All Posts By

Mark Ross

How to Make a Mobile Application Happen

By | Minnesota Entrepreneur Network Partners

Entrepreneurs are typically very creative and thoughtful people who put a plan into place and then work toward the success of said plan. Ideas can flow quickly and make the product or service that they are involved with pivot and change when the need arises. Many of today’s tech start up ideas come in the form of mobile applications and services. Everything NEEDS an app! Our taxi service has become decentralized, the need for a room for the night…decentralized. There is always a need to make the move to mobile, on-the-go tools. The App Store is looking to reach 5 million apps by the year 2020. With all of this, how can you be a part of this market? Here are some important things to think about in your plan for app market domination.

Paper and Pencil

The first step in making a mobile application is to understand what it is that you are making. Sometimes the easiest way to do this is to take a notebook and start to write down what it is that the app is going to do. This process can be as simple as a list or even a flow chart of how the app is going to work. If you would prefer to save the trees and not use paper, you can always make your lists on your computer using a text editor, Visio, PowerPoint or even an online mind mapping tool (http://www.mindmapping.com/). The idea here is to be able to show how the application is going to flow to the user and better understand what all the elements are going to be.

User Stories

Once the draft is in place, it is time to start to look at what is happening at each step of the application. This step is where you will start to feel out the user experience (UX) that will be built into the app. During this process is it important to think about what is happening in the background of the app as well as what type of data you are collecting as the user is using the app. The user experience is crucial to a successful app and should not be taken lightly. If a user has a bad experience using the app they will likely uninstall it immediately.

Technical Specs

Many people who have ideas for mobile applications do not necessarily have the know how as to how to build them. There are many ways to deliver a mobile app. Native based apps are built exclusively for Android, IPhone or Microsoft phones. There are many new apps that are built on a “web app” platform and work on all mobile devices. Finding the best solution will depend on many factors of what you need the app to do as well as what resources you may need on the mobile device. Many local app development companies like Launch5 Media and MentorMate can help find the best delivery for this.

Marketing

Marketing is one of the most overlooked parts of mobile application development. There tends to be a “if we build it, they will come,” view on mobile apps. Just like anything else that is developed and sold, mobile applications need to be marketed. There are many ways to market your application and always marketing groups who can help you find the best solution for this. If you skip marketing, you may as well skip making the app.

Learn more about app development and find the right partners at the 8th Annual Minnesota Entrepreneurs Kick-off.

Bootstrapping Ideas

By | Minnesota Entrepreneur Network Partners

It seems today that in the high tech start up world you need to have a pool table, keg cooler and a personal movie theater in your office just to attract people to work for you. As most entrepreneurs know, this is typically not a luxury that is available when the funds are tight. For those entrepreneurs who own 100% of their business, it is even harder sometimes to figure out where the next meal is coming from. This is the idea behind bootstrapping.  We can start with the dictionary definition of bootstrap.

boot·strap
ˈbo͞otˌstrap
verb
gerund or present participle: bootstrapping
  1. get (oneself or something) into or out of a situation using existing resources.
    “the company is bootstrapping itself out of a marred financial past.”

This sounds like a plausible way to fund your business and really get things off the ground without looking for outside financial support. There are some great ways to make this happen and help you to pull off a start up without outside resources.

1. Limited Overhead 

This seems like a logical solution. Why spend more than you need on office and work space? The best thing to do is to find a small office around where you plan to conduct business. If you are in an area that offers shared office space, look into some of the options that you have there. Shared office space has other benefits like, finding resources to fill empty spaces in your business model, having others around to help support and encourage what you are doing. There are many great reasons that this is a model that would benefit an entrepreneur. There are a few of these shared spaces that offer  a pooling of resources like receptionist, conference rooms and more. If there are no shared spaces near the place you would like to do business you may want to check in with other small businesses to see if they are willing to let you take a desk or office that they may have sitting empty. This is a great place to get creative. Unless you have to meet with clients IN your office, it often does not make as much sense to have a large office space.

2. Use Local Resources 

Minnesota has many great resources that work with entrepreneurs to help find funding and money in places where they may not think to look. Organizations like the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) and other such organizations have grants, loans and even equity investments that are available. Although the loans and equity grants can take away from the idea of bootstrapping, many of these organizations also have seed capital that may never have to be repaid if you meet certain criteria.

3. Sell First 

Let’s be honest. Entrepreneurs need to sell products or services. If you are going into business for yourself and you do not have any idea what you are selling or how to sell it, you are going to be destined for failure. Sales revenues are the only way you will be able to bootstrap for a longer period of time. Selling means calling, and the calling may be cold. If you cannot take rejection over and over until you reach the next interested person, you probably should not be an entrepreneur. You are selling a product, service and yourself. If you do not know how to sell, take a course or read a book on sales. There is no business without sales.

4. Internet Marketing

We are a mobile economy. Your business card is more than a piece of paper you hand someone at a networking event. Today your online presence is crucial to your brand. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get most of this in place. There are affordable options for social media, websites and ways to sell with display campaigns. Your companies website is home base for all of your contacts. Don’t make the site difficult to maneuver and boring to look at. People are looking for very specific information on a website. Most people will ignore 90% of your website and only look for typical information like business hours, menus, contact information and pricing. Some great affordable options for websites include Swipe Sites, and some do it yourself sites like Wix. The do it yourself sites are a little tricky to work with at times and you may be better off using a professional when you can.

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and others are also crucial to your business. You will want to make sure that those are all in place. Linked in may be just the place for you to find that next big client or even become a thought leader in your vertical.

5. Outsource the small stuff

This may seem like it is adding cost to your overhead. The small and mundane tasks like emails, making promo material, sales presentations and other data entry work can really put the pressure on you when starting a business. Just having a virtual assistant who can take care of all these things will help you find the free time that you need to make another call or meet with other clients. The stresses of getting the little things done add up and should be left to someone else to do. The cost of a virtual assistant is small compared to the amount of work you will get done if you delegate these tasks. If you don’t know how to do it than find someone who can. There are sites like Fiverr and Upwork where you can find technical, artistic, administrative and many other freelancers who can help you get things  done. Take advantage of the gig economy and you will come out ahead.

Bootstrapping is all about watching the money. This gets more and more difficult if you have a restaurant or a retail space that you have to keep stocked. There are still many ways that you can get through certain parts of the business with some savings if you find the right resources.

Find more resources at the 8th Annual MN Entrepreneur Kick-Off.

Entrepreneurial Connections and the MN Entrepreneur Kick-Off

By | Minnesota Entrepreneur Network Partners

One of the challenges of being an entrepreneur is finding the best networks and meeting the right people to help you grow in your business. There is a saying that goes something like, “Know what you don’t know and find someone who does.” This is something that should be a requirement for anyone who is starting a business. Mentorship and guidance from experienced professionals is not a “nice thing to have” but rather a “must have” for any entrepreneur. The Minnesota Entrepreneur Kick-Off is just one of the many ways that entrepreneurs at all stages of business can find relationships and resources that can help them get down the path.

The 8th Annual MN Entrepreneur Kick-Off is hosted by the Minnesota Entrepreneur Network (MNEN). The organization is committed to support the growth of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the state of Minnesota. The kick-off event is the opportunity to learn about other ways to grow in business and networks.

Connections and Networks are at the heart of success in business. We are going to look at some other opportunities that can help make a difference to your business.

 

  1. Local Business Networks

Local options for business networking include meeting with local business owners as well as potentially contributing to local social events and aide. Most localities have a Chamber of Commerce where local business owners meeting at monthly events and learn more about each other over coffee or larger planned events. Some other localized groups include BNI and local Meetup groups. Some of these groups may require a yearly due to be a part and some additional commitment.

 

  1. Social Media

A great place to make business contacts is to network through social sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. The websites allow you the opportunity to get followers and show your expertise in your field. Establishing yourself as a professional in your business field will give you some additional clout in the business community.

 

  1. Join Entrepreneurial Groups

Look for groups state wide that are associated and work with like-minded entrepreneurs. You may find that there are many groups who can help you when starting out your business like the Business Collective. Some are for established business entrepreneurs like Founder Society. The organizations will typically offer more than just the network of people. Most of the sites have additional reading and even some free documents and templates.

 

  1. Local SCORE Chapter

SCORE is the premier place to go for business mentoring and information. The organization is run by other entrepreneurs who can help you with direction and making the right decisions about business. The website offers many valuable resources that every entrepreneur needs when starting a venture.

 

  1. Ask

It seems that the hardest thing to do is to ask for help. This is also one of the most important ways an entrepreneur can learn to make the right decisions and to find the path to better things. The 8th MN Entrepreneur Kick-Off is a great place to find the right network and the tools that can help your business.

 

Entrepreneurs need to be networking. Entrepreneurship is about building relationships with people and other businesses. There are many additional ways to make these contacts. It is the contact that counts the most.