7 Ways to Bootstrap Your Business to Success

Most first-time entrepreneurs seem to believe the myth that they need a minimum of a half a million dollars to start a business. At least that is usually the lowest number I see requested from our local angel investment group. In reality, over 80 percent of successful new businesses are self-funded for much less — often as little as $10,000. I’m convinced this also reduces risk.

Starting a new business on a limited budget without investor involvement is called bootstrapping, and it’s the only way to go if you don’t want to spend months on the investment pitch preparation and delivery circuit. Also, with bootstrapping, you won’t have the added pressure and risk of an investor boss hanging over your shoulder and second-guessing your every move.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated a list of common startup practices from entrepreneurs who have managed to avoid the ironic pain and suffering of comfortably starting a business with a large cash stash from a rich uncle or a vulnerable investor.

1. Stick to a business domain you know and love.

Starting a new business in an area where you have no experience, just because it appears to have great potential, is a recipe for failure. There are unwritten rules in every business, and your lack of insider’s knowledge will cost you dearly. Good connections can get things done for very little cash.

2. Find team members to work for equity rather than cash.

People working with you need to understand their failure means startup failure, rather than expect money up front. Managing employees and contracts is difficult and expensive, and new entrepreneurs aren’t very good at it anyway. Equity is your best assurance of commitment and focus.

3. Build a plan around your budget, rather than around your wishes.

Entrepreneurs who start without a plan spend more money. Likewise, those who feel compelled to keep up with the popular media will spend most of their time courting investors. Most investors agree that too much money leads to poor spending decisions and lack of controls.

4. Defer your urge to find office space until you have customers.

Remote startup team members are the norm today and can be very productive with smartphones, video and the high-speed Internet. Office space costs money up front, requires equipment, staffing and travel expenses. With a website, your business can look as big as any competitor.

5. Ask for advance on royalties and vendor deferred payments.

If you solution has real value, future partners will jump on discounted future royalties, and many vendors and existing partners will understand your cash flow challenges. You may also be able to barter your services to offset theirs. It never hurts to ask. Practice your sales skills early.

6. Negotiate inventory management with suppliers and distributors.

For many products, suppliers or distributors will direct ship your product to eliminate your inventory. For services, don’t be afraid to ask for a retainer up front to offset your costs. Business terms are negotiable, but new entrepreneurs with plenty of cash don’t bother to ask.

7. Choose a business model to optimize your revenue flow and timing.

Popular examples include monthly subscription fees and optional service fees, versus one-time product sales. Another is the use of an ecommerce site, rather than retail, to facilitate product sales seven days a week, around the clock and around the world.

One of the biggest ways to reduce your budget and your risk is to use social media, which essentially is free, to find our whether you have an attractive solution, before you invest your time and limited resources in creating the product or service. Social media is also an invaluable and inexpensive marketing approach, since no one buys a solution they can’t find or don’t know anything about.

A limited budget can be viewed as your biggest constraint, or as an incentive to do things more creatively. With startups, there is a big premium on creativity and innovation. Big competitors are quick to copy a conventional solution with minimal risk. Let a limited budget be your driver to winning, rather than a curse.

Source: entrepreneur.com ~ By: Martin Zwilling

4 Mind Shifts That Turn Adversity Into Advantage

There is nothing worse than going through a difficult time in your life and feeling like it was a complete waste of effort. Adversity has a way of defeating us and making us feel used up. But somewhere inside, we want to be able to make sense of our difficulties. We want to make them count for something positive, that all the pain we endured wasn’t for nothing.

I used to think adversity was something I had to suffer through to experience happiness. I avoided adversity, for the most part, hoping it wouldn’t come. But it did. It came with a force. Ten years of mental and emotional abuse in my childhood left me feeling defeated and broken as a young adult. I wasn’t sure how to deal with it. I was often angry, defensive, and in survival mode most of the time.

Along my journey, I realized something important. If I could find a way to change the way I saw those 10 years of pain and defeat, then the pain and defeat itself would change.

I found a new way. Sometimes, another perspective is all it takes to give you fresh eyes on your obstacles. Instead of my childhood being something I had to get through, I saw it as a necessary step for me to become the person I am today. Without every aspect of the experience both good and bad, I wouldn’t have the capacity to be the real me, full of flaws and full of victory. Those 10 years of abuse are now something I welcome in and can talk about freely. It’s now my advantage.

As you work through a difficult time in your life, keep in mind these four mind shifts that will assist you in turning your adversity into advantage:

1. Adversity Is Temporary

Our difficulties have an expiration date. We may not be able to predict when it will be over, but know that it will come to an end. Adversity is not meant to last forever. The sun will come out again to shine in your direction. Remember that.

Even people with long-lasting physical illnesses can help alleviate their pain by making a choice to see the positive in everything, even the pain. When you welcome your temporary difficulties in, they immediately get smaller and more manageable. You get clearer on what action to take next.

2. Adversity Is an Anchor

Going through difficulties humble us. It makes us assess what is important and chart a new course for our life. My negative childhood experiences were like an anchor weighing me down. Until I made sense of my memories and reframed them into something positive, they would forever hold me back.

When I cut the anchor of adversity loose and said, “No more! I’ve had enough of this!” was exactly the moment I freed myself from a huge burden and began learning from what I had gone through. I understood that my adversity was the breeding ground for all growth moving forward.

3. Adversity Is Your Greatest Teacher

If you allow it, adversity can teach you what you need to learn to be the best version of yourself. I changed one word in my vocabulary that made a huge shift in how I view life. I changed to into for.

Life is not happening to me; it is happening for me. Once I changed that one word, my adversity became my ally instead of my enemy. I began to use my fears as a launching pad for the kind of person I wanted to become. Now, adversity is happening for me so I can be the best inspiration I can for others and transform my mess into my mission.

4. Adversity Reveals the Good

Author Napoleon Hill stated in the classic book Think and Grow Rich, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it a seed of equivalent benefit.” The more you are willing to seek a solution, to find the benefit in your obstacle, the more you will find what’s good in it.

An easy way to find the good is to practice gratitude. What are you grateful for in your life right now? I find five things I am grateful for first thing every morning. That helps me find more people and things to be grateful for throughout my day.

The Next Step

If you are ready to turn adversity on its head, remember that what you are going through right now is temporary and has an expiration date. Your difficulties are your anchor to charting a new course in your life full of promise and purpose. Adversity is your greatest teacher working for you, and the more you can see the benefit that results from it, the more positive and good you will find in it.

What better way to reach the next level of your life than to turn your adversity into your advantage? Start now!

Source: huffingtonpost.com ~ By: Taylor Tagg

8 Fascinating Things We Learned About The Mind In 2015

As the New Horizons spacecraft made its historic flight to Pluto and some scientists explored the far reaches of our solar system, others were making some incredible advances in their exploration of the inner workings of the mind.

Studies published this year shed light on the mysteries of the brain and human behavior, and began paving the way for new treatments to mental and neurological health problems, ranging from addiction to autism to Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are eight fascinating things we learned about the human mind in 2015.

1. Smartphones are wildly distracting. 

Americans are spending more time than ever looking at screens, and we’re only beginning to learn how this is affecting our brains.

Just hearing your smartphone vibrate is enough of a distraction to significantly impair focus and productivity, according to a Florida State University study published in August.

Another recent study found that heavy smartphone users are more prone to experiencing “cognitive failures” arising from forgetfulness, inattention and a lack of awareness of one’s surroundings, including things like missing appointments, walking into people and forgetting things.

“The Internet is great, mobile phones are great, but there is a point at which we need to sit back, log off and really start to think about how technology is impacting on our capacity to focus,” said Dr. Lee Hadlington, a psychologist at England’s De Montfort University and the latter study’s lead author. “We are always eager to get the new piece of tech — but not to think about its underlying consequences to our cognitive capabilities.”

2. Psychedelics may be the next big thing in mental health care. 

We witnessed a renaissance in psychedelic research this year. A review of studies on the therapeutic applications of psychedelic drugs, published in September in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, showed that psychotherapy assisted by substances such as LSD, psilocybin (hallucinogenic mushrooms) and MDMA (the active ingredient in Ecstasy) holds promise for treating mental health issues including post-traumatic stress disorderaddictionend-of-life anxiety and depression.

“The studies are showing big effects,” Dr. Matthew Johnson, a behavioral pharmacologist at Johns Hopkins University and one of the study’s authors, told HuffPost. “The exciting thing isn’t just that these drugs work for something that we already have treatment for. It’s that they’re getting big effects on disorders for which we have very poor treatment.”

3. Pollution is worse for the brain than we realized. 

Just months before the world looked on in horror at Beijing’s “airpocalypse,” research found that exposure to air pollution can speed up brain aging, and may contribute significantly to neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The study showed that small increases in exposure to pollution were associated with decreases of white matter in the brain — in other words, exposure to environmental toxins was “shrinking” the brain.

“The evidence so far suggests that pollution could be the most pervasive potential cause of brain disease that scientists have ever discovered,” science journalist Aaron Reuben wrote in Mother Jones in May.

4. The brain and immune system are actually linked.  

This year, University of Virginia neuroscientists uncovered a previously unknown direct connection between the brain and the immune system — a network of lymphatic vessels that previously had only been found to exist below the base of the skull, but were observed for the first time in the brain.

“When we discovered the lymphatic vessels, we were very, very surprised, because based on the textbooks — these vessels do not exist,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Jonathan Kipnis, told HuffPost in June.

The finding could have significant implications for the treatment of brain disorders involving inflammation, such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and autism.

5. Erasing memories could be the future of addiction treatment. 

Scientists hacking into the brain to erase or transplant memories is no longer just the stuff of science fiction. Memory erasure may soon be a reality, and it could help us better treat drug addiction by targeting drug-related memories.

Landmark research from the Scripps Research Institute that was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry identified a new drug that has the potential to selectively erase dangerous addiction-associated memories in people addicted to meth.

“When the person is in-patient, they’d use this treatment once and it would target those drug-associated memories that could be triggers for them,” Dr. Courtney Miller, one of the study’s authors, said in August. “Later on, when they’re back in the real world, the memories wouldn’t serve as triggers because they’d be gone.”

6. Nature does the mind good. 

We already knew that spending time in the great outdoors comes with significant physical and mental health benefits, but this year, researchers found that the psychological benefits of nature extend even further than we realized.

Research from Stanford University that was published in July found that outdoor strolls reduced the sort of obsessive, negative thoughts that characterize depression.

Another study published last month found that spending time in nature could also have therapeutic applications for addiction, and linked exposure to nature with reduced impulsivity and improved self-control.

“A nature-based treatment component may be a valuable addition to standard therapies for individuals struggling with substance abuse,” Dr. Meredith Berry, a psychologist at the University of Montana and the study’s lead author, told HuffPost.

7. To boost your mood, boost your bacteria. 

The brain-gut connection has been another major theme in neuroscience and psychology research over the past couple of years. This year, research found that increasing the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut can help to reduce anxiety and also to lessen symptoms of depression.

One study showed that people who have more fermented foods in their diet — which are filled with healthy bacteria known as probiotics — exhibit less neuroticism and social anxiety.

“It is likely that the probiotics in the fermented foods are favorably changing the environment in the gut, and changes in the gut in turn influence social anxiety,” Dr. Matthew Hilimire, an assistant professor of psychology and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement in June. “I think that it is absolutely fascinating that the microorganisms in your gut can influence your mind.”

8. Good sleep is critical to a healthy emotional life. 

It’s well-established that good sleep is crucial to psychological well-being — and that sleep deprivation, on the other hand, raises stress levels and has been linked with anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.

A landmark study published in July in the Journal of Neuroscience found that good sleep is also a key component of emotional intelligence. The researchers showed that losing sleep dulls our ability to read facial expressions, which is an important component of emotional intelligence. On the bright side, dreaming actually boosts this ability, the researchers found.

“It’s almost as though, without sleep, the brain… was unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses,” Walker said in a statement when the study was published. “Emotionally, you’re not on a level playing field.”

Source: huffingtonpost.com ~ By: Carolyn Gregoire

How to Deal When the Holidays Aren’t Exactly Happy

I woke up alone on Christmas morning.

The silence in my apartment felt unnervingly loud as I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. “‘What’s different about today anyway?” I asked myself. “It’s just another day. Christmas is an overhyped commercial holiday. Ha! Those poor suckers, swiping their credit cards at stores with those dumb plastic decorations on display. Oh, and it’s for kids. Seriously. There’s nothing to be sad about, is there? So just get up and make some tea. Shake it off.”

It was the first time in my life I was alone on Christmas day. I was 23. I was separated from my husband and living in Australia, away from my family in the U.K. I felt heavy that morning in 2005 for two reasons. First, I felt sorry for myself, for being alone (as reflected in my defensive inner dialogue). Second, I felt stupid for feeling sorry for myself. It’s no secret that many people in the world had it a lot harder than I did.

Whenever I’m feeling sorry for myself, I veer between “It’s OK to feel down for a while” and “Pull it the f*ck together.” Never have I swung so much between the two than during that holiday. And I know I’m not alone. The holidays are an emotional struggle for a lot of people.

This time of year we remember people we’ve lost, especially the older we get. We think about the people we love who live far away. Perhaps we rue what we cannot afford to do or what we can’t afford to give to others. We might think back on the entire year and feel we have not achieved what we’ve wanted to. It’s melancholic just acknowledging these truths as I write them!

Many of us pause to consider what’s going on in the world beyond our life and the lives of the people we know too, especially given such tragic, recent world events. Universally, it feels as if our hearts are heavy this season.

There’s nothing like the season’s festive messages of peace, love, and togetherness to really make us contemplate our existence, our relationships, and what really matters to us.

If you are struggling this year, take some solace in the fact that no one’s life is perfect. And no one’s Christmas is like the movies. The holiday strain doesn’t discriminate against anyone. It can be the most bittersweet, highly charged time of year (even though that’s the part that we don’t talk about).

If this holiday season is a struggle for you, these six things can help you feel a little better.

1. Accept it’s tough.

There’s no sugarcoating it: Sometimes you will feel a little low. Even acknowledging this—that for a day or a few days you might be sad—is freeing. “This too shall pass,” as the old saying goes, is true. Within days you’ll be seeing “New Year, New You!” everywhere you look. Sigh. But take comfort in the fact that life presses on.

2. Do something nice for someone else.

The holiday season is ripe with opportunities to help others (find 41 of them here). It can be anything from volunteering at a local homeless shelter to sending an unexpected holiday card to the older lady down the block. A random act of kindness benefits the giver as much as the receiver (or more so, if you ask me). Or write a thank-you note to someone who helped you this year—a colleague, a teacher, a relative, the barista who serves your latte with a smile every morning (especially those Mondays when you really need it)—anyone.

3. Call an old friend.

Dial someone who’s a positive influence in your life, who you know would be delighted to hear from you. You don’t need a reason. Just say, “Hey, this time of year got me thinking of you… How are you?” You’ll be amazed at how this can lift your mood.

4. Treat yourself.

That Christmas morning in Sydney, I went for lunch at my best friend’s family’s house and then bought Vogue—a real indulgence for my budget at the time. I took it to the beach with an iced latte (Christmas is in the summer in Australia). That glossy mag was my gift to myself.

You deserve a gift too. Small or big, the best gifts are the ones you give yourself when you need them most. Treating yourself is an important act of self-care.

5. Focus on what’s going right.

What are three cool things that have happened this year? No matter how troubled your year has been, there is always light when you look for it. Take a friend of mine, who has been ill and is going through a divorce. I pressed her to tell me three positive things that happened in 2015.

She said, “I got my beautiful dog, Georgie. I discovered Wayne Dyer’s books and online lectures. And I don’t care if it’s called the ‘divorce diet,’ but hey, I’ve lost 12 pounds—check out my butt!” We had a good laugh at the last one. There’s always some good. Always. And to quote Dyer, “When you change how you look at things, the things you look at change.”

6. Laugh.

When all else fails, watch a funny movie (not a holiday movie or anything with a sentimental ending). Nothing lifts your spirits and disrupts your negative mental chatter like some hilarity. Try something with Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, or Will Ferrell in it. It’s OK to veg out and be lazy this time of year—ask any sane human. Take a couple of hours and watch the silliest movie you know. Even some funny YouTube videos will do the trick.

The Bottom Line

Remember this: Christmas will be over as soon as it began. You will be back to the daily grind before you know it, and you’ll probably wish you enjoyed the break a little more. So relax and breathe into it, whether you’re alone like I was or surrounded by relatives that challenge you. (And if it’s the latter, try these strategies for coping.)

The year following that lonely holiday, I spent Christmas with my boyfriend (now husband) and his loving, welcoming, warm family. A lot can change in a year. And a new one is nearly here.

Source: greatist.com ~ By Susie Moore

27 Healthy Meals (and Desserts) You Can Make in a Mug

The microwave gets a bad rap these days, but when you’re running late or only have 10 minutes between errands, tossing a few ingredients in a mug for a healthy and tasty meal in five minutes flat doesn’t sound too shabby. And all that hype about microwaves causing health concerns—well, it’s just that. (There’s not really enough evidence to suggest they release enough radiation to be harmful.)

These breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes are surprisingly flavorful and can be carried to work and cooked on the spot. If you’re really anti-microwave, most of them can easily be made in the oven if you have a few extra minutes to spare. While the desserts might not be the most nutritious, they are the most delicious. And who would say no to chocolate cake that only takes five minutes? Certainly not us.


Ok, so it might actually take two minutes. Inspired by the blueberry muffins at Starbucks, this version is healthier, faster to make, and tastier. Banana adds a little extra potassium and staying power to this breakfast of champions. And if you’re in it for the long haul (12 minutes), you can make it in the oven.

It’s like dessert for breakfast—but good for you (and it only takes five minutes to whip up). A pinch of cinnamon and chili powder adds a spicy twist to the sweetness of the coconut. And while the recipe calls for stevia, you could use any natural sweetener (like honey). It’ll still taste amazing.

We’re all about this muffin in a mug, especially when it’s fall and we want cinnamon in everything. Substitute a natural sweetener like maple syrup or honey if you don’t use stevia, and if you’re running short on time, skip the frosting—you won’t miss it (that much).

Coconut + chai = a match made in heaven. This recipe might sound like the kind that’ll lead to a sugar high, but the natural coconut, almond meal, and flax meal keep it healthy and filling. The cream cheese frosting makes for a tasty weekend treat, but we still devour it without.

The perfect excuse to eat cake for breakfast—after all, it’s oatmeal and peanut butter, what cake could be healthier? Just mix it up, toss in the microwave, and you’re out the door with a breakfast that won’t leave you frantically rummaging through your desk for snacks one hour later.

Pancake à la souffle. It’s fluffy, it’s a pancake, and it’s in a mug—it’s everything we could want. Add some blueberries for a sweeter version or cheese if you’re craving savory. Just don’t forget the non-stick spray, or else you’ll have a very sad-looking mug at the end of your meal.

This one takes a bit longer—11 minutes—but we’re talking potatoes here. The sweet potatoes mixed with savory veggies and cheese are a perfect combination, not to mention sweet potato’s great nutritional benefits, like its anti-cancer and anti-inflamatory properties. The touch of rosemary at the end adds the perfect finishing flavor.

Not to worry, egg lovers, we’ve got you covered too. This recipe calls for egg whites only, but feel free to use the yolks as well—they won’t hurt you. This blend of spinach, peppers, and tomato is awesome, but you can substitute any veggies or meat for a create-your-own style.

A warm and delicious way to get your veggies for the day, this recipe tastes rich and flavorful while staying healthy. Be prepared: It calls for an oven, so while it’s super simple to mix up, the baking time is longer. If you’re in a pinch, the microwave would work as well.

This recipe loads up on the good stuff—quinoa and pumpkin—and uses maple syrup to sweeten it up. Pop one of these bad boys in the microwave before work for a seasonal dish that doesn’t go overboard.

Perfect for a quick a.m. meal, especially if you have some cooked quinoa on hand. Throw in whatever greens or veggies you have lying around, and you’re set. You’ll get your morning egg fix, and the quinoa will keep you charged for hours. Hello, productive workday!


Who knew you could make fried rice in a microwave? This recipe hits all the right (flavor) notes, and no one would ever guess it takes only a cup, a microwave, and a few (okay, maybe a bit more than that) ingredients. Just don’t skimp on the cup size—we’re talking a meal here.

Great for a chilly winter day, this soup can be enjoyed at home or at the office. (Regardless, it’s an easy and homey solution to the lunch hour dilemma.) Throw in extra veggies or substitute—there’s really no right or wrong way when it comes to soup. The egg adds a little extra oomph and protein to cut the midday slump.

Yep, you read that right: Spaghetti-ohs (cue your ecstatic inner child)—only the adult version, which still only takes seven minutes to make and will have you reminiscing about the good old days. Fun tip: Freeze the leftover sauce in ice cube trays, then just pull out and thaw when you’re in a rush.

Naturally, no mug recipe list would be complete without the tried-and-true mac n’ cheese. Only three ingredients—we don’t count water—and you’re on your way to comfort food heaven, minus the craft, pot, and mess.

All you need is a minute—plus the thirty seconds it takes to throw the ingredients in a mug, but we’re pretty sure you can deal with that. It’s all the lasagna flavors you love sans noodles. Substitute in the meat, veggies, and sauce you want (you can even use pesto), and voila! It’s like Little Italy came to you.

A few more ingredients than the rest, but we bet you’ll be able to whip this up faster than the time it takes for the delivery guy to knock on your door. A healthy but filling salad perfect for lunch or dinner (or even for snacking in between), couscous is way better for you than refined carbs like white rice or flour—but it still curbs hunger.

The one time it’s quicker than going to Chipotle, and you can still have all the mix-ins you can’t do without—just make sure to keep them on hand. This burrito in a mug hits the spot day or night, and it’s the perfect solution when you’re just too tired to do one more thing.


Another reason to indulge your fall pumpkin cravings. As far as desserts go, this one’s pretty darn healthy—and gluten-free, although you could replace the coconut flour with regular if you’re in the mood for the full whammy. Whatever you do, don’t leave out the chocolate.

You’ve gotta love PB for this one. It’s a cupful of pure peanut-ty goodness and calls for (five!) ingredients you’re bound to have on hand, so you can whip it up at a moment’s notice.

Six minutes ’til heaven—warm, cinnamon-y, gooey heaven. And with maple syrup for sweetness, it’s not all that bad for you either, especially if you opt for whole wheat or spelt flour instead of white. We’ll just take breakfast and make it dessert.

Apple pie made easy. You can go the traditional oven route, but if you’re looking for a really quick treat, it takes only two and a half minutes in the microwave. Top it off with a little ice cream and ta da! Gourmet gone simple.

We’re not typically fans of adding dye to anything edible, but when it comes to red velvet cake, we can’t help ourselves—especially if it’s a cute single-serving cake! This is the ideal recipe to enjoy on a night in, and you won’t have to worry about leftovers tempting you later.

Our happy place usually involves chocolate—the more, the better. This recipe does chocolate right, and you don’t even have to pull out a cake pan. Five minutes and you have a perfectly cooked brownie begging for a scoop of ice cream. Just be careful to not overcook, or it’ll get tough and rubbery.

For the citrus fans who don’t go gaga over chocolate, this one’s for you. Plan for about one lemon per mug cake—the rest of the ingredients you should already have on hand. It’s the perfect blend of sour and sweet, ready in minutes.

It doesn’t get simpler than this—only a few ingredients, a mug, and a microwave. You can even leave out the crust if you’re in the mood for pure pumpkin. You can use regular sugar or stevia, but we like maple syrup or honey best.

So “healthy” might not exactly apply here, but we couldn’t pass over the Nutella. Next time you’re down or just need a chocolate pick-me-up, we’ve got you covered. Just grab a mug and spoon and carve out five minutes of Netflix time.

Source: greatist.com ~ ABIGAIL THORPE

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