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Friday, November 23, 2012

Feature: News in Levels shining light on a new method!





Today's feature is on News in LevelsZdenek Vanicek, Director of News in Levels, tells StartupProPlus about the challenges and visions of starting News in Levels.







1-  Introduction: Please give a short description of yourself and your business.
My name is Zdenek and I have been teaching English for about 10 years. I studied in London and now I teach in the Czech Republic. We write news for students of English in three different levels so that every student, no matter what level, can learn to understand news in English.

2-  Describe your financial journey so far.
We invested about 40,000 US dollars in terms of our working hours which of course we have not been paid for. Currently we spend about 50 dollars a month running the website.

3-  How did you start out?
My colleague and I were in a pub and we began talking about ideas which might help us leave our 9 to 5 jobs and achieve financial freedom in a couple of years. We had meetings every second months and after about 6 months the idea about newsinlevels.com came about.

4-  Are you a spender or a saver?
We are definitely savers making sure every cent we spend is spent well.

5-  What's your philosophy regarding money?
The money is just energy which is practically always available if you have a good project or idea but you have to learn how to use it wisely to get more money, thus energy, back.

6-  What made you decide to launch News in Levels?
I saw that my students wanted to read news on the internet, namely BBC and CNN, but these were too difficult for lower levels. I thought it would be good to provide something more easy for them.

7-  What inspires and motivates you?
I am inspired and motivated by success. I like it when people appreciate what I do. It makes me feel good to have more and more happy readers. I don’t need to be praised, however I like it when people see value in my work.

8-  Did you make any financial mistakes along the way?
It’s not an easy question to answer. We have spent so little real money so far. We might have spent more money on consultancy but there are so many people who call themselves experts and charge sometimes unbelievable amounts of money for sharing information which is very often available for free on the Internet. Consequently we didn’t pay for any professional help. So, if there were any mistakes it was the fact we didn’t pay for consultancy.

9-  Do you believe in planning for the future?
I believe in going up step by step and always checking with your customers if they like what you do. Big plans can be unrealistic. We have a plan for the next two years. However we work more on a month to month basis, always planning one month ahead.

10- Is money important to you?
Yes, money means freedom. With money I can do what I want, be where I want to be, with the people I want to be with. With money I also have time.

11- What is your idea of financial freedom?
I found an answer to this question about 2 years ago. It is 500,000 US dollars. With that amount of money I would not have to work for money for the rest of my life. I would continue working, of course. Work is great. However I would do only what I love and really enjoy doing every day. I would still do some of the things I do now but I would do many other things as well.

12- What do you enjoy spending money on?
My number one choice is education, mostly seminars which get me to a higher level of knowledge, insight and skills. Then it would be travelling to places where I like to be.

13- What value would News in Levels add to the English Learning community online?
Our website provides an opportunity to practice English while using it. On News in Levels you can learn English without really trying! Just use the site every day and your English will improve as you go along.

14- What advice would you give to the new online Internet startup entrepreneurs?
Make sure that people really want your product. Create something that is unique or exceptionally good. Try to see how your project will help people improve the quality of their lives. If you make people more clever, more educated, more entertained or more happy, (in other words if you make a difference) you can expect great success.


Answered by Zdenek Vanicek, Director of News in Levels







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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Facebook Advertising: 6 Fundamentals for Small-Business Owners



In their book, Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising: How to Access 600 Million Customers in 10 Minutes, authors Perry Marshall and Thomas Meloche detail the ins-and-outs of advertising your goods and services to users of the hugely popular social network. In this edited excerpt, the authors lay out the basics of Facebook advertising for first-timers, including how to measure a campaign's effectiveness.
There are a few fundamentals that you must know before you begin spending your hard-earned cash advertising your business on Facebook. These terms and definitions are so important that you really should understand them comfortably and completely before giving Facebook your credit card and telling them to have at it.
An ad in Facebook is content displayed to Facebook users at an advertiser's specific request. Up to five different ads may show at one time. Where ads are displayed, what they are called, how they work, how they are presented and how many are shown at a time are subject to change at any time.
Here are six terms you'll want to get familiar with before embarking on a Facebook advertising campaign.

1. Impressions. 
Every time an ad is displayed, a user could potentially read the ad. Facebook calls that an impression; it's an opportunity for someone to see your ad. For example, if an ad has 1.4 million impressions, then the ad had 1.4 million opportunities to be seen.
But that doesn't mean 1.4 million separate people have had the chance to see the ad. The estimated reach for this ad is 200,000, the number of Facebook users who meet the criteria that the advertiser has selected for people the advertiser wants to see the ad.
If an ad has 1.4 million impressions and an estimated reach of 200,000 people, we know that, on average, each of those 200,000 people has had seven opportunities to see the ad.
Most people don't click on an ad on the first impression. As users browse Facebook, moving from page to page, the same ads are displayed multiple times.
If the ad title is good and the ad image is compelling, the ad may capture a Facebook user's attention and they may actually read the ad. If the user clicks on the ad, he is taken to a new destination specified by the advertiser. Facebook captures and reports the number of times all users have clicked on each ad.
One of the first questions everyone asks is "How well is my ad working?" There are many measures, but we'll focus on whether the ad encourages users to click.

2. Click-through rates. 
Facebook reports how well an ad encourages a user to click, in a statistic called the click-through rate (CTR). This identifies how many impressions it takes, on average, before a user clicks on the ad. CTR is the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions. If your ad had 1,000 total impressions and users have clicked on the ad 10 times, then your CTR is 1%.

3. Landing pages. 
The page that is displayed after a user clicks on an ad is called a landing page. The advertiser specifies the landing page when the ad is created in a field called destination URL.
You can send a user who clicks on an ad anywhere that doesn't violate Facebook's landing page policies. You may send users to your own web page or you may send users to other locations within Facebook -- such as a Facebook page, event, application or group.

4. Cost-per-click. 
Facebook does not display ads out of the goodness of its heart. It wants cold, hard cash. You have to provide a credit card before Facebook will even think of displaying your ad. Once it has your payment information, it lets you create an ad. During this process it asks if you want to bid for clicks or for impressions.
If you choose to bid for clicks, you will be charged only if a user clicks on the ad. You can specify the amount you are willing to pay for a click, the cost-per-click (CPC), starting at one cent per click. If you say that you are willing to pay a maximum of 45 cents for a click, then that is the most you will be charged for a click.
Technically, you are bidding on the ad space, against other unknown advertisers. Initially, the higher your bid, the more likely your ad will be displayed. After a few thousand impressions, additional factors affect the cost of your ad, including the click-through rate and whether users "like" or complain about your ad. The good new is that Facebook reserves the right to "lower the price" you pay per click, and usually does.

5. CPMs. 
You may also select to bid on impressions instead of clicks. In the Facebook interface, pay per view is labeled CPM, short for cost per thousand impressions. (Mille means 1,000 in Latin.) You can pay to have your ad displayed 1,000 times whether or not anyone clicks on it.

6. Reach and frequency. 
Ads display on Facebook multiple times to the same user. The number of individual people who have seen your ad during a specific period is called reach. The average number of times each individual user has seen your ad is frequency. But as the frequency gets high, you face ad fatigue. Even if the ad is excellent, your prospects stop clicking on it because they have grown tired of seeing it.








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Sunday, November 18, 2012

8 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Business From Home



Launching a business from home can provide tremendous flexibility and the kind of work-life balance that we all crave. But the reality is that home businesses bring their own set of challenges, says Caroline Daniels, lecturer for entrepreneurship and technology at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. For example, "doing your business on your own from home can get stale. It's hard to keep feeding the imagination all on your own."
Here are eight mistakes to avoid when starting a business from home:
Spending Too Much Time at Home: Loneliness is the number one complaint from people who work at home, says Anne Alexander, a small-business coach in Brevard, N.C. "Many people are not prepared for the isolated working environment." While it may seem easier to do everything virtually, that isn't the best approach. Instead, take time away from your home office for face-to-face meetings that will help build your business. Plan lunch dates, attend networking groups or work from coffee shops to build a social element into your day, Alexander says
Keeping a 24-7 Work Schedule: When Leon Oks co-founded iCanvasART, an online seller of custom canvases, he and several employees spent day and night working from his dining room. It's a recipe for burnout. "You're feeling guilty that you're not working, and there's no disconnect," Oks says. Eventually, he asked employees to leave by 6 p.m. and made sure to schedule free time into his day. But this year, he moved his Niles, Ill.-based company to an office space because the growing business was becoming difficult to manage at home.
Allowing Interruptions: Without a boss breathing down your neck, it's easy to take a phone call or two from family and friends. But when you're constantly in "interrupt mode," it hurts your business focus, Daniels says. To combat disruptions, she recommends setting aside blocks of quiet time throughout the day when you don't allow phone calls or email alerts. You also need to be careful about getting pulled too often into distracting chores like laundry or childcare. Remind family members and babysitters of your work hours and explain you'll be answering only urgent requests.
Depending Too Much on Loved Ones: Without coworkers around, you can easily fall into a habit of talking out your business problems with your spouse or friends. But loved ones may get weary of talking about your business. What's more, they may not provide the best advice because they don't always understand your business, Alexander says. So, try to connect with others in your field to develop an informal network of advisors. "Build a mastermind group of others with home-based businesses," Alexander suggests.
Failing to Create a Separate Work Area: Even if you don't live in a huge home, set aside a space reserved almost entirely for work. Opt for a little-used room or even an empty corner of your living area to create a physical divide between work and home. If you must work in a common area of the house like the dining room or kitchen, put away personal objects to set a professional tone for the day, Daniels says. "Even if you don't have a separate space, you can create it."
Letting Employees Abuse Your Home: You risk damage to your home if you don't establish rules for how employees should behave there. For example, Oks got stressed out over how his workers would eat lunch in his living room, walk on his light-colored carpet with their shoes on, and tack notes onto the walls. Instead of scolding employees later, it's better to set expectations from the get go, Oks says. "Set up rules you're comfortable with." Oks began asking employees to take off their shoes and clean off their workspace at the end of the day so he could use his dining room table each evening.
Getting too Busy to Stay Organized: As work piles up, it's easy to let organization slide, says Tata Harper, who started an eponymous skincare line at her home in Shoreham, Vt. "It is easy to succumb to disorganization when you are working in the same place that you live since it is a private space that you don't often share with" coworkers or other visitors, she says. Harper files papers away before they pile up and stores only business-related items there. In addition, she finds that decorating and brightly lighting her office motivates her to keep it clean.
Starting the Day Without a Plan: "Without conscious decisions about how to spend your time, your day can slip away without much to show for it," says Elaine Quinn, Chicago-based author of There's No Place Like Working From Home (Calloran Publishing, July 2011). Instead, give time to both short-term actions and long-term goals so you run your business in a more balanced manner. Create a schedule and stick to it. "Rather than making to-do lists, enter tasks directly into your [daily] planner," which allows you to set a specific deadline for completing each task, Quinn says. Also, make sure you leave unscheduled time in the day to deal with important but unexpected issues that crop up.








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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Features: Diving Deep into the Water Sports Business in the UAE




Features


Muneef AL Ameri is a 32 years old Emirati from Abu Dhabi, Studied Chemical Engineering and graduated from Michigan Technological University. He is currently working as a production manager for an oil and gas company in the UAE. His passion for water sports paved his path to his business, Empros, which he runs with his brother. 

A list of activities that are covered by Empros can be found at the end of the Feature article.



Please give a short description of yourself and your business

Muneef AL Ameri 32 years old Emirati, studied Chemical Engineering and working in Abu dhabi for an oil and gas company. Hobbies are mainly related to water sports which inspired me to open my business in this field. In 2007 my brother and I who are fans of water sports decided to open up a waters and diving center EMPROS to encourage the sport of diving and swimming in Abu Dhabi. Over the years we developed our company to include motorized activities. 


Describe your financial journey so far.

We started off the business with simple concept of buying a Yacht (Empros) from Egypt to sell it to potential customers in the UAE, which forced us to apply for a Business loan through a renounced bank the capital was invested in buying that yacht, later to find out that there was demand to charter the yacht which looked to be more profitable in comparison to selling the Yacht. We depended on the return income from chartering the yacht to open a small office and hire basic employees and get into contact with freelancers from diving instructors and event’s organizers which gave us leverage to invest into buying more capital. Investing our personal as well as profit income into building the company.    


How did you start out?

We started off by buying a yacht which was intended to sell in the local market, however we have decided to charter it instead, which gave us the financial ability to expand our business to catering and events, then dive deep into attaching more water sports activities to the business, we depended on our ourselves and friends at first to market the idea, then we started to market our activities through publications/media and charity events.


Are you a spender or a saver?

I will consider myself as a saver and a spender on investment and development.


What's your philosophy regarding money?

Very broad question, personally I think money is false indication of achievement and an unstable source of success. Professionally I think it’s a tool to be used to develop in the greater good of mankind and a tool to help promote innovation and creativity.    


       What made you decide to launch Empros?

We noticed that even though Abu Dhabi being an island and we are surrounded with water, there was no attention given to the water sports industry in Abu Dhabi. So it was our aim to focus our business in developing a high quality center that provided the best services standards while maintaining a high safety record. We then extended our function to include motorized water sports and include our 100 ft Yacht (EMPROS) into the business, expanding our range of activities.   


What inspires and motivates you?

I’s a task oriented person and a perfectionist, myself motivation in creating an idea and making it come to life. I’m inspired to make a positive mark in life and to contribute to the development and success of my beloved country.


Did you make any financial mistakes along the way?

Many. A lot of financial mistakes were made that I have learnt from not being from a financial background it was a necessary thing to happen to develop my financial skills.


Do you believe in planning for the future?

Very much forecasting and planning is a major pillar to be used when developing a business, also historical data and trend analysis to pick up on shortfall to be avoided in the future.


Is money important to you?

We have to acknowledge that money is important in life to sustain living but not an aim.


What is your idea of financial freedom?

Haven’t come across such a terminology. We as human chose to link and attach ourselves with money as a part of way of living.


What do you enjoy spending money on?

Traveling learning about new cultures. Financial investments, charity


What value does Empros add to the water sporting community in the UAE?

We have carried out several charity events, not to mention exposing the public to water sports awareness by teaching them the right and safe way in performing water sports. Participated in several sporting events.


What advice would you give to new startup entrepreneurs?

Plan and reinvest, and don’t give up at the beginning, take advise and research the market and the idea before establishing. Have a long term vision and don’t be discouraged by competition. Maintain a steady small quality output rather than a trying to go large with a weak output. Invest in advertising, advertise advertise advertise.










EMPROS

Water Sports:

A.    Diving trips and training
B.    Swimming lessons.
C.    Fishing trips
D.    Jetskiing
E.    Wakeboarding
F.    Windsurfing
G.    Parasailing
H.    Kayaking
I.     Yacht chartering
J.     Banana/donut boat ridingK.    Currently the soul contacted company by Abu Dhabi beached and Abu Dhabi municipality  to take over the water sports activities on the Corniche.  

Events on Yacht:

A.    Organize parties, wedding and celebrations on the Yacht
B.    Participate in major event like F1, the Yacht show ect
C.    Cater for special events on the yacht.
D.    Organize long diving trips






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