationship management
- Client invoicing / payment
- Appointment booking
- Survey taking
- Email marketing
- Lunch delivery
- Social media simplifying
- and so much more depending on your needs… yes, likely there’s an app for it
Before launching into each, try doing a broad search for solutions that work well together. If needed, there are online application integration solutions.
7. Continue to build and grow increasing your business value
Getting ready for an exit is no time to coast along. You need to be working hard to attract new customers, retain and extend contracts with existing clients. Keep the marketing momentum and even increase marketing if needed.
- Review your marketing material to ensure it conveys the value of your business services or products clearly and focused on your target audience.
- Review and focus on your business plan.
- Review and hone your online search results so customers can easily find you.
Why is your LGBT owned business great? Is your product or service superior to others? Do you have really loyal customers? Is there any intellectual property you created?
Now also look at your weaknesses and step up to address them as best you can. Get outside opinions when you can for an objective view. someone who does.
8. Get a guideline valuation
You won’t know what you’ll get for your business until the day it’s sold, but you can get a rough estimate. Ask for a professional opinion. Your accountant should be able to introduce you to someone, or you could speak to a local business broker. A guideline valuation will help satisfy your curiosity and set realistic expectations. If they predict a lower price than you’d hoped, you might delay your exit, and spend some time building value in the business.
9. Work on a sales pitch
Buyers need to be excited by your business, so come up with an elevator pitch that captures the essentials. Craft a story that explains why you got started, how you’ve grown, and what you’ve achieved. Paint a positive picture of the future, too, but keep it real. Incorporate stats and facts to support what you’re saying.
Exiting your business is inevitable. It will happen whether you’re in control of it or not. So make a plan now and start getting your business ready for the next owner. It’ll help you command a better price, and increase the chance that your business survives.
And remember that anything you do to benefit your future buyer will also benefit you. You’ll have a more efficient, profitable, and easier to manage the business.
It’s never too soon to build a business exit strategy.
Some LGBT Entrepreneurs running a home-based business are skilled at juggling social life, dating, family life (life-partner, children, extended family) with work-life all while finding time for fitness. How do they do it? Dedication, structure, and a little self-forgiveness goes a long way.
Understand the challenge
It’s no easy task to juggle all facets of a modern LGBT active life with the time and effort required to run a business. That’s particularly true if you have had a lot of demands, unexpected life hiccups and believe you have to be perfect in all things and to everyone at all times. LGBT people are so used to being judged that we tend to overtax ourselves.
If you want your startup home-based business to succeed, it takes communication, planning, hard work, compromises, and the right attitude.
Get the timing right
The demands of work are very different to those of social and family. Add children to the family makeup and they naturally require a tremendous amount of time and attention. All can be exhausting but in different ways.
Your startup business requires a keen focus on analytical behavior, thinking strategically and logically. Looking after children also requires some strategy, of course. But it’s usually more free-form behavior, with less emphasis on deadlines and detailed schedules. Add extended family and perhaps caring for an ill or disabled family member or other such family requirements needing your time and attention and it can be all to easy to get sidetracked tending to the home and the needs of others. If no family members are in your mix, maybe it’s your life partner or your active dating habits and mingling strategy that turns you from a business laser to non-business fidgety.
Switching between these two modes of thinking can be tiring, stressful, and extremely unproductive.
The key is to be realistic with yourself and others. Set house rules that include your workspace and privacy while still allowing you to be accessible in emergencies. Be sure to define what an emergency is as well.
Starting a business typically requires much more effort, energy, and hours to get started and run in the early period than going to a job 30 – 40 hours a week working for someone else. Do your life and extended relationship circumstances allow you the time right now in your life dedicated to a new home-base startup business? Be realistic while still stretching yourself to reach your goals.
Are young children in your life? Many successful entrepreneurs take time off to concentrate on their young children for the first few years. Then they return to the world of work – refreshed and ready to succeed.
If you find yourself under-stimulated and desperate to get back to work, then that might be the right thing for you. And if your kids are happy to be left in the care of others, then this is less likely to cause them stress.
If you’re not sure, start small until you’re confident you can balance the demands of a home-based business with your children’s needs.
2. Deal with distractions
You will be distracted when you work from home. You may be putting the finishing touches on a business proposal when your daughter bursts in with a grazed knee. Or you’ll be updating your accounts when your son opens the door and asks you to help color in a picture.
Knowing that this is likely to happen can help you prepare for it:
- Block out times in your work schedule when your kids aren’t around. Use this time for detailed work that requires concentration.
- Have a list of short, easy, admin jobs that can be done while your children are around. This should be work that doesn’t require a lot of thought.
- Get some shared office space if your budget and time allow it. If nothing else, getting out of the house and going to an office can make you feel more professional and help you focus. And there’s the added bonus of making new contacts.
3. Divide your hours fairly
There will be times when your business needs you, and times when your children do. It can be tempting to think that your business is more important, but that’s rarely true. Emails may be marked “Urgent!!!” but in the long run they aren’t as important as your children’s development.
So be fair. Separate work time and family time, and stick to this rigidly. The actual division will depend on your goals, but here are some suggestions:
- Work from the morning school drop-off until the afternoon pick-up, then stop.
- Don’t work on weekends.
- Maybe work an extra hour once your kids are in bed – but don’t make a habit of it.
- Remember to take proper lunch breaks.
- Don’t forget to make time for family holidays.
This may seem like a restriction on your business. But it’s vital to create rules of separation and stick to them. Otherwise, it’s too easy for your business to suck up all your time.
Running your business isn’t the same as building it.
Act like a project manager
You can get a lot done in a short amount of time. It all depends on how well you manage it:
- Don’t use your email inbox as a way to manage your tasks with clients. That’s not what it was designed for – there are better tools for the job.
- Use a project management tool such as Basecamp to simplify client management. This can help you reduce the overwhelming flow of information and make it more manageable.
- Set timers for individual tasks and take a break when the timer ends. For most types of work, it’s hard to maintain solid concentration for more than about 35 minutes at a time. Taking short, regular breaks will help you be more productive.
- Keep everything client-related in one place, separate from other tasks. This will help you create a clear, uncluttered environment.
5. Develop a consistent schedule for your home-based business
Running your business isn’t the same as building it. Both are important, but once you’ve reached a certain workload it’s easy to ignore business development.
So pick one day a week for working on (not in) your business. In other words, you might spend that day:
- planning social media marketing
- writing blogs
- following up on sales leads
- networking with potential new customers.
6. Automate wherever possible!
Computers were designed to make working life easier. With the right software, you can automate some of the work of running your business.
- Standard email responses will let you respond quickly to customers while you think about a more detailed reply. A simple “Thank you for your inquiry, we will get back to you in the next 48 hours” will make potential new customers feel valued.
- Use cloud-based software to save time and effort. If you make use of software that stores data online securely, you’ll make life easier for yourself. Lower IT costs, automated upgrades, data backups that are done for you – it all helps save you time.
- Automate admin tasks. There are some things that all businesses need to do, including handling payroll and accounting for taxes. Get the right accounting software and you’ll be able to automate much of this work. That will leave you more free time to concentrate on building your business.
Learn from others
If you want to make the most of your situation, it helps to learn from people who have been there before. Luckily, there are plenty of stay-at-home parents who have written about their experiences.
You can learn from them. Find out what they did right, what they did wrong, and what they recommend for other entrepreneurs.
A simple web search will bring up plenty of examples. Many of them are women since mothers are still more likely to be stay-at-home parents than men.
Always remember that you’re not alone. If you get stuck with any aspect of running your home-based business, it’s easy to reach out for advice. Make the most of all the resources available – then you’re much more likely to succeed.