We have a date!

Aaargh! Where to start? The good stuff or the not so good stuff? I’ll start with the latter and then head back to the former. It’s been a little ‘one step forward, two steps back’ around here lately….

So after the first meeting with the start-up counsellor, a phone call came requesting me to come in for an interview; on Friday the 13th, at 13:00 😉  This was a different counsellor and we spoke for quite a while about the application and what I was up to. It was all in Finnish and I was very happy that I understood everything she wanted. This was one step forward! The backwards steps came after the interview and the followup statement that I needed from my other counsellor over at the city entrepreneurship office. He’s on holiday until early next month and needs to see me in person before issuing the statement. So, my application is now sitting on the desk just waiting…

The second ‘setback’ is one of my competitors launching a product very similar to one of mine. I’m a little bit cranky at myself for not getting started sooner, but I know that I wasn’t in the right place to launch myself any earlier than now. I’m just chalking it up to ‘that’s life’. Anyway, when you see what I’ve got planned to the travelling public, I think you’ll agree, it’s nothing like the competition.

Of course, this hold-up with the grant application means that I can’t register the business. One of the main stipulations about getting the start-up funding is that the business can not be registered until the decision on funding has been made. No business registration means no ability to invoice, which in turn means no cash coming in. Although The Engineer is footing the bills at the moment, it does mean the little extras have been trimmed back. I’m okay with that, Mr. 14 however is finding it a little more difficult to understand. He has had some interesting advice for me lately!

There are a couple of silver-lined clouds on my horizon – albeit far away still! Firstly this delay means I can really research the banks and insurance companies. School studies will be useful for the business and the business will be useful for the school studies. That is the biggest and best bonus. I’ve collected credits on half my subjects so far and my course advisor at Helmi tells me that I can collect credits on the remaining subjects and more just by documenting my business over the next six months! The only non-business part will be the practical exam, although if I wish, I can use real customers for that also 🙂 Any volunteers?!

I’ve left the best until last. My webpage will be live October 16th 2013, at 12:00 (GMT+2). Today I met with the guy who’s going to be the driving force behind that. We talked about what I do need to worry about right now and the things that can wait a little while. I’m so excited – he knew exactly what I was thinking of, and has already started working on the look! That’s the power of a good business plan!

The domain name registration is in order, the Twitter account has been set up, the Facebook is there too, although I’m not releasing that on the general public just yet… Next step will be ensuring that I’ve claimed my business pages on Yelp, Trip Advisor, LinkedIn and FourSquare. Pinterest and Instagram are also on the cards! So much social media 🙂

Wow, it’s tomorrow already! Sleep tight 🙂

PS: Did I tell you I had lunch with the guy from Yelp today. Nice guy and had lots of interesting stories and things to share. I hope we get to do lunch again…

Advertisements

Have you seen my oomph?

Have you seen my oomph? It’s not the first time this year it’s gone astray. I’ve also lost my travel card, although I’m fairly sure I know where I’ve misplaced that particular piece of plastic. THAT shouldn’t be too difficult to locate. No, the oomph or lack thereof is causing me large amounts of distress at the present. The business plan is languishing, still unfinished and awaiting submission. That is the cloud that is covering my oomph. I believe so anyway.

So, I’m taking a break from all social media until the business plan is lodged with the appropriate authority. I’m hoping that this simple act will ease the great lump of ‘aaargh’ that is lodged in the cavity where my vital organs should be.

Hiding…

This is a little like my current feeling. I ran into this little fellow while out walking Perry a few weeks ago. Like all good hedgehogs, he tucked himself into a ball and puffed up. Perry didn’t get the hint 🙂 Perhaps I should be like Perry and not the hedgehog in this situation!

PS: I hope the photo shows up alright when you read this, I’ve had a few difficulties this evening.

Research, research and still more research (or you never stop learning!)

This week has been most interesting from a research point of view. I found out that the people staffing the office in charge of distributing start-up funding are not nearly as scary as imagined. In fact, quite the opposite. Monday morning saw me sitting in the office of one counsellor who jumped out of her seat three times to confer with her colleague down the hall. Then she swiveled her chair and collected more information from the filing cabinets behind her. She was more than forthcoming about my need to gather papers from my old college (on its way) as well as the taxman (ordered online at 2143, delivery anticipated today or Monday). A nice packet of papers is being built-in preparation for lodgement.

My online endeavours didn’t go so well. That’s not exactly true. I managed to create a short and simple survey. Said survey however suffered from being the free version and thus I wasn’t able to ‘pipe’* the questions accordingly. As I’m not in a financially viable position to upgrade at this point in time, it just means that my next survey needs to be clever. Or I stay away from asking why on yes or no questions!

The best part of this week was hanging out at the Cruise Terminal chatting to the passengers returning to their ships. Earlier I’d been asking my questions early in the morning as people were heading out. Very different responses from the two groups. Those that have had a chance to see Helsinki were much more forthcoming in their opinions than those who were just heading out. I’m going to keep up the research, although the focus will change week on week. Next week I’m going to start asking about public transport (which I must say is VERY good in Helsinki!). Today I’ve ordered some almost free business cards and will be handing them out at the harbour. They will promote the blog, Foursquare © and Twitter ©, so hopefully I can generate traffic from Helsinki visitors and get some dialogue happening, all the while building the brand!

This morning my mentor and I chatted for an hour and have worked out our next step in the plan of attack. He was disappointed to hear that a couple of my contact attempts had gone unanswered. I’m going to try again via the telephone and see if that gets any response. I have twelve days to tie everything together to a final package. This has gone much slower than I anticipated, although these last two weeks of market research have been invaluable. The product is taking shape!

Yesterday I took the number 16 bus from Herttoniemi, through the city to Hernesaari where the Cruise Terminal is located. I arrived at the bus stop and it appeared that one bus had not arrived as there were a great many disgruntled faces to be seen. I overheard one couple were being advised that they could take a taxi and guessed they were heading for the terminal also. Just to be sure I asked where they headed? ‘Back to the boat, love’ in lovely Australian accents came the answer. ‘So am I!, we can catch the bus together – I’m sure it will be here soon’. Sure enough the bus arrived and we all piled on. P and M sat at the front and I moved to the rear of the bus.

Then, as we were driving through Kulosaari (the next island and suburb along) past the Chinese, Indian and Iraqian embassies I thought to myself that I was wasting an ideal opportunity – at the next stop I moved to the front of the bus and asked if I could sit with them and they could ask any question about Helsinki as we went along. So, my plan to describe the trip for my next Heather’s Helsinki post went down the drain, however we go to talk all about their trip and why they had done somethings and not others. Invaluable. Oh, and we did talk a little about the passing scenery …

If you answered my survey this week: A VERY BIG THANKYOU. I’ll get the responses tabulated and post them in the coming weeks.

* Piping refers to yes / no questions and being directed to the appropriate subset of questions.

I have homework!

Due to said homework, I really shouldn’t be blogging. A promise is a promise, however and here is my day so far….

My mentor appointment was scheduled for 1300 today, so the morning was spent on preparations. I printed the plan only to notice that the ink cartridge ran out half way through. Changed the cartridge only to notice that the paper supply is running low. There was enough paper for one complete copy, and enough for a second version pieced together with other pages from earlier versions. That would be my copy and I hoped that I wouldn’t need to leave more than one copy behind with the mentor.

Packed my bags and headed out the door. Halfway down the street to the bus stop I remember the pen and diary sitting on the bench. I turn around and head home again. Leaving home for the 2nd time and my nerves are really getting worked up. The bus didn’t arrive when it should have and I had started walking towards the metro when I spied the bus (late?) heading my way. Now I had to run back to the bus stop. I hate running for buses!

From the bus to the metro and out again a few stops later. A quick walk around the corner from the metro and in the lift to the sixth floor. I presented myself and for an awful minute thought I’d arrived on the wrong day or the wrong time! All was in order and so I was directed to waited in a room I’ll now call the brochure room. Brochures for insurances seemed to be most popular. Every local firm represented on one wall.

My mentor appears and we head to his office. He sits behind the desk, whilst I am ensconced behind a second table with a screen. We chat and he looks slightly surprised, horrified and gratified all at the same time when I produce my masterpiece.

We don’t get to the end of the first page before his first criticism comes out. My text or pitch doesn’t give any of the essence that he gathered from our chat. Good point. The next person that reads the business plan may not have had the opportunity of hearing me speak first.

So we continue on, chapter by chapter. He advises me that I shouldn’t be afraid that someone will steal the idea. Of course it could happen, I can research the market without giving too much away in this planning stage. So we have planned that I approach my target market already now, do mini interviews and see what they say. Two ships arrive in Helsinki tomorrow, so I now I’m off to write some questions.

We arrive in the financial section and that sets off more questions. Pricing is going to be an issue. One more question to work into the survey! More tweaking the numbers and looking at the different sales mixes versus customer groups. This is definitely going to require further work.

The whole time the conversation has been going backwards and forwards on all sorts of topics. He finds some good addresses and answers one crucial question that has been bugging me for a very long time. We talk web addresses and come to the conclusion that buying the ‘.com’ may not be the most financially wise move at this point. I can register the ‘.fi’ and review the situation later. Or I could take another name. The jury is still out on that for now. It took so long to get this name that I’m now getting attached to, that I’m not sure I want to use more time on this issue.

We have agreed to meet in two weeks and 3 days time. I need to do the research, update the plan and send to him two days before our next session. Plenty to do. No time to blog! Okay, that’s not true. Just maybe not as long and detailed blog posts.

I think I also need to investigate PollDaddy.com and see what that can do for me… if not now then in the future…

Poll hosts: any hints or comments you have for this newbie poll host? I should check the forums also: do I have to use PollDaddy?

Oh, and on the way home I bought a pack of printer paper 🙂

Business Plan (version 4)

Finally the business plan is ready to go. This part has been more than a little difficult for me to document. I thought that the blogging for the business setup would get easier. If anything it has become harder.

So right here and now I am going to pledge to post about my progress every single day (even the weekends). I’m not going to promise great long chunks of text. Short and sweet, to the point is my goal from now on!

My next task is to get my application for starttiraha* together. It’s actually quite straight forward, all I need to do is take the information that is in the business plan, and rewrite in in Finnish. That part my partner will definitely have to edit and double check for me.

Tomorrow I have my first meeting with the YritysHelsinki people and the butterflies are fluttering already. I’m good to go. I’ve been working on my sales pitch, I’ll have copies of the plan ready to distribute (hard and soft copy) and I’ve even managed to source some potential marketing / promotional items. I just need to ensure phone and computer are nicely charged before I leave the house.

I do have one small concern. What does one wear to this sort of interview? How does one prepare? I don’t want to come across as too successful nor do I want to appear totally clueless. Competent, yet aware of my shortcomings is the best I can do. That shouldn’t be too difficult, after all it’s my business!

* Starttiraha = start up funding.

Back to study! Part III

Since my last posting I have received confirmation that my application to attend summer school was successful. I subsequently paid the required registration fee and now have received the confirmation mail and a place has been reserved for me. The same mail also had the login information for the summer school intranet. Unfortunately at this early stage there is nothing to see: Come back in May. We are sorry for any inconvenience. My calendar has been blocked off for those days. Now to wait and see what the social programme has to offer.

Other exciting news is that I have a name, although I don’t have a .com domain to match it. It’s out there and I’ve put in a bid to buy it. Now I need to wait. Obviously my first offer has probably been too low…

The business plan is taking shape and now just requires cutting, pasting and editing into a proper document rather than many separate sheets of paper.

The best of all is the appointment with the EnterpriseHelsinki people. That’s still a couple of weeks away so I can use the time to fine tune the plan, work on the product and get it all packaged nicely.