Tag Archives: entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Hansol Hong @ Robolink

Hansol Hong Meet Hansol HongHansol was born in Seoul, Korea and came to California at a young age. He is working hard to assist Robolink students to become like Steve Jobs for the robotics industry. Hansol holds a bachelor’s degree of Management Science from UC San Diego. He runs the San Diego Robotics Club every week for local robotics hobbyists and professionals. Other than raising future stars of the robotics field, he loves playing sports, meeting new people, reading books, and finding good places to eat.

 

Sarah Nance: What is the name of your business and your website URL?

Hansol Hong: Robolink

http://www.robolink.com

http://www.robolink.com/community (Online educational site)

Sarah Nance: How did you choose the name of your business?

Hansol Hong: Robotics is such an interdisciplinary field that needs a lot of collaborations between many fields. Also, that makes it hard to get people started in robotics not knowing where to start. So we wanted to link the robot newbies to robotics field in the easiest way possible, and we wanted to link various fields professionals to robotics field as well in the future, that’s why we wanted to name it ROBOLINK.

Sarah Nance: What inspired you to create your company?

Hansol Hong: We wanted to do something fun. And a lot of my friend and myself are Kidults (Kid + Adult, Adult who has interests that traditionally expected only children have) People who likes to build small robots, or likes to fly drones, etc, would be in this category. But it’s hard to find a place where you can learn this, so we started the business in robotics education.

Robo Link

Sarah Nance: How and when did you start your business?

Hansol Hong: Started in 2012, my father is a serial entrepreneur, so I’ve been raised in the setup where we started talking about business at the dinner table since I was the age of 7 or so. I’ve always wanted create a company, and did right after I graduated from college.

Sarah Nance: Tell me about your professional background and experience.

Hansol Hong: As I mentioned,my father is a serial entrepreneur and my mother also invested in my father’s company when she was in mid 20s, so she is like angel investor for my father. Having this background, I had always wanted create a company, and did right after I graduated from college. My first company went out of business after 1 year since I started the company. It was Sports Media/Education business, but my partners and I couldn’t make it sustainable business.

Sarah Nance: What should your customers expect when they come to you?

Hansol Hong: People will buy a box from us, and learn everything they need regarding that box through our online curriculum and community at www.robolink.com/community .

From one box that’s around $140, people can make 12 different robots that we created, and after that, users can change the design to make limitless models to build and program those.

Sarah Nance: Is this your first time operating and managing your own business? If not, share a bit of history about another business you owned.

Hansol Hong: My first business was sports media/education business. Three things that we did during my first business:

  1. Created an educational app for pitchers in baseball (my partner was a former baseball star in Korea).
  2. Published an educational book.
  3. Sold Caribbean Winter League media right to a broadcasting company in Korea.

It was pretty fun doing it, but couldn’t make it sustainable.

Sarah Nance: What has been the toughest lesson you have been taught about owning a business?

Hansol Hong: It’s not as glamorous as people make think.

You have flexible hours (but probably have to work a lot more than normal people 60 – 80 hours/week).

Until a certain point, you have to live in the fear that you might run out of money (cash flow to the company is crucial)!

Sarah Nance: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your own business?

Hansol Hong: My personal rewarding part is when kids scream something like “Coding is easy!”, “Oh, this is awesome, I love robots!”. The joy of students drive us to make our products and service better.

RoboLink

Sarah Nance: What are some of your specific marketing strategies?

Hansol Hong: Make good product and do your best to small clients that you have. After that, word of mouth will lead you to be successful.

In April, we will be doing crowd funding campaign launching our product to people outside of San Diego. (We’ve been testing our kit in the past three years and have been getting positive feedback 97% recommendation from 250+ users from Groupon)

Sarah Nance: What is your target market?

Hansol Hong: Elementary – College students who want to learn about robotics.

Sarah Nance: Do you have any specific books, blogs or podcasts that you recommend to other business owners?

Hansol Hong: How to start a startup video series:

Sarah Nance: Do you do much in person networking? If yes, what do you like and don’t like? If no, why not?

Hansol Hong: Yes, I love meeting new people, and currently organizing San Diego Robotics Club through Meetup: http://www.meetup.com/San-Diego-Robotics-Club/

We have 500+ members and talk about interesting topic every week regarding robotics. It’s one of the best places to network with people who love robots, and have been hiring through that network as well.

Sarah Nance: Has there been anyone in particular that helped motivate you to start your business? If yes, tell me about them and how they helped you

Hansol Hong: Didn’t think about anything other than starting my own business since I was very young. So potentially my parents.

Sarah Nance: What are your long-term goals for your business?

Hansol Hong: We will make our kits very simple and affordable so that anyone at school can learn robots without a fear. If all the schools can carry our kits it will give students a hands-on education at early age, I believe the way students think will change, and they can be more prepared to this fast-driven, technology-oriented society better.

Sarah Nance: How can people find you on social media?

Hansol Hong:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RobolinkInc

Twitter: twitter.com/robolinkinc

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/3016895?trk=tyah&trkInfo=idx%3A1-1-1%2CtarId%3A1425924830477%2Ctas%3ARobolink

Sarah Nance: Share some fun facts about you!

Hansol Hong: I’ve backpacked Death Valley for 27 days straight. It was very interesting and inspiring trip, and made myself very tenacious.

Sarah Nance: Tell me a story about one of your favorite projects and or client/customer.

Hansol Hong: We have our students participate in some robotics competition throughout the year. And one of the teams, last year, had spent 30 – 40 hours/week working on their robots for last two weeks into the competition. All of the team members were first time doing the robotics competition, and they ended up being 4th best team in the world for (programming aspect) VEX IQ. Many of those students get very interested in robotics and I hear that our students want to be robotics engineers when they grow up. I think it’s very rewarding to hear that we are impacting on many of our children’s future and doing our best that we can make positive impacts to them.

If you are interested in being featured in this “Entrepreneur Spotlight” series contact Sarah Nance today!  

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Teresa Hall @ Kwan Yin Holistic Center

Teresa Hall
Teresa Hall

Meet Teresa Hall: 

For the past 4 months I have had increasing pain in my lower back. I mean some SERIOUS pain! Working from home without a proper office doesn’t help either. Well, that was until I had an appointment last week with Teresa Hall at Kwan Yin Holistic Center. For no good reason, I had been skeptical of getting acupuncture done even though I had heard it works wonders.

 

 

 

While I was getting poked with needles (I swear..it doesn’t hurt!) she mentioned that she works with a lot of women’s fertility issues with many of them getting pregnant. My response: ” Great! But I DON’T want THOSE needles!!” LOL

It’s been a week since my session and OH MY GOD!!!! Pain Free!

 

What is the name of your business and your website URL?

Teresa Hall: Kwan Yin Holistic Center

www.kwanyinholistic.com

How did you choose the name of your business?

Teresa Hall: In 1999, my last year of studies, I was blessed to travel to China. While there, I visited several temples and Kwan Yin came to me and I knew I would name my practice after her. She is also my healing Master and she works with me and through me. Kwan Yin is said to be the female Buddha, the Goddess of compassion!

Sarah Conteh: What inspired you to create your company?

Teresa Hall:  It was a natural chain of events. Entering into a 4 year program to study Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, I knew the result would be opening my own private practice. Having worked for other people most my life, I knew I would be most happy and fulfilled working for myself!

Sarah Conteh: How and when did you start your business?

Teresa Hall:  I began my practice right after I passed the state licensing exam for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. While waiting to see if I passed, I created 100 presentation packets and sent them out to local doctors and was very pleased with a 10% response. One medical doctor guaranteed I would see at least 10 patients a week, which turned into 40, in a short period of time. He paid me as an employee which gave me the money to open my private practice!

Kwan Yin

Sarah Conteh: Tell me about your professional background and experience.

Teresa Hall:  Having dropped out in 10th grade, I enrolled in the school of life for a bit of time. At some point I thought it was a good idea to get my GED and then one thing led to another! I spent 3 years earning my Associate degree in Chemical Dependency and Psychology, then was accepted into San Diego State University where I continued to study Psychology with an emphasis in Physiology and finally earned my Master degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.

Sarah Conteh: What should your patients expect when they come to you?

Teresa Hall:  I expect my patients will feel like they are being heard, like they are welcomed. I want my patients/clients to feel like I will do everything I can based on my knowledge and experience to help them feel better. I expect they can ask me anything and if I do not know the answer, I will research and find the answer. I expect my patients/clients will feel safe sharing information with me so I can better understand where they are coming from!

Sarah Conteh: Is this your first time operating and managing your own business? If not, share a bit of history about another business you owned.

Teresa Hall:  In my 20’s briefly for about 6 months had a cleaning business and decided cleaning up after other people was not fulfilling, it was allot of work and I did not charge enough for my service to make worthwhile.

Kwan Yin

Sarah Conteh: What has been the toughest lesson you have been taught about owning a business?

Teresa Hall:  Oh this is an easy one! I do not get any paid sick leave, no time off to grief when my parents got sick and died, no vacation time… and of course no steady, secure paycheck.

Sarah Conteh: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your own business?

Teresa Hall:  I totally LOVE that I get to set my own schedule, no alarm clocks. I can take breaks throughout the day, as needed! Being of service and actually being able to help people where western medicine said there was nothing else they can do.

Sarah Conteh: What are some of your specific marketing strategies?

Teresa Hall: Being in practice for 15 years, I rely on word of mouth, also facebook and the South Park Walk Abouts. I also have an ongoing *Groupon* deal, many people find me that way and become long term patients. In addition, many insurances pay for acupuncture, so many patients find me through their network!

Sarah Conteh: What is your target market?

Teresa Hall: My target patient is anyone who wants to feel better!!! Be it someone in pain, someone wanting to lose weight, or anyone who is drinking or smoking too much or those who are looking to conceive and bring new life in. Also, work with many patients with Cancer, treating their side effects of chemotherapy. My youngest patient was four years old and my oldest patient was 95!

Sarah Conteh: Do you have any specific books, blogs or podcasts that you recommend to other business owners?

Teresa Hall: When I am feeling stuck ie: phone not ringing, no patients, I meditate and visualize and ask the Universe to send me people I can help the most. I also love listening to the channeling of Law of Attraction by Abraham, sometimes I will listen to the CD’s over and over to program myself of the ability to attract what I need, want and desire.

Sarah Conteh: Do you do much in person networking? If yes, what do you like and don’t like? If no, why not?

Teresa Hall: Over the years I have done much face to face marketing ie: LeTip, Referral Exchange, Gay and Lesbian Business Network, also paid to exhibit at peoples place of work and many street fairs. All of these endeavors attracted a few people, however not enough to stay with them. In my neighborhood, we have quarterly “Walkabouts” and I feel this has worked best! The next South Park Walkabout is on March 21st, be sure to stop by and say hi!

Sarah Conteh: Has there been anyone in particular that helped motivate you to start your business? If yes, tell me about them and how they helped you

Teresa Hall:  Of course, my parents. My father worked in the coal mines and when they shut down he opened his own very successful landscaping business in Tucson, Arizona. Both he and my mom had such a hard work ethic that inspired me to be the best, I can be and to be of service. Also my teacher, boss and mentor at San Diego State, Dr. Philip Langlais was very supportive when I realized I wanted to switch gears from Psychology to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Sarah Conteh: What are your long-term goals for your business?

Teresa Hall:  I never want to retire! My mantra for years has been do what I love and love what I do. My goal is to help as many people as possible to feel better. One goal that is currently coming to fruition is renting out one of my treatment rooms and this month has provided the “perfect” women to share space with! Sharna Langlais, a Reiki Practitioner, who coincidentally happens to be the daughter of my mentor at S.D.S.U. and Jennica Mills (who does amazing work at traumatic release work through yoga) will be sharing space here, beginning March 1st. More information about them at www.BeOneness.org. Also, planning to open a second office in South Bay, sometime soon!

Sarah Conteh: How can people find you on social media?

Teresa Hall: Twitter: Acupuncture4u

Facebook: Kwan Yin Holistic Center

LinkedIn: Teresa Hall

Sarah Conteh: Share some fun facts about you!

Teresa Hall: Okay, I think the best one is hitch hiking from San Diego to Daytona Beach, Florida with a boyfriend at 16, with a fake ID saying I was 18. It was the best experience ever and I learned way more then I would have learned stuck in a classroom.

Sarah Conteh: Tell me a story about one of your favorite customers.

Teresa Hall: Oh my, there are so many phenomenal patients! The first one that come to mind is a patient that came to me for weight loss, she weighed 371 at our first session and 1 year later weighed 190. Another patient was only 4 years old with asthma and set up to be on drugs for the rest of her life, it turned out she was really allergic to many things and we did “allergy elimination” and she did not need any drugs. Then there are so many women who have come to me for fertility with all kinds of diagnoses where they would never become pregnant, and they did!!!

Teresa Hall 2

 

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Aurelio Kamosso & 7-Touch Training

Aurelio Kamosso
Aurelio Kamosso

Meet Aurelio Kamosso: Have you ever felt a need for a certain product and thought…Someone should make that! I know I do that ALL the time. Aurelio Kamosso had that exact same thought while watching his daughter during soccer training. The best part about it, he actually acted and created a product! Aurelio started out as one of my Twitter connections about two years ago. He met Abdul and I for coffee in Alexandria, Virginia and we were fast friends and soccer partners (we also use his soccer training shoe with our Conteh Soccer Academy students). Make sure you watch Aurelio’s video below to see him talk about his soccer training shoe! (

P.S. These amazing soccer shoes make a GREAT gift!)

 

 

Sarah Conteh: What is the name of your business and your website URL?

Aurelio Kamosso:

7-Touch Training LLC

https://www.7-touchtraining.com/

Sarah Conteh: How did you choose the name of your business?

Aurelio Kamosso: I wanted a name that said exactly what our product was for and represented. 7-Touch Training refers to the 7 visually enhanced areas on our soccer technical skills training product the 7-Touch Trainer.

 

Sarah Conteh: What inspired you to create your company?

Aurelio Kamosso: My inspiration for both my company and training shoes comes from my daughter. She was the only reason I even thought of designing a shoe to help her improve her soccer skills. It only made sense that other parents out there are looking for a solution to help their kids.

Sarah Conteh: How and when did you start your business?

Aurelio Kamosso: I started 7-Touch Training in April of 2010. Making the decision wasn’t an easy but it was one I felt was destined to pursue. I’ve always wanted to be my own boss. In my head and heart I felt that if I could build a business that could profitable and somehow positively affect people then even better. It also had to come from something I was passionate about. It took me over 3 years to finally taking the first step. I had to pretty much dig into my 401K to get things going. I then reached out to some people that I’d know for some time who I admired for their business knowledge for some advice. Some loved the idea so much that they became my first investors in helping getting things of the ground.

Sarah Conteh: Tell me about your professional background and experience.

Aurelio Kamosso: Currently I am a certified fitness trainer and have been for almost a year. I also conduct private and small group youth soccer clinics. My professional background for over 16 years was in the telecommunications industry. Most of that time I worked in the procurement departments as a purchasing manager, contracts manager and commodities manager among other roles.

Sarah Conteh: What should your customers expect when they come to you?

Aurelio Kamosso: That I will go above and beyond to help resolve any issues as they relate to my training shoes.

7-Touch Training
7-Touch Training

Sarah Conteh: Is this your first time operating and managing your own business? 

Aurelio Kamosso: Yes

Sarah Conteh: What has been the toughest lesson you have been taught about owning a business?

Aurelio Kamosso: Sometimes not everyone you meet will deliver what they promise to help your business grow. There are times when it’s just you and your business.

Sarah Conteh: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your own business?

Aurelio Kamosso: Knowing that I’ve helped a few kids out there improve their soccer skills, build some confidence and love the game perhaps a bit more.

Sarah Conteh: What are some of your specific marketing strategies?

Aurelio Kamosso: Social media has been my primary source. My audience and potential customers are global but my company capacity to target that isn’t there yet.

I tier my marketing in 4 parts; 1) social media to help build presence globally, 2) Web advertisement and direct email contact to certain groups nationally here in the US and Canada, 3) Regionally and locally we are able to market both in print and person during soccer tournaments. We have partnerships with a few local stores to display and or sale our shoes.

Sarah Conteh: What is your target market?

Aurelio Kamosso: Youth soccer academies, trainers and camps.

Sarah Conteh: Do you have any specific books, blogs or podcasts that you recommend to other business owners?

Aurelio Kamosso: I don’t have any specific business rated books to recommend. The books that I enjoy reading I feel keep me focused and help me understand the fire that I have about making business grow. Books that help you understand your purpose. Books that prove to you that taking chances has better benefits than always playing it safe are what I would recommend. Currently I’m reading “Relentless” by Tim Grover.

Sarah Conteh: Do you do much in person networking? If yes, what do you like and don’t like? If no, why not?

Aurelio Kamosso: Only regionally but not as often as I’d like. The primary factors are time and finance to attending networking events that are relevant to my product.

Sarah Conteh: Has there been anyone in particular that helped motivate you to start your business? If yes, tell me about them and how they helped you.

Aurelio Kamosso: My family and friends have been beyond encouraging. They motivate me everyday to do great things with this business.

Sarah Conteh: What are your long-term goals for your business?

Aurelio Kamosso: Grow into a globally recognized provider of a revolutionary dynamic way of teaching soccer to all ages and skill levels.

Sarah Conteh: How can people find you on social media?

Aurelio Kamosso: Twitter: @7TouchTraining

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/7-Touch-Training-LLC/152891988082640?ref=hl

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/7-touch-training-llc?trk=biz-companies-cym

Sarah Conteh: Share some fun facts about you!

Aurelio Kamosso: I can make a mean Chewbacca noise. 🙂 Yes Star Wars fan not nerd.

Sarah Conteh: Tell me a story about one of your favorite projects and or client/customer.

Aurelio Kamosso: The first story that always comes to mind happened about 3 years ago. In helping market the shoes here in my local club I’d offered to outfit 2 teams in the club with 7-Touch Trainers. The coaches invited me out for their first session and allowed me to run it. Once the kids got past how cool they shoes looked we had some fun.

Fast forward 6 months later. I’m going to pick up my daughter from her practice at a large soccer complex we have here in town. While waiting I decided to kick around a ball I’d brought. Out of nowhere, this little girl walks up to me. Stops and watches for a few seconds and then says. “Hi, are you the guy with the shoe that came to my practice?” I confirmed. She then said how sad she was because she didn’t know I was going to be at that field. Because, if she would have known, she would have worn her shoes so she could play with me. She went on and told me how they helped her kick better and she liked them so much she wore them to school to play in. Still tugs at me to think about. That is an example of why I continue to build my business.

 If you are interested in being featured in this “Entrepreneur Spotlight” series contact Sarah (Nance) Conteh today!

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Christy Nieto & My Lucky Dragon

Christy Nieto My Lucky Dragon
Christy Nieto

Meet Christy Nieto: This is an inspiring story of how Christy Nieto turned a life altering  tragedy into a business that puts a smile on people’s faces. You know that moment when you find that perfect, one of a kind gift for someone special? Not only does it put a smile on the recipients face, it makes you feel good!

My Lucky Dragon’s creations are beyond amazing! I can say this personally as a long time customer of MLD. Her business, My Lucky Dragon has customers all over the world and I am honored to share her story with you.

 

 

What is the name of your business and your website URL?

Christy Nieto: My Lucky Dragon

Www.myluckydragon.etsy.com

My Lucky Dragon

How did you choose the name of your business?

Christy Nieto: I’m a Dragon. My mother was big into Asian culture, we practiced Buddhism and we are big on Chinese horoscopes. My sign is the Dragon and in the Asian culture that is the luckiest sign. So my mother would tell everyone “she is my lucky dragon”. And I love anything dragon….so the business name is My Lucky Dragon.

 

What inspired you to create your company?

Christy Nieto: My mother. My husband. My life and boredom.

My mother was extremely creative and my dad is an awesome artist (I have always wondered if I had a creative bone in my body).

My husband being in the Navy was ALWAYS gone so I was bored.

I had been dabbling in natural body products while I was taking care of my mom and I was in the beginning of debating the idea of making it a full fledged business.

Then, a little more than 2 years ago, my mother committed suicide while my husband was out on deployment.

I was crying on the couch one day and watching Martha Stewart and she was making bath bombs and soaps. I said “I can do that shit, fuck yea!”. I went full force, just projecting my sadness and emotions into making everything I could, hitting every craft fair that would have me.

And this is how I started. Then I decided to add my love of desserts to the mix and made my bath products look like yummy treats. The rest is history.

My Lucky Dragon
My Lucky Dragon

How and when did you start your business?

Christy Nieto: I was kind of selling my stuff but more as a hobby before my mother died. Then about a month later I just went full force, so August 1st, 2012.

Tell me about your professional background and experience.

Christy Nieto: I was a human resources director and a bookkeeper. Worst jobs ever! I don’t look back… ever LOL!

Sarah Conteh and Christy Nieto
Sarah Conteh and Christy Nieto

What should your customers expect when they come to you?

Christy Nieto: They should expect excellent customer service, passion, kindness and a hint of smart ass.

My Lucky Dragon Soap
My Lucky Dragon Soap

Is this your first time operating and managing your own business? If not, share a bit of history about another business you owned.

Christy Nieto: Previously, I owned an organization and bookkeeping business, it was actually going pretty good until the economy went to shit.

What has been the toughest lesson you have been taught about owning a business?

Christy Nieto: Lack of time and money. Having a handmade business is a little more intense than offering services. Selling products involves marketing your products, keeping up with the bookkeeping, managing the shipping and receiving. You also have to post to your online store, take pictures, Photoshop, make the stuff, packaging and do events! Sooooo much work! But still, I would do this any day over working for someone else and sitting in an office with people you don’t like for 8 to 5.

What has been the most rewarding part of owning your own business?

Christy Nieto: That I get to say I have my own business and I get to honestly say “why yes, I do make all of this by myself”.

What are some of your specific marketing strategies?

Christy Nieto: I use a lot of social media and get referrals. I also do events which helps get my name out there.

What is your target market?

Christy Nieto: My target market is someone shopping for a unique gift.

My Lucky Dragon Soap
My Lucky Dragon Soap

Do you have any specific books, blogs or podcasts that you recommend to other business owners?

Christy Nieto: Right now I’m reading books on social media marketing and “how to sell on etsy” books.

Do you do much in person networking? If yes, what do you like and don’t like? If no, why not?

Christy Nieto: I really don’t think networking groups are my thing at all.

Has there been anyone in particular that helped motivate you to start your business? If yes, tell me about them and how they helped you.

Christy Nieto: Like I said, my mother’s death is what pushed me to start. My husband is the one that keeps me going, he’s my biggest supporter.

What are your long-term goals for your business?

Christy Nieto: To keep growing and to get wholesale orders.

My Lucky Dragon Soap

How can people find you on social media?

Christy Nieto:

Instagram: @myluckydragon

Pinterest: @myluckydragon

Facebook: myluckydragon

Share some fun facts about you!

Christy Nieto: I was the most non girly person in the world until I started making soaps… now I’m just a little girly. I’ve always been a tomboy, hunting and fishing with my dad, I’ve just always related more to dudes than women. My mother always wished I was more feminine. I guess when she passed I subconsciously got girly for her? I don’t know it’s weird.

Oh, and I listen to rap music while I’m creating and making my products.

Tell me a story about one of your favorite projects and or client/customer.

Christy Nieto: My favorite clients and orders are custom orders. I love to make special things, especially things that are out of my element because it forces me to learn something new.

Sarah Conteh's Wedding Favors
Sarah Conteh’s Wedding Favors

If you are interested in being featured in this “Entrepreneur Spotlight” series contact Sarah (Nance) Conteh today!  

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Leslie Koroma & Songhai Technologies Inc.

Leslie Koroma
Leslie Koroma

Meet Leslie Koroma: With all of the negative news coming from Sierra Leone right now it’s refreshing to hear from Leslie Koroma, a Sierra Leone native, about his businesses that help improve the lives of not only his fellow Sierra Leonean’s but people all over Africa. Leslie featured my soccer business on his sports radio show during the World Cup and we are super excited to be working together on a collaborative project between Conteh Soccer Academy and Leslie’s sports division. Leslie has blended nearly 20 years of sports and tech experience into a global business.

 

 

What is the name of your business and your website URL?

My Company’s name is Songhai Technologies Inc. which is registered and operating out of Houston, Texas, USA. Our corporate website is http://www.songhaitech.com .

How did you choose the name of your business?

Leslie Koroma: After much contemplation I chose the name of one of the most powerful, famous and accomplished empires that ever existed in Africa; The Songhai Empire which was noted for not just conquests and great rulers but of their pursuit of learning in science and technology as well as their accomplishments in commerce.

Sarah Conteh: What inspired you to create your company?

Leslie Koroma: Africa is a very large continent that is lacking in many areas of service providers, so in the early 2000’s I saw a need to provide sports content through a media company that I founded called African Sports Media Network through our portal African Sports TV (www.africansportstv.net) and our digital magazine African Sports Monthly which happens to be Africa’s first digital Sports Magazine and only comprehensive one that covers all sports across the continent (www.africansportsmonthly.com).

Click picture to listen to Abdul Conteh’s episode

In 2012, I saw the rise of Mobile Technology becoming the sole focus of the global tech revolution and Africa, which has been our focal market, happens to be at the vanguard of this mobile tech movement. There are more mobile phones in Africa than anywhere else in the world and with my experience and passion for the tech industry as well, which spans over 18 plus years, it was natural for me to step in to seek solutions to a myriad of problems for communities and countries in Africa. So, I founded Songhai Technologies a global company with a focus on providing mobile technology and solutions for multiple issues out there.

Sarah Conteh: How and when did you start your business?

Leslie Koroma: I started my company on a bootstrap budget (out of my pocket) and still till date operate it as such. We are currently seeking investors and venture capital firms to look into what we are doing and see the value in our services, which I have to say has the potential of reaching and serving billions of consumers both in Africa and around the world.

Sarah Conteh: Tell me about your professional background and experience.

Leslie Koroma: I was an International Track athlete in University and after graduation and retirement from Track and Field proceeded to work for COMPAQ Computer Corporation and from there proceeded to work for the state of Texas as a computer Technician which I still do alongside running my businesses. My experience in both the sports and tech arena’s span close to 2 decades.

Sarah Conteh: What should your customers expect when they come to you?

Leslie Koroma: My customers should expect the best in service as we pride ourselves in delivering the most seamless and timely service with our apps and also in our sports business.

Sarah Conteh: Is this your first time operating and managing your own business? If not, share a bit of history about another business you owned.

Leslie Koroma: Songhai Technologies is a the second major business I have operated after African Sports Media Network which by the way we have absorbed into Songhai Technologies under the umbrella Songhai Sports and we are poised for delivering some of the greatest services with our blend of mobile technology and sports.

Sarah Conteh: What has been the toughest lesson you have been taught about owning a business?

Leslie Koroma: The toughest lesson is that owning a business is a full-time commitment, it is a 24/7 engagement and that here is no time off in the early stages.

Sarah Conteh: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your own business?

Leslie Koroma: It is fulfilling to do something I am passionate about in both the sports and Tech arena’s and that I am able to impact the conversation in both aspects through our mediums and the products we make.

Sarah Conteh: What are some of your specific marketing strategies?

Leslie Koroma: Well, in this information age where information is readily available to any and everyone you have to be able to deliver to your audience, clients and customers instantaneously.

Sarah Conteh: What is your target market?

Leslie Koroma: Our preferred market at the moment is emerging markets like Africa where the playing field is wide open and we stand a chance of establishing ourselves and grow on our customers and audience.

Sarah Conteh: Do you have any specific books, blogs or podcast that you recommend to other business owners?

Leslie Koroma: I take a lot of inspiration from historical figures and pioneers and so for me the History Channel show ‘The Men who Built America’ is a great treasure trove for me for ideas. Napoleon Hill’s “The Law of Success” and “Think and Grow Rich” are naturals for me and for wannabe entrepreneurs.

Sarah Conteh: Do you do much in person networking? If yes, what do you like and don’t like? If no, why not?

Leslie Koroma: Yes, I do person to person networking and it so happens that I am a people person and I am a patient person by nature as well so that is something which works well for me. I don’t think there is something I don’t like about it. I have learned to adjust well to the nuances of people’s behaviors.

Sarah Conteh: Has there been anyone in particular that helped motivate you to start your business? If yes, tell me about them and how they helped you.

Leslie Koroma: I have to say I have looked up to the likes of the late Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban along with African richest man Nigerian Billionaire Aliko Dangote as role models to do what I am doing today as innovators, Go Getters and successful entrepreneurs who have succeeded in what they have and are doing.

Sarah Conteh: What are your long-term goals for your business?

Leslie Koroma: I intend to grow my business into a global conglomerate serving the needs of our clients, customers and audience in the best way possible providing the best possible services out there.

Sarah Conteh: How can people find you on social media?

Leslie Koroma: Well that is pretty easy my twitter handle is; @lesliepkoroma and on Facebook you can find me at https://www.facebook.com/lesliepkoroma and on LinkedIn you can find me though my name Leslie Koroma

S.C.: Be sure to check out Leslie Koroma’s “Sierra Leone App”  which is a one stop shop source for everything Sierra Leone and beyond that caters to the needs of its citizens and visitors to the country as well as those curious enough to want to know more about Sierra Leone.

This app provides resources ranging from news, weather, entertainment to educational resources and beyond.

Sarah Conteh: Share some fun facts about you!

Leslie Koroma: I think I can be a goofball with the folks I am close and comfortable with. I love jokes and joking and am an avid horse lover and love horseback riding.

If you are interested in being featured in this “Entrepreneur Spotlight” series contact Sarah (Nance) Conteh today!  

 

Entrepreneur Spotlight: James Hickey

Meet James Hickey: If you were to Google “San Diego Networker” I’m 97.4 % sure that James Hickey’s picture would show up! As both a master networker online and in person, he has taken these talents and created a business to help others. With all of the scams out there promising to get you 10,000+ Twitter & Facebook followers in one week (I personally get contacted daily by these frauds) it can be hard to know who to trust with your social media strategies.

No matter what type of business you own, if you don’t have a strong online presence you are at the very least limiting your possibilities and are behind the competition.

James Hickey has over 81,000 followers on Twitter, almost 5,000 followers on Instagram just to name two sites. As a person that has been his student (both in person and via webinars) I can tell you that he is the real deal! Be sure to watch his video at the end of this interview.

James Hickey

What is the name of your business and your website URL?

James Hickey: My main company name is JMH Marketing Group. My main two websites are: http://www.InternetMarketingTrainingCenter.Net and http://www.InternetMarketingCoahcingProgram.Net

Sarah Conteh: What inspired you to create your company?

James Hickey: After 18 years in the gas station and auto repair business, I was looking for a career change. I learned a lot of marketing my prior business during those 18 years and was also interested in Internet Marketing. So it was a fun and exciting transition to what I do now.

Sarah Conteh: How and when did you start your business?

James Hickey: I started my company in April 2008, for a few months before that, I was getting paid by realtors and other people to help them with their Internet Marketing. Once I saw how busy I was getting, it was time to form a company.

Sarah Conteh: Tell me about your professional background and experience.

James Hickey: Never went to college.Managed and owned up to 10 gas stations between 1990-2008. Once I made choice to become Internet Marketing Consultant, I started getting advanced training and got a mentor. From 2007 until current, I work with small to large businesses and start-up companies. I also created a course in 2011 to train people to become Internet Marketing Consultants.

Sarah Conteh: What should your customers expect when they come to you?

James Hickey: Excellent customer service and very trackable results.

Sarah Conteh: What has been the toughest lesson you have been taught about owning a business?

James Hickey: That you are your own boss and have to keep motivating yourself on a daily basis. I also believe in finding a mentor or a coach.

Sarah Conteh: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your own business?

James Hickey: Time. Freedom. Money.

Sarah Conteh: What are some of your specific marketing strategies?

James Hickey: Lead Generation, Search Marketing, Social Media Marketing

Sarah Conteh: What is your target market?

James Hickey: Start Up Companies and Large Business Owners that want more leads and sales from their websites. They also must want Online Branding with Social Media.

I also look for people who want a career in my Industry. People who want to become full-time Internet/Social Media Marketing Consultants.

Sarah Conteh: Do you have any specific books, blogs or podcasts that you recommend to other business owners?

James Hickey: The E-myth and Think and Grow Rich are some of my favorite books.

Sarah Conteh: Do you do much in person networking? If yes, what do you like and don’t like? If no, why not?

James Hickey: Yes, normally 1 or 2 business mixers per week. I love networking, especially because I can offer business owners something they need. More clients from their website.

Sarah Conteh: Has there been anyone in particular that helped motivate you to start your business? If yes, tell me about them and how they helped you

James Hickey: Yes, Jay Kubassak. He helped me change my career and embrace my entrepreneurship.

Sarah Conteh: What are your long-term goals for your business?

James Hickey: Larger business consulting clients and grow my training center for Internet Marketing Consultants.

Sarah Conteh: How can people find you on social media?

James Hickey:

https://www.facebook.com/jameshickeysdentrepreneur

https://www.facebook.com/internetmarketingbusinesscenter

https://twitter.com/sdentrepreneur

https://instagram.com/sdentrepreneur

https://youtube.com/sdentrepreneur

http://www.linkedin.com/in/sdccpro/

Sarah Conteh: Share some fun facts about you!

James Hickey: I am a tournament chess player, ranked in top 10,000 in the USA and I am also a Black Diamond Snow skier.

Sarah Conteh: Tell me a story about one of your favorite projects and or client/customer.

James Hickey: One of my first clients early one, was the inventor of the BOSU Fitness Ball. He was famous in the offline world but didn’t have an Internet/Social Media strategy in place. It was fun and rewarding for both of us.

 

If you are interested in being featured in this “Entrepreneur Spotlight” series contact Sarah (Nance) Conteh today!  

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Kimberly Schwede

www.KimberlySchwede.com
http://www.KimberlySchwede.com

Meet Kimberly Schwede:

Kimberly is an entrepreneur after my own heart! We connected years ago during one of her travels (read below about her being a “digital nomad”!) and I have great admiration for her and her work. Kimberly Schwede is a versatile Graphic Designer and Illustrator from San Francisco. Her resume reads like a bestseller – from being published in Logolicious to creating a logo for the City of South San Francisco to designing a Swatch Watch. Graphic design projects include branding and logo development, print collateral, infographics and website design. Inspiration comes from her love of travel and children.

 

 

Sarah Conteh: What inspired you to create your company?

Kimberly Schwede: After working in the graphic design industry for 10 years and freelancing after hours I figured if I didn’t give it a go on my own now when would I? Other people have successful design businesses, why I couldn’t I? I knew I’d become more complacent in my full-time position and lose the motivation and excitement to launch my own business if I stayed. I told myself to give it 3 years and knew I could always find another in-house design job in the future.

Sarah Conteh: How and when did you start your business?

Kimberly Schwede: I opened my graphic design studio in 2008 after working 10 years in the industry. Over those years I freelanced after hours building up my clientele. I went from FT to PT, added to my nest egg savings and joined female entrepreneur groups in San Francisco for inspiration and motivation.

Sarah Conteh: Tell me about your professional background and experience.

Kimberly Schwede: I graduated from California State University Chico in 1998 with a BA in Communications, emphasis in Graphic Design. My first job out of college was a at a boutique size graphic design studio in Palo Alto where I had great hands on training seeing how a design studio was managed by four business partners. Then I worked for a real estate company in Burlingame as their Creative Director and Photographer. I designed all their marketing collateral and took residential property photos.

Sarah Conteh: What should your customers expect when they come to you?

Kimberly Schwede: They won’t get lost working with an online design factory churning out generic designs to every other client. They have my full attention. I make every effort to provide the best service possible, satisfaction guaranteed. Whether they’re trying to meet a tight deadline  or make a quick change I let them know I’m there for them.

Sarah Conteh: Is this your first time operating and managing your own business? If not, share a bit of history about another business you owned.

Kimberly Schwede: Yes, this is my first time managing my own business. Learn by doing! There are no mistakes, everything is a learning experience. You can’t grow if you don’t make an occasional mistake.

Sarah Conteh: What has been the toughest lesson you have been taught about owning a business?

Kimberly Schwede: Sometimes I’ve been too trusting with new clients. Always get a  50% deposit before beginning a new project.

Sarah Conteh: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your own business?

Kimberly Schwede: The freedom and independence has been priceless! I especially love taking time off in the summer to work remotely abroad and vacation . It’s very rewarding creating a unique design for a client and have them excited to show it off to the public. I make their vision a reality.

Sarah Conteh: What are some of your specific marketing strategies?

Kimberly Schwede: Lots of networking events and word of mouth referrals.Listing my website portfolio on entrepreneurial/small businesses website directories. Positive testimonials.

Sarah Conteh: What is your target market?

Kimberly Schwede:

Female entrepreneurs, small business owners and non profits. Retail – spas, fashion, restaurants and bakeries. Educational foundations and anything related to kids! Gift, apparel and stationery.

Sarah Conteh: Do you have any specific books, blogs or podcasts that you recommend to other business owners?

Kimberly Schwede:

https://www.freelancersunion.org

http://www.howdesignuniversity.com

http://www.tinshingle.com

http://www.savorthesuccess.com

http://www.thecravecompany.com

Sarah Conteh: Do you do much in person networking? If yes, what do you like and don’t like? If no, why not?

Kimberly Schwede: Yes about 1-3 times a month. I enjoy meeting other entrepreneurs because it keeps me motivated. You can get stuck doing your business one way alone so its good to get a different perspective and new ideas. I don’t like aggressive sales shark types that instantly put their business card in your face, talk too much about themselves and move onto the next victim. Not into MLM marketing groups.

Networking!
Networking!

Sarah Conteh: Has there been anyone in particular that helped motivate you to start your business? If yes, tell me about them and how they helped you

Kimberly Schwede: Looking back at my first job there were four female business owners. I think they had a great impact on me starting own business. They too loved to travel abroad and worked with similar clients. Marti Somers really encouraged me to develop my illustration skills. Designing the annual Palo Alto Festival of the Arts Poster and event schwag was always a highlight!

Sarah Conteh: What are your long-term goals for your business?

Kimberly Schwede: Continue to receive client referrals to sustain my business and be a part-time digital nomad every summer! I’m not looking to expand my business with employees, I enjoy the one on one client interaction. It makes it feel more like a family business.

Sarah Conteh: How can people find you on social media?

Kimberly Schwede:

https://www.facebook.com/KimberlySchwedeDesign

https://www.facebook.com/BebeBilingual

http://www.pinterest.com/kimberlyschwede/

http://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberlyschwede

http://www.tinshingle.com/users/kimschwede

https://twitter.com/kimberlyschwede

http://instagram.com/kimberlyschwede

http://www.jewelbranding.com/designers-and-brands/item/bebe-bilingual/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kimberlyschwede/sets

 

Sarah Conteh: Share some fun facts about you!

Kimberly Schwede:

I designed a Spring 2004 Swatch watch, a brand I idolized growing up in the 80’s along with Guess and Gotcha 😉

l’ve traveled to Europe, Central America, and SE Asia – 22 countries so far.

I’ve done pro bono graphic design work in Mexico, Tanzania and Sri Lanka which got me featured in an NBC news article called Digital Nomads Working Abroad.

http://www.nbcnews.com/business/travel/permanent-vacation-digital-nomads-work-road-n43401

http://kimberlyschwedeinmexico.blogspot.com

http://kimberlyschwedeintanzania.blogspot.com

http://kimberlyschwedeinsrilanka.blogspot.com

Sarah Conteh: Tell me a story about one of your favorite projects and or client/customer.

Kimberly Schwede: A unique pro bono project I recently finished was in Sri Lanka! I branded a nonprofit for girls education and women empowerment. I designed the logo, marketing brochures and collaborated on the website design with the founder and intern. In addition we’re creating a line of children’s placemats and flash cards where 25% of the proceeds will go to the Malini Foundation in Sri Lanka.

 

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Rich Yumul & Sage Tree Solutions

Owner of Sage Tree Solutions
Rich Yumul ~ Sage Tree Solutions

Meet Rich Yumul:

From Comic-Con to the USS Midway Museum, it’s highly likely that you have visited a website that Rich Yumul and his team at Sage Tree Solutions have created. Rich started his company (Sage Tree Solutions) out of a passion and desire to provide better website solutions and better customer service to business owners. His honest and transparent approach with his clients makes him stand out as a leader in his industry.

Keep reading to find out what motivates Rich as an entrepreneur as he shares his story and advice on running a business.

Sarah Conteh: How did you chose the name of your business?

Rich Yumul: It’s the name of the street that I live on. It was really impressive having your business mailing address have the same name as your business, before Google maps.

Sarah Conteh: What inspired you to create your company?

Rich Yumul: Craftsmanship. There were lots of examples of poorly executed web sites – poor design, poor engineering, and lots of unrealized potential. I thought I could do a better job, provide better service, so clients could stop wasting time & money on poor craftsmanship.

Sarah Conteh: How and when did you start your business?

Rich Yumul: I was doing freelancing on the side and then in 2005 I started freelancing 100%.  2008 I started hiring people to help out with Sage Tree.

Sarah Conteh: Tell me about your professional background and experience.

Rich Yumul: Started building web pages in 1991.  One of my first projects was the KidSat project, led by Dr. Sally Ride at U.C.S.D.  I helped build the website for the project, where a digital camera was put on the moon roof of the space shuttle.  Then, kids in elementary schools across the nation were able to schedule when the camera should take a picture (via the web), and then they could see the resulting images after they were taken.  It was really neat.

After U.C.S.D., I worked for 10 years developing web applications for a defense contractor, and started Sage Tree to do more commercial work in 2005.

We’ve done some really cool projects, where we’ve worked on high-profile clients  Comic-Con, Qualcomm, NetGear, ViaSat, U.C.S.D., Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and Point Loma Nazarene University.

Sarah Conteh: What should your customers expect when they come to you?

Rich Yumul: They can expect to talk to somebody with deep experience in developing web sites and applications, an understanding of business, and always has their best interest at heart.

They should also know that we call it like it is.  If their project/site is a ‘ugly baby’, we’ll have that conversation with them.  We strive to be very transparent.

Sarah Conteh: What has been the toughest lesson you have been taught about owning a business?

Rich Yumul: Managing people and the results for which they’re responsible.

Sarah Conteh: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your own business?

Rich Yumul: Having the freedom to innovate.

Sarah Conteh: What are some of your specific marketing strategies?

Rich Yumul: We provide free training sessions, we’re very involved in the development community and we also partner with other agencies & companies. I also do a fair amount of networking.

Sarah Conteh: What is your target market?

Rich Yumul:

– Medium to large size business without a strong web presence.

– Department heads at university (UCSD, USD, SDSU, etc)

– Non-profit organizations that need help w/ their online presence

– Associations

Sarah Conteh: Do you have any specific books, blogs or podcast that you recommend to other business owners?

Rich Yumul:

– Entreleadership Podcast w/ Dave Ramsey

– Start with WHY – Simon Sinek

– Anything from Seth Godin

– 5 Levels of Leadership – John Maxwell (and anything else from him)

– Double Double – Cameron Herold

– Wooden on Leadership – John Wooden

– Last word on Power – Tracy Goss

Sarah Conteh: Do you do much in person networking? If yes, what do you like and don’t like? 

Rich Yumul: Yes

Like:  Meeting people, the prospect of meeting somebody that can be your next big client.

Dislike: Having to give up my evenings with my family.

Sarah Conteh: Has there been anyone in particular that helped motivate you to start your business? 

Rich Yumul: Not so much…

Sarah Conteh: What are your long-term goals for your business?

Rich Yumul: Build it so it’s self running and provides a stable base of income for my family.

Sarah Conteh: How can people find you on social media?

Rich Yumul:

Personal Twitter: @rich_yumul

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/sage-tree-solutions

Business Twitter: https://twitter.com/sage_tree

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SageTreeSolutions

 

3 Reason’s I Love My Life As An Entrepreneur

One thing I have always said about being an entrepreneur is that it’s not always easy but it’s always worth it! I’ve been on this entrepreneurial path for  almost 7 years now and it has been a roller coaster of highs and lows but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Here are 3 reasons I love my life as an entrepreneur ~

  1. Versatility. My background (pre-entrepreneurial days) is in Accounting. I had worked as an accountant for about 13 years before I started my own company in 2006. So naturally, my first company was in the accounting field. When I first started my accounting business I had no clue how to run a company because I was used to sitting in an office with the door closed staring at numbers all day long. But once I got started (with help from my amazing business partner and reading and re-reading Tim Ferriss I quickly realized that this is where I belonged. Fast forward to 2012, I started a soccer academy, Conteh Soccer Academy. Yes, a SOCCER academy! Do I know anything about soccer? No! Do I know and have what it takes to run a successful business? Yes! The key to any entrepreneurial venture is to surround yourself with the right people and be ready for the opportunity when it presents itself.
  2. Never Getting Bored ~ Bored is one word that I have not used since 2006. Being an entrepreneur is quite the adventure! I have learned to be flexible with my to-do lists. It’s a rare day that I am able to get through that list with out switching tasks 324 times. Is owning your own business a lot of work? Hell yes! And yes, if I wake up at 3 AM I may check my many twitter accounts or might take a peak at my email but I have never once complained about being bored.
  3. Possibilities Are Endless ~ When I started my first business, we set up simple goals for our first year. Some seemed SO extreme at the time that we just put them in the “let’s hope” category. At our 90 day mark we had already exceeded 85% of our goals, even the “let’s hope” list! One thing that that is extremely important for an entrepreneur to be is FLEXIBLE. On a daily basis we come up with new ideas, new strategies and new goals. To become stagnate and set in your ways will completely limit your possibilities. Image

5 Ways to Grow in Any Economy

The following article, from Entrepreneur, list some very simple but effective ways to maximize your time and money. Here at All Star Accounting, we are HUGE fans of low monthly overhead. We have home offices, we love our coffee shops with free wi-fi and we take advantage of all the online collaborative tools that are available.  What are you doing to grow in this economy? I would love your feedback! ~ Sarah Nance  (www.allstaraccounting.net)

Sarah Nance
Sarah Nance

5 Ways to Grow in Any Economy

By Jennifer Brown   |   December 23, 2009

URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/growyourbusiness/businessstrategies/article204470.html

Even in tough economic times, small businesses need to find new ideas, develop original products, and engineer fresh market approaches. These are the pillars of good business, and each is made from a mixture of creativity and expertise. While it may seem counterintuitive, it’s entirely possible to implement strategies that drive not only employee engagement, but also innovation and, ultimately, sales–all without enormous investment in systems or people.

What can your company do to remain fresh, vibrant and alive–all without breaking the bank? Here are five ways:

1. De-emphasize office space
The traditional office space, where cubicles, the hum of overhead lights, and group politics preside, is not usually the most conducive environment for harnessing the most creative ideas. Giving employees the opportunity to perform some or all of their work outside the office can break this routine and cultivate an innovative workforce.

Often simply changing the physical working location to the café or tea house on the corner can produce a stream of new and valuable ideas. And many of these “third places” provide complimentary wireless internet access, have space for convening, and sell enough coffee to keep everyone alert. Writers and musicians know about the creative effects of a cafe’s stimulating and relaxing atmosphere–why not CEOs?

2. Virtualize your workforce
In addition to being ineffective at times, the office space may be an unnecessary expense. The cost of maintaining an office space is usually the single largest line item when it comes to business overhead. Many small businesses have eliminated the expense by ceasing to rent office space and setting up virtually. Transforming your business into a virtual operation creates the new opportunity to hire and retain talented people from outside of your geographic area and frees up funds to be invested elsewhere.

Keep in mind, though, that while there are many benefits to virtualizing a company, the reduction in face time also necessitates a change in management style. Much greater focus is needed on project expectations and deadlines, as well as clear and consistent communication.

3. Leverage collaboration applications
At the beginning and end of the day, your business is about people–the clients you serve and the staff that you employ. Connecting these people in the right way is essential to creating and running a great company, and collaboration applications are excellent tools with which to accomplish this goal.

Collaboration applications create new avenues of communication that effectively improve team cohesion and break down the invisible barriers within a company. Intelligent implementation can turn a stagnant, sluggish company into one composed of engaged employees, who contribute more of their “discretionary time” toward the success of the company.

One excellent collaboration application is GoogleDocs, which creates an online conference table where ideas can be put forward, discussed and implemented. Every document created within the application is saved, so it can be opened and edited wherever there is an internet connection. Novice computer users will find GoogleDocs easy to learn and intuitive to operate. Likewise, instant messaging programs such as Skype or MSN Messenger enable fast communication through chat groups formed around departments or projects.

CPS Creative, a website design company, is a great model for its implementation of collaboration software. The company, which is almost entirely virtual, requires all employees to use the same instant messaging program and be online at designated times. All of the employees assigned to a specific project join the same chat group. Also, at the beginning and end of each work day, all employees check in with their colleagues in order to let them know they have arrived and left.

4. Invest in the skills of current employees
On a regular basis, companies face a host of small but necessary tasks that must be accomplished, like creating a Flash graphic for the website, writing a marketing brochure, or drafting a press release. Yet smaller companies cannot afford a dedicated IT department, marketing staff or public affairs coordinator, despite the fact that many of these tasks, like maintaining a functioning and well-designed website, are essential to attracting new business and transitioning from a struggling start-up to a vibrant and growing company.

Hiring new employees with the necessary skills is not the only solution; invest in the skill development of your current workforce. Your staff most likely either has the requisite capabilities to accomplish these projects or can quickly acquire them. The additional skills will undoubtedly be very marketable, which satisfies your employees while providing for the needs of the company.

One resource to help accomplish this is the website Lynda.com, which provides online training in professional-grade applications like Adobe Dreamweaver and Illustrator–the required tools to build quality websites and produce stunning marketing materials.

5. Build cross-functional teams
Finally, one of the greatest methods for producing innovation in a company is to solicit contributions from the entire workforce. Taking your employees, who are the most knowledgeable experts on the company, and gathering them around a conference table will help your company develop innovative solutions with little investment.

CPS Creative once encouraged a non-technical member of their staff to try his hand at Flash design, something that he had never done before. After seeing his immediate aptitude for it, the company merged the product developed by the original Flash expert with the staff member’s design, creating a better product in the end.

Regardless of the condition of the economy, companies should always looking toward expansion. Growing while revenue is stagnant is a difficult, but not impossible, task. Consider these five ideas: shifting the workplace away from the office, virtualizing the workforce, using collaboration applications, investing in new skills acquisition, and tapping into the talents of existing employees. All of these strategies are inexpensive and cultivate the essential ingredients of successful small (and someday large) businesses everywhere–workforce engagement, innovation and, ultimately, sales.