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 November 19, 1999

Approach home-business opportunities with caution

Q: I just came back from a wonderful home-based business seminar on how I could start my own vending business. It looks so easy to get started — almost too easy. This is why I am writing. They wanted only $3,500 for the kit and four vending machines to get started. They would help me find the right location to place my vending machines, and provide me a full year of business support. I almost invested at the seminar, but I decided to wait and do a little research. I have two questions for you: Are these opportunities for real? Is it this easy to start a business?

A: Starting a business can be easy. Staying in business is a challenge. I have received many questions over the years regarding opportunities offered at traveling business seminars. Most, if not all, of their pitches are not worth your time, let alone your money. I have yet to hear of one that I would recommend. The seminars normally pitch an overpriced opportunity you could start for a lot less on your own. Before starting any business, you need to evaluate your business idea. The following are some questions you should ask yourself:

” Can this idea be turned into a business?

” Is there a real need for the product/service?

” Who will buy? How many will buy?

” Is there competition? Can you compete?

” How much growth potential exists?

” Can you have product/service line expansion?

” Can I afford to do this business?

A few last words of advice before starting your first business:

” Have other sources of income for a living.

” Everything takes longer than expected.

” Everything costs more than expected.

” Don’t be in such a hurry to get started.

” The third attempt at an idea is often the one that finally works.

” The library is a great resource for anyone in business or wanting to start one.

For more information and free assistance on starting your own business, contact your local Small Business Development Center. To locate the center nearest you call the Colorado Business Resource Center at (800) 333-7798.

Q: I own a small, yet growing HVAC company. I know the Yellow Pages are important. However, the sales person is trying to push me into a bigger ad with color. He said I would stand out on the page if I spend the extra bucks. Is he being a pushy salesperson, or is he right?

A: Depending on your industry, the Yellow Pages could make or break you. The Yellow Pages are the best form of marketing for the dollar for company’s selling unplanned purchases and services. Here are some guidelines to Yellow Pages advertising:

” Always ask yourself, “What is my unique selling proposition? How can I outsell the competition, knowing that the Yellow-Page reader who sees my ad sees everyone’s ad?”

” Do not use fine-line artwork that will not reproduce well in the soft yellow print.

” If you have two strong selling points, for example, “Open 24 hours” and “Delivery within one hour,” consider two separate ads.

” Do not use dumb cartoons, puns, unclever slogans, or your childrens’ pictures. People looking in the Yellow Pages are hot buyers looking for a professional source, someone who will solve their problem rather than add to it.

” Add an illustration or photo to your ad such as a telephone next to your phone number. Why? Studies show that this can double your phone-response rate. Also, if you accept credit cards, be sure to include a small illustration of each type of card you take.

” Use the strongest borders allowed. If you can afford it, add color. Lump type into small areas to give emphasis to these areas, and try to keep away from the border. The reader’s eye will go to your ad.

” Do not be afraid of long copy. Research shows that long copy outpulls short copy in the Yellow Pages. Remember that people are looking for information.

” Make your ad as big as or bigger than your competition’s ad.

” Have a listing under each headline that your potential customer might look.

” Be consistent with all your marketing efforts. If you have a logo, use it. Your logo is a graphic representation of your company, and should be used along with your slogan on all your advertisements.

” Emphasize your company’s services and the benefits of doing business with your company. People are looking for a solution to their problem, not for your company.

” If your ad(s) does stand out and motivate people to call, you have wasted your money.

” Placement is everything. (Bigger ads get better placement.)

” A better ad is more important than a bigger ad.

In general, a good, large, color ad will do more for you than a small black and yellow ad.

Greeley resident Russell Disberger is a founding member of Tekquity Ventures LLC, a Louisville-based specialty venture-capital firm investing in technology development and licensing. He can be reached at (970) 396-7009.

Q: I just came back from a wonderful home-based business seminar on how I could start my own vending business. It looks so easy to get started — almost too easy. This is why I am writing. They wanted only $3,500 for the kit and four vending machines to get started. They would help me find the right location to place my vending machines, and provide me a full year of business support. I almost invested at the seminar, but I decided to wait and do a little research. I have two questions for you: Are these opportunities for…

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