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Give All You Have, But Never Give Up

Being an entrepreneur isn’t just a career choice, it’s a way of life. Most people quit after facing repeated failure and constant challenge. But for a true entrepreneur, that’s not even an option. Their passion, persistence and absolute refusal to give up on a vision keep them moving forward, even when logic and common sense tell them otherwise.

Grasshopper and ant say never give up

Writing on his blog, Way of the Duck, serial entrepreneur Buster Benson describes the Zen-like motivation that keeps him striving for new ventures. In his recent post, “A duck bears no grudges,” Benson lists the many web startups he’s created, with varying degrees of success, and explains why he plans to “keep throwing myself against the wall of technology and behavior change and making life better until something gives.” Benson’s thoughts about his sleep-when-I’m-dead mentality and his conviction that the journey is better than any predetermined destination are a must-read for anyone going through an existential entrepreneurial crisis.

grasshopper and ant as sun goes down

Compensation is another powerful incentive, but it’s hardly the prime directive for entrepreneurs. Consider this telling example: Back in 1993, when Apple was finding its way in the wilderness during Steve Jobs’ 10-year absence, a programmer named Ron Avitzur was working on a graphic calculator project for the company’s new PowerPC release. Before he was finished, however, the project was scrapped. Avitzur refused to let little things like cancellation and unemployment stop him from fulfilling his destiny. In this exciting Mental Floss article, read about Avitzur’s 007 tactics used to sneak past the guards at Apple and complete his work—it’s sure to induce a Tolkeinesque shiver in computer geeks everywhere.

Another option to the stealth worker, work-without-pay approach is to alter your physical reality to such an extent that you change your mentality. Thorin Koslowski, a contributor to the Lifehacker blog, writes about a twist on the “fake it till you make it” strategy: Act as if You’re a Certain Type of Person to Become that Person. Citing research made by psychology professor Richard Wiseman in The Guardian, Koslowski says positive actions are more effective than mere positive thoughts. He describes some simple behaviors (clenching a fist, adopting a confident stance) to help convince yourself of your own motivation. What other Jedi mind tricks would you add to Koslowski’s list of positive actions?

ant, grasshopper, and dog

Of course, to maintain your focus through the roller-coaster ride of entrepreneurship, you also have to dearly love your product—even after death do you part. Perhaps the quintessential example is the story of Dr. Frederic J. Baur, inventor of the Pringles potato chip can and hero to all college students with the munchies. Baur became a legend at Procter & Gamble for his innovation of stacking uniformly sized chips in a sturdy cardboard tube, thus reducing breakage. As a Today I Found Out writer revealed, upon Baur’s passing in 2008, just shy of 90 years old, his family fulfilled his final request that his signature tubular creation eternally protect him on his journey to the next world. Now that is an uncanny commitment.

How many other entrepreneurs do you know who are as dedicated to their vision as Baur? Let us know!


The Six Dos of Social Media, Twitter Edition

1. Be careful with your passwords
When a disgruntled intern of Marc Jacobs’ went rogue all over the company Twitter account, they learned this lesson the hard way. The intern called CEO Robert Duffy a “tyrant” and talked about hating his job. The response from @MarcJacobsIntl once it regained control basically said: Be careful with your password. Yep, we’ll agree with that.

Marc Jacobs tweet

2. Be honest and open
In February of last year, this tweet mistakenly materialized on the official Twitter account of one of the largest humanitarian organizations.

American Red Cross tweet

Whoops! The offender had posted to the organization account, rather than her own, because of her inability to use HootSuite, she explained. What we can learn from the good people at Red Cross is that when these things happen (and they clearly do), the best thing to do is be honest about it, clear up the confusion for your followers and, if at all possible, throw in some light-hearted humor.

The transparency paid off. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery asked their followers to donate to the Red Cross and the Twitter blip actually ended up raising money. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade!

3. Stay in front of big changes
In January, Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s decision to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving further funding from them went viral. Here’s how Susan G. Komen informed their followers of this decision:

They didn’t tell their followers themselves; they left it to Planned Parenthood. They also neglected to respond to the onslaught of tweets and comments once their fans caught wind of the change. You can read about Susan G. Komen’s lack of social media strategy in relation to this decision on Banyan Branch’s site. The takeaway: When facing a social media crisis, the worst thing you can do is nothing. Even though Susan G. Komen for the Cure reversed their decision only days later, it was too little, too late. Their reputation and social media following suffered from their silence and inaction.

4. Know what a hashtag refers to
Following the tragic shooting at the Batman movie in Aurora, Colo., U.K.-based online retailer CelebBoutique.com (@CelebBoutique) noticed that #Aurora was trending like wildfire. So they decided to use it to their advantage to promote a dress inspired by Kim Kardashian with this tweet.

People were outraged with the company’s failure to research why Aurora was on the radar, and they let Celeb Boutique hear about it with a wave of tumultuous tweets. The boutique responded, apologizing and admitting their PR group was unaware of the trend. You can read more about it—and internalize why you should do your research before using hashtags—at The Huffington Post.

5. Be sensitive  
It’s one thing to not understand the depth of what you tweet, but knowingly exploiting a socially sensitive issue is a problem, as demonstrated by Kenneth Cole last year with this tweet.

Once @KennethCole realized how much the tweet was offending people, they tried to apologize for the insensitivity.

Kenneth Cole Tweet

Unfortunately, the apology couldn’t undo the damage that was done.

6. Get social with social media
Perhaps the biggest “do” when it comes to social media is making sure you in fact have a presence. Read about these 25 reasons why every business should be on social media and find out how to get started.


Embrace Your Office Space

How much time do you think you spend on the job? Ever feel like you’ve been living in the office?  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic, adults between the ages of 25 and 54 spend 8.6 hours on work and work-related activities during the average workday—and that’s counting part-time employees. Work probably accounts for the biggest chunk of your day, so why not turn your workspace into an environment where you’ll feel comfortable, content and inspired?

Reject the prevailing notion that offices should be boring. A vibrant, stimulating work environment can motivate staff, foster interaction and encourage employees to think outside the box.

rubik's cube chest
Photo via Instructables.com

Want some ideas to start with? Check out Scrappy Face’s office space and office supplies Pinterest boards. We are constantly hunting for new ways to enliven the office, ranging from fun and functional office staples (dachshund paperclips, anyone?) to inventive storage solutions. Check out the coffee-table-size Rubik’s Cube, pictured above, with space inside to stash supplies. We’ve also found creative uses for ordinarily underutilized spaces: Imagine transforming a blank office wall into a giant blackboard calendar or whiteboard for jotting down ideas and sharing information.

No matter what your budget, you can find smart strategies to cultivate a more appealing, organized and productive workplace.

    • Recycle tin cans or old spice containers to organize office supplies and tame clutter.
    • Decorate walls with vinyl cutouts of your logo to build company spirit.
    • Splash out for these inventive office gadgets recommended by the Awwwards, which promote and recognize the world’s best developers, web agencies and designers.

Still not convinced about the influence of work environments on productivity? Check out how hugely successful offices such as Red Bull Amsterdam and Google London boost company image, encourage teamwork and spark creative thinking. Designed by Sid Lee Architects, Red Bull’s Amsterdam headquarters gives its employees wings by providing sleek, light-filled workspaces with high ceilings, asymmetrical walls, attractive common areas, splashes of color and artistic details featuring, well, wings! The colorful Brighton-themed Google London office, designed by architecture firm Scott Brownrigg, makes employees feel like they’re on a beach vacation, even when they’re putting in long hours on the job. With a balance of open-plan office space, “beach hut” nooks for small-group collaborations and private spaces such as red phone boxes, Google lets its employees find the right space to share ideas and concentrate on tasks.

Steampunk office interior

Photo via BecauseWeCan.org

Innovative office design isn’t just for the big boys either; take a look at the steampunk submarine office environment that Oakland-based design-build studio Because We Can created for scrappy video game startup Three Rings—for half the price of cubicles. What company wouldn’t want to add personality to its workplace if it also saves money?

Longaberger basket office

Photo via addicted Eyes

Finally, take inspiration from these organizations, who build their brand right into their buildings. From the basket-shaped headquarters of basket-maker Longaberger to the giant bookshelf walls surrounding the Kansas City Library’s garage, these attention-grabbing examples of inventive architecture are instant advertising.

What have you done to brighten up your workspace?


Inspiration Through Science: 5 Ways to Be a Better Entrepreneur

Starting a new business often feels like more of an art than a science. There’s no single formula for success, but that doesn’t mean the scientific method is irrelevant in your entrepreneurial pursuits. After all, as the maxim goes: “If you can measure it, you can manage it.” Here are a few recent examples of some rules of thumb, discovered through years of careful observation.

"Quote from Bob Parsons of GoDaddy"

1. Perseverance pays off – eventually.

Launching a company requires not only immense dedication, but also nerves of steel. Fred Wilson, principal of venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, recently discussed The Startup Curve diagram, showing the squiggly line of dizzying emotional highs and lows that all entrepreneurs must endure to ensure long-term success. In her essay, The Future of Self-Improvement, Part 1: Grit Is More Important Than Talent, Jocelyn K. Glei, Editor-in-Chief of 99%, describes how mere hard work is often the best predictor of outstanding performance, often trumping both IQ and innate ability.

"Quote from Paul Graham of YCombinator"

2. You don’t always need a fancy degree.

College instruction will never hinder you from becoming a successful business owner, but it’s not a prerequisite. As Fred Wilson said in another AVC blog post, roughly 20 to 30 percent of the 21 companies in Union Square Ventures’ portfolio were started by people who did not graduate from college. That said, it’s still a good idea to bone up on the often bewildering jargon tossed around in the startup space. As Forbes.com contributor Erica Swallow notes, the tongue-in-cheek infographic, The Founder’s Dictionary, can give you some humorous insight into common buzzwords.

3. Don’t go it alone.

Communications expert Gini Dietrich, at SpinSucks blog, cites a Harvard Business Review study finding that more than half of CEOs surveyed experienced feelings of loneliness, most of whom say it has negatively affected their performance. Besides, it’s always important to have a confidant to get you through the rough patches. Venture capitalist Mark Suster provides a cautionary tale about how he learned to listen to his legal adviser and never negotiate piecemeal with a client. Read this article to make sure you don’t give away your future bargaining power!

4. Chaos can be controlled.

Well, almost. Chaos theory postulates that seemingly random events can be explained by a series of complex computations. The U.K. utility British Gas worked with psychologist David Lewis, economist Keylan Leyser and mathematician Philip Obadya to create a similar deconstruction of Murphy’s Law: “If something can go wrong, it will.” The resulting Murphy’s Law Calculator predicts the chances that you are “bound to screw up at least once.” Before your next plan starts falling apart, run your numbers through their formula and find out where you might need help.

"Quote from Michael Dell of Dell"

5. You’re never too old to have a great idea.

In a world of 24-year-old billionaires, success seems to be only for the young and preternaturally gifted. Those of us not named Zuckerberg or Jobs, however, may find inspiration in another calculator called Things Other People Accomplished When They Were Your Age, devised by the humor site The Museum of Conceptual Art. Move forward to the 40+ age range and be amazed at how much people can still accomplish later in life.

These five tips will get you started toward better entrepreneurship, but the never-ending scientific process always seeks new data.

What other rules of thumb do you rely on for inspiration?

Images by StartupQuote.com


Scrappy Saying: Always Write and Sign Agreements

Scrappy Face Image: Always write and sign agreements.

A scrappy reminder for all entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers.


Why You Need a Personal Brand

Social Media Elephant sketch by Elisa Mader-for blog

Remember the parable of the five blind men and the elephant? The men ask, “What is the elephant like?” but each one touches a different part of the beast and reaches a different conclusion about the animal’s nature. What a disaster for the elephant’s personal brand!

It’s no mean feat to project one consistent image of yourself in the fast-paced, ever-changing social media universe. Like the elephant, you may be approached from all sides, whether through Internet searches, social media networks or direct referrals. So how do you make yourself—and your company—instantly recognizable, memorable and relatable? Simply enough, put on a consistent face, true to who you are and what you do.

Think of yourself as your company’s best asset. For small businesses in particular, the personal talents and traits of the CEO become synonymous with the company itself, and the impression that you make as an individual will impact the opinions that people form about your company.

You already have a personal brand, whether you know it or not. Business writer Tom Peters, widely credited with introducing the concept of personal branding, wrote in his ground-breaking 1997 article The Brand Called You: “…everything you do—and everything you choose not to do—communicates the value and character of the brand.” Once you’ve embraced this truth, you can cultivate your public image more mindfully.

Here’s how:

1. Ensure you have a strong social media presence.

In the time that you’d spend waiting in line for a drink at a networking event, you can connect with CEOs and decision makers on Twitter or find your next business partnership. Social media takes old school face-time networking and puts it online, and it’s the best tool to use to share your personal brand with whomever you need to.

2. Put your face to your brand.

This can be as simple as linking your different social media accounts and adding a Gravatar (a globally recognized avatar), so a charming photo of you appears on all of your websites. Your picture humanizes you and your company.

MySpace co-founder Tom Anderson closely aligned his image with the company’s brand as the “default friend” for new accounts on the social networking site until his departure from the company in 2009. With 237,991,950 “friends” at the height of MySpace’s popularity, Anderson turned his very public personal profile into a model for online dialogue and Internet cool.

3. Let your personality shine.

Donald Trump takes advantage of his distinctive look, oversized personality and famous name to make the Trump brand instantly recognizable. Your individual style can make your business stand out and be heard above all the media “noise.” (It does not mean you need a terrible haircut to succeed.)

One caveat: Trump’s confidence hasn’t always served him well. Online CEO rants tend to go viral; Trump has had to do damage control over politics and public swearing.

4. Speak in your own authentic voice.

Worse than any of Trump’s gaffes was the scandal surrounding Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who criticized a rival via anonymous online comments. There are no secrets in this transparent Internet age, so why risk your reputation? Using your own name builds trust and tells people clearly what you stand for.

5. Consider all the sides from which people might approach you.

Avoid website mishaps like erstwhile Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich’s: While his campaign managed his message well on his official website, it neglected to buy the domain newtgingrich.com, which liberal pranksters used to spread their own disinformation—a personal branding oversight that exposed a false side to the elephant.

What have you done to build your personal brand?

Image by Elisa Mader


If you build it, will they come?

The best part about being a a founder and an entrepreneur is coming up with a great idea and building your product and your business. And when you launch, users will come in droves to sign up to your service and customers will wait in line around the block, ready for you to open. Right?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. The world of “if you build it, they will come” is over. You have to build buzz and a strong community of users before you launch.

And if you don’t know how, we can help!


Keep Calm and Stay Scrappy

We realize this meme has been over done, but hey, every busy small business owner, entreprenuer, and almost-prenuer needs this friendly reminder.

Keep Calm and Stay Scrappy

So take a minute to stretch, to breathe, to remind yourself that what you’re working on matters. You’re doing what you should be doing and it will pay off.

Now get back to work and stay scrappy!


Are you building a small business but don’t know where to start?

Scrappy Face advises: Don't know where to start? Build something small. Start the conversation. Dip your toes in. Then ask for feedback and listen to it.

Start with small steps. Start building your business. And don’t forget to ask for feedback along the way.

And if you’re still stuck after you get to that point, reach out and ask for help.


What is Confidence? Fake it Until You Make it

Success in life and in business is all about showing the world how confident you are in yourself, in your ideas, and in your product. So take some advice from our good friend here and fake it until you make it.

Just make sure you can fake it first.

Much love,
Scrappy Face