Stubborn & Stilted? Staying Competitive in Your Biz

As a new mom, I have been breastfeeding from day one—believing wholeheartedly in the long term benefits to my baby. However, as my daughter has grown, it has become increasingly apparent that my very active love bug cannot be a long term nurser. She has mastered standing up now, so she stands from the time she wakes up in the morning until we put her down at night and nursing is no deterrent from her all day stand-a-thon. She is now also cutting teeth and the vigor and enthusiasm with which she nurses has not boded well for my poor breasts. They have been screaming “mercy”—tapping out like old school thumb wrestling style—for at least two months now. All things considered my boyfriend and I came to the decision that it was time to wean her.

I can openly admit that I was making a halfhearted attempt at it because I was convinced it would be an impossible task. Love bug seemed to have such an affinity for the comfort and sustenance of nursing. One night recently, after an entire day without nursing [can you say #winning], my daughter awoke from her sleep as she usually does and her dear old dad who had been on evening duty handed her off to me. As I had done so many times before, I just stuck a breast in her mouth and waited for her to fall asleep [at 3am who is thinking about any stinking weaning plan? not me]. An hour later, with her still suckling and growing more and more restless, I realized that my quick fix was anything but. It took me all of five minutes to get up and fix her a formula bottle which once consumed in a matter of seconds compared to our hour-long-nursing-marathon got her right back to dreamland. This is not a statement on the breastfeeding v. bottle feeding knock down drag out debate/war… I have no dog in that fight. ​In my mind, a fed baby is a happy baby and happy healthy baby is the aim. However, you get ’em fed is between you, your God, and your baby. So don’t sick ​any crazy mommy bloggers on me. The point I am attempting to make is that I was too lazy and/or stubborn to adapt to change and therefore, cheating love bug and I out of several hours of sleep not only that night but the many that preceded it.

If I’m honest with myself and with you, it was clear that my method wasn’t working, but I continued to use it, mostly out of habit. Lil love bug was not fueled by some inexplicable crack-like addiction to nursing [I mean she does love her some breast milk but to say she was jonesing might be a stretch]. She is nine months old, her life and needs are very very simple. In this case, she needed to be fed a filling meal and given the space to fall back asleep. In many instances, when confronted with evidence that my plan was ineffective at best, I had refused to acknowledge the fundamental flaws of my here-suck-on-a-boob method. Coming to that realization made me wonder how much of that stubbornness spilled into my work life. Worse yet, how much money had I possibly left on the table as I remained unconsciously stubborn and stilted?

In order to not only be a successful entrepreneur and creative, but a continually innovative and active one, you-me-we must be constantly willing to reassess and adapt our process[es]to fit the market needs. How easily do we become lazy? or plain ol’ stuck in our ways? How can we recognise the signs? And what are key elements to getting ourselves “unstuck”?

Recognising the Signs that You’re in a Sticky Situation

What, if any, opportunities have you left on the table? And how so? Here’s a quick activity that will help you gauge where you are and what you can do about it.

There is more than one way to get yourself into a sticky situation. Keeping this in mind and considering the questions below, fold a piece of paper in half so that you have two columns. On the left side list any and all missed opportunities you have had in the last six months. On the right, next to each item write one thing you can accomplish today that will turned that missed opportunity into a viable one.

Are you using success in one aspect of your business to avoid trying in others?

For example, I am an artist but my main focus lately has been building the training business that I own with my sister. I was recently invited to submit work for a potential gallery show but I have allowed myself to use the excuse of working on my other venture to avoid making time to draw.

Have you brushed up on or acquired any new skills to propel you and/or your business forward lately?

We can get so wrapped up in the day-to-day work of our ventures that we forget that the landscape around is changing. There maybe new tools out there that could make your job easier. Are you reading industry and business related literature? Better yet are you availing yourself of free resources that can help you improve your skills? Check out this list from :

Have you reevaluated your tools, work style or methodology lately?

  • How well do your processes work?
  • What are the top 2 things that are working in your business/es? Why?
  • What are the top 2 things that aren’t working? How do they differ from the processes that are? And why?

Key Elements to Getting “Unstuck”

Here are a few other strategies** that I am using to become unstuck and to inject life into my ventures:

  1. Let Go of Preciousness. One of the biggest creative stumbling blocks is our need to get things right. Believe me, I’m a perfectionist myself, so I know how hard it is to let that go. The reality is that treating your creations as precious little things to protect keeps you from the world of possibilities the comes from trying new things out, making mistakes, and getting things wrong.
  2. Freedom Comes From Limitations. If someone were to give me an infinite amount of time and an unlimited budget to create something, I would be frozen. It’s only from narrowing down the options that creativity becomes possible, as you are forced to push against the walls that close you in.
  3. Get Out of Your Environment. No matter how inspiring your workspace, there’s only so much creative work that can be done within it. Of course, if you’re in a place that’s not so inspiring to begin with, the need to be elsewhere is even more urgent. Since most people spend the majority of their time inside, they’re missing out on the much wider world right outside their door.
  4. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone. At some point in your life, you’ve probably been told not to make a fool of yourself, but the fact is that it’s one of the most effective ways to get creative inspiration! Fear of rejection and fear of embarrassment: these are the recurring enemies of creativity.
  5. Get Things by Giving Them Away. It may sound counterintuitive, but you get a lot from giving things away. If I had kept my own project under wraps, rather than sharing it as I went along, I probably would have had a fraction of the positive experiences. The more I gave away, the more people gave back to me.
  6. Collaborate. There’s no substitute for the benefits you receive when working creatively with other people. Some of the best things that came out of my own project were the friendships that blossomed from incorporating other people into my work. You get results that are exponentially greater when you don’t work alone.

Looking for other real-life strategies for bettering your creative business?

Check out my book  “An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out: Storing Some Fat to Survive the Famine Before Your Feast” (published in 2013; new edition available in early 2016).

**These strategies have been adapted/borrowed from Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get (and Keep) Your Creativity Flowing, at Home, at Work & in Your Studio by Noah Scalin


Hide Ya Kids, Hide Ya Wife: Hobbyist on the Loose!

In last week’s post, I touched on the idea of a business article induced euphoria of laziness. This week I touch on the exact opposite, this is when one wounds oneself so tightly into the “reality” of business as served to you in a 4-5 paragraph amuse-bouche of “You suck and let me tell you why,” the fast and loose conventional wisdom of business traditionalists.
I read these words, “Any business that isn’t turning a profit after 3 years is a hobby”.
My response:
The AWKWARD moment when you realize that your “business” is far less than a business in the true sense of the word and more like a Hobby which you have quit your “job” or the-misery-of-working-for-others-with-a-guaranteed-paycheck  to pursue full time. And you, you have traded one misery for another. You my dear have plummeted yourself into the debasing hell of self-employment-failure-to-launch syndrome. What is that? that is the space where your “brilliant” ideas are sucked into your vortex of inexperience, incapability, and general overarching failure never to return.
Pick your head up off of that desk! Stop banging it [your head] on the wall!  Back away from the flight of steps you’d planned to throw yourself down…SO what? Your business and your journey haven’t followed conventional wisdom.
Do you love it?
Are you subsidizing it by doing odd jobs and looking the mirror thinking “when will I be able to really make a living? Did I make a huge mistake?” But every time you sell a new product or someone inquires about your biz, you light up from ear to ear and it renews your faith?

Being called or considered a hobby[ist] isn’t the worst thing you can do or be. Let them call you whatever they’d like. Call yourself a student of entrepreneurship, maybe enroll in a marketing class online to help yourself learn how to get to the next level. Sit down with your financials, your bizImage plan and/or biz history and outline the shortcomings, weaknesses, etc. Make a plan to fill the gaps and give yourself the time YOU need to get it right.

Check out our FREE DOWNLOADS for some help with getting organized.

1618555_10202292391703163_1112116865_nMelissa A. Matthews is author of the e-book, An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out and co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

Never Hope More Than You Work…

This week,  I read so many really inspiring stories about successful entrepreneurs including  that of a 13 year old wiz kid. These stories were great but one thing struck me, even as a somewhat seasoned business owner these stories can lull you into a false sense of reality; there is an element of luck and “the stars being aligned”.
As a new or aspiring entrepreneur who might be struggling to garner support for one’s business, I can only imagine  that it can seem like everyone but you is winning the  successful business lottery. And for some reason your lucky number just hasn’t come up! I mean if a 13 year old has cracked the code, just what are you doing wrong, right?
As hard as it maybe to admit, you might just be hoping more than you are working. Hope a45152_670958499622838_1876837059_n(1)nd faith can be your best friends when building a business because they allow you to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. However, reading too many entrepreneurial blogs, and business mags can make them your worst enemy. These things can put you in a state of wonder — a euphoria of sorts–about all that is possible and how you just have to wait your turn. What you can sometimes miss in this bubble of successful bliss, is that these people work everyday on their businesses.
Reading and waiting is not enough. Use that inspiration as motivation to spur your venture forward. Learn new techniques to build your business and try them.
What steps have you taken to put your hope into action this week?

One way to move forward is to register for MAM Squared LLC’s Support is A Verb Webinar. Learn how to decipher and cultivate appropriate supportive relationships for your business, get one free consultation with MAM Squared LLC’s experts, and two handbooks to kick start your new support strategy.

Melissa A. Matthews is author of the e-book, An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out and co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

Required Reading: Umm What? Why?!

By: Michele A. Matthews, Co-Owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

I have been a business owner/entrepreneur/starter for two years, five months, 29 days and six hours. I’ve been through A LOT in that relatively short period of time–some really high highs and some devastatingly low lows (all of which you will probably read about on this very blog in the not-so-distant future). I entered the world of solopreneurship and now, partnership, with a considerable amount of experience in my field of expertise–strategic communications. So, I thought I knew a lot about what my business entailed and how to handle said entailments. Thought is far and away the key part of that sentiment because though I knew quite a bit about strategic communications, especially where nonprofits are concerned, I knew very little about how to build and manage a business. Being an excellent (if I say so myself) communicator and networker and relationship-builder was a great start, but guess what? That’s right, it was just that–a mere start!

So, what did I do about it?  Well, I started reading; much like you’ve done because you’re obviously reading this right now.

I love to read–I love to read books, blogs, journal articles, especially pieces that can influence my thought process or give me another perspective on something I’ve been trying to master in my business. Over the past two years, I’ve read hundreds of blog posts and articles and quite a few books about everything from registering your business to online content creation management. The latter of which I’ve known a lot about for quite sometime, but I know enough to know that I don’t know everything and that there’s someone somewhere out there who knows more than me. Even if all you have at this point in your entrepreneurial journey is the idea for your new business, the best way to develop, grow and shape your business is by reading all you can about every aspect of business. And, I want to be clear: that doesn’t mean that you take everything that you read as the gospel and apply it all to your business. That would be a very, very, very bad idea.

However, I do think that Dr. Seuss had it right when he said ““The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” So, I recommend you read everything you can and use your discernment to process what you’ve read or what you read on a daily basis. The things that resonate with you–the sentiments, tips, tricks, thought processes that you feel in your heart and soul–keep, act-on, bookmark for later! And the ones that don’t, you can handle in a few ways. For the things (advice, tips, tricks, general sentiments) that I read and violently disagree with–I mean loathe with every cell of my being–I use as fodder for content. Don’t look at me like that! I, simply, respond to it and state why I disagree so passionately and I do that on my blog to spark conversation or dialogue to get the opinions of other folks–other entrepreneurs. And, another way that i deal with pieces i’ve read that don’t particularly resonate with me, but that don’t necessarily evoke any real passion either positively or negatively, is to ignore them. You can adapt my methodology (or not), but you should definitely start (if you’re not already) making reading about improving your business, business processes and even your own personal development a major priority in your quest to develop, grow and sustain your business.

I say all of that to say, that we’re launching this column to share some of the resources that we consider required reading (because well, they’ve helped us…duh!) on our path to take over the world and that we think you’ll find helpful. We’re going to share and analyze everything from specific one-off blog posts and articles that we’ve found helpful over the years, to whole blogs (or the bloggers behind them) and books. Reading is fundamental to your and your business’ success, we want to see you succeed so check out our “Required Reading” every time we post, we can almost guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

Michele A. Matthews is the founder of Agitate Media and Co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

The competitor …

The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time. – Henry Ford

One of the most valuable lessons we can learn in business and life is that your competition lies within. You have no idea what motivates the next man, thus his success(es) or failure(s) should not motivate you. Play your own song. Make your own product. At your own pace. Only you can do business the way you do!

Reality Check, Please! Someday is Never Going to Come

By: Michele A. Matthews, Co-Owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.” –Timothy Ferriss, “The 4-Hour Workweek”

This quote, this sentiment just really spoke to me because I couldn’t agree with Tim Ferriss more!

Every single day as God made Moses someone I know (a relative, friend, former colleague—or a combination of those two—an old boss, a friend of a friend…you get the gist) says “Someday after [insert some major life event or lofty, unrealistic happenstance like ‘when I win the lotto’ here], I’m going to step out on faith like you and start my own business!” I normally smile, nod and say “that’s great!” That is, after all, the polite thing to do, right? I hope so because it isn’t at all what I really want to say to that person at that moment, but I’ve been working on my tact largely because I learned the hard way—unlike what my mother told me when I was growing up—being frank often is being insulting. So, in the name of all that is tactful, I don’t dare say what I really want to, which is “oh get off it, someday is never and I mean NEVER gonna come!”

Harsh, I know, but it’s TRUE; there will always be a reason why you cannot start your own business, but if you’re serious about doing it, you’ll take a stand—set a deadline and stick to it. Or, seize the opportunity when it presents itself even in the slightest possible way. That, my dear fellow business owners/entrepreneurs/starters (or ‘wantrapreneurs’), is how I ended up founding Agitate Media with no financial backing, only a few promising (and, as I learned later that year, not-so-promising) prospects and all the enthusiasm I could muster in June 2011. You read that correctly; at most, I had $500 in the bank, a six-month-old HP laptop and just sheer determination.

I would bet money that I know what you’re thinking right now and that is “well, she probably didn’t have any bills or responsibilities to think about…that’s why she could throw caution to the wind…that’s got to be it!” And, while I totally understand and even respect your need to placate yourself because you’ve lobbed excuse after excuse at anyone who dare challenge you to stop talking about it and be about it, that is not the case. In fact, it’s the furthest possible thing from the truth. At the time that I launched my company full-time, I was about five months out from a budget-cut induced layoff from a pretty rad national healthcare association (that clearly did not have any love for middle management as they let us ALL go in one day…cold-blooded I know, but a story for another day) and just two days removed from the implosion of the small, public-engagement firm that was my well-loved, work-from-home rebound job. So, my money was funny and I had a $1,420-per-month rent, $158-per-month cable and internet bill, unpredictable gas and light bills not to mention one unemployed and two underemployed house guests. It was just a now-or-never moment; I felt the necessary urgency and push/pull to start my business right then, five years prior to when I initially intended to do it.

I want to be clear that I am, by no means, saying that the time was right—whatever that means or whenever that is. I am saying that after working with what, for all intents and purposes, was a failed startup; attempting what undoubtedly would have been a failed partnership and escaping relatively unscathed, the premise of going back into the traditional workforce was NOT an option for me. I am also not saying that it was a cakewalk; it was and is not by any stretch of the imagination, easy.  I have a file filled with unsuccessful proposals and a former client roster that is as long as some people’s grocery list; some of those relationships are in great shape with them (my former or occasional clients) revisiting my services and expertise from time to time. While, others did not end so well due to errors in judgment on both ends, fatal flaws, unsavoury business practices, etc. (all things I’ll discuss in tawdry detail on this blog I’m sure). We can suffice it to say that though it’s been a rollercoaster ride—a wild one at that—the rewards have outweighed and continue to outweigh the pitfalls. Becoming a small business owner has really built my character and resolve and contributed to both my personal and professional growth.

And, I’m not alone in that. My sister and business partner, Melissa, is a testament to that.  You can read all about her journey and lessons learnt in our Back to [Business] Basics posts on this blog and on her blog (the online voice of our subsidiary, mAmLtDaRt), mAmLtDaRt Musings. While writing this, I was also reminded of a relatively young entrepreneur’s journey that has been riddled with ups and downs, but through it all, she has stayed true to her dream of being a business owner and weathered the many storms she has encountered over the years. Her name is Ria Ramkissoon and I heard her story for the first-time at the first-ever TEDxPortofSpain, just six months after starting my business and just six weeks after relocating to Trinidad as a way to outsource myself and maximize my income. Here is her story (a must watch if you doubt your ability to push through and reach for your dreams):

I guess my point is that if you keep putting your starter/entrepreneurial goals off until tomorrow, or “someday,” you will take them to the grave and your legacy is worth so much more than a list of should’ve, would’ve, could’ves!

Michele A. Matthews is the founder  and managing director of  Agitate Media and Co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

Back to [Business] Basics: Stretching…Getting Over Yourself to Promote Your Brand

This week, we delved into the archives of mAmLtDaRt Musings and found a refreshing and reassuring post for first-time or “starter” business owners. This post which was published some time ago (we cannot remember when) is about stepping outside of your comfort zone to develop and grow your business. If you’ve ever shied away from an opportunity or multiple opportunities to advance whether entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial, this message is definitely for you.

Stretching: Getting Over Yourself to Promote Your Brand

By: Melissa A. Matthews, Co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

Finally taking a little time to compile the mAmLtDaRt/ MAM press clippings over the past couple years. I have always been a bit apprehensive about pumping press coverage of both myself and the brand. Often thinking it’d be a bit self-absorbed. I recently read an article that said this type of apprehension breeds  “false humility”.

I’m still uneasy about it but what I’ve learned in art and business is that you have to be a bit uncomfortable — it stretches you. If you aren’t uncomfortable,  you aren’t growing or evolving in either realm. So that said, I am going to stop stalling and start organizing these links.

What have you been afraid or apprehensive to do that will help you stretch yourself or your brand? Leave a comment or tweet me @mamltdartbrand on twitter.  Let’s stretch together, I have it on good authority that working out is easier with a partner…

 Photo Credit: (

Melissa A. Matthews is author of the e-book, An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out and co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

Back to [Business] Basics: Do-Over! Righting and Rewriting Your Business & Branding Blunders

Making mistakes or bad choices are par for the course in this thing we call business ownership, but a single bad choice or mistake does not have to equal devastation. It’s all about your recovery. In a post she wrote for mAmLtDaRt Musings months ago, Melissa encourages us all to use our blunders as a learning opportunity and to make an effort to do damage control wherever possible.

Do-Over! Righting and Rewriting Your Business & Branding Blunders

By: Melissa A. Matthews, Co-Owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

Last week, my very business and branding savvy sister sent me a link to a popular blogger’s page. Said blogger was reaching out to her followers via blog post to figure out how she might be of assistance to them in their various ventures. My sister was like “this is a great opportunity for you. Tell her about your book. If she reads it and reviews it— she has thousands and thousands of followers.” And she was right, I knew that but I was also mired in a virus that had latched on to me like one of those movie-alien-creatures or a parasite to host and was sucking all of the life out of me.  

I don’t know about you but when I’m sick, I could careless about branding. mAmLtDaRt, although my baby just can’t compete with a raging fever, cold sweats, coughing  and overall I’m dying-I know-I am-I’ve seen the light-itis. Therefore, I scribbled a one line note to the blogger. Something along the lines of “I wrote a book, it’d be really appreciated if you reviewed it…boom!” No backstory, no real info. just a link to the e-book online.

I know, I know, very Good Fellas/ Soprano-esque of me but hey, I’m only human and I was sick. This morning got to thinking about it…like “wait, did I really do that?” And then reality hit…”yes, yes, I did do that!”

I didn’t panic. I pulled out my do-over button and pushed it. Chances are even if she saw that first email, she read it like “what?” and quickly disposed of it. So I penned a new, more polite and comprehensive email asking for assistance and a few hours later, I had a response. She requested the free copy of the book I offered in order to do the review!

Now, righting every misstep isn’t as easy as sending an email or rewriting a letter.  However, admitting you were wrong or made a mistake and asking for a do-over is perfectly acceptable as a business person. This isn’t playground tag or primary school lunch trade, backsies are allowed. Take back control of the situation and move forward in a positive direction. Don’t know how? Here’s a solid start:

  • Forgive yourself.

  • Address the mistake head on.

  • Make an apology if necessary.

  • Research or simply ask what the appropriate way to move forward is.

  • Don’t make the same mistake twice, especially not with the same person.

Melissa A. Matthews is author of the e-book, An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out and co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

The World Needs More Entrepreneurs, Not Necessarily More College Graduates

By: Michele A. Matthews, Co-Owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

I know that the title of this piece may seem a little disingenuous especially for those of you who know me personally and know first-hand that I, myself, am indeed a university graduate. However, I’m really not sure that I am better off for having spent ridiculous amounts of money on a college education when there are more than a few very successful entrepreneurs who never stepped foot on a university campus as a student. That said, about 18 months ago, I read an article that seemed to tout college or university as the only path. And, it infuriated me! So, I wrote a blog post in response to said article on my company ( Agitate Media–now, one of a few since the advent of MAM Squared, LLC. just a few months ago) blog, The Movement. I ran across that post today and must say, that I am as passionate about this issue now as I was then. Hence, I thought I’d share my post on this topic with the hopes of sparking the conversation again and perhaps, getting a feel for how other entrepreneurs feel about it. So, here’s the post I published on The Movement in June 2012:

I am a 27-year-old, starter OR small business owner OR entrepreneur OR whatever the new, exciting or trendy buzzword is for people who feverishly work full-time to make their passion a reality.  I’m that and my business is growing in terms of name recognition tremendously.  Clients are falling in my lap at every turn, but cash is slow to flow.  I am also a college graduate with over $30,000 USD in school loan debt (oh, and, I had scholarships and grants) to my name that is weighing me down like an anchor to an ocean liner. I am indebted to the United States government and to blood thirsty private education lenders like Sallie Mae.  I often dream of being free of the shackles of debt my tertiary education has left me bound by. It is at those times that I think of the many successful business owners out there who never graduated from university. I think about how they had a head start on me in terms of time to learn and grow and perfect their business before life’s pressures of bills, true adulthood in the way of self-sustainability (rent, car payments, etc., etc.) all took over. I also think about the fact that they were debt-free before they became business owners which means that they didn’t have to add insult to injury by piling small business debt on top of school loan debt.  So, it really befuddles me when I read articles like, “A Gap in College Graduates Leaves Some Cities Behind.”

Studies and articles like this one assert that the future of the nation’s cities is predicated upon how many people go to college.  But, I’m starting to think that the state of both the U.S. and the world economies indicate otherwise. How many unemployed or underemployed college graduates have to enter the market for us to realize that perhaps, we need to take a different approach to preparing our young people for the world that awaits them?

I am, by no means, advocating the dumbing down of our young people, BUT I am protesting the overwhelming, continuing indebtedness of the next generation.  It’s been proven time and time again that one does not need a college education to own and run a successful business or by extension, achieve a measure of socially acceptable success.  And, I can anecdotally prove by citing all of my many classmates who are grossly underemployed after now being out of school for five years or more. Let’s see, there’s the girl with the print journalism degree who is gainfully employed at the neighborhood grocery store as a cashier. Oh, and there’s the super smart waiter who graduated Summa Cum Laude with not one, but two degrees—one in mathematics and the other in physics. Last, but certainly not least, what about the poor chap with a degree in education who is detailing cars at the local carwash? There has to be a better way.

And, I think organizations like the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and the National Federation of Independent Business’ Young Entrepreneur Foundation have the right idea. They have programs in place that don’t necessarily discourage higher education pursuits, but certainly instill or recognize and reward an entrepreneurial spirit in young people of high school or secondary school  age and younger.  I think we need more programs like these—programs that take this work a step further—and perhaps, they are already out there and I just haven’t heard about them so I’ll throw my idea out and you guys can tell me what you think may or may not work OR throw out your own ideas. I like the idea of starting incubator programs throughout the nation (and the world) geared toward secondary school graduates. These incubators would help them identify their passion or a viable business pursuit, provide them with mentors and micro-financing as well as guide them through starting a sustainable business and offer them some support through the first two years of their new business.

For those who lack entrepreneurial skills, let’s make apprenticeship and intrapreneurial programs available to them where they can learn practical skills that they can apply in the workplace as well as critical thinking and analysis skills that they don’t need thousands upon thousands of dollars in scholarship, personal or loan funding to access. I know that many people will disagree with me and I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I started Agitate Media to rally people to think outside of the box, to look for alternative solutions where others have tunnel vision and so this is my offering to start a new discourse on this issue.

Michele A. Matthews is the founder of Agitate Media and Co-owner of MAM Squared, LLC.

Sketched for Success: A Blueprint to Constructing A Strong Company

“You can’t wait until the weight is applied to design the construct. You design the construct to bear the weight” – TD Jakes
Have you built your business to withstand the growth that you hope to achieve?
Today, you are a solopreneur i.e. a one (wo)man show servicing a small area, but within the next five years you want to go global. What steps are you going to take to get from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow?
There are several factors you’ll have to consider as you structure your company so that you can transition from one phase to the next.
1. Structure:
Jargon and Fractions

I don’t know about you but legal jargon makes my head hurt and in third grade—when we started fractions—is when I realized, math is not my thing. However, these things are virtually unavoidable in business. There are just some things you have to know and do. This part isn’t the sexiest part of constructing a lasting business but no one complains when the checks start rolling in because they are in place.

Legalities: Is your business registered/licensed to do what you do?
Fiscal responsibility and planning: How are you financing your business? Is it sustainable?  Do you have a contingency plan?
PANIC NOT! If you have begun to read this section and are thinking ” Legalities? Fiscal Planning? I’m gonna fail! I’m gonna fail! I don’t have any of those things in place.”
STOP! It’s not too late. Get informed and begin your planning today. Your business is a living, breathing entity and it’s never too late to make a change. There are tons of online resources. Start with, maybe invest in a financial management system like Quickbooks, Outright, or have an informational session with financial consultant.

DON’T GO OUT & DO EVERYTHING TODAY! Take baby steps; you are building your business for the long haul so taking it one thing at time—making small incremental changes to your operations—as you grow is completely acceptable and in many ways preferable.

Team Work Makes the Dream Work
I don’t know about you, but I’m a twinmeaning I had to share everything when I was growing up.  So now, I tend to be a bit less apt to share. I don’t like sharing my ideas and getting all fuzzy in front of the fireplace listening to other people’s. However, as a business owner, I understand that my business can’t just be built around my own genius. First off because I think every idea I have is “AMAZEBALLS” and want to implement them all. Secondly, I don’t know everything and have realized that other people’s contributions might add a great deal to the mix. Last, but not least, if I am the center of my company’s universethe nerve center, brain, and  ultimate idea haven from which all greatness flowsif anything should happen to me, my company would die with me (not built to last)! So since i plan on having kids one day and want to leave something for them, me and my ego have acquiesced to the idea of team building. Won’t you join me?!
Building an operational system that is NOT completely dependent upon or centered around  you and your skills is paramount to your success.  An atmosphere of like-minded, but divergent talents that you can consult, train and eventually hire is the best possible solution to help your business grow from a small force to a force to be reckoned with.
Employ talented interns that can grow with your company. You can train them to meet your specific needs and as soon as you can afford to pay them, put them in a position to take some of the responsibility off of your plate.
Hire consultants on a project-to-project basis until you can hire someone to fill those absolutely essential positions in your company. These  jobs will become apparent as you grow because you will see which tasks demand the most attention and just how beneficial they are to your operation.
P.S. Don’t feel obligated to build a HUGE team. What you need is an effective team and that can only be defined by you and your company’s needs. Exactly how many people do you need for optimal efficiency and outstanding production?
Okay, so now you’ve got your business all registered, your taxes straight and your accountant or management system in play. You’ve got a hot-to-trot dream team making all your ideas come to fruition and your product is dare I say, “AMAZEBALLS!” Now what? Whose buying it? That’s what! 
Cultivating Relationships:
Build a NETWORK of stakeholders through messaging, marketing,  media (both traditional and social), and public relations.
Network is a buzzword in this social media driven society, but what does it actually mean? It is both a noun and a verb.
Who are your network? Friends, family, potential customers, partners, community members, and the press; these are what you call potential stakeholders.
How do you network? Position yourself to meet people who are running similar businesses ( you can find people through online forums as well as your local chamber of commerce), you also want to identify your target audience and begin building relationships with potential consumers you can do this by hosting meet-ups, product demonstrations, etc. and attending them as well.
Now that you have a network, you have to speak to them.  Everyone wants to feel special and it’s your job to make them feel that way.
Every different type of stakeholder in your network will require their own message. The nuances of how to craft messages in your marketing and promotion to each sector can be difficult, but is absolutely necessary for your success.
MegaphoneMarketing & Promotion Strategy: 
You’ve identified your players and how you want to sweet talk them. Now you need to figure out when to talk them and how to tie it into a thought-out and consistent calendar of business promotion.
Strategy is the key word here. You can’t decide on Dec 24th that you want to do a Christmas promotion.
Make a promotion calendar. Give yourself at least two to three months lead time for planning and executing a promotion (especially a holiday promotion). At the beginning of the year, try to identify possible promotional opportunities for the first six months of the year. Well, really, from March through let’s say June or July (because January and February should have been planned before the end of the last year).
Your promotions don’t have to be huge price slashing ordeals, either. You can offer smaller discounts for a longer time period or institute a rewards program for clients or customers. Play with different types of promotions until you find what works for your business. Refrain from annoying the hell out of your consumer with obnoxious or unnecessary emails. if you email about one specific promotion twice, leave it at that. NOBODY likes a pest.
This is a topic, I can go on and on about but then this post would be a novel and it’s already at short story level. So if you aren’t quite sure how to identify your stakeholders, network and how to build sustainable relationships with them, stay tuned. MAM Squared LLC will be opening registration for our new Webinar series “Brown Bag & Biz Tips,” in just a few weeks. Among the topics it will tackle are “Support is A Verb” aimed at identifying your network and stakeholders and what to expect from them; ” Wooing & Winning: Telling your Story to Grow Your Business” all about crafting your message; and an ” An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out: using your talent to make a profit”. 
For now, happy sketching!!!
IMG_9853Melissa A. Matthews is author of the e-book, An Artpreneur’s Guide to Pigging Out and co-owner of MAM Squared LLC.