10 Quotes for Startups and Small Business from Katia Beauchamp, Founder of Birchbox

Katia Beauchamp Startup QuotesWhen Katia Beauchamp left her Private Banking job (where she worked on big corporate real estate deals) to attend Harvard Business School, she had no idea she would be running one of the most successful New York City startups just three years later.

At school she met her future co-founder, Hayley Barna, with whom she brainstormed the idea for a business that would help women (and now men too) discover and experience new beauty products. They reasoned that women have a difficult time buying online because there’s no good way to touch, smell, and try before you buy. Their startup, Birchbox, sends a monthly, personalized box of hand-picked items to each customer to try and then buy more if they liked them.

To say the idea is a success is a bit of an understatement. In just five years, the company has grown from their student apartment (while the partners worked to complete their degrees) into a fashion industry giant. And customers love it. Birchbox hit their five year goals in just seven months. Today the company has more than 800,000 subscribers in the USA, UK, France, and Spain and is worth more than $500 million.

In part because of their success, the two partners have been asked many times for their advice to other (especially women) who are looking to start a business. Here are a few of the things Katia has said that we think are inspiring:

“[Forget] about the concept of work/life balance. There is no such thing. That balance is overall life, not this week or this month; you don’t have to be balanced, just prioritize different things at different points in your life.”

“I don’t think you can be prepared for [starting a company]. I don’t think that’s in any way feasible. I think if you knew what was coming, it would feel daunting because it’s crazy.”

“When you get to work with people who are your friends, spending time with them makes work that much more enjoyable.”

“…keep your head down and focus on your brand and your service or your product and what makes it unique and special. Don’t take too much time obsessing over what somebody else is, versus what you really saw and started, because nobody can copy your vision.”

“The reality is that there are many paths to success; there is no one path. Realizing that frees you to move fast and get things done in the best way that you can. Once you start executing and realizing that you can make reasonable decisions that lead to successful outcomes, you gain the confidence to keep going. For us, it is critical that we all keep that in mind, because every day brings new firsts.”

“Work hard and own it. You make your own success and your own luck. Ask for what you deserve.”

“If you work hard, ask questions, and learn from every opportunity, you are going to have a fulfilling journey in your career. Be thoughtful of the people you work for including your manager. Find someone who is open and respects you. It makes work more enjoyable and gives you the opportunity to learn…  It is also highly important to remember to enjoy building your career.”

“Nothing is more delightful than being efficient.”

“I don’t think you just have one mentor; there are so many people we have the chance to meet, so I am constantly looking for new perspectives. There are definitely people I go to for the big questions, but mentors are there to be helpful. They aren’t there to give you the answers but to help you see that your perspective can answer the question.”

“Authenticity helps with anything you’re doing.

—Katia Beauchamp, Founder and CEO of Birchbox

 

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Logo Design News This Week (5.6)

Friday at our do-it-yourself logo design headquarters is reserved for reviewing all the news from the world of brands and logos. So, without further ado, here are the biggest or most interesting (and sometimes lamest) things we noticed this week:

New Pirate Bay Logo DesignPirate Bay, the bit torrent, file sharing, site which was shut down last December came back online this week with a new and appropriate phoenix logo. The bird rising from its ashes replaces the pirate ship flying a sail marked with cross bones and a cassette tape. The site has had its share of legal troubles (some would say harassment) for allowing users to share copyrighted files. Some people are suggesting this new site may be a front for law enforcement to track down and punish people who share files illegally. But the logo is pretty good—and certainly appropriate.

 

Memphis Red Birds Logo DesignWhile we’re writing about bird logos, check out the new logo for the Memphis Redbirds, a minor league affiliate of the St Louis Cardinals—though that should be obvious from looking at the logo. The new logo adds a second red bird and a bat and was created by the Cardinal’s in-house design team. The birds on a bat design is used by several of St. Louis’ farm teams. It’s not the best minor league logo we’ve profiled here, but it gets the job done.

Which gets us to another baseball logo, one that hasn’t been released yet. But the Rough Riders are teasing their soon to be announced logo with a pair of monocles—though technically those aren’t monocles. Watch for the new logo in about three weeks.

Pancreatic Cancer Action Logo DesignPancreatic Cancer Action got a new logo that is ostensibly based on the shape of the pancreas an oddly shaped trapezoid. We like the logo (especially on the t-shirts), but the whole “shaped like a pancreas” is the kind of thing designers say to convince clients that there is an idea behind what is basically a color block. No one who isn’t told will ever see this as the shape of an organ. On the other hand, it’s definitely an improvement over the old design.

Some of these NBA/video game logo mashups are pretty good (the Boston Luigis) and some are terrible (the Utah Trons?).

New Panda Security Logo DesignWe like the new logo for Panda Security, a Spanish software company that develops anti-virus programs. The new logo is significantly more approachable and friendly, but uses a kind of target icon, which not-so-subtly signals that the product targets the bad guys.

This week RadioShack announced its bankruptcy and probably closure. Bloomberg takes a look back at their logo design history.

New Calgary Library Logo DesignWe noticed two different new library logos this week. The first, which can be seen here, is for the Jacksonville Public Library and is very typical of what you’d expect. It’s not a bad logo, but it doesn’t break any conventions (not that logos should break conventions). It works as an identifier which is what most good logos do. But the second library logo for the Calgary Public Library is different. Described as “science-y” by one designer, the icon signals connections and appears to be reflective of the building’s unique frame structure. We can’t help but see a spider’s web or maybe a fingerprint.

We wrap up the week with this video logo for Google celebrating Langston Hughes 113th birthday. Hughes was an accomplished American poet, novelist, and dramatist. And the logo is very cool.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments:

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Start a Business: Choosing a Business Type (Corp, LLC, LLP, or Sole Proprietorship)

Legal OpinionThis year on the blog we’ve been sharing some of our experiences and thoughts about how to start a business. So far we’ve covered how to figure out if you idea will make money, how to prove whether customers will buy your product, and whether you have what it takes to build your idea into a business.

Today we want to share a few thoughts about which legal structures are best for your new startup. It’s something you should do before you start spending money on your idea. And  you’ll need to show your legal papers to the bank when its time to open a account for your business.

But which type of legal structure is right for your new company?

On its business structures page, the IRS lists five different business entity types you can choose from. Each has different requirements and benefits. They are:

Sole Proprietorship
A sole proprietor is someone who owns their business 100% herself. There are no partners and no investors with an ownership interest. This is most common for home-based businesses and those who are self-employed. There are almost no requirements for forming this type of business.

Partnerships
A partnership is a relationship between two or more people who join together to form a business. Each partner contributes money, property or labor and then shares in the profit or loss of the business. Partners are not treated as employees of the business for tax purposes and profits are passed through to each partner as income.

Corporations
A corporation is similar to a partnership, except that a person exchanges money, property, and labor for shares of the organization’s capital stock. For tax purposes a C corp exists as a separate entity from the stock holders and has to file tax returns as if it were a person. Profits are distributed to stock holders after expenses and corporate taxes are paid. As S Corp has many of the advantages of a corporation, but instead of paying at the corporate level, the tax liability is passed through to the share holders (like an LLC).

LLCs
The limited liability company is a business entity regulated by state statutes and because of that, differs a bit from state to state. Depending on the specifics, the IRS taxes an LLC as either a corporation, a partnership, or part of the owners personal taxes. This “pass-through” ability means that an LLC may not have to file a tax return, instead profits and losses are passed through to its members.

Chances are, after reading the definitions above, you still don’t know which one is right for you. And let’s be honest, the IRS doesn’t seem to want to make it easy to figure out which one is best. So let’s see if we can make it a bit easier.

Which Options Offer Liability Protection?
The first thing to consider is your personal liability if something goes wrong. If an accident occurs resulting in injuries or if your business has to declare bankruptcy, can you be held personally liable for damages? With a sole proprietorship, the answer is yes. With Corporations, Partnerships, and LLCs the answer is generally no. There are exceptions (fraud or the failure to pay taxes, for example). But generally, your liability is limited by these legal structures. For that reason, most serious startup owners don’t choose a sole proprietorship for their legal entity.

A Corporation or an LLC?
According to experts, there is almost no reason that a small business would want to file as a C Corporation unless you plan to take your business public in the near future. A corporation is limited in its decision-making flexibility by requirements to have a board of directors and regular board meetings, where an LLC or sole proprietorship may be able to make decisions on the fly. A corporation must also file annual reports of its business operations, while there are fewer requirements placed on limited liability companies and partnerships.

What’s worse, if you incorporate as a C Corp, you may suffer from double taxation as earnings are taxed once on the company level and a second time when paid out as dividends to the owners. (Money paid as salary isn’t taxed twice.) If you plan to take money out of your company, other than your salary, a C Corp isn’t the best option. S Corps don’t have this restriction and, in fact, may be an option to consider if you are going to take unearned income out of your company (see below).

There are restrictions on  an S Corp that don’t apply to LLCs: S Corps can’t have any non-US share holders. They can’t have more than 100 shareholders. And, they can’t be owned by other companies. These considerations won’t matter to the vast majority of companies just starting out, but if your company meets any of those restrictions, an S Corp isn’t an option.

Supreme CourtIs a Corporation Always Wrong?
With all these disadvantages, why would a business owner consider a Corporation? Two reasons. First, an S Corp owner can be treated as an employee and paid a reasonable salary on which FICA taxes are paid. Additional profits may be passed through to the owner as unearned income which isn’t subject to FICA taxes. This may have a significant effect on the taxes you are expected to pay.

Secondly, most angel investors and venture funds will not invest in an LLC because of the protections a Corporation offers to share holders. So if you plan on taking venture money in the near future to help fund your new business, it might be worth considering an S or C corporation as your legal status.

Most Small Businesses Should Start as an LLC
Our recommendation for most entrepreneurs just starting out (and not likely to take venture funding in the near future) is to form a Limited Liability Company in the state of your choice. This is the structure that gives you the most flexibility, no double taxation on profits, and a shield against liability that protects you as an owner. Need help? We recommend LegalZoom—they did our incorporation papers when we started out!

Want help deciding? Check out this wizard that will help you see which entity is right for you.

When it comes to making the right decision, anyone starting a new business should consult their own legal and tax advisors, as the specifics of your business may lend itself to one of the above legal entities better than others. A legal or tax professional will provide more specific advise for your situation.

 

Photo credit: Supreme Court (license) and Loozrboy.

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9 Inspiring Quotes for Entrepreneurs and Startups from Jon Carder, Founder of Mogl.com

Jon Carder Startup QuotesBy the time he turned 30, Jon Carder had founded three multi-million dollar businesses including eHeaven.com, ClientShop.com, and local search engine MojoPages. At 31, he started his fourth company, Mogl.com, which uses games to revolutionize loyalty card programs at restaurants—and provide free meals to those who can’t afford them. Late last year, Mogl announced it had raised $11 million (for a total of $26 million) in venture funding to help expanse operations into new cities.

Carder has been nominated for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2004, 2005, and 2007; and in 2010 was named San Diego’s Most Influential Tech Executive by the San Diego Daily Transcript.

Over the past sixteen years, as he has built each of his companies, he has also spoken regularly and shared his experience with other entrepreneurs and startup founders. Here are a few of the things he has said (or written) that we find most inspiring:

“Never give up. In my career I have missed payrolls, been behind on payments for every one of my credit cards and, at one point, had amassed more than $12,000 in overdraft fees at $20 each.  Looking back I can see that these were all stepping stones for me to achieve financial independence.  It’s tempting to quit when your financial situation is looking bleak, but as Thomas Edison said ‘Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.’”

“Simple is good, simple and beautiful is better. Simple and beautiful and functional is best.”

“Surround yourself with experts in areas where you are not an expert… Spend at least 25% of your time searching for these people. Never stop searching, everyone is a potential employee.”

“Learn from geniuses, then stand on their shoulders and reach for what’s next.”

“Stay balanced so that you remain creative and your brain functions at 100 %. Take vacations at least three times a year and rarely work on weekends.  You’ll be more effective if you do.”

“Constantly seek new ways to grow your business… What once worked will no longer work. You always need to stay one step ahead.”

“Stay laser focused. There are always plenty of ideas that seem like great ways to make money. Focus on your core competencies/core business. Never try to run two businesses at the same time.”

“We are lucky to be entrepreneurs. We get to follow our dreams, live an exciting life, be free, create jobs, help the economy, and change the world for the better.”

“Sometimes it doesn’t work out. You have to be willing to kind of just put a bullet in it and say good-bye and start on the next one and just continue to do that until you find the one that finally works.”

—Jon Carder, Founder and CEO of Mogl.com.

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Logo Design News This Week (5.5)

It’s Friday again and here at logo blog headquarters we like to take a look back at all the logo design news from the previous week and share a few of the items that stood out most to us. So without further ado, here’s what we noticed since last Friday:

Sonos Logo Design 2Last week we told you about (and showed you) the new logo for Sonos by Bruce Mau Design. Over the weekend, someone at Verge noticed that the pattern in the background pulses when it rolls up your screen. The visual effect is a moiré pattern caused apparent intersection of the lines in the background (it happens when the weatherman wears stripes on tv). They tweeted it out and then just about everyone was commenting on the pulsing logo. Creative Director Laura Stein noted, “It was meant to be a logo in motion, something radiating, something happening.” Mission accomplished. And an impressive earned media campaign as well.

Uber competitor Lyft’s logo is getting a facelift. It’s called a “glowstache”.

Khabarovsk Airport Logo DesignWe saw two new airport logos this week, one was about what you would expect and the other was just plain awesome. First, Eisenhower Airport near Wichita Kansas unveiled a new logo featuring a wing-shaped WE icon, for Wichita Eisenhower. The blue/green colors are supposed to represent the “modern and vibrant progress” the airport is experiencing, though we’re not quite sure how blue and green do that. Now let’s look at the awesome: Khabarovsk Airport in Siberia introduced this flying (or is it free falling) polar bear icon as its new logo this week. Given the importance of safety in air travel, you would expect the logo to also be safe and traditional. But the Russians laugh at safety. And danger. So we got this new design, which we like just because. And it has spawned a whole bunch of parodies worth checking out.

In strange logo news you won’t see anywhere else, Monash University has changed the logo of its student magazine, called Lot’s Wife, to a lounging smoking woman.

UNCW Seahawks Logo DesignUNCW (The University of North Carolina Wilmington) introduced a new seahawks logo this week during a basketball game. The logo design reportedly cost $26,500, which is a lot, but about what you might expect. The someone pointed out this logo appears to be very similar to the skyhawks logo used by the University of Tennessee, Martin. Similar, but definitely not the same. There are only so many ways to draw a hawk (sea or sky) that are completely different from each other. Mean looking portraits will have some similarities. We like the W in the hawks head feathers—a nice touch that pays tribute to the school’s home.

And speaking of Seahawks (the other ones), we saw this Super Bowl 49 related item: a history of the logos of the Patriots and Seahawks. They’ve definitely improved with time.

Kind Edward VII Logo DesignWe really like the sophisticated look of the new logo for King Edward VII’s Hospital in London—a private medical facility used by the Queen, among others. The work was done by Offthetopofmyhead, but doesn’t look like the kind of work that just comes off the top of my head. It’s not a huge departure from the previous design, rather it removes some of the shadows and 3D effects that have gone out of style over the past few years. The new flat design is more elegant and professional looking. It’s a nice update.

Chinese take-away provider, Panda Express has a new, simpler logo.

Australia Day Google LogoAnother week without a new Google logo in the states, but our mates down under got this logo for Australia Day.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.

 

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Start a Business: Will Anyone Buy Your Product?

This month we’ve been sharing our thoughts on starting a business: the first step to starting a business, how to figure out if you can money with your idea, and whether or not its the kind of idea that you can execute.

But even if you’ve gone through all of those steps, you still don’t have a business. You have an idea. And if you can’t get people to pay for it, you have nothing.

So this post will talk how to test your idea—or what some experts have called finding product / market fit.

Ask Your Network for Feedback
This is where a lot of would-be entrepreneurs wanting to start a business tell their friends and family about their idea and ask what they think.

Not surprisingly, most of them say, “Yeah, that’s a great idea. You should definitely start that business.” Or, “I would definitely buy that.”

Now you’ve got the validation you were looking for. So you open up for business. And if you’re really lucky, you succeed. But we wouldn’t bet on it.

Even if everyone tells you they like your idea and would buy it, you don’t have a good business until people pull out their wallets and pay for your product.

Sloppy ResearchTake, for example, Michal Bohanes, who had a great idea: people will pay for the convenience of a ready-to-fix meal, delivered to their home. It’s just the kind of thing busy moms and dads would pay for, right? 70% of the 250 people he surveyed said they would pay for that service. In-depth interviews showed people loved the idea. So Bohanes created a website and launched Dinnr.

He was in business. In the first week, he sold 12 orders. They hit a high of 23 orders on Valentine’s Day. But things never took off.

It turns out Bohanes wasn’t solving a problem that customers really cared about. Even though a lot of people told him they like it. (Read that link above. It’s worth your time.) There was no real pain point he was solving.

So go ahead and ask your friends and family what they think. But don’t believe what they tell you.

Validating Your Idea with Actual Customers
To find out if your idea is commercially viable (will people buy it?), don’t ask customers if they would buy, ask them to buy. There are a couple of ways to validate your idea with potential customers. Entire books have been written about this single step in starting a business.

How to Test Your Idea with Adwords
The first way to test your idea in the “real” world is to set up a website or landing page that features your product or service. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on its creation, but it does need to look professional—remember you want anyone who visits the site to see that your new startup is trustworthy. But you don’t need to pay thousands of dollars to get up and running. This is a test. So a good website template (Unbounce and Leadpages are both good options, or WordPress if you want a multipage site) and an inexpensive but professional looking logo design will be enough for now.

Next you’ll need to set up an Adwords account and deposit $100-200 (If you use Bluehost to host your site, you should be able to get an Adwords coupons for $75-100 to get you started). Once you’ve set up your account and written an ad with your product offer and a link to your landing page, set the bidding option to Automatic Bidding and Maximize Clicks. Also, set your geographic area to your own country or state. Google may recommend a bid target, set yours a bit below the recommendation and see what happens. If you don’t get any clicks after a few hours, raise the bid by 10-15¢. Repeat this process until you see clicks start to come in.

Next, set up conversion tracking in Adwords (and paste the script onto your conversion page so you can track how the ad does). The Adwords process can get pretty complex, but for this test we just need the basics. An ad set to run for specific keywords that your customers are searching online and the code that tracks who buys.

Now watch your webpage and your Adwords account. If your product idea appeals to the people who click on your ad, you should be able to sell on your site. If you don’t have a finished product, you should be able to collect contact information for interested customers who want to hear back when you launch.

For a more in-depth primer on how to test with Adwords, check out Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek (Chapter 10).

A few Cautions with this Approach:
If you are only collecting email addresses rather than selling your product, you don’t really know if customers will pay for your offer. You only know they are interested. This can be indicative of success, but like Dinnr, it can be misleading. It’s best to ask for the buy.

Second, if you choose the wrong search terms or create a poorly performing landing page, this can affect your results negatively and you won’t know if your product meets a market need. Working with someone who has been through the process before to make sure you get the results you are looking for, may be worth the money.

Or, if you already have your product or service, you can try this…

Launch Your BusinessLaunch Your Product and Iterate Fast
Some ideas are so simple that it’s actually just as time consuming to set up a web page and Adwords campaign as it is to set up the actual product website. This was the case for 7 Day Startup author Dan Norris, who got his business up and running, with paying customers, in less than seven days.

The key is to launch and iterate quickly. Create your product and get it out there. Launch a small Adwords campaign, pitch to your email list, or use some other way to get the word out (yes, this is harder than I’m making it sound). Ship. Then improve it as you go.

That’s the path that Shayna McHugh, founder of Espresso English, has followed with some of her ebooks and courses. On at least one occasion, she pitched a course to her email list, then when several customers signed up, she had to produce a new lesson every day until the course was completed. She sold the course first, and was paid to create the product for her customers (you can hear her talk about it here).

A Caution with the Launch and Iterate Approach:
Once you build a particular product, it’s very easy to get stuck trying to make it work, even if it doesn’t solve a market problem. You figure you’ll try just one more idea. You just need to get it in front of the right customers. And so you spin your wheels on an idea that isn’t going anywhere. As Kauffman Fellow, Paul Kedrowsky, once said, “Once you build something you are dead.”

Launch Your Business as a Service
If your product isn’t ready or you don’t have the money to build it, you can always launch your business as a service and take on customers who will help pay to develop the product as you work for them.

This might work for someone developing a niche software product. You get hired by a company that needs that product or service, and in the process of doing it for them, you build your product to the specifications of your first customer (your employer). There are some potential legal issues with this approach, if you’re not careful. You may also find that you spend all of your time providing the service, and none creating your product. However, it is a viable way to start a business, create your product, and test it in a real world situation.

As Paul Ahlstrom and Nathan Furr wrote in their fantastic book, Nail It, Then Scale It, “The greatest mystery to entrepreneurs is not the invention—it is the market insight that leads to innovation and market adoption.”

When you start a business, it is critical to figure out if the market will adopt your idea. If it won’t, start looking for a new one.

 

Photo credit: NASA

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11 Quotes for Startups and Small Business from Eventbrite Founder, Julia Hartz

Julia Hartz Startup QuotesJulia Hartz is the cofounder and President of Eventbrite, the online ticketing company that helps anyone (not just big musical acts) open their own box office for events. Before starting Eventbrite, Julia worked in the television industry working at MTV and FX Network on shows like JackAss, The Shield, and Nip/Tuck.

Julia left her television career shortly after she met her future husband, Kevin Hartz, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur (he founded Zoom and had worked with PayPal). When he asked Julia if she wanted to start a business together, she said yes and hasn’t looked back. In the eight years since, Eventbrite has grown into an amazing company—with more than 500 employees, offices around the world, and $1 billion in ticket sales in 2014.

Along the way Julia has had a lot to say about the challenges of building a new business and building a great culture. Here are a few of the things she has said that we think will inspire other startup founders:

“I had to learn how to ask for help. Everyone always thinks it’s brave to go out alone, but I think it’s even braver to put yourself out there in front of others, and to figure out how to work together.”

“The culture in your company will carry some of your DNA as founders. For example, I can’t keep a secret to save my life. We have an open-source culture.”

“[One] of the obstacles we faced in the beginning [was]—and still remain our same obstacles—is focus. There are so many different ways you can take this, and yet through the tenure of Eventbrite we committed to being focused on the ticketing… I think it’s been a real challenger; an obstacle in itself to not get too distracted by all the possibilities.”

“Walk the walk: model to your team what you find most important in the way you think, behave, and make decisions.”

“First and foremost it’s important to choose the right partner. I feel like Kevin is a natural-born entrepreneur and I’m a natural-born operator, and we just so happen to get together. I think it was sort of fortuitous that we were able to start Eventbrite together, but looking back in hindsight I think it’s so incredibly important to choose the right partner. That can make all the difference in the world, honestly.”

“Time and again, we learn that it’s foolish to take culture for granted or merely trust your good intentions to win the day. As with any other crucial aspect of a growing business, you need the right technology and tools.”

“I didn’t want to dictate the culture. I didn’t want to get in the way of brilliance happening. If you want to build a sustainable culture, you have to have a strong philosophy and then let people do with it what they will and be okay with that.”

“It’s important to ask for a lot of advice, seek a lot of mentorship, and actually listen to all the data inputs that you’re getting. It can be overwhelming… often times entrepreneurs will be siloed and be heads-down and will not want to seek outside advice. That can really hinder the outcome of their product.”

“People aren’t expendable and I didn’t want to have to correct any hiring. I wanted to get it right from the beginning.”

“Culture is absolutely so key to keeping you centered in those moments of disaster. When you create a great culture you are creating a family, you are creating something that ultimately keeps you centered… so it’s really important to think about how you are building your team.”

“Creating a strong company culture isn’t just good business. It’s the right thing to do, and it makes your company better for all stakeholders—employees, management, and customers.”

—Julia Hartz, Co-founder and President of Eventbrite

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Logo Design News This Week (5.4)

It’s Friday again and that usually means that we take a quick look back at all the news from the world of logo design from the past seven days. Today is no exception. So here’s what caught our attention:

Morning Edition Logo DesignIf you’re like millions of other Americans, you spend a portion of your morning listening to NPR’s news show Morning Edition. This week the show unveiled a new logo on Facebook which is only a little ironic as logos are visual and radio has no visual content. So while millions will listen to the show, few will ever encounter the logo. We like the rising sun motif (a big departure from the coffee cup logo you probably never saw), though it’s not exactly original as it is already in use by NBC’s Today Show and CBS’s Early Show. More than a few conservatives are bound to note the resemblance to the Obama Campaign logos and read that as more proof that NPR is a liberal news outlet.

New Jacobs Cracker Logo DesignJacob’s Biscuits is rolling out a new logo design on its packages of crackers (and adding several products previously under other brands to its lineup). The new logo removes the yellow band from across the top and upgrades the font to something a little more high-class. It also adds a new tagline: Baked to Delight. The new packaging features photography that reminds me I haven’t had lunch yet. These new crackers might got well with Brodies Tea which also reported has cool new logo.

Last year we told you about the King’s College rebrand that cost £300,000 (about $460,000). You can see that logo here. Well, angry students opposed to the new look (and new name) have forced the administration to back down. One assumes there won’t be a refund on the money spent on the new logo. Ouch.

Cheatriots Logo DesignWith the reports this week of cheating by someone (Bellicheck? Brady? The ball boy?) who deflated 11 of 12 footballs below the league’s mandatory pressure, it was only a matter of time until we saw the re-emergence of this logo from the last time the Patriots were caught cheating. Keep it up New England and sports fans will hate you more than the Cowboys some day.

Jamestown Jammers LogoIn happier sports logo news, the Jamestown New York Baseball Club finally announced its new name and unveiled their logo—the Jamestown Jammers. The team had announced a move to Morgantown, West Virginia, but appears to have had second thoughts and will be returning to play in Jamestown in May 2015. The logo appears to be an angry, baseball-playing grape—which is exactly the cool/weird kind of thing we love in minor league baseball. And look at this: the Nashville Sounds have a new logo too!

Canadian donut maker, Robin’s, has a new logo. That’s supposed to be a red breasted robin, not a chicken, though when you see the logo, you’ll understand the confusion. That’s the kind of logo we expect to see in baseball!

Sonos Logo DesignWe’re big fans of Sonos. It’s become our go-to for music during the work day (and on the weekends as well). So we’re digging this new look for their logo designed by Bruce Mau. The logotype itself doesn’t appear to have changed but the backgrounds associated with it do a great job of signaling “music” and “sound”. It’s a nice piece of design work.

We also like this new Singtel logo.

MLK Day Google Logo DesignGoogle celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a new logo design created by Ekua Holmes, a painter famous for using bright vibrant color and materials like photos and news clippings to create a unique collage-look. It’s a great piece of art and even works as a logo. From Dr. King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments:

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Start a Business: 8 Questions to Ask to Find Product / Founder Fit

Product Founder FitWe’ve been writing about the first steps to starting a business over the past few weeks. In case you missed them, we’ve covered stuff like figuring out if your idea will earn enough money to support you and the number one thing you should do.

Now that you have an idea and you’ve successfully determined that your idea could conceivably (if all goes right) produce enough income to support you, it’s time to take a closer look at your idea and figure out if this is something you really, really want to do. Experts like Chris Dixon and Brad Feld called it Product/Founder Fit.

This is the time to get brutally honest with yourself.

Is this an idea that you are excited about? Will you get bored with this business before you make it successful? Do you have the skills to get your company off the ground?

Without Product/Founder fit, it will be that much harder to find success.

Let’s say you have an idea for a new email app that solves all the things that bug you about gmail and hotmail. But you don’t know how to program an app. In fact, the only thing you know about email is how to open yours. But your idea is fantastic!

It probably won’t matter how good the idea is. Your skills don’t match your idea very well. That’s not to say you won’t succeed. But it will be tough.

On the other hand, imagine you notice that your neighborhood doesn’t have a Greek restaurant. You just happen to make the best tzatziki and souvlaki in the world. But more than that, you’ve managed a restaurant before and you have several friends who will hire you to cater their events. You’re excited about the potential opportunity in front of you and can’t wait to get started. That’s Product/Founder Fit.

Here’s our list of eight things that you should consider (as a startup entrepreneur) to make sure your idea for a new business fits your ability and desire to build it:

1. Passion for the idea. 
There is some debate about whether passion for the idea is absolutely necessary to start a business. It’s not. But if you have passion for solving the problem your product or service is designed for, you’ll be ahead of the founder who doesn’t. Because you’ll care just a little bit more about the details. And the people who need your product or service. When things get hard, your passion keeps you going. So while it’s not a requirement for success, it certainly doesn’t hurt.

How you define your idea may help you find the passion. It’s our guess that Mark Zuckerberg isn’t very passionate about helping people play Farmville and CandyCrush, or share the latest listicle and cat photos. But he is passionate about technology and building a great company. He’s passionate about dominating the social media world. So what are you passionate about and how does that give you an advantage?

Knowledge2. Knowledge and skills to build your idea into a business.
Entrepreneurs often think they can do things they’ve never done before. Most of us over-estimate our abilities. But that doesn’t make it true. Have you managed people before? Have you built and scaled a software application? Have you worked in sales or created a sales team? Be aware of your skill set and what you can actually do well. If your business idea requires you to take on projects you have no experience with, your chances of failure go up. Again, it doesn’t mean you’ll fail. Just that success is harder. (This may be a good time to find a co-founder who can compensate for your weaknesses).

3. Do you have the money?
Startups don’t have to be expensive. But they’re usually not free. If your idea for a business is an online application, you might be able to build it for a few hundred dollars. Or a few thousand. If you require an office or retail location, your new venture may be several thousand dollars or more. Whatever your situation, you need enough for your startup costs, plus enough to carry you through until your revenues cover your costs. If you don’t have the money, you should rethink your idea. Click here for a simple primer on estimating your operating costs.

4. Do you have the time?
If you’re working on your startup idea at night while you work your day job to pay the bills, how much time can you put into the new venture? How long will it take you to build your product (double your initial estimate—these things always take longer than you think). If you’re working on the new business with all your time, how long until you run out of money? It can take hundreds, maybe even thousands of hours to get a product built and out to market. Do you have enough time to build yours?

5. Do you know the right people?
You can build a business without the help of anyone, but knowing the right people can make things a lot easier. Let’s say you want to start an employment recruiting business (headhunting). Who’s in your network? Do you have relationships with several businesses with recruiting needs? Do you have a way to connect with potential recruits? If you have a product idea that will sell through retail stores, do you have a relationship with a wholesaler or store buyer who can help get your product on the shelves? The right people can grease the skids for your startup.

Even if you are starting a relatively simple business, you’ll still need help from a few people. At some point you’ll need an attorney, an accountant, and someone to help with logo design and a website. You’ll need suppliers, partners, and of course customers. A good network gives you a big advantage.

6. Can you build something that other people want?
Ultimately this is part of finding a fit with the market, but while your idea may appeal to some customers, the real question is, can you create the solution? I met a group of smart people who found a real market problem in medical recruiting. Potential customers expressed a real pain point that wasn’t addressed by the market. Not only that, the existing solutions are very expensive. Customers unanimously said they would buy the solution. But the team just couldn’t build the product. They spent lots of time figuring out how the product would work. Even trying prototypes. But when it came down to releasing the product, they couldn’t get it done.

Start a Business Now7. Do you have the skills to market your business?
Entrepreneurs ready to start a business often focus on their core competency. Take for example the woman who chooses to start a bakery because she make great bread. Really good bread. And her pie recipes aren’t too bad either. But once the bread is in the oven, how will she attract customers? Do you know how to build an email list and write a regular newsletter? Have you ever designed a retail store or shelf display? Do you know how to find potential partners who can help get the word out? Can you come up with an offer that will bring paying customers in the door? Don’t overlook what it takes to market your business idea.

8. Do you have the ability to focus until everything is done?
This may be the most important point. Startups can take years to become successful. Is your idea compelling enough that you won’t quit before you succeed? Many businesses fail because the owner loses interest in the idea long before the idea has time to succeed.

If you answered yes to most of the questions above, then you probably have a pretty good fit with your product. You don’t have to be an expert in every thing. Maybe you have money, but need help with marketing. As long as you recognize where you are weak, you can find someone to help.

But be brutally honest with yourself. Do you have the Product/Founder Fit you need to start a business? Now get started.

Photo credit: Next Twentyeight, Tellatic, and rawdonfox.

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7 Quotes for Startups and Small Business from TaskRabbit Founder, Leah Busque

Leah Busque Startup QuotesIs there something that you need to get done, but you can’t get to it, or you don’t want to do it? That’s exactly the problem that Leah Busque had in 2008 when she was on her way to dinner and remembered her dog needed to be fed. The thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if someone could pick up dog food for me while I’m at dinner?” spawned the idea for TaskRabbit.

After working seven years as an engineer at IBM, she quit her job, cashed in her pension and decided to see how far she could take the idea of matching people with skills and extra time with opportunities for work. It turns out she could take it pretty far—today more than 30,000 people use TaskRabbit to get odd jobs done.

And people have noticed. Busque has raised nearly $40 million from venture funds and has been named one of Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business.” And The New York Times called TaskRabbit “The Next Big Thing in Tech.”

TaskRabbit can be used for just about any task from picking up groceries to mounting a television on a wall. Basque reports that one user dropped her keys in a lake and posted a task for a scuba diver to help find them. And she got her keys back.

As she has grown her business, Leah has had a few things to say that we thought might inspire other entrepreneurs and small business owners. Check out her advice for startups:

“Don’t overthink it and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. When I was first starting out, more decisions than I care to admit seemed like life-or-death situations, when in reality, each choice has brought TaskRabbit closer to building the strongest business and community possible.”

“Don’t be afraid someone will steal your idea; the reward is exponential verses the risk. Gather a good group of mentors and advisers early on. And if you have an idea you are really passionate about, see how far you can take it.”

“…keep a notebook next to your bed. Some of my best ideas have come to be by waking me up in the middle of the night. Because of this, I keep a notepad next to me while I sleep. When something comes to me and I wake up, I quickly write it down so I don’t forget. Then, when I wake up, I’m extremely motivated to bring whatever idea it is to life!”

“Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.”

“As a founder and CEO, editing the team is necessary and making quick decisions is critical for the integrity of the team.”

“I wake up every morning with a singular goal—to push my company as far as I can that day… My approach is to choose specific and actionable items to complete each day to move us closer to these goals, and to encourage everyone on my team to do the same. This keeps us on track for accomplishing the big picture.”

“There was a huge learning curve from building a product to building a company. When I first started, I was just building the technology and platform. Quickly I needed to get a grasp on fundraising, marketing, financing and operations. I’d never even taken a business or economics class, so early on everything felt like a black fog; I didn’t know what was in front of me.”

—Leah Busque, Founder and CEO of TaskRabbit

 

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