Ask Entrepreneur - Starting a Business

How Can I Use Social Media to Market My Business?

I own a a fashion-based direct sales business. I know social media is a good way to invite people to my trunk shows, where I present my merchandise. But how else can I use social media to advertise?

How Do I Have a Prototype Built?

I want to build a prototype of my idea, which would resemble an Apple iPod or Microsoft Zune. I'd like to speak with a manufacturer about my idea and have them create a prototype in my vision. How can I find the right manufacturer? What do I need to keep in mind?

How Do I Protect My Personal Assets?

I have a small courier business. My only concern is if I have a accident and get sued, how can I protect myself so that my personal assets won't be taken away? What are my options? What's the best way?

Should I License My Product Idea for Royalty Fees?

If you have a product idea but don't have the ability to bring it to life, is it better to obtain a patent and then sell it or license it for royalty fees? I know a number of companies offer royalties for ideas, but are these fees sizable? Or are they just a way for these companies to lure you in and cash in on your idea?

What's the Best Plan for Paying Back Investors?

I am helping to start a gourmet food truck business and while we have some family members to ask, we will also be looking to friends and aquaintances for startup capital. We dont wan't to offend them with minimal interest so we originally were thinking to offer them 10 percent over five years. But this is not a major moneymaker that would allow us to offer huge returns. We don't want to offend potential investors but have no idea what to do. Any advice?

We Launched. What's Next?

My husband and I have built our dream retail business and brand. Everything from the look to logistics to customer reaction has been good so far. It is just the two of us and we want to make sure every step of the way is as planned as it has been. What we need to determine now is what should be next. How we can go about revamping for growth and getting our name out there?

How Do I Design a Prototype?

My business idea involves a mechanical device that is derived from products that are currently on the market. Before continuing with my business plan, I would like to get a prototype designed and built. Knowing the costs of building this will be a crucial part of my plan. How and where should I get started?

Can I Protect My Idea Without a Patent?

I have a meeting next week about an idea for a website that I have created with a senior advertising executive at a major corporation. I'm excited about sharing my idea but I'm afraid its difficult to protect it without a patent. I have been told I should get a confidentiality agreement drawn up and send it before I go. Do major corporations typically sign these? What is the best way for me to approach this? Any advice on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

How Do I Relaunch a Defunct Business?

I am looking into starting a buisness with four to five other people and we would like to resurrect a business that has not existed since 1958. We checked the United States Patent and Trademark Office website and the name of that business does not seem to be registered. Will we have any problems using the same name? Are there any other legal issues to consider?

How Much Does it Cost to Launch a New Product?

I'm thinking about creating products such as sprays, shampoos and creams. What factors do I need to consider in terms of expenses? How much will it cost to create these products and bring them to market?

Where Can I Get Help Launching a Website?

I'd like to start a web business but I need help. How can I find a free consulting service? How can I make sure the consultant doesn't steal my idea?

How Can I Raise Money for My Nonprofit?

I am attempting to start a nonprofit organization that gives boxes of supplies to people in need -- locally and internationally. My first project will be to send a few hundred of these boxes to people in Haiti. But I've been funding this through individual donations and, so far, finding money to pay for bulk shipping has become a problem. How can I either get a grant or maybe contact an international delivery company for sponsorship? Do you have any ideas about where to go or ask for assistance?

How Do I Use Benchmarking in My Business Plan?

I am writing a business plan on a new business in my market that will offer two distinct services not yet offered here. There are two companies offering these services successfully on another continent (therefore not in competition). If I want to help convince potential investors that this idea is viable, to what extent and how should I use a benchmarking comparison of these successfull companies and consequently shape my plan?

Should a Startup Hand Over Control to an Investor?

I am launching a small business in my town and it is only going to take $1,000 to get started. A friend wants to invest the $1,000 in the business but says he wants a 55 percent ownership stake of the company. Is that fair? What are the pros and cons?

What Are the Best Titles for Company Founders?

My partner and I are in the process of forming an LLC. However, we are torn over how to create appropriate titles for each other. One of us is focused on the technology side and the other on the business side (including sales and marketing). Any suggestions?


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