The longest lived businesses in the world aren’t the ones that were biggest in their day. Many of them are family firms, or small to mid-sized enterprises content with steady evolvement of their niche. Content with enough.
Enough by DHH
For a lone female entrepreneur, the journey is as frustrating as it is rewarding. Running a sex toy startup as a woman automatically makes me an anomaly. Nevermind the sex toy part—just having started my own company, as a woman, is rare. Luckily, it’s not so rare that women can’t find success. According to Wealth-X, the U.S. has the highest number of self-made female billionaires, followed by China and Italy in a distant third. China’s work ethic promotes equality through earned merit, and unsurprisingly, there are many Chinese female entrepreneurs who are leading the charge.
Despite that, yes, I have met sexism and prejudice along the way—but in China, I learned that ultimately I am judged by my character, work ethic, and the business I create, so that initial judgement is only temporary. When I visit a factory for the first time, the people greeting me often ask, “When is the customer coming?” assuming that I am a translator. I smile and inform them that I am actually the customer and it is MY company. They are taken aback, but they generally get over it quickly. Ultimately, they care about making money: as long as you pay on time, they are happy to do business with you. In my years of visiting factories I never once encountered one whose owners turned me away because they were uncomfortable dealing with a woman. They have turned me away for legitimate reasons—as volume, a mismatch between my products and the factory capability, or an inability to meet my quality assurance standards—but not because of my sex.
A sex toy start-up is not an idea that I have seriously considered.
This is a whole new category of study for me. Here are few sources that are getting me started.
Keith Schacht writes an amazing detailed how-to for analyzing your product’s customers entitled Web and Mobile Products: Understanding your customers, while defines the term viral loop and how to build your own viral loop in his article What’s your viral loop? Understanding the engine of adoption.
“Regardless of a company’s earlier success, thriving in the new mobile app economy depends on engagement and retention. After acquiring users, the real battle to keep and ultimately monetize consumers begins”, from App Engagement: The Matrix Reloaded.
“the power of the network effect is fading, at least in its current incarnation. Traditionally defined as a system where each new user on the network increases the value of the service for all others, a network effect often creates a winner-takes-all dynamic, ordaining one dominant company above the rest ..” from The Network Effect Isn’t Good Enough.
“A viral product derives much of its growth from its current users recruiting new users. A user could recruit another through a simple invitation (“Check out this product, it’s cool/useful/entertaining!”), or directly through using the product (“I want to send you money on PayPal!”)”, from How to Model Viral Growth: The Hybrid Model.
I’m not a financial guru nor has this weblog ever had more than a passing interest in finance. The current ‘deprecession’ gives me a giant headache whenever I try to come to terms with what it all means (our lack of knowledge in this very complex subject gives more power to those who have control over the system). I may not agree with their thesis, I think everything is about money, but I do like the following paragraph from Rolling Stone’s ‘The Big Takeover’:
The latest bailout came as AIG admitted to having just posted the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history — some $61.7 billion. In the final three months of last year, the company lost more than $27 million every hour. That’s $465,000 a minute, a yearly income for a median American household every six seconds, roughly $7,750 a second. And all this happened at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya (whose entire GDP last year was smaller than AIG’s 2008 losses).
Read: The Big Takeover
A great high-level overview of the credit crisis by Jonathan Jarvis, a project which was completed as part of his thesis work in the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.
An article in the CS Monitor detailing just how hard it is to not buy a product made in China – it just might be impossible. I post this as I ponder some thoughts from another site about outsourcing jobs overseas. People often don’t embrace the opportunities that global markets represent – instead of complaining about your web jobs going to India or China take the opportunity to forge a partnership with developers there to allow you to bring your hometown clients to a whole new market. The Chinese can export products to your hometown, then why can’t you export your services to them as well? I remember overhearing or reading a small web development firm in small town Canada chiding the Canadian governments approach of over complicating the process of encouraging small businesses to reach beyond local markets. You don’t need long workshops – you need a telephone and the get up and go to call someone for work.
“We hit the first rut in the road when I discovered our son’s toes pressing against the ends of his tennis shoes. I wore myself out hunting for new ones. After two weeks I broke down and spent $60 on sneakers from Italy. I felt sick over the money; it seemed decadent for a pair of children’s shoes. I got used to the feeling. Weeks later I shelled out $60 for Texas-made shoes for our toddler daughter.
We got hung up on lots of little things. I drove to half a dozen grocery stores in search of candles for my husband’s birthday cake, eventually settling on a box of dusty leftovers I found in the kitchen. The junk drawer has been stuck shut since January. My husband found the part to fix it at Home Depot but left it on the shelf when he spotted the telltale “Made in China.”
Mini crises erupted when our blender and television broke down. The television sputtered back to life without intervention, but it was a long, hot summer without smoothies. We killed four mice with old-fashioned snapping traps because the catch-and-release ones we prefer are made in China. Last summer at the beach my husband wore a pair of mismatched flip-flops my mother found in her garage. He’d run out of options at the drug store.
Navigating the toy aisle has been a wilting affair. In the spring, our 4-year-old son launched a countercampaign in support of “China things.” He’s been a good sport, but he’s weary of Danish-made Legos, the only sure bet for birthday gifts for his friends. One morning in October he fell apart during a trip to Target when he developed a sudden lust for an electric purple pumpkin.
“It’s too long without China,” he wailed. He kept at me all day.
…After a year without China I can tell you this: You can still live without it, but it’s getting trickier and costlier by the day. And a decade from now I may not be brave enough to try it again.”
“If you are a freelance or small Web design firm, I have an uncomfortable question to ask you: are you thinking too small?”
Why Small Web Design Firms Should Think Big
“You can make money in three ways: (1) you make it (you are an employee; you work), (2) someone else makes it for you (you are an employer), and (3) what you own generates money (assets). Being self-employed can be thrown into the employer category, if necessary. I suppose you could add things like gifts and inheritance too. However, I’m not going to count those things because they are too random.
If this assessment is true, and your goal is to work less but still have more money, the trick is to pile your effort (and money) make into the right categories. You should try to be an employer or acquire assets. I can’t make it much more simple than this.”
Ways to Make Money :: WebWord Usability Weblog :: Usability and Human Factors for the Internet
“TRENDWATCHING.COM has dubbed the latter ‘CUSTOMER-MADE’: the phenomenon of corporations creating goods, services and experiences in close cooperation with consumers, tapping into their intellectual capital, and in exchange giving them a direct say in what actually gets produced, manufactured, developed, designed, serviced, or processed. The CUSTOMER-MADE trend has been slowly building over the last five years, but with the current onslaught of consumer activism and the rapid rise of GENERATION C, it finally seems ready for its big moment in the limelight, where TRENDWATCHING.COM expects it to stay for many years to come. It doesn’t hurt that Management Guru C.K. Prahalad recently published ‘The Future of Competition’ an insightful and highly recommended book on co-creation, which prompted us to move CUSTOMER-MADE to the top of our emerging trends list!”
Do you take the “our product/idea/meme/service/etc is the best and the rest are crap” point of view? Or do you take “I’m an authority on this topic and I’m looking out for your best interests” point of view? Which is more likely to persuade you to change your mind?
Are you also looking to help customers become so passionate about your company and your product that they’ll do a better job of selling your ideas/products/company than you ever could?
“Many companies paid (and still pay) thousands and thousands of dollars for full-blown CMS (content management systems) when many times all they really wanted to do was add a little dynamic content to their web sites. A blog can be seen as a tiny but mighty CMS. About.com thinks so.
Ultimately using blogs in the corporate environment is about giving people who need to communicate the tools to do so easily, quickly, and in an organized manner and in one central location. ”
Read:Blogging for Business: A presentation by 37signals
I’m still giving considerable thought to weblogs as so much has changed since
I first was so excited about this concept. For me weblogs comprise a large part of my interaction with the Internet and it has become an indespensible tool for research, learning, sharing and convenient means for self expression.
Weblogs use the web for what it is good for – connecting and interacting.
For the longest time weblogs have been a closely held secret of mine on how to find information on the web. Google is great and very effective but imagine for a moment that you have this network of people who you share common interests with all looking for information on these same topics, all sharing what they found, all adding there own perspective and you see that the possibilities for research and learning are far more promising than simply relying on Googles search algorythms. All these human editors and researchers networked together actively, whether they know it or not, working towards the same goal – acquiring knowledge. Witnessing these sites connect together
into a singled threaded conversation, across cultures, across experiences, and across continents is absolutely amazing.
I could have really used this ability when I was a student of music. Instead I had to travel to conferences, competitions, and hang out in smokey bars all to acquire a minuteamount of information as compared to what is available to me now.
I love to hear stories like this. Though it’s not a heart warming story, it’s nice to know that someone somewhere is still making a lot of money by making websites.
Making money from a small business on the web is something that I have dreamed about for some time. I don’t have huge ambitions. I don’t particularly want to be rich (though if you want to make me so, be my guest). I just want freedom – the freedom to escape the corporate world and live and work where I want . Is this an idea that will forever just be something to think about while lying around on a lazy Saturday or will this time next year I be working from my office in a small house in Thailand? Maybe some dreams can come true. I hope this one does.