Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • Secrets from the Scalerator: Are You Targeting the Right Customer?

    The final installment in a 4-part series about businesses that met the AmEx OPEN Scalerator challenge to grow their revenues 15 percent in three months.

    Able Access Transportation

    Do you really know who your customer is? By reevaluating the target of her sales pitch, Annette Tipton has put her company on track for a year of record-breaking revenues.

    Tipton is co-owner with her husband of Able Access Transportation, a paratransit service they established in 2001 in Milwaukee, Wis., that runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She was one of 12 participants last fall in AmEx OPEN’s pilot Scalerator training program, which helps existing businesses develop strategies for growth.

    To be sure, Tipton was in a growth mode before the course started. Thanks to upgrading her fleet, moving into a remodeled building in a more central location, installing a new telephone system, fully integrating the software system, enabling all vehicles with GPS, and outfitting drivers with sharp uniforms to update the brand identity, Able

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  • This Couple Swam Away from the Shark Tank with $200,000

    By the time Noam and Irene Krasniansky’s Shark Tank pitch aired on ABC on Friday, February 28th, their reusable paper-towel product, Bambooee, was already available in northern California Costco stores, several Whole Foods stores, and thousands of natural food shops nationwide. It had won an innovation award at the 2012 International Home & Housewares Show, and was featured on Good Morning America, where three out of three mom testers approved.

    Bambooee, which the Krasnianskys call "the un-paper towel," brought in revenues of $122,000 last year. They expect triple those sales this year. But help from the Sharks, they say, could help “take Bambooee to the next level.” Noam tells Yahoo! Small Business that he and his wife auditioned with 50,000 other entrepreneurs for a spot on Shark Tank because: “We’re not a large corporation with a lot of money, connections, and wherewithal for distribution. This is an innovative idea and we wanted it to grow quickly, so we needed the right partner

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  • 6 Signs Your Leadership Skills Could Use Some Work

    Profits have dropped, productivity has slowed, and your business has felt like it’s been on a roller coaster for years. Before you blame the economy, you might want to take a look in the mirror. Those conditions could be clues that your organization is lacking strong leadership, according to management consultant and trainer Ed Eppley.

    Eppley is a leading expert in professional management, sales strategy, and performance management. His clients include a "Who’s Who" of business category leaders that include BMW, STERIS, Sara Lee, Speedway, Steamboat Ski & Resort Company, Emerson Electric, Safelite Auto Glass, and others. As an instructor of the Course for Presidents at Aileron in Tipp City, Ohio, Eppley also helps owners of private businesses apply a system of professional management to identify and correct workplace problems.

    With 30 years in the business, Eppley has honed a skill for spotting problematic management. In advance of his forthcoming book that teaches his preferred system

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  • Secrets from the Scalerator: Focus on Established Revenue Sources

    Part 3 in a 4-part series about businesses that met the AmEx OPEN Scalerator challenge to grow their revenues 15 percent in three months.

     

    Bill Reilly says what he learned in atwo-month intense sales- and growth-focused training workshop last fall was “not rocket science,” but it enabled him to grow his revenues by 15 percent in a matter of weeks and invest in new equipment that is already contributing to his bottom line. Now he’s scouting for a bigger location and planning a 25 percent headcount increase.

    Reilly is co-owner of Hands-on Garage, afull service automotive maintenance business that also provides mechanic bays, tools, and professional guidance for customers who want to work on their own cars. He was among 12 Milwaukee-area business owners who were selected to participate in the American Express OPEN pilot Scalerator program last September.

    At the end of the training, participants were challenged to devise a strategy for exceeding their first quarter 2014 revenue plan by 15

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  • Secrets from the Scalerator: Incentivizing Crossover Sales

    Part 2 in a 4-part series about businesses that met the AmEx OPEN Scalerator challenge to grow their revenues 15 percent in three months.

    When ScaleUp Milwaukee brought the American Express OPEN Scalerator program to town last fall, Tom Dougherty, owner of Advanced Chemical Systems, was among 12 area business owners and managers who were accepted to enroll to learn how to scale up. Less than four months after completing the intensive two-month workshop, Dougherty has already translated what he learned into impressive results at his 12-person business. He attributes the sale of a $100,000 contract in November, as well as a 16 percent spike in his chemical sales since then, to the growth plan the Scalerator helped him conceive.

    “Every small business is trying to grow,” Dougherty says. “What prompted me to join the Scalerator were the specifics the leaders asked about my business during the interview. The professor did enough homework on us that it was like getting a personalized

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  • Secrets from the Scalerator: How Three Businesses Scaled Up Fast

    Leaders in Milwaukee began an initiative last year to spur economic growth by helping businesses in the region learn how to scale up. The payoffs are already coming and other metro regions ripe for revival are taking note.

    Yahoo Small Business reported here last year about the Rust Belt city’s “entrepreneurship ecosystem project” called Scale Up Milwaukee. Led by Babson College entrepreneurship professor Daniel Isenberg, the program has support from the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as well as funding from AmericanExpress OPEN for Enterprise: Coalitions for High-Growth Entrepreneurship. The AmEx program aims to foster high-growth entrepreneurship by giving select communities, starting with Milwaukee, the right resources and tools for a better entrepreneurial environment.

    Among the resources AmEx OPEN brought to Milwaukee last autumn was the Scalerator—a two-month series of two-day workshops

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  • A Valentine’s Shop Pops Up in Manhattan: It’s a Love Story

    New Yorkers have no excuse for coming home tonight with nothing more than bouquets from the bodega for their Valentines. The ever-changing theme boutique STORY is all about love this month, and features dozens of ways to shop small and local for your lover. STORY marketing gurus say their current curated shopping experience explores “love's capacity to inspire a work of art, delight the palette, surprise the nose, and even grow.”

    We reported here last summer about Rachel Shechtman, the retail industry consultant who is on a mission to elevate the consumer experience of the brick and mortar store to what she calls “translational storytelling.” STORY is her 2,000-square-foot shop on 10th Avenue at 19th Street in Manhattan that she says “has the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery, and sells things like a store.”

    Shechtman swaps out the entire inventory and interior design every three to eight weeks, and managed to achieve profitability her first year, generating revenue

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  • Taxes, Insurance, Marketing: Brush Up in a Business Webinar

    National Entrepreneurship Week is coming up February 15-22, according to the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education. And with most of the nation in a deep freeze, it’s the perfect time to snuggle up to your computer for some business training. Last month we presented a list of college-level online courses for entrepreneurs. For your February learning, here is a list of workshops being offered online this month that require far less commitment and offer the possibility of a quick payoff for your business.

    Thursday, Feb. 13, 1:00 pm ET
    Score Free Publicity for Your Business
    A one-hour seminar offered by BizLaunch to reveal the power of free publicity and how to get it. Learn how to tell stories the media want to cover, how to target the right media, how to write a media release, interview tips, and how to use free publicity to grow your brand.

    Thursday, Feb. 13, 1:00 pm ET
    Mobile and Website Conversion: Building Your Business for Clients on the Go
    Can potential buyers find your website

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  • Will “Made in Rural America” Initiative Help Your Business?

    Nearly 40 small businesses in sleepy villages from Oregon to New York are part of MaryJane Butters’ Project FARM—short for “First-class American Rural Made.” Butters, an organic farmer in northern Idaho, conceived the idea of putting a Project FARM label on qualified goods made in rural America as a way to support people "struggling to maintain a rural lifestyle" as "rural communities fade and farmers continue to disappear from our landscape."

    According to the Council of Economic Advisors, the American farming industry isn’t in such bad shape. The Council forecast net farm income at $131 billion in 2013. Adjusted for inflation, that’s a 46 percent increase from 2008 and the highest net U.S. farm income since 1973.

    Still, the Farm Bill that President Obama signed on Friday includes a major new initiative to help small businesses in rural U.S. “The importance of the Farm Bill goes well beyond the role of agriculture, by providing technical assistance and financing for long-term

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  • Proto Labs Gives Entrepreneurs with Cool Ideas a Kickstart

    Floome, a handheld blood-alcohol detector, won a Cool Ideas Award

    For aspiring product designers, 201 Mulberry Street in New York City was the place to be last Thursday night. The Cool Idea Award Gallery event in the vacant storefront there showcased nine inventors and their novel products—each one clever enough to make you say, “I wish I had thought of that!”

    Proto Labs is a Minnesota-based maker of custom CNC-machined and injection-molded parts with operations worldwide that we reported on here last month. Its Cool Idea Award gives up to $250,000 each year in Proto Labs tooling services and parts production to entrepreneurs developing new products in the U.S. and Europe. Proto Labs says its intention is to help innovators bring their ideas to life. Seventeen awards have been made since 2011.

    The Everpurse cell-phone charging station is another Cool Ideas award winner

    The Cool Idea Award-winning products featured at the event last week were:

    • r-one: Robots that communicate with their users and with each other using an internal computer, motors, lights and sounds were designed by a Rice University professor and his students
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