Strategies Roundup 09/08

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This story appears in the September 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Mom's the Word
By Sara Wilson

What do you get when you bring moms and advertisers together? A buzzworthy website.

Childhood friends Andrew Shue and Michael Sanchez have done it all. A TV actor and a one-time chess champion, respectively, the 41-year-olds have also played professional soccer in Zimbabwe and started a nonprofit together. Now they're on to their next challenge: creating a place where moms and advertisers can peacefully coexist. In 2006, the friends launched CafeMom, a New York City-based social networking site just for moms. While the site focuses on providing moms with a rich experience through stories, photos and advice, it's powered by the advertising dollars of companies like General Mills, Kraft and Wal-Mart. With more than 4 million unique visitors and 150 million page views a month, CafeMom lets advertisers listen in on conversations and even run campaigns that get the site's most influential members to interact with and talk about the brands. As Sanchez, who projects year-end sales of well into the eight figures, points out, "Moms listen to other moms more than they listen to an advertising message."

The Buzz
Reality Check
By Sara Wilson

If you want to get people talking, why not show them who you really are?

Americans love to watch chefs stir up drama in the kitchen and see singers perform their way to fame. With all that attention, reality TV is rife with opportunities. And the best part is that you no longer need to be at the center of the action to steal the spotlight. Take fashion designer Pamella Roland, for example.

Roland is used to generating hype on the runway, but this year, she also scored prime-time exposure through her participation on single episodes of two of today's most popular reality shows. On The Real Housewives of New York City, the cast attended Roland's spring 2008 runway show and wore some of her designs to the event. On America's Next Top Model, Roland participated in one of the challenges, critiquing the contestants on their looks, walks and interview skills. The shows attracted massive viewership and didn't compromise the integrity of the Pamella Roland brand. "It is amazing how many different people watch reality shows," says Roland, 49, who projects several million dollars in sales this year for her New York City business. "Being on them provides great exposure." Roland's break into reality TV came when show producers scouted her out. But if producers aren't knocking on your door, it doesn't mean the doors of opportunity are shut. "More and more of these shows are looking for people who are noncelebrities, people with a business background, people who are smart, people who can give back," says Chuck LaBella, director of development at New Wave Entertainment. Watch the credits for the appropriate contact person and know your goals when pitching your business, LaBella says. Also, get to know the casting director to ensure that your interests are kept in mind.

If reality TV isn't yet part of your reality, think again. "The European landscape is filled with reality-type programs, with the occasional drama and sitcom sprinkled into it," says LaBella. "That's where the American landscape is going."

By Mark Henricks

  • If you try to get people to embrace change by giving them reams of data to pore over, you're going about it the wrong way, says John P. Kotter in A Sense of Urgency (Harvard Business School Press, $22). Instilling urgency in employees is critical to getting organizations to switch directions--it's just that arguing the business case using facts alone won't create that urgency, says Kotter. Rather, you have to tug at people's heartstrings. Instead of showing them your case on PowerPoint, for instance, tell a story. That's one of many on-target suggestions on how to make people truly want change in the latest from this author of several books about leadership.
  • Marketing consultants Craig Stull, Phil Myers and David Meerman Scott interviewed more than 100 CEOs and studied thousands of product introductions to discover ones that resonate so powerfully with customers that the products seem to sell themselves. In Tuned In (Wiley, $27.95), the authors distill what they learned down to a six-step process for creating your own "resonator," examples of which include American Idol and Google. Some steps may seem prosaic, but the authors also offer counterintuitive insights (for example, that feedback from customers can lead you astray), making the book come alive in a way that promises to, yes, resonate with entrepreneurs in search of hot new products for their own businesses.

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