9 Pieces of Advice for Startups and Entrepreneurs from Sophia Amoruso

Sophia Amoruso Startup QuotesSophia Amoruso built her e-commerce startup, Nasty Gal, practically by accident when she opened her eBay merchant account in 2006. She was 22 years old. Success came by catering to her customers in the niche business of vintage fashion. With very little advertising or discounting, Amoruso was able to profit using an approach that isn’t typical for the industry. Perhaps since Nasty Gal’s fashion focus is in retro-inspired clothing, there isn’t really a reason to discount items when a new line of “hottest trends” rolls out.

Amoruso’s human approach to business has earned her company a million Facebook fans, 1.2 million followers on Instagram, and a value of over $240 million. She has said, “I wouldn’t have done any of this if I knew it was going to become so big; I would have been terrified.” Despite that, the seasoned business woman has advice for those of us who find ourselves in the position of being a startup entrepreneur—accidentally or otherwise:

“You can pretend to be anything you want. But people figure out pretty quick if you don’t live up to it.”

“I put every drop of profit from this business back into it. That’s why it’s successful.”

“Clearly having awesome customers who [love] what [you] do [is] critical. Not taking no for an answer helps. And whenever something [comes] up, either learn how to resolve the problem or get help from other people with the right experience.”

“When you’re running a business, you have to imagine everything on fire all the time.”

“What do you do when you’re living in a hut for $500 a month and subsisting on Boston Market and Subway? You just keep doing what you’re doing.”

“Once you start hiring people, there has to be a longer term plan. There are specialists. You hire people to do specific tasks.”

“My philosophy is that you sell things for more than you bought them.”

“The whole time, we’ve just listened and tweaked, listened and tweaked, and listened and tweaked, and that’s what we’re still doing.”

“Listening to people around you, hiring awesome people, or getting rid of people who aren’t, and making sure everyone is doing their best—collectively, it has worked.”

—Sophia Amoruso, Founder and CEO of Nasty Gal

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11 Inspirational Quotes for Start-ups and Small Business from Author Jim Collins

Jim Collins Startup QuotesJim Collins is best known as a best-selling author and keynote speaker, but his success in these areas can be attributed to the knowledge and expertise he’s amassed over his nearly 20 years as a business consultant. He holds degrees in business administration and mathematical sciences from Stanford University and has spent his career working with the senior executives and CEOs of over a hundred companies. His latest research focuses on the habits and successes of some of the fastest growing start-ups and companies in the country. He has done the work to analyze findings, identify patterns, and shed light on the common practices amid these companies.

 “Make a contribution. Will someone’s life be better because you were here? Life is about people, so be of service, and be useful.”

“Bad decisions made with good intentions, are still bad decisions.”

“Building a great company is not a function of circumstance, but conscious choice and discipline.”

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”

“The best leaders we’ve studied—men or women—distinguish themselves first and foremost by their ‘Level 5’ ambition: being fiercely ambitious for a cause or company larger than themselves, channeling ego into that larger goal, infused with the will to do whatever it takes to make good on that ambition.”

“Those who [are] really effective make use of not just a ‘to-do’ list but a ‘stop-doing’ list. I set up a time almost every day where I turn off my cell phone and do not get [online]. It’s a pocket of quietude. I also leave white space on my calendar, roughly three days every two weeks. Nothing can be scheduled during white-space time. I try to create bubbles of tranquil time for hard thinking.”

“Gravity does not care if you didn’t get enough sleep—you’ve got to be on your game. El Capitan [a perilous rock formation in Yosemite National Park] is unforgiving, and gravity is unforgiving.”

“Genuine confidence is what launches you out of bed in the morning, and through your day with a spring in your step.”

“Profit is like oxygen, food, water, and blood for the body; they are not the point of life, but without them, there is no life.”

“A great company will have many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.”

“Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company is not markets, or technology, or competition, or products. It is one thing above all others: the ability to get and keep enough of the right people.”

 - Jim Collins, Author, Teacher, Consultant

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The Do-it-yourself Guide to Logo Design

We put together a little presentation that walks you through the basics of logo design: what you need to do before you start, what others have done, and a great tool for getting the job done. Check it out:

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Logo Design News This Week (4.12)

And just like that, it’s Friday again. Which means it’s time for a quick update of logo design news from around the world. Here’s what we noticed over the past seven days:

Robert Griffin III Logo DesignThe biggest logo news this week had to be the unveiling of a new logo for Redskins star Robert Griffin III. Reading the comments from fans, we particularly enjoyed the person who wrote, “I couldn’t care less”, which of course begs the question, why would they take the time to read an article about the new logo, then log in to comment? Back to the logo: RG3 took to Instagram to reveal his logo, which is made up of his initials in the shape of a shield or “block heart” as the linked article calls it. It’s a little hard to read and doesn’t make reference to his sport, but it’s as good as most sports-star oriented logos we see these days. Very few of them compare favorably to Michael Jordan’s air logo.

We’ve written about the power of a logo to affect the way your customers think and act (click that link to learn more), but this seems a little extreme: A swimmer is using a logo to help inspire his historic swim across the Atlantic.

Austin Peay Logo DesignAustin Peay University in Tennessee introduced a new logo this past week, and it’s a big improvement over their old logo. The new logo is much stronger. It features a new word mark that is easier to read as well as a nice update to their mascot, The Governor. The old logo was designed in 1976 by a University alumnus, but was showing its age. Unlike several other recent new logos we’ve written about in this space, this logo appears to be well received. For good reason.


Speaking of new logos that aren’t well received: that new SPAM-can logo for Austin Minnesota that we showed you last week, well, you can forget about that. Apparently the city council wouldn’t stand by its decision once a few unhappy citizens started criticizing the new logo. They’re going to hold a logo contest instead… which, we predict, will not result in a better logo.

North Korea Space Agency Logo DesignNorth Korea introduced a new logo to represent their space agency and a few people have noticed more than a passing resemblance to NASA’s logo. One writer at the Christian Science Monitor also noted that the agency’s name: NADA means “nothing” in spanish, which is a pretty good summary of the Nork’s achievements in space. Perhaps a new logo will help change that.



The hipster logo design guide. Yeah, this seems about right.

New Woodrow Wilson Logo DesignWe don’t link to a lot of high school logos, but this is a good story. Last year Woodrow Wilson High School was forced to stop using their logo when the University of Arizona said the design was too close to their logo. While we understand the need to protect a logo’s integrity, we tend to frown on big universities stomping on smaller high schools. In this case, it turned out well. The new logo is pretty darn good. Some people think it looks mean. Yeah, well, that’s what American sports logos do these days.

Does anyone else think the new $65,000 Clearview logo looks a little bit like a certain President’s campaign logo?

Dionisios Solomos Google LogoNo new Google logos for residents of the states, but Greece saw this new logo in celebration of Dionisios Solomos’ 216th birthday. Solomos is best known for his poem, Hymn to Liberty, which later became Greece’s national anthem.


Did we miss anything? Let us know.

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9 Quotes for Startups and Small Business from Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington has appeared on Forbes’ Most Influential Women list and Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list for her success in running the internationally recognized news and blog site, The Huffington PostArriana Huffinton Startup Quotes. Her blog went live in 2005 and by 2011, AOL acquired the site for $315 million and made Huffington chair, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post Media Group. She is a syndicated columnist and perpetual author. Her latest book (number 14) was just published last month: Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.

Huffington is a huge proponent of sleep and never misses an opportunity to tout it as the main ingredient to success. She gave a TED talk on the subject, recounting her 2007 collapse of exhaustion when she broke her cheek bone on her desk on the way down to the floor. She summarized the same advice, in jest, to Ellen DeGeneres viewers by saying, “I have one piece of advice for you: sleep your way to the top.” Here are a few more quotes from the queen of the blogosphere on running your own startup:

“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions—that we’ll screw up royally sometimes—understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”

“Do what you dream of doing even while you’re afraid.”

“Being fearless means getting up one more time than you fall down. To live in fear is the worst insult to our true selves.”

“The more we refuse to buy into our inner critics—and our external ones too—the easier it will get to have confidence in our choices and to feel comfortable with who we are.”

“Creating the culture of burnout is opposite to creating a culture of sustainable creativity. This is something that needs to be taught in business schools. This mentality needs to be introduced as a leadership and performance-enhancing tool.”

“If you are not in touch with your intuition, you cannot be successful.”

“The essence of leadership is being able to see the iceberg before it hits the Titanic.”

“I studied, I met with medical doctors, scientists, and I’m here to tell you that the way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is: getting enough sleep.”

—Arianna Huffington, Cofounder, President and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post


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Logo Design News This Week (4.11)

It seems like we just did this, but another week has passed and it’s time to take a look back at the latest news from the world of logo design. Here’s what caught our attention this week:

New FSU Logo DesignThe biggest news this week by far was the unfortunate leaking of the new Florida State University logo on a t-shirt at Wal-Mart. Making matters worse, the new logo is reviled by fans and other sport commentators alike. We’ll go on record as saying the changes are pretty minor and not as bad as what fans are saying, though it looks a bit like the seminole is yawning. But tradition is a big part of college football so fans understandably like the old logo better (at least right now). Florida State defended the changes here. And a graphic designer spoke up as well explaining why the new logo is an improvement. There are a few paradies of the logo floating out there too.

It could be worse. You could have used the wrong emperor’s image in your logo, like Constantine College did (they used Hadrian’s profile).

Colorado April Fools LogoIt being April Fools Day this past week, there were a couple of logo related April Fools jokes played that are worth noting. The first was a new logo for the Republican Party—all in blue so the democrats can take the color red (indicative of their recent penchant for huge budgets). Clicking from the press release to see the new logo revealed the joke. The second was a joke, again by Republicans (this time in Colorado) claiming that the Federal Government was filing a lawsuit over Colorado’s new logo, which they claimed looked too much like a hazard symbol. These republicans are funny.

One of the problems with unveiling a new logo design is the fact that customers are already attached to the old logo—just ask The Gap. Or for that matter, fans of Florida State (see above) and the citizens of Austin and Cathedral City (see below). So when Steven F Austin State University unveiled a new logo this past week, it only took three days for the fan’s response to force the university to withdraw the new logo. That’s $14,000 down the drain.

WWDC14 Logo DesignApple announced its next developers conference and unveiled the accompanying logo for the show. Not surprisingly, people have been trying to “decode” what surprises Apple might have in store based on the new logo’s design—it’s something Apple has been known to do in the past. Some speculation seems to be around whether the dots in the logos might be pixels, which might suggest a new high resolution screen for Apple’s devices, or possibly the pixels of a new Apple TV. But like a Rorschach test, the guesses about the new logo probably say more about the people guessing, than the actual logo.

Austin Logo DesignA couple of small town logos are generating a little controversy—residents of Cathedral City don’t really like the city’s new logo, which is a simplification of the existing logo shown here. One resident says, “…it doesn’t say anything.  It looks like three little triangle marks, with Cathedral City under it, and it doesn’t look like a logo would.” Umm, that’s actually the kind of thing a logo would look like. Residents of Austin Minnesota seem to be having the same reaction to their new logo, which cost roughly $60,000 and looks a bit like a sardine can being opened. The city has been called “Spamtown USA” so perhaps the logo makes sense—though we understand why people might not want that to be the thing their city is known for.

Google UK Mothers Day Logo DesignGoogle celebrated Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom with a logo showing a mom and her kids spending time together—something a lot of moms simply don’t have the luxury of doing these days. We, along with Google, wish it were otherwise.

Did we miss anything? Let us know.

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7 Inspiring Quotes for Startups and Entrepreneurs from Mary E. Marshall

Mary Marshall Startup QuotesMary Marshall rose through the ranks of the corporate world, eventually selling her business and moving into consulting. Her executive coaching experience led her to be Seattle’s Chair for Vistage International—a company that corrals the collective knowledge of 17,000 executive leaders in 15 countries. She does this in addition to running her own startup, Marshall Advisors, LLC where she can give her attention to small businesses and entrepreneurs, helping them achieve their goals in the most efficient way possible.

She is the author of Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle: The Ten Pieces Every Business Needs to Succeed (2014) and she maintains a blog (http://mary-marshall.com/blog/). Here are a few things she has said that we find inspiring:

“Even previously successful entrepreneurs never know which product or service is going to be the winner. They just keep trying until they find one that resonates with customers and investors.”

“Don’t be afraid to live your values. Customers respect it and will follow you.”

“Are you innovating and failing fast? Are you doing the right thing? Are you asking your customers what they think and really listening to the answers? If so, you’re ahead in the great game of business.”

“Success comes down to good leadership and stewardship of the enterprise that you or someone else created. An entrepreneur has to be a leader to get things to happen, but a leader doesn’t have to be an entrepreneur.”

“A start-up should be a lot like a good product development process: concept, research, review, test, troubleshooting, market scope, SWOT, rinse and repeat.”

“Fail fast—and start over.”

“As the gold miners used to say, ‘there’s gold in them there hills.’ In the failure, there is gold, but the mining gets a little tougher so don’t give up, learn from it.”

- Mary Marshall, Entrepreneur and CEO Coach

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Logo Design News This Week (4.10)

Another week gone by. Time for a look back at the news from the world of logo design. Here’s what caught our eye this week:

roc-a-fella logo designJay-Z is making logo design news again. Last year it was all about his “do-it-myself” logo for the Brooklyn Nets (a name he is being sued over). This year, it’s because he didn’t make good on a contract with the designer of his Roc-a-fella records logo. Supposedly the contract called for paying $3500 and 2% of future revenues for 10 years, which amounts to about $7 million. DeWayne Walker designed the logo and says he was never paid the 2%. And a judge just green lighted the next step in the legal process. We question whether any design is worth $7 million, especially when most of the value was created by the musicians the label represents. But a contract is a contract. Before you pay $7 million for your next logo, why not try our logo design application first?

FC New York finally has a winning logo. It’s apparently based on an old New York subway token design. Not bad, but not our favorite (as we mentioned two weeks ago).

FiveThirtyEight Fox Logo Design

We’ve seen a bunch of press about Nate Silver’s latest website incarnation, fivethirtyeight, now being hosted by ESPN. But many of the write-up have also mentioned (or criticized) the new logo, which comes from the idea that a fox knows many things (while a hedge hog knows just one important thing). We like the logo, which is a huge improvement over the last version. Emblematic takes a look at the numbers behind it.

In case you didn’t know that New Hampshire was a tax-free shopping haven, there is now a logo that will tell you that. You heard it here first.

Conan Logo DesignSince the invention of television, there have been dozens of late night talk shows—from perhaps the most famous, Johnny Carson, to the more forgettable, like Chevy Chase. The key to designing a great late show logo is to channel the host’s personality, according to Pentagram’s Emily Oberman. She says a second test is to look at the logo and decide if the President would appear on the show. Sidenote: in an era when the President is willing to appear on Between Two Ferns (see logo here), we’re not sure this qualifies as a good test for a logo any more. We like the work Emily did for Jimmy Falon. But no logo channels the host’s personality quite like Conan’s.

Speaking of television: the group that puts on the Emmy awards, now called the Television Academy, has a new logo design this week.

New SFR Logo Design

French telecommunications company SFR unveiled a new logo this past week, but you could be forgiven if you didn’t notice it. The company simply flattened the logo, removing a few bevels, drop shadows, and reflections. The company has been using some version of this logo for twenty years now.





Worth watching: this is a generic brand video. How does your compare?

France Election Day Google Logo Design

There haven’t been all that many notable new Google logos lately, but we did notice this one from France, celebrating the most recent election day. Socialists were routed, which may pull France’s national government right-ward. Time will tell. Until then, here’s the logo.

Did we miss anything? Let us know.

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Should Your Startup be More Transparent?

How to be transparent in your startupTransparency is one of those buzz words that seems to get everyone excited these days. CEOs love to talk about it. Presidential candidates promise “open” and “ethical” administrations. Wall Street traders punish companies that don’t provide it.

So it has been interesting to read about General Motors decision to recall nearly 780,000 vehicles because of a faulty ignition that has been tied to 6 deaths and at least 22 accidents.

Good, right? No.

GM knew about the ignition problem for more than 13 years and didn’t bother to mention it to anyone. They even discontinued and redesigned the part because of the problems it was causing. Then they covered everything up. Which works right up until word gets out, then it is a disaster. The first law suit is already underway and the damages will likely run in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Don’t be like GM
As the owner of a new startup, you have a choice. Consider how you can be more transparent in everything you do.

One small business that has gotten a lot of attention for their dedication to transparency is Moz.com. Their value statement (TAGFEE) starts with their commitment to transparency and authenticity. And admittedly, they take it to the extreme, sharing financials, negative news, future plans (before they are set in stone), as well as failures and frustrations. It works well for them and may even have led (at least in part) to raising $18 million from Foundry Group.

Perhaps the most celebrated example of corporate transparency is Tylonol’s product recall in 1982, after seven people in Chicago died taking capsules laced with cyanide. Even though the company had nothing to do with the poisonings, they immediately recalled more than a quarter million bottles of capsules and offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person involved. The company launched a massive public relations campaign urging people not to take their product (something that was unimaginable at the time). The company then relaunched all of its products with a new tamper-proof bottle design.

Some critics have argued that Tylenol had no choice but to be transparent. Perhaps. But recent actions by companies like GM (and Ford and Firestone, or Apple and Google) show that transparency isn’t the natural reaction of most companies.

Hiding illegal or harmful practices or lying is not just bad, it is risky. Covering up problems today will almost certainly cause more problems for your business tomorrow.

So how can you be more transparent?

First, know that people, customers, governments don’t necessarily want more numbers, more financial ratios, or sophisticated press briefings. They want honesty. They’re looking for a trustworthy product or service to help solve their problem. And they’re quick to look elsewhere when they feel like they might not get it.

1. Be open about who you are. Don’t tell people you are big if you’re just starting out. If customers buy your product or hire your company thinking they’ll have access to a team of experts and all they get is you, it will become obvious soon enough. Don’t pretend to have capabilities you don’t have. Don’t make promises you can’t deliver on.

2. Fix things. If your product has a bug or other issue that impacts your customer’s experience, be open about it, apologize, fix the issue for the customer. Then work on fixing the issue so it doesn’t impact other customers.

3. Communicate with your employees and investors. Help them understand the impacts of the decisions you make running your business. Share financial information so they can see what activities generate revenues, profits, and expenses. When you have bad news, treat everyone like adults.

4. Be truthful. It’s one thing to share the good stuff openly, and hold back on the stuff that doesn’t make you look so good. But real transparency means sharing all the pertinent information, good and bad. Hiding a change in your user terms, for example, is a bad idea.

5. Timeliness matters. Talking openly about a problem you discovered and hid for thirteen years is not transparency.

In a world with so many social sharing options, if you get caught lying, everyone will know within a few hours. The web is permanent. Recovering your reputation can take years—more time than your new business has.

So is there a time when you shouldn’t be transparent? Nick Morgan shares a good example here.


Photo credit: marcomagrini via photopin cc

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8 Inspiring Quotes for Entrepreneurs from Milton Hershey

Milton Hershey Startup QuotesA confectioner and philanthropist, Milton Hershey is of course known for his startup: The Hershey Chocolate Company. His success came after two prior attempts to make it as a candy entrepreneur (caramels and a variety of other candies). By selling off his caramel business, he was able to fund his new passion of chocolate which he discovered only while dipping his caramels.

After studying other chocolate making entrepreneurs, he created his own formula using the fresh dairy that was available from the nearby farms. The Hershey’s Bar was born in 1900, followed by Hershey’s Kisses in 1907 and the almond bar added in 1908. Hershey’s milk chocolate was the first nationally marketed product of its kind and he was able to accomplish philanthropic goals from the success of his company. Hershey’s lives on today as the largest chocolate manufacturing plant in the world.

Here are a few of the things he said that may inspire startups and small business owners:

“Give them quality. That’s the best kind of advertising in the world.”

“My experience has shown me that the people who are exceptionally good in business aren’t so because of what they know, but because of their insatiable need to know more.”

“Difficulties show men what they are.”

“I didn’t follow the policies of those already in the business. If I had, I would never have made a go of it. Instead, I started out with the determination to make a better nickel chocolate bar than any of my competitors made, and I did so.”

“One is only happy in proportion as he makes others feel happy and only useful as he contributes his influences for the finer callings in life.”

“We should deal with one another not as classes but as persons, as brothers. The more closely we work together, the more effectively [we can] contribute to the better health of all mankind; this should be our common objective and its achievement would make the world a happier place in which to live.”

“Take a man of fair intelligence, give him a fair chance, and he will soon learn to do anything that any other intelligent man is doing.”

“The value of our good is not measured by what it does, but by the amount of good it does to the one concerned.”

—Milton Hershey, Entrepreneur and Founder, Hershey Chocolate Company

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