networking into reality

Friday, April 07, 2006


Just wanted to say thanks to Mike and the crew at TechDirt for the link.

Well lots of bad news the day before I launch. I have to move from Rosenberg to Houston at the end of May. This is going to make things difficult for my phone bank offering. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

I can always set up again in Houston once I get settled there.

Monday, April 03, 2006

I felt that this deserved its own post.

As I was walking between my home and the apartments, I was thinking about how I can grow my business without any VC/Angel funding. At the end of the day, VC is great, but I can't bank on it being there for me.

So I came up with this. My origional idea was built around the use of long range digital radios that would allow me to monetize the relationships between ex-patriots within it's reach. But that's a little more capital intensive that I can afford right now.

I was thinking about Fiesta and its competition with other grocers. At least in Rosenberg, it seems to lag a distant third. HEB is the dominant force for high end neighborhoods like Greatwood. A segment of my Hispanic market lives there. Mostly your successful contractors and builders.

Wal-mart holds sway over the middle class. They also cater to a lot of Mexicans. They have a few products that are geared to their niche. Between providing cheap staples and some simple Mexican products they take a lot of potential business away from Fiesta.

So Fiesta does business with the poorest customers in this niche. They carry a lot of Mexico specific products and provide similar services. And yet Walmart and sometimes HEB eat their market share. There's also a Kroger in the area that squeezes the market for them.

Back to Fiesta. They are heavy into remittance to Mexico. They also provide bill pay and low cost utilities. So they are definitily focused on serving the same niche I am.

I could install a simple WiFi network in there store here in Rosenberg. Let customers make calls while their shopping, but restrict the geography. I watch a lot of people make calls to Mexico from pay phones in apartment complexes. Why can't Fiesta capture these people? With my WiFi network and Skype I can bring more customers to Fiesta. I'd be a layer in their relationship with their customers.

But what about the customers they already have. I bet it would help increase sales per customer. I'd say it's nearly a fact that the longer you stay in a grocery the more you buy. Say you go in for nothing but milk. They put it in the back hoping you'll see something else to buy on the way to the milk. And if you walk around looking after you picked up the milk, you'll probably find something else to buy.

The way I see it is that providing this Skype service in Fiesta would increase the average time that their customers new and old spend in their store.

I think I can increase Fiesta's metrics like sales per customer, revenue per sq. ft as well as total customers. I think I can help Fiesta win back market share in Rosenberg. This idea would also work for any other business in the Mexico niche here in Rosenberg so I should be able to find customers for this idea.

The only kind of company I can see it not working is restraunts. Keeping the same customers in the seats for 2 hours wouldn't be benificial for them.

Sweat Equity

Well it's started. The die is cast. Time to watch the ripples.

I spent the most of the day out in my market putting up and passing out flyers for my April 8th commercial start. I was much more nervous that I thought I would be. I've been a soldier, a missionary and numerous kinds of employee. I thought I'd been through just about every social situation possible. I found out how wrong I was. That's what made me nervous.

I think it came from the fact that I'm representing no one but myself. In every other scenario I at least had the reputation, good or bad, of whatever I was representing to work with. Now I'm just a nameless guy talking to people about how they call Mexico.

I actually turned off my network last night and left it off this morning so that I wouldn't have any distractions in getting out the door. It helped a lot. I can spend hours following the ebb and flow of business across the blogosphere.

I was actually scared the first few times I put up my flyers. This led to me thinking a lot about the mechanics of what I was doing. It's been a really long time since I put a great deal of thought into how to fold paper and cut tape.

Thankfully I've learned to face my fear. It actually becomes a source of motivation for me. I can't say I like it, but when I feel it, I can definitly get going, set it off, blow up, etc.

It took me about 20 flyers to calm down enough to enjoy what I was doing. Actually, putting sweat equity into my business. I'd gotten tired of talking about all the testing and re-testing I was doing. Back to the flyers. I was excited all the way through the first apartment complex.

At the end of the first complex, there's a little run down strip that is a great Mexican niche. A taqueria, a Mexican video store and some kind of remittance business geared toward Mexico. There are a lot of Spanish publications set out for free in front of these businesses. I decided to take advantage of this free advertising and put a flyer inside the ones marked "Gratis". I figure whoever opens it is looking for a lot of value so I hope they'll consider my products.

I finished the other 2 complexs I had targeted. During this time I realized that I definitly need to study some Marketing Best Practices. I also need to develop my own marketing strategies to deal with my current trickle of personal capital.

Finished distributing my flyers, I dropped by my brother's house. We talked about what I was doing. His wife is a 2nd generation Mexican. Her extended family is huge and has strong connections to Mexico. She listened and then told me that people in her family would be interested in my products since they call Mexico all the time.

This made me really nervous. With strangers for customers, I can prepare for our encouters. Our relationship is in the context of B2C. With extended relatives, I wonder what contexts will come about. If they become my customers, what will they expect? I've since moved from nervousness to curiousity about this subject.

Which makes me wonder if I can use it as marketing and/or growth opportunity. Can I do a great job servicing my extended family and grow from there? We'll see.

So today has been really exciting.