First Step in Starting a Startup

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Not everyone is built from the entrepreneurial mold, I understand. However, from the interviews we’ve conducted here, we’ve noticed Christian entrepreneurs are numerous and scattered across the world. So, if you’ve ever considered starting your own business, whether big or small, then you’re surely not alone.

If you’re like some, your first thoughts may come in form of “I wish I had this or that, but I haven’t found anything like it online or in a store.” Or you’ve considered your skill set and noticed you’re extremely talented in one area of your life and have a desire to make something of that talent other than using it for a 9-to-5 job.

However the initial thought or dream comes, it comes and you want to do something about it. But where do you start? Are you even called to start your own business or niche? Does God even want you start something new? Is it too risky?

You Need Focus:

If you’re even considering a new startup, I want you to take out a pen and paper, or your tablet, since we live in that age, and I want you to write all of your ideas. Try answering these questions:

  • What skill do you have to offer?
  • Or, what product do you have to offer?
  • What makes you different?
  • Have you noticed a demand for your service or product?
  • What’s your target age/market?
  • How can you get started on a small scale?
  • How much time must you dedicate?

If you’re about to develop a new startup, then you can’t neglect these questions. As Jason Stambaugh (our last interviewee) explained, you don’t need to drop everything for your dream, especially if you have a family and children. It’s unwise to quit your current job for an unorganized dream you have. No matter how skilled you are, you need to take the transition a little slower, unless your spouse can support or you have a huge lump of money sitting in an account—even then, you need to approach the startup with caution before you toss money to the wind.

Yes and No:

Someone in your life has told you that you’re skilled at something. If not, let’s get to know each other and I’ll tell you what I think you’re good at. Whether a parent, close friend or significant other has identified your talents, someone has probably mentioned what you’re exceptional at.

But, has anyone told you that you’re quite sloppy at something? Has anyone ever told you “no” in regards to something you wanted to try? I doubt many have been so honest with you. If so, then good for them. Honesty is key at this stage. You don’t think your idea is bad, but it may be the worst idea ever and you’re blind to it because you’re a bit biased. We all need someone to tell us “no” from time to time, especially if it’s going to save us financially and save us lots of grief.

See, we’re all really gifted at something and we’re all pretty awful at other things. I like to believe I’m good at writing, expressing my thoughts through words and producing different types of media. But I know I’m pitiful when it comes to physics and higher-level math. My mind doesn’t function that way and I’ve accepted it. It took a few classes in high school and college to let me know I’m not skilled at engineering or computer science. So what did I do? I stuck with what I’m skilled at doing.

You should do the same and if you don’t know whether you pitiful at something, just ask an honest friend or organize a focus group.

Gather a Group:

Get some friends and family members together. Sit them down and pitch your startup business idea to them and ask for some serious feedback. Allow them to be completely honest about your pitch and pinpoint holes in your plan. Just a word of warning, you may feel defeated after this focus group session, but don’t let that stop you. Just let it stop you from doing what you shouldn’t.

If your focus group would rather write honest responses on paper, then have them do that. Give them a series of questions to answer that will allow them to guide your ideas and thoughts. Consider listing these questions on a sheet for your group members to respond to:

  • Would you be truly interested in what I’m selling or offering?
  • What do you like the most about my startup idea?
  • What are the holes in my idea?
  • Who do you think my target market is?
  • How much time, energy and funds do you think my startup will require at first?
  • How can I improve the idea of my startup?

Use the answers you gathered here for greater consideration and brainstorming of your idea. Obviously, if everyone listed the same hole in your idea, then you need to patch that hole. Let this be a constructive learning process, a type of refining, and let it guide you rather than discourage you.

Try giving these questions to several groups and see what answers you get each time.

You Have To Pray:

If you fail to pray about this business endeavor, well, you’re doomed to fail. Take the right first step by committing to prayer. Question God and allow Him to question you. Ask others to pray for you during this process and give them specifics to pray about. Remember that God’s timing isn’t your timing, yet it’s perfect. If you’re not receiving a response as fast as you would like, don’t consider it a failure. As James said:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt.” James 1:5-6

Q&A with Jason Stambaugh, Startup Kick Starter

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Jason Stambaugh is a Maryland native, passionate about entrepreneurship and helping startups become thriving businesses. As an entrepreneur, he knows just how hard it is to get started, so he’s teamed up with his local chamber of commerce to create a contest for local business owners, sort of an American Idol for entrepreneurs. He’s a man of God, successful in what he does, and fond of small business. Here’s our Q&A session with Jason:

Q: What type of work are you involved in?

A: I have two companies. One is called Wevival, which is a social media, web marketing and development firm. Basically I work with businesses doing bread and butter websites, marketing strategies, social media, etc. Then I have new project, which is called Hometown Startups and I do local startup contests kind of like American Idol for entrepreneurs right in the local community.

Q: How did Hometown Startups get started?

A: I had just shut down operations on a business I had started and I was kind of licking my own wounds. Then I joined my local chamber of commerce to pick up some local web development and social media clients and through that process I became very involved and the chamber fell in love with it a little bit. Currently, I am the president of our young professionals group that’s here in Carroll County (Maryland). So that kind of gave me perspective on the chamber.

Then I also have a business partner who is in the educational technologies field and he was invited to a large communicational startup contest called LAUNCH Edu. Basically it’s SXSW, which is the big interactive conference, and for frame of reference, Twitter was launched there. So it’s a huge, huge conference. So he (business partner) was invited to go out to that and was a little skeptical and thought maybe it might be a waste of time or not a very good use of time. But he comes back and he’s just fired up about his experience and how great it was for entrepreneurs and for the community.

So that gave me a thought—why the heck don’t these cool opportunities happen in my backyard, in my community, for entrepreneurs? So that idea turned into last year’s contest, which is called the Carroll Biz Challenge.

Q: What happens at your contest?

A: Basically there is an application window for local entrepreneurs who have brand new business ideas or existing, early-stage startups can pitch some of their business concepts, and make great connections, get lots of publicity and compete for a $5,000 cash prize. They apply until the application deadline has been reached, the advisory board reviews all of the applications and scores them and then selects five finalists. Then those five finalists pitch in front of a live audience and panel judges at an exciting, live community event where the audience can vote, we can hear the pitch, the panel can ask the finalists some questions and we announce the winner on the spot and give them a big check.

Q: Do you plan to continue the contest annually?

A: Yeah, that’s my plan to continue it every year and my goal is to bring this big startup concept model to areas around the country. So I’m in the process of that and a big national push to bring this contest to more communities.

Q: Why were you so passionate about getting this contest started?

A: It’s kind of scratching at my own niche. I’m an entrepreneur and I was one of those guys that was sitting there scratching my head at my day job, in retail and banking sales, and I was just wondering why the work didn’t seem meaningful. I was building somebody else’s empire and you know, I wanted to do my own thing. Out of that desire, I paved my own way. But the reality is that there are a lot of people like me in Carroll County and local communities around the country and I want to provide all of them with a successful opportunity to get noticed, connected and better. Small entrepreneurs and people who have a great idea need a catalyst, something that helps them along their way, so what a better way to offer that in a community where they are living and working.

Q: What would you say in regards to small vs. big business and how important small business is to our country?

A: Sometimes you look at these stats and basically, there are all of these crazy stats where 60-70% of jobs are built by small businesses. I think that the small business ecosystem is absolutely vital to the economic future of our country. I mean these are the places where new jobs are coming. These are where new ideas are coming from. Now, I say that knowing that their definition of small business is quite the stretch. I think like 500-1000 employees or less is considered a small business. But forget the stats, the bottom line is that the upward trend of development of small businesses account for an enormous portion of the economy. They’re employing people, paying local taxes…they really are the biggest drivers in the economy.

But the trend I’m most interested in is this trend to micro-entrepreneurship, where people encourage other people to start and grow businesses that aren’t necessarily multi-million dollar ventures, but are ventures that feed families, pay mortgages and they add to the vibrancy of the local, small town economic development.

Q: Working with a bunch of entrepreneurs, how do you approach the constant question of risk?

A: I think that I am probably the most cautious of the people that I know who are entrepreneurs. I started my business in my other free hours even though I had a full-time job and I think that’s becoming a more and more popular philosophy that you don’t have to “bet the farm” on a business idea—you don’t have to put your family or kids at risk.

I applaud people who do that (give everything for a startup), but I also think it’s not very smart. So I always counsel people, anyone who is interested in starting a business, to take baby steps. Take small steps while maintaining your current cash flow and make sure you have a way to eat and keep your family sheltered while you make your business dream a reality. I would never counsel someone to go all in until they have a good feel for the market and for the product and service they’re offering.

Q: How do you incorporate your faith in your work?

A: Well, for frame of reference, I was in high school and just a typical high school kid. The gnawing thought I had after my senior year of high school—I was quite successful in high school, team captain, I was great at wrestling and theater, I had won a bunch of awards, I had a really prestigious internship, I was headed to one of the best schools in the country and I felt like I really owned high school—but I had this nagging thought about whether I could possibly get my arm around everything in this world. I felt like I had won and I had beat high school.

So one thing led to another and I started reading the Bible a little bit and then that’s when I got connected with Young Life and a particular leader at a local high school. Then one thing led to another and I was like, ‘man this Christianity thing sounds like a pretty cool thing’ so I rolled the dice and I’ve been a big part of local faith communities ever since.

In terms of how my faith affects how I do business, I’m certainly not a Jesus fish type of business owner. However, where it does come into play is essentially my code of ethics. Primarily, which is integrity. What I do, or rather what I think or say is what I do every single time and that’s a big part of how I do business and how I’ve been successful. So, that obviously means a lot of transparency and honesty. I think that’s something that someone who does business with me, well, I want them to notice.

I try to live up to those things as much as I possibly can, and as you know with business, it’s all about relationships. There is no exchange of value without having a relationship with somebody or someone. So, my goal really is to just be a witness in my faith and what I’m all about in all my business operations.

YouVersion Bible App Could Reach 100 Million Downloads

The ever popular YouVersion Bible app on smartphone devices could reach 100 million downloads in just under a month, or at least that’s the team’s hope for the July 10 date.

YouVersion, the free Bible app, was launched in 2008 just as Apple was launching their App Store. The app has become the most popular Bible reading and sharing app on the market, receiving a 5-star rating on Google’s Play Store and a 4.5 on the Apple App store.

The current download tally hangs around 95 million, but the YouVersion staff is encouraging a giant spread of the Bible by it’s 5th anniversary, July 10, in hopes of reaching 100 million plus.

Edmond, Okla. is the home of the innovation and development staff, including members of the nationally known church—LifeChurch.tv.

Bobby Gruenewald, innovation leader for LifeChurch.tv, told The Christian Post, “although 100 million sounds like a big number, we know it’s nowhere close to what’s possible. In fact, we like to say it starts with 100 million. Our faith has expanded to believe that Bible engagement could be transformed not only for this generation, but generations to come.”

Currently, their Bible app is available in 500 different translations and 300 languages.

LifeChurch.tv, a large multi-site church, is well known for it’s innovative and technological impacts on evangelism and church ministry.

“We’ve learned God uses milestones like this to fuel even greater growth,” said an excerpt on the campaign website.