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If I…

If I… Was A TechCrunch Disrupt Wannabe

Posted on Sep 15, 2011 in Family and Friends, Featured, If I..., Work |

If I… Was A TechCrunch Disrupt Wannabe

I sat glued to my computer this week, listening to every single tid-bit I could take in from this week’s TechCrunch Disrupt. In years past, I’ve gone rooting for my buddies, cheered-on technologies, and, looked-up phrases I’d never heard of (“Crowd-sourcing” first sounded like some kind of flash mob to me).

This year, the intake was just as intense — big and bold and full of life and technology I could eat-up like a still-warm chocolate chip cookie.

And that’s it. Each of the companies at TechCrunch Disrupt this week had something in common: a solid foundation. A great startup has the makeup of a great chocolate chip cookie,  using all kinds of awesomeness to make our lives better and leave us wanting more and more.

Like all great bakers know, flavors can change, textures can vary and bake time can alter density, but all have the same core ingredients.

The foundation of a great startup and a great cookie are the same: a solid base, some grease to make things run smoothly, a leavening agent to make things rise, and, of course, a sweet overtone.

Chocolate Chip Recipe for Startups

2 1/4 c.  flour to create a solid foundation for the problem you are solving

1 t. baking soda to make the idea rise and grow with purpose

1 t. salt to take when your idea gets bashed

1/4 c. white sugar for addictiveness

1 c. light brown sugar to give the product some richness

2 sticks butter to grease-up users and make their user experience smooth

2 eggs to bind the concept to the real product

1 1/2 t. vanilla to enhance your product’s feature set

1 12-oz bag chocolate chips for making a product special and rewarding

1 c. rough chop nuts because if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re probably nuts anyway

 

1. Preheat your idea to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Knowing the temperature of the environment is so important to your product. Bake an idea on low heat and you’ll miss the window of opportunity; turn up the heat too fast and you’ll burn (or worse, burn through your seed money).

2. Cream the butter and sugars until smooth. One thing people forget is that if you churn butter too long, it will make your cookies flat and shapeless. Make user interactions smooth, but, don’t over-cream. Instead, firmly lead users to the actions you want them to take (a purchase, a comment, social sharing). Drop every barrier to entry, but be sure to not leave them flat and directionless.

3. Add eggs, one-at-a-time. Eggs bind everything together. This is the place I believe that a great marketer is key. Bring all the elements of technology, a great story, and, clean UI together into a cohesive product. Look at the #tcdisrupt finalists including my favorites, CakeHealth, Bitcasa, Trello, they each have the same binding principals, even though their stories and companies are vastly different. Bind the product together by hiring a great marketer to bring it together.

4. Measure vanilla, and then let it drip a bit over the top. Vanilla is one of those secret ingredients. Taste it on its own and your tongue curls, but leave it out of the perfect chocolate chip cookie, and you’re missing the aroma. I always measure one teaspoon, then let it dribble a bit more into the bowl. The same goes for highlighting your feature sets. Throw your capabilities at a customer and they’ll be left bitter. But give them the aroma of what your product can do for them and they’ll be following the aroma all the way into becoming a repeat customer. Otherwise: don’t oversell your features.

5. Add the dry ingredients. People say to sift the dry ingredients to incorporate. I don’t. I like to gently add them in at a really slow rate, watching them fold into a slow-churning stand mixer. The flour comes first, of course. The ultimate stabilizer is your core product, your core technology and your stable financials. Even if it’s in early beta, it’s still got to be stable enough to hold all the other yummy ingredients together.

Next, I put in the salt. I love salt in cookies. A cookie without enough salt means it’s all too sweet — and that’s just not a reality for a startup. Be ready to take a grain of salt with all of your feedback. That means, be ready to iterate, change and be a grownup enough to handle it when it comes. And it will.

Lastly, I add in the baking soda. I measure this so carefully (really the only thing I strictly measure). Your growth plan — whatever it is — needs to be measured very carefully. What is your rate of growth, how do you plan to scale, and, can your flour and butter and eggs handle how much rise you are giving to it? A growth plan is so much more precise than you can imagine when you’re drawing out little PowerPoint charts of hockey stick-looking growth (Oh, and so is accuracy, which I unfortunately learned once when a VC modeled our market expectations and we had ourselves with a user base larger than the population of China within six years).

6. Take a deep breath and look at your batter. Solid, creamy, full of promise. Now, add the magic and dump in those little chocolate chip morsels. It wasn’t a chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate chips, was it? This is your differentiator, your money call, your 12-minute TechCrunch Disrupt finalists pitch. After all that building and binding, make sure that you didn’t forget why you started all this in the first place — and make sure there’s plenty of that morsel of awesomeness that makes a chocolate chip cookie a chocolate chip cookie and what makes your startup yours.

7. Add the nuts. Not sure about this last step? Trust me. Why the nuts? Some people love nuts, others hate them! Some have anaphylactic shock from nuts. You could kill someone if you add this in! I say add the nuts. Because it takes a little bit of crazy to be an entrepreneur who is willing to take the big risk.

8. Scoop a tablespoon of dough onto baking sheets and put into the oven. It’s ready to go-to-market. The temperature is just right. You have a product ready to go. Bake for eight minutes or until you get traction and the product has risen enough to take it out of the incubation. Some folks cool their cookies completely, but I don’t – a warm, baked idea is wildly desirable and everyone wants a hot cookie — get your product to investors while it’s hot.

9. Make sure no one is looking and put your fingers in the leftover dough, and sneak it in your mouth. You made all that yumminess.

So many ideas, so many companies make it to this point and not beyond. And that’s okay. I keep non-baked cookie dough in my fridge at all times, just like I’ve got new business ideas rattling around in my head all the time. There is little that tastes as good as homemade cookie dough. Somehow the magic of bringing everything together can be more rewarding than a fully baked product. Lick your fingers and enjoy — you’ve created something that has all the fundamentals of the perfectly balanced startup.

Nom, nom, nom.

 

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If I… (Still) Had a Yellow Pages Ad

Posted on Dec 15, 2010 in Featured, If I... |

If I… (Still) Had a Yellow Pages Ad

If I… still had a Yellow Pages ad running, I’d, well, stop immediately. Like, now. Unless you are a tow truck service or a locksmith, stop reading this post and cancel any kind of ad running.

Now.

Whew, now that I think I’ve stopped sweating from the sheer thought of all that wasted money, I can tell you, if you have a Yellow Pages ad, you need to make a change now. Small businesses can fall victim to the lowest common denominator of advertising, but is it effective? Not really anymore. What used to be the single most effective way to showcase your business (and its legitimacy), is now the least efficient. Small business marketing is no longer confined to, limited by or even led by Yellow Pages advertising. When two giant reams Yellow Pages books arrived on my doorstep last week, I couldn’t quite believe it — “People still do this?,” I thought.

Small businesses need marketing budgets, spending that money wisely is vital to survival now more than ever.  This isn’t a plea to stop advertising, it’s a plea to stop advertising in Yellow Pages books. Oh, don’t pocket that money so fast; I’ve already got it spent for you.

1. Cancel your Yellow Pages display ad. If you’re in New York or any major city, it’s likely anywhere from $2500- $100,000. I’m guessing it’s more in the $3500 range. If you’re in a smaller city, your display ad is probably running you between $500-$5000. Make sure when you cancel the ad that you ensure that your free listing is still there (you can even do that online at the Ad Solutions site from ATT). This will list your business in the YP directory online and in the book.

2. Run a Google search on your business. What comes up? You’re a small business owner not an SEO or web expert. You are not a marketer and you’ve got zero time to worry about this junk. I know, I know. But watch what happens when I Google my friend’s B&B, The Madison Street Inn,  then see what happens when I run a search on Bed & Breakfast in Santa Clara. This should give you a few pieces of information. Where is your small business listed? Who is listing it? Is the information correct? What needs to move to the top of search results? With a little poking around, you can make leaps in your presence online (and in mobile search, of course), by just knowing what your customers are seeing.

3. Get a Yelp account for your business. This is important stuff, I’m telling you. Yelp can do many things for free for your business and some paid things that are great too. The very basics: Get a business account, this part is free and easy to do. Populate your profile well. This means make sure you’ve done your hours of business, photos, contact information, etc. Now, write a special offer or an announcement. I click on the little orange flag all the time when I’m searching for something on Yelp. It means that the small business cares and is actively engaged with me. I like little things like “20 Years in Business and Going Strong!” but I’ll also pick something that says “Mention this Ad and…” These things are free of charge. This is a must-do.  Yelp also offers sponsored listings. I am not a fan because I don’t like the way the Yelp sales team bullies clients, but that aside, it’s a smart option for your Yellow Pages dollars.

4. Get a Merchant Circle account. MC is like a CVB and business association all wrapped into one. MC can be big and scary feeling, but try to find pieces of it that work for your business. What can it do for you? It can act as your small business website, if you don’t have one, it’s got a good, solid couponing tool and it’s a good network for reaching out with other small business owners. But, what I like from Merchant Circle is their low cost tools. For the cost of your out-dated Yellow Pages display ad, you can have MC do a lot of the small business marketing for you. They are the master of search results (see tip #1) and even do your Google ads for you.

It is such a shame to take those big yellow bricks and throw them in the trash unopened. It makes me feel for small businesses who are not marketing experts and who have a history of using their limited marketing funds on Yellow Pages ads that cannot yield the targeting, quality and results that can be obtained through using these basic tools. If I… was a Yellow Pages customer I’d know that now is the time to graduate to better marketing opportunities.

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If I… Was a GroupOn Freak-o-Matic

Posted on Sep 20, 2010 in Featured, If I... |

If I… Was a GroupOn Freak-o-Matic

I am not a coupon whore. Not even close. And although the economy has knocked us all on our butts, I still only participate in coupons if the stars align just right and I happen to see a coupon, happen to have time to save it, cut it, not lose it, not smoosh it to bits  in my handbag, take it to the grocery store, need the item, buy the item and remember to redeem coupon. For 25 cents off, this seems like a lot of brain power.  Nope, not a coupon type person.

Until Groupon. And SavvySource. And Fresh somethingruther, Daily Deals, Juice, Mamapedia, Group Swoop, Yipit Do it buy it fry it try it. Oy.

Unexpectedly, I have become a complete Groupon junkie. And likely, so have you. There is going to have to be some consolidation in the space. And if I were the czar of all things group buying I would focus on the following four things:

1. Think Vertical. It makes no sense to use similar technologies to accomplish the same tasks. There are even a zillion white label group buying softwares to start your own knockoff.  Rather than reinvent the invented, I’d encourage companies that have a niche group buying model like App Sumo (a group buying site for software) to build out their niches. If GroupOn is local, verticals can go deep with the same customer’s targeted needs (without the local spin).  App Sumo could, for example, use their audience to leverage new niche buying: Software, Hardware, Apps, and IT. There you go. Own the vertical space.Forget about local if you’ve got niche.  From there, go category specific. Vertical consolidation has got to be one of the first changes in group buying.

2. Think Consumer. The downfall of many daily deals is that they are hyper local but broad. Although GroupOn went heavy into hitting every major world city (nearly 40) and close to 100 US cities, they haven’t yet leveraged their database to highly target user purchasing. There’s room in a rapidly saturating market to hit customers with what they want and be able to repeatedly deliver for them. Quality has to count. Be sure to vett out your customers well. At some point, Mamapedia is going to run out of Moms in San Jose who want deals on spa treatments at every place on El Camino Real Blvd. There’s only so much spa a girl can take. But, however, if Mamapedia refocused to go completely postal on offering me things that are (a) in my spending range for instant gratification/POS purchases  (b) hit me with variety (I’m not just a mom!)  (c) was both local and virtual and (d) only offered the good stuff and weeds out the crappy deals for me, then you’d have me as a loyal customer. So loyal, in fact, that I might just unsubscribe from Living Social. Make me a rockstar purchaser and I’ll return the favor.

3. Put real money into editorial. Voice is one of the most important things to look for in what we see next from group buying. This isn’t for marketing 101. Targeting isn’t enough. If you’re going to go vertical and focus on customer retention (even if the price point is lower), then you’ve got to speak to me. This is a relationship, afterall. You have my credit card, my attention, my inbox, my loyalty. You speak with me every single day. That’s more than I speak to my mother. Many of the leaders in daily deals use generic communication tactics. Boo! Take cues from sites like BuyWithMe who write unique copy and not PR submitted blahblah.  It’s all in the positioning, the communication and the delicate yet direct call to act.

4. Think customer. So the bad news in group buying is that it might be a deal for you, but in general, it’s no bargain for  the company (usually small business) offering the deal. The marketing dollars are well-spent and putting companies on the map is important. Once qualified, think about how to help the customer. How are they going to make real money here? What’s the package you offer them to help with user retention?  What should they be prepared for? You are likely taking a small business’ Yellow Pages marketing dollars. It better be worth it. Be a customer care advocate. Help set expectations. My friends at The Grapevine Wine and Bistro lost money on their absolutely smashing Groupon deal from last year. There were over 1000 people who bought-in on the deal. It was a financial hit for them and wasn’t a new customer acquisition play either. They’ve learned and now are part of Groupon “G” points, ofering an ongoing discount rather than a one-off daily deal. Ace Hardware also  took a hit too when they learned their computer systems couldn’t handle the Groupon couponing. They spent more money in getting their cash registers able to accept the Groupons without fraud than they did in income for the deal. What can you to to be fully customer focused to help customers become evangelists?

Consolidation in the group buying space is certain. Watch for key players to swoop in — eBay is running a good, but simple daily deals site that’s getting some traction. I’d expect Yelp to develop something here soon. I was surprised they went with the Foursquare direction before the daily deals, especially considering the controversy with their sales teams. Keep an eye on Merchant Circle, the online small business tool (advertising, ratings, blogs, community) for merchants to reach local customers. An acquisition for MC would be likely and beneficial to their model.

My existing group buying deals include: Zip lining, Kayak lessons for fun, Empire Tap Room, Edna Ray and Habana restaurants, Ace Hardware, A & I Books Online and A Work of Heart for creativity, One Month at Club One Fitness + 60 Min Massage and waxing services for body, The Gap and Bella James for clothes. My total savings to-date have been over a thousand dollars; my total purchases have been around $300.

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If I… Had a Great Idea

Posted on Aug 25, 2010 in Featured, If I... |

If I… Had a Great Idea

Maybe it’s in the Silicon Valley water. Maybe it’s just part of our inbreeding, or breeding or lack of breeding. Maybe it’s we drink a lot of wine, maybe it’s the weather. Maybe. Every day I hear of another great idea from friends and colleagues for new, inventive online businesses. Some aren’t bad, some are awesome and many we’ve sketched-out at the counter at Bill’s Cafe in Willow Glen. Few have come-to-pass. A small handful have made it, most don’t make it past buying the URL.

@Edubya and I always joke: There are no.new.ideas. And, I believe it’s true. It’s not having the innovative idea that is key to starting a project, it’s the skills behind it to turn that idea into a business. Unless, of course you like torture. And then, well, go ahead.  @la_gringa and @linseyk and I toss ideas out every day — the topics vary, the target varies, the models vary, but there are a few things that are key to flushing out an idea. Bottom line: there’s more to an idea than an idea.

If I… Had a Great Idea

1. Write the idea down immediately. It has to be one sentence, less if you can.  Now stop. Does this fully demonstrate what your idea is? No? Do it again. What is your idea? Do it again until you can tell me instantaneously what the business is. One sentence, no cheating with run-ons. Got it. Okay.

2. What’s the problem? Now this is stupid, basic VC jargon, but it’s a great way to gut-check your idea. What’s the problem that you are solving with your idea? Is it a big problem? A small problem? Who’s got the problem? What’s the problem. Tell me in three bullet points, no more than two sentences each. I didn’t ask what the solution was, or why your idea is great or what the benefits are, I’m asking you, What’s the Problem that your idea will solve?

3. What is the solution? This is not the place to tout your great executive staff (you and your drinking buddies with Stanford degrees) or how big the market is, or how you can beat competition or how cool your idea is. This is the place to run the same exercise, but tell me in very short sentences what your solution is to the problem. Remember, your idea is not unique, so why is this solution the better solution?

4. How does your idea make money? Unless you are independently wealthy and love your idea so much that you’re willing to blow a huge wad of cash on this idea as a hobby (don’t laugh, I’ve had clients just like this), then you need to know how you are going to make money. Tell me exactly how you plan to make money. Here’s a hint: Google Ad Words is not your primary driver of revenue. And ad dollars? You’ll need over 10mm pvs/month to make ad revenue worth your time. Now with those two things in mind. How does this make money?

5. What are two of the seven deadly sins? I had the awesome opportunity to get to know one of the greatest, most well-known VCs in the world. He taught me a lot, but the thing that stuck with me is that in order for an idea to be a compelling business, it has to have two — but not more than three — of the seven deadly sins. For the record, the seven deadly sins are: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride.

6. Refrain from naming the company, creating a logo or building a website. Car salesman will ask you what your favorite color is. It’s one of the first questions. Why? Because it’s the first emotional question that leads to commitment. Use restraint here — it doesn’t matter yet what your idea is named or how it looks. The strongest buildings have strong, flexible foundations. Build the foundation before you pick the paint color.

6. Do you like your idea? If you’ve ventured into entrepreneurship before, you know, it’s hard as hell. Beyond the need, the solution and the revenue potential, you have to believe in your idea. Do you want to do this every waking and sleeping moment for the foreseeable future?

Last year, I went down the path of opening a make-your-own ice cream sandwich shop. The idea was good, not unique, of course, but good. It solved a problem, it had revenue potential, it had two of the seven deadly sins. I was committed to delving into the next stage of building out a business model. I talked about startup costs, competitive landscape and pricing. Then one day, my kid left ice cream on the back porch. I walked outside to the nastiest smell ever. The ground was sticky, the ice cream was rotten and smelly. I started laughing. Despite my idea, my beloved ice cream shop, I realized I didn’t want to spend the next few years of my life with sticky, smelly dairy. And there went the idea. Love what you do. Be ready to live it.


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If I… Were a First-Time Female Entrepreneur

Posted on Jun 21, 2010 in Featured, If I... |

If I… Were a First-Time Female Entrepreneur

I wish I could go back in time. Not to tell my first boyfriend that his teeth really did bug me; not to revisit the moment my children were born; not even to undo all the terrible things I did to my parents as a kid. If I could go back in time, I’d approach my work life a lot differently from the get-go. If I were a first-time female entrepreneur, I would:

1. Go to email writing bootcamp. Learning to communicate comes with the territory of learning to do business. Women in business today misinterpret friendly communication with friend communication. Your colleagues are not your pals, and even if they are, email is not meant to be the grounds for planning happy hour while asking for an .xls report.  I’m not sure how drawing hearts over an “i” or smiley faces after our names somehow translated to appropriate communication tactics for women in business, but if you are guilty of it, you need to stop.

Here are my tips for proper female email communication (a) Get rid of any exclamation points in your email. Unless Chicken Little was right and the sky is falling, you do not need exclamation points to communicate your urgency or excitement over work issues (b) Forget any icons, shorthand, webspeak. Using TTYL in a work email is not only lazy, it’s disrespectful. Same goes for smiley faces. If you want a work colleague to know you are happy :), cheeky ;) or pissed-off :(, then you need to walk over to them and let them read your body language. More on body language later… (c) Never cross business and personal communication. Although it’s really cool that your workmate’s wife is in your spin class, work email is not a place to address such things. Refrain from finishing or opening your email with “Robyn said you had a great weekend…” — not unless of course, you want your email recipient to get mixed messages on the purpose of your communication. (d) Never say “much” or “love” unless you’re emailing with your mom. Blow off the “thanks so much,”  and “I’d love the opportunity.” Never, and I mean never position yourself as weak or desperate. The next time you to go sign an email, “Thanks so much!” think of me. And then, delete.

2. Using body language will generally work — but is it what you really want? I made a huge mistake during the funding of our first company. There was an investor who had the hots for @la_gringa and, as it were, he was a likely investor, a Silicon Valley insider and hot entrepreneur. We knew he liked blondes, we knew he was married, but during a investment pitch dinner, we intentionally flanked him with the two blondes in our company, dressed hot as you can imagine and ready to do business. In the end, we got what we wanted from him — a commitment to look at our company as an investment and a promise to introduce us to others who could too. And then, he stood up from the table and led @la_gringa outside to invite her to his hotel alone for a drink. And there it was. The pickle that we caused by using our female assets to gain traction in business. It took all three of us to get her out of that nightmare and, in the end, it made an uncomfortable situation an unbearable one. The business was strong enough to be funded without trolling in high heels up Sand Hill road. In the end, we didn’t get the investment. Learn from me on this one: you can woo an investor with your body language, but chances are, it’s not what’s best for your start-up.

3. Be a Social Light, not Socialite. The work that you do outside of your business to network both online and offline can truly help make or break you in entrepreneurship. Think about a few things before you engage: what are your goals for attending? What’s your elevator pitch? Who is your buddy? What social media tools are you going to use? Are you selling yourself as a brand or your company as a brand? Are you out for a drink and to get picked up?  Don’t even lie to me, I know this one way too well. No matter how you cut it, you are being sized-up in social scenarios. I always attend the Silicon Valley Tweetups. Why? Because some of my friends are there and I want to see them. I can go have a couple glasses of wine and chat in the corner with my friends. But you, you, little Miss-Hot-To -Trot-First-Time-Entrepreneur, you can’t.

Here’s how to be a Social Light First Time Entrepreneur, in no particular order: Look good * Take a work colleague with you, preferably a man * Sip on a single drink * Practice a casual elevator pitch * Have business cards with you (NO PINK BUSINESS CARDS) * Target three people to meet during the event * Ask questions about the said target’s work * Find anyone with the letters VC in their job title and watch how they operate * Make an introduction or two, it’s good for positioning * Leave before the crowd dies down * Send follow-up emails the next morning to your new contacts, add them to your database.

Here’s what you should gain from being a Social Light: A clean, crisp communication of your business, a brand association between you and your business to others in the industry, potential contacts, some learning on other companies and — if only slightly — better understanding on how to approach VCs. Social. Light. Female.

4. Find your tribe. The truth is, female entrepreneurs doing it right are rare. It’s helpful to find others who share your value system in business. It’s also highly valuable to find male entrepreneurs who you can take a lead from too. A recent deal required me to be working in the baggage claim area of SFO. I sat on the floor madly typing, searching for WiFi, using two phones and my computer, looking like a complete freak working a deal for a client. It hit me rather suddenly: There is no man on earth that would do this. I started saying outloud to a colleague: “What would a MAN do right now?” I sent a text message saying that I’d be available in an hour. I shut my computer and I walked out. My phone rang off the hook. I ignored it. Male entrepreneurs do things differently than females — learning the subtleties and taking a cue when to apply them is key to business strategy. Find a tribe of executives like you and you’ll find the resources and learnings are endless.

I’ve noticed over the past decade that women in entrepreneurship tend to emasculate their roles, and with reason: Silicon Valley is still very much a boys club. It’s an extraordinary challenge, but one that can be navigated with grace. Managing businesses with restraint and femininity can win both clients and respect. Lest we forget, ladies: You are your brand.

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If I… Were Mayor of Willow Glen

Posted on Apr 5, 2010 in Featured, If I... |

If I… Were Mayor of Willow Glen

Oh, to live in Silicon Valley where the people are smart and the wine is good; to live near brainy outdoorsy people with a passion for technology; to be surrounded by people who want everything from their socks to their spouses to be organic and free-range.  To live in a town alive and busteling. Er, scratch that last part. In the past five years, I’ve watched my town, hit hard by recession and overlords, fall to the bare bones of small town business. It’s not that we’re without hope, we’re full of hope, but we’re also full of economic fear, distrust in our landowners and, most of all, frustrated by the very community we love to be a part of.

If I was the mayor of Willow Glen (not that we have one), I’d:

* Create a 3×3 Program. Loyalty is tough when finances are challenged. Everyone wants a deal, and I get that. I shop at Costco for my TP just like everyone else, but we, as a local community, from the leaders to the laypeople can participate in a one-year 3×3 program. The idea is to shop at three Willow Glen businesses three times per week. For me that would mean going to WG Coffee Roasting for my coffee a couple times, picking up a birthday card at Fleurish, getting a birthday gift at Treehouse in the Glen, meeting a friend at The Grapevine for a drink and getting takeout from Juquilita’s taqueria. It’s not hard, right? And how does this happen? People get 3×3 cards, get stamped when you hit each destination. After being a 3x3er 3 times, you get couponed for exclusive 30% off savings at a local store. Incentivize customers with 3×3 promos in town.

* Give the landowners a solid smack on the ass. It is one thing to treat business like business. It’s another to take down an entire community of small businesses owners during a recession and opt for empty store after store in lieu of short-term lease modifications. It’s important to stand your ground, make your money and be a true capitalist. But be an opportunist too. Give worthy businesses one-year lease bridges that allow for them to stay in business while you still can pay your land fees. Call it charity, call it community building, call the press, make your company full of capital and power also the company of the community. Let the retailers and leasers be your evangelists and in return, get more than rent, get loyal customers for life. Why? Because you were with them when the chips were down. Because you are part of Willow Glen. Because Willow Glen is a part of you.

* Get two anchor stores, one on either end of Lincoln Avenue. After my Go Local mantra, you’re wondering why I’d be pitching Big Business in our small town community. It’s the economy, stupid, as LeBush once said. We need to anchor our town with appropriate anchor stores that are designed to weather economic times and have the wiggle room to stand side-by-side with competitors. Los Gatos just added a JCrew. We need something like that here. Anthropologie ? Banana Republic? I’m not talking Target, here, I’m talking highly customizable corporate entities. I’d bet my comfy suburban house that an anchor store would bring more business to our local mom-and-pop shops.

* Fire the WG Business Association. Now this is going to get me in trouble. I don’t mean to be political; truly I don’t even get the politics in Willow Glen. The business association acts as a dysfunctional representative of the businesses in our town and worse, lacks understanding of what the people that shop at said businesses need. The business association should be experts at helping bridge the gaps between the two entities. I’d scratch the whole thing, fire everyone. Then I’d hire my buddy G to run it. G is a small business expert, an honest guy, a community organizer and certainly politically savvy enough to  never write this post. With that, I’d create an organization joint-run by people and businesses, I’d the WG Elist for extremely valuable Community Recommendations  (and only that), and I’d be on the frigging street talking to the community every single day in an endless effort to keep business flowing in our town. I’d create a Business Association that was of distinct and clear value to the community it serves.

There is a place in community building that involves loyalty, two-way communication and mutual respect. If I were Mayor of Willow Glen, I’d work my damnedest to cultivate all three. Bummer, there’s no such thing as Mayor of Willow Glen. We’ll have to leave the community building up to ourselves.

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