Entrepreneur Empowerment Blog

Virginia's Growth Alliance provides advice to entrepreneurs and helps guide them to the right resources.

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A Reddit post turns into a million-dollar business

In this day of memes and viral posts, you just never know when you might accidentally create the next big thing.

In September, 2012 Bryan Bundesen posted a photo of his sister's perpetually grumpy-looking cat, Tardar Sauce, on Reddit and it took off as a meme. When Bryan saw the response he uploaded more photos and videos and registered the domain name www.grumpycats.com. Within 3 months, Bryan and his sister had made $3,000 each.

They trademarked "Grumpy Cat" and her image at the end of January 2013. Grumpy Cat was featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal on May 30, 2013 and on the cover of New York magazine on October 7, 2013.

As of September 8, 2014, "The Official Grumpy Cat" on Facebook had over 6.5 million likes. Tardar Sauce has been in movies and TV commercials, has books on Amazon, and her likeness and name is licensed to countless products - even coffee.

Did Bryan plan to start a business when he uploaded that first photo? No. What he did, though, was to recognize an opportunity and take advantage of it.

Keep your eyes and ears open, think entrepreneurially, and the next big thing might just be your idea.

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Fast changes in technology make today like a new Gold Rush

If you're like most people reading this section of the site, you weren't even born before the internet became mainstream. Life without Google, Instagram, Reddit? Impossible!

You have no idea how much opportunity awaits you as compared to those of us who grew up pre-internet.

If you can imagine the difference made in our country after events like inventing the lightbulb or automobile, discovering gold in California and Alaska, running railroad tracks from the east to west coast of the US, and building interstates across the country, you may have some idea of the watershed era we're in.

Each new advancement in technology literally creates the opportunity for entrepreneurs to not only create new products, but to also solve problems that didn't even exist before!

Before interstates crossed America, most trucking companies served regionally; the interstate system created the opportunity to move large amounts of products virtually anywhere in the country.

The lightbulb allowed people to stop getting up at sunrise and going to bed at dark, which made our schedules much more flexible. Can you imagine a store being open until 11pm if it were lit by oil lamps? Now we have businesses that are open 24 hours per day, and manufacturers that run shifts around the clock.

The Gold Rush created the foundation for a brand new economy in California. Suddenly there were not only more people, but they also had more money. They needed places to stay and eat, ways to entertain themselves, and clothes to wear. It didn't matter that you weren't actually out mining for gold because you could strike it rich serving the people who were.

Levi Strauss actually invented blue jeans with rivets to make them more durable for miners. The slogan was "For Men Who Toil." The company went on to become the world's largest pants manufacturer, and obviously sold to many more types of customers than men who toil.

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Don't ruin your personal brand

Everybody talks about business brands but you won't hear about personal brands often. That's because it's one of the things that many people feel uncomfortable with. They worry that telling you to be well-groomed or not wear baggy clothes will be taken as an insult - or worse, even as racism or bigotry.

The truth is that everybody makes some type of judgement of others based on what they're wearing, how they speak, and how well they're groomed. Ignore this fact at your own peril - especially if you're courting investors or financiers. Your personal brand isn't only based on visuals, but they're a big part of it because that's what people see first.

If you're honest with yourself you know that you also make judgements based on appearance. It's part of the way we find people with whom we have things in common, or not so much in common.

We often describe a brand as being "what people think of you when you're not in the room." Stop and think for a minute what your initial reaction is when you think of seeing the people described below.

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