Category Archives: Starting A Business

Consider the Stakeholders: Analysis & Decision-Making to Create Value

No one makes decisions alone. Especially in this technologically interconnected age, we are beholden to the interests and opinions of many groups of people: consumers, investors, brand enthusiasts, industry influencers… the list goes on. Each has a distinct point of view, an interest in the outcomes of our decisions, and often an investment of time, money, interest, and even reputation on the line.

When so many parties are stakeholders in the choices made by companies, brands, or influencers, how can we be certain that we are meeting the demands of our many constituent groups? How can we capture and consider the interests of our stakeholders? Enter Stakeholder Analysis – the process by which an organization can analyze the priorities and interests of various parties involved in a project or decision in order to create understanding and build consensus.
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Zumba: Inside The Global Success of an Unlikely Brand

In the world of high-profile brands, there are many success stories that we return to again and again. Steve Jobs and the creation of the Apple brand – Tesla’s Elon Musk – Richard Branson and his serial entrepreneurial success – Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Other brands don’t get as much attention. This bias is so ingrained that we sometimes overlook brands that might have a lot to teach us.

I originally hesitated to write about Zumba, the global fitness brand that continues to explode in popularity despite a lack of attention from the business community. But to dismiss the brand is to fail to notice how deeply and brilliantly it has tapped into evolving trends in the fitness (and music) world and how innovative its founders’ approach to growing their brand truly is. What makes Zumba work and what can its success teach us about building our own brands?
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What Kickstarter Helped Startups Achieve in 2016

Innovators and startups take many different paths on their journey from idea to execution. As a founder of SparkLabKC, an accelerator program in Kansas City, MO, I was privileged to witness many of the ways in which scrappy startup founders pursued funding. These entrepreneurs, driven by their unique vision for the future, work tirelessly to share that vision with the rest of us.

Of course, they can’t do it without funding. While the current investment climate makes it possible for many young companies to achieve the dream of landing venture capital or other major investments, not all startups are in a position to avail themselves of traditional methods. Where can they turn?
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How to Create & Sustain Brand Loyalty

There are many schools of thought about what creates and sustains brand loyalty (that is, a consumer’s preference for one particular brand over another in the same market space). These range from practical matters of convenience to complex and interwoven psychological factors. In the age of social media, we often hear that “engagement” in an ongoing dialogue with a brand is what creates loyalty. Other marketers swear by the psychology of color in creating consumer preferences.

The reality is much more nuanced than either of these approaches indicate, of course. The deeper drivers of connection with a brand are more subtle than memorable packaging, a brilliant logo, or a witty Twitter mascot. New and growing brands that leverage these underlying factors to connect with customers can elevate their position in consumer consciousness and reap the rewards of brand loyalty and evangelism.
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Casper: Innovative Mattress Marketing for Millennials

The online mattress brand Casper has emerged over the last two years as a force in social media marketing, disrupting the department store mattress racket and building its success on an unlikely target market. Casper’s novel approach bears examination; their path to market, product development, and audience outreach each contain valuable lessons for today’s entrepreneurs.
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Innovation Talks: Finding A Better Way

I recently read an inspirational, deeply honest commencement address that has really stuck with me in a way that few such speeches do. It was delivered at the graduation ceremony at the University of Illinois in May by a man named Jeff Huber, a lifelong entrepreneur who previously worked at eBay and Google and is now the CEO of a company called GRAIL. I believe it contains an important message of hope and also a challenge for those of us who consider ourselves to be innovators.

Huber uses stories from his own life to reveal a larger experience and exhort these young graduates (and, by extension, all of us who hear or read his words) to “find a better way.” His speech still resonates with me weeks later, and I’d like to share some of the thoughts it has stirred with you.
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Learning Through Failure: Startup Edition

Failure is a fact of life. While some people prefer to gloss over that reality, I would rather embrace it. In any endeavor we undertake, no matter how successful it ultimately proves, we will fail in some small way. That’s a deeply humanizing truth, and while it may seem pessimistic, our failures (small or large) often hold the key to our success. If we can learn from our mistakes, we emerge stronger, smarter, and more resilient.

I’ve written previously about what we can learn from products that failed, and even highlighted a few prime examples of major missteps from some of the most successful companies in the world. While major corporations often experience failure, it’s an even greater specter in the startup world. Passionate entrepreneurs are launching innovative new ventures every day despite the fact that 90% of startups fail, as Neil Patel recently reminded us in Forbes. Thankfully, this harsh truth conceals a silver lining.
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