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Could CDFIs Be One Way To Finance Economic Justice?

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Brighter Beginnings, a Bay Area nonprofit benefited from a loan from a low-Income designated credit … [+] union that serves working families and underserved communities
Profit-driven investing has often fueled extractive capitalism, damaging the environment and harming marginalized communities. Impact investing is so named because it has infused positive social and environmental impact alongside financial returns. To advance economic justice, the investment community as a whole, including venture capital and major banks, must change the way it invests, which currently leaves out people of color in huge margins. Federally certified Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) can help investors direct their capital — through purposeful lending — to the places that traditional financial institutions won’t invest.
CNote is an impact investment platform that partners with CDFIs around the nation to deliver investor capital and deposits to communities, small businesses and organizations that are advancing economic justice. Specifically, CNote reports that since the company was founded, 51 cents of every dollar invested through its platform have funded businesses led by people of color and 35 cents of every dollar have funded women-owned businesses. On the investor side, CNote helps large institutions, including corporations, foundations and banks, both make direct investments into CDFI loan funds and deposit institutions, and also use the efficiency of technology to service and report on those investments. 
“CDFIs, at the heart of it, are community lenders,” said Catherine Berman, CEO of CNote. “If you think about where banks step out, CDFIs step in. They responsibly deliver capital where it is needed most in a very placed-based, community-first approach. Most CDFIs  are nonprofits and there is tremendous alignment around ensuring their borrowers are successful. They win when the community wins.”

CNote is also a certified B Corporation, or a company that has met certain social and environmental standards as verified by the nonprofit B Lab. I spoke with Berman as part of my research on businesses with social missions about the importance of CDFIs, especially given the pandemic, and to learn more about how the company upholds its values in practice.
Can you explain why you chose to partner with CDFIs in order to pursue your goals of closing the wealth gap and advancing economic justice?

Catherine Berman, CEO of CNote


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Catherine Berman: To be a CDFI, you have to be certified by the government. The certification process is run by the U.S. Treasury Department CDFI Fund. They only certify firms if they’ve proven they are, in fact, a fair and responsible lender. CDFIs need to demonstrate to the government that you are doing proactive, responsible lending to underserved communities.
CDFIs come in various shapes. There are CDFI deposit institutions, there are CDFI banks, there are CDFI credit unions, that all serve different community needs. The nuts and bolts are really about lending. How do we achieve fair and responsible lending for underserved communities so that all individuals have a shot at financial freedom? That is a core tenet of CDFIs. They bring prosperity around a host of issues, from affordable housing to education to food deserts.. You would be hard pressed to find a financial advocate more holistically focused on uplifting communities. 
How have your CDFI partnerships been affected by the coronavirus pandemic?
Catherine Berman: CDFIs are our economic first responders in the United States. Historically, we’ve seen CDFIs step up to address the aftermath of economic and natural disasters like hurricane Sandy and the financial crisis of 2008, and, not surprisingly, we’re seeing that now in full force with this pandemic and the associated economic fallout. We were having conversations with CDFIs about saving small businesses before a lot of people were even recognizing what this virus meant for the economy. We’ve seen a few key things from the industry and our partners.
Number one is that CDFIs are absolutely stepping up and doing what they do best – identifying and addressing acute needs by providing fair capital and assistance. For example, the need for timely and necessary technical assistance in the form of small business coaching and resource sharing. 
To illustrate, a big challenge has been how do you take a business that was a brick and mortar, very community driven, but never had a digital presence—and transition that to an online presence and effectively start generating revenue? Those are the types of technical assistance needs small business owners have right now which CDFIs have been able to serve, among other examples. We’ve seen that again and again throughout this pandemic.
The second piece we’ve seen is obviously increased visibility for the industry. Like I said, most Americans hadn’t even heard of the acronym “CDFI”, and yet they’re the powerhouse and economic engine for our country. Well, now people are fortunately hearing about them more and more. One relevant update is around new actors participating in the success of CDFIs. By new actors, I mean corporations, local governments that hadn’t formally participated, as well as other private sector organizations like family offices all starting to recognize the work CDFIs have been doing for decades. Coupled with the increased visibility CDFIs are getting, new actors step in to say, “You’re the folks that are going to help our economy recover. You’re the folks that I should be relying on. So, what do you need?” The presence of new actors has been really exciting from a funding and visibility perspective. It is critical these new actors not only step in now, but also partner for the long-term to create sustainable channels as the industry grows. That is one thing we enjoy deeply about our work at CNote. The ability to use technology for long-term, sustainable change, creating the “pipes” so that deposits and investments can more effectively flow to the CDFIs that need them, when they need them. 
The last is performance. One of the things we said from day one is that CDFIs are capital preservation agents. They are very good at identifying borrowers and getting investors repaid, and we continue to see that throughout the pandemic. For CNote’s portfolio, we did a stress test back in July, and not only have we suffered zero losses across our CDFI portfolio but when we ran the stress test, we saw that our portfolio partners could weather up to about 50% in losses and still not have any negative repercussions for our investors. We often spend a lot of time, as we should, talking about the impact that CDFIs have, which has never been more important than it is today because they are the direct mechanism when we think about small business recovery. But it’s equally important to talk about how strong they are financially, and that when an investor places their confidence and their funds in CDFIs, they do have a history of strong financial performance. Their performance during the pandemic continues to prove that out. 
Tell me more about the increased visibility of CDFIs and these new actors entering the space.
Catherine Berman: One of our products that you may have seen online is called the Promise Account. It is a fully FDIC / NCUA insured 100% impact cash product designed for large investors and institutions. This solution enables institutions to move large deposits into low-income communities and communities of color while enjoying efficiency, full coverage insurance and impact reporting. 
In October, Mastercard announced a $20 million commitment into the Promise Account and we’re excited to announce our newest partners this year.
When you think about Mastercard specifically, a $20 million commitment in the Promise Account represents a few things. 
First, it shows us that we’re not talking about a few million, but a substantial commitment that I think many peers can follow. 
It also shows their desire to do this in a very deliberate way. They not only showed great intention around getting funds into communities, but took great care to assess how that money was getting there and which partners they chose to make that happen. CNote being a woman-led firm with a strong DE&I focus was really important. Together, our focus has been deploying dollars where and when they’re needed most, and then tracking those funds in a way that is efficient for Mastercard, but not burdensome to our partner depository institutions. 
All of those steps they took really highlighted what you can do when you have that intentionality and when you have technology available — which wasn’t around even 10 years ago — to move dollars in a safe, secure, and impactful way.
Additionally, the movement toward CDFIs is picking up: Starbucks, for example, just announced a $100 million commitment to create the Starbucks Community Resilience Fund, aimed at advancing racial and environmental justice. The fund will partner with CDFIs to ensure they’re allocated for maximum impact.
Why did CNote pursue B Corp certification? What did the company learn from the B Impact Assessment?
Catherine Berman: The reason we were excited to pursue B Corp is we want to ensure that we’re walking the walk. CNote’s mission is to build a more inclusive economy through financial innovation. We fundamentally believe that profit and purpose can align to create shared value for our clients, our company, and society. B Corp certification has become a great indicator of commitment to those values and is something we’re aligned with. The B Impact Assessment was useful to understand areas we might improve upon or areas to watch as we scale so it was incredibly valuable to have that external assessment. B Corp certification makes our social mandate clear to stakeholders and empowers leadership and the board to look beyond a sole focus on profits.

6 Ways You Can Support Black Businesses Long-Term

June 16, 2020 10 min read
In the months since George Floyd’s death, the country has been reckoning with our legacy of racial inequities. Many people have been taking a good hard look at themselves, and many are trying to figure out how they can help. Black History Month begins today, and this year — perhaps more than any in recent history — people are looking for genuinely impactful ways to celebrate. Entrepreneurs tend to be hands-on doers and problem-solvers, so when a deep systemic issue has been identified, business leaders look for solutions. And according to Connie Evans, the CEO and president of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, that’s what makes entrepreneurs so valuable to the cause of racial equity. “Business owners can help their local government leaders think more creatively and more entrepreneurially to solve some of the problems that they’re seeing in their communities,” Evans told Entrepreneur.  
Evans has been advising governments, business owners and nonprofits — from presidential administrations to the World Bank to the Senate Small Business Committee — for 25 years. She was the first black woman to be elected to the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and has also served on the U.S. Treasury Department’s CDFI Advisory Board. When we asked her how the entrepreneurial community can translate their convictions into actions, she had six suggestions. 
1. Use your buying power to support minority-owned businesses.
Evans says, “Your readers should think about looking to find and support black-owned and Latinx-owned businesses with their consumer dollars. That’s a very important thing that any reader can do. If you’re in a community where there aren’t many minority-owned businesses, or you’re not sure where they are, there are black directories out there and organizations that can link them to black businesses.”
We have listed a number of them here.
2. Write letters to your national and local representatives.
“Your readers can also use their voices and their pens to write to their representatives,“ Evans says. “And I don’t just mean to Federal congressional representatives. There are lots of regulations and laws at the state and local level that represent real barriers for minority businesses.”
For example, at the local level: 
“Business owners and businesses of color have more difficulty accessing new markets,” Evans says. “And all governments, whether you’re local or state, have contracting opportunities. Oftentimes those contract opportunities go to very, very, very large businesses. So, you could petition your local or state government to break up these big bundle contracting programs so that smaller and black-owned businesses can have access. That’s a very important one, and it’s something that can be done easily if there is will and demand. And there are examples out there of cities that have done this.”
Evans continues, “Another thing at the state and local level is removing the barriers for how businesses get licensed. In many places, you have to jump through 50 different hoops and go to three different places and all of those things. Those are just barriers to people without as many resources.”
At the national level: 
It’s generally important to let your representatives in Congress know you care about how the Small Business Administration decides which businesses get capital, but that’s especially true when it comes to future rounds of stimulus funding.
“We must prioritize businesses with no more than 10 employees, period,” Evans says. “Businesses owned by people of color overwhelmingly — we’re talking more than 90 percent — have 10 or fewer employees. So, the SBA needs to eliminate regulations that allow first-come, first-serve funding [that goes primarily to bigger ‘small’ companies].”
Entrepreneurs can also let their federal representatives know they don’t approve of the SBA discriminating against small business owners with criminal records, which disproportionately affects entrepreneurs of color. 
Related: A Leaked Powerpoint Suggests the SBA Is Denying Disaster Loans …
3. Take stock of diversity in your own business operations.
“By nature, entrepreneurs are leaders,” Evans says. “They can be community leaders, and use their voices. But entrepreneurs are also business owners. And if we’re really going to change society, you shouldn’t do the first two actions I mentioned without also working for inclusivity inside your own business operation. Look at your supplier list. Is it diverse? Look at your employees. Are they diverse? Try to have alignment in your actions. Don’t be outraged at the injustice you’re discovering without taking on these issues seriously and valuing diversity and inclusiveness in your own operations.”
4. Donate your company’s services
“If anyone had any doubt, it’s now clear that the whole global economy is moving to a much more digital marketplace,” says Evans. “And some of these smaller businesses owned by people of color have been much slower to get up to speed on having a digital presence and developing expertise there.
“AEO has created what we believe to be a comprehensive, relatively sophisticated solution to reach small business owners, including black business owners,” Evans continues. “Through our program called Main Street Rise, we’ve pulled together partners like GoDaddy and Bench and Fanbank, who all have world-class technology solutions to help small businesses get up to speed quickly. With Main Street Rise, our partners are offering these products and services free to small business owners in need.
“For example, Bench provides accounting services for entrepreneurs. Small business owners have lost so much revenue during shelter-in-place, and many don’t know if they can afford to take out PPP loans or any other kinds of loans. They need help with accounting and getting their books in order, and some of these businesses just can’t afford that.
“We can help with that. We’re also able to give them a way to generate revenue through Fanbank in a program where they can sell credits to their customers, so when they’re able to open, their customers can go in and start shopping with them. We also have mentors who can help you figure out how to pivot in this environment and in the recession we’re entering. So, if your entrepreneurial readership has solutions that they think can help small businesses, we will be happy to talk with them about joining our partnership.”
5. Put on your entrepreneur hat to find community solutions
“Entrepreneurs are always thinking, ‘How do I solve problems?’ And they can use that mindset to help their local government leaders think more creatively and more entrepreneurially to solve some of the problems that they’re seeing in their communities,” Evans says. “For example, during the lockdown, you might think, ‘Okay you have restaurants that are closed, and can only do takeout and curbside delivery, and you have entire communities where people are unemployed and don’t have food. They’re standing in food lines that are wrapping around blocks. Why not take state government dollars and give those restaurants grants to open up and feed the community? That way, the restaurants are able to hire people back while also filling a real need to get nutritious food back into communities. We need to get more entrepreneurial about how we are using government resources and how they can be used to solve multiple problems and challenges all at one time.”
Related: Black-Owned Restaurants and Businesses You Can Support Right Now
6. Get strategic with your charitable donations
“Oftentimes people think of charity as helping the homeless, education, social services — and that’s all great, of course,” Evans says. “But your readers might not realize that an important part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem for communities of color and business owners of color are these nonprofit organizations that are set up to provide capital and trusted guidance to businesses in underserved communities. Those nonprofits need support, and there are different creative ways of doing that.”
Grants. “Reopening for many small businesses will require grants — capital without the burden of loans and payback. How are they going to pay for all the new retrofitting that will be required to reopen? Where’s that money coming from? You can’t take out a loan for that because your revenue is reduced, and even when you open with the retrofit, you can only have 50 percent or 25 percent of the occupancy that you used to. So people need grants for that.
“You can come to Main Street Rise if you want to make a grant to a particular business in your neighborhood — or just to any businesses working with AEO,” Evans says. “We’re a national organization, and we have over 1,700 members so if any of your readers say, ‘I want to support businesses within my state or within my big city or within my little town,’ we can do that.
“We can direct the resources to any geographic or socio-demographic parameters that someone may really want to see their resources support. Grants are a really important way the entrepreneurial ecosystem can get engaged in supporting black-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, entrepreneurs with records, entrepreneurs in rural communities, Native American communities and immigrant communities.”
Donor-Advised Funds. ”Some of your readers may have their own trusts, family foundations or what’s called a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF). When the new tax policy went into effect under this administration, there were more opportunities for people of wealth to use that money in charitable ways that allow them tax advantages. One of those ‘products,’ if you will, is a DAF that they have set up — oftentimes with Fidelity. And you can think about using your DAF in ways that can support minority business ownership.
“For example, through Fidelity, AEO just received a $10,000 contribution from a business owner in California who wanted to support Main Street Rise. They took this money from their DAF and said specifically, ‘This is to help small businesses.’
“There is a program in Chicago called the Chicago Community Trust, which directs your money to help support businesses or black-owned businesses in the community. That would be a charitable contribution your readers could get a tax write-off for. So, it’s just another way of thinking about what you have, generally, that can help.”
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Kill the Habits That Hold You Back if You Feel Like Your Team Is Stuck in a Rut

Identify if there are activities in your day that, instead of helping you achieve your goals, are blocking your path.
Entrepreneur’s New Year’s Guide
Let the business resources in our guide inspire you and help you achieve your goals in 2021.

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Humans love routine . When it comes to achieving measurable goals, this means that we tend to do the same, as we always have, and in the same order. This also happens with our habits when working in teams. You’ve probably been working with your team long enough to feel like you know what to expect from them and have developed habitual patterns in the way they interact. And, most likely, the feeling is mutual. Maybe it’s time to change those impressions.
To be a better manager, it is important to take risks and make necessary improvements. This often requires identifying what is working and what needs to be improved. Sometimes finding out is as easy as asking yourself these three questions:
1. What habits have gotten you to where you are today?2. What habits could be holding you back from reaching your next big goals?3. Is it time to ask for feedback?
Taking a close look at your habits gives you a powerful picture of what has worked so far, and it also allows you to make conscious changes. My friend and mentor, Marshall Goldsmith, wrote a book whose title says it all: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There (What brought you here won’t get you anywhere). So what habits do you currently have that could be hindering you from reaching the next level?
Some questions you could start with are: Do you start the meetings on time? Do you listen to the comments without interrupting? Do you ask clarifying questions? Do you see the person you are talking to or do you keep your eyes on your digital device? Do you recognize a job well done and new ideas? What habits have worked well for you? And which ones do you think you would need to change to move forward?
The next thing to do is ask yourself what you are doing that is sabotaging your path to achieve your goals. I know of an entrepreneur who recently noticed that he was using the first hour of his workday to check his email and social media accounts. As a five-day experiment, he focused that same morning hour on finding new suppliers for his business. That simple change allowed it to advance its release date by three weeks.
One way to find out what’s working and what’s not working for your habits is to ask the people around you for feedback. Feedback will not necessarily point out that something is wrong; it could simply show that you are open to new ideas and strategies.
Asking for feedback can also speed up and increase the effectiveness of your efforts. Feedback can maximize your focus, energy, and time so that you can get things done right and get them done. Over and over again I have seen entrepreneurs who are doing well managing their productivity and getting more out of their efforts because they have asked for feedback from the right people.
To find out if your habits are working or not, clearly define the results you want. When you fully understand what you want to achieve, then you will be able to reflect how your actions in the last hours, days or weeks have allowed you to get closer (or not) to your goals.

This Year May See The Tipping Point For Cannabis

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beaker of cannabis liquid concentrate being poured into a test tube
Jeramie Lu Photography
Call it “The Green Wave.”  Eleven states have legalized cannabis for adult use, about twenty others allow medical marijuana, and some neighboring states are feeling a little left behind. Democrats, historically more open to laws allowing cannabis use, sales, and banking, control both the house and the senate. The customer base is growing and sales are climbing. Will 2021 be the year the rest of America lets cannabis in?

Jon Sandelman, CEO of Ayr Strategies which operates cannabis businesses in multiple states, predicts a “domino effect” of legalization in states adjacent to those making forward movement in cannabis legislation. Recent actions in New Jersey, Arizona, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia could influence local governments nearby he said. That’s because states that come late to the party give their quick-acting neighbors a head start on building a thriving regional market. There’s also the lure of new job creation.

Another important draw is tax revenue, especially in Covid-affected economies. Nevada for example, brought in about $684 million in cannabis taxes in 2020.  

cannabis legalization in the united states of america. cannabis leaf in hands on usa flag background
Federal Moves
Democrats, with their party in control of congress, may encourage the federal government to support laws easing restrictions on cannabis sales and use nationwide. Possible legislation could be something like The SAFE Banking Act, an attempt to bring cannabis banking, which is currently not allowed at federally chartered banking institutions, into the legal fold. The act passed the US House of Representatives in September 2020, but was subsequently stalled by Republicans. Proponents say allowing cannabis banking brings the industry under regulator control. It also opens up investment dollars for entrepreneurs.


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Federally sanctioned investing, banking, and loans will help the industry grow and mature said Sandelman, with well-run companies benefiting most from national legislation. “The best capitalized, best performing, and most efficiently run companies will receive the lion’s share of institutional investor attention,” he said.

Some states have been expunging low level cannabis convictions from their records. The federal government could do the same. It could also remove cannabis from the nation’s Schedule One drug list and re-classify it as a substance less harmful than heroin.

Winners and Losers
Optimism alone regarding possible new laws will inspire mergers and acquisitions in 2021 predicts Sandelman. Weaker companies will sell off assets, while those in the strongest financial shape “will be best positioned to take advantage of acquisition opportunities.” Multi-state operators will need to be disciplined and thoughtful, but also bold and strategic, he said. 

Growing Customer Base

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – JANUARY 2: Customers line up outside MedMen on the first day of recreational … [+] marijuana sales, January 2, 2018 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Christina House/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Gen Z, the youngest age group of legal consumers, spent significantly more on cannabis products last year, growing from $376m in 2019 to $865m in 2020 according to the cannabis industry researcher HeadSet.  That may be due to a combination of increasing numbers of Gen Z’ers turning 21 and cannabis’ use as an alternative to consuming alcohol at bars during 2020’s lockdown. The substance is widely accepted by this growing consumer segment.

The growing confluence of consumer, state, and federal factors may make 2021 the year for a real Green New Deal.

Use the Power of “7s” to Nail Your Business Idea

Having trouble finding a great business idea? If you’re like many aspiring entrepreneurs in the earliest stages of building your business, you may be struggling for one of two reasons:
You have no ideas!You have too many ideas!In this post, I’m going to share an exercise that will help you brainstorm a bunch of potential business ideas to find the one with the most promise. If your struggle is a lack of ideas, this’ll help get them flowing. And if you have too many ideas, it’ll help you narrow them down.
Turning Passions, Problems & Fears into Business Possibilities
This exercise is called the 7/7/7 exercise, and it will help you uncover a list of “seed ideas” that could become the basis of your business. First you’ll brainstorm twenty-one ideas across three categories (hence the “7/7/7”), then you’ll narrow down those ideas until you find the most promising one.
In the 7/7/7 exercise, you’ll be brainstorming ideas in three categories:
Problems you want to solvePassions that drive youThings you’re afraid of These three categories—problems, passions, and fears—give you a framework for generating powerful ideas, some of which could eventually turn into working business models.
Why three sets of seven ideas? To be honest, it’s a little arbitrary. But we’ve found that twenty-one is a nice sweet spot of total ideas to work with. That said, feel free to tweak things up or down if you’re struggling to come up with seven ideas for each category, or you’re overflowing with ideas and can’t keep it to just twenty-one.
Either way, the 7/7/7 exercise will get you moving in the right direction when it comes to finding the right idea to build your business around!
And that’s all we’re shooting for at this stage: direction.
Putting the 7/7/7 Exercise into Action
Here’s how the 7/7/7 exercise works.
The first step is to find something to write on. It could be Post-it Notes, a whiteboard, or just a notebook—whatever works best for you. What matters is getting the ideas in your head somewhere where you can see them.
The next step is to start brainstorming seven problems, passions, and fears that could serve as the basis for your business idea. Don’t hold back—just get them all out onto your whiteboard or notebook. You might be surprised at what you come up with.
Next, look at the list of twenty-one items and start removing the ones that don’t make sense as business ideas. Maybe it’s because they’re not something you’re passionate about, or just aren’t realistic.
Once you’ve eliminated the ones that don’t make sense, take a look at what’s left. Take a few minutes with each of the remaining of the passions, fears, and problems to see which ones spark something for you. What is your gut telling you about each one? Consider how it might be turned into a product or service. It’s okay if you don’t have a clear picture of what that might look like—as we said earlier, we’re just looking for direction at this stage.
If you want to see the 7/7/7 exercise in action (complete with examples from the brain of Pat Flynn), check out the video below.

Next Step: Putting Your Business Idea to the Test
So what did you think? Did the 7/7/7 exercise help you get closer to a business idea you’re passionate about, that solves a common problem, or that addresses a fear you and others share?
Hey, maybe your new business idea is one that does all three of those things?
This business idea generation exercise is obviously not the end of the road in developing your idea and turning it into a viable business. It’s just one of the crucial first steps in developing a winning business idea and landing your first customer.
In fact, the video above is taken directly from the third lesson of Smart From Scratch, our course designed to help you do exactly that.
If you want to take what you came up with in the 7/7/7 exercise and start turning it into an honest-to-goodness business, then check out Smart From Scratch. No matter what, the 7/7/7 exercise will give you a great starting point, along with some ideas about what you don’t want to do with your business. And it’ll even give you a chance to learn something about yourself in the process.
A Few More Resources for Finding Your Best Business Idea
There are many ways to come up with a great business idea, and the 7/7/7 exercise is just one tool. Here are a few conversations from the SPI Podcast and AskPat archives that tackle the strategies and complexities of business-idea generation.
AP 0591: Is Keyword Research Still a Good Way to Find Business Ideas?
What happened to good old keyword research? Is it still a viable way to find a niche?

SPI 046: Building a Lucrative Business with No Ideas, No Expertise, and No Money with Dane Maxwell
Dane Maxwell takes an unorthodox approach to business building. He joins an early episode of the SPI Podcast to share his perspective on how focusing too much on ideas early on can hold you back.

AP 0961: How Do I Choose an Idea and Go Forward with It?
What happens if you have two really good business ideas, and you just can’t decide which one to pursue? That’s what Luis asks in AP 0961.

Make It Messy to Find Your Great Business Idea
Coming up with a great business idea isn’t supposed to be clean and simple. It’s a messy process! But if you’re willing to throw a bunch of ideas out there and sift through them to find the gems—using the 7/7/7 exercise, for example—you’ll be on the right track to developing a viable business. And if you want help with all business-building the steps after that—from discovering your niche, to researching customers, to positioning your business, and beyond—check out Smart From Scratch.

I Changed My Brand's Name. It Was Scary But Worth It.

February 1, 2021 7 min read
I once hosted a podcast called Pessimists Archive. It gained a large and loyal listenership and got lots of media coverage. That success helped me ignore a problem I knew about but just wished would just go away:
The show’s name was turning people off.
I first heard about it from fans. They’d share the show with friends, who would refuse to listen. “It sounds like a bummer,” the friends would say. This was bad, because the show is not a bummer! It’s a fun, optimistic show about how naysayers throughout history are proven wrong! But what could I do? The name was the name.
I am the editor in chief of Entrepreneur, and Ialways tell people that change is opportunity. But when it came time for me to change, I was afraid. I pushed it off. But recently, for reasons I’ll explain below, the problem became impossible to ignore. I accepted reality: I had to push past my fear and change.
Today, the show is called Build For Tomorrow. I learned a lot in the rebranding process, which will be helpful for anyone thinking about changing their branding — whether it’s for a podcast or something else.
Here are my lessons.

1. Think Long-Term
I could have avoided this problem. Four years, ago, when I launched this podcast, I should have asked myself a question every founder must ask: What happens if this is a success?
It sounds like a silly question. If it’s a success, then… that’ll be great, right!?
Maybe. Or maybe not! My friend Adam Bornstein, cofounder of Pen Name Consulting, advises that founders ask this question early because it puts them in a long-term mindset. When we choose a name for something, we often think about immediacy. We want a name that reflects what we are now, and what we have to offer now. But that’s too short-sighted. We need a name that doesn’t limit us. The name must be flexible enough to evolve, and to reach new audiences.
This was my problem. I created my podcast alongside a popular Twitter feed called Pessimists Archive, and so I knew the Twitter audience would understand the name. But I never stopped to think, What happens when this show grows beyond that audience? Will they understand the name, too?
The answer was no. I hadn’t fully thought about what happens if I’m successful.
2. Understand Your Audience
I thought I knew my audience. I heard from them mostly on social media, which gave me a sense of who they are and what they like. But then I hired my friend’s consulting company to help me grow… and I realized I knew nothing.
His team did a deep dive into my audience. We asked them to fill out a survey, and then offered $50 Amazon gift cards for anyone willing to hop on the phone and answer questions. Brilliant interviewer Richelle DeVoe asked them what they liked about the show, but also what they didn’t like. Why didn’t they listen more? Why didn’t they recommend more?
Two critical insights came out of this.
First: They liked the show because it helped them feel more resilient about the future. This stunned me. I always thought of my podcast as a history show, but these people were saying it was relevant to their own lives!
Second: The name was a problem for many people. When they first encountered the show, they thought it would make them feel bad. That’s the opposite of the reason they said they want to listen!
This feedback was extremely helpful. Now I understood the opportunity ahead. My audience just told me what my value is to them: It’s to help them feel good about the future! I just needed a name that promised it.
3. Don’t Rush the Solution
Once I decided to change the name, I slammed the brakes on everything else. I canceled the advertising I’d lined up for the show. I hit pause on working with a new PR firm. I shelved plans for a paid push to drive newsletter subscriptions. I kept making episodes — the show still had fans to serve! — but I stopped saying the name Pessimists Archive in them.
Why? Because it was time to focus on tomorrow — no matter how long it took.
This took months. With my consultants’ help, I considered dozens of new names. We considered not just how a name sounds but also whether other shows had similar or exact names, and whether website URLs were available. I shared name options with a range of people I trust — some in the podcast industry, some outside — to get their honest responses.
When we settled on the name Build For Tomorrow, we plotted a course. We laid out a full transition plan, thinking through every possible way to tell people about the new name, and building a to-do list on (Yes, writing this article for Entrepreneur was on the list!) Then we picked a launch date and planned everything out backward from there.
The final result was a smooth relaunch. It began by changing the show’s artwork and name (which is simple to do in any podcast hosting platform), and then releasing a five-minute “episode” that was really just me talking straight to the listener, explaining why I made the change and thanking them for joining me on this journey. And because I now had a show name people could share with their friends, I invited them to do just that — and to include me, if they’d like! I said to email or DM me with whom to reach out to, and that I’d take care of it. Listeners are taking me up on the offer.
I also changed my newsletter. I’d been writing a personal newsletter called The Feifer Five, but I now realized it was also not set up for long-term success. Sure, the name was cutesy and alliterative — but it was also a barrier to entry. The Feifer Five was a name with no promises. You had no idea what you’d get, except that it was five of something from a guy named Feifer. People had to take a real leap of faith to sign up for that thing! Now I had an opportunity to do something better — to create a coherent name, with a coherent promise, and bring my efforts together. Now my newsletter is also called Build For Tomorrow.
After the relaunch, I turned everything back on — the advertising, the PR, the newsletter campaign. Did I lose some momentum in the past few months by stopping all that? Yes, I did. But the way I see it, I’m now thinking long-term. The question must always be: What if this is a success?
With this change, I plan on really finding out.

Creativity vs. Hard Work: Which Matters More for Startup Success?

February 1, 2021 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Since its 1986 launch, Pixar Animation Studios has become synonymous with creative storytelling, thanks to films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, and Up. We also know the Pixar team spends years of focused effort to perfect every frame.
As my kids watched Incredibles 2 for the third time this week, I started questioning whether founders should prioritize hard work or creativity. What’s the right balance? Which matters most for startups, both new and established?
These questions led me down a rabbit hole of conversations and research. I also thought about what I’ve learned from my own 15-year-old company, JotForm. Not only do most people have strong opinions on the topic, the answers aren’t as straightforward as they might seem.
Option 1: Work hard and keep your head down
Focusing exclusively on hard work almost always produces diminishing returns. For example, we see it in the first-mover advantage. Companies that pioneer a product or service – like eBay, Uber, and even Coca-Cola – usually enjoy a significant market edge.
If first-mover brands don’t continually innovate, they’ll eventually lose to those that follow. Competitors that challenge first movers also need to offer something fresh. Rarely can an upstart simply outwork an established business.
Related: Why Creativity is Key For The Post-Crisis Rebuild
As hustle culture loses its shine, many entrepreneurs are realizing that they can’t simply rise-and-grind their way to success. Endless workdays extract a personal toll that can include exhaustion, burnout, unhealthy lifestyle habits, toxic competition, and more.
According to LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, success requires determination, ingenuity, and strategy. “Hard work isn’t enough,” Hoffman told CNBC. “And more work is never the real answer. The sort of grit you need to scale a business is less reliant on brute force.”
Hoffman says founders should try to minimize friction and work more efficiently, rather than keeping a punishing schedule. “You might actually have more grit,” says Hoffman, “if you treat your energy as a precious commodity.”
However, if we can keep a bullish work ethic in check, studies show hard work can actually make us happy.
A team of researchers at the University of Gothenburg interviewed hundreds of people around the world to learn what makes them feel fulfilled. We often imagine that hitting a big milestone, like finishing a marathon, will boost our happiness. Instead, the researchers discovered that working toward a goal makes people happier than actually achieving it.
Option 2: All creativity, all the time
Aesop’s fable of the bell and the cat illustrates why creative ideas are important, but execution is essential:
A family of mice lives in fear of a cat. One day, they gather to discuss their options. The mice brainstorm and debate how to defeat the dangerous feline. Eventually, a young mouse suggests that they put a bell around the cat’s neck so they can hear when it approaches. All the mice agree, except for a wise, old mouse who asks, “who will put the bell on the cat?”
This is also a classic story for some entrepreneurs. Many founders get excited and go all-in on a creative scheme without testing for holes. More commonly, they focus on ideas instead of solving real problems for real people. Investor and Y Combinator founder Paul Graham calls these “sitcom” ideas, because they sound like startups a TV writer would invent for an entrepreneurial character – not something we’d actually want to use or buy.
We’re also taught from a young age that dreams are mere fantasy until you apply yourself and do the work. Even so, we’ve all struggled at some point to finish the last chapter, make that extra call, or create a new design. As neuroscientist and psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett explains, that’s because “your brain’s most important job isn’t thinking; it’s running the systems of your body to keep you alive and well.”
Related: 9 Ways to Rewire Your Brain for Creativity
Neuroscience shows that “even when your brain does produce conscious thoughts and feelings,” says Feldman Barrett, “they are more in service to the needs of managing your body than you realize.” The brain tracks how our bodies gain and use resources like water, salt, and glucose – and we’re hard-wired for conservation. In short, our minds often resist hard work.
Option 3: The right blend of both
Ultimately, we need to emphasize hard work and creativity. This applies to individuals, teams, products, and businesses. Every situation requires a different ratio of effort to innovation, but there’s no escaping from either.
While the answer may seem obvious, exploring the question underscores that hard work should be strategic, and creativity deflates without execution. Together, they have a multiplier effect. The equation is not 50% creativity + 50% hard work; it’s 50% x 50%.
Perhaps my favorite approach is to remember that hard work and creativity are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other. Elizabeth Gilbert, the best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic says she’s watched too many talented, creative people abandon projects when they encounter tedious moments and roadblocks along the way.
“The frustration, the hard part, the obstacle, the insecurities, the difficulty, the ‘I don’t know what to do with this thing now,’ she writes in a post for TED, “that’s the creative process. And if you want to do it without encountering frustration and difficulty, then you’re not made for that line of work.”
Related: Science Shows How Creativity Can Reduce Stress

Free Webinar | Feb 23: How to Turn a Side Hustle into a Multibillion-Dollar Marketing Platform

In the next episode of our Leadership Lessons series, host Jason Nazar of Comparably will speak with self-made billionaire Ben Chestnut, co-founder/CEO of Mailchimp — the world’s leading marketing platform for small businesses.
Free Book Preview Six-Figure Freelancer
This book will equip you with effective strategies and tools to help you reach your full potential as a freelancer and achieve financial prosperity.

February 1, 2021 2 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In the next episode of our Leadership Lessons series, host Jason Nazar of Comparably will speak with self-made billionaire Ben Chestnut, co-founder/CEO of Mailchimp — the world’s leading marketing platform for small businesses. Known for its signature chimpanzee mascot, more than 14 million people use Mailchimp to power their e-marketing and e-commerce efforts. With $700 million in revenue in 2019, it recently expanded into social media, search engine advertising, postal mail, and text messaging to meet consumer needs. Chestnut originally co-founded the company as a side hustle after being laid off from his web design job in the dot com bubble burst of 2001, and it has since grown into an enterprise with an estimated value of more than $4.2 billion and a staggering 60 percent market share. A unicorn feat in and of itself: Chestnut and his co-founder turned down a billion dollars from outside investors, each still retaining 50 percent ownership of the company. 
In addition to sharing Mailchimp’s incredible growth story over the past 20 years, other topics include:
– How to turn a side hustle into a billion-dollar business- Ben’s “listen hard, change fast” philosophy- The value of great branding for small businesses- The keys to inspiring creativity and innovation 
Register Now
About the Speaker
Ben Chestnut is co-founder/CEO of Mailchimp, the leading marketing platform for small businesses. Headquartered in his hometown of Atlanta since 2001, Mailchimp is privately held and profitable, with nearly 1,000 employees and millions of global users. In 2017, Mailchimp was named Company of the Year by Inc. Magazine and recognized as one of the world’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company. Ben has a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from Georgia Tech and was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year in 2016.

CB Cash Code Review 2021: I’ve Just Been Scammed

CB Cash Code creator George Patterson swears he makes $8,112.24 in daily ClickBank commissions.
Pay $37 for his course and he says you’ll follow in his footsteps and start making a quick and easy $20,000 a week in just 14 clicks of a mouse.
Does this sound too good to be true?
It certainly seems so, but in this CB Cash Code review, we’re going to take a sneak peek at the members’ area and discover exactly what this is really all about.
I promise to only give you my impartial and direct opinion so you can avoid scams and better invest your time with real make money online programs that get results.
Let’s get started.

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to buy this course and don’t have time to read the full review, here’s my honest advice:
CB Cash Code fails to deliver on every possible level with outdated information, zero over-the-shoulder training and a complete lack of support.
Save yourself the headaches and the disappointment and avoid CB Cash Code.
Be sure to unsubscribe from whoever recommended this to you too, because they’re far more interested in filling their pockets than helping you find financial freedom online. 

What We’ll Cover In This Review:

What Is CB Cash Code?
According to the sales page, CB Cash Code is George Patterson’s ultra top-secret method for making $80,000 a month.
Ironically, CB Cash Code is a Clickbetter product claiming to show you how to make money selling ClickBank products.

Whether George Patterson makes $8,000 per day on ClickBank is questionable and if he does, then I’d love to know what percentage of that comes from his own product sales.
You might think I’m being overly sceptical here but in the last few months, we’ve exposed dozens of scams currently being promoted on
You’ll find 100’s of complaints online on sites like ConsumerAffairs and PissedConsumer from people who’ve lost money through a ClickBank scam.
This is because ClickBank does a really lousy job at filtering out the scummy and scammy from the real and legit.
As a result, the platform has become a safe haven for TONS of get-rich-quick schemes like CB Money Vine, Secret Millionaire Bot and Easy Retired Millionaire that have conned unsuspecting victims out of $10,000s.
Each of these scams works in the same way:
A flashy promo video sucks you in by promising boatloads of instant, effortless cash before failing to deliver and leaving you worse off than when you started.
CB Cash Code is no different.
Based on what you’re told on the hyped-up sales page compared to what you actually get inside the members’ area, George Patterson (if that’s even his real name) has A LOT of explaining to do.
If you’re even a little bit tempted by the hollow promises of fast and easy cash on autopilot, please do me a favour:
Read this review until the very end, then go ahead and tell me in the comments whether you think CB Cash Code is a deceptive, misleading scam or the real deal.
Hyped Up Claims Vs. The Income Disclaimer
There’s a world of difference between the sales video at the top of the page and the legal spiel you’ll find at the bottom.
On the one hand, you’re told this is a life-changing system designed to get you on the road to financial freedom and on the other you’re told nobody makes any money!
I’m not making this up! Take a look for yourself:

We’ve all heard the saying “Always read the fine print” and with CB Cash Code you’ll save yourself a lot of wasted time, frustration and money by looking past the sales gimmicks that only tell you what you want to hear.
The CB Cash Code ‘Training’ Is A Total Joke
There’s nothing worse than getting pumped up about a potential new money-making opportunity, only to pay up, get inside the members’ area and be let down.
I know that’s exactly how I felt when I realised that instead of being mentored by an expert online entrepreneur with practical, step-by-step and over-the-shoulder video training like I was told, the so-called ‘training’ consists of only 4 outdated PDF files.

The CB Cash Code Members’ Area
The 4 PDF files are:
The CB Cash Code Main Guide
ClickBank Cash Pro
ClickBank BookPlus
ClickBank Cash Code Secret Method
Seriously, that’s all you get for your money.
To say I felt ripped off is an understatement!
Ok, so they’re glorified, overpriced eBooks, but is the actual content any good?
Unfortunately not.
The PDFs only briefly cover how to create a ClickBank account, what stats to look at when choosing products and some of the potential traffic sources you could try to tap into to try and make a few sales.

The ClickBank Cash Code Secret Method Contents Page
Seriously, they barely scratch the surface of how to be successful in affiliate marketing.
There’s no:
Step-by-step video training
Actionable steps to follow
Support or help if you have any questions
I fail to see how anyone just starting out with ClickBank can take these short and vague eBooks and turn it into money in the bank.
In fact, as soon as I saw it, I knew I’d fallen for a scam and I’d be taking full advantage of Clickbetter’s 60-day refund policy.
I’m sure that if you go ahead and buy this that you’ll end up doing the same.
When you compare CB Cash Code with real affiliate marketing courses like Wealthy Affiliate and Commission Academy where you get full video training with expert support, it’s clear you don’t need to pay for this rubbish.
Prepare Yourself For Upsells GALORE
If you’ve ever bought a Clickbetter product you won’t be surprised to hear you’re hit with upsells after buying CB Cash Code.
One for $197 and another for $147.
The anonymous CB Cash Code owner tries to justify this extortion by promising you even more money in an even shorter amount of time.
These ‘one-click’ upsells don’t stop once you’re in the members’ area either…
The whole website is littered with upgrade buttons that you could easily click by accident and find your credit card has been charged.
It gets worse:
Any upsells you buy into (whether intentionally or unintentionally) are NOT covered by the 60-day money-back guarantee meaning you have a cat in hell’s chance of ever seeing your cash again.
Is CB Cash Code A Scam Or Legit?
CB Cash Code has one sole purpose which is to make money for the person selling it. With outdated eBooks containing only very basic info you could find online for free, CB Cash Code is a scam that offers you absolutely nothing new or revolutionary at all.
It’s pretty clear by now that CB Cash Code is not the best way to make money online.
Sign up and you end up promoting crappy ClickBank scams like Click Wealth System, Mobile Site Sniper and 12 Minute Affiliate; not exactly the best strategy for success.
Here’s the problem:
There’s a group of fake gurus out there ready to dupe people into believing there’s a fast and easy shortcut to success when the reality is you’re only ever going to become your own boss when you follow the right training and put in the effort.
Watch this video to see how these scammers work so you never get hoodwinked again:

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Try This Tried And Tested Alternative Instead
While CB Cash Code is a scam, don’t lose hope just yet!
There are so many great affiliate marketing training courses out there that can show you exactly how to build a legitimate online business and replace your full-time income.
After reviewing 600+ courses, the top-rated is Wealthy Affiliate.
Wealthy Affiliate have been showing aspiring entrepreneurs how to create highly lucrative online income streams for over 15 years.
With full step-by-step core training courses designed specifically for newbies and a whole community of experts on hand to give you 24/7 help and support, you’ll have everything you need to make it happen.
Be ready to follow the training and put in the work and the results will follow.
Wanna know another cool thing?
Wealthy Affiliate won’t ask you to pay $37 before you can check it out because you can try out the whole training platform for free as a Starter member.
By all means, sign up to CB Cash Code and let me know when you’re making $20,000 a week following those crappy eBooks…
But we both know that’s not going to happen! 😉
Leave Us Your Own CB Cash Code Review!
If I’ve done enough to convince you to stay away from the CB Cash Code scam (and I sincerely hope I have!) then let me know in the comments.
Already signed up? Tell us what happened, we’d love to hear from you!

Simon Crowe is the founder of The Make Money Online Blog and is on a mission to help as many people as possible kiss their bosses goodbye.
Get his free Affiliate Marketing Guide For Newbies to learn exactly how to build a real income online and make your dream business a reality.