REDMOND, Wash. — March 26, 2008 —Women are starting businesses at twice the rate of all others, outpacing their male counterparts.1 Recognizing this trend, Microsoft Office Live Small Business (http://www.smallbusiness.officelive.com) is teaming up with small-business experts to give entrepreneurial women the do’s and don’ts of starting and growing a business in a conference series called Vision to Venture. Vision to Venture will be featured in five cities across America beginning April 2, 2008.
The conference series will offer a forum for women to network and learn smart and simple strategies from experts Susan Wilson Solovic, author of the “Girls’ Guide to Building a Million–Dollar Business” and co-founder of SBTV.com; Rich Sloan, author, radio host and co-founder of Startupnation.com; and John Jantsch, author and founder of Duct Tape Marketing. For those who cannot attend in person, there will be an on-demand webcast available in mid-May.
During the conference, Solovic, Sloan and Jantsch will discuss the essential aspects of entrepreneurship: the “life” plan, the business vision, and finding and keeping customers. The following is a sneak peek at what each recommends women entrepreneurs to think about:
Solovic advises that the most important part to starting a business “is outlining your vision for the business and your ability to communicate that vision to others so they too can see and believe.” Solovic says some of the challenges women entrepreneurs have are not being able to articulate their vision in a big way. “Women as a rule do not flaunt their style or success. Don’t be afraid to think big and bold,” says Solovic. “If you were in an elevator and had only 30 seconds to pitch a potential customer or client or patient — what would you say to intrigue them?”
Solovic recommends that one way to help develop a good vision, which is a basis for a good business plan, is to find an experienced mentor. “Particularly for women just starting out, mentors play a critical role in that they offer a level of expertise and comfort entrepreneurs may not find elsewhere in their daily lives,” Solovic says.
Sloan advises that in addition to starting a business plan, entrepreneurs should make sure they get a “life plan”: “Entrepreneurs are often so focused on the service or product they want to develop — they forget that they also will need time to take care of other aspects of their lives. Everyone should plan how much time they are willing to invest in their small businesses. Planning could help avoid the situation where your business ends up owning you instead of you owning it, which is very common and unforeseen among startup entrepreneurs. This is critical for women entrepreneurs, who generally are balancing work, family and volunteering.”
Jantsch advises entrepreneurs to know who their customers really are: “Make sure you narrow your target so you are more effective in the services you offer — you can’t be all things to all people. Not only should you focus on the ‘who,’ but on the ‘what.’ What do you want people to say about your business? Once you get your business up and running, you will also need to find out what your customers are actually saying about your product or services. It’s important to capture your customer’s thoughts and words so you can incorporate them into your core marketing messages.”
One way to get conversation going with customers is to blog, Jantsch says. “Blogging is becoming one of the most powerful trust- and traffic-building tools that any small- business owner can tap, whether you want to attract customers from around the world or around the block.”
For women who cannot attend in person, Office Live Small Business will provide an online resource center and on-demand webcast. More information and registration instructions are available at http://www.smallbusiness.officelive.com/v2v.
All conferences run 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and are $59 per person, with portions of the proceeds to be donated to Dress for Success:
St. Louis, Wednesday, April 2, 2008, Chase Park Plaza
San Diego, Tuesday, April 15, 2008, Westin Horton Plaza San Diego
Miami, Tuesday, April 22, 2008, JW Marriott Miami
Austin, Thursday, April 24, 2008, Hyatt Regency Austin
Seattle, Friday, May 9, 2008, Microsoft Conference Center, Microsoft Corporate Campus
On-demand webcast in mid-May and beyond
About Microsoft Office Live Small Business
Microsoft Office Live Small Business is the award-winning service that offers a complete, affordable set of easy-to-use Internet-based tools that help small-business owners get online, attract customers and manage their business. Small businesses that sign up for Office Live Small Business will receive a valuable set of tools and features for free, including Web hosting, rich site design capabilities, numerous productivity applications, contact management software for performing basic customer relationship management, and custom domain name registration with 100 business e-mail accounts (custom domains are free for the first year). This release is also compatible with the Firefox 2.0 Web browser, making the service accessible on both Macs and PCs. Currently Office Live Small Business has over 650,000 customers in five countries: U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Japan. More information is available at http://www.smallbusiness.officelive.com.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
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