Entrepreneurs and Startups

In order to find success in the world of entrepreneurship and startups, you need to know what it takes to run a successful business. While it might be easy to “start” a business or brand of your own… keeping it afloat and profitable is a whole different story — especially when the market is getting flooded with more entrepreneurs and businesses everyday.

Age of Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs

  • While the common thought is that all startups are teenagers and in their 20s, reports show that the average founding team is aged between 35 and 54 years old. At the same time, the companies with an average age of 35 to 44, have the highest median funding of startup founders.
  • Based on startup founders and their previous titles, 39% were previous CEOs/Founders, while 28% were a mix of various titles outside of upper management, director and manager positions. Based on education, More than 60% of founders had little to no college experience.

Best Cities to Start a Business

  • California, New York and Florida are known as the hot spots of internet and business activity within the U.S. However, the top five locations for actually starting a new business are Austin, Miami, San Jose, Los Angeles and Denver!

Startup Finding and Investors

  • There is a massive amount of money being poured into startups and the numbers only continue to rise.
  • With $17.10 billion in Q2 of 2015, this number is expected to increase to $18 billion by Q3 of 2015.
  • The total amount of venture capital invested in 2015 will surpass $32 billion.
  • There were over 1800 venture capital deals in 2015, which an average of $16.91 million to each of them.
  • Angel investors spend the most of their time and resources on “internet” and “mobile & telecommunications” businesses.
  • California represents 18.2% of all angel investments in 2015.

The success of your startup relies in the pre-planning and actual business model of your startup. If you are still in the pre-planning phases, this startup infographic will also help you on your way.

Miami Herald Makeover: C.S. Orchids

emineo media cs orchids Miami Herald MakeoverFor most couples, being married for half a century is quite an accomplishment. But for Carmen and Carlos Segrera, their 50-year union is about more than marriage. The pair are also business partners and owners of a company that specializes in creating elegant arrangements of delicate orchids for homes and businesses.

It all started more than two decades ago as a hobby for Carmen Segrera.

“I have always been fascinated by orchids,” Segrera said. “Ever since I was young, I have been in love with them. I have grown them and made arrangements with them. My friends and neighbors loved it. It was also a welcome reprieve from the stress of working in corporate America.”

After years of working for a major airline, Segrera wanted to turn her passion into a business. The Segreras turned her hobby into C.S. Orchids, a company that has been in business in Miami for more than 12 years.

“I knew this is what she loved to do,” Carlos Segrera said. “And after so many years of watching her, I developed a passion for it too. It’s really a pleasure watching the joy and beauty that orchids bring into people’s lives.”

With little more than passion and a will to succeed, the Segreras opened their business in 2003. The couple’s first client was former University of Miami President Donna Shalala. “She really encouraged us when my husband and I were starting out,” Segrera said. “And she remains a client to this day.”

With a client list that now includes major professional and residential buildings like the Wells Fargo Center and Gables Condominium, the Segreras are looking to expand. The company offers a variety of services including custom arrangements that can be purchased or leased and maintenance of private orchid collections. But they wanted to explore ways they can grow the business using tools like social media and the Web to market their company and increase sales. The couple also wanted to look at developing a business plan to create a targeted road map for growth and finding out more about local and state grants to help small businesses.

Neither of the Segreras is a marketing expert, however, and the couple instead turned to the Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover to help them find the best way to achieve their goals. The Herald, in turn, brought in Miami SCORE, a national nonprofit organization of retired volunteers who have been successful entrepreneurs and built thriving businesses. SCORE volunteers use their entrepreneurial skills and offer mentoring services to small business owners at no charge. SCORE identified three counselors to help C.S. Orchids get on the road to expansion.

The SCORE team included Sandi Abbott, the owner of Xpresso Content Café, a digital marketing agency that specializes in helping small businesses grow their sales and referral network by using the latest online marketing tools. Abbott has had a long career in corporate communications, including stints at Hertz Car Rental and as a vice president for AmeriFirst Bank in the 1990s. Lorinda Gonzalez is a grant writer and owner of Grant Ink, a firm focused on providing clients with access to quality grant writing services. Gonzalez has helped clients secure grants in a variety of industries and works closely with SCORE clients to help them identify viable grant opportunities for their businesses. Sam Shirley is an associate with Prudential. He has built a long career in the financial sector and has worked for major banks including Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

After working with C.S. Orchids for a little more than a month, the counselors identified several areas of the business where the Segreras could realize immediate improvement. First, the company needed to focus on its website and explore e-commerce. The company also needed a business plan. The company also wanted help to understand what opportunities were available in terms of securing government grants and participating in public procurements in an effort to maximize growth.

The counselors agreed that the Segreras needed to concentrate on the business plan and incorporating e-commerce into their website. To accomplish these goals, the SCORE team had the following advice:

▪ Develop a business plan and run more efficiently: “This business has been around for over 12 years but never really had a formal business plan,” Shirley said. “To grow and successfully move toward expanding the business, C.S. Orchids is going to need one.”

Shirley recommended developing the plan to breathe new life into the business. “By taking the time to put together a solid business plan, C.S. Orchids will be inspired to set new goals and objectives and take their business further,” Shirley said. “It’s going to give the company the opportunity to approach running their business in a more systematic fashion and allow them to focus on growth.”

Shirley also suggested a multipronged approach to finding ways to save money and run the business more efficiently. He advised the company to review all insurance policies for both the business and the Segreras personally to help save money on monthly premiums.

“The company should also review workers’ compensation policies, auto policies and business liability insurance to see where they can save on premiums,” Shirley said. “Another opportunity to save money and run more efficiently would be to look at working with FPL to find ways to reduce their energy usage in maintaining the orchids.”

▪ Explore government grants and public procurements: As a seasoned grant writer, Gonzalez saw prime opportunities for C.S. Orchids to benefit from government grants.

“C.S. Orchids should definitely look into the mom and pop grants offered by many Miami-Dade County commissioners,” Gonzalez said. “There are also great opportunities out there for minority and women-owned businesses to get grants.”

Gonzalez also recommended getting certified as a minority-owned small business to take advantage of public procurements.

“If the company were a certified small business they could take advantage of Requests for Proposals and other public procurements for their services, which includes plant maintenance.”

▪ Embrace e-commerce and social media: “The company’s website is due for an update,” Abbott said. “I recommend going to a WordPress template that is mobile-friendly and easy to update.”

Abbott also recommended adding an e-commerce area to the site to take orders online, a blog to the website that is updated regularly and adding a photo gallery to showcase the company’s products and services.

“Photos are a very engaging way to sell a product,” Abbott said. “They could include a sampling of the arrangements for sale or lease, the gift baskets they make and the larger corporate installations. While it’s not necessary to include pricing, they could at least give potential clients an idea of what services are offered and give them a reason to stay longer on your site. I would also include a personal touch by telling the story of how the company got started and their philosophy on providing quality service.”

Abbott also recommended including a customer referral form and testimonials on the website as a way for people to get in touch with the company. In terms of social media, Abbott recommended making the company’s Facebook page more robust by adding more information in the “About Us” section and a link to the website.

“The company should create photo albums of their installations and post images of the staff doing fun things like making arrangements or even dancing in the office,” Abbott said. “And when they go to events, take pictures and tag people in the posts. They want an ideal mix of about 50 percent entertaining posts that encourage folks to like, share and comment. It’s important to share content that is engaging. The more engaging your content, the more Facebook will show it in the newsfeed of your fans. Another 30 percent of the content posted should be industry expertise and the last 20 percent should be about the company.”

For their part, the Segreras plan on taking the counselors’ advice and reassessing how they are doing at the end of this year.

“We are so blessed to have met this wonderful group of experts who are helping us to get our business to the next level,” Carmen Segrera said. “My husband and I are grateful for the opportunity that has been given to us and will implement all of the recommendations offered to help us grow.”

The makeover

The business: C.S. Orchids has been in business for 12 years and is located at 4936 SW 75th Ave., Miami. The company was established in 2003 by Carmen and Carlos Segrera. The company provides custom orchid arrangements and maintenance of private orchid collections to residents and businesses throughout South Florida.

The challenge: Moving the business’ marketing from traditional word-of-mouth promotion to embracing digital tools and social media to help the company grow.

The experts: Sandi Abbott, owner of Xpresso Content Café with over 20 years of marketing experience; Lorinda Gonzalez, a grant writing expert who has worked with SCORE for over five years; and Sam Shirley, a financial expert with Prudential who has over 15 years of banking experience. Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Emineo Media, who has more than 25 years of experience in branding and social media. He has also led training programs for entrepreneurs both in the United States and abroad.

The makeover: In just over a month, the SCORE team developed a solid marketing strategy for C.S. Orchids. They worked with the owners to develop new marketing strategies using social media and other online tools and identified opportunities to secure small business grants.

Read more here: Miami Herald

Miami Herald Makeover: AAA Million Auto Parts

Emineo Media Miami Herald SMALL BUSINESS MAKEOVER (2)When most people think about the auto repair industry, they think about men poking around under the hood to diagnose the problem. It’s not a field that typically attracts women. But Margarita Hernández and her daughter aren’t your typical women. A strong connection to Cuba and a passion for classic cars from the 1950s led Hernández and her daughter, Cristina, to becoming owners of a 77-year-old auto repair shop in the heart of Little Havana.

“It all started with my father, José, in 1938,” Hernández said. “He owned a popular chain of car dealerships called Cadena Automovilista in Cuba.”

But that changed in 1961 when Hernández and her family fled Cuba.

“We left everything behind to come to Miami,” Hernández said. “It was a very difficult time for many in Cuba looking to flee a communist regime.”

When Hernández’s family came to Miami in 1961, her father was able to gather enough money to open AAA Million Auto Parts in Little Havana.

“When my dad opened the business here, it was very small and most of our business came in through word-of-mouth,” Hernández said. “He grew the business over the years, and when he passed away 10 years ago, he left it to me and my daughter.”

For Hernández, the prospect of owning an auto repair shop wasn’t daunting.

“I grew up in the auto parts business,” she said. “In fact, when my father passed away my daughter and I had been working for the business for years, so we knew the ins and outs of it.”

What Hernández didn’t know, however, was how to market the business and increase sales.

“We were so used to do business the old-fashioned way,” Hernández said. “But we knew we had to modernize our marketing to grow.”

To find answers, Hernández turned to the Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover to help them determine how to incorporate social media, email marketing and take advantage of government contracting opportunities. The Herald, in turn, brought in Miami SCORE, a national nonprofit organization of retired volunteers who have been successful entrepreneurs and built thriving businesses. SCORE volunteers use their entrepreneurial skills and offer mentoring services to small business owners free of charge. SCORE identified three counselors to help AAA Million Auto Parts.

The SCORE team included Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Emineo Media, who has more than 25 years of experience in branding and social media. He has also led training programs for entrepreneurs both in the United States and abroad. Althea Harris is the Assistant District Director for Marketing and Outreach for the Small Business Administration (SBA) Area 1 in Miami. She has more than 20 years of experience and previously worked for the U.S. Department of Commerce. She assists small businesses looking for ways to take advantage of government contracting. Julio Canas is the business development director for Harbor Ithaka Wealth Management. Canas previously worked in banking for Banvalor Banco Comercial in Caracas, Venezuela. He has more than 10 years of experience in banking and business development. Raju Mohandas serves as a senior business consultant for International Services Inc., where he advises companies on how to grow their businesses through strategic planning and financing. He has moer than 30 years of experience in sales and marketing, operations and finance. Mohandas has successfully restructured and helped small businesses obtain capital for their assets and operational needs.

After working with AAA Million Auto Parts for three weeks, the counselors identified several major areas for improvement. First, the company needed to focus on its website and bolstering its online presence, particularly in terms of search engine optimization. Another issue was the company’s need for a business plan. The company also wanted help to understand what opportunities were in available in government contracting through the SBA and how to automate their business operations in an effort to maximize profit.

The counselors agreed that Hernández needed to first concentrate on the company’s website and improving its online presence. The counselors felt that developing a business plan focused on growth and taking advantage of SBA government contracting programs will help the company achieve increased sales. To accomplish these goals, the SCORE team had the following advice to offer:

Revamp the website: “This is key area for the company to focus on,” Espinosa said. “Right now, their website is pretty basic. They need to almost immediately revamp the site, optimize it for mobile devices and for search engine optimization.”

Espinosa recommended rolling out the new website in the next 60 days.

“For the company to achieve their goals and get into government contracting, they need a website that is well-organized and easy to navigate.” Espinosa said. “The company needs to view their website as a sort of digital business card. It’s where potential customers and government entities will go to learn about the company and decide whether to do business with them.”

Create a business plan: “Because the business has been around for so long, having a formal written business plan was not a priority,” Mohandas said. “But in order to grow and move toward modernization, it’s important for the company to create a business map that will be their road map to achieving the goals set forth by the owners.”

Mohandas recommended focusing on the things the company does and realizing what they don’t do.

“You can’t be all things to all people,” Mohandas said. “It’s important for this business to focus on their strengths — unique and antique auto parts for classic cars. That’s what makes them different.”

But Hernández disagrees.

“We do focus on the antique auto parts, but we also repair modern cars every day,” Hernandez said. “So we want to continue focusing on that and making sure our services are affordable.”

Mohandas also recommended looking for potential customers outside of the immediate area of the business.

“I suggest looking for new clients outside of the shop,” Mohandas said. “Research online for antique car dealers, collectors and others looking for parts. They don’t have to only sell to the public, they can also sell to the trade. The key focus is to increase their sales margins.”

Explore government contracting: Harris worked with the company to help them understand how government contracting works and the opportunities offered by the SBA. Harris recommended that the company register as a woman-owned business in the SBA contracting program and to get their 8a certification. Harris is also working with the company to determine whether they are eligible for the Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone) program, which helps small businesses in urban communities gain preferred access to federal procurement opportunities.

“These certifications will give the business several advantages in the $500 billion federal marketplace,” Harris said. “It will also make them attractive to large government suppliers who are required to subcontract to small business.”

Harris recommended that the company ask for introductions and referrals to federal buyers looking for auto parts or other related commodities.

Consider automating business processes: Canas recommended that the company look at areas where they can automate business processes.

“The company is using Quickbooks software for their accounting,” Canas said. “But they need to take a hard look at the business and see what other functions lend themselves to automation such as inventory and orders.

Canas also suggested reviewing their pricing model to ensure competitiveness.

“The way I see it,” said Canas. “Big competitors like Advanced Auto Parts and Auto Zone have made this business a commodity. When this happens, the only dimension of competition is price.”

With an annual revenue of $250K to $500K, Canas pointed out that the company does well for a small business, but there is room for growth.

Hernandez was grateful for the advice of the SCORE counselors.

“We always knew that we had to move toward modern times and increase our marketing,” Hernández said. “Thanks to the counselors at SCORE, we are well on our way.

The makeover

The business: AAA Million Auto Parts has been in business for 77 years. The company was established in Cuba in 1938 by José R. Hernández. In 2005, Hernández passed away and his daughter, Margarita Hernández, and granddaughter, Cristina, took over the business, which provides auto repair services. The firm also offers a selection of rare parts for classic cars from the 1950s and ’60s.

The challenge: Modernizing the company’s marketing efforts to increase business sales

The experts: SCORE Miami-Dade counselor Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Emineo Media, has more than 25 years of experience in branding and social media. Althea Harris is the Assistant District Director for Marketing and Outreach for the Small Business Administration (SBA) Area 1 in Miami. She is an expert in government contracting and has worked in the industry since 1993. Julio Canas is the business development director for Harbor Ithaka Wealth Management. He has worked in wealth and asset management for more than 10 years.

The makeover: In just under three weeks, the SCORE team developed a solid marketing strategy for AAA Million Auto Parks. They walked the owner and her daughter through strategies for improving their social media presence, automating their business processes and updating their website.

Read more here: Miami Herald