Business, Startups, Strategy

Small Business Mistakes – Lack of Unique Selling Proposition

In case you’re keeping up, this is the fifth installment in my Small Business Mistakes series. If you’ve missed the other four, you can read the Introduction, Failure to Validate, Misunderstanding Your Target Market, and Having No Marketing Plan. Just follow the blog to keep up and read the rest of the series as I post.

Every day we read about the latest innovative company or industry disrupter in Silicon Valley. But the reality is that most small businesses are merely competing against very similar businesses, usually in an already-crowded market space. This means, as a small business owner, you must tackle a big problem right off the bat; how do you convince your target market to do business with you rather than your competitors? It doesn’t matter if you’re a manufacturer, distributor, retailer or service provider, if your business model does not set your business apart from the rest, in a way that provides value to your potential customers, you can’t hope to take your share of the market.


Photo by Andrew Wulf on Unsplash

Enter: The Unique Selling Proposition

First, let’s get the semantics out of the way. You’ll see the same or similar definition from many different sources using different terms; Unique Selling Proposition (USP), Unique Value Proposition (UVP), Market Differentiator, Value Positioning Statement, Elevator Pitch, and Elevator Speech are all basically versions of the same thing. The purpose of (whatever you want to call it – I’ll stick with USP) is two-fold; 1) to point out what makes your business different from your competitors, 2) in a way that matters to your target market. Only if you have both elements, will you succeed in differentiating your business and winning your share of the target market.


Photo by Alexandre Debiève on Unsplash

Second, let me be very clear about a very important point; if you Google “Unique Selling Proposition”, the majority of results will define this as a “statement” that describes a business’ differentiators, etc. That’s true – it is a statement. But understand this: a USP is not merely a statement or tagline to place front and center on your website. A USP must reflect reality and be integral to your business model and mission; it’s the “Why buy from them?” for your customers. In other words, you can make up the prettiest sounding USP in your entire market but if you can’t deliver, it’s no more than a marketing ploy. If you say it then it better be true or you won’t last very long.

How Do You Formulate a USP and What Does it Look Like?

You can find tons of articles and books on how to draft your USP. One extremely thorough article by Tor Grøndsund, written in 2011 (with a follow-up in 2013) reviews 10 different templates proposed by various authors and scholars. I strongly advise reading both articles and putting one of the featured templates to good use. You’ll need to be able to answer the same basic questions to formulate your USP, no matter what format you use:

  1.  Who is your target customer?
  2. What is their specific need your business fills?
  3. What is your product or service?
  4. How does it fill that target customer’s need?

For example, in his initial article, Mr. Grøndsund features Geoff Moore’s Value Positioning Statement template, which I find to be the easiest and most straightforward:

For ____________ (target customer) who ____________ (statement of the need or opportunity)

our (product/service name) is ____________ (product category) that __________ (statement of benefit).

A USP could then read like this:

For small business owners (target customer) who need occasional legal advice (statement of the need or opportunity) Concision’s Subscription Service (product/service name) is a flat-fee monthly subscription (product category) that makes it simple to ask business and legal questions at a fraction of the usual law firm price (statement of benefit).

Again, remember, if the business does not live up to the USP, you have a real problem.

General Mistakes Made Regarding USP

Small business owners will generally make one or more of the following mistakes regarding their USP:

  1. Fail to formulate a USP
  2. Fail to focus on issues that matter to the target market
  3. Focus on the same or similar issues as the competition
  4. Fail to effectively communicate the USP


Photo by Mark Rabe on Unsplash

MISTAKE #1 – Failing to Formulate a USP

Ask yourself why someone would do business with you rather than your competition?  What specific need do you fill (or pain do you alleviate) for your target market? Think about the reasons you started the business and why you thought people would be persuaded to do business with you. Did you think you could do it better, faster, nicer, etc. than the competition? You can’t expect to draw customers away from your competition unless you provide them with a reason that matters to them. This is especially true if it’s a bit of a pain for the customer to make that transition. Your USP must make it worthwhile for the customer to choose you over your competitors. What need does your business fill for your customers and what’s in it for them to do business with you?

If you didn’t plan your business model around a USP, it’s not too late and if you make it a focus now it could make an enormous impact on your current revenues. Think about it. Be creative. How could you make your product or service more valuable to your potential customer? “Valuable” can mean many different things: more convenient, fun, emotionally-fulfilling, better price, higher quality, etc. Examine the different facets of your product or service. Can you tweak something that could make a big difference to the customer? You probably don’t have to change your entire business model or make huge changes. Think small. In many businesses, it’s the small things that make a huge impact.


Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Look at Warby Parker for example. WP is an online shop (they have a few physical locations as well) selling non-name-brand prescription eyeglasses at a significantly reduced price. But WP also features many other small differentiators that even if the price different were not so significant, could possibly make a big difference to their target market. I recently ordered my son a pair and it was a fabulous experience. I decided to order online because I have a teenager and it’s hard to get him to take time out of his busy social schedule to go to the store and look at glasses. WP was appealing for several reasons (all of which were readily apparent by looking at their website). First, it was convenient; they allow you to choose 5 pair online to be shipped to your home, free of charge, to try on. They include a return shipping label so all you have to do is drop them in the mailbox after you make your decision. Second, it was the price; almost every pair of glasses is a flat $95 and they pay shipping fees. Third, was selection; although they only carry their own brand of glasses (no Ray Bans, etc.) the look and style of the glasses are identical to the name brands.

Once I made the decision to shop with them, it was the process after the sale that influenced me to shop with them again: a) the box the samples came in was so nicely presented and organized, b) they direct you to a video after choosing your glasses, that instructs you how to measure your pupillary distance by taking a photo and texting it to them and c) your glasses arrive in a neat little box with a nice case inside with a personal message and their brochure. WP’s brochure states at the top that they were “founded with a rebellious spirit and a lofty objective: to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.” That’s pretty darn close to a USP. If WP were to use Geoff Moore’s template, the USP might look something like this: “For busy eyeglass wearers (target customer) who would like a convenient alternative for purchasing their glasses (statement of the need or opportunity) our online store (product/service name) offers mail-order eyeglasses in styles almost identical to designer brands (product category) that fit perfectly and cost less (statement of benefit).” But their USP isn’t a written statement front and center on their website, it comes through organically in each step of the process and in the business model (which better be the case whether your USP is in writing or not).

If you have not formulated a USP, get busy. You may already have one that your business incorporates daily but you just haven’t formulated it in writing. I’m not saying you need to splash your USP on everything but unless you write it down for your own benefit, you have nothing on which to focus your marketing efforts. Go through the template example above, think about what you already offer. If you truly offer nothing that differentiates you from the competition, you have a little work to do. What do you hear people complain about most regarding the competition? Know your competition well. Carefully research their website and/or physical locations as much as possible. Talk to their customers and find out where they excel and where they fall short. This should help you see any glaring shortcomings that you can use to your advantage. Their shortcomings should be where you put your best efforts. Implementing and communicating the USP to your target market will make a difference in your bottom line.

MISTAKE #2 – Failing to Focus on Issues That Really Matter to the Target Market

If you didn’t learn what your target market wants or needs during your research and validation process, you need to zero in on it immediately. If you focus on just trying to be “unique” without an emphasis on what matters most to the customer, you’ve missed the point. For example, you can dress your pizza delivery guys in pink tights and a tutu to distinguish them from the other delivery guys. But if your pizza sucks and your delivery is slow, all the uniqueness in the world won’t make up for it.


Photo by Baptiste C David on Unsplash

To understand what the customer wants, you must understand your target market intimately. Who is your target market? What are the demographics? Are they college students? Empty-nesters? What matters to one of these markets may not matter to the other. For example, delivering pizza 24/7 may be extremely important to college students but not so much to empty-nesters.  But the more mature group might value a more sophisticated pizza menu, tip included in the price or “early-bird specials”. Know your target market and speak directly to them. Deliver guys in pink tights may not even hurt as long as you get the rest right! Your job is to figure out what the customer wants or needs that they are not getting from the competition – then provide it to them. Set your business apart from the competition in a way that convinces the customer to do business with you rather than the competition. That’s it.

MISTAKE #3 – Focusing on the Same or Similar Issues as the Competition

Perhaps you haven’t noticed but I certainly have. There are several common elements I see small businesses “list” on their websites as differentiators but usually without taking the extra steps to make them an integral part of their business model or formulate a USP: a) price, b) convenience, c) service, d) selection, e) friendliness f) speed and e) experience. Anyone can say they have the friendliest staff or the best service, etc. but when everyone is focusing on the same adjectives, unless your business is the one that really backs up your claims, it means nothing. Again, take Warby Parker for example; they state their objective is to “offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price…”. I paid $95 for my son’s WP glasses and paid no shipping. I’d say that’s pretty “revolutionary” when to replace the Ray Bans he lost would have been $475. So even though they focused on price as their primary differentiator (which could be the same for a few competitors), they can back it up big time.

Additionally, if your business and every other business in your category are going after the same target and touting the same “differentiators”; they aren’t differentiators! Remember the unique in USP. Providing unique value will always be superior to simply living up to your claims…what if everyone in your category is living up to their claims as well? Come on – put your creative thinking cap on! Fill a need in a way that really matters to your customer.


Photo by Luke Palmer on Unsplash

To illustrate, let’s look at an entire category of small business; tire stores. A quick Google search for “tire stores” led me to the following businesses. Although none of them really had a stated USP on their websites, each did focus on at least one “differentiator”:

Pep Boys – Selection of services

Discount Tire – Selection of products

Goodyear Tires – Price (price match, rebates, online discount)

Pro Tire – Shuttle Service

Not a lot of creativity or differentiation here other than Pro Tire. And instead of just using the word “convenient” at least they show a photo and describe how they are convenient. Their shuttle service really does differentiate them from the competition. But let’s try and put that in a template:

For tire buyers (target customer) who have somewhere else they need to be (statement of the need or opportunity) our automotive and tire service center (product/service name) provides a shuttle service for your convenience (not really a product category) that keeps you on schedule with the rest of your day (statement of benefit). Remember everything doesn’t have to fit perfectly into a template and many times it won’t.

Try this type of experiment in your own business category. Take a look at your biggest competitors. What is their USP? If they are not actually stating a USP, what differentiators are they focusing on? Do you focus on the same?

 MISTAKE #4 – Failing to Properly Communicate Your USP

Read the articles I referenced above. Study your target market, thoroughly evaluate your competition and their USPs, understand your product or service and how it provides a unique value to your customer. Play around with the different templates mentioned in the articles. Make an effort to differentiate your business and put it in writing in a way that can be communicated to your potential customers in a clear and articulate (if not eloquent) manner. Run your final USP by some objective folks – perhaps customers. Then work with your marketing team to put it in play throughout your marketing efforts. Shout it from the rooftops and make it so!


Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Business, Growth, Strategy

Small Business Mistakes – Misunderstanding Your Target Market

Welcome to the third installment of my Small Business Mistakes Blog Series. You can read the Introductory post here (with links to over 40 great business sources at the end) and my second post about Failing to Validate your Business Idea here. I will post at least one in the series each week until I get through all 10 on my list – so stick around!

What is a Target Market?

 A target market is simply the group of people to whom you are trying to sell your product or service. If you don’t know your target market then how could you possibly understand how to sell to them? If you don’t understand where they hang out, what they read, where they shop and what products and services they currently buy, how could you possibly know how to reach them? Short answer; you can’t.

Validation and Target Market

In my last post, I wrote about validating your business idea to your target market. But how and when do you determine your target market? The best way to explain is by example. Looking at these next four examples of new businesses, you’ll immediately see that validation and target market are inextricably intertwined.

  1. Dan discovered a solution to a problem that many people deal with,
  2. Tami invented a cool new product but will have to discover who will buy it,
  3. Steve started a business with an established model, providing established solutions to an established market…but added a unique selling proposition,
  4. Alice started a business that combines two or more established models, providing established solutions to that each have previously established markets to provide a totally new customer experience

In 3 out of 4 of the above scenarios, the owner will probably consider the target market first and then decide on the best business solution to serve that target market. The validation process, as discussed in the last post, will then help to initially refine the target market. For example, Dan looked at a particular group of people (target market first) with a particular problem and invented a product that would solve the problem. Tami, however, will have to figure out not only if she has a target market but who it is. With Steve’s business, because it is an established model with a general target market (e.g.: convenience store), the only way to establish a unique selling proposition is to zero in on a specific group of people and come up with an idea that will prompt them to become customers. The same goes for Alice; if she is going to the trouble of combining several established business models to provide a unique customer experience, she’s certainly creating that experience for a particular target market. As you can see, in these scenarios, validation and target market are inseparable.


Bigger is Not Better

However, once you believe you’ve defined your target market, take a closer look. A target market can be much too broadly defined, which is often the initial inclination for many business owners. The fear of leaving out a potential customer leads them to market to an overbroad audience. Unfortunately, this tactic will likely have the opposite effect on sales.

When your target market is overly-inclusive, your message becomes too general and watered down. For example, if you’re trying to reach senior citizens and teenagers, you can’t really tailor your marketing just to teenagers or the older folks won’t understand. And if you speak to the seniors, the teenagers will ignore it all together. And trying to somehow speak to them both will only muddy your efforts and either confuse your prospective customer or miss them altogether.


The more narrowly you define and understand your target market, the more successful you will be.  The old saying about not being able to please all of the people all of the time, is absolutely true. The key word is focus. Let’s look at an example to illustrate my point:

You’ve formulated a business plan for the “Women’s Work Experiment” that will combine most things a working mom needs under one roof. The Experiment will house a) an open work space and conference room with free wi-fi, b) fully-appointed and staffed daycare facility, c) work-out room, d) healthy-food eatery and coffee shop, e) a mini grocery store, f) day spa (hair, nails, Botox and more) and f) anchor pharmacy. You plan on selling a variety of different membership packages to the Experiment and may even open the day spa to the general public. Several investors have shown interest and you’re in the process of validating your idea. Who are you going to reach out to during the validation process? Who’s your target market? You created the concept for working moms so start there.


Think about this market in terms of grains of rice in a sifter. Put your working moms in the sifter and start sifting. To narrow down and focus your market, you’ll start sifting out those that don’t fit your ideal customer profile. Who is that?

  • Working moms who have to work on-site all day every day
  • Working moms whose children are in school full time
  • Working moms who don’t live close enough to the Experiment to make it worth their while
  • Working moms who can’t afford a membership

After this first step, you can start validating with the group you have left (moms of children under 6, can work remotely, likely self-employed, live in the general area and can afford to pay the membership fees). During the validation process you should learn a lot about this group of women that will help you to keep refining your target market.


Demographic Factors and Your Target Market

After validation and once your business is established, you will be able to obtain additional demographic information about your current and prospective customers. This information will help you keep narrowing your focus. Demographics simply refers to statistical data about a group of people and gives you detailed information about who your customer is. Demographic factors include: Age, Location, Gender, Income, Occupation, Education, Ethnicity, Marital Status and Number of Children[1]

Psychographic factors and Your Target Market

Your target market’s psychographic factors will give you a better idea of how to appeal to your customer because it explains why your customer buys. Psychographics classify people according to their attitudes, hobbies, desires, what they enjoy doing and other psychological information. Psychographic factors include: Habits, Hobbies, Spending Practices, Values, Attitudes, Opinion, Activities and Interests[2]

Again, obtaining demographic and psychographic information about your target market is much easier once you have real paying customer to study. You can obtain this information by conducting surveys or personal interviews[3] . Through this process, you will be better able to understand when, where and how to reach your audience through targeted marketing. Remember this is a discovery process, an exercise that will yield real data that you must be willing to utilize. Failing to refine your target market can cost you lots of time and money as you flounder about trying different methods of reaching customers you don’t fully understand.


Customer Persona

Continuing with our example, assume through surveys, personal interviews and examination of your memberships plus additional marketing and demographic research, you develop a demographic and psychographic profile of your ideal customer/client as follows:

  • Female, age 28-41
  • Live within 15 miles of the facility
  • Self-employed
  • Average revenues $85K
  • Work mostly in Marketing or Technology
  • Have a Bachelor’s Degree
  • 56% White, 41% Black and 3% Hispanic
  • 98% married 2% divorced or never married
  • Have 1.75 children under age 5 years
  • Buy mostly organic and healthy foods
  • Workout at least 4 days per week (at least 2 of which are yoga)
  • Preferred social networks are Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram
  • 85% Democrats who vote regularly
  • Predominant hobby interior design followed by tennis
  • Number 1 social concerns are global warming and safe water supply


Now you have what many marketers call a “Customer Persona” (aka: Buyer Persona, Marketing Persona, etc.) which will help you focus your marketing efforts (marketing content, product development, social media networks, public relations, advertising, etc.) through a well-planned marketing strategy including when, where and how you will reach your target market. Many marketers will even say to give this “persona” a name and of course keep her in the forefront of your mind in everything you do in the business (“What would Mommy Suzy think about adding Greek yogurt in the coffee shop?”). Get to know her and learn how to best speak to her interests, wants and needs.

[2] and
[3] For some great tips on interview questions, formulating personas and a free persona template, see

Target Market Research Resources

Below, I’ve compiled a thorough list of resources that may help you research your target market (as well as other areas of your business).


  • Reference USA – Absolutely amazing resource that you can access at home with your library card – available through most local libraries (Greenville participates)
  • Cognitive Lode – Great site for Psychographic research: “We distill the latest behavioral economics & consumer psychology research down into helpful little brain gems.”
  • Google Scholar – Search for scholarly articles, patents and case law (even though the url is .uk, the searches are US-based.
  • Facebook IQ – “By harnessing Facebook insights and working with world-class researchers, we can help marketers understand people across generations, geographies, devices and time.” Great articles on consumer behavior and industry research
  • Pew Research Center – Insights, publications, statistics and data on politics, media & news, social trends, internet & tech, science and more.
  • City Town Info – Details on 20,000+ communities
  • Google Insights – Consumer insights, data and measurement, all compiled by Google
  • American Fact Finder (US Census) – Can drill down to county level information regarding ethnicity of specific types of business owners, etc.
  • Business Dynamics Statistics – (US Census) – Provides annual measures of job creation and destruction, startups and shutdowns, etc.
  • My Best Segments Zip Code Look-up – demographics per zip code
  • Kauffman – research intowhat drives innovation and economic growth in an entrepreneurial world…”
  • Fed Stats – Statistics released by all types of federal agencies (education, science and engineering, transportation, etc.)
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics – categories such as “time use” “consumer spending” “injuries and illness”, etc.
  • Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy – Small Business Statistics
  • NAICS Codes – North American Industry Classification System
  • Biz Stats – (great for researching info for a business plan) you can find all sorts of business statistics and financial ratios, calculators and financial tools
  • Zoom Prospector – helps you find right zip code to locate business based on your target market demographics
  • Free Lunch – all sorts of free demographic and financial data
  • Google Ventures Guide to Research – leans more toward validation but some great articles and info.
  • Hoovers (Free version) – for B2B business searches – prospects and competitors
  • Data USA – search stats by location, industry, occupation, education, etc. Great articles on all topics
  • Survey Monkey – make your own surveys and analyze results
  • Make My Persona (by Hubspot) – step-by-step persona wizard
  • J. Walter Thompson Intelligence – trend reports on tech, lifestyle, culture, retail, food & drink.
  • YouGovProfiles – a crazy site that lets you do a search for a brand, person or thing and then shoots out the demographics for the people who like that brand, person or thing (not sure I buy it since Bradley Cooper’s primary demographic is a 65+ male republican living in Nevada, working in advertising and making between $50-100K)


  • Global Web Index – not cheap. “We combine the world’s largest study on the digital consumer with cutting-edge analytics and data science approaches, so marketers & businesses can make smarter decisions.”
  • Trend Watching – starts at $500 per month; “we help forward-thinking business professionals in 180+ countries understand the new consumer and subsequently unlock compelling, profitable innovation opportunities”
  • Claritas – research regarding your customers online, social media and offline marketing


Business, Growth, Startups, Strategy

Introduction to Small Business Mistakes Blog Series

These days it seems everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, launch a startup, buy a franchise or sell something online. Entrepreneurs, startups, venture capitalists and Silicon Valley are in the news daily. Startups, small businesses and entrepreneurship are very often the topic of news stories and television shows and new blogs and websites spring up daily dedicated to helping you make your fortune with that next great innovative idea.  But what’s the difference between a small business and a startup and who the heck qualifies as an entrepreneur by today’s standards?  Steve Blank, (the Silicon Valley entrepreneur considered to be the father of the Lean Start-Up methodology[1]), has said that entrepreneurs start businesses that will fit into one of 6 categories: “lifestyle business, small business, scalable startup, buyable startup, large company, and social entrepreneur”.[2]


When people talk about startups, they’re usually referring to what Blank calls the “scalable startup”.  These startups usually pop up in places like Silicon Valley and New York.  Think Google and Facebook or more recently Uber and Airbnb.  The entrepreneurs that start these businesses are not thinking locally, they’re thinking globally.  They’re not just hoping to send their kids to private school, live in a gated community and take nice vacations.  These guys are making big pitches to venture capitalists and launching scalable companies with their sites on making piles of money through an IPO or a huge exit. [3]

Even though the Silicon Valley types get most of the press, most entrepreneurs’ start new businesses that easily fit into the small business startup category.  But the word “small” doesn’t do many of these organizations justice. The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) defines small businesses as those employing fewer than 500 people[4]. I don’t know about you but a business with 499 employees doesn’t sound so small to me.  The impact of small business on the U.S. economy is certainly not small; they make up a full 99.7% of all businesses with paid employees in the US and employ 48% of the private workforce.[5]  In South Carolina the numbers are almost identical with small businesses employing 47% of the private workforce.[6]  Impressive numbers, right?  If we looked no further, you’d probably think small businesses in general must be pretty successful.  But, if you’ve ever taken a college statistics class you know numbers don’t always tell the whole story.  The SBA reports a less-than-rosy picture for individual businesses, which shouldn’t be overlooked by would-be entrepreneurs.  Approximately 20% of small businesses in this country fail within the first year of business and by the fifth year approximately 50% will throw in the towel.[7]  But because there are always new businesses opening to take the place of those closing, the overall economic impact isn’t as great as the financial impact on individual owners.

So it seems the trick is to remain standing through that first year, follow with at least 4 successful years after that and keep on rollin’.  Simple, right?  You might think so if you’ve never tried it. There’s no formula to guarantee your business’ success, but if you avoid the mistakes I’ll discuss in this blog series you’ll certainly decrease your odds of failing.

Success is Tricky Despite Help Available

Successful business leaders write books and blogs, hold seminars, record podcasts and volunteer to be mentors.  Academics research, study and report small business data to give us the big picture.  Numerous national and local associations and organizations are dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.  So why is it, with so much information and assistance available (much of it completely free) to help small businesses succeed, the chances for survival remain grim?  The reasons are probably as numerous as the businesses that fail, but common themes do persist. According to Michael Gerber, in his best-selling business book, The E Myth Revisited, most people who go into business for themselves assume because they know how to perform the “technical work”[8] of a business (e.g.: accounting, baking cakes, designing buildings), they will intuitively be able run a business that offers that product or service.  However, as Mr. Gerber points out, nothing could be further from the truth and it becomes evident to these folks pretty soon out of the gate.  People quickly learn there’s much more to know about running a business than making the product or performing the service.  Functions like marketing, accounting, human resources, customer service, sales, purchasing, logistics, etc. cannot be overlooked but often are as people get caught up in their dream of business-ownership.  Even the smallest businesses must understand and plan for these functions in a way that will lead to success.  And while there’s no way to prevent all possible mistakes, educating yourself by taking advantage of the vast number of resources available (See Resources below) will give you a much better shot at success than if you don’t.  So, in no particular order, in the coming weeks, I will write about 10 of the most common business mistakes and how you can avoid making them.


Government Resources

SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives – one of THE best online resources available; find a mentor, sign up for free webinars, watch recorded webinars, sign up for live events and courses on demand, etc.)

The Small Business Administration (a wealth of free information, statistics and advice)

The SC Department of Commerce Publication Directory (publications on everything from Aviation to Workforce Training)

SC DOC Focus on Small Business (the SC DOC’s latest publication – filled with good information)

SC DOC Resource Finder (tell them what you need and they will find the resource for you)

SBA Profile on SC (statistics regarding ownership, income, jobs, etc. for SC small businesses)

SBA Office of Advocacy-Research and Statistics (all other statistics of interest)

US Patent and Trademark Office (trademarks page)

US Patent and Trademark Office (patents page)


Udemy (learn anything from Java to Body Language for Entrepreneurs, free or very reasonable)

The Best Blogs, Online Magazines, etc.:

Harvard Business Review

Wall Street Journal



Fast Company



Fundera Ledger (great list of additional resources and great articles on the site as a whole)

Note – I just found this article today on Fundera; The 37 Best Resources for Small Business News – a great list of resources!


How to Start a Startup (amazing podcast from the people at Y Combinator)

Unemployable (I know, they could have worked on the title but this show has great advice for freelancers, coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs)

The $100 MBA (good, practical business advice in all areas from different types of businesses)

Startup (lessons learned from other startups)

Smart Passive Income (really informative – as the title says it’s all about building passive income products and marketing those products)

Mixergy (stories from entrepreneurs about successes and failures)

The Tim Ferriss Show (the guy who wrote “The 4-Hour Workweek” – examines what it takes to be a top performer in all different professions)

Great Apps for Staying Informed:

FlipBoard (follow all sorts of topics and magazines – a wonderful resource)

Feedly (read your blog feeds)

Audible (I can’t sit still long enough to read a book these days so I LOVE this app – use on your commute, workout or chore time to your advantage and listen to a business book!)

Books I Personally Recommend (all available on Amazon and Audible and probably the library):

The Art of the Start 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie (should be mandatory reading in high school!)

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

The Innovator’s Dilemma

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Best Business Books of All Time (according to almost everyone and all on my “to read” list):

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Good to Great by Jim Collins

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson


[1]Steve Blank Entrepreneurship and Innovation.” Steve Blank. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

[2]Why Governments Don’t Get Startups–Or, Why There’s Only One Silicon Valley.” Xconomy. N.p., 01 Sept. 2011. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Frequently Asked Questions. N.p.: U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, June 2016. PDF. (However, for purposes of government programs, and contracting, there are specific industry-level definitions here: Table of Small Business Size Standards | The U.S. Small Business Administration)

[5] Frequently Asked Questions. N.p.: U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, June 2016. PDF.

[6] Small Business Profile, South Carolina, 2016. N.p.: U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, n.d. PDF.

[7] Survival Rates and Firm Age. N.p.: U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, n.d. PDF.

[8] The E-myth Revisited Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. N.p.: Bloomsbury Qatar Fndtn Pub, 2014. Print.