Flock Free Nation

No nonsense information on small business.

Sep 14, 2011 - 2 minute read - Comments - websites

What Is A Domain Name?

Wikipedia defines a domain name as:

A domain name is an identification label that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority, or control in the Internet. Domain names are hostnames that identify Internet Protocol (IP) resources such as web sites. Domain names are formed by the rules and procedures of the Domain Name System (DNS).

I’ll try to make this a bit simpler. For our purposes, a domain name is the address of a website. Typing “www.flockfreenation.com” into the address bar of your browser window will bring you to this blog. The “flockfreenation.com” is a domain name. You’ll notice that the address up there is different right now but that’s because we forward the flockfreenation domains (.ca and .com) to this address on our company’s site.

In order for you to have a website for your business, you’ll have to register your domain name. Good domain names are hard to find because many of the obvious choices have been taken. They might either have sites built on them or someone might be sitting on them, waiting for the right price. Domain names can be like virtual real estate that someone is holding until he or she can sell it to a website developer at a profit.

For this reason, finding a good domain name should be an integral part of the process of naming your business. Finding a name that is available with the government’s business or corporate registry and as a good domain name can be a bit of a chore. If you can find a name that satisfies these conditions, the odds are good that you have a name that is distinct from your competitors as well.

There are many places on the internet where domains can be registered. My current favourite is Hover.com. There are probably cheaper places to get a domain name but Hover doesn’t try to sell you a bunch of other services along the way, which makes the process simpler. Use Hover’s domain name availability search tool at the top of its home page to see if your choice of domain name is available.

Sep 12, 2011 - 1 minute read - Comments - entrepreneurship

Ideas Are A Dime A Dozen

I often hear people say that they have a great idea for a business but they are missing something to make it a reality. They don’t know how much it would cost to start up. They don’t know how to develop for the internet. They don’t know where to get financing. They don’t know where to start.

These are real barriers to starting a business but they are not as big a barrier as your own inertia. No one is going to start a business for you. You have to take action to accomplish anything. Falling in love with your idea and dreaming of the day you’ll have a successful business, won’t accomplish anything.

Now, more than ever before, resources are available to help an entrepreneur on his or her journey to success. The Canadian and American governments each have extensive resources to help people start businesses. There are many blogs, like this one, dedicated to small business and entrepreneurship. The resources are there to help you when you get stuck along the way. However, what all these resources can’t do is get you started. Only you can take action.

That’s why ideas are a dime a dozen and taking action is everything.

Sep 8, 2011 - 2 minute read - Comments - government

Canadian Government Looks To Reduce Red Tape For Small Business

Did you know that we have a Red Tape Reduction Commission? I know I didn’t.

For those not familiar with the term “red tape”, it comes from the American Civil War. Veterans’ war records were physically bound with red tape. The red tape became a symbol in veterans’ difficulty in accessing their war benefits. “Cutting through the red tape” became a phrase used to describe the speeding up of a bureaucratic process.

Anyone who runs a small business or is in the process of starting one, knows that there is plenty of red tape holding back the progress of small businesses in Canada. From dealing with many different jurisdictions to filling out forms and complying with some arcane process, small business owners have to jump through a seemingly endless series of hoops.

The Federal Government is aware of this and it has developed a commission (I know there’s a joke in there somewhere) to look into the problem. The commission spoke with small business owners and other stakeholders during the winter of 2011. The commission has recently issued its report, titled What Was Heard.

Tax issues were some of small business owners’ main irritants:

  • cumbersome, expensive and complex filing processes (GST/HST)
  • the lack of flexibility in handling late remittances and fines
  • inconsistency of interpretation and lack of written answers
  • cost of audits
  • reporting burden, for example, the repeat filing of forms

Other issues included:

  • the time required, in general, to complete multiple mandatory business surveys
  • access to government contracts
  • the overall frequency of requests for information, often without pre-populated forms.

Small businesses felt that these issues had a negative effect on factors necessary for their success such as:

  • the ability to minimize overhead costs
  • get and keep the right people
  • obtain funding through tax credits or other programs
  • compete on a level playing field
  • pursue innovation, research and development
  • exploit new business opportunities and new markets.

Over the next six months, the commission has the mandate to clarify peoples’ comments, confirm the findings, and start the search for effective solutions to the most important issues.

I think it will be very difficult to overcome the current culture of the way things are done by a number of these government agencies, but the very fact that someone is trying makes me hopeful they will have some success.

Sep 7, 2011 - 2 minute read - Comments - business news

CYBF Spin Master Innovation Fund Winners Announced

From Rick Spence writing in FP Entrepreneur

  • Christopher Kang of Toronto-based Hygennia engineered a plastic nozzle that transforms a plastic water bottle into “a personal, portable bidet.” It’s targeted to Islamic consumers who follow strict sanitary guidelines, and to millions of Canadians suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Montreal-based Monumental Technologies has devised an application that lets musicians and bands create their own smartphone apps to sell their music and connect with fans.
  • Jellyfish Marketing of Laval is patenting a line of 3D puzzles called Puzzter, and already has licensing deals with the NHL and its players’ association.
  • Waterloo-based Goosechase Adventures is replacing “expensive, outdated team-building activities” with smartphone-driven scavenger hunts that reinvent the team-building process, reducing costs and offering real-time stats and feedback.
  • Kitchener, Ont.-based NoteWagon has developed an incentive-based platform to encourage university students in Canada and the United States to share their class notes. It launches this month on 25 campuses.
  • Montreal entrepreneur Louis Cleroux used a local investor-matching service called Fundica to raise $175,000 for Cravio Games, which sells “hard-core” war games for the mobile market.
  • Charles Sevigny and Guillaume Chauvette of GCS Medical Inc. in Sherbrooke, Que., are mechanical engineers who make and market surgical tools for orthopedic surgeons in Canada and the United States.
  • Three entrepreneurs in Vancouver formed Domo Enterprises to lead “the reincarnation of tea.” They sell their powdered mix in 23 grocery stores, and need the $50,000 to ramp up production so they can supply more retailers in Canada and Asia.

There are some interesting ideas on this list. It’s nice to see people pursuing businesses in a diverse set of industries. Hopefully the contest organizers will report the progress of these businesses as they go through their development. Not all will be successful, but there are lessons to be learned from the failures as well.

Sep 6, 2011 - 2 minute read - Comments - branding

Name Your Business With Your Customer In Mind

A recent episode of MSNBC’s Your Business featured Just For Fun Playgrounds located in Asheville, North Carolina in its Small Business Makeover segment. The owners, Jerry and Evelyn, had purchased the business five years ago and had been successful until the recession took its toll and significantly reduced revenues.

As part of the makeover process, the show brought in Mike Michalowicz, author of The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. One of the issues he identified was that the business needed a name change and rebranding. Michalowicz brought in Denise Blasevick, CEO of The S3 Agency to take the owners through the rebranding process.

The first issue Blasevick identified was that another business had a similar name and this was causing brand confusion among potential customers. This competitor is named Just for Fun Playgrounds and has www.justforfunplaygrounds.com as its domain name. The old domain for Jerry and Evelyn’s company was www.jffplaygrounds.com. It’s easy to see how there could be customer confusion.

The other issue was that the current name, logo and website were clearly designed to be kid friendly. While this might seem like an obvious choice for a playground company, the business focuses on selling high-end, custom playgrounds to residential and commercial customers. The branding and marketing materials need to appeal to to the people making the purchasing decisions, not the end user.

In the end, Jerry and Evelyn decided to rename their company Asheville Playgrounds. This eliminates confusion with their competitor and the new branding and marketing materials convey a more upscale image than before.

This case study provides some excellent points for you to consider when you are naming your own business.

Make sure your name is distinct enough from your competition so that there will be little confusion as to which business is which. This makes branding easier because you are working from a unique position right from the start. Otherwise, you might have to spend a considerable amount of marketing money to differentiate your business from one that is named something similar.

Is your name and brand image aligned with the expectations of your potential customers? If you are selling luxury products, your brand image must convey that image. Similarly, if you are competing on price, you want your brand image to match.

These are just of few of the considerations that should go into naming a business. As this real-world example shows, it can be important to your bottom line. Take the time to think through some of these issues before you make a choice.

Sep 2, 2011 - 2 minute read - Comments - funding

SDTC Announces Call for Statement of Interest Applications for Clean Technology

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) announced its 20th round of funding which will be open until October 19, 2011. SDTC is a non-profit corporation created the Canadian Government to fund late stage development and pre-commercial demonstration of clean technologies.

These SDTC supported clean technologies address the challenges of climate change, clean air, soil and water. The SDTC has identified the following as priority areas:

  • Natural Resources: Technologies that reduce the environmental impact of mining, the impact of fossil fuels and forestry.
  • Clean Energy: Clean energy production and improved energy efficiency of transportation, buildings and industrial processes.
  • Soil and Water: Improve the efficiency of large consumers of water and help mitigate the impacts of water or soil contamination.
  • Agriculture: Increase yield and improve temperature and drought resistance of agricultural crops and mitigate land use changes and biodiversity loss
  • Northern and Remote Communities: Innovative solutions for self sufficiency in smaller communities.

The SDTC can be a good source of funding for those companies who need help commercializing their technology. The funding awarded can be substantial but along with that comes a high level of due diligence.

The first step would be to file a Statement of Interest (SOI). This is a fairly complex document that the SDTC will use to decide if your application makes it to the next round of evaluation. It’s important to set aside enough time and resources to do a good job on the SOI. It’s not something that you are going to throw together in an afternoon. If you lack technical writing skills you may want to hire a consultant that has been through the process before.

There is a SOI template on SDTC’s website. I recommend that you have a look at the template and give SDTC a call to discuss your potential SOI application. The SDTC isn’t a good fit for every company but for those that are developing clean technologies, it can be an invaluable source of capital.