A warm welcome to the Entrepreneursheep site

What comes first: extraordinary deeds or extraordinary people?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Is your start up finished before it starts?

STOC goodie bags for the launch party!
Like it or not, a good business does not just rely on good products or services. The success of your start-up will be built on whether people know about you, like you and trust you enough to part with their dollars. The key to achieving this is how effectively you communicate your products or services to your customers. And that's where all that marketing comes in!

Leaflets, billboards, posters, stickers, goodie bags, business cards, stamps, magazines, local newspapers, social networks, bus ads, giveaways, pens, word of mouth, radio Ads, TV Ads (I should be so lucky...)

All of us recognise the necessity of marketing. We are constantly bombarded by examples, after all! Good marketing builds a solid name and reputation for your business, creates leads, generates industry interest and customer attention and, most importantly, makes those sales! Whichever way you see it, marketing is a vital tool to help your business survive, make money and grow. With this firmly in mind, it is simply illogical to consider marketing an 'optional' part of your business. Sadly, many start ups commit business suicide in by thinking just that.

The reality is, most start ups venture out with more enthusiasm than skill. Unless you have a marketing qualification, or a generally prolific creative brain, there is a chance you need outside help with marketing. As a new business owner, you have to figure out all areas of your business, constantly switching hats, with no time to spend on vital strategic planning. Yet so many people devote so little time and effort to activities researching marketing and advertising, and spend little time thinking about how customers can actually get to know about them.

One option is outsourced marketing. Many small business owners are too intimidated to seek outsourced marketing, associating it with big billboards and even bigger budgets, risking leaving their idea to ferment in silence. Little do new start ups realise the true importance - and ease - of obtaining professional marketing help. With some outsourced marketing, such as Marketing Eye, an experienced marketing executive can help you build your business to a success from only $27.95 a day. If you are really stuck, you can get outsourced marketing managers that have been strategically headhunted as the best people to help you get the results you want, all at an affordable, small business-friendly price.

Without attention, there are no customers; without customers, there are no sales; without sales, there is no money; without money, there is no business. Whether you get your hat on and come up with all the creative ideas you can think of, or get outsourced marketing help, it is really your responsibility to provide clever and affordable solutions that will help you generate attention, boost those sales and save your business from death by cashflow.

95% of small businesses don't make it through 5 years. Most small businesses ignore marketing. Spot the link. If you do what everyone else does, you get what everyone else gets. So don't make the same mistakes and make sure your business stands out from the crowd! With the right marketing strategy, it can - and will.

With hard work and good advice, you can make it happen!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tweet tweet: the Twitter guide to awesome marketing

It may be time-consuming, a little overwhelming and, potentially, superficial, but the impact of social networking has revolutionized ways of doing business as the introduction of mobile phones did in the '80s. Like it or not, no one can deny the growing power of Twitter followers, Blog readers and Facebook fans, and yes, you can follow STOC tee shirts on all three

One of the most popular social and business networks of our time, Twitter is an international communication phenomenon. And what is marketing if not effective communication? We at @STOClothing have shared and learnt from thousands of other Tweeters, about everything from famous quotes to Victoria’s Secret! So what’s behind the Twitter addiction and what makes it such a success?

Here are my Top 10 marketing tips from Twitter that are really worth following:

1) A little birdy told me…
You’ve heard it before: word of mouth is the king of marketing. The key to this concept is trust: people are more likely to buy from businesses that their friends or contacts have already ‘vetted’ for them. So, get as many ‘refer a friend’ programs and bonuses as you can afford, get your customers to join your social networks and share them with their contacts, and run deals, promotions and offers to get your customers to spread the word, then watch your customers do your marketing for you!

2) Kiss, kiss, kiss
At the risk of disappointing you, KISS actually stands for ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’. No matter what you talk about, Twitter gives you all of 140 characters to do it. In our time-poor, attention-short universe, this is what makes Twitter such a success. The lesson is: keep it relevant, keep it quick. What’s your message? Your focus? What end result are you going for? If you haven’t got their tails wagging in 3 sentences, you are not going to get them at all.

3) Make your move
How do you get a Twitter follower? Follow them first! Twitter is bringing reciprocal relationships back into fashion. For others to take an interest in you, you have to take an interest in them first. It’s simple, easy and makes you look generous. In business, make a phone call to complementary businesses and suggest reciprocal marketing relationships. You never know, so go on and make the first move!

4) Build your network
It’s surprising who or what is going to prove useful in your business. So you might as well put it out there and show interest in as many relevant businesses, individuals and ideas as you care to research. Networking is essentially about expanding connections, so don’t worry about specifics. Link yourself with interesting individuals and see where it will take you.

5) Sum it up
Focus on what is important. How would you reduce your business to a one sentence summary? Some people are so wrapped up in the idea of their business, they forget what it is they are actually offering customers. Have a clear sense of what you do, who you are, and how people should contact you. How would you describe what you have to offer in one sentence? Keeping things clear and simple is a key to successful marketing.

6) Tweet away
Have you got an interesting view, opinion, or something you want to share with the world? Then tweet about it, put it in your newsletter or make a quick comment about it to your clients. Communication is not just about dry information exchange – nor is it about polluting the email traffic with comments about the weekend’ kite festival. However, a bit of personality and a sound bite about something other than last month’s sales figures for the inner west, might well be a welcome addition when it comes to talking business.

7)  What’s new?
When we think about business, we often think about reacting to what’s happened in the last quarter, or thinking about the next… what about now? The most relevant and exciting developments are the ones that are going on right now. These are the things that will affect, change, and define the business. So, buddy, what’s new? And are you telling your customers about it?

8) Stay regular
Like every relationship, the relationship you have with your customers requires maintenance with plenty of attention and care. It takes more than an occasional blurb about the weather to keep customers interested. Communicate simple, valuable and content-rich information to your customers through newsletters, web updates, direct emails, letters, bonus coupons, gifts, phone calls and other ways you can think of to make them feel valued, appreciated – and loyal.

9) Prepare to be surprised
The World Wide Web is an information playground where you can stumble upon anything you can – and cannot - imagine. Browse around and see what you can find – it may well prove useful. At the same time, don’t be afraid to put out content of personal and professional interest that may not be directly relevant to your business, and you never know who may be looking! Fishing enthusiasts need IT contracts, too.

10) Tweeting to yourself
One of the most under-rated advantages of social networking is the thought you have to put into it first. You have to define yourself, you have to share interesting and valuable information about your work, you have to communicate and take an interest in others, and you have to research about what is happening in the industry and in your work at large. This self-definition and self-analysis can yield enormous benefits as far as maintaining your focus in business goes. Marketing to others is about understanding yourself and your business first and that, perhaps, is the greatest exercise of social media.

Hope you found this helpful!
Something to say? Tweet me at @STOClothing and find me at STOClothing on Facebook!

Farewell, friends

Victoria A.

Friday, August 20, 2010

So, Julian Baggini, what's it all about?

What is happiness? For me, it's travel, cats doing funny things, taking action to improve the quailty of the environment and, of course, ice cream. For world-renowned philosopher and academic Julian Baggini, however, the answer is a bit more complicated (though I bet he is still partial to a choc chip cup.. mmmm). Anyway, he knows a thing or two about happiness, and he cares to share it in 'What's it all about: philosophy and the meaning of life'.

instant source of happiness:

Summary of Baggini, J. What it’s all about: philosophy and the meaning of life, (London: Granta, 2004), 97-105.

In the chapter entitled ‘As long as you’re happy’, Julian Baggini examines the meaning of happiness. The achievement of a state of happiness, he says, is an elusive concept, and not necessarily the best goal in life. In the ‘virtually happy’ section, he looks at different forms of feeling happy, and what makes for an ‘authentic’ happiness experience. Baggini suggests there are different quantities and qualities of happiness, based on current circumstances or needs. In the final section, ‘Seek and you shall not find’, Baggini warns against following vacuous advertising and magazine images in the hope of finding happiness. His central argument appears to be that it is up to the individual to define what brings them fulfillment, and the pursuit of this – rather than the shining promise of something called ‘happiness’ – will lead to a truly satisfied life. 
In Baggini’s view, happiness is important – but it does not necessarily take precedence over everything else. He questions whether the pursuit of happiness for happiness’ sake is really worthwhile if it’s just a product of biochemistry. There is a difference, he argues, between having the experience of a good life and actually having a good life, a life that is a product of hard work, ability and achievement. What is the difference between this, he asks, and spending your life hooked onto a ‘happiness machine’? It appears that happiness is a process, and an experience fuelled by effort, not just something we can pinpoint and then tap into.

People’s understanding of happiness depends on their value systems. A starving person, Baggini suggests, would easily accept bread as a source of happiness rather than a Ferrari. A person whose experience of ‘real’ life is torture, may also prefer to be hooked onto a pleasure-inducing machine rather than life in permanent pain. Happiness is not a universal concept, but something that depends on each individual in accordance with circumstances they are in.

The chapter also warns against separation of the state of general ‘happiness’ and the self. The media and advertising world would have us all believe that happiness is always somewhere else. Generic happiness comes packaged in a six pack, with an array of luxury goods and a promise of great sex on tap. However, as Baggini identifies, these advertisements are successful precisely because they are aspirational, and have nothing to do with reality. If people actually achieved this dream body and lifestyle, they would be busy searching for something else to fill their inherent void. We can’t put a face or a price tag on happiness. It is something that has to be achieved through a process of self-realisation and knowing what makes us feel fulfilled.

Baggini concludes that happiness comes in many ‘shades and tones’, and we have to develop resilience and a positive outlook. The ‘modern myth’ of happiness, he says, is nothing but just that – a myth, based on unrealistic expectations and the media’s desire to fuel our consumerism and need for satisfaction. A constant and complete state of joy is unnatural for human beings, and we cannot simply lay claim to things that we ought to never take for granted, such as a healthy body, loving family or enjoyable ways of making a living. First, we need to look within to find passion, vision and energy to commit to doing the things we love, and happiness will take care of itself. 

.....Which is all a fancy way of saying... DO WHAT YOU LOVE.

-Victoria A.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Be the nerve centre, not the nerves

But... it IS personal :-/

"To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour."
                                                                                -William Blake
O.K., here is what I have learnt in a few short months of running my own business. No matter what 'The E Myth' (see previous 'business classics' post) says, running your own business IS always personal.

It doesn't mean you have to physically be there to dot the 'i's and cross the 't's on every single invoice. In fact, the failure of most small business owners lies in devoting time and attention to those time-consuming but unrewarding tasks rather than focusing on what really matters - i.e. brings PROFIT.

However, running your own business is always involving and always absorbing. It not only should not but MUST NOT demand every ounce of your time, attention and energy (otherwise, how can you stay energetic and inspired and produce more great goods?!?) But there always things your business does demand from you. These are: your energy, your vision and your values.

give give give to GET GET GET


One very important reason you cannot spend 20 hours of your day working, hugging a can of Red Bull: You have to have energy!!! Energy to inspire, create, communicate, drive. If you do not give your business this fuel, who will? Be the instigator and the engine of positive energy and see it reverberate through everyone you touch with your ideas. Be excited, be buzzy, and believe in what you do and watch the results. Energy and positivity are infectious!


By vision, I don't mean a floating reverie of you, a white fluffy cat, a beach and a margharita. I don't mean the vacuous image of a goal. I mean the PROCESS.

Think about
How do you want your business run?
What is the role you see yourself playing in your business?
What do you want this business to ultimately achieve?
How do you want people to think of your business?
What it is that you want to create with this idea that you have?
Why do you want to spend this money, energy and nerve cells on these ideas?
What is it that makes this business so important?

Write down some solid points and them commit yourself into living them out every day from the time you open your eyes. Then, the next time you ask yourself 'dear God, WHY?!?', you will have all the answers you need.


What are the values of your business? Why is it so important for this business to exist?
A business is an extenstion of you, and an excellent, unique opportunity to offer something of yourself of the world. Imagine your business as a human being. What values do you want it to have? What motivates it? What inspired respect from other people? What separates it from others? These are things the business can only get from you.

I try to spend every day analysing the health of my energy, vision and values. Being vibrant, visionary and living out your values is far more important than getting a sale or completing another receipt that day. I believe if I can really establish what is important and brings the most value to my business and do my best to not stray away, great things await!

Plus, it means you can have your business AND always have the time to say YES to a cofee break in Darling Harbour...

- Victoria A.

Business classics: 'The E Myth'

Business bible

'The E Myth' by Michael E. Gerber is a life-changing classic. It gets brandished as a business bible at the front of just about every business class I have ever attended.

For those unfamiliar with the book, the main contention is that small business owners spend far too much time working IN their business rather than ON it. Most people start their own business because they are craftsmen who love their craft and think they are doing it better than others. However, they are NOT entrepreneurs.

So, what they are essentially doing is buying themselves a job and falling into the following cycle:

- Baker loves to bake
- Baker bakes far better that their fat boss, goddamit! That guy spends more time stuffing pies inside his mouth than stuffing the shelves...sheesh
- Baker can totally do better
- Baker can TOTALLY go alone...
- So baker does

- Now, baker has to get up at 2am instead of 3am so they go and set up shop
- Baker has no holidays or days off. They spend all their time working in their business
- Staff are unreliable and noone can ever cover for them. They do not trust their managers. They are totally tied to the job.
- Now, on top of baking pies, they also have to strap up legal contracts, accounting sheets and pay the rent
- Family time and, god forbid, dating are all out of the window as this means spending time away from the oven which is, by definition, NOT ALLOWED in any circumstances
- Baker is sick and exhausted, and spends their nights sleeping in a pile of their own mince pies

- Baker develops a smoking addiction and stress-related hairloss
- Baker is so time-poor they cannot remember the last time they saw their own feet
- Baker is losing money as they cannot sustain productivity as productivity means them working harder. They are already at their maximum capacity.
- Baker hates it, moans about it, complaints, curses, eats too many cookies and HATES IT HATES IT HATES IT
- Baker closes up shop and vows to spend every evening of their life from then on eating Ajisen Ramen takeaway.

The moral of the story is that every business ought to be set up like a franchise models with a turnkey operation. This means that systems and procedures should be set up so that anyone could operate them and the business starts with that precise intention that the owner sells it. That way, the owner keeps distance between themselves and their operations and builds the business as a sell-able, autonomous machine. Anyone could walk into the business at any time and simply 'turn the key'.

Technician turn boss?!

There is a common assumption amongst small business owners that having a business is a 'lifestyle' more than professional choice. They see themselves setting the whole thing up in a month, doing it better and brighter than anyone else (thanks to those long years of industry experience). There is nothing about the job they don't know, so stepping up to owning your own business seems as simple as taking on the title 'boss'.

If only it was that easy...

The reality is that most people are simply 'technicians' who are not versed in the legal, financial and entrepreneurial facets of owning a trading operation. They assume that being manager mainly revolves around telling their employees who do all the work the whats and hows of the job. WRONG!

Turn key book

This book is really illuminating and famously life-changing. It reveals some really earthy truths about running your own business and the realities of being your own boss. About the challenges of being self-motivated, with noone to chastise you for slacking. About the downs of having no one to celebrate your success with but yourself. About the loneliness of being the only one responsible for oversights and mistakes, And the sheer darn frustration of improving your business one way possible: by even more hard, hard work and grind.

So why run your own business?!

Answer: read the rest of the blog :-D
- Victoria A.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The art of consumption

Image courtesy of fabulous illustration artist
 Julia Sonmi Heglund,
Consumption: what does it mean to you? If you are like most people, you are probably thinking of eating a Vegas-style buffet in a Hummer with a proud owner of a fresh pair of double Ds.

With all the (fully justified) negatives we have come to associate with excess consumption, it is time to speak in defense of the artful consumer.

A successful entrepreneur is a successful consumer. One of the key reasons why I am in business is because I am the ULTIMATE consumer. Food, literature, conversation, advice, sunshine... I soak it up.

I wake up in the morning to drown myself in coffee and stuff down my latest email intake of information and stimulation. I love to research recipes and get excited about gourmet food to the point of embarrassment. I bask in moments, hoard clothes, relish conversations and have been known to mistake random immobile objects for pie.

Chew on this: beneath the surface, and we are all animals, roaming for our next titbit of provisions. To see how deep this runs, just look at the language we use in daily life. We are constantly getting offered 'pieces of advice', are spending lazy Sundays 'devouring magazines', or 'gulping down' words. Consumption: we eat it up.
The natural instinct of a human being is to consume. We live in an over-stimulated world where large corporations have devised various mental and physical mechanism to enslave us to our needs. Our wants, needs and deepest desires now all come from magazines, advertisements and word of mouth gossips.
Rather than following our inner desires from 'within' we are now going 'without'. Without guidance, without direction, without satisfaction and without control. We are driven to fill a bottomless pit of emptiness with piles of nothing.
As business people, we have a corporate social responsibility to ensure that whatever product or service it is that we offer, it is creating something of positive value to the world, rather than just feeding more of its perceived 'needs' and 'wants'.
When I think of my label, STOC, I think of abundance. Abundance of products, abundance of creative design, abundance of sales, abundance of people to work with, abundance of friendships, connections and relationships that we make with everyone who is involved inworking with us. I think of endless supplies, endless creative and manufacturing processes, and endless customers to share our work with.
To understand the difference between overstimulated consumption and abundance we need to ask ourselves one question: Am I doing this because of INSPIRATION OR DESPERATION? If we are inspired to do what we love, abundance flows our way and there appears an infinite supply of all the things we need and desire. If we are doing something because we are fearful and desperate to avoid something (poverty, loneliness) we are immediately making ourselves victims of senseless consumption.
If you are in business to help yourself and others do more of what you love, congratulations! You have far to go. If you are in business to buy yourself a job - think again.
To consume well, establish your values and what is important to you and don't compromise. This simple piece of advice has served me in professional as well as personal life. Whilst it may not be perfect, it certainly works far better than the alternative! I've never heard anyone praised for being weak and confused.
An excellent speaker, Amir Zorghi, who runs a daily and weekly email of 'The Quest for Truth', advises us to give whatever it is that we lack, as this is what will give us what we perceive we need.
If you need kindness, give kindness wherever you go. If you are short on support, take care to consciously offer support and help to everyone you come across. Whatever you are seeking, you find it in you.
This applies in business. If you feel there are not enough reliable people in the industry you work in, always stand by your promises. If you feel the workers are often mistreated or underpaid, treat others as you want to be treated. If you feel there needs to be more independent suppliers or creative thinkers, become one!
Use the need for consumption as a tool to give, give, give more and more of your valuable product and service to servce the world. 
If that's not enough, here are the words of GOD: 'Give, and though shall receive'.
Now, be satisfied.
-Victoria A.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Why be an entrepreneur??

Quick post on the pros of being an entrepreneur:

1) Create things you love

Not everybody gets into business because they love what they do. Just the successful ones.

It is your love for what you do that will give you inspiration to get up every morning, provide you with enlightening ideas to build and grow your business and help you persevere through the hard patches.

Moreover, people are far more supportive of people that are visibly passionate about their business. These people don't 'sell' their product or service. They simple share something brilliant with the world.

2) Serve your values

How many of you are frustrated about limits on the way 'business is done around the place'? As long as you are working for someone else, you are going to be working for a business that has a different set of values to you, and this translates in how things are run. For example, if the business is always cutting costs on customer service, and you believe customers come first, it will be a constant cause of friction which will be impossible to change.

Working for yourself provides a wonderful opportunity to right the 'wrongs' of your chosen industry as you see them, and paint a bit of the world with your own colour.

N.B. Dr John DeMartini is an excellent, life-changing international speaker on value systems and how they serve your life. His work is an absolute must read for anyone who intends to have a good life.

3) Live happy

If you do what you love, every day is an opportunity to grow, create and prosper. This doesn't mean filling in each invoice with a crazy grin on your face. This means seeing the seeds of happiness and contentment in everything you do. Even doing those boring daily tasks or dealing with difficult people becomes more manageable if you realise that all of this is serving your dream of creating more of what you love.

There is no 'good' or 'bad' - only how you see things. Being an entrepreneur, and being a boss of yourself, your time, money and attention, and committing yourself to what you truly LOVE can lead to nothing but abundance.

Why wouldn't you want to be an entrepreneur?!

- Victoria