Money follows passion

Megan SzanikJust east of Calgary’s downtown core is a trendy little district called Inglewood. It’s a community that’s brimming with unique and one-of-a-kind shops and shopping experiences. One such business is Espy – an affordable designer boutique owned by Megan Szanik, a passionate, forward-thinking entrepreneur who is providing a retail environment that gives men and women a place to see themselves in a completely new light. The Espy experience is about teaching clientele to love their bodies with the discerning advice and caring approach of highly trained in-house clothing stylists. The Espy staff will help you create a wonderful and lasting wardrobe, but it is the confidence you walk out with that tells the real story behind the Espy experience.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Megan recently to probe a little deeper into her business (which began as a designer discount concept in 2009); her guiding philosophies; and what Espy is about. It’s a story filled with risk-taking, gutsiness, hard-work and a whole lot of passion – elements successful entrepreneurs possess – yet Megan has the self-awareness to tell her story in a way that inspires and causes you to really listen to what she has to say. What we will share with you are some of the take-aways we captured that you can use to keep your entrepreneurial spirit strong and resilient.

HAVE A REAL PASSION FOR WHAT YOU ARE DOING

Megan is passionate about making a difference in people’s lives – whatever their shape, height or size. She channels this passion and energy into helping her clients feel special and sees Espy as a place for people to let go of faulty personal judgments and heal from the inside out … and she just happens to sell clothes.

FAILURE CAN GIVE CLARITY AND PURPOSE

You will fail at  a number of things you do as an entrepreneur, whether it is a marketing initiative, a buying decision, or your entire business goes down the tube. Megan has had several business failures over the span of her career; however she doesn’t define herself as a failure. Everything she has experienced has given her greater clarity and purpose. The experiences that didn’t go as well as she thought, have been foundational in helping her continue to take risks and stay focused on her core purpose. “There is always something important to learn,” Megan says. “Learn it and move on.”

TAKE THE KIND OF RISKS THAT REQUIRE YOU TO BE DIFFERENT

Espy has shown their uniqueness through creative fundraising/crowdfunding events in support of Prostrate Cancer (#nakedespy) and the Special Olympics (#bikiniespy). Megan’s approach is to stop seeing barriers to making things happen, and just start.

Megan says: “Start with the idea of helping someone. Start asking others to partner and work with you. Start with the decision makers. Start connecting face-to-face with people in your community. Start a gutsy movement or two and people will get behind you because people love being a part of something exciting and meaningful.”

VALIDATE AND TRUST YOURSELF

Espy is now getting national coverage through media, which Megan is thrilled about, yet this is not how she validates herself and her business mission. Megan ‘trusts her gut’. She keeps herself grounded with meditation, exercise, and girlfriends who help her keep her thinking and ideas elevated. Because external conditions are forever changing, sometimes fleeting, Megan stays focused on her core values, and it’s building a lasting business.

It is said that money follows passion. Megan Szanik certainly proves this. Go to www.espyexperience.com to discover more about this defining retail business.

Big thanks to Megan for sharing her story and insights into “what it takes” to be a successful small business. What about you? Do you have a story or something to share? Leave a comment on the blog or Facebook Page, or send us a Tweet!

Crowdfunding rewards that work

Bread and butter

What is in it for them?

Take a hint from almost every large department store: rewards attract people. Look in your wallet. Count how many rewards cards you have. The likelihood of that number being more than one is high. Why do you have them? Because you are more likely to shop at a place that offers some sort of incentive. Sure, it may take you 25 years just to take a vacation on your Airmiles points, but you still collect them.

Rewards are your bread and butter

Rewards are a great way to get potential funders involved with your project. In fact, they’re the only way to get funded! And it’s this reason we always recommend that your rewards are thought of very strategically. Heck, this is why your rewards need to be awesome.

Rewards for your project should evoke some sort of exclusivity, uniqueness, and specialness. Some musicians who have requested crowdfunding have given away tickets to their show or a signed album. Others have given products and services in exchange for funding. Simply put – your rewards should be awesome (have we said this already?)!

Awesome rewards could be:

  • A product, service or unique experience they’ll never forget!
  • Bought at a price that is higher than cost so you make money, but lower than market, which makes it highly valuable
  • An assortment of goods, like a gift basket
  • Something exclusive that no one else can get
  • A “limited time offer” reward to create urgency
  • Something you offer with a partner company (scratch their back, they’ll scratch yours)

Stay away from:

  • Pats on the back
  • Shout outs on social media
  • Being added to an email list

Hope that helps!

To see great rewards in action, check out some of Alberta BoostR’s successful crowdfunding campaigns.

Having Passion And a Great Idea Is Just The Start

The Start of Crowdfunding

The start of your crowdfunding journey

So you think you have a great idea for a project that will help your business grow, and you’ve turned to crowdfunding as a way to bring it into reality. And you already know that becoming an entrepreneur is a challenging journey that requires passion and dedication. Crowdfunding is the same. Here are some insights as you embark on your crowdfunding journey with a few hard lessons in between.

In our experience, the most successful campaigns are based on real, tangible and forward-thinking ideas that are going to help take your business to the next level.

For example, raising money for developing your next product line that will see revenues and profits grow in the next 6-12 months, is an idea that will get your community excited, and shows that you are committed to a tangible goal that will grow your business.

It’s not going to be easy. And this is where your passion as an entrepreneur comes into play.

Next, by launching a crowdfunded project, you are embarking on a super exciting and challenging time in your life.

It’s important to create a promotion strategy for your campaign, and ensure that it remains top of mind with you and your team.  A successful crowdfunding campaign requires not only passion for starting it, but passion for seeing it all the way through.

A few things to keep in mind when running a crowdfunding campaign are:

  • You need to constantly be promoting your campaign with fresh messaging, which will take time and effort
  • You need buy-in from your entire team so get them on board early
  • You need to find a “crowdfunding champion” on your team to lead and execute your crowdfunding strategy from beginning to end (if you don’t have time)
  • Your immediate family needs to understand you’re on a mission and it may take up a lot of your personal time
  • There will be ups and downs during your campaign. It’s how you cope with these that will determine your success

Be prepared for challenges, and meet them with perseverance. No matter the outcome of your crowdfunding campaign, there is something to gain: marketing, awareness, new connections, new opportunities, a way to test new products, and for some newer companies, crowdfunding serves as a great form of market validation.

So what are you waiting for? Jump into the unknown, and submit your campaign application here.

At Alberta BoostR, we are committed to helping you become successful with your crowdfunding campaign. If there is something that is keeping you from applying, please don’t hesitate to submit a question to this email address: info@albertaboostr.ca – we will happily follow up with you either by email or phone, whichever you prefer.

What is Crowdfunding Anyway?

Crowds

Crowdfunding may not yet be a household word, but it’s certainly gaining traction as a means to help established businesses and entrepreneurs access the financial resources they need to further develop or ‘start-up’ their businesses. Traditionally businesses have been funded through banks, private investors, and family and friends. Crowdfunding adds a unique dimension to this ‘money-raising’ process because it is a tool that helps to grow a community of interested participants while also leveraging the power and reach of the internet. Crowdfunding harnesses the power of the community, and the numbers are very exciting.

In 2011, crowdfunding globally was around 1.5 billion. That number tripled to approximately 5.1 billion in 2013. The most recognized crowdfunding platforms are Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Fund Razr, Fundable and Crowdfunder. Campaigns on these crowdfunding platforms range from artistic and humanitarian, to technological and scientific. If they can imagine or create it in some format – people are putting their ideas out to the world to see if others will validate them.

At the heart and success of any crowdfunding campaign is a community. It is a community of passionate people that lifts a crowdfunding campaign into the ‘Now Funded’ or ‘Boosted’ category. One such example is Mother Nurture Unique Baby, a Grande Prairie business that went from being a home-based operation to opening a retail shop in the city centre where they could expand their ability to sew, take orders and offer organic baby products and tasteful surroundings for baby showers. Being a business with an identifiable niche, the Alberta BoostR crowdfunding platform gave Mother Nurture Unique Baby the ability to prove there was interest and validation for their expansion, as well as customers who wanted to pre-order their organic, natural products.

Crowdfunding is an avenue in which ambitious, hard-working individuals can do more than hang an ‘Open’ sign on their door. Crowdfunding has given businesses with niche, specialty and unique ideas a chance to test the market. It’s also given established or big business the opportunity to attract and ignite the imagination of the crowds as they take their businesses to the next level.

Where will crowdfunding go? One of the most powerful aspects of crowdfunding platforms today is the way they are now beginning to build nationwide funding infrastructures. Banks, micro-lending organizations, service providers, cities and universities are now building partnerships with businesses through crowdfunding opportunities. This adds strength and support to small businesses who in turn create jobs and meaningful innovation within their communities, communities consisting of fans and followers who are funding businesses they believe in.

It’s a brilliant way to harness the power of community and partnerships and one can only imagine how it will evolve in the future. Exciting stuff! So, are you ready to launch YOUR crowdfunding project?