tv Your Business MSNBC October 10, 2015 2:30am-3:01am PDT
hi everyone. i'm j.j. ramberg and welcome to "your business" dedicated to helping your small business grow. hard times can be an interesting breed ground for innovation entrepreneurs. that's what we're seeing in california where they're in the middle of one of the worst droughts in the state's history. we met a group of small business owners who have taken on the challenge of helping californians reduce how much water they're using at home and growing their companies exponentially along the way. >> we're in an historic drought and that demands unprecedented action. very likely the single worst drought of the last 150 years. >> if people don't step up and
do their part california is in a lot of trouble. >> with crops failing, wildfires raging and res varies nearly emd ity, the governor has made it a top priority. >> i'm issuing an executive order. >> last january governor jerry brownish used an executive order plan dating a 25% reduction in water use and citizens across the state are responding. >> i listen to the news and i know the drought in california is a serious problem. >> for entrepreneurs like roy amir greg lanier and bill schaffer, they saw new business opportunity. >> we saw an opportunity to convert people's lawn to a drought tolerant landscape and at the same time make a little money. >> the business models vary. they're all taking advantage of a change in the market. >> there's been an interesting group of entrepreneurs that have
sprung up. >> jeffrey kitelinger created an incentive to cut back on watering lawns and by doing so unleash add flood of new businesses across the state. >> if you can replace that lawn you can replace a lot of water. what we're trying to do is get people to think differently about how their outdoors should look. >> his agency offered homeowners a cash rebate to replace their lawns with drought tolerant landscape. roy amir the owner of green pros recognized he could capitalize on the money the government was giving away to get customers without charging them a single penny. >> the homeowner doesn't have to pay anything or worry about handling any money from the ree bates. >> we'll dig up your lawn and replace it with a combination of decorative gravel and plants that don't need much water, and he does everything for free in exchange for the homeowner signing over their rights to the
rebate. >> we put up all the money and take 100% of the risk. what i mean by risk if the job wasn't done based on the guidelines, we don't get paid. >> he also sells artificial turf for customers not ready to give up the green lawn look. >> it's low maintenance and low bills. the water bills are extremely low. i'm the envy of the block. >> our business has increased by about 40% in the last year and a half here. >> greg ruche bin, owner of california's own landscape design sees the lawn rebate program differently. he doesn't have time to do the rebate paperwork. unlike roy's clients who get the work done for free greg's clients pay him for his work and collect the rebates on their own. >> right now about 60% of my clients are involved in the rebate program. >> i love this little trellis
you put up. >> greg has been addvocateing for water conserving plants. he says his landscapes not only support water but support a habitat for all sorts of life. >> the habitat i'm talking about, a complete plant community that supports an array of wildlife. these birds and butterflies, it's a mag snet. >> bill schaeffer is taking advantage of this opportunity in a different way. he's grown his business by offering a less drastic, lower cost approach to conserving water that doesn't sacrifice the look of a green lawn. >> golf course haves been doing this for yoorgs. we're not applying any paint or chemical. it's all natural. it's a color rant.
>> while his business doesn't qualify for the rebate it saves water and maintains the look of your lawn. >> 28 million gallons of water we've potentially saved by coloring the lawn and cutting back your water schedule. >> as california's concern for protecting water resources grow so does the ingenuity of the state's entrepreneur. >> you have been using water poorly all your life. >> michael cyrus operates a hand wash custom automobile detailing service. these days he goes out of his way to demonstrate his concern for conservation. >> i'm going to use two cups of water and detail the entire car, shampoo the interior with two cups of water. to use my method you don't have any water problem at all. most people just were stunned. how did you do that?
i said you just watched me. what about watching me you didn't get? >> that's california entrepreneur haves been really smart about getting new customers. now we turn to a different issue which is once you have the customers, how do you ensure you have the inventory to keep them happy? we talked to a seed bond company in cincinnati to see how they keep the product in stock. >> the seed bomb industry went from a kitchen table enterprise to a much bigger operation. it exploded. >> maya and michael, the owners of visual lingual in cincinnati ohio didn't invent seed bombs, but packaged them and turned the concept into a thriving business. >> a seed bomb is a mixture of seeds, organic fertilizer and a powdered clay. you can throw the seed bombs in the ground. they'll break up on impact. >> what started as requests from
smaller retailers in 2009 turned into sales like restoration hardware and anthropology. >> it happened like that jumped into high gear. >> with so much growth the pair knew they needed to change the way they handled orders. the old way just wouldn't cut it anymore. >> we would buy the materials in five-pound increments and make that much and then we would be sending that out pretty much directly. >> as a result they came up with a plan for managing their inventory. >> it was a matter of figuring out how do we scale this up stay organized and doing the math. okay, we need 100 times the amount of materials from the last order. >> ever since then it's been a real choreographed act. the goal is to be able to accommodate any and all orders that can come in at any time.
>> i think it's the small business model, the kind of just in time where they respond to orders if they come and we make a little extra, so it's there and we go through the strikal again. >> the amount of seed bombs ready to go is based on the popularity of the product. >> we're always trying to keep 150 to 300 units of our repeat selling products. >> knowing their customers and knowing when they may place the orders are part of the calculated risks they take. >> smaller retailers want their stuff quickly because they don't have to plan ahead and they don't have storage. they order as needed and they expect it when they need it. >> larger orders definitely require a bit more attention. >> we all need to stay on a schedule. we have a finite amount of space, a finite amount of strength and everything is done by hand. >> it's often those sales that produce the inventory that maya and michael need to respond to smaller orders simultaneously. >> we can lang on to who dues
seed bombs and screen the pouches and put the product together. that's part of the labor that doesn't have to happen until needed. >> having extra is crucial because ideally proo ducks takes a few days. finding multiple suppliers willing to work fast helps with the work flow. maya and michael like having options, foo. >> if we do need something overnight, we can respond as quickly as possible. >> the pair has found a unique balance between the number of supplies they need and the number of products they can make. of course the plan doesn't mean there isn't waste. >> while you never want it to happen, it does happen. >> managing inventory isn't a perfect science especially when your product is perishable. >> we want to never sit on inventory for too long. we don't produce invinnie inventory because it has a finite shelf life. >> michael say it is best advice they can offer other
entrepreneurs is to not overthink anything. he believes a little strategy and occasionally even some luck will allow you to manage your inventory the best you can. if someone does a lot of business with you, you absolutely want to make them feel special. here now are five ways small business owners can prioritize their high value clients courtesy of chiefexecutive.net. one, regularly check in. regularly reach out even if it's just a quick e-mail or voice mail. ask them how things are going or what can be done better. two, support their charitable efforts. people want to feel like the businesses they back will do the same in return. if you offer any philanthropic support, consider directing some of those donations to causes your customers care about. three, give them your time. host a recurring special event for your clients. they'll appreciate getting to know you better and it may help
you with service issues that could crop up in the future. four make sure you're likable on social media. be candid and approachable. pay attention to which networks your valued customers prefer and follow suit. five ask for help. solicit their opinions if you're developing a new product, different service modeled or considering a new policy. you'll get valuable information and also make your clients feel appreciated. you may know snap chat as the mobile app that lets you send videos antz pictures that self des instruct in a few seconds. to tell us more about what snap chat is and how you can utilize it to get more customers is patel, a tool that helps marketers. and vp marketing at when i work
providing employee stead yulg software for small businesses. so many people do more than one thing these days. you are one of them. let's dive right into snap chat. a lot of our audience think of it as the thing that kids use to send pictures to each other that disappear. >> it's kind of like your facebook fan page. you can post a series of images or video that get displayed on your stories. so anyone that's your friend that's following you can actually see the stories. >> number one, just like on facebook or twitter, you have to accumulate these people to follow you. >> just like anybody else you have to build the following. if you have an e-mail list you can pull them from your existing fan base on facebook twitter and instagram, just inviteding them over. >> let's look at some of the examples you have. one is you can use it to make an announcement of a new product. give an example of ccm.
>> ccm hockey sells hockey apparel and things of that nature. what they did, when they released new products, they have an athlete go on to the ice rink and do a professional photo shoot. while they're doing that they took a couple of snapshots on their phones and released it early. anyone following them on snap chat can see those pictures and get access to those things early on. >> i guess i'm still confused -- i could do that on facebook or twitter or instagram -- >> snap chat is another way to do it. >> right. so we're doing the same things maybe? >> you're doing something similar. you can use the same content, but keep in mind you're having more conversations. it needs to be a little more exclusive. maybe this is something you do a little earlier on. if you have a facebook audience. you can pull them from there to take action on snap chat.
>> let's go to the next one. expiring coupons and exclusive deals. i get this. that sort of plays into the idea of snap chat. >> 16 handle is a yogurt shop local in new york. what they did, at the beginning of the week snap us pictures of you trying out all these different flavors and combinations and we'll send you an exclusive coupon. the way this works so well is because they actually get a conversation started with these people. so anyone that snaps them now they have that conversation on record, and let's say a month from now they can send them another snap of the coupon and whatnot. >> the last one, compelling stories. again, something that we need to do just in all of our marketing. how do you tell stories. >> a good example is if you have customers that have common problems. if you're a plumber, let's say, the example i'll talk about is a
kitchen cabinet company, they always get asked how they do certain things. so what this company did, local company based in nebraska they talked about how two granite counter top pieces can mold together and snapped four images and posted techs overlay and talked about how to remove the zoom line. >> this is one of those things reach your customers where they are. >> exactly. there's a hundred million users of snap chat waiting to be talked to. >> thanks. this was very enlightening for me. appreciate you coming by. still to come tips on building your brand and the impact of testing products on your e-commerce site. love is in the air as today's elevator pitcher shows the panel his dating app where women recommend dateable men to other women.
selling 18 homes? easy. building them all in four and a half months? now that was a leap. i was calling in every favor i could, to track down enough lumber to get the job done. and i knew i could rely on american express to help me buy those building materials. there are always going to be unknowns. you just have to be ready for them. another step on the journey... will you be ready when growth presents itself? realize your buying power at open.com this week's your business selfie comes from keith humphrey, jet airwerks are a jet aviation repair company. you can send your selfie to our e-mail your email@example.com
or tweet it to us. use #yourbizselfie. for anyone who has tried online dating yourks know it can be a daunting experience. today's elevator pitcher wants to change out the process. let's see if our panel wants a second date. kevin roth is a entrepreneurial expert. alicia is found are and ceo of pan tegian capital. >> i'm kennebec kin jer, co-founder of yes, sir meet ken. the business is based on the true story how my wife jess and i met. my friend. we solved one of the biggest problems in online dating which is misrepresentation.
this is a relationship based product frchlt a business perspective, because all of our users bring other users to the table, we're raising $500,000 for 10% of the business. the money will be used to accelerate product development and expand into new markets. if we hit this out of the park we expect returns five to ten times. we're online social media, twitter. you can find us anywhere. >> congratulations. nice pitch. let's see what you think. two numbers, one through ten. the first one is what do you think of the product and the second, how you think the pitch went. i was thinking of a friend of mine -- i went on a date with this great guy. you guys should meet. >> could be someone that wasn't right for you or could be a relative that you would never date. >> never date. alicia let's start with you? >> for the product i gave you a
seven. dating is a tough space, okay cupid, match, tinder. it's a really tough one to play in. so i'd really have to know how you're binding some kind of proprietary advantage and how you compete on the marketing side given all their spend. but on the pitch, i thought it was pretty good. i gave you an eight because i thought you clearly and succinctly stated what you do gave a little of your background. you tacked about the funding you needed talked about the market size and also a little bit about the marketing that you've done so far. so i really feel like your presentation was strong and if i were talking to you further, we'd really have to dig into the competitive space. overall, i thought it was quite strong. >> great, thank you. >> carol? >> first of all, i love that the women have to do everything. you want to make love happen you make the women have to do it. i gave you a seven on the product, the same concern?
where the moat. if this is such a great idea why doesn't somebody else come along and do it. i would like a little explanation on what your technology moat is. on the pitch, five with a star. the star is based on a question. you've been successful in this space before haven't you? >> i have yes. >> you did not tell me that. if i was not such a business aficionado i would not have known that. as an investor you always want to bet on the jockey not the horse. that's the very first thing you have told us you have been incredibly successful and sold a business in this space before. if you would have done that your pitch would have gone to nine. so five with a star. >> i actually had that in my 3i67. i don't know why i didn't mention that. >> you want to tell our audience. >> we started another online dating company and it was acquired by a public company. that public company we worked there for about three years.
>> gives you so much more additional credibility. it's not about the idea. it's about the execution. so now that we know that you can execute, maybe we would change that perhaps a nine on the pitch. >> a great idea. >> perfect. >> thank you both so much. good luck with everything. we hope to see your app everywhere. >> thank you, appreciate it. bye-bye. >> if any of you out there have a product or service and want feedback from our panel on your chance of getting interested investors, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. tell us how much money you will raise and what you'll do with the money. we look forward to those pitches and seeing you on the show. now time to answer some of your business questions. we have al lish shah and carol with us. the first is about making a name for yourself. >> what are the top three tips
on building a brand and making people really remember your name and your brand's ethos. >> let's start with you, carol. >> i think a lot of people confuse a brand with a name. when i think about a brand, i think about your customer promise. are you delivering an exceptional product and service, a great customer service experience? are you having them buy into something bigger maybe a mission or affinity group, making them feel cared for. i think if you deliver on those fronts people will remember your nam, remember your brand, get their friends to buy from you. that's the essence of what a brand is all about. >> first of all, i love this question and i love it comes from a consumer company. as you know, they don't have the ability to have some technological proprietary barrier and brand is everything for them. i think there are probably a few different things they can do. one is to be a thought leader as the head of the business
getting out there and speaking and writing about your ethos really makes that personal connection and shows people how much it matters to you. the second thing i would say is really make an effort to connect directly with your customers. if you're a food company, maybe a demo program at local stores. maybe every once in a while you're dealing with customers directly in the service department. but really figure out how you can connect with them because then they'll feel that connection, too. finally, think about ways you can partner with other companies, organizations or people that also reflect your brand because their brand reflects on you and vice versa. it helps you expand the distribution. that can be a non-profit that you partner with for an event or blogger. >> i've never met that business owner before but i've tried his product. i think he's doing a good job. >> i will say one thing, if you're going to talk about the name give yourself an
opportunity to evolve and i always go back to amazon. they started as a book seller, they could have been books.com but they wanted to sell everything a to z as their brand logo shows. if you have a brand that says i do this one specific thing, you're locked into doing that thing. it makes it very difficult. you look at something like kentucky fried chicken which had to become kfc to get away from fried chicken. >> i dealt with that with my own company, we changed the name because we were too narrow in the beginning as well. this is an e-mail from marshall who writes what is the long-term impact of testing new products on your website? is it an issue for customers seeing products come on and then off? i love this question. >> i love it too, because i love the focus on innovation in the business. and i think from a long-term perspective, it's great, because
you're including customer's feedback and using that to dictate which products should be part of your repertoire. but from a short-term perspective, there are risks because if you put a potential product out there and some people love it but it's not worthy for mass production they could be a little frustrated. >> the way i would approach the transparency, i would do a limited edition or seasonal product so it shows we're only intending to have this for a short period of time. of course, you have to balance then that you may get a little more extra feedback because people want something limited, but i think it helps you to set up that expectation that this product may not be here the next time and you don't have the disappointed customers. let's move on to the last question about work-life balance. >> it's me and my husband who run the business with one full-time employee and three part-time employees. and my question is what do you recommend to do to keep balance
between business and our personal life. >> i worked with my husband for ten years and then i had to professionally spin him off. personally i kept him. i'm one of those people that feels like absence makes the heart grow fonder. this is really difficult, and it's really difficult in a small business because it's not like you can divide and conquer and you say, okay you work in this department and i'll work in this department. you need to set ground rules at work that you have some i understand dent 250i7. maybe you go to the gym, maybe you take breaks and lunch by yourself, so it's not 24 hours of the business. and the same thing at home. after a certain period of time in certain locations, like the bedroom, perhaps, you are not allowed to talk about work. otherwise it ends up blending together. >> i think this is a very small tough issue and so many small
businesses face it. in this instance you have a husband and wife team and a few employees where at business it feels like a family and at home business probably creeps in. my guess is the issue is having the business creep in at home. i wholeheartedly agree with carol, be disciplined in setting up time for things important to you, whether that's exercising or making sure you put in that date night every two weeks, block out that time and have it be sack sunday kt. >> thanks so much for joining us today. if you want to learn more about the show go to our website, openforum.com/yourbusiness. we'll post all the segments from today and have a lot more information to help your business grow. you can follow us at twitter and facebook and instagram as well. next week what happens when not just one but two company founders find out they're having
babies at the same time. >> you have nine months to get it altogether before you leave. >> i would say the hardest part about being pregnant and thinking about going on maternity leave is the realization that i'll have to step away and i may not know everything going on. >> we see how this beauty company is preparing in order to keep growing while part of their leadership is otherwise october paid. until then i'm j.j. ramberg. remember we make your business our business. our cosmetics line was a hit. the orders were rushing in. i could feel our deadlines racing towards us. we didn't need a loan. we needed short-term funding fast. building 18 homes in 4 ½ months? that was a leap. but i knew i could rely on american express to help me buy those building materials. amex helped me buy the inventory i needed.
our amex helped us fill the orders. just like that. another step on the journey. will you be ready when growth presents itself? realize your buying power at open.com happy friday. fridays are supposed to be boring in the news business. [ laughter ] whether you are a liberal, or a conservative, or neither, or you're not sure or you don't care enough to care what you are, you right now, by virtue of the fact you're living right now, all of us right now, we are all living through an era in american politics that is, "a," very exciting, but "b" it's one where there is one super interesting, unresolved and now enduring question at the heart of everything else that happens in politics. one big unanswered question. and that's not to say that there aren't important questions out ther