The Spry Digital team headed to the St Louis Start-Up Connection hosted by Edward Jones on October 4th. Over 30 companies and 300 people attended this event that helped connect leaders in the entrepreneurial community to startup companies in St. Louis. The startup companies then had an opportunity to participate in an InnovateVMS VentureBounce, an elevator pitch competition. One of the event’s sponsors was Innovate St. Louis. Through their two key programs, InnovateVMS and the IT Entrepreneur Network (ITEN), they are a driving force supporting startups in St. Louis. Innovate St. Louis has assisted over 100 new and young companies that now employ over 450 people and have a collected revenue of over $6 million. As an ITEN mentor, I’m proud to be a part of an organization making such an impact in St. Louis. The Spry team had an opportunity to talk to many of the startup companies at the event. We are excited about the passion and drive behind so many of these companies. Here is our Top 10 St. Louis Startups to watch (in no particular order).
St. Louis Startup Companies to Watch
1. aisle411 Inc. is an app that helps consumers find products inside stores. 2. Inclusion Sports has developed a therapeutic table game called BulletBall that makes everyone feel like a winner! 3. A new web application by Gremln.com provides businesses a way to engage, learn and monitor their social media return. 4. The online home guide, HomeNav, is an interactive homeowners manual and resource guide that assists with obtaining green certification for a home. 5. If you ever received a ticket for proof of auto insurance, you will love PROOF. Rachel Hankerson designed the infrastructure between the Department of Insurance, Department of Revenue and the Highway Patrol to provide accurate, current and secure proof of auto insurance at all times. 6. Security is the focus of Norse Corporation. They provide real-time intelligence on the most dangerous and high-risk IP addresses in the world. 7. Stay warm while camping, watching your child’s sports game, or when tailgating at the next football game with the Chaheati heated camp chair! 8. Digital Media Solutions has a web-based application called VIVID Books that makes navigating and searching long-form instructional videos fast and easy! 9. Edthena connects teachers to coaching anywhere, anytime. 10. RollSale is a transactional social network for used car dealers. If you have an interest in the St. Louis startup community, sign up for our newsletter. We will keep you updated as we learn of upcoming events.
The ability to manage multiple websites (or domains) with one content management system (CMS) is just one of the challenges our clients encounter. Companies with a presence in multiple countries, or with key product lines that each have their own domain, face the obstacle of managing different websites. Drupal, DotNetNuke, SimpleCMS, WordPress, MovableType, Umbraco and Joomla all offer the ability to handle multiple sites with one installation. Here’s an example of how we helped one client manage multiple properties using Drupal.
All Access, Inc. is an international company with a presence in Los Angeles, New York, UK, Paris, Brisbane and Sydney. Each country had their own web presence, web hosting and web marketing approach. All Access wanted visitors to choose a country (based on where the event is held), then go to the country-specific site. Each site needed to have the same look and feel, and publish locally created content as well as shared global content that could be managed centrally in Los Angeles.
The All Access website was built on Drupal with a customized theme. Spry Digital implemented the Domain Access module to provide the client the ability to have one look with country specific portals. We also implemented a custom landing page for the main domain (allaccessinc.com), that provides easy navigation to country-specific sites. The Domain Access module fit the bill by allowing each domain to have its own navigation and individual content, while permitting global content to be shared across domains. Problem solved.
Managing content for a website is challenging enough without multiple properties and domains to manage as well. Using a CMS, such as Drupal, with the Domain Access module, is a great way to minimize that time consuming task.
Anyone who knows me can attest to my network of people. It isn’t so much that I go out of my way to meet new people, it just happens naturally in my day-to-day life. I enjoy getting to know the people I interact with through business, social or personal activities. As social networks become a bigger part of our lives and our contact databases increase, sometimes I find I remember someone’s name, but not how I know them. Rapportive along with Google Mail saves the day!
First, a disclaimer. Rapportive only works with the Google Mail manager. If you are still using a desktop mail manager, I encourage you to think about using Google as your mail manager. You can keep your email address you have today, but read and send email through your old email account using GMail. The reduction in my spam is what sold me, and I was a die hard Yahoo mail manager user for years. I can tell you that the switch, along with access to great apps like Rapportive, really increases my productivity.
How does Rapportive work? You install the application and associate it with your Google Account. Next, you connect your social media platforms with Rapportive. Step-by-step prompts will guide you through the whole process. I connected Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook with my account. Once connected, the person’s information will pop up in a bar on the right-hand side of an email. Rapportive shows their picture, social network accounts, indicates if you are connected (or following) the contact, the latest email correspondence and their current social media status updates. Everything you wanted to know about the person in one place.
Rapportive and Gmail play nicely together:
How can this help me? As a small business owner who is focused on growing my business, knowing who needs services is critical. Being connected to people through LinkedIn and Twitter helps me see what my contacts are doing and how I might be able to help them, whether through my business or through a referral. Rapportive keeps me up-to-date without having to log in to several different platforms. I can even keep a private note about the contact within Rapportive for future reference.
For example, the other day I was emailing a mom whose son plays football with my son. I noticed that her status indicated she had a new business and recently opened up a new location. After a little research, I emailed her about Spry Digital and asked to meet with her to discuss how we could help. I would never have known that she was a small business owner without Rapportive putting it together for me, and might have missed this opportunity. This is only one of many ways Rapportive makes staying in touch with my network easier.
This is a MUST tool for Gmail users, especially those growing a business, looking for a job or just interested in connecting with friends on Facebook.
Let me know your favorite productivity tool so that I can give it a whirl!
This past week, my laptop fell victim to a small, accidental flood. During a lunch meeting, a glass of lemonade tipped over and rushed across the table faster than I could grab the laptop that I was furiously typing on. I immediately stood up and as I held the laptop at an angle to let the water drip out, I realized something that would cause just about anyone’s heart to skip a beat… my computer was no longer on.
There were many apologies and concerned expressions around the table, but I was able to calmly shut the machine, set it down and attempt to reassure people. This was because I store all my data in the cloud.
Here are some of tools and processes that helped me easily fall asleep that night.
Google Mail for Business – All of my emails were archived and available from any other computer and from my iPhone.
Google Docs – All of my Business documentation, contracts and invoices were stored and in an easy to manage file structure, also available from any computer.
ManyMoon – All the project tasks assigned to me, my business partners, employees and clients were accessible via our Project Management and Collaboration tool.
Dropbox – Large files that I was sharing with clients, or that they were sharing with me, were still available via the Dropbox service.
My laptop is being carefully handled by the good people at the Apple and I still have my fingers crossed that it will be returned to be with a clean bill of health. There is nothing like a close call to make you appreciate what you have, and right now I really appreciate Apple, Google Apps, Dropbox and Spry Digital’s processes.
Something that every creative person deals with — their own self critique — can be a debilitating thing. Perhaps you have experienced this “It’s never good enough” syndrome in your professional life? It could have been an article or post that you spent a day crafting, only to delete it because you couldn’t find your voice. Truthfully, I experience some level of this on every project, whether I’m designing a new logo or website for a client or creating a post like this one. But like a chronic disease, I’ve learned to live with it.
I recently stumbled upon this gem of a quote by Ira Glass, host and producer of NPR show This American Life while being interviewed for Fresh Air:
While an inspirational quote for us creatives, I share it because it can be a valuable lesson for anybody who is stuck on this “is it good enough?” question and can’t break through the wall. Over time, I’ve learned how to take criticism from peers and clients that has been crucial to my personal and professional development. I grew thicker skin and I became a better designer for it. The comforting thing is, that once you embrace this “it’s good enough” mentality, you look forward to the feedback process and adapt more quickly, taking the experiences from your last project, and applying what you learned on the next project.
The bottom line is, hard work and repetition makes you better at what you do. Embrace what you don’t know, try new things, repeat your successes and don’t repeat your failures. It sounds elementary, but the three words “it’s good enough” can be your best friend.
One of the biggest challenges we all have is knowing what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. When working with partners or a sales team, making sure communication on client and prospects becomes critical. Contact or Customer Relationship Management systems use to be only for large companies who had big enterprise systems in place. Today, thanks to the web, there are numerous solutions available.
Since the Spry Team decided to embrace Google Business Apps, we began using Insightly to manage our contacts, prospects and opportunities. You can even do simple project management with this tool. Some of the key features of this CRM are:
- Automatic Address book shared with team
- Email integration
- Opportunity Tracking
- User Permissions at a contact level
- Tags to help group types of contacts
- Tasks and milestones that can be assigned to team members
Other aspects I love about Insight.ly is how nicely it integrates with Google mail. When I am reading my email, at the bottom I have an option to:
- Add contact and email to Insight.ly
- Add it as a TASK
- Add it as an OPPORTUNITY
- Add a PROJECT
- View Sender Information
The final piece that I think is critical, is I know that if I am not at the office, my partners can find out the information they need to keep the business growing. Communication is the key and being organized makes that so much easier!
Learn more about Insight.ly
I have always respected Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. From reading about his successes, I learned one of the more important lessons in leadership and success is to know who you are and what you stand for, as a person and as an organization.
Former GE CEO Jack Welch
Culture and identity are just as critical for small businesses and non-profits as they are for big corporate giants like GE. There are few things that Jack Welch did right that I have tried to adopted and to consider in my own life, and that I want to know when meeting a new potential client. If you own or run a business or an organization, understanding these things about yourself and your organization can help make your role in marketing, communications and brand identity more effective.
1.) Define your culture and/or mission in a way that everyone in your organization can relate to.
In order for us to help define and portray a client to the public appropriately, we first meet with the client to understand their goals and differentiators. Sometimes leaders are so busy with their day-to-day tasks that they do not know what they want to communicate to their audience(s). Often times key people in an organization have different ideas of the organization’s goals and messages. This can be problematic. We aim to help you better define your messages and identity, and not to just help you communicate better with you customers and/or constituents, but to clarify your own messages for yourself and for the people that you work within your organization.
2.) Have respect for the individual.
Think of the famous Mastercard ‘Priceless’ marketing campaign. The influence of one individual can be priceless. Listen to your employees, partners and clients/constituents. They can help you solidify and focus your mission. They can help define and lead organizational change from the bottom up, when empowered by you to do so.
Part of our process is to start out with a Creative Survey that walks our clients through some initial identity questions. This might seem like a daunting or useless task to some, but our clients have told us that they have gotten a lot of benefit from this exercise beyond it helping us build them their new web presence or brand. Defining and reflecting on who you are and what you want to accomplish as an organization will guide you whether you are working on internal processes reengineering or public-facing marketing efforts.
Idealware and NTEN Donor Management Study recognizes CiviCRM as a Top 10 Solution for Nonprofits
Idealware.org and NTEN.org released a study called “A Consumers Guide to Low Cost Donor Management Systems” in 2011. Idealware, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, provides thoroughly researched, impartial and accessible resources about software to help nonprofits make smart software decisions. NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network) aspires to a world where all nonprofit organizations skillfully and confidently use technology to meet community needs and fulfill their missions.
The report indicated that CiviCRM is a good choice if:
- you are a tiny but growing organization, and price is critical
- you are pretty tech savvy, and want a free system
- you want to track all your constituents in one system
- you need to integrate the system tightly with email and your website
- you need something highly configurable
In a side-by-side comparison of key functionality, CiviCRM received the highest rating, EXCELLENT at:
- Payment and Website Integration
- Product Background
CiviCRM was also rated GOOD at:
- Adding and tracking donations
- Managing donor information
- Prospecting and Proposals
- Mail-merging Letters
- Tracking Events
- Tracking other built-in interactions
- Ease of use
- Extent of support and training
Since CiviCRM is an open source, free software, your total cost of ownership is greatly reduced over time. Examples of what your initial costs will include are:
- web hosting
- software installation and custom configuration
- data migration from old donor management system to new donor management system
- public facing website integration
Examples of ongoing costs for using CiviCRM annually are:
- web hosting costs
- upgrades of software to new version (including testing and making sure customization still work)
CiviCRM doesn’t limit you on the number of users, number of donor records, new events or eCommerce integration.
Read the full report from Idealware.
There is a worldwide community art project called WDYDWYD or ‘Why Do You Do What You Do?’. The project calls upon an individual to answer the above question with one image and one statement, combining the image and text in a creative way. Anyone can participate and add to the project.
I have had a number of friends and colleagues ask me similar questions over the years and it is probable that you have had similar experiences. In different forms, it is often even an icebreaker at events where you meet new people and it certainly does tell you more about a person than asking them about the weather. For me that question has always haunted me a bit, because I wanted to feel more pride in what I did for a living.
I have always been an idealist who wanted to see the world become a better place. Making a positive difference in people’s lives was always more alluring to me than earning more money. But, like many people, I found myself in the business world making a good living and understanding that I was, to a limited degree, still making an impact on those clients, employees and coworkers lives around me. I longed to do more though.
With Spry Digital, I feel immensely lucky. I get to combine some of the things I am best at with some of the things that I love. Everyday, I get to help people reach their goals. That feels amazing. I am not personally working to profit. I am working to help people and see them succeed. The fact that I am able to support myself doing something that I love is a bonus.
Our clients come to us because we have a passion for what they do and we have the know-how to help them share what they are doing with the world, turn their own passion into a living or raise more money to help their own constituents by fulfilling their missions.
I do believe that there CAN be an intersection between commerce and helping each other through community building. We are not a non-profit or a philanthropic organization, but we are in the business of helping people… and there is true value in that. It’s a value that I feel good about.
Why do I do what I do?
“Because I have a passion for helping people who are passionate about what they do.”
When running a business, managing your cash flow is critical. For those running on a shoestring budget, it becomes important to watch all expected revenue streams along with all expected expenses. Monitoring it week to week and adjusting along the way allows you to ensure you can pay the bills and know when account receivables are out of hand.
I recommend keeping a high-level spreadsheet that forecast future cash flow along with monitoring current actual cash flow. All company leaders should understand what expected revenue is coming in and the impact of delayed projects, sales or closing on proposals will have on the business. This will also help you manage your fixed versus variable costs and determine the level of cash you need on hand each week.
A word of caution! Do not look at a revenue windfall as an immediate opportunity to distribute cash to owners or increase payouts. This is a sure fire way to end up with many expenses and no cash to pay them with in the future.