Credit Card Tips for the Young Entrepreneur

Gone are the days where you worked a 9-5 job and stayed with a great company for 40 years before you retired. These days, it’s all about creating your own dream career, and building start-ups has been on a rise. Even little Susie from the Verizon commercials has gone from running a little lemonade stand to national distributor of ‘Susie’s Lemonade’.

The common question is, how should we be approaching this? Selecting the right credit card and financial products is just the beginning but will do great favors for the young entrepreneur in the long run. Here are some tips to starting off your business with good credit:

Invest Wisely

One of the greatest challenges for your entrepreneurs is getting the right investments in order to fund their start-up businesses. As a young entrepreneur, you are not only worried about if you can attain this funding but also where you can get yourself a relatively rewarding credit card deal and how your credit scores will reflect upon your future borrowing power to further invest in your company. As with all things, making your credit card’s minimum payments consistently may not be demonstrating a sufficient enough of income to supplement the amount you are looking to spend on credit.

Another challenge is the fact that young people tend to have little to no creditability when it comes to obtaining loans. Whether you’re just looking to apply for a personal credit card or looking to use it for business purposes, you’ll likely have to deal with the fact that your credit card will have a much lower limit than you had hoped. A lot of the time you’ll hear people suggest that you should actually lower your credit limit to prevent overspending. While this may be true, as a young entrepreneur it does you no favors to have limited credit when you potentially need more financial support.

Build Credit to Gain Credit

Building credit is essentially one of the first things young entrepreneurs should have at the back of their minds. If you’re even remotely interested in pursuing this field in the future, highly consider the steps you can take to improve your credit score. Some simple actions to be taken are starting off with a low credit card limit as a student and making the appropriate payments every month. Having a credit card is one of the most efficient ways you can start building credit right away—even your crippling student loans aren’t as efficient.

As soon as you’ve built an appropriate credit limit for yourself, make sure to keep below that boundary and continue to make your payments on time. The worst thing you can do to hurt yourself is probably build all this great credit and then burn everything you’ve ever worked for by not making payments on time. The information held by financial institutions about your credit history never truly goes away. In some sense, this makes your credit history somewhat like all the embarrassing photos you posted on Facebook the other night.

How do you know you’ve made it?

You may recall the snail mail your parents found incredibly annoying that congratulated them on their credit history and suggested them to add to their credit card limits. As a young entrepreneur you should take those as good indicators of your credit building success. Financial institutions will only invite those they believe can pay off their loans consistently to increase their limit, and as a young business owner that’s precisely what you need to reach the appropriate levels of funding.

One more important thing to be aware of when it comes to having a business credit card is the idea of  not having any personal liability for the debt that you incur for your business. This major myth has people wishing they never overspent left, right, and center. There is no such thing as running away from debt unless you decide to go bankrupt—in which case there isn’t much of a chance you’ll build good credit history ever again. So before you dive into anything for your business, know that while some risks are important to take, you’re going to be held liable for them all.

A cautionary note: Unless you can obtain loans for little to no interest, it probably isn’t worth your while to use such measures to increase your credit score. Consistent building of credit score by paying your bills on time will better serve your cash flow and have a greater impact over time. Don’t forget you can also window shop for the loans with the best terms! Bottom line is, even if you’re in a hurry to build credit, avoid incurring the unnecessary costs of a loan.

5 Ways to Validate Your Business Idea

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The concept of starting a small business has been gaining traction within British Columbia. An analysis conducted by BC Statistics shows in the 2014 Analytical Report that small businesses actually make up 98 percent of all businesses in British Columbia. Furthermore, 81 percent of these small businesses employ five people or less. This goes to show that British Columbia holds an abundance of small business opportunities for you to pursue.

But how can your business idea be validated in a relatively short time span? According to Gregg Brockway, co-founder of Hotwire and Triplt, “There are ways of looking at a business and seeing it’s working.” As smart business people, you understand the need to leap at any opportunity that can potentially provide profitable customer interaction.

Here are 5 ways to validate your business idea that can drive results for Cyber Monday:

Does It Ease A Pain Point?

Truly valuable business ideas help ease pain points for customers. These ideas solve problems and adds value to the lives of customers by bringing them more simplicity, efficiency or affordability. One of the most challenging aspects of validating your business idea is the fact that you’re the only initial user of this product or service. It’s difficult not to not be biased when you’re so in love with this business idea. Make sure your business idea is solving a common problem amongst your customer target audience and not just a problem you experience as an individual. Smashingmagazine.com suggests looking at the problem from alternative angles if you can’t come up with a traditional solution.

Don’t Commit To It

You shouldn’t be committing all your time, energy and life savings to one particular business idea. Sometimes you’ll realize that the business idea is just not worth pursuing partway through trying to get customer validation. It’s also easy for customer demands to change, in that case, you always have the option of pivoting your business and pursue another business idea.

One clear caution sign to be aware of is if you’ve lost sight of your initial vision. If you’ve forgotten why you’re pursuing this business idea and how it brings value then it’s time to take a pause. Don’t be afraid to put a halt on your project and take a step back to look at the bigger picture.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

As much as your potential customers appear to take interest in your business idea–are they really willing to give your product or service a shot? The biggest mistake you can make is take the customers’ word for it when it comes to stating whether they’d use something that has yet to exist. When it comes to actually using a physical project or service, customers take other things into consideration like ease of use, convenience, lifestyle compatibility and more.

A great way to validate your business idea is by creating a prototype and showing it off to the world. Let your target audience touch it, feel it, use it. You might discover that your target audience refuses to use it because it doesn’t make their lives more efficient and that’s perfectly fine. The essence of validating your business idea is to capture whether it is something your customers will actually want, without investing a fortune on developing something no one will use.

The Customer Is Always Right

Indeed, the customer tends to be right most of the time in this case. When you’re out and about validating a business idea, you’re in it to hear what your customers have to say, so never forget that. Listen to why your potential customers wouldn’t want to pursue this product or service and take it to heart. Is there a similar product they’re already using? Is your product or service simply too expensive? Too time consuming?

If the responses are positive then consider which aspects of your business idea your customers really appreciate. Sometimes it’s easier to criticize the faults and more difficult to figure out why something is working. Here is where you need to figure out what it is that made your business idea a success among your target audience and scrap the rest.

Is It Time Yet?

When its all said and done, ask yourself, is the present time the most appropriate timing for you to launch your business idea? In the context of our discussion, it is the right timing. Cyber Monday is coming up and you can certainly consider holding a soft launch for your business idea to better test the waters.

Now It’s Your Turn

Are you planning on using any of the above tactics to validate your business idea? If so, which of the tactics will you be using to best tailor to your customer needs and values?

Make the “Big Picture Goals” Your Priority

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Ever not been able to cross off everything on your to-do list at the end of the day? I’m willing to bet you anything that the phrases “I’m too busy”, “There is no time” and “It’s too late for that now” has crossed your mind time and time again.

Taking a step back let us identify our daily important tasks as “big picture goals”. The majority of us willingly choose to first focus on non-important goals (or “little picture goals”) and activities that take up most of our time and save the big picture goals for last.

Evidently, the problem here is procrastination.

The more you push the big picture goals to the end of your to-do list, the more and more likely you’ll find a way to not face them. Some people suggest that finishing the little picture goals first builds confidence. But think about it again this way: The big picture goals require the most attention and energy from you, saving them until the end means you’ll be strained for time towards the end of your day and attacking it when you have the least amount of energy. Ultimately, you’re building up more stress and not accomplishing your goals.

Attacking the big picture goals first drives your motivation level to new peaks because you’re accomplishing tasks with true urgency and impact–challenging yourself to face the lion early. Having fought the fight you did early in the day, accomplishing the little picture goals later on in your day will come at more ease. Best yet, you’ll be way more likely to cross off everything on that to-do list.

Still not enough time you say? Look, by already having fulfilled your big picture goals you’ll have maximized the use of your time and feel much more accomplished. Sometimes it isn’t always about getting through the to-do list in its entirety but rather, optimizing your strategy to make the greatest impact on the results. So give yourself a pat on the back for addressing the big elephant in the room.

Now don’t just sit there, take advantage of the benefits prioritizing your big picture goals will bring you. Take a minute right now to write down your morning goal for tomorrow. This could be the 5k run you used to do every morning but now “cannot find time for” because of school or getting your pre-lecture readings done for class that just “puts you to sleep” at the end day.

Completing big picture goals first thing in the morning is the foundation for building motivation throughout the rest of your day. Carefully select important tasks that will require more of your attention to complete because of its difficulty and make an effort to write it down and commit to it even if it’s the one thing you do that day. Prioritizing tasks is breakfast for the mind; you’ll start off strong and finish off stronger. Give it a shot and you’ll realize how great it feels to be carefree for rest of your day.

Hong Kong’s Battle for Democracy: Thoughts From the Middle Ground

My thoughts on the situation in Hong Kong comes late like many others. People that don’t particularly want to meddle around in the grey area or get into political debates. Like many others, I stand by democracy but cannot deem myself informed enough to form a solid stance on whether the current movement is right or wrong. The theme is important and raising awareness for the cause has be more than valuable. So let us take a step back from the political debates and understand the challenges of the bigger picture.

Change management does not come overnight. For large groups of people in teams, organizations and communities to transition to desired states is not something that can be confined to the downfalls of one particular leader or government. With all great accomplishments takes enormous efforts from all parties. There are many reasons that the people of Hong Kong are asking for change. The voting system, the education system, the housing policies and many more non-locals may not be aware of. Choosing what strategy to implement and methods of evaluation should never have to come down to anyone getting physically harmed in any way, shape or form.

Billions of peoples’ lives are on the line. I say this in light of China having ruled out amending their initial decision from August 31st stating that Hong Kong’s leader will be elected in 2017 after candidates have been selected by a nominating committee made up of a proposed 1,200 people. It is difficult to imagine what consequences a shift in the voting system could potentially have on the lives of over 1.3 billion people in China. What if they too would like to seek out more democratic governing? How will a nation that large be able to focus on its economic development in the likely event that its people take to the streets to protest for democracy?

There is little middle ground available for Hong Kong’s governing system, China’s 2017 decision and the current beliefs represented by the people of Hong Kong. No one can say one party is right but what we as a global community can do is seek ways to prevent the suffering of more people. The pressure is on to resolve this problem but as we are all quite aware, the challenges will be continuing long after the current movement is over. As people that truly care, it isn’t necessarily about wearing the yellow ribbon, it’s about the fight after the media no longer sees value in reporting the matter.

A lot of us can’t help but notice that Western styles of democracy is often referenced in the current Hong Kong debates. Yes, Hong Kong is seeking out similar forms in their voting systems but it isn’t always relevant to compare them side-by-side. It has long been established that the people of Hong Kong are looking for a “one person, one vote”system where everyone has direct influence on who their next leader will be. Here in North America for the most part, we are only able to elect representatives for our communities. We are in no way directly voting for a specific leader to represent us to one overarching national governing body with a completely different political beliefs. That is why, I am hesitant to say that what Hong Kong is thriving for right now is the system that I am personally living under.

Ultimately one of the most important things to understand is we shouldn’t lose sight of why this movement began in the first place. The student leaders originally put out very ambitious proposals to the government including demands for Hong Kong’s top three officials to resign for political reasons so they can re-elect a leader they believe in under a new voting system. However, as we move away from this, we will notice that the movement is no longer solely run by and represented by people that believe in democracy, but people that are suffering under current localized issues like the increase of housing prices, unemployment and heightening poverty. The problems have always been far greater than one single voting system.

Embrace the challenges of the future and stay safe.

Do I really have to ask you again? [Part 1]

I asked my sister to help me run an errand last week out of pure laziness. When I got back from work, I was pleasantly surprised with my package having been picked up and dinner ready.

There is nothing quite as satisfying as asking something of someone and having them exceed all expectations you had for them. Rarely does this happen, but when it does–it’s a glorious day.

More than anything it seems like we’re easily annoyed by all the little things. When your significant other is late for dinner, when your roommate eats your last pizza pocket, when someone doesn’t clean up after themselves around the house–when they aren’t really “listening” to the things you have to say. Being with others in general is not only a constant state of change but also filled with what feels like many unfulfilled expectations.

In moments of temporary resentment we resort to criticizing as an immediate response. Lucky for us, there are “new and improved” ways to respond to these situations with family and friends.

Acknowledge it. Move on.

Sometimes life happens and the trade off between being resentful and letting go–letting go is just freeing oneself of disappointment. Do whatever works for you. This isn’t a lesson of calming exercises as much as it is realizing real life experiences of upset and anger. It’s a human tendency to dwell on feelings of hurt and disappointment. Prolonged resentment is what makes our lives at home seem dissatisfying at times. This is one of the few cases where over-thinking benefits no one as it prolongs pain and damages relationships.

Start. Empower. Inspire.

The times we want to nag roommates or family to do certain chores–criticize them for their lazy choices–realize it isn’t going to prompt anyone to take initiative next time around. It isn’t often that negative emotions, extreme or not, inspire others to make changes–let alone fulfill unmet expectations.

Have empathy.

Have empathy for the person you want to criticize. Chances are you’ve neglected promises to do house chores as well. Rationalize the situation without using accusations and demanding language to create a defensive atmosphere. In this way, we get the point across without harboring resentment. Of course this takes much more control on our part but the results are certainly worth it. I’m sure you’d feel much more inclined to help someone who got their point across without demanding that you HAVE to do something but by using more appreciative words.

— itsfruitcakeweather.

Awaken Your Empathy

The first and only step to developing empathy is to connect with people.

And it doesn’t matter if I just gave away the whole purpose of this article in one sentence because knowing and not exercising the knowledge still leaves us in the same place with people that are not aware.

Too many times we confuse having empathy with sympathy. Allow me to clarify how they are quite the opposite.

We’re all capable of expressing empathy and it’s applicable to all aspects of our lives–whether this be personal relationships or work.

Awakening individual empathy requires us to take the perspective of another. Or as we say in the most cliche way possible, “be in someone else’s shoes”.

It also requires us to refrain from judgement. When has that ever been easy for any of us? Especially since so many of us enjoy it more than we’d like to admit.

But beyond the judgmental filters, being able to sense the emotions of another regardless of how we’re personally feeling isn’t enough. Being able to not only sense, but acknowledging it through communication is what’s important.

As much as we’re capable of spreading happiness, we are also capable of feeling pain with others.

We can think of the whole process beginning from when someone falls into a deep dark well of emotions. Someone that is overwhelmed with a certain negative emotion and can’t seem to make their way back up the well. And you know what we can do for them? We can let them know that we’ve been in the same dark well and that they’re really not alone.

That’s empathy. A choice. Quite a risky choice as well because connecting with someone in a dark well of emotions means digging back to a time we ourselves experienced the same thing.

Sympathy is when someone doesn’t make the connection. When we say, “Hey, I know your relationship really isn’t working out but AT LEAST you have someone to be with”. This is what we do all the time when someone shares something with us that’s hurting them. We throw out the ‘AT LEAST’ . We try to put a silver lining around something that is incredibly painful because we want to try and make things better when it evidently won’t.

Truth be told, we can’t always expect to be able to make things better for anyone that’s in a painful whirl of emotions. Rarely does responding to someone that shared something painful with us make things better. What makes things better in the dark well of emotions is connecting with other people and that’s why support groups work so effectively.

— itsfruitcakeweather.