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Book Review: The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau is a compilation of insights from studying and interviewing people who have built successful microbusinesses. Chris is an author and a traveler who has visited every country in the world. He identified 1,500 people who have built businesses with modest investments, on average less than $600, that have made at least $50,000 per year to identify the common factors of their business success. These business cases show that people with no special skills can build up successful businesses when they merge their passion with a skill that other people value.

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Basics of starting a business

Convergence is the overlapping space between what you care about and what other people are willing to spend money on

Having a viable business idea is about finding that convergence. Chris broke down the basics of starting a business into these 3 points:

  1. You need a product or service
  2. People who are willing to pay for it
  3. A way to get paid

When I think about the basics of starting a business, I think about needing to write a business plan, registering a business, having to understand the rules and regulations of the industry, hiring necessary help, and managing the financials just to name a few. These 3 points that Chris boiled down to forces you to think about the minimum that you need to start your business.

Don’t create invisible barriers for yourself and don’t get bogged down in writing the perfect business plan. Focus on what is required to get your first sale and start doing.

Here is Chris’ one-page business plan that shows what you need to plan out to start your business.

Focus on your customers

Offer is a combination of product or service plus the messaging that makes a case to potential buyers

Having a product or service that people are willing to pay for is simply the first step. You’ll also need to have an offer that will garner the attention of your potential customers. Survey and understand what your customers need and your marketing should emphasize the benefits customers receive rather than the features your product or service have.

Think clearly about the people you plan to serve not only in terms of demographics like age, location, gender, race, income but on interests, passions, skills, beliefs, and values as well. You must learn to think about values the way your customers do and not necessarily the way you would like them to.

Ideas and Opportunities

The hard way to start a business is to fumble along, uncertain whether your big idea will resonate with customers. The easy way is to find out what people want and then find a way to give it to them

Focus on what people want. A product or service that removes pain points is often more powerful than one that fulfills a desire.

An industry with lots of lovers and haters present a good business opportunity. Another sign of good business opportunity is when lots of people are interested in something but have a hard time implementing it in their daily lives.

Get feedback on any ideas you have from your potential target market early on and make sure there is enough demand for your product or service before you invest all your time into it.

Marketing

Hustling is how to get the word out about a project

Developing a product or service is the easy part. The hard part is informing your target market your business value. Leverage any resource you have and ask everyone you know to help spread the word.

Give strategically. You can target influential people who are in need of your product or service and offer it to them for free. It may or may not generate good word of mouth for you but you’ll have helped improve someone’s life. Always think about what your customers need. An additional service like free delivery or an extra coupon can make your customers feel valued and make your business stand out among your competitors.

Having a good product or service is just half the battle, so make sure you are always connecting and looking for ways to attract more customers.

Summary

This book contains numerous small business cases which you can draw ideas from. It shows you how different people are able to transform part of their skills to bring value to their customers.

The emphasis of this book is on starting microbusinesses, so if you are planning to start a resource intensive/high investment business this book might not be for you. However, if you have a passion you will like to monetize, I’ll definitely recommend this book to you.

Book Review: Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk

This is the first of many book reviews that I’ll do. For each of the 20 books I aim to read this year, I plan to write a corresponding book review to document my learnings as well as how it relates to me.

The first book I decided to read is Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk. For those who don’t know, Gary is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO of VaynerMedia. He is well known for his work in social media and digital marketing.

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Love your family. Work super hard. Live your passion.

Gary started out by stating the 3 rules he lives by: “Love your family. Work super hard. Live your passion.”. Although the majority of the book highlights hustling and living your passion, Gary stresses love your family as the top priority. This is something I resonate with strongly as happiness starts with loving and appreciating those dear to you.
What’s your passion? If you are currently living your passion, you would do whatever it is you are doing for free. I graduated with a commerce degree so passion is a word I heard tossed around often. However, I didn’t grasp what it means and even to this day can’t say for sure what my passion is. Back in my university days, we had to choose a specialization from finance, accounting, and management. I went with marketing, a concentration of management because I see it as a field that is less rigid and more creative in terms of problem-solving. With marketing being my clear choice among all the available specializations, I thought and somehow along the way convinced myself that marketing is my passion.
I started taking marketing courses and doing marketing internships. It was great to get experience in the field, but I never looked for ways to get better at marketing in my spare time. It was when I started working on my mobile app that I clearly realized marketing is not my passion. I spent a majority of my time working on my app and would skip hangouts with friends just so I can find more time to improve my programming skills and the app itself.
I’m still figuring out what my passion is, but I know I love to problem solve, learn, and build up and lead teams. In my view, having an industry-centric passion like technology or marketing, for example, is not critical, it’s having interests that you enjoy and want to dedicate the time and effort to get better at. And that I do have.

Develop your personal brand

Gary talks about how developing your personal brand is key to monetizing your passion online. You have to deliver great content, which should revolve around what you are most passionate about. One thing that Gary mentions that most people don’t realize is that your business and your personal brand need to be one and the same. Your messaging across different medium needs to be consistent and authentic.
Even though Gary does not consider himself good at writing, he will not delegate writing blog contents to someone else. This is to allow his messages to be unfiltered and authentic. So if you are not good at writing, find the medium that works for you. Another alternative that Gary mentions is to partner up with someone who complements you. So for this book, he teamed up with someone who knows how to write, but he dictates everything.
As Gary discusses, it’s crucial to develop your personal brand even if you aren’t planning to monetize it. Developing your personal brand is the same thing as living and breathing your resume. And through your content, you’re making sure that people can get to know you personally and professionally. This is my biggest takeaway and the reason I started blogging.

Creating community

Creating community is where the bulk of your hustle is going to go and where the bulk of your success will be determined. It’s about starting and joining conversations about your topic. You need to be deeply entrenched in communities surrounding your topic and better yet be a leading voice in those communities. Remember to always provide a way for people who are interested to get connected with you, which can be a way to contact you or a link back to your blog. Creating community should also be a never-ending task so make sure it’s on a topic you are passionate about.

Summary

I summarized the learnings that are most relevant to me so you might have different takeaways from reading it. It’s concise and provides clear examples and steps on how to monetize your passion that I didn’t detail here. I’ll definitely recommend this book to anyone especially if you have a passion you want to pursue. As Gary sums it up, “Know yourself. Choose the right medium, choose the right topic, create awesome content, and you can make a lot of money being happy.“.