Have you seen this math problem on Facebook? The answer provides good advice for Entrepreneurs

My son recently shared a link on Facebook to the following math problem.
40 + 40 x 0 + 1= ? Do you know the answer?

Is it 1?
or 81?

I have to admit my first guess was wrong! And last time I looked I am not alone in guessing incorrectly. There were about 300,000 people who were right there with me!

What is the correct answer? 41. Why is this the correct answer? because of an important math rule I have long since forgotten since my days in Algebra in High School. That rule is based on the order of operations. You must do the higher order functions first. Multiplication is considered higher order function than addition.  The right answer comes from first multiplying 40 times 0 than doing the addition.

I remember thinking once I completed High School I would forget the likes of Algebra, Pre Cal and the other forms of torture I endured in High School. I am a liberal arts major so I only needed what I deemed as practical math.

However I think there is  a lesson in this equation that helps me as an entrepreneur. Much like that logical world of mathematics some things come first in business too! There is an order to operations that is in place. It is definitely important to plan and replicate your idea before you add.

So my take away from this math problem? always take a step back before you tackle a problem and make sure you tackle it in the right order!

What do you say? Any other math problems teach important business lessons?

Tools to Help You with Your Website

Happy Fourth of July!

Many entrepreneurs ask me questions about SEO and websites. This weekend while celebrating the Fourth I gathered with some fellow entrepreneurs and we discussed our websites. While I am no expert I love to share what I know and the tools I have found helpful.

One tool I love is Hubspots’s website grader. http://websitegrader.com.  This free site gives you up to date advice in how to improve your site. It assigns a “grade” which being a type A personality I love to follow the suggestions it provides to improve my grade.

Another site I like is backlink watch http://www.backlinkwatch.com. This site is also free and provides you with details on what backlinks you have and the page ranks of these back links.

Also check out www.Alexa.com. Downloading the Alexa toolbar allows you to see your traffic rank. It is a free tool that not only lets you watch traffic ranks for your site but others as well.

For  Ipad users and owners you should check out all the great SEO apps! For less than five dollars each you can get some great stats on your site. I love SEO Ranking. It tells me my keywords and how my site is doing for those words. There is also an SEO course. It contains short videos to help educate you quickly on how to improve your position in search engines.

What tools do you like? Please share. As entrepreneurs we often have to wear many hats. I know for this entrepreneur I am loving my new role of understanding SEO.

Women and Power

I recently participated in a fantastic workshop on the topic of Women and Power. It is a topic that, as a female entrepreneur, I find myself pondering. In this workshop we reviewed the amazing statistics about how women have progressed through the years by gaining higher degrees of education and filling more management positions. However, we are still woefully behind our male counterparts in positions of clout. What is a position of clout? CEO, COO, President, etc.

Another interesting idea presented is that women often don’t aspire to a particular named position but rather to type of work. I think back to my blog on mind mapping. I know that I have always imagined the type of work I wanted rather than the name of the position.

As the field of women entrepreneurs expand,s I find myself wondering if this is also part of the archetype that drives women to entrepreneurship. We know no glass ceiling when we are creating the workplace. We also seek to create the work we love rather than to strive for position. I am curious about this.

Other women entrepreneurs…please weigh in!

Social Media and The Entrepreneur

I read a statistic from Laura Dugan of Mediabistro about Twitter that surprised me:  92 percent of people have heard of Twitter but only 8 percent are using it.

I have found that I have met and networked with more entrepreneurs from my time on Twitter than almost any other mechanism.  I find myself wondering what percentage of the 8 percent using Twitter are entrepreneurs? I imagine it is a high percentage as I believe many entrepreneurs are often early adopters.

So please weigh in Twitter users and entrepreneurs!  Do you use Twitter? If so, what motivates you? Are you an entrepreneur?

Female Entrepreneurs Then and Now: Giving Back - Is this a New Breed or Just How Women are Wired?

Recently I read a post by Huffington Post blogger, Patricia Handschiegel. She asserts that there is  ”a new breed of female leader taking over the country: ‘Power Girls’ — entrepreneurial dynamos who are taking lead roles in both business and their communities.” She says that these women are inspired by icons like Oprah and Hillary Clinton, and these fresh female powerhouses have already learned that giving back is just as important as staying on top.

As I meet the extraordinary women entrepreneurs who we spotlight at Get Your BIG On,  I am amazed at how many of these entrepreneurs are not just giving back but making it there life’s work.   North Jersey mom Filomena Laforgia in July 2010, four years after her three-year old son was diagnosed with autism founded Filanthropists.com. Her site is a one-stop online shopping mall for the purchase of cause-related products.  The site features a variety of products from merchants and local and national organizations that are committed to the sale of these products to support fundraising efforts for their specific cause. The site’s name not only plays on the founder’s first name, but also shows how a socially conscious individual can make a difference through the simplest of acts. By buying a cause-related product, we can all be Filanthropists.

Similiar to Filomenia’s story is that of  Tania Mulry’s.   Tania is an entrepreneur who used the experience with her child to inspire her to use her talents to help others. She quit her stable job creating mobile marketing campaigns for big brands to launch an idea that she had to help address the nation’s school funding problems. This 37-year-old mother of three had grown frustrated by the constant flow of fundraising requests from her boys’ school, but also couldn’t stand the idea that teachers use hundreds of their own dollars to purchase classroom supplies every year. She knew there had to be a better way. So she devised, designed and developed a new mobile application that pairs companies’ need to attract loyal consumers and educators’ need to obtain supplies for their students. The app, called edRover, just became available for free through the iTunes App Store with versions for other popular smartphones to follow later this year.

Are women entrepreneurs who recognize the power of giving back really a new breed or how women are wired? According to a recent study by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the University of Indiana,  says women are as much as 40 percent more likely to make charitable donations than men.

The findings, reported in Time magazine, paint a flattering picture of female philanthropists and a less attractive one of their male counterparts. Women at nearly every income level are more generous givers — and not only do they give more than men, they give more often.

Next meet Jacqueline Novogratz founder and CEO of the Acumen Fund. Jacqueline is definetely a women who gives back. The mission of the Acumen Fund is to create a world beyond poverty by investing in social enterprises, emerging leaders, and breakthough ideas. Jacqueline  authored The Blue Sweaterthe memoir of her quest to understand global poverty and to find powerful new ways of tackling it. It’s a powerful read.

From her first stumbling efforts as a young idealist venturing forth in Africa to the creation of the trailblazing organization she runs today, she creates a series of insightful stories and unforgettable characters — from women dancing in a Nairobi slum, to unwed mothers starting a bakery, to courageous survivors of the Rwandan genocide, to entrepreneurs building services for the poor against impossible odds.

Sharon Davis found herself thrust into giving back when natural disaster struck. She is the coordinator for her town’s sister city exchange program with Otsuchi in Northeastern Japan. The story of how the relationship began is compelling- a young man whose father was lost at sea would sit on the Otsuchi headlands waiting for him. Eventually, it occurred to him to wonder what was on the other side of the ocean and so he followed their latitude across the Pacific and found Fort Bragg, California. He made contact and and the two communities became sister cities. This year is the 10th anniversary of the formation of the program.

Needless to say, this small coastal town has been completely and utterly destroyed by the March 11th 9.0 quake and subsequent tsunami. Of the 15,000 residents 10,000 are still missing. The town was leveled and ravaged by fires. Sharon and her town have created the Otsuchi Recovery Fund. She has created a Facebook group for the sister city program and now it’s become a place to share information on this tragedy. So far, they have raised over $75,000. Not bad for a little community of just over 8,000. The small community has been devastated by the events that have harmed their sister city.

But is this trend really new? What about the likes of  Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, (October 26, 1874 – April 5, 1948),  a prominent socialite and philanthropist and the second-generation matriarch of the renowned Rockefeller family? Referred to as the “woman in the family”, she was especially noteworthy for being the driving force behind the establishment of the Museum of Modern Art.

As we look to the past there are numerous examples of these power women. Alice Sheets Marriott (October 19, 1907 - April 17, 2000) was an entrepreneur  and philanthropist.  Alice and her husband opened their first motel, the Twin Bridges Motor Hotel in Arlington, Va., in 1957. This one motel grew into a chain of Marriott hotels.Marriott served two ten year terms on the board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.. Marriott provided endowments to educational institutions. In 1988 she provided funds for the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University. The University of Utah opened the Alice Sheets Marriott Center for Dance, which houses the University’s departments of Modern Dance and Ballet, on September 25, 1989.[

Another notable entrepreneur  Helena Rubinstein born in 1870 started a comestic empire and was noted for her drive to give back to  others. There are also examples of women thrust into giving back at times of war like Elizabeth Blackwell  1821. Blackwell opened a dispensary in the New York slums. Her sister, Emily Blackwell, joined her shortly after; Emily also had earned her degree in medicine. In 1857, the practitioners established an infirmary for women and children.

Elizabeth Blackwell organized the Women’s Central Association of Relief during the Civil War.  She trained nurses for war service. Elizabeth, along with Emily, and Mary Livermore, played important parts in developing the United States Sanitary Commission.

Shortly following the war, the sisters established the Women’s Medical College in New York. Blackwell served as the professor of hygiene until 1869, when she moved to London to help form the National Health Society and the London School of Medicine for Women.

So what do you think? Are women the more generous sex? Are women entrepreneurs who give back a new breed?  Does gender matter, or are many entrepreneurs giving back?

Meet Female Entrepreneur Lisa Renda!


Lisa Renda
President and Founder, BPA Quality

How important have good employees been to your success?

I believe BPA’s success can be linked to not just excellent employees but also “good” employees.  When developing a business we can all agree that we want to make sure our organization is surrounded with excellent talent and that our employees are second to none. As BPA UK spread to the opening of BPA US, we learned pretty early on that recruiting excellent employees was not enough,-we didn’t want BPA to just be known for excellent output,-we wanted our clients to also enjoy working with BPA staff and to feel that they were dealing with “good” honest people who cared.  We work hard at creating a team that is undoubtedly excellent in their field but one which also shares common ideals and a sense of integrity.  We strongly feel that our commitment to this combination of “excellent” and “good” helps distinguish us in the marketplace.

What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?

Do your research so you don’t have to take it personally! As an entrepreneur, your ideas, products and concepts are wide open to public scrutiny and sometimes even criticism.  Concepts, products or ideas that have been tested and researched thoroughly allow you to logically respond to questions and even possible negative perceptions in an objective and educated manner.  Don’t make it about you - make it about what your product or idea can offer!

Don’t give up.  If your research shows that your product or idea is a winner, then don’t give up.  Things might not always happen according to schedule but if all logical and objective information shows that you are onto a good thing then keep on working at it.  Remember, if being an entrepreneur was easy - -wouldn’t everyone be doing it?

Be positive, calm and logical. Re-assess when things don’t go as planned.  Drawing on personal experience, BPA has a wealth of experience in the travel industry.  Our clients represent  major airline, hotel, cruise,  and car rental chains worldwide. We have a strong reputation in this arena and have always been very been very proud of this experience. However, in the initial aftermath of 9/11 the travel industry was severely shaken and, in turn, our business was suddenly confronted with an extreme and completely unpredictable challenge, happening virtually overnight.  Our team worked hard to stay focused and positive as we sought to expand our expertise and client base into other industries.  While BPA still maintains a strong reputation in the travel industry, we have now acheived a similar reputation among many diverse industries.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

1.The commitment to stay positive.  Being an entrepreneur is exciting, challenging  and rewarding. But be prepared, things won’t always be easy.  Be positive and stay focused on your goals. Being positive is a choice that requires commitment.  It does not always come naturally.

2.The ability to be objective. A successful entrepreneur needs to be able to look at themselves and their products/ideas objectively.  Don’t be proud, be realistic.  Great things can be achieved from an “honest”  look in the mirror!

3.Tenacity - Don’t give up!  Constantly assess your performance and goals to make sure you are on target,but don’t give up. Successful entrepreneurs never do!

How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?

If you are working as hard as you can and there is little or no movement with your idea, it’s probably time to re-assess your strategy and/or your idea.  This doesn’t necessarily mean giving up, but you may need to tweak your product/idea, change your advertising or marketing strategy.  Tenacity is important provided your approach to “sticking with an idea” is based on solid research which supports your hard work.

Is your company profitable or what is your profit for last year?

BPA is profitable and was highlighted on the 2010 Inc. 500|5000 list of America’s fastest growing companies.  We hope to make the list again for 2011!

Get Your BIG On Start BIG

Yesterday you heard Jane’s story that launched Get Your BIG On. Today it is my turn to share with you how it all began for me.

As far back as I can remember I have been goal driven. I worked my way through college holding down two jobs. I completed my degree graduating Magna Cum Laude. I won a full scholarship to pursue my masters degree. I completed that degree Summa Cum Laude while still continuing to hold down two jobs.  Once I had my masters I jumped into corporate America. I worked hard to move up the corporate ladder and did. I have always had the drive to own my own business.  I am first and foremost an entrepreneur and inventor. I am the daughter of a prolific inventor and entrepreneur. My father always encouraged his kids to start their own businesses. Three of his four children are entrepreneurs.

Starting BIG

In 1999 I left corporate America and started my own consulting firm, A-Squared Consulting. I am proud to say we were successful. We always operated in the black and always had plenty of business. My clients list was impressive: Adelphia, Vonage, and Comcast, to mention just a few.

In June of 2010 I was compelled to merge my company with Jane Perdue’s (a former boss, client, and current mentor).   Jane shared her story of the pivotal moment when her boss refered to her as Aunt Polly.  This story hit a cord. You see I also had the proverbial whack on the head.

My Whack On the Head

A-Squared consulting did sales training at the company where my husband is CEO.  One day  I was introduced to a new senior leader who had just joined my husband’s team. After my role of sales consultant was explained, he commented to my husband, “How nice you given the ‘little woman’ something to keep her busy!” I was speechless! I don’t find myself speechless very often. I wanted to say well I agreed to work with this company to help my husband. My other clients are all fortune 500 companies.  The next few responses that came to me are not G rated!  Any of the potential retorts that came to my head, however deserved, felt really shallow. I decided I will not say anything but I will let my actions and results prove I had not been “given” anything. 

I believe most people have had that time in their life where someone intentionally or unintentionally tried to make them feel little. For me Get Your BIG On is about helping people get past those moments and push through to live their BIG dream. When Jane contacted me I came to the conclusion that I had realized my dream and now it is time to give back and help others. I want to share how my dad inspired me to Start BIG! Give others the moxie to help them reach out for their dreams!

Get Your BIG on is designed to help you succeed in achieving YOUR dream. Your dream can be starting a company or simply starting a project. As the President of the Braithewaite Innovation Group, I get the chance to interact daily with people who are starting entrepreneurial adventures. I love to encourage them, help them find their market, and connect them with others who are chasing their dream. Please spend some time on our site www.getyourbigon.com. See what we have to offer. If there is something you need help with we are happy to help! My new dream is to help others see a new possibility, a new connection or relationship that will spark the next great invention or business.

Start BIG Entrepreneurs Give Back and Go Green

Meet Paperfeet by TOMBOLO - the world’s thinnest flexible sandal, pocket ready for your next adventure. Jimmy Tomczak invented the  patent-pending minimalist art sandals from a process that upcycles  billboard sheet plastic into functional outdoor gear.

Jimmy was using a huge McDonald’s advertisement to keep a leaky roof dry when the idea came to him to use the material for alternative uses. An outdoorsman himself, Jimmy always loved the beach and a good barefoot trek and had his eye on those foot-glove shoes and other barefoot footwear that were all unfortunately out of his budget. The next best thing was to create a pair himself. He put the simple sandals for sale on Paperfeet http://paperfeet.com and less than a year later the shoes have been shipped around the world, featured in national media like WSJ, BoingBoing, and FOX and more. His next project is a Kickstarter campaign to scale production in the USA using local, ethical labor.

Here is some advice Jimmy has for aspiring entrepreneurs:

What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?

1) Seek and find available resources: Do whatever you can to talk with professors, mentors, fellow peers and their networks early and often. College-specific programs, classes, centers and similar are all incredible resources that are less available once you graduate too.

2) Apply for business competitions and programs that are only available to college students. I applied for hundreds of independent scholarships before graduating high school. Combined with working before and after my classes in college, I eventually earned enough from just a handful of the scholarships I won to pay my way through school. Don’t miss a window of opportunity for free money that is restricted to your student status.

3) Start a business. Learn by doing. The best way to become an entrepreneur is to have a product, find a customer, and start making sales! Fail fast and often but make sure these are intelligent failures in that you can apply everything you learned in missing the mark to exceeding expectations the next time around.


Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?

Absolutely not. Even a seasoned entrepreneur can work hard and achieve near-perfection only to have the rug pulled out from under them by an unforeseen market shift or other anomaly. I graduated from the University of Michigan with a BS in Neuroscience and I also completed the Program in Entrepreneurship.

In addition to Michigan’s business school, U-M’s entrepreneurship program has been growing strong but I still remember what I first thought after meeting someone who wanted to “major in entrepreneurship.” “Entrepreneur” is the title some people give themselves after they’ve achieved what they previously defined as success, and as validated by an external party. There’s no such thing as an entrepreneurship major. Learn the basics, sure, but applying creative problem solving and time management to an uncanny ability to complete innovative projects with speed and clarity is the best “formula” for entrepreneurial success that I know. Do what works for you!

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

Creativity. Ability to get stuff done. Advanced networking skills.

Creativity, like entrepreneurship, is a challenging subject to “teach.” But many argue that a creative mind is the most valuable asset a person can have. Combining rare creativity with the ability to break down a problem into manageable steps and an executable solution helps make a successful entrepreneur. Factor in real networking, where collaboration happens and relationships are built beyond business cards, and you’ll have the winning skill set of a successful entrepreneur. Always remember, success is what you define it as, and optimizing your own unique abilities that you already have will get you there faster than any advice you read. Best of luck.

How did the idea for your business come about?

I founded TOMBOLO, maker of uncommon goods for the collective good after inventing “paperfeet” – minimalist sandals made from up-cycled outdoor advertisement material. At the time, I had a leaky roof and couldn’t afford a full repair. One of the contractors that gave me a quote said that his company sometimes used giant billboard vinyl sheets as durable, waterproof tarps. I cold called several ad companies and eventually found a full 14 x 48 foot sign sheet that functioned as the perfect roof tarp for the winter.

The following year I revisited an early idea I had of making paper-thin sandals from Tyvek – the puncture-proof material used for shipping envelopes. Tyvek failed but the billboard worked surprisingly well for the first edition of what would eventually become the retail-ready paperfeet of today. In less than a year, the hand-made billboard shoes have been shipped around the world and featured in national media. But to take things to the next level and scale manufacturing I’m launching a Kickstarter community project to raise the funds needed to do volume production here in the United States.  

Give BIG Entrepreneurs Give Back


As the co-founder of Get Your Big On, I am fortunate to meet many people who are living a big life. I have been blessed to interact with entrepreneurs who are not only making it big for themselves but helping others.

Meet forty-two year old Terry  Grahl, an entrepreneur and a person who Gives BIG!

She says,  ”I not only reinvented myself but I took a major leap of faith five years ago by closing my interior decorating business and turning it into a non-profit that transforms shelters for women and children into peace and possibilities.

I remember sitting on the edge of bed in December 2008 crying my eyes out and making a deal with God. My request: ‘you better make sure you keep a roof over my families head and food in the fridge’ and his request: ‘glorify me.’

It’s been one wild ride ever since! Just last year Enchanted Makeovers was awarded by MLB/PEOPLE Magazine an All-Stars Among Us award, and Sheryl Crow even did a special video on the organization. I finally feel I’m living and not existing!”

Terry is just one of the many entrepreneurs who are giving big. Be sure to check out this month’s Start BIG Spotlight Jimmy Tomczak founder of Paperfeet.  

Entrepreneurs who Start BIG

Over the last two weeks I have been inundated with stories of entrepreneurs who are Starting BIG! I find myself inspired daily by the stories I am receiving.  Many have overcome major obstacles. This week I featured one of those big stories as my pick of the week on Get Your BIG On. I thought I would share his story here as well. I am able to tell you a bit more about him in this post.

David Alan Slockblower (aka David Alan) is an inventor/entrepreneur/professional stand-up comic/artist who has had and lost millions. He has been featured in People Magazine, appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the Joe Franklin Show, the CBS Early Show, and dozens of local and regional television news shows. He has fought and won a 13-year battle with alcoholism and drug addiction and have endured major surgeries to recover from near-total disability. This inventor and entrepreneur is launching a new product. The project is his patented EZ Shopper invention, which is something that literally EVERYBODY can use.

Additionally David says “After a 20-year failed marriage, I have been blessed to reconnect with “the one that got away” from over thirty years ago and am now happily married to her. With her love, support, and encouragement I have once again tapped into the flow of creative energy that had been dulled by drugs, alcohol, and depression. Good story, huh? Best part is that it’s ALL TRUE. In order to finance my current project/dream, my new bride and I have exhausted all of our resources, including her entire retirement account from a 20-year career as a published research scientist with Novartis/Sandoz Corporation. The project is my patented _EZ Shopper_ invention, which is something that literally EVERYBODY can use and benefit from.”

A common theme among the stories I have received is that once the entrepreneur commits completely to the project either financially, emotionally or both that is when it succeeds.

You can learn more about this entrepreneur who has overcome great odds.

links: http://www.ezshopper.us/