Geri Stengel

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7 Tips For Making Necessity The Mother Of Success

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the dramatic rise in women of color starting businesses. On the surface, that might sound like good news but only if these women are choosing to start a business as an opportunity. If starting the business was a necessity because they couldn’t find a job, the news is not so good. Necessity entrepreneurs are less likely than opportunity entrepreneurs to be successful.

As I read Whitney Johnson’s book, Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work, I realized how appropriate her advice is not just for women, but for any necessity entrepreneur. The book will be released on October 6, 2015.

One piece of advice not in the book may be the hardest to hear for someone trying to put food on the table but it is critical. Johnson mentioned it when I spoke with her. That is, the process takes time. It takes about six months to morph an idea for a business into a viable business.


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6 Must-Have Personality Traits for an Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs solve problems by creating new products or new ways of doing things. It takes a very special person to do this well—one with very specific personality traits. Based on personal observations and interviews, I’ve come up with six must-have traits for success as an entrepreneur. 

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5 Common Mistakes Companies Make When Seeking Financing

Whether you’re starting a new business or expanding an existing $50 million enterprise, you may need to raise outside financing. I was surprised when my accountant, Gary Topche of Topche & Company, told me the mistakes business owners make are similar no matter the size of their businesses.

His company specializes in serving the financial needs of businesses ranging from startups wanting to grow big in a hurry to companies already worth half a billion dollars. Naturally, I wanted to know more about these mistakes, and share insights from someone so close to ground zero.

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The Rise Of Women Tech Entrepreneurs In The South

Atlanta is setting a new standard for women in tech, offering them opportunities not found elsewhere. Women in Georgia, as elsewhere are less likely to start tech companies than men … but Atlanta is changing that.

Allyson Eman, Executive Director of Venture Atlanta, the premier tech conference in the Southeast, says women are seizing the opportunity to start tech companies in Atlanta’s key industries—fintech, health IT and IT security—as well as in emerging industries, such as marketing automation.

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How Starting with “Why?” Leads Entrepreneurs to Success

Why are some companies more innovative, more profitable, and inspire greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? It’s because they start by asking “why,” according to Simon Sinek, an ethnographer, author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and speaker (his TED speech is among my favorites).

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” says Sinek. Your story and your passion make you stand out in a crowd and help you connect with like-minded people, the kind of people who will support you even when times are tough.

When you follow your heart and are passionate about what you do, you lay the foundation for creativity. That keeps you motivated. When obstacles get in your way, you have the strength to go on. Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing four start-up entrepreneurs whose passion and purpose inspire me, their customers, employees, suppliers, and investors.

Read all of How Starting with “Why?” Leads Entrepreneurs to Success on My Turnstone. 

Looking for Alternative Funding Sources? Go Online

If you’re a small business, you don’t need to be told that small businesses were hit harder than large ones during the financial crisis. Bank loans, especially those for less than $350,000, dried up. Small businesses—especially Main Street firms—couldn’t get the money they needed to maintain cash flowhire new employees orpurchase new inventory or equipment to grow their businesses.

But, as the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. “Emerging online players are filling the void left by many banks, and pushing innovation within the banking sector in the same ways in which other online upstarts such as changed retail and Square has changed the small business payments business,” wrote Karen Gordon Mills and Brayden McCarthy in The State of Small Business Lending: Credit Access During the Recovery and How Technology May Change the Game (PDF), a Harvard Business School working paper.

Whether online or offline, alternative lending caters to customers who need cash but might not qualify for traditional bank loans. It's even attracting some small businesses that would otherwise qualify for a cheaper traditional bank loan but don't want to deal with the traditional hassle. In these cases, some businesses determine that the flexibility that comes with alternative lending is worth the extra cost.

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Women-Owned Businesses: A Tale of Two Types Of Entrepreneurs

Just the facts, ma’am

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of opportunity, it was the age of necessity. It was the epoch of unicorns (start-up companies valued at a billion dollars or more), it was the epoch of struggling sole proprietors. That is the story revealed by 2012 U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Small Business Owners for women.

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Entrepreneurs Slow to Market Via Equity Crowdfunding Platforms

Equity crowdfunding platforms are providing a new and innovative way to raise money from angel investors that centralizes, streamlines, simplifies and shortens the fundraising process. Equity crowdfunding pools money from a group of investors via internet platforms, using social media and other types of marketing.

You might be surprised to learn that entrepreneurs, who are known for innovating in their products and services, are not innovating when it comes to the way they raise money. And angel investors, who put money into innovations, are not innovating in the way they invest. Few entrepreneurs are marketing their securities offerings to angels online via crowdfunding.

That’s unfortunate, since angel investors provide about half as much financing as venture capitalists: $24 billion compared to $48 billion, according to the Center for Venture Research and MoneyTree, respectively. Angels, defined here as accredited investors who earn $200,000 annually (or $300,000 as a couple), or have a net worth, excluding their homes, in excess of $1 million, are more likely than VCs to focus on seed and early-stage companies.

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Profit Is Nice. Margins Are Even Better

Most people who own a company would say that a big reason they’re in business is to make money. There’s more to being successful, however, than the absolute dollar amount you bring in.

Revenue and profit are important, but alone they do not provide the full picture of a company’s overall health. Revenue shows how much you’ve earned and profits show how much money your company has made in absolute terms. Margin ratios, however, offer a look at your profitability by telling you how much you're making relative to your revenue. It's not an absolute metric, and that's a good thing.

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An Agile Mindset: Not Just For the Leader

What sets highly successful leaders apart from the rest? Agile learning does, and entrepreneurs are better at it than corporate executives, according to The Korn Ferry Institute. They should know. The Institute researches leadership and has found that the ability to navigate through novel situations—and to learn from experience without becoming rigid—is a key leadership skill set.

Agile learners are better able to work through complex problems drive innovation and grow a bottom line. The three traits characterize of an agile learner:

  • Tolerance of ambiguity: Comfort with vague or contradictory information and the ability to make decisions when things are uncertain.
  • Intellectual curiosity: The extent to which a person is likely to tackle problems in a novel way, see patterns in complex information, and pursue deep understanding.
  • Emotional intelligence: The ability to influence, collaborate, and communicate effectively with others and use interpersonal awareness in a way that advances collective goals.

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