What Small-Biz Owners Can Learn From Blogs

What Small-Biz Owners Can Learn From Blogs


Looking for advice on starting or running a business?
Check out what the blogosphere has to offer. It’s filled with scores of
Web journals on various topics of interest to entrepreneurs.

Here’s a sampling of blogs in this niche and what small-business owners can get out of reading them.


Carson McComas is on a mission to help fellow
small-business owners succeed. His two-year-old blog provides advice,
ideas, inspiration and resources he’s accumulated through his own
experience as a consultant to entrepreneurs and owner of four Web-based
ventures. "A lot of entrepreneurially related content on the Internet
is get-rich quick garbage," he says. "It’s very important for me not to
be that." Writing about once a week from his home office in Spokane,
Wash., Mr. McComas reviews products and services such as
mynewcompany.com, which helps entrepreneurs with the paperwork for
incorporating a business. Readers can suggest items for review and
submit their own write-ups, he says. Another feature, called "Happy
Links," lists URLs to Web sites and blogs with helpful information for
entrepreneurs, and "Happy Quotes" offers a regular dose of
inspirational sayings. Look for interviews Mr. McComas conducts with
entrepreneurs such as Markus Frind, founder of PlentyofFish.com, a
dating site.

 Franchise Pundit


In spring 2004, Ryan M. Knoll considered purchasing a
franchise, and he created this blog to document his research. Though,
he later opted to practice law instead, he says he continues to blog
about investing in franchises because the subject draws heavy
commentary from readers. He also stays current on the subject because
about a quarter of his law-firm clients are professionals seeking
counsel on buying franchises, he says. Franchise Pundit discusses the
pros and cons of various franchise investments, and many posts end with
a thumb’s up or down vote from Mr. Knoll on whether a particular
franchise is a wise purchase. The blog, which is updated daily, also
reports on emerging franchises, relevant legal news and various
industry happenings. In addition, franchise owners frequently
contribute posts about their personal business experiences. Check out
the blog’s discussion board and a page listing links to archived posts
on franchises by company name.

 Young Go Getter

Originally an online discussion forum,
younggogetter.com was revamped in January as a blog. "We try and cover
all aspects of starting and running a business from the perspective of
a young person," says Travis Hines, one of its three twentysomething
contributing writers from around the U.S. who each run their own
businesses. The discussion board still exists as a link from the blog
and has about 400 members. Another interactive feature is a weekly
poll, which asks questions such as, "What business events do you attend
most each year?" Look for posts offering opinions and advice, plus book
reviews, podcasts and interviews with young entrepreneurs. There’s also
a section called "Entreprenews" which links to articles on the Web that
discuss entrepreneurialism.

 Escape from Cubicle Nation


Nearly a decade after quitting a corporate-consulting
job to start her own business, Pamela Slim started this blog to help
other professionals switch to sole proprietorship. She says many of the
cubicle dwellers she used to advise griped about their jobs, but were
too afraid to try their hand at being entrepreneurs. For this reason,
says she focuses her blog posts on the emotional aspect of leaving the
corporate world to start a business. "I write about the human side of
that change — how to manage your personal fears in addition to getting
the kind of information you need," she explains. She receives about 150
emails a week from readers and chooses topics to blog about based on
their questions and concerns, she says. Her postings are syndicated to
several Web sites.


Lawyer Anthony Cerminaro operates a private practice
in Sewickley, Pa., for which he helps companies buy and sell small
businesses. He blogs about legal issues pertaining to entrepreneurs and
says he often cites lessons he’s learned through his work. He also
describes and links to a wide range of resources for entrepreneurs on
the Web, plus he answers his clients and readers’ questions about
starting businesses. For example, he recently responded to one on
whether to hire a professional business-plan writer, says Mr.
Cerminaro. (The answer was no, write it yourself.) "What motivates me
is being of service," he says. "I’m really trying to change the world
by encouraging people to be entrepreneurial." References to Mr.
Cerminaro’s personal interests, such as poetry, can be found sprinkled
throughout the blog.

 Venture Capital Café


Eze Vidra says he learned first-hand just how
difficult it is for a budding entrepreneur to secure venture capital,
which is the focus of this two-year-old blog. He helped launch a
business in 2004 with three college friends and says the hardest part
was convincing investors to provide financial support. "We had no prior
experience," he explains. Now a product manager in San Francisco for
Ask.com, a search engine, Mr. Vidra profiles early-stage ventures in
his blog by describing their business models and products. "It’s aimed
at entrepreneurs and investors in the venture-capital world," he says.
A native Israeli, he writes mostly about media-focused technology and
energy companies founded by Israelis or based in Israel, he says. The
country "has the largest number of start-up companies per capita," he

 Marketing Blog

For almost three years, Charlie Cook has been sharing
his ideas and opinions about small-business marketing each week on his
blog. The small-business marketing coach, mentor and consultant in Old
Greenwich, Conn., says the online forum provides a way to candidly
discuss his area of expertise. "It lets people get to know me more as a
person just like them," he says. And unlike the writing on his company
Web site, he adds, "It’s a more natural form of communication because
it’s unedited." Mr. Cook blogs about the marketing strategies he
advises his clients on and any topic that "strikes a nerve," he says.
He also answers readers’ questions in blog posts about specific
marketing concerns, such as a recent query from an embroiderer on
whether she should market her services broadly or to a select audience.

 Small Business Trends

Small Business Trends, which launched in September
2003, focuses on major developments that affect small-business owners,
says author Anita Campbell. For example, she recently blogged about a
new line of computers with built-in security features such as
encrypting software. "To me those are significant things to small
businesses," says the marketing consultant based in Medina, Ohio. Her
blog also features twice-monthly guest columns from small-business
experts and weekly posts she pens on business technology. In addition,
Ms. Campbell profiles small firms that illustrate a recent trend once
or twice a month and occasionally she runs an online survey in which
readers can answer questions on small-business-topics. She later posts
the results and comments on them.

 The Invent Blog


Interested in patents and the legal issues surrounding
them? Registered-patent attorney Stephen M. Nipper has made a hobby out
of scouring the Internet for articles on the subject and related topics
and summarizing what he finds on the blog. "I read a tremendous amount
online and like sharing information I find useful or interesting to me
or my clients," says Mr. Nipper, a partner with Dykas, Shaver &
Nipper in Boise, Idaho. "I typically stay away from sharing opinion and
just provide factual information." Readers can suggest topics and pose
questions, he adds. For example, he recently responded to a question on
how to determine if a patent has been litigated over and another on
what to do if you’ve been ripped off by an invention-promotion company.

 How to Change the World


One of the most well-known blogs in the small-business
space, How to Change the World aims to do just as its namesake suggests
via the art of "entrepreneurialism." While that may seem like an
audacious goal, author Guy Kawasaki boasts credentials that demonstrate
he’s capable of inspiring others. He is a managing director for an
early-stage venture-capital firm, writes a column for Entrepreneur
Magazine, serves as an advisor to six small businesses and is an Apple
Inc. alumnus. "I pride myself in writing highly tactical/practical
action-oriented articles," writes Mr. Kawasaki in an email.
"Small-business owners can learn how to create kick-butt companies on
kiss-butt budgets." Since launching his blog in January 2006, Mr.
Kawasaki says he’s mostly written about news pertaining to
entrepreneurship, marketing, venture capitalism and evangelism, but
he’s lately started to focus more on book reviews. "One of my sub-goals
is to be the ‘Oprah of online book reviewers,’ " he writes. Check out
the job listings to the right of the page for career opportunities at
start-up companies.



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