Melinda F. Emerson, SmallBizLady, is America’s #1 small business expert. She is an author, speaker and small business coach whose areas of expertise include small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda develops audio, video and written content to help her Fortune 500 clients engage small business customers. She is a weekly columnist for the You’re The Boss blog for the New York Times. She publishes a resource blog, www.succeedasyourownboss.com which is syndicated by the Huffington Post and hosts a weekly talk show on Twitter called #SmallBizChat for today’s entrepreneurs. She reaches 1.5 million small business owners weekly on the internet. Forbes Magazine named Melinda Emerson #1 Woman for Entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. Melinda has been featured on MSNBC, Fox News, NBC Nightly News and in The Washington Post, Fortune, Essence and Black Enterprise. She is also the author of the bestselling book “Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.” Melinda is a graduate of Virginia Tech.
See More Information at www.succeedasyourownboss.com
Q1: How did you become known as SmallBizLady ?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: When I first got on Twitter my name was taken, so I needed a nickname and my publicist helped me create @SmallBizLady . You can also check out my blog in the @NYTSmallBiz How I Became @SmallBizLady http://nyti.ms/Nku1Vb for the whole story.
Q2: How do you know You Are Ready to Become Your Own Boss?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: You first need to make sure that you have a viable business idea and a paying customer. Know why will they buy from you .You need to make sure that your business will be relevant 3-5 years from now. Look at the trends in your industry. Are you going into a business market that is growing or shrinking? Where’s the money coming from to start? Can you afford to become an entrepreneur?
Q3: What advice do you have for someone thinking about starting a business?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: Develop a life plan first, then get your savings together & your personal credit score up. If you don’t even have a credit score then look at the best credit cards for no credit and work up from there. It’s important to consider these things – you are your business’s credit. Start working for a business like the one your want to start to learn what it really takes. Don’t assume you already know. Develop a marketing plan and define your niche. You must niche to get rich in today’s economy. Write a business plan and then launch while working. It take 18-36 months to break-even let alone replace your salary.
Q4: What first few steps should you take first to start a small biz?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: Join your industry association to develop peers who will help you. Go to your annual convention to learn about vendors etc. Start networking. Your network is your net worth, 90% of all small businesses get business from a referral. Develop your logo, website & business cards. You can easily create some business cards on a website like metalkards.com so there is no excuse for not getting some made! They’re super useful for networking and giving out at trade shows too. Think about the long term saving and your financial goals. Start using social media to build a community at least 12 mths before launch. Don’t get stuck trying to be perfect. Develop a minimally viable product to test the market. Look at websites like USave to see if you can save money on your energy bills. Test everything!!
Q5: What are the biggest mistakes made by small business owners?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: Having no idea how hard it is to run a business, not saving enough money to start. No network to sell to and not operating with a budget. Chasing anyone you think has money for business, instead of focusing on a specific niche customer.
Q6: Where Do You Get The Money To Start Your Own Small Business?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: The money to start your SMB will come from your right or left pocket. Family & friends may invest a little capital, but be careful talking money from friends. Their money might not be patient. If you write an exceptional business plan you make qualify for a microloan of $35K or less. But that’s not enough money. You must be prepared to go without a salary for a year or two as you’re launching.
Q7 : How do you Set a One-Year marketing budget?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: Your marketing must be tied to sales. Create your 30-day sales goals first. Then determine your weekly sales goal. Then build your Marketing plan around generating enough calls, tweets, posts, emails to drive sales activities. If you do it for a month, you can do it for a year. Track your activity against results. Make sure you allocate budget.
Q8: How Do You Prepare For Your Launch Day?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady:
You need to make sure everyone in your world knows you’re open for business. Write a press release, host an event, change your FB cover graphic, do a special offer. Leverage social media to get the word out about your open house and special offer. Order uniforms. Mail Invites. Do customer service training w/ your staff–especially the person answering the phone. If you are a local retailer to a direct mail campaign within an 10 mile radius of your location. Have plenty of inventory, business cards and smiles. if you make a bad first impression it could be game over fast.
Q9: How Do You Become A Social Media Ninja ?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: Use the HELP mantra to build a social media brand. Help others first Social media is all about give to get. Engage people directly. Don’t think you’re going to just tweet links all day. Talk to people. Share personal stuff too. Listen First, Don’t assume you know the culture of each social media site. FB ppl don’t like hastags. Go easy at first. Promote yourself with care. Promote your content & offers at a 4:1 ratio of other people’s content. Be sweet, Retweet. Still confused? Grab a copy of How to Become a Social Media Ninja; 101 Ways to Dominate Online http://bit.ly/SH9md3
Q10: Can you tell me were they can obtain your book “Become Your Own Boss In 12 Months?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months is also available anywhere books are sold. For an autographed copy of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months: http://bit.ly/17sAHuX .
Q11: How do you think like a business owner?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: You must recognize the difference btw oppotunuity and distraction. Too many entrepreneurs mistake business for business. Successful business owners think of themselve in terms of growth not goals. They are life long learners. Business owners think about how to get people in their business who are smarter then them. It’s about the right team!
Q12: How do you market to your niche?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: Figure out what your specialty is in the market, then look at who buys that. You need to see the face of your customer. You need to do your homework on this specific customer to see if there’s enough buys to build a business. You need to understand the pain points of this customer. Why does she buy? How often? What else is competing for her money.
Q13: How do you choose a Lawyer & Accountant?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: Get a referral from another SMB. Make sure they work with small businesses. Don’t get more lawyer/acct than you need.
My latest post: How to Hire Accounting Services for Your Small Business http://succeedasyourownboss.com/09/2013/how-to-hire-accounting-services-for-your-small-business/ …
My recent post: How to Hire a Lawyer For Your Small Business http://succeedasyourownboss.com/09/2013/how-to-hire-a-lawyer-for-your-small-business/ …
Q14: How do you build your team?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: When building a team you want to find people who who are excellent at your weaknesses. You first hire might be an admin. Your 2nd and 3rd hire will most like be in sales and operations so you can get out there and do what you do best, sales. You may also want to consider looking at some bookkeeping services pricing to ensure your business keeps up with taxes and other financial responsibilities. The most important thing to hire for is soft skills, you can teach people to do things, but you can’t teach them to be nice. In relation to this, consider Cloudpay to keep your new businesses payroll simple. This is especially useful if you’re working with remote international employees.
Q15: What would you like everyone to take away from this #WeddingMarket Chat ?
Melinda Emerson @smallbizlady: You must grow yourself to grow your business. You never lose in business either you win or you learn.