Category Archives: entrepreneurship

This thread contains stories of and inspiration for entrepreneurs, as well as our own experiences with Markitty.

Being small can be an advantage: what are the five qualities of a small business you should take advantage of?

What are the most important marketing metrics experts say a small business should keep track of?

Read our interviews with these entrepreneurs: Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz, Ann Handley of MarketingProfs, Anita Campbell of Small Business TrendsGini Dietrich of Spin Sucksreputed online marketter Lisa Barone, and others.

Undeterred: A Book about Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies

It seems all I write about here anymore is about our failure. I hope this will be the last time, for a while at least!

I’m quoted in this book–Undeterred, by Rania Anderson–on my experience on starting and failing at a business.

Book cover: Undeterred by Rania Habiby Andersen

Fear of Failure: Unmana Datta, the Indian woman you met in Chapter 1...

Another page from Undeterred with a quote from Unmana


I’m quoted a few more times, but if you want to read that–and the stories of a bunch of other interesting women from all over the world–buy the book!

Failure isn’t a bad word

Whenever I mention Markitty’s failure, I’m invariably told some version of, “Oh you didn’t fail. It’s better to have tried it than to not have tried it at all. You must have learned so much.”

And I’m always a bit touched that the person — a colleague, or a friend, or an online acquaintance (or some combination of these) — cares enough to reassure me, to want to make me feel better. And I know Nilesh has had much the same experience.

But the thing is, we did fail. We failed at building a startup — we didn’t even get over the initial bump. Markitty failed.

But I am not sorry we tried. I don’t regret it — I regret making the mistakes we made, but we learned from it. I’m happy about where I’ve landed up and what I’m doing now.

Failure isn’t a bad word. In this case, it’s just the truth.

And you know what? In some ways, I’m proud. I’m proud to have ‘startup entrepreneur’ in my resume, to have been part of the startup ecosystem, to have met, worked with, learned from so many other entrepreneurs and mentors. I’d never have done any of that if I was in a job. I

Markitty taught me I had skills I hadn’t realized. In that year plus a few months, I have gone on sales meetings and to networking events, handled product management, and done other things I hadn’t really done a lot of in the past.

Of course, I also discovered there were skills I didn’t have, and it was a hard lesson to learn, in my early thirties… to discover my limitations, and how, in some ways, my strengths are also my weaknesses. (For instance, my low confidence means I sometimes recheck something I’ve worked on obsessively — not a good thing in a startup, where you have to work fast, fail fast, and think on your feet. I have been learning to do things faster, and to let it go when it’s done.

And as I say here:

So even though we got so many things wrong, I am glad we tried. I am sad that we failed, but so proud that we survived the experience and landed on our feet. We made connections, even friends. We got involved in the community and met so many wonderful people—people who are passionate about their work, which I love to see.

This Is Goodbye (Sort of)

We wanted to build a product that would help small businesses do better marketing, to build a great small business, to help you get more out of your marketing.

We failed.

We haven’t seen a way forward for a while. The decision to quit was a difficult one, but we decided to choose our time rather than wait until we had no way out and would have to stop anyway.

Nilesh and I have both moved to Mumbai and started new jobs, still doing things they are interested in (project management and marketing, respectively). Virendra is at engineering school and continues to build apps in his free time.

This year of entrepreneurship has taught us so much. We are glad we took the plunge, that we put in everything into something we believed in, that we tested our limits. We met some wonderful people and learned more about ourselves.

We want to thank you, so very much, for supporting us, for believing in us. We wish we could have helped you more, but we can’t support Markitty anymore and will close down all emails from the app. We will still keep the app up for another month, so you can continue to use it if you like. We will try to keep blogging here once in a while, because we love this space and don’t want to leave it.

As always, wishing you better marketing.

Working Like An Introvert

Some days, I just want to stay in and away from everyone
Some days, I just want to stay in and away from everyone

I’ve always known I’m an introvert. But it wasn’t until I read Susan Cain’s Quiet that I realized how much work and cultural practices are built around extroversion. Quiet helped me figure out how to manage my work better to leverage my strengths as an introvert instead of trying to work around my weaknesses. If you are an introvert, this might help you too.

1. Find your optimal level of stimulation

Cain posits that introversion is about sensitiveness to stimuli, which made perfect sense to me. We introverts like to feel in control, we find it hard to adapt to disruptive experiences: strange places, strange people, noise. The key, I’ve learnt, is to first figure out what’s the best level of stimulation that makes you most productive.

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Marketing for Food Businesses: Jennifer Lewis of Small Food Business

Jennifer Lewis of Small Food BusinessJennifer Lewis voyaged into entrepreneurship with her own food business, and now helps other food businesses become successful. Her site,, has lots of resources and advice for artisan food entrepreneurs. She tells us about the specific challenges of running a small food business, her favorite social media platform, and more.

My questions are in bold.

How is starting a food business different from other forms of entrepreneurship? What peculiar challenges does a small food business-owner face?

People tend to come into the food world because they’re driven by passion for the items they make but they can face an uphill battle getting their products to market because of the numerous regulations that are specific to the food industry. This can be anything from health code permits to labeling regulations. It’s a complex world and one that’s very different from other types of entrepreneurial ventures.

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How to Use Twitter for Business on 15 Minutes A Day

Think you don’t have enough time for Twitter? If you have 15 minutes in the day, you can do this.

Day 1: Sign up and create your profile

Photo credit: HubSpot
Photo credit: HubSpot

Choose a username that is as close to your name or your business name as possible and is easy to remember. For example, we didn’t get “markitty,” so we got “markittyapp”.

Make your profile description interesting and snappy. Don’t just copy your boilerplate company description. Make it clear what your business is about or what you stand for; people should be able to look at this and figure out what you tweet about and whether to follow you.

Ours is:

Specific marketing tips and insights on the product, general marketing advice on the blog. Managed by @Unmana and @NileshBhojani.

Done? That’s it for today.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter for Business: Free Download

We have put together our most useful Twitter tips in The Beginner’s Guide to Using Twitter for Business. This includes:

  • Important Twitter features you should know
  • Who you should follow
  • Tools and tips to easily find relevant people on Twitter
  • How to use Twitter for business in 15 minutes a day: a step-by-step guide that tells you how to get started and keep going, in just 15 minutes every day
  • Twitter mistakes you should avoid
  • Tools and apps you can use to get more out of Twitter

Get all of this for free!

The Beginner's Guide to Twitter

Making Cleaning Businesses Successful: Interview with Tom Watson

Tom Watson of Cleaning 4 ProfitTom Watson helps cleaning businesses become successful. That’s right. His books and services are aimed at helping cleaning businesses become more effective, and of course, marketing is a part of this. Let’s ask him about online marketing for cleaning businesses.

My questions and comments are in bold.

So how is marketing for cleaning businesses different? (Or is it?)

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Monday Marketing Mash-up: Productivity and Tools

To-do list on memo padLet’s talk about productivity! Raise your hand if you think you work at a terrific pace and rarely waste time being unproductive or procrastinating. What, no one? I’m shocked.

Check out Nilesh’s post about seven free tools he’s used that might help you improve your productivity.

It’s easy to see which of us is more tech-savvy. My recent post about productivity on the Spin Sucks blog described how I use my favorite productivity tool: paper.

That’s right: I have ten notebooks, each with a designated use. Don’t believe me? Check out the post: I have details and a picture.

This is a really interesting list of apps and plug-ins you can use to counter procrastination. I’ve started using Strict Workflow myself to keep me on track.

I also use Rescue Time to check up on my productivity (since Bhaskar recommended it),  and of course, email (I write myself notes on things I need to remember) and Google Calendar. I have also found Streak useful to keep track of emails I need to follow up on. I’ve used Remember the Milk and Trello as well, but with less success.

And if you’re feeling stressed out about your productivity levels, Amber Naslund’s post might help you gain perspective.

There is no magic system. Stop looking for it.

So let’s get to work now, you and me both.

Monday Marketing Mash-up: Learning from Business Failures

Failure’s been on my mind lately. It started a while back, with this startup founder writing about the inevitable end of the business.

And of course, last week I wrote about another startup failure, inspired by the TechCrunch article reporting it.

So today I share some more stories of failure with you, hoping we can avoid their mistakes and their fate. The next three links are from this Business Insider article.

This entrepreneur started his business of selling condom key chains: he failed, but it’s a great story.

This blog post has some interesting insights, including this:

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Lessons From a Failed Startup

I don’t usually follow startup stories, but I was intrigued by this one. With so much going for them – an interesting idea, interest from partners, interest from users, some PR, even some funding – they still had to fold.

And then I read Flowtab’s own account of how it went down. I am hardly qualified to criticize (but of course, I’m going to do so anyway), but some things leaped out at me. And these aren’t particular to this company (I don’t mean to pile on), but attitudes and activities I have seen in other startups as well.

Careless erosion of goodwill

Goodwill isn’t a trendy buzzword, but let’s talk about it anyway. Here are some of the tactics this company tried out.

Flowtab was an app that let you order drinks at bars. The founders spent months building the app, launched it on iTunes, and it was the #1 featured app for one week. But there was no service to back up the app. There’s no mention of how many people downloaded the app, but it must have been a good number. Many startups would be thrilled at having their app featured by Apple. But this one squandered their opportunity by letting users download an app they couldn’t use. That’s like having a big store launch, inviting customers, and then not showing up to open the store. If a thousand customers came to your door, that’s not a success. The fact that you couldn’t serve them is a failure.

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Monday Marketing Mash-up: Entrepreneurs’ Stories

I wrote this about my entrepreneurial journey, especially how we got started. I titled it somewhat provocatively, but the point is that I needed to reduce the distractions in my life to think clearly, to figure out what I really wanted to do.

The TV had filled our lives with noise. In the silence, we could hear our thoughts, our dreams.

Towards the end, I offer more tips on reducing distractions and improving your focus, something I struggle with every day. This post was also picked up by women 2.0.

I like reading stories and learnings of other entrepreneurs for motivation: it makes me feel less alone, it gives me hope that we’ll make it too.

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Monday Marketing Mash-up: Before You Start Your Business

Are you an aspiring entrepreneur or know someone who is? Read on for what you need to get in order before starting your business!

First, give yourself a reality check. #2 and #8 in that list look most important to me.

Here are some more things you should be careful about.

Next, get to work. I wrote on Women’s Web about 8 things to do before leaving your job to start your business.

Unlike what most people think, you shouldn’t wait to start marketing until you’re ready to launch. In fact, the earlier you start the better. I wrote on YourStory about marketing activities you need to start as soon as you start your business.

What do you wish you’d done earlier?

Monday Marketing Mash-up: Marketing Tips for Small and Local Businesses

Since last week was Small Business Week in the U.S., we’ve been tweeting about marketing for small businesses all week. Here are a few of the links that are useful all year-round.

On Small Business Trends, 5 reasons why signs work for your small business.

But if you’re thinking you only need signs, think again: Search Engine Journal explains why offline businesses need online marketing.

According to the BIA/Kelsey  report, 97% of consumers use online media before making local purchases.  Google Research  showed that 9 out of 10 internet searches resulted in a follow up action, such as calling or visiting the business. Mobile searches triggered an additional action or conversion 73% of the time; and 28% of mobile searches resulted in a store visit or purchase.

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5 Advantages of Being A Small Business

It’s Small Business Week in the U.S., a good time to write about my pet theory: being small is an advantage. Big businesses have big resources, what do small businesses have?

Small businesses are closer to the customer.

Hummingbird and flower
Small can be both beautiful and effective

If you’re a small-business owner or marketer, you know your best customers by name. You know why they are good customers — which goes beyond being just regular to being easy to work with, or maybe they give you constructive feedback. If you’re a B2B business, you know their business challenges. If you’re a bakery, you know Donna loves cheesecake and is allergic to walnuts.

Why is this an advantage? Because it makes it so much easier to tailor your marketing and sales to them. To tell Donna she might want to try the new mango cheesecake just in and that you’re baking a fresh set of nut-free brownies. Big businesses have to get sophisticated CRM systems to keep track of that stuff…  but small businesses can do it more organically and easily.

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Common Marketing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

I wrote on YourStory about marketing mistakes I find myself making repeatedly and see most often in others as well.

Here are some ways to avoid making such mistakes:

  1. Study the data. Be careful you don’t misinterpret it, but make sure you’re looking at it and can figure out what it means. 
  2. Ask your customers. Make sure you’re talking to them and know what they really think, and not just what you think they think. But of course, they need to be the right customers.
  3. Talk to people who’ll ask you the hard questions: be it a partner, advisor, or a friend.
  4. Don’t lose sight of your vision. Don’t change something just because someone suggested it: see if it fits into your vision of your business.
  5. Measure your productivity. Are you spending time on the right things?
  6. Question yourself constantly. Why are you doing [something]? Are you making the right assumptions? Is there a better way of doing this?

Tell me: what are the mistakes you try hard not to make?

The Most Important Marketing Metrics for Small Businesses

In our interview series, we asked marketers and entrepreneurs we admire about their marketing practices. One question I asked most people was about metrics: what metrics do they measure or think are most important for small businesses should measure?

Website Metrics

If your website is also your product (content sites like Ask A Manager and YourStory, product startups like AppSurfer, e-commerce sites), website metrics are of paramount importance.

The AppSurfer team tracks website metrics regularly, especially engagement-related metrics: pages per visit, bounce rate, etc.

We met Jubin Mehta of YourStory recently, and he told us that YourStory focuses on the number of unique visitors — not total visits or page views, but the number of readers.

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Monday Marketing Mash-up: Managing a Business While Parenting

Mother and daughterI’m not a parent, but I’m in awe of those of you who manage a business and are parents of young children. So this week, here are some tips from other parents who’ve been there.

Sahil Parikh inspired this list with his Productivity Hacks of a Startup Dad: tips that can be useful to all of us, even those who aren’t parents.

I love that building a routine doesn’t work for him (since I keep trying and failing at establishing a routine myself) and that he doesn’t follow general or world news (another practice I’ve been following for a couple of years that makes me feel ignorant but less stressed out). I don’t use email notifications either, though  I don’t follow any of the rest of his tips (I do want to follow the first one though, but again, routines seem to be beyond me).

On Women’s Web, Monalisa Saxena writes about managing her business while she was pregnant: a nice set of tips that would probably work for any scheduled downtime, whether a long vacation or maternity leave.

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Monday Marketing Mash-up: All About Pricing

Pricing’s something many of us struggle with, and is a really important part of marketing strategy. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about as we move closer to a paid plan for Markitty. So here are a few interesting posts that talk about how you should price your product.

Different kinds of greens in a market
Customers like options they can compare, even if they’re similar

Here’s why research or surveys usually don’t help you much:

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