tv Your Business MSNBC January 9, 2016 2:30am-3:01am PST
california entrepreneurs see opportunities in helping residents deal with the drought crisis. advice on how you can use snapchat to market your business. and an elevator pitch for a dating site where men get recommends from women. all that and more coming up next on "your business." american express open can help you take on a new job. or fill a big order. or expand your office. for those who constantly find new ways to grow on every step of the journey, american express open proudly presents "your business" on msnbc.
hi, everyone. welcome to "your business", the show dedicated to helping your small business grow. hard times can be an interesting breeding ground for innovative entrepreneurs who can find solutions to some pressing issues. that is exactly what we're seeing right now 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 they're 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 reservoirs nearly empty, the governor of california has made this crisis a top priority. >> i'm issuing an executive order, mandating substantial water reduction across our state. >> last january, governor jerry brown issued an executive order mandating a 25% reduction in water use, and citizens across the state are responding. >> i listen to the news. i know that the drought in california is a serious problem. >> for entrepreneurs like roy amir, greg ruben, and bill shaffer, it was also a wake-up call. where others saw brittle, dry grass, they saw a new business opportunity. >> it's great, man. >> thank you. >> we saw an opportunity to convert people's lawn to a drought-tolerant landscape, at the same time make a little bit of money. >> the business models vary, but they're all taking advantage of a change in the market. >> there's been this interesting group of entrepreneurs that have sprung up. >> jeffrey kitelinger, the
general manager of the metropolitan water district of southern california, created an incentive to cut back on watering lawns, and by doing so, unleashed a flood of new businesses across the state. >> if you can replace that lawn, you can replace a lot of water. and 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 water guzzling lawns with drought-tolerant landscapes. >> and the two sections in the back, the two small sections, we're going to take out the grass and put decomposed granite. >> roy amir recognized that 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, you know, handling any kind of money from the rebates. >> he'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
we take 100% of the risk. what i mean by risk, if the job was not done based on the guidelines, then we don't get paid. >> roy's company also sells artificial turf for customers like karen romano of los angeles, who aren't quite ready to give up the green lawn look. >> the artificial turf, it just turned out amazing. >> it's low maintenance. and it's 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 ruben, owner of escondido based california's own landscape design sees the lawn rebate program differently. he doesn't have time to do the rebate paperwork. so unlike roy's clients who get the work done for free, greg's clients pay him for his work and then 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 advocating for water conserving native plants for more than 20 years. he co-authored a book "california native landscape" and says his landscapes not only save water, they support a habitat for all sorts of life in this climate. >> a habitat i'm talking about, sort of a complete plant community that supports an array of wildlife. these birds and butterflies and other creatures like it's a magnet. >> bill shaffer, owner of brown lawn green, 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 lush, green lawn. his trick is letting your lawn go brown and dormant with just a small amount of watering to keep the roots alive. his sprayer does the rest. >> we've been doing this for years. we're actually not applying any paint or chemical. it's all natural. it's what we call a colorant. so we're actually coloring the lawn. >> and while his business
doesn't qualify for the rebate, it does save water and maintains the look of your yard. >> we're rounding a ridiculous number of 28 million gallons of water so far since we've launched that 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 entrepreneurs. >> you have been using water poorly all your life. >> michael cyrus of rancho santa margarita 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 i'm going to detail the entire car. i'm also going to shampoo the interior. with two cups of water. if you use my method, you do not have a water problem at all. most people just were stunned. how'd you do that? i said you just watch me.
what about watching me you didn't get? >> those california entrepreneurs have been really smart about getting new customers. now we turn to a different issue, which is once you have those customers, how do you ensure you have the inventory to keep them happy? we talked to a seed bomb company in cincinnati to see how they keep enough product in stock. >> the seed bomb industry kind of went from a kitchen table enterprise to a much bigger operation. it really exploded. >> mya and michael, the owners of visual lingual in cincinnati, ohio, didn't invent seed bombs, but they've 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 and they'll break up on impact. >> what started off as requests from smaller retailers in 2009
has turned into sales at places like restoration hardware and anthropologie and plenty of custom orders. >> it happened overnight where we jumped into high gear and started making these mass quantities. >> with so much growth, the pair knew they needed to change the way they handled orders for their seed bomb pouchs and kits. 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? how do we kind of keep a grasp on this, stay organized, and doing the math, figuring we need 100 times the amount of materials we used for these last orders. >> ever since then, it's been a well-choreographed act to have inventory and raw material at the ready. the goal is to be able to accommodate any and all orders that could come in at any time. >> i think it's the small
business model of the just in time, where we respond to orders if they come and we make a little bit extra, so it's there and then it's gone, and we go through that cycle again. >> the am of seount of seed bom ready to go is based on the popularity of the product. >> we always try to keep 150 to 300 units of our repeat selling products. >> knowing their customers and knowing when they may place their 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. so 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. >> but it's often those sales that produce the inventory that mya and michael need to respond to smaller orders simultaneously. >> we can hang on to produced seed bombs, and then screen
print the pouchs and put the product together very quickly. so that's a part of the labor that really doesn't have to happen until it's needed. >> having extra seed bombs is crucial because ideally, production takes a few days. finding mull approximately suppliers who are willing to act fast helps with the work flow. mya and michael like having options, too. >> if we do need something overnight, we can get it overnight and respond to that 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. so we don't produce infinite inventory, even though we could, because it has a finite shelf life. >> michael says the best advice they can offer other entrepreneurs is to not overthink anything.
he believes that a little strategy and occasionally maybe 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, proactively check in. regularly reach out to your high value clients, even if it's just a quick e-mail or voicemail. ask them how things are going and what could be done better. two, support their charitiable 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 value clients. they'll appreciate getting to know you better and those deeper connections may help you weather any 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 value customers prefer, and then follow suit. and five, ask for help. solicit their opinions if you're developing a new product, a different service model or considering a new policy. you'll get valuable information and also make your clients feel appreciated. you may know snapchat as the mobile app that lets you send videos and pictures that self-destruct after just a few seconds, but with the launch of the story section, the social network is now a great resource for small business owners looking to connect with a younger demographic. to tell us more about what snapchat is, is sujen patel, the co-found you were of content marketer, a tool that helps marketers scale their content promotion and outreach, and vp of marketing at when i work, a company that provides employee scheduling software for small
businesses. so many people do more than one thing these days, and you are one of them. let's just dive right into snapchat. i think a lot of our audience still thinks of it as the kids use to send pictures to each other that disappear. what is the story section. >> yeah, so the story section is kind of like your facebook fan page or your instagram profile. you can post a series of images or videos that get displayed on your stories, so anyone that's your friend -- that's following you, can actually see the stories. >> so number one, just like on facebook or twitter, you have to accumulate these people to follow you. >> yeah, exactly. and just like anything else, you have to build that following, and the way you do it is if you have an e-mail list, you can pull them from your existing fan base on facebook, twitter, and instagram. just inviting them over. >> so let's look at some of the examples you have. one of them is you can use it to make an announcement of a new product. you give an example of the company ccm? >> yeah, so ccm hockey, they
sell growthing -- or hockey apparel. and things of that nature. and what they did was they -- when they released new products, they have an athlete go on to the ice rink and they do a professional photo shoot. so while they're doing that, they took a cup of snapshots, and snaps on their phones and released it early. so anyone that's following them on snapchat can see those pictures and get access to those things early on. >> so i guess i'm still confused on how -- i could do that on facebook, or twitter, or instagram. >> snapchat, it's another way to do it. >> so we're doing the same things maybe? just on a different -- >> you're doing something similar. you could 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. and so if you have a facebook audience, you can pull them from there to take action on snapchat. >> got it. okay.
and let's go to the next one. expiring coupons and exclusive deals. i get this. that sort of plays into the idea of snapchat and things disappearing. >> yeah. so a cool company, 16 handles, a yogurt shop, what they did was in the beginning of the year, for a week, they said snap us pictures of you tasting or 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 with a coupon and whatnot. >> great. and the last one, compelling stories. again, something that we need to do 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 would talk about is a kitchen and cabinet
company. they always get asked how they do certain things, and so what this company did, the local company based in nebraska, they talked about how two granite countertop pieces can mold together and essentially snap four images and post some text overlay. and, you know, talked about how they can remove that seam line. >> got it. so again, this is just one of those things, where reach your customers where your customers are. >> exactly. there's 100 million users on snapchat that are waiting to be talked to. >> got it. all right, thanks. this was very enlightening for me, i've got to say. hopefully for our audience, too. appreciate you coming by. still to come, tips on building your brand and the impact of testing products on your e-commerce site. and love is in the air as today's elevator picture shows our panel his new dating app, where women recommend dateable men to other women.
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 this week's your biz selfie comes from keith humphrey who owns jet airwerks, and aviation and parts repair company. thanks for sending that in. now, why don't the rest of you send us a selfie of you and your business. you can send it to
firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can tweet it to @msnbcyourbiz. don't forget to u use #yourbusinessselfie. for anyone who has tried online dating, it can be a daunting experience. so today's elevator wants to change up the process. let's see if our panel wants a second date with him. >> hi. i'm ken deckinger, i'm the co-founder of jess meet ken. we're a dating app for women who may not be right for them but can be great for someone else. the business is based on the true story of how my wife jess and i met. my best friend adele posted me online. jess saw the post, e-mailed adele, and dell introduced us. we solved one of the biggest problems in online dating, which is misrepresentation. the market is $2.5 billion, but littered with hook-up apps. so we're positioned as a
relationship-based product. from a business perspective, because all our users bring other users to the table, we have a highly competitive customer acquisition cost. we're raising $500,000 for 10% of the business. the money is beginning to be used to accelerate product development. if we hit this out of the park, we'd expect normal returns somewhere between five and ten times. we're online, social media, twitter, you name it, you can find us everywhere. >> congratulations. nice pitch, from my perspective. two numbers. one through ten. the first one is what do you think of the product. and the second, how you thought the pitch went. i was just thinking about a friend of mine. you're like, i went on this great date with this guy. not for me, but here, you guys should meet. so now you're making this electronic. >> could be a relative or someone that you would never date. >> okay. let's get to the results. let's start with you. >> so for the product, i gave you a 7. and the reason for that is as i'm sure you know, dating is a
very tough space. iic has a number of properties. okay cupid, match, tinder. and it's a really tough one to play in. so i'd really have to know how you're building some kind of proprietary advantage and how you compete on the marketing side given all of their spend. but on the pitch, i thought that -- i thought it was pretty good. i gave you an 8 because i thought that you clearly and succinctly stated what you do. you gave us a little bit of your background. you talked about the funding that you needed. you talked about the market size. and also a little bit about the marketing that you've done so far. so i really felt like your presentation was strong and if i were talking to you further, we'd really have to dig into the competitive space. but overall, i thought it was quite strong. >> great, thank you. >> so 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 7 on the product. the same concern, where's the moat? if this is such a great idea,
why doesn't somebody come along and do it? so i would have loved to have a little explanation of what your technology moat was. on the pitch, i'm giving you a 5 with a star, and 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. and as an investor, you always want to bet on the jockey, not the horse. so that's the very first thing you should have told us, that you have been incredibly successful and sold a business in this space before. if you would have done that, your pitch would have gone -- i have to give you a five with a star. >> she's absolutely right. i had that in my pitch and i don't know why i didn't mention that. >> do you want to tell our audience? >> we had started another online dating company and it was acquired by a public company, and then that public company we worked at, which was an online dating company, worked there about three years. >> and it gives you so much
additional credibility, because it's not even about the idea, it's about the execution. so now that we know you can execution, maybe we would change that to perhaps a nine on the pitch. >> that's a great idea, yeah. >> perfect. that's the best tip you could have gotten. thank you. good luck with everything. >> thank you so much. >> we hope to see your app everywhere. >> thank you. appreciate it. >> if any of you out there have a product or a service and you want feedback from our elevator pitch panel, just send us an e-mail. the address is email@example.com. do not forget to tell us what your company does, how much money you're going to raise and what you're going to do with that money. we look forward to reading your pitches and seeing some of you here on the show. now time to answer some of your business questions. we have elisha and carol back with us here. 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. >> 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. so are you delivering an exceptional product and service? a great customer service experience. are you having them buy into something bigger? maybe it's a mission or an affinity group, making them feel cared for. i think if you deliver on those fronts, people will remember your name, they'll remember your brand, they'll talk about you, they'll get their friends to buy from you. and to me, that's the essence of what a brand is all about. >> first of all, i love this question. i love that it comes from a couple company. because as you know, they don't have the ability to have some kind of technological proprietary barrier and brand is everything for them. so 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. the second thing i would say is really make an your customer. if you're a food company, maybe that's 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. and then finally, think about ways that you can partner with other companies, organizations, or people that also reflect your brand, because their brand reflects on you and vice versa and it helps you expand the distribution, so that could be a non-profit you partner with for an event or a blogger. >> i have to say, i've never met that business owner before, but i tried his product. i think he's doing a pretty good job. even by just the name. i live in brooklyn, so it's surrounded by people who eat quinoa. >> i will say one thing. if you're going to talk about a
name, give yourself an opportunity to evolve. 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. so it makes it very difficult. you look at something like kentucky fried chicken, which had to become kfc to get away from fried chicken. so just think about your ability to evolve if you are focusing on the name. >> it's a very good point. i dealt with that with my own company. we had to change the name of my company because we were too narrow in the beginning as well. let's move to the next one. 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 want to see if you guys feel the same way i do. let's start with you. >> i love it too because i love the focus on innovation in the business, and i think that from a long-term perspective, it's great, because you're including
customers' 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 bit frustrated. >> the way that i would approach the transparency is i would do a limited edition, or a seasonal product. so that it shows that we're only intending to have this for a short period of time. now, of course, you have to balance then that you may get a little bit more extra feedback if 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 that you don't have the disappointed customers. >> okay, 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. >> so i worked with my husband for ten years, and then i had to professionally spin him off. personally i kept him, but i really am 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 say well, you go work in this department and i'll work in this department. so i think you really need to set ground rules. you need to set ground rules at work, that you have some independent time, 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. because otherwise, it ends up blending together. >> so i think that this is a very tough issue and so many small businesses face it. in this example, you have the
husband and wife team and also a few employees, where i'm sure a business it feels like a family in some ways, and then at home business probably creeps in. and my guess is the bigger issue is having the business creep in at home. and i have to wholeheartedly agree with carol in that you've really got to be disciplined about setting out time for things that are important to you. so if that means exercise, blocking out an hour three times a week, or maybe making sure that you put in that date night every two weeks, block out that time, and have it be sacrosanct. >> we will leave it there. thanks for joining us today. if you want to learn more, go to our website, openforum.com/yourbusiness. we'll post all the segments from today, plus we'll have a lot more information to help your business grow. you can also follow us on twitter, it's @msnbcyourbiz.
. >> you have nine months to get it all together 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 team is otherwise occupied. 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 vice president joe biden this week spoke on the issue of gun violence. at one of these interviews, the one with wvit in hartford, connecticut, vice president biden made news when the local reporter from hartford keesha grant, asked vice president biden if he regretted his decision this past year that he would not run for president himself. got a whole bunch of headlines there week because the vice president was very blunt in his response. he said he regretted it. he said he regretted that decision not to run every single day. he also said something else that didn't get as much attention.