BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

When the Young are Wise

Posted by ywmguest on May 7, 2009

We love our friends. YWM encourages you to speak out to share your entrepreneurial tips. Today’s guest blogger is Stephanie Hansen.

My business partner, Gail Cayetano, and I have always dreamed big.  So, when we decided to launch our own event planning business together back in 2006, we ignored all those people who told us “No” and went full speed ahead with our plans.  We had a humble beginning back then, but since the start of our company, Starfish Creative Events, Inc. three years ago, we have increased our revenue over 3000%, with 2008 sales coming in at almost half a million dollars. Our list of distinguished clients includes Activision, University of CA – Irvine, Virgin Charter, Douglas Emmett Management, Coin-Op Television, Konami Digital Entertainment and celebrity David Hasselhoff

Our journey has not been easy and we’ve seen many challenges come our way. Here’s just a sample of what we’ve learned through our experience as young women entrepreneurs.

Top Ten Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

starfishlogoTip #1—Create a Business Plan. A business plan is a crucial tool for anyone launching a new business.  Not only is it necessary if you’re trying to persuade investors, it also allows you to research your industry in depth, hone in on your strengths and weaknesses and plan out your goals for years to come.  Gail and I spent three months developing our business plan and now use it and update it regularly as a guide for best business practices.

Tip #2—Develop your niche.  Figure out what you do differently than your top competitors.  Do you cater to a specific sector of the industry?  Are you more turnkey than other agencies?  Do you offer a specialized service/product that no one else does? Create your key “expertise” that you and only you do best, and market, market, market it!  When we launched Starfish Creative Events, we focused on marketing events (i.e. product launches, press events, conventions) in the video game industry and we are quickly becoming well-known as experts in that field.

Tip #3—Turn your weaknesses into strengths.  Take time to evaluate your perceived weaknesses from your target audiences’ perspective and figure out how you can turn them into advantages that would appeal to potential clients’ needs.  To successfully win over new clients, you need to build a toolbox of answers for every possible doubt that may be raised in your ability to perform.  For example, Gail and I often get questioned about our young age (we’re both in our mid-twenties) and whether we have the experience to handle the work.  Our response is, not only do we have the experience (here we list our most impressive examples), but our age is an added advantage because we are more up-to-date with the newest trends and technologies – ensuring their event would be hip, trendy and innovative.

Tip #4—Find creative ways to keep expenses low.  When you’re first starting out and seeking clients, it’s important to keep expenses as low as possible so you can stretch out your dollars for at least a year.  You don’t need much capital to get a business off the ground, as long as you’re resourceful.  Tap into your  family and friends’ talents and ask for favors (this would be a good time to ask your sister who’s in art school to develop a logo for you, helping her build her portfolio while you save on design costs).  Also, if you can do your work from home, do so as long as possible.  Even after three years, Gail and I still work out of our homes and work off of our PDA’s and laptops, reducing office costs by at least 60%.

Tip #5—Establish strategic partnerships.  Capitalize on the strengths of others and allow them to do the same for you. Make sure to partner with companies/establishments/organizations/brands that share similar goals but not conflicting interests .  Utilize each other’s budgets and audience. In today’s economy, partnerships are one of the most financially beneficial ways to do business.   Recently, we partnered with The Viceroy Hotel to host a client appreciation party.  The hotel was happy to provide free food and beverages for our guests because of the exposure their venue received from a highly targeted audience (our current and potential clients).  It was a win-win for both parties, as well as the guests.

starfishclientTip #6—Create buzz. Do something to stand out from the crowd (competitors.)  Something that isn’t part of your everyday tasks, yet is still so uniquely you.  This past year, Gail and I created a non-profit program called Mentoring Matters, where we brought in high-level executives to a youth community center in downtown LA.  We created buzz about our company by providing a service to the community and also got to meet potential clients.

Tip #7—Surround yourself with good people.  Get rid of the negative people in your life, they will only bring you down.  Instead, find good mentors who can teach you things you’ve never thought of. Also realize that you can learn something from everyone, so be nice and pay attention to people.  And once you find good people to surround yourself with, you’ll have people who can help you extend your network and also hold you accountable for progressing in your field.   When we launched Starfish Creative Events, we formed a Board of Advisors, which is made up of experts in a variety of fields (marketing, public relations, operations, legal and finance) who were personal mentors for us to help us with the strategic planning and building of the company.

Tip #8—Make it happen yourself. There’s no need to wait for others.  Being an entrepreneur is both freeing and nerve-wracking, especially nowadays, at a time when everyone’s financial future is uncertain.  Instead of waiting around for clients to come find you, make business for yourself, which ultimately garners attention for you and your business, which then leads to more jobs.   Currently, Gail and I are coordinating a Strategic Partnership Summit set for 2010, an inaugural convention for brand executives in promotions, marketing and strategic partnership roles.  Through outreach for this event, we’ve made connections to hundreds of potential clients that we would have not made had we not put this plan into action ourselves.

Tip #9—Continued Education is key.  As your business begins to take off, make sure you’re always keeping up with what’s new and what’s out within your industry. You want to provide your customers with the best possible service.  Attend industry trade shows, read industry news, go to local events – anything that furthers your education and knowledge in your field.  Even consider taking classes at your local university.  Gail and I enroll in at least one marketing or sales class each per year to broaden our horizons and hone in on our skills.

Tip #10—Build client relationships, personal referrals are your best business.  Now that you’ve got some clients–-take care of them!  If there’s one thing we’ve learned in our experience, it’s that personal referrals lead to so much more business than any amount of cold marketing ever could.  If you think about it, it does make sense.  If you’ve got a satisfied customer who’s willing to vouch for you, a potential client already feels that you’re worthy and leaves you with less convincing to do.  Make your clients’ business YOUR business, and constantly work to build and maintain your existing relationships.  I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice:  People like doing business with people they like, so never underestimate the power of likeability.

GOOD LUCK!

Stephanie Hansen and Gail Cayetano are managing partners of Starfish Creative Events, a full service, turnkey events management agency catering to corporate and entertainment clientele who aim to market, promote or build their brand through events.Last year Hansen and Cayetano were honored by The Stevie Awards for Women in Business as “Best Young Entrepreneurs” of the year.

photo credit

Advertisements

One Response to “When the Young are Wise”

  1. Excellent information!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: