AnyCard: Customized Gift Card

A little while ago, I had to pick up a gift card for someone. I wanted to get them a gift card to a certain chain restaurant, as I knew they would enjoy it more than any of the other options, but when I got to the store it appeared as if they ran out.

Although I was bummed until I went to the next store, this got me thinking. During the holiday season, almost every worthwhile gift card is sold out due to either popularity or general appeal. Or say that you are going to get a gift card for a friend or family member, but cannot decide on each one. That’s where AnyCard comes into play.

AnyCard is a card which has a specified amount of cash ($5 – $500) and can be customized to resemble the gift card(s) you originally intended to buy. The idea behind AnyCard is that the base card has a blank front, and includes stickers to several popular chains / stores in the geographic area. One can then use these stickers to customize the cash card and to show the person they intend to give card to, what places they thought of them using it at. It almost adds a bit more personality to the blandness of buying someone a gift card. (I, for one, welcome gift cards!)

The deployment of this idea would involved getting approval/sponsorship from the companies whose sticker logos you would be using on the blank card, as well as the vendors to accept your product. For the creation of your blank cards, it would be worth checking out OmniCard, as they specialize in custom bulk gift cards (a subsidiary of GiftCards.com). Sticker creation can be done through a variety of online and offline vendors, so it really becomes a matter of preference. As long as you have the rights to the company logos, you can check out StickerGuy or StickerGiant, as they are reputable bulk sticker vendors.

This idea is rather generalized, as I was looking through some of my scribbles over the past few weeks and found this idea jotted down. It’s worth looking into – I still think that something like this has potential, given the fact that I personally ran into the problem of not being able to find the card that person wanted. So having a unique solution like this available to me would be a great plus!

I hope you enjoyed this idea, and the many more to come. Feel free to share my stuff with friends or complete strangers! Or if you’re new to my site and think I’m worth your time, I highly recommend subscribing to my mailing list – it goes out once per week and delivers great content right to your inbox!

Either choice, I wish you the best of luck in all your ventures.

zb

Always have a Contract

I live by that rule. Although there was a time when I did not heed that principle. When I first began offering my technical consulting services — way back before I got into startup consulting — I wasn’t always mindful of who I was dealing with, and thus my inexperience contributed to quite the pitfall.

So allow me to explain.

When I first began consulting, I was making nice money from designing websites and performing site administration. The clientele response was great and it led to a number of great customer relationships. After a few months, I found myself connected with a budding actress (then YouTube star, pursuing a TV career), who was looking for work to be done. Namely, this work consisted of designing and maintaining her website, designing her logos, mapping out product plans, and… pretty much everything she needed, so you can imagine the workload.

I was taking calls from her almost every day, usually every other. She was based on the West Coast, and I residing on the East Coast had to take her calls and work on projects til the wee hours of the morning. It was actually quite horrible, but I kept telling myself it would pay off. I had been blessed with more than enough projects the months prior, so I told myself to keep pushing. Oh, did I mention this work was pro bono?

Yup. All of the work that I took on — everything, was pro bono. I must have dedicated over 200 hours by helping her. All of this work was contingent upon her successfully getting onto national television. It was actually a high possibility — that she would land a spot on TV — due to the fact that she had managed to get onto a famous American TV channel for a competition-based show. I was quite thrilled the entire time, too.

So now that she had taped several episodes (which were planned on being released later that year), had a great website, flashy logo, and a growing all-organic product line (for which I designed the logo as well), we both thought things were going great. Or so I thought.

At this point, we’ll say that I was around the 200 hour mark. When I was in technical consulting, my hourly rate ran about $45 (considering a website would take 10 hours and the market rate for such a site was around $500 back then). So at this 200 hour mark and my hourly rate, I was up about $9,000 in consulting fees, not to mention creative royalty rights for developing her product line logo (which was featured on that show). All of this would be paid by her fancy TV contract, of course.

But before I get into all of that, let’s talk about the opportunity she presented me with. This woman put me in contact with one of her friends, and to keep anonymity for the sake of making this a lesson and not a TMZ bit, he turned out to be a big time TV producer for a show almost all you entrepreneurs and small business owners should know. If I mentioned the name of the show, many of you would smell it from a mile away, similar to how a shark is able to smell blood on the other side of its tank. Now this producer was not a main guy on the show, more like second in command, but nonetheless had a pleasant TV career.

I was then hired by this friend to help startup a social media firm, for which I would manage all web development & site administration. I was being cut into the firm for equity plus initial pay and the connections this guy had were phenomenal. This was all fantastic — I felt like I was in entrepreneurial heaven. My big break was coming and it felt so good.

Correction. It felt good for about three months.

You see, this is the part of the story where I excessively remind you to ALWAYS HAVE A CONTRACT. I felt like throwing up, and I almost gave up on my entire entrepreneurial career after what happened next. Imagine how you would feel if you lost out on a six-figure opportunity?

That’s exactly what happened.

I never signed a formal contract with the woman, and she took full advantage of that because the minute — hell, the second — a single agency picked her up, she ditched me. All of my calls were ignored, she did not text or email back. And that’s not even the worst part.

Again, imagine if you had lost out on a huge networking opportunity with an influential individual who possessed phenomenal connections? I lost that connection I had with her friend too. My equity contract was never signed with him either, but at least I walked home with a handful of paid invoices.

I just wanted to quit. Albeit my naivety got the best of me, the whole world seemed against me. I spent days after that trying to recover by reaching out to client leads, yet being ferociously turned down.

Although I did not quit, I took roughly a six month hiatus from my consulting work. Then I came back around, cleaned up my act, brushed up on my business law and reorganized my firm into a startup and small business consultancy. My goal became to help other entrepreneurs avoid the same mistakes I had made, to guide and consult them in the right direction.

Thinking about everything that had happened in the past, primarily this story, I see how it affected me and changed me for the better. My goal in life now is the educate entrepreneurs and startups and to speak to them about turning anything they do — any idea — into a successful venture.

Some pitfalls are completely unavoidable, and I have come to accept that. But if I can take that one entrepreneur, that one startup, and help them avoid or overcome that one single obstacle, then my work is meaningful.

Entrepreneurship is about relationships, community, and cultivation — and my goal is to build upon that through my writing and other ventures.

If there’s one thing that I want you to walk away with from this post, it’s that you must ALWAYS HAVE A CONTRACT. I really cannot emphasize this enough. Contracts are the oxygen of entrepreneurship.

Without it, well, you know.

 

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zb

What is Intrapreneurship?

Don’t worry, not introvert-entrepreneurship, innovative-entrepreneurship — the idea of an entrepreneur that has the ability to raise money, maximize existing institutional resources, and take risks which increase social and financial return on investment for large companies, institutions, and nonprofits. As I have begun to read into this, it’s quite the interesting area of work, as FastCoexist.com puts it:

Dubbed “intrapreneurship” by early adopters, this trend highlights the value of people–the “intrapreneurs”–working from within a company who are accelerating change while continuing to drive business benefits. Economic constraints are forcing even large, established companies to act in a manner akin to the startup phase of much younger organizations; they’re leveraging the creativity and passion of their people to become more dynamic, more innovative, and more agile.

(FastCoexist.com, 2013)

Basically, an intrapreneur is someone who constantly thinks of ways to increase efficiency in his or her field of work. In my opinion, this is an occupation best suited for those who absolutely love where they work but want to break out of the box a little bit as well — you’re still considered an entrepreneur! Even though the context will suggest otherwise.

For me, having dealt with horrendously inefficient companies in the past, this is a growing need in the business world. Consider this article a creative partnership between myself and FastCoexist.com, where they talk about Hilton Worldwide:

At Hilton Worldwide, this is the model we strive for, and some of our leading accomplishments, such as LightStay (which calculates our hotels’ impact), were developed as a result of this mentality. Intrapreneurs across the company identified the opportunity to create a new product to track the sustainability footprint of our properties. This tool was rolled out across the enterprise and has not only resulted in reduced energy, water use, waste, and carbon outputs, but also it has generated over $147 million in cost savings. Simultaneously, we have seen new sales within our hotels as properties meeting LightStay standards qualify to be featured on sustainable hotel lists, attracting guests specifically seeking this niche offering.

Just seeing those numbers, $147,000,000, makes me imagine how valuable this type of entrepreneur is to not just the top-tier Fortune 500 company, but other companies in the same boat of inefficiency as well. As long as you’re not using cardboard for dry-wall, you’re innovating correctly!

If you feel torn between your job (which I doubt) and being an independent entrepreneur, this might just be the middle-ground for you. Although, since there is no official Intrapreneur Certification and given that you will most likely need experience in entrepreneurial activities before you begin making these big decisions for companies, you might as well figure out your short-term goals and get those out of the way first.

Cheers!

zb