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Cash in on Your Ideas: Organize Your Creative Entrepreneur Space

Organize your entrepreneur's creative space.

Tip #1 to boost creativity: elevate your legs.

As an entrepreneur you know that your small business grew from one little gap in the market where you planted a strong idea. Your seed of inspiration grew into something marketable, which goes to show that the entrepreneurs’ creative space is a fundamental currency for success. This is why it’s so important to keep your creative channels open and primed for new ideas.

In the same way that you take out business loans to keep your business’ bank balance healthy, it’s important that you find ways to replenish your bank of creative ideas, so you can keep on thriving.

How to Organize Entrepreneurs’ Creative Space

Thinking about your company’s finances, how closely do you monitor your incomings and outgoings? Where do you invest your time and money to keep your bank balance healthy? We’re pretty sure you’ll be keeping a close eye on your financial health to make sure funds for your small business don’t dry up. Equally, you need fresh ideas to grow and these thoughts need the right conditions to flourish. If you fear your proposals are overdrawn or your inspiration is at zero, we’ve got four top tips for Canadian entrepreneurs to boost creativity throughout the day, month and year. It’s as easy as learning 1, 2, 3.

# 1 Invest in Your Physical Wellbeing

Happy marathon runners in Toronto.

Exercise can boost your creativity.

Think about how much you might spend in one year on products that help you to work in the most efficient way you can. Life is much easier when you have a well-oiled machine that doesn’t struggle to compute daily tasks. Now use this same calculation to work out how much time you should invest in your own brain power to build the foundations of your creativity. Scientific studies are underway to prove once and for all that exercise has a positive impact on your grey cells, so get yourself to the local gym, and swim, run, or play team sports to boost your brain matter. The investment will pay off if your creative muscle is tensed and toned, ready to fire off some ideas.

#2 Trade Creative Ideas with Others

As your company grows, you’ll need to surround yourself with the right people to keep it moving in the right direction. Think about how much money you might spend on staffing, consultancy fees or advice. This trade-off in business skills is important in your creative space, too. Bounce ideas off other people who work as entrepreneurs or mingle with professional people who do something completely different.

Meeting new people draws you outside of your own business bubble to study how other people make successful negotiations. There are professional networking groups all over Canada that you can sign up to right away. Find your local group and get talking — you never know who you’re going to meet or how their story might inspire your own creative thought process.

#3 Keep Your Work-Life Balance in Check

To pull off a successful business strategy most entrepreneurs are putting in extra hours on a daily basis, but this can quickly lead to burn-out. As relationships can suffer and friendships can dwindle away, creativity can also dry up if you don’t learn to prioritize.

Everything flows a lot easier when your most urgent needs are satisfied — don’t think your creativity is any different. In the same way that your body needs fluids and your business needs money to survive, your creative space needs room to breathe if you’re to come up with anything new. Slot in time for whatever makes you happy as often as you can. Whether that’s watching a film with your family, walking the dog, meeting an old friend for lunch or browsing an art gallery, it’s important to keep something back for a rainy day.

#4 Surround Yourself with Positivity

Office cubicle covered by post-it notes.

Make your work space enjoyable.

All work and no play stifles creativity. If your office is grey and tired, you’ll be feeling the same way in no time at all. Add some color to your surroundings. Buy a desk calendar with funny quotes. Put up some pictures of vintage humour or cartoons that make you smile. Laughter is a great way of reducing the stress that is often associated with running your own business. The effects of finding something funny are said to boost circulation and release healing biochemicals. If this isn’t worth a small corner of the entrepreneurs’ creative space, then we don’t know what is.

Your Creative Space Needs Credit, Too

Futurpreneur Canada reports that the number of entrepreneurs in Canada is higher than ever before, but do they have the creative edge? In the same way that you top up your bank balance with asset-based loans, personal loans, grants or sponsorship, the entrepreneurs’ creative space needs this same attention. Invest some of your time and energy into the areas we’ve highlighted to build creative foundations. These will support your business growth and who knows what you could come up with next.

Step outside of your office for a moment. What place could you go to right this second and how might it inspire your creativity?

Toronto Government Grants: Free Money for Your Small Business

When you’re the owner of a small business you investigate every possible avenue that may lead to vital funds for its growth. Naturally, business loans (a bank loan, asset-based loan or a personal loan from a family member) are your first consideration. However, did you know you can also apply for a government grant to fund the foundation of your business? If you’re based in Toronto we’ve a great selection of grant options below to get you thinking about your options.

Start Your Financing with Government Grants

A government grant is money for your small business that doesn’t have to be paid back. However, there are very strict guidelines for getting your hands on it – you can’t apply for a government grant by filling in an online form and expect a check in the post the following week. The application process for a government grant is not as fast as it is for an asset-based loan, but if you put together a strong case and you are successful in receiving the grant, it’s a strong cash injection for your business to supplement your income.

Generally speaking, the money from a government grant comes from foundations or organisations that wish to financially support good causes – not only charities, but innovative businesses too. If your small business is in engineering or is science based, you will find ample opportunity to apply for a government grant to assist with production and marketing as well as staffing costs. Green thinking or initiatives that support Ontario’s environment, for example, are popular with grant givers, but there are others who support music, film and creativity.

Best Canadian Government Grants for Small Businesses

Thinking beyond the bills and expenses, a government grant can fund extra research or resources to help nurture your small business in any number of creative and innovative ways. Here are some examples of government grants for Toronto based businesses that you could take advantage of right now, organized by industry and sector. If these aren’t suitable for your business in particular, they should spark off some ideas about where to look next.

#1 Digital Media Companies: Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport Grants

In this day and age, children are overtaking their grandparents and even parents in their understanding and usage of new technologies. Libraries and board games are being overtaken by e-readers and games consoles. Everything is online. It therefore goes without saying that any small business in the digital sector is set to thrive, given the right ideas and promotion. If you’ve got a new take on interactive games playing or other forms of media for children, adults or the whole family, you might find a suitable grant. If you’re interested in finding more about applying for this grant, check out the guidelines for Ontario based Digital Media applicants.

#2 New Technology Companies: National Research Council Canada Grants

We see new technologies emerging all the time across the globe. If you see a gap in the market you might have the skill and resource to fill it and have the market research to back up demand, but you need to test your invention first. This is where a government grant can fill a lack of funding and help bring your product to market. It’s part of what the SDTC (Sustainable Development Technology Canada) calls the Innovation Chain and without this link an important piece of the process is missing. Find out more about the Innovation Chain and funding to get you started.

#3 Artists: Canada Council for the Arts Grants

Art takes many forms and your small business could be anything from being a dance instructor in Toronto to a theatre production company. Whatever it is, you’ll need to perfect your craft with personal development training. You have travel expenses to cover like any other small business owner. Your creative venture requires materials and oftentimes the employment or assistance of other people to bring it to life. All of these costs can be covered with a government grant if you are eligible.

Take a look at some past recipients of government grants from the Arts Council.

#4 Interns: Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation Grants

No matter how well you know the nature of your own business, when you’re just starting out it’s not possible for you to be able to control every element of it. If you’re an accountant you probably won’t know much about building a website. If you’re a photographer you probably aren’t so hot on human resources. It takes a team of people to build up a small business and one of the most effective ways to find people with the right skills is by hiring a qualified intern. A government grant can help to fund this, but you will need to check first if your industry is eligible.

#5 Youth Employment: The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Grants

Whether you’ve been running your small business for a few months or a few years, every business owner can use an injection of youthful enthusiasm from time to time. A sixteen year old might not have much life experience, but a naive enthusiasm for your product, industry, or just for making money can lead to all manner of ideas that you wouldn’t otherwise think of. Find the right candidate and you could have a future Director on your hands or, in the very least, a future employee.

If you have concerns about hiring inexperienced people as part of your government grant application, here are some tips for managing interns from Mind Tools. They run through the pros and cons of using interns as well as how to train and motivate your staff.

Money for Nothing

It goes without saying that the volume of small businesses in Toronto applying for a government grant is high. This is money for nothing, isn’t it? If you go into your government grant application with this in mind, you’re sure to fall short of the mark. These funds are destined for good things. You’ll need to demonstrate that you and your business is worth giving money to for the good of the city and beyond.

Do you think government grants do enough to support small businesses and is the application process fair?

5 Unique Markers оf а Successful Startup

Are you wishing that you could join the ranks of successful startups in Canada and enjoy the global glamour of being called a successful entrepreneur? You’re not the only one. But while many try, few succeed. Taking a brilliant idea and using it to build a stable and successful company from scratch is no easy task.

Even though startups are the way of the future and are already taking our world by storm — admit it, either you or someone you know is probably working in a startup right now — we also know that they’re incredibly hard to support and nurture. As a matter of fact, 8 out of 10 startups fail within the first 18 months. Even companies that enjoy great success at first don’t often find it easy to keep up. This is one big lesson we all learned from Webvan, which was ranked one of the biggest startup flops in history by CNN.

So what separates the successful startups from the failures? Here are some of the most powerful and unique markers of successful startups, which can hopefully help you launch your new company into the winning ranks.

#1 A Clear Vision

Every entrepreneur starts with a vision, or a dream. A yearning to solve a persistent problem or introduce a new way of doing things which can help people lead better lives. Successful businessmen have stated time and time again that it’s their vision of the future which allowed them to push themselves to achieve things they otherwise couldn’t have.

“Chase the vision not the money, the money will end up following you.”

– Tony Hsieh, founder and CEO of Zappos

 

“As we look into the future, leaders will be those who empower others.”

– Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft

Such quotes hint at what drives such people, they have a powerful dream they’re chasing. Great entrepreneurs are also big picture thinkers; not only do they know how their idea will fit into the grand scheme of things, but they have also done their homework and have a good estimate about how good their chances are.

Ask yourself what problem you wish to solve, is it something that bothers a niche audience, or people in general? Next, what solution are you offering to your audience, and how will it help your audience?

Once your vision is set, you’ll find it easier to not only creating your business, but a lifestyle to help you realize it – this really can’t be emphasized enough!

#2 Well-Defined Goals

Your vision needs to be concrete enough to be turned into reasonable goals. Goal setting is an art itself and is the point where most startups fail. Though the failure itself often doesn’t manifest until much later. Break your vision into smaller, more attainable goals, and decide how long it will take for you to achieve them. Next, decide how many people you need in order to achieve each goal. Your goals should have dedicated people accountable for them and focused towards attaining them.

You should also understand how much it will cost you to attain each goal factoring in timeframe and all expenses involved, including employee pay, office rental, equipment, taxes, assets, etc. It will also help if you benchmarked your expenses against industry standards to see if you are paying more than others. If so, then research how other companies are keeping their costs down and try to incorporate their methods into your own.

Even if you have well-defined goals, it doesn’t mean that they are infallible. Patton once said that plans are useless, planning is crucial. What he meant was that since it’s impossible to predict the future, take your own foresightedness with a grain of salt and always be ready to adapt your goals to changing circumstances.

#3 Getting Proper Financing

A strong vision is good, however, great startups also need to have great financing to support them. Unfortunately, raising money has never been an easy task, at least not since the dot com bubble burst.

Indeed, funding is one of the biggest threats facing all startups, and it’s smart for startups to consider all of their options. There’s government funding, bank loans, credit cards, crowdfunding and more. We’ve written about how these financing options compare, and it’s clear that there’s no fit-all solution — each startup will have its own quirky needs and preferences, so it’s important to really consider what it is you need.

In addition to these well-known options, there are also Angel Investors, or angel investor groups as they are known, who have few qualms about investing in new ideas. These people are rarely ever interested in passive incomes; they are more in it for the change and are looking to take a younger, passionate, and enterprising individual under their wing whom they can mentor. .

If you don’t want to be financially dependent on another person or outside organization, though, keep in mind that you might be able to finance your business venture yourself with an asset-based loan from companies like Zillidy. If you have valuable jewelry or watches, you can send them over for safekeeping while you get cash in return. It’s a safe and fast alternative to other regular loan options, and the best part is that these loans don’t impact your credit score, which means that they can’t negatively affect your business.

#4 Budgeting Properly

Successful startups are extremely well aware of the importance of every penny which has been trusted to them! Remember, if you’re financed by another party, then it’s not your money to spend. Think how you can ration your financial reserves so that you’re focused on bringing in new capital and paying back your investors.

Even if you’re financing your business venture yourself, you’ll have even more of an incentive to spend wisely and work hard towards getting a good and sustainable ROI. There’s a lot that goes into budgeting properly, so make sure to think about all of the components of your business and follow them carefully. When you’re starting out, you’re low on money and every minute counts, so focus on doing more with less.

#5 Networking and Social Skills

The best startups have networking at their heart. If your organization has members who are well connected with powerful and influential people, then you’ll find it easier to get new partners and find more investors, not to mention new opportunities!

Good social skills are then an integral part of being a great entrepreneur. Startups often face uncertain hard times. In such situations, motivating people to make the sacrifices required to get through becomes critical. A successful startup almost always has great leadership with a strong vision which can inspire the people working under them to work hard.

Of course these are only some of the successful startup markers which define most enterprises which manage to make it past the 2 year mark. Each company does it a little differently, but each will master at least these 5 practices. We hope you’re among them!

If you’re planning on starting a new business, what are your biggest fears? And if you’re already operating one, what have been the strongest parts of your company that help pull you through the bad times? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

Google Analytics’ Market Insights: Business, Meet Customers

Running an online retail business in Canada is about much more than finding customers, it’s ultimately about knowing your customers. This seemingly simple difference is a critical element in the success or failure of your business. So it’s crucial that you discover who your customers are, and integrate that information into your marketing strategy as well as the core philosophy of your business.

Of course, for traditional brick-and-mortar stores, it’s easy to ask a customer what brought them into the store. But for online companies, it’s not so simple. Online businesses spent almost $40 billion on market research in 2013 alone! That may seem like a lot, but it’s not so much when you consider how many businesses fail because they don’t have a proper understanding of their customers.

However, if you don’t have a huge budget, what should you do? Don’t get discouraged! Your customers are already telling you more than you might expect, you just need to learn how to listen. So, here’s how to use the free tool Google Analytics to gain better market insights by knowing your buyers. Of course, if you want to combine this with online marketing, or some other capital intensive project, consider a Zillidy business loan.

Google Analytics: Talking the Talk

Google Analytics is the most used website statistic service in the world, and for good reason. It’s a powerful, free service which compiles detailed data about your website’s traffic and where it’s coming from.

But the flip side to all this functionality is that it can be overwhelming at first, so let’s start by defining some terms:

  • Bounce Rate – The percentage of times when a unique user came to your site and left without interacting with anything. This essential means “you got ‘em, then you lost ‘em.”
  • Conversions – This is how often a user comes to your site and completes a goal you’ve set. This could be commenting, purchasing, signing up, etc.
  • Session – A single visit to your site by a user. You can look at things like average length to see how long users are staying on your site.

What you need to do in the most basic sense is focus on creating goals, and achieving them with conversions. Now that we’re up to speed on some of the jargon let’s get into tips on using Google Analytics for your business.

How to Set Up Google Analytics for Your Website

The first thing you have to do to use Google Analytics is to insert a bit of code into your site’s HTML to allow Google to track it. You can either use the basic one provided by Google or you can customize it to track additional information like purchases. Once you’ve completed this first step, you’ll have to wait about 24 hours before you can check to see if the code is working. Use the instructions provided by Google to see if everything’s in working order.

Now, you just need to verify your site ownership with Google Webmaster tools. At this point, if everything is working correctly then you’re ready to get started setting up your account (I promise, it’s worth it). Log into Google Analytics and start checking out what data has been collected so far.

The Basics: A Quick Peek Into Your Site Visitor Behavior

Now you’ll be glad you brushed up on what bounce rates, conversions, and session come into play. You’ll see all of them listed on the basic entry page once you log in. If you only just got set up you probably don’t have a ton of data yet, but by using the real-time feature, you’ll have immediate access to a variety of data as it happens, ranging from the location of a current site visitor to how long they’re spending on your site.

Once you’ve gotten acquainted with how to see the data and interpret its meaning, you can start manipulating it further to gain a deeper understanding of the patterns. Here are the most useful ways to get started:

  • Analyze a Particular Time Frame — Once you’ve had things up and running for a while, it’s time to start adjusting the time period covered by the analytics. You can be as general or as specific as you want. Just use the date range selector to select a time frame and choose what kind of data you’d like to see for that period, and you’re good to go. This will help you to understand all kinds of patterns and trends over time.
  • Keep Up With Sudden Developments –  The last thing you definitely need to do early on is set up Intelligence Events. These are custom alerts you can create for any number of data changes, whether good or bad. That way you’ll know right away if you’ve hit an important milestone (like, say, getting that bounce rate below 40%), or if something is terribly wrong (perhaps if the bounce rate gets above 70% again). This will help you keep track of out-of-the-ordinary visitor behavior which you can boost if good, and fix if bad.

Taking Things to the Next Level

Once you’ve got a good handle on the basics, you can start to really think about using your new understanding of your customers to develop some categories and labels to better understand who’s visiting your sites. Here’s where things really get interesting. Google Analytics also has the capability of tracking users based not to just on basic demographic data like age and gender but on their interests.

But what does that mean? To put it simply, it means you can more precisely understand and target your buyer personas. For example, if your company has created three specific buyer personas which it would like to target, Google Analytics can tell you both how well you’re doing at reaching them and whether your personas are the right ones, at all.

Perhaps your company believes one of your buyer personas is a young professional living in a city. You may discover that there isn’t a lot of market potential from this persona and that you should refocus your efforts towards another target group. Alternatively you may be able to see that there’s a lot of potential here but you need to target this group better.

On top of this, you can use all your data points to see which of these buyer personas are, say, buying the highest margin items or staying on your site the longest. This kind of detail can allow you to market to very specific customer segments based on their value, which is the cost in gaining the customer relative to how much they spend.

How to Win at Google Analytics as a Small Business

All-in-all, the biggest tip here is to be creative. With such a wide variety of data available, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers. But if you’re focused and thinking about how to use this new knowledge in unique ways, then you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve. Also, be mindful that Google frequently updates its analytics tools, so always keep an eye out for the latest changes so you can stay on top of things.

There’s really no reason not to get started now. The tools are free, powerful, and available. Then, once you’ve gotten the hang of Google Analytics, consider expanding your customer knowledge even further with Twitter analytics and Facebook’s Graph Search.

Have you started using Google Analytics or a similar service? What’s been your experience? Let us know in the comments section!

The Digital Media Zone (DMZ) Phenomenon

Digital Media Zone

Ryerson DMZ/ Flickr /Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Startups are emerging everywhere, and they’ve been more than valuable when it comes to progress and improving the way our world works. They’re a hotbed for great ideas, which revolutionize the way we look at industries, products, and interaction. Now, imagine a place where all those startups and the inspiring teams behind them can interact, share ideas, and change the face of reality. You don’t need much imagination, because this place has been a reality since 2010 — it’s called the Digital Media Zone (DMZ).

The Digital Media Zone is one of the most popular business incubators and startup accelerators around the world. DMZ is ranked the #1 University Business Incubator in Canada by the University Business Incubator and within the top 5 worldwide, proving its impact and success. DMZ is located in Toronto, Canada and is the digital media innovations hub of one of Canada’s top schools — Ryerson University.

Digital Media Zone

Sandra Pupatello/ Flickr /Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

#BriefHistory and #Principles

The Digital Media Zone project was initially launched to support Ryerson University’s drive for innovation, as well as Toronto’s building agenda, and to boost Toronto’s motivation to grow its startup sector, in response to the lack of job openings following the 2008 financial crisis. Since 2010, the demand for DMZ’s services have grown so rapidly that the hub has been expanded and now occupies over 5 floors at Ryerson University where students and entrepreneurs get the support and inspiration they need.

The DMZ operates on a four-prong model (EIAI). Being closely associated with the University, the DMZ:

  • Educates by teaching young entrepreneurs digital skills in the areas of business and social innovation
  • Ideates and Inspires by helping entrepreneurs out with business ideas and development of startup ideas
  • Accelerates and Incubates by helping validate new businesses’ startup models, R&D, and also offering the Acceleration Program, a three-phase program ranging from 6 to 18 months with equity funding available.

In case the Acceleration Program does not provide enough funding, there are alternative methods offered to startup owners. Asset based loans provided by companies like Zillidy give startups the freedom to finance all their ventures against personals possessions including precious metals, jewelry, and more.

#SuccessStories

The Digital Media Zone is not short of success stories. Over the past years, hundreds of entrepreneurs have begun and expanded their startups thanks to DMZ and the support it offers. Furthermore, it has created over 1100 new job openings. An amazing accomplishment in a difficult financial climate. Here are just a few of DMZ’s successful alumni, that began their businesses within the Digital Media Zone and inspire the current and future startup teams:

500px_logo_black
500px is one of the most successful startups to operate within the DMZ. It’s an inspiring business venture by Oleg Gutsol and Ian Sobolev. The idea behind five hundred pixels is to encourage aspiring and professional photographers to upload their most stunning visuals and join the premium photography community. The social networking platform currently has over 10 million monthly active users and offers successful apps for all mobile platforms.

Soapbox2013-(1)
SoapBox is one of today’s most inspiring sources for feminism. Founded in 2002 by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, Soapbox is one of DMZ’s most versatile startups. SoapBox’s services include hosting Feminism camps in addition to producing a range of media materials including movies and books. Their latest accomplishment is Feminists Working Week, created for women who are excited to find a job and bring feminism into their business life.

#PromisingStartups

DMZ’s list of current startups involves a wide range of businesses which are part of Canada’s largest community of innovative startups. Check out two of the most promising ones:

unhaggle-logo-color-print
Unhaggle is an online platform which allows its users to choose the best car by discovering the dealer’s costs, latest incentives for free. In addition, the platform also helps customers find the best price by negotiating smarter! Buying a car from their network of certified dealers is extremely safe and efficient.

In 2011, Unhaggle became the #1 online platform for New Car Buying in Canada, placing the startup among DMZ’s success stories. With over 250,000 satisfied users, Unhaggle is a platform that helps transform the car buying industry by making the purchase process easier, faster and more transparent.

digital media zone

Follwoing the trend of # tags, here’s DMZ’s #paid, a startup founded by Brayn Gold and Adam Rivietz. Its main goal is to help promote products through social influencers who are famous online. #paid helps brands gain customers through organic online celebrity recommendations — influencers get #paid to share content with their dedicated audience of followers.

What makes #paid a promising startup is the fact that they are looking at advertising and marketing through the social media glasses of the 21st century. The startup is currently working with over 100 of the most influential and versatile celebrity personas such as Victoria’s Secret models which assures the campaigns and the startup’s success in the future. #paid has proven the power and value of social media, by showing that it can benefit the community by integrating the right products in an organic way.

With an impressive list of successful startup ‘graduates’ and current inhabitants, the best is yet to come from the Digital Media Zone.

Would you start your business in an incubator? Share why in the comment section below.

5 Steps You Need to Take to Get Your Startup Going

startup business list

Daniel Kulinski/ Flickr /Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Do you have a great business idea but don’t know where to start? The first step is always the hardest to do, especially if it’s your first time. Starting a new business is possibly one of the most nerve wrecking experiences a person can have because there are so many things you need to do and most of them are new.

A great idea is never enough because you need the determination and motivation to turn it into reality. For a new business this involves doing market research, but also preparing every little task by yourself. To make this process easier for you, here’s a startup business list of all the things you need to do to begin a business venture and turn those great ideas into reality.

1. Before you start

startup business list

Otago MBA/ Flickr /Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“Before you start” should be on your checklist for a variety of reasons. You need to make sure you are motivated enough to finish what you’re about to begin. It’s okay to fail but it’s not good to give up. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I interested in what I’m going to be doing?
  • Am I starting a business for more than just money?
  • Do I think anyone will buy the product and why?
  • Do I have enough support and inspiration to get me through hard times?
  • Am I ready to alter and modify your idea?

If you answered yes to all of the above then you are on the right track. In order to make an idea work you need to live it, breathe it, and most importantly believe in it. If your idea inspires you, and you’re not starting a business just for the money, then you’ve got the right mindset. Also, it’s extremely important to not be stubborn and to modify your ideas if you have to. Your product may change dramatically from concept to production.

2. Get to know the field

 startup business list

Michael Buist/ Flickr /Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Once you’ve established the reasons behind your project, it’s time to get down to business. You need to make sure you know the market you will operate in so you don’t face anything unexpected. Research similar products and companies both locally and internationally. LinkedIn is the perfect place to not only find out more about your field but get inspired and get to know other people who impact your market.

Finding and following blogs which publish regular information and trends is another place where you can get to know your field and learn about what’s new, and what’s on the horizon. Take what you’ve learned and modify your idea to make it suitable and trendy.

3. Prepare a business plan

 startup business list

Photosteve01/ Flickr /Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Creating a business plan is another step which will keep you motivated and focused, as well as add credibility to your business. You will also need it to convince banks or sponsors that your business is well thought through. A business plan should include information about:

  • Your products / services
  • Your short and long-term goals
  • Cash-flow forecast (looking at least 1 year ahead)
  • Your research and findings about the industry you will operate in and how your business relates and how relevant it is

Make sure you change it regularly, reflecting all your progress and decisions. Completing your business plan will stimulate you to think in detail and find the flaws it might have.

4. Sort out your funding and register your business

 startup business list

fsecart/ Flickr /Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

You need to register your business with the appropriate institutions, note that some provinces allow most of the registration to be done online. For example, check out our handy guide to registering a business online in Ontario. After the process it’s time to secure enough capital to keep your business going. In case you don’t have enough capital to start your business venture by yourself, you are going to have to think about alternative methods.

Possible funding could be done through government grants; NGO funding; crowd-funding, banks, and business loans against personal possessions. The latter is the easiest and quickest option for funding your startup. Small business loans from companies like Zillidy are a great option because the application can be done online in addition to not requiring any credit score checks or income prediction. The loans are given against personal assets which include jewelry, precious metals, and more.

5. Create a marketing plan and utilize social media

 startup business list

Kristina B/ Flickr /Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

You need to establish your brand, connect with possible clients and promote your products. First on your sub-list should be buying a domain and creating a branded website and social media accounts. Making sure you invest in both will secure your online presence which will result in customer approval and trust.

In-personal networking such as creating an elevation pitch is just one of many methods which will help you market your business and products. It’s extremely important to outline a marketing plan that is consistent with your business plan and goals.

How are you going to to finance your startup? Share how in the comment section below.

Own Your Dream Vehicle Using These Top Car Loans

Car Loans

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Is your car no longer safe? Do you just want to upgrade your vehicle for a more luxurious, spacious and comfortable one? Whether it’s for repairs or for pleasure, a car loan is big and pricey decision that gets people thinking of all the different financing options available. Just like with mobile phones, the demand for new cars is huge and like you might expect, there are a number of ways to purchase a vehicle even if you don’t have the money right now.

Buying a new car is one of the top reasons why people take out loans. From personal loans to bank loans and handy online applications to help you compare and figure out if you can afford them, here are the top 3 car loan options in Canada:

1. Collateral Lending

Car Loans

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Collateral lending is perfect for anyone who has some money already saved up, but needs some help to cover the full price. If you happen to have personal assets of high value, you can use them as collateral and get the funding you need.

As one of the most popular and acclaimed providers of loans against personal possessions, Zillidy offers great conditions for personal loans. What assets can you use to secure the loan? Zillidy offers loans against the following items:

  • Jewelry
  • Precious metals
  • Watches
  • And more

Collateral lending is a great option for those in a hurry, as the process is quick and can be done online. Furthermore, your personal assets are kept safe and you get them back once you’ve returned your loan in the exact same shape in which you sent them out.

2. CIBC Personal Car Loans

CIBC

 

CIBC is one of the leading financial institutions based in Canada. CIBC offers a wide arrange of loans including the Personal Car Loan. Worried about slow approval time? You can apply online to assure faster approval. The CIBC personal car loan provides really good flexibility with repayment — you get up to 8 years to repay the loan. You have the option to lower your monthly payments, so they fit the term of up to 96 months.

You can borrow a minimum of $5000, which you have the option to pay through weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly or monthly payments to coincide with your pay periods. Furthermore, you can even skip up to two payments yearly, which lets you breathe easy, and not fear small financial bumps along the way. With CIBC, you can also pay all or part of your Personal Car Loan at any time, without having to endure penalties.

When it comes down to taking out a loan, are you sure you can really afford it? In case you are wondering how taking out a loan can fit your lifestyle, CIBC offers this great tool called the CIBS Car Loan Calculator:

#The Car Loan Calculator by CIBC

A huge part you need to consider when taking out a loan of any kind is if your lifestyle will allow you to repay it without having to struggle for money at any particular time during the repayment process.If you want to know how much you will be repaying monthly, the loan calculator application on the CIBC’s website is a wonderful and easy-to-use tool to help you figure out the bits and bolts of the loans they offer.

The information you are required to input in order to get the calculations is extremely basic, it asks for:

  • Age of the vehicle you want to purchase (so it works for both new and used cars)
  • Province/territory of purchase
  • Cost of the vehicle — you are required to input the total cost of the vehicle quoted by the dealer or manufacturer, make sure you don’t include the taxes.
  • Down payment — make sure it allows over $ 5 000 margin between the cost and the down payment as there’s a minimum for CIBC’s Car Loan ($ 5 000)

Also, you are going to have to complete the section called Loan Information, where you will be asked about the interest rate on the loan, the term in which you would like to pay off your loan (starting from 12 months) and the Cash and Dealer Incentives — a Cash Incentive being the variety of deals offered directly to the customers by the dealers, and the Dealer Incentives being the dealer’s cost to obtain the vehicle after all the different price reductions they may be offered.

Voila! The results are in: you get to see your monthly payments and budget according to the number you got, this way you can see if you can afford taking out the loan. The additional information makes you aware of the total interest on your loan, depending on the repayment period you’ve chosen — you can take up to 8 years and borrow 100% of the funds required to obtain the vehicle.

Want to make the final information even more precise? There’s an optional trade in field you can complete, where you can input the Vehicle Value and the Amount Owing (in case you are also using personal funds to contribute to the purchase). Furthermore, even though the loan calculator is designed to work with CIBC’s Car Loan only, you still get the chance to compare it to other financing options — again you need to input the loan information you have in mind in the Compare Other Financing section, the graph on the side will reflect that information and compare CIBC’s Car Loan to the other financing option you have chosen to help you make a final decision as to whether and what loan you can take.

3. Auto Loan from TD Canada Trust

 

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TD Bank Group is ranked one of the safest banks in 2013 by to Global Finance. TD Canada Trust provides banking, insurance and loaning services. One of their most popular loans is the Auto Loan that help you “get the vehicle that’s right for you.”

The great thing about TD Canada Trust’s Auto Loan is that you get to choose the type of interest rate on the money you take — fixed or variable. The Fixed Interest Rate protects you from changes and provides structured and set payments, while the Variable Interest Rate allows you to benefit whenever the rate is lower, which in turn helps you pay off your loan quicker.

The Auto Loan also allows you to choose from a variety of repayment options that fit your budget for extra comfort. Furthermore, with the Auto Payment you can defer up to 2 payments a year in case you are experiencing financial difficulties.

Which loan would you use to buy a car? Let us know why in the comment section below.

Hacker’s Guide to Small Business Proliferation

Marketing Ideas

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As a small business owner, you are probably used to fighting for your place in the industry market. The struggle doesn’t only come down to selling your products and targeting your audience, but to creating a strong brand image that people will remember and recommend to others.

One of your top priorities once you have settled your business (i.e. after you have developed your ideas and products, and discovered your target buyers) is to have a marketing strategy in place. And preferably, one that will help your business expand and truly impact the industry.

How do you market your product and ideas? There are numerous approaches, but the following are our top favorites:

1. Finance Your Marketing Strategy

Finance

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Even though many marketing ideas are brought to reality with zero budget, most require you to invest capital with the expectation of a good comeback. Avoid trying to find ‘a good deal’ that won’t guarantee any results. Think through your options and choose the one that promises the best results and the least risk, even if costs more. No-budget marketing does not guarantee the results you would like to achieve since it’s less targeted and it’s hard to measure the impact of free campaigns. If you don’t have enough capital set aside for this purpose, a good option for you may be a small business loan against personal possessions.

Companies like Zillidy offer great conditions for their small business loans, plus it’s extremely easy to qualify for one — you don’t have to go through a credit check, and it’s all done online in a quick and efficient manner. Getting your capital quickly, without having to prepare a lot of unnecessary documentations that other loans require, means that you can spend more time on carefully and wisely budgeting the newly-acquired finances for your marketing campaign.

2. Network with Clients and Partners

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Ashraful Kadir / Flickr /Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

A really important aspect of every marketing campaign is making sure you interact with both your existing customers, your potential customers and other businesses operating within your market. Why do you need the interaction? Making sure you connect with your customers assures brand recognition and appreciation. And your business connections? They’ll ensure the growth of your client base and building a good business reputation that might come in handy when you decide to expand or add services to your portfolio.

Before you get started, you need to make sure you can present your business in the best possible way. Creating an elevator pitch that you can deliver in just a few minutes is extremely important, especially when you are going to be talking to new possible clients and business partners. The elevator pitch allows you to be prepared to talk about your business at all times, knowing you won’t miss out on any important information.

In order to meet your present and future customers, a great idea is to rent a booth at a trade show or specific places where your customers are likely to shop (if you’re offering food products, you can have a special promotion at a superstore). And if you’re looking for business networking, we suggest you (1) go to a conference on a topic that interests you and involves your business, (2) join your local chamber of commerce, and/or (3) organize a business workshop where you can invite local business owners.

3. Build Lasting Relationships

PopTech Day Three, Oct 2008 - 015

Ed Yourdon / Flickr /Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Once you have a solid network of both clients and business owners, you are ready to build lasting relationships with them. Building such relationships will not only guarantee referrals, but also some possible business collaboration.

How can you create relationships with your clients? You can send regular satisfaction surveys — make them short and to-the-point, but also make it clear that your customers’ opinion matters and they will receive something for completing the survey (this could include discounts and samples of new products). Make sure you let your best clients and partners know they are your biggest asset by sending out birthday cards or special promotions.

Get involved! Sponsor a charity of your choice, as people like associating with brands who have a clear social standing and support a cause. You can also donate products for fundraisers, cross-promote products with other local businesses or support a local sports team — the latter will ensure you reach a really targeted audience, and the supporters of your local team are likely to appreciate the brand that stands behind their club.

All of the above are true when it comes down to building relationships with your partners, too. Businesses are likely to engage with others that have a good image and a reputable social standing. If your customers are happy, other businesses are likely to take advantage of it by working with you. The conclusion here: using the best marketing for your clients secures better engagement with your partners. A great way to support the relationship is to organize cocktail evenings where you can invite your partners and discuss ideas. Don’t forget to appreciate your partners as much as your clients.

4. Use Unique Marketing Ideas

NATPE 2014

Red Touch Media / Flickr /Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Once you have a solid connection and your network is growing steadily, it’s time to try something off-the-beaten path. Not only will you be able to afford it strategically (i.e. it won’t hurt you if it doesn’t take off), but you will probably also have enough capital to back it up at this point. The main idea with unique marketing strategies is to generate hype and associate your brand with something cool and interesting. Remember, fun marketing ideas won’t stay unnoticed, so give it a shot and get people talking.

Here a few ideas to jump start your brainstorming session.

  • Why not get a company mascot? This will be a great way to get people to take picture with something that has your brand all over it! Once the pictures are uploaded on social media, your reach will be huge.
  • Get branded materials and wearables. Think about branded gym bottles or interesting phone cases, i.e. objects that people notice a lot and use daily.
  • Get creative and make a pen that looks like your logo, or put your brand at the bottom of a coffee mug with special ink so it’s only seen when there’s hot liquid inside. This will surely get people talking and make them remember your brand.

What marketing tricks do you use for your small business? Share your top strategies in the comments!

How to Finance Your University Studies in Canada Without Breaking the Bank

finance your studies

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Getting into your top-choice university is a joyous and memorable experience, and one that shouldn’t be overshadowed by any worries. The first thing that will hit you after the excitement passes will most likely be one of many finance-related questions: How will I fund my studies? How will I support myself while at school? How will I purchase my books, laptop, and other necessities? Even if you’ve thought about these before applying, now that you’ve gotten in, it’s crunch time — you need to plan how to finance your studies and consider all the possible options.

From paying tuition fees to your everyday bills and accommodation, you need to secure enough capital to cover you university spending. In case you don’t have a trust fund, or your family isn’t paying for your full education, here are the student loan options you should consider to cover your university spending:

1. Personal Loans

finance your studies

Simon Cunningham / Flickr /Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

This is a great option for all students in urgent need extra funds for school. Loans against personal possessions offered by companies like Zillidy are no-nonsense secure loans, which help you get cash extremely easily and quickly.

How do you apply for such personal loan online? You need to describe your asset in the best possible way — include as much detail and as many pictures as you can. After your item has been assessed by expert appraisers, you can ship it for free. You will then receive a final offer and once you accept it, your money will be transferred. In the meantime your item will be 100% safe and secure — you will receive your asset back in the same shape you sent it out. The wonderful thing about Zillidy’s personal loans is that you can leverage your personal possessions over and over without having to sell them.

2. Government Student Loans/Grants

finance your studies

The City of Toronto / Flickr /Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) University of Toronto

A. Canada Student Loans

The Canadian government offers up to 60 percent of the cost of your tuition in federal loan, if you fulfill the following requirements:

  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Canadian citizen
  • Full time students / Part time student
  • Additional specific criteria: Pass a credit check (for applicants over 22 years old)
  • And more…

How do you apply?

After you have made sure that you qualify for a government student loan, you can start filling out the application form, which can be found online or at your high school and/or provincial or territorial student financial assistance office.

Once you have completed the form, send it to your local Provincial and Territorial Student Financial Assistance Offices as applications are based on where you are a permanent citizen, not the province/territory in which your university is based (except for part-time student loans and grants). The application process can be sped up if you submit your forms online. It takes 4-6 weeks for all applications sent via post.

B. Canada Student Grants Program

What’s better than money you don’t have to repay? The Canada Student Grants Program offers funding for university/college that you don’t have to pay back after graduation. These grants are available to students from most provinces and territories (except the Northwest Territories, Quebec and Nunavut, which have their own grant and loan programs).

How do you apply?

You don’t need to apply for the grants program as you will be automatically assessed when you apply for a student loan. Note that you can get more than one of the following grants:

  • Grant for students from low-income families
  • Grant for part-time studies
  • Grant for students with permanent disabilities
  • And others…

3. Provincial and Territorial School Loans

Noted above is that some provinces like Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories have their own student loan and grant programs. Furthermore, if you have been denied federal financial assistance, there are options for you to secure provincial and territorial loans from the place where you reside. Such loans include the Nova Scotia Student Assistance; Saskatchewan Student Financial Assistance;  New Brunswick’s Student Financial Services and others.

4. Education Line of Credit from CIBC

finance your studies

In case all of the above are not an option for you, CIBC offers an Educational Line of Credit. The program offers up to $40,000 throughout your degree as a full-time or part-time student, both undergraduate and postgraduate. There’s a yearly limit of $15,000 for full-time undergraduate students and $7,500 for part-time undergraduate students. For all postgraduate students there’s no specific yearly limit (the $40,000 total credit limit applies). Furthermore, you can pay off your loan in full or part at any time without penalty charges.

If you’re wondering approximately how much you will be repaying on the Education Line of Credit, there’s an online calculator tool that can help you figure this out. The tool is for illustrative and general purposes only and assumes a constant rate of interest.

How will you fund your studies? Share your financing preferences in the comment section below.

4 Most Exciting Real Estate Startups in Canada

real estate startups

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After the much-publicized spike in the housing market prices in Canada and the boom in sales, the past few months have seen a decrease in sales and a steady transition into calmer waters. Many startups have broken new ground in the past few years due to the opportunities that the industry offers. The boom in sales has inspired new entrepreneur ventures to enter the market.

Not only are real estate startups an exciting business venture, but many have motivational stories to share and have succeeded in changing the face of the industry. These businesses are growing rapidly, and their online presence and achievements have much to say about the motivation and drive of the people who work and own the companies. Here’s a list of the top 4 most inspirational and fastest growing real-estate startups in Canada you should check out and keep on your radar:

1. SpaceList

logo-icon-spacelist

SpaceList is a marketplace for office, industrial and retail spaces based in Vancouver, Canada. With around 450 million square feet of commercial real estate listings, SpaceList is Canada’s largest commercial real estate platform.

The team at SpaceList consists of “thoughtful, fun, and hard working people who are obsessed with making great products,” and they do make great products! The company, founded in 2012, is not only bigger than Canadian Real Estate Association’s ICX platform, but has managed to keep its focus of helping companies secure a space that can make their business visions become a reality.

Company founder Bill MacEwen is the inspiring entrepreneur who made SpaceList, itself, a reality. By employing a number of different professionals from an array of industries — design, engineering, business, software and others — he has backed his motivation to make SpaceList an extremely user-friendly platform for commercial real estate listings.

2. RealtyforSale

realtylogo

Have you ever bought a home in your life? It’s one of the hardest experiences, not only due to the fact that you have to stick with your decision for a really long time, but it’s also an extremely nerve-wracking process. RealtyForSale is one of Canada’s fastest growing online listing, a one-stop-shop for all real estate needs.

Based in Toronto, this startup is revolutionizing home buying by providing all real estate related information and data that any home-buyer may need in one place. Even though home-buying is currently in an unfortunate state — home prices are at an all-time high and mortgages are extremely hard to qualify for — RealtyforSale is making it easier for those customers who are willing to overlook the tough situation and shop for the right home.

Why the hype? The experience that RealtyforSales provides is extremely user-friendly and informative. Even though the regulations imposed by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) are making the overall experience of buying a home in Canada overwhelming, RealtyforSales makes it more enjoyable and positive by providing important information (e.g. where the nearest schools are, what the crime rate of the area is, and more) that makes the customer’s home-buying process easier.

3. Ubertor

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A real estate Canadian startup with a global reach? Yup, it’s called Ubertor. The video-focused retail website helps make real estate easy and accessible to anyone, anywhere. Based in Vancouver and established in 2000, the team at Ubertor has helped realtors easily and creatively market their businesses and promote their property listing online.

With its global reach and clients from around the world, this real estate startup is an example of how creativity and great ideas combined, can really go far. Ubertor’s solutions set new standards for realty businesses’ online presence — from managing and generating web and mobile content to handling the online image of the company.

4. Spark CRM

Spark-CRM-Logo-Cropped

Spark CRM is an online platform that helps real estate agents sell more homes. The business is based in Vancouver and the small team at Spark CRM delivers an online platform designed to help realtors with the entire sales process — from listing to marketing and closing the deal.

What makes Spark CRM different? it’s an extremely safe and cost-effective solution in addition to being the only platform at the moment that considers and employs back-end functionality and user-oriented design. Furthermore, Spark CRM allows realtors to create as many project profiles as they like and then market, manage and sell the properties all from one place.

Starting Your Own Business

Are these success stories inspiring you to start your own real estate business venture? In case you are worried about finding sufficient capital to start with, there are a number of options available to you. Consider Zillidy, a Canadian loan company that offers short-term small business loans against personal possessions. What’s exciting about Zillidy’s loans is that you don’t need to waste time filling out long documents or visiting banks — it’s easy, fast and secure to apply online.

Are you ready to be the next real estate startup success story? Tell us how you will finance your endeavour in the comment section below.