Interesting ways to continue learning this summer

As great as it sounds, you should try not to make these things a habit this summer:
  • Taking 3-hour naps at 4pm, resulting in falling asleep at 4am that night
    Scrolling aimlessly through TLs, forgetting that a world exists outside your bedroom
    Not reading SPURblogs


Yes, there are the typical ways of staying mentally active this summer: internships, summer class, being an apprentice for a shoe maker…

But if you aren’t doing those things, here are several interesting ways you can continue exercising your noggin!

    1. Summer jobs- Even the simplest dog sitting job will give you the satisfactions of playing with pups, practicing organization skills, or even sparking a new business idea!
    2. Summer camps- Whether you are a staff member or planning to attend, social events are a great way to network and gain experience.
    3. Start your business- If this seems like it’s impossible to do, I bet you you’re wrong. Our site has tons of useful blog posts up about the problems you may run into an a community that can answer any question you have.
    4. Traveling- Check out this link on why traveling is an important thing to do when starting a business
    5. Do your own research- Take it upon yourself to find what markets are growing in your city or scour the internet for crazy unknown products. This could spark interest or inspiration in a field and, you guessed it, lead to a new business idea!
    6. Try to get social media famous- Pick a platform and make a cool profile whether it’s about your fashion sense, the foodie within, or photo-shopping yourself into pics with celebrities (and yes that’s a thing). Since it’s summer you probably have more time to shoot and post to grow a following!

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If none of these are things you plan to do, at least challenge yourself to try something completely new. Take kickboxing classes, learn a new language, take a stab at a form of art, even if you’re bad at it…

Whatever it is, keep your mind pumping. Your brain is like a car in that if it does nothing for a long period of time, the insides wear and there is much to do to get it running like normal the next time you need it

Be aware that you don’t need the traditional ways to feel like you gained something. The key is being proactive and doing what you say you will, and there is usually always something to take away from the experience.

Work on vacation without opening your laptop

You’re in the snow caps of Colorado, on a cruise the the Bahamas, wherever the summer has taken you, adventure awaits, but you don’t want to miss out on startup gains!

Have no fear. Traveling and seeing the world IS working on your startup. You’re giving yourself a much needed brain break, spending time with those you care about, and learning in an entirely different way than you do at home.

So much can be gained from relieving your mind of your common daily routine and opening it up to new experiences and adventure. So learn how to gain the most when you are being the least hands on with your business. If you don’t believe this can be done, here are the simple ways to be on vacation but still impacting your startup without ever opening your laptop.

 

  1. Enjoy yourself

    First and foremost, remember that this is your vacation. You set aside this time and paid money to do this. So relax. Your mood will improve and you’ll become more energized to work on your business upon returning home. All you have to do is think about the rest of this stuff, and you’ll be set!

    Down to read more, that is!

  2. Understand what there is to gain

    Go in with an open mind that witnessing new cultures, trying new foods, letting go of all the stress can have a serious impact on your live. Not only are you learning new ways of life and the history behind it, you are building your self awareness and where you fit into the world. The way other groups have solved a certain problem their whole life may be different than how you’ve done it. Ask yourself why? Is it a regional thing? A social thing? Does it work better than how you do it? Can you carry these practices back home and apply it to your idea?

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  3. Take pictures

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    Going in with the task to take pictures should make you more observant and open to what is going on around you. Take your eyes of Twitter and look around. Observe the sights and sound and let it sink in that you are in a new place. Capture these moments for your own recollection as well as seeing what you can find on your trip that is photo-worthy

  4. Write down what you learn

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    On the plane ride, car ride, or hitch-hike back home, reflect one some things you learned on the trip. I challenge you to write down 3 things you learned and ask others around you to participate. It can be about what you learned while going on a hike, or what you learned about someone else on the trip, or something you think you could apply to your start up.

GET OUT THERE: Using your free time to talk to customers

It’s summer, which means you are free from school, have time to hang out, and can get moving on your business. This time is particularly great for going out and talking with potential customers about your concept since more people are out and about. Engaging with potential customers is an involved and personal activity, so use this window where you have freedom to schedule time and put in that extra effort to reach out them.


The ability to introduce yourself and steal a few minutes of someone’s time is daunting but necessary. Approaching random person and asking them for an opinion on your concept can be awkward, but if they can provide you with actionable feedback, the exercise could be the most valuable thing you do. Here are some things to consider:

  • Realize that they are people, too. We interact with people every day, this time it’s just with someone you don’t have a previous connection to, and that’s okay.
  • There is always something to gain (more often than not). Meeting new people and talking to potential customers can provide insight, opinions from different background, and a new contact.
  • No harm, no fowl. Sometimes the conversation may get lead down a different path or you receive criticism. Still, these things are important to — but not let bring you down. if anything, you’ve improved your communication skills.


Now when going through this exercise, there are three types of people you need to be concerned about:

  1. Potential customers that do not yet know about your company (the vast majority of people)
  2. People that know about your company, but are not currently customers
  3. People that are already purchasing your product (if you are this far in the startup journey)

Consider these questions for each category. These will help you identify potential trends where you can make an immediate change to your concept:

  1. Why is this person unaware of my company? What are the best ways to reach them?
  2. Why are they not customers if I know I can help them and my product is better than what is currently available?
  3. Why do they continue to come back? What could make the product better?

Again, try not to get discouraged if the first couple people you approach ignore you, it will make the feedback you do get more valuable in the end, guaranteed.

A challenge to you: introduce yourself to five people you think could fit into your target customer profile and sell them on your concept and share your experience here. *

*This should be an exercise you are constantly practicing since things change so quickly. Having a pulse check on your customers will make the difference in being proactive with making decisions rather than reacting to an unexpected event.

GET OFF your ass this summer and work on your startup

Summer heat got you down? Putting textbooks away make you feel like productivity shouldn’t exist? Too tempted to chill with friends or take a road trip every other weekend?

What if I told you, you can work on your startup this summer, progress on your idea, and still get a good amount of adventure in? Well, believe it! Here are 5 tips to help you accomplish this!

1. PRIORITIZE
What needs to be completed for you to feel satisfied with your progress? Sometimes life and work can get overwhelming.

First, make a list of all the responsibilities you’ve got going on this summer like work, summer school, vacations (pft, responsibility…). Then, make a list of attainable milestones for your business you want to reach by the end of summer along with what you wish you could do for fun (examples: survey 50 potential customers, read a book each month, exercise more).

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Don’t forget that summer is a time where YOU get to choose what you will be doing and no one gets to tell you otherwise. Analyze your lists and find what is realistic for you to wholeheartedly complete. Maybe you take some things off your plate. Maybe you move some things from the wish list to the do-list. Keep in mind, just because you take something off your plate, doesn’t mean you can’t come back to it in a few months.

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Most importantly, make sure to leave room for friends and family and designated days where you don’t think about work at all, for your sanity!

2. DELEGATE YOUR TIME AND STICK TO IT

No matter what you’ve got going on, anything can be done with time management, dedication, and coffee.

Organizing your time at least a week in advance will help you identify and execute needs as well as give you the reins to decide when you work and when you play.

You’ll then find the nooks and crannies of time where you can squeeze chances to work on your startup, see the bigger picture, get more done, and maybe even have a good night’s rest.

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Here are two resources to help you hustle while making room to live life the same time:
Todoist– If you’re a solo startup, try this guy. It’s simple and easy to use, displaying daily and weekly to-dos. Premium features (like reminder alarms) can be added for a cost. Also, get productivity tips emailed to you when you subscribe to their newsletters!

Resource: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.todoist

Trello- A SPUR favorite! Make categories, set deadlines, attach teammates to the tasks and more. This is great for if you have a team and want everyone to be in the loop.

Resource: Trello.com
Now it’s your job to stick to it! The more you do, the more likely you’ll immensely make progress on your goals. Just becare to not to over work yourself (see number 1).

3. STAY MOTIVATED

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Surround yourself with like-minded people. Are they other entrepreneurs? Hobbyist? Your family? Keep these people close to you and converse with them frequently. They can help to fuel your interests, get your creative juices flowing, and keep you on track.
Follow motivational pages. You know the ones. They have the sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes cheesy quotes pasted on an aesthetically pleasing background. Search for the pages that speak to you and get you pumped!
Follow your dream companies. Keep tabs on the companies that you look up to. Whether it be for their success, what they stand for, or how they present themselves online. Remind yourself that you could be like them one day if you try hard enough

4. LEARN HOW TO START A CONVERSATION

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We are always looking for the right person to join our business who we click with and bring complementary skills to the table. A network is a group or system of interconnected people or things. But these connections don’t just happen.

HISTORY FLASHBACK: Steve Woznaik (co-founder of Apple) was introduced to Steve Jobs by a Bill Fernandez who went to highschool with Jobs. WHAT IF WOZANAIK NEVER SAID HELLO TO FERNANDEZ OR VISE VERSA? Wozanaik might not have ever met Jobs, and you wouldn’t be reading this on your smartphone or laptop.

Being out of school can make it harder to connect with others, so start that small talk with your neighbor at a coffee shop. Tell people what you are working on at any (appropriate) event. You never know where it could lead you! Yes, I know what you’re thinking, and no, they won’t steal your idea. This is a common fear between entrepreneurs among many others. Don’t let this hold you back from connecting with the right person to help you potentially making serious strides for your company.

5. GET OFF YOUR ASS

Very rarely does success fall into someone’s lap. You might be asking, how do I meet these potentially wonderful partners and make connections? Sure, it may be hard if you don’t know any industry-specific people you can turn to. But once you have the resources, the rest is up to you. So here we are…giving you the resources! Click here to find another posts that talks about finding groups of like-minds, organizing opportunities to connect with them, and what to do once you’re talking to them. Now the rest is up to you!

NO EXCUSES: 5 ways to find opportunities, maximize resources, and MAKE things HAPPEN

Finally! School is out and you are ready to let all the knowledge you’ve just spent two semesters obtaining, pour out of your brain and lock itself in a drawer for 3 months. BUT WAIT.

Summer is actually the best time work on your startup because a) you no longer have to worry about maintaining grades and learning other people’s work and b) you get to make your own schedule and learn things for YOU.

We really believe in utilizing this time to progress on your startup and truly figure out the needs and hows of your business. So here are a few resources that are great for doing just that!

  1. Your Network Firstly, you already have resources at your fingertips! Professors, mentors, friends, family, that guy you met at a workshop, two heads are better than one! Never be a afraid to reach out to someone for a little advice or even just to run some of your ideas by. Another person’s perspective provides clarity and may even spark inspiration.
  2. MeetUp Don’t feel like you have a strong network? Never connect to professors during the year (you should!)? This page is AWESOME for meeting up with like-minds and helpful resources in your area. Join groups such as “ Rock Climbers”, “Robot Fighting”, “Dallas Foodies”, or anything related to where your startup lays and have opportunities to meet up and share ideas with these people. Find your group, there are thousands to choose from!

  3. SPUR Community Our community is full of students just like you, riddled with questions, eager to share advice, and seeking ways to improve themselves as entrepreneurs. Join our family to stay in the loop! We are working hard to release our mentorship program and online curriculum, but it’s not too early to hop on the community and start talking to other studentpreneuers.
  4. City Newspaper Here in Dallas, we have great publishers like Dallas Innovates and Dallas News. This may be a great source for you to continually be in the loop of what’s happening in your city and how you can join in on the action. If an article really speaks to you, reach out to the author and introduce yourself. Be genuine! You’ve now made someone’s day and you have a connection for a possible story to be written about you when your startup begins seeing success.
  5. Be the captain of your ship It’s up to you to make shit happen. Waiting around will never get you anywhere. You are in control of your journey and where your business will go. We know it’s hard. We know some people have better luck than others. So, email people, re-email people, make phone calls, make prototypes with paper and glue, print flyers and put them on every car. You are able to do more than you think. When there are limits, get creative. When you think that you can’t, prove yourself wrong.

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Hope this get you pumped during your days off!

Startup Remorse?

Sometimes, running a startup feels like a lost cause. It’s easy to second-guess why you’re even doing it in the first place.

The truth is, there are winners and losers in the startup world, and it is up to you to fight for your spot. When the going gets rough, will you be able to hang in?

Staying true to yourself gets harder as you expand your idea into a real business. Understanding why you are building your business will help you stay in the game.

Let’s take a look at 4 ways you can uncover (or reinforce) your true motives:

  1. Remind yourself why you started your business.
    It all started with an idea. You saw a problem and are working to solve it. Everything you have been doing is working towards accomplishing that initial pain point you had however long ago you started down this journey.
  2. Talk to the people who have supported you.
    This can be your co-founders, friends/family, or your mentors. Think about all the time you have spent with this support network of yours talking about your business. These people want you to be successful and have invested their time to help you push forward on your mission. When you feel down, voice that to them. They’ll be there to remind you why you should keep going (and they’ll always have your best interest in mind!).
  3. Map out what you have accomplished so far.
    When you get stuck in the pits, it’s easy to feel unaccomplished and question everything you’re doing. Look back at where you started and where you are now. There are the ups and downs in the startup world, but take a hard look at where you are right now and how you got here.
  4. Think about what your business can become.
    There is what the business looks like today and what it can look like a year from now (and even 5 years from now!). What is your long-term goal? Your vision for what your company can become will help push you through the late nights and early mornings. Don’t ever stop dreaming and fostering your passion.

These 4 tricks will help you uncover what is driving you to build your business: your true motives. When things start to go south (which they always will, just so you know) what will motivate you to push through?

Don’t have that support group in place yet? We’ve got you covered. Sign up for our community to find true support from entrepreneurs, like you.

-Jeff B.

Let us know what you think: Comment what your major driver is and get the conversation started.

What it REALLY Takes to Put Your Customers First

To be honest, I’ve struggled figuring out where take SPURstartups content. How am I going to stand out to my audience, who’s bombarded with content every time they hop online?

Trendy blog content is laced with promises like, the “Do this ONE thing and you’ll be successful.” I was tired of reading post after post of empty promises and quick fixes. I thought, am I the only reader who feels like bloggers have completely forgotten about their reader? Since when was quantity better than quality?

That’s why when I heard about ConvertKit’s new Netflix-style blog structure, I had to reach out and thank them for bringing sustenance back into blogging.

ConvertKit publishes content in the form of magazine-style issues once a month. That content is launched Netflix-style in the middle of each month, every month. “Too many blogs are written for search engines, not humans. They lack focus on the reader, lack originality in the content, and generally leave something to be desired in the overall experience,” said the ConvertKit team.

I had an opportunity to pick the brain of Barrett Brooks, ConvertKit’s Director of Marketing. Not only did he give me some great advice for blogging, but also shared wisdom for being a successful business owner.

When I asked Barrett how to stand out in the digital marketplace and position yourself for long term success, his answer was simple: take time to understand what your customers want & tailor your content and product around that.

Easier said than done.

Here’s three takeaways from our conversation to remind you how to stay focused on what matters most in your business: your customers.

 

1. Stop thinking about yourself

You’ll naturally stand out to your customers if you are truly solving their needs, not your ideas about what they need. To do this, you have to stop putting yourself first.

“Part of what’s wrong with making digital products, what makes me sad about this industry, is that too many people just care about making money,” he said.

“As an entrepreneur, it’s important to know why you do what you do. How will starting a business change your life? How does your work connect to your own sense of purpose and meaning? What are your goals for your family and how will the business serve those goals? But your customers won’t buy from you because you want to put your kid through college. They won’t buy what you sell just because you love sports and decided to start a business around sports.”

 

2. Prioritize the outcome for the customer over the outcome for yourself convertkit-image-1

In college, one of my Entrepreneurship professors taught me that your bottom line mattered more than your customer’s experience. He believed that sacrificing customer service was worth it push came to shove for profitability. Something about that lecture was unsettling to me, and Barrett showed me how my professors theory couldn’t be more wrong.

He said, “If you’re so focused on you, you’re never going to make things that your customers benefit from. Think about how your customers want their lives to change and less about how you want your life to change. The outcome for the customer is more important than the outcome for you.”

“Yes, have goals for your life and your business. But don’t expect anyone to buy from you just because you want a better life. They’ll buy from you if you help them live a better life…The only thing that matters is what your customers want and need,” said Barrett

 

3. Know that success takes time, and that’s okay. 

Remember that success doesn’t happen overnight, or in a week, or a month. It can take years. Just remember that making progress on a small scale is the first step to making progress on a giant one.

Barrett reminded me that I can only move one step at a time. “You’ve got to get to 10 people before you get to one million. Before you can be the best in your state, you’ve got to be the best in your town,” he said.

Barrett’s mindset is what makes ConvertKit’s blog so fantastic. It and what inspires me to make our blog better than ever. They’ve taken a risk to change the way people interact with blog content. But that risk revolves around what they believed their customers wanted. Only time will tell if this strategy will work, but something inside me says it’s already a success.

Ready to start putting your customers first? Check out ConvertKit’s blog here and email marketing tools, here.

 

 

Turning your passions into profits: How being creative landed this designer her own TV show

See how Kayln did it in this candid Q&A.

Entrepreneurship is totally a family thing, at least it is more me. From my intrapreneur sister, Lila, to my designer-turned-TV host cousin, Kalyn. Kalyn Rothaus, the host of Office Spaces, knows what it takes to work hard and break through even the hardest of industries. I can remember back to the days when she was in college bringing home her designs, my Aunt Kit looking at them and asking my 14-year-old self what I thought about it all. (Aunt Kit is the person I credit with kicking off my career- but that’s a story for another day). Kalyn has come a loooong way since college. She has her own TV show, just tied the knot, and is kicking some serious butt. I picked her brain for the quick-and-dirty about what it took to get here and how to brand yourself. Get the deets below!

 


What inspires you to work so hard?!

I am a goal setter and always have been. When I have measurable goals it is easy to work hard to get there faster and enjoy the hard work with perspective on the outcome!

 


How do you stay motivated to break through in such a difficult industry and always believe in yourself?

I truly believe I have always worked hard, but I have also had some luck! I think the combination of being at the right place at the right time in conjunction with hard work creates this magical formula in my life for opportunity.

 


You think outside of the box with your designs- how do you apply your creativity and innovation to everything in your work life?

I apply my creativity to everything in my life. I try my best to be silly, and not take myself too seriously which helps my creativity flow more freely. I find that when I was afraid of what people thought, I couldn’t be as expressive in my work and in my life. I am constantly reminding myself to trust “me” the most. Although, I do have to make clients happy too, so there is a fine line.

 


What is the number one piece of advice to you have for someone who wants to make a name for themselves and be successful?

Say yes. When I was asked to be the on camera Host for Office Spaces, I said yes, even though I was terrified (to say the least). I began to soak up everything around me and learned from everyone I could- from the camera operator to the production assistants, constantly asking what I could do better. I also watched myself on the monitor after shoots to understand how I could improve. The bottom line is, I said yes, in spite of not knowing what yes meant. The truth is, I believe I am smart enough to figure anything out AND ask for help when I need it!

 


Do you think having a personal brand is important? What advice do you have for branding yourself?

Well, before I knew I would have a TV show, I thought about this question a lot. I had no idea how to start. Then, I was thrown into an on camera role, and the most important thing I can do for my “brand” is be me. I am constantly being told what to say on camera, but I always pause and think about how to say things in my own words and express what I believe.  If you are your own brand (especially in a creative industry where we sell ideas and dreams that are not tangible at first) be your unique self and believe in what you create.

6 Ways to be a great entrepreneur, grom a Shark Tank insider

blog-robyn

Business Development Manager | Mark Cuban Companies

Robyn is the Business Development Manager for Mark Cuban Companies and advises the SPUR team on all things startup. When she’s not getting me through another quarter-life crisis, she’s advising teams from Shark Tank and networking with every VC in the Dallas startup scene. Here are six ways to be a great entrepreneur, from someone who has mentored the best (and sometimes… the worst).

 

  1. Own your intensely fearless personality. “I love working with entrepreneurs because they aren’t afraid to try new things or think outside of the box. It’s invigorating to be around that energy!”
  2. Ask yourself, ‘is this the path of least resistance to something better?’ “Mark made this point to me once and it has stuck with me. What it means is ask yourself does this make someone’s life easier and when it comes to selling your product, put yourself in the shoes of your customer.”
  3. Know your customers and industry better than anyone else. “So many sales people try to push their ideas onto their customer but don’t find out what their customer needs to be successful and achieve their goals. Do this and then try to help them do it!”
  4. Teams are everything. “Persistence, time management and the ability to recognize your shortcomings” are characteristics Robyn looks for in good entrepreneurs. But no entrepreneur is good enough on their own. “Surround yourself with those who can have those skills. A leader is only as good as his team!”
  5. Don’t forget to thank those that help you along the way. “As new entrepreneurs, you’ll meet many people along the way that make introductions or mentor you if only for a short period. Keep track of these people and keep them close, nurture those relationships and don’t forget to thank them for their help.”
  6. Just ask! The best way to be a good mentee is to simply “ask for what you need!”

Mentor of the Week: Philip Zeller

Project Manager | Netsync Network Solutions

Phil is a Project Manager with Netsync Network Solutions, overseeing network and server infrastructure deployments for customers in the education and healthcare vertical markets. In his career in IT services, Phil has delivered projects for household brands and Fortune 500s like Best Buy, American Airlines, LEGO, and large public sector clients including the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Parkland Memorial Hospital, and the University of Texas system.

Aside from his love for meeting business challenges with IT solutions, Phil is a devoted husband, father to an adopted golden retriever, econ and markets geek, Feed My Starving Children supporter, dance music addict, occasional cyclist, and cancer survivor.

 


Advice for 1st time entrepreneurs:

“Sell, sell, and then collect a profit! Many of today’s entrepreneurs grew up in the age of low interest rates and cheap, readily accessible capital. When Silicon Valley companies that have never delivered a profit  have market capitalizations comparable to Dow 30 components, it’s easy to get caught up in the fallacy that product is more important than profit. While this may hold true in the short run, in the history of market economies, consistently selling products that are both in demand and profitable has never completely gone out of fashion.  To that end, carefully evaluate and understand the risk-to-reward when considering any form of debt or leverage when developing a product. Leverage by definition amplifies any outcome–good or bad.”

 


Biggest learning experience of his career:

Perspective is key, and your customer’s is the most important. Several years ago, I had a demanding customer who had little understanding of the technology we delivered, but was nonetheless under a lot of pressure from his management to have it delivered within a certain timeframe. It was a customer that represented a lot of revenue, and the project itself was fairly small. We encountered substantial, and frequent delays due to the lack of preparation on the part of the customer. It reached the point where the project had exhausted its labor budget and was past the intended due date. Suffering from myopia, I issued a change order to the customer and said that project work would be stalled until additional hours were purchased. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have realized that more so than delivering a project, my goal was to help the customer meet its goals. In the end, the matter was escalated, and my company finished the work for no additional charge. While I may have been right in following the official process, in accordance with our contract, I ignored the customer’s perspective and put our relationship in jeopardy.”

 


What keeps him motivated:

“In all of my pursuits, I focus on the positive impact of my work. When I’ve overseen upgrades of wireless networks for hospitals, I’ve thought about how a faster, more resilient network enables nurses to make patients more comfortable, doctors to diagnose more effectively, and keep patients entertained on their portable devices. In deploying virtual desktop environments for school districts, I think about the enhanced quality of instruction that comes from teachers and students can access their lessons and homework from any computer or device. The greater the outcome of my work, the greater my motivation.”