A few months ago, Canon launched its “MAXIFY Mentors” campaign to help small businesses overcome some of the biggest hurdles of starting up.
They unleashed the expertise of five small business authorities—I’m fortunate to be one of them—to engage with small business owners through social media.
But as a MAXIFY Mentor, I also have the opportunity to select two finalists for the Canon MAXIFY Contest. Canon asked newer small businesses to name their biggest startup challenge. The Grand Prize Winner will fly to New York to spend a day with the always-amazing and insightful Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank fame. Barbara is a fantastic entrepreneur, who built a huge real estate sales empire, and the chance to spend time with her is certain to prove invaluable. Other winners of the Canon MAXIFY contest will win prize packages including a new Canon MAXIFY printer and an iPad mini. This wonderful opportunity for entrepreneurs also coincides with the first anniversary of the MAXIFY printer being on the market.
Entering the contest couldn’t have been simpler: contestants sent me a message on social media—either Twitter or Facebook—describing their biggest startup challenge. The Canon MAXIFY contest got lots of people tweeting and posting away. It seems lots of entrepreneurs—while excited about building businesses—appreciated the opportunity to discuss some of the challenges they face.
Drum roll please…
My first finalist is Chad Cleveland, founder of ezIQ, an online contact management system—or CRM. Chad has built a CRM just for entrepreneurs and has attracted customers but needs help training them to use the software. I call this a good problem to have. Attracting customers is one of the biggest hurdles small business owners have to jump over so Chad is doing something right. Now he just needs to iron out how to take care of those customers.
Here’s the problem he tweeted to me:
@BarbaraCorcoran #MAXIFYContest @RhondaAbrams educating / training new customers
Chad’s company represents so many great things about the new breed of small businesses, and he’s clearly doing many things right. His is a tech company, creating a cloud-based solution. He understands that for a small company it’s critical to focus on a niche, which he has done by creating a product especially for small business. And he proudly points out that his company is “Made in the US”—Chad’s from the Spokane Valley in Washington.
Chad’s tweet shows that he’s smart enough to know that it’s not enough for a small business to make a product, or even to sell a product, you also have to get customers to engage with your products or services—to have a great experience. You have to delight your customers if you want them to keep coming back. In Chad’s case—as in most tech products—it’s a matter of training and educating customers. But for all of us, we need to help our customers make the most of our products or services, so we retain them and they help spread the word about how great our products or services are.
You can check out Chad’s website here.
My second finalist for the Canon MAXIFY contest is Kristi Mitchell of Kids’ Clutter Tamers.
Here’s what Kristi tweeted to me:
@BrettRelander @RhondaAbrams Biz challenge, connecting w/large retail buyers to get product in stores #MAXIFYContest
Kristi pointed out a problem that so many new and small manufacturing companies face: how to get big orders. And, frankly, that’s tough. Huge retailers don’t like doing business with smaller businesses because it’s costly for them to deal with too many suppliers, and they are not confident small companies can consistently meet their demands.
But I also want to point out that Kristi may be too eager for large retailers to take her products. My very first client was a sportswear manufacturer, and they thought their dreams had come true when a large department store chain started ordering from them. But the chain made all sorts of demands—about packaging, labeling, delivery, returns—and then pushed hard for low margins and slow payment terms.
I think Kristi is on the right track with her products and winning a day of top-notch consulting from an expert like Barbara Corcoran can help her scale.
Read about all of the MAXIFYContest winners in Barbara Corcoran’s post on LinkedIn.