year-end entrepreneur notes and rants

it's been a long time since i've written a rant or business related post, so what better time than the last week of the year [i know from the emails and comments i get from the blog that many young entrepreneurs read/check in here for the evolving nooka story, and the past few months have read more like a press section than a real blog].

this year has been a very challenging one economically, though i must say, an exciting one for me and nooka. this of course is not "news" to anyone running a business and even more so to people who have found it difficult to find employment the past year. one thing that is different this recession, is the mood. i just don't feel the doom-and-gloom i felt when the economy tanked after george w stole the election in 2001, but then again, that was such a precipitous drop here in NYC with the addition of september 11th, i had to lay-off all my staff and take a job as creative director of a larger company [if i really go on rant mode, i'd write a lot more on how ridiculously structured SBA disaster loans were at that time to benefit only larger companies as they were for the most part based on the number of employees a company had at the time of application – isn't the "SB" in "SBA" supposed to mean "Small Business"?]. i must add though that the SBA [Small Business Administration] has failed the US economy this year even more and i totally encourage everyone and anyone with a business to blog their experience and more importantly send a letter to your congress people and senators to let them know how unacceptable it is to fund such a vast government agency with our tax money that has not one mechanism in place to ensure that their policies and programs are being followed or even made available in every locale where there is need – the SBA has no transparency whatsoever, they will not even give the guidelines that banks must follow to the small businesses being turned down for the loans to check against. they do not even have a person handling complaints. i was simply told to apply to different banks until i find one that would make the SBA money available! obviously, the SBA personnel have never filled out a business loan application before! after going through the process 2 times, i gave up and figured out another way to get through the rough spots presented to us this year. frustrating, yes, but i turned all that energy into being more creative and engaged in growing my business and cultivating my brand.

and it's not only small businesses. yohji yamamoto of japan, escada of germany and even christian lacroix have all filed for bankruptcy protection this year! they of course are large companies with a huge value in their respective brand equities and i'm sure they will restructure and still be on the shelves in 2010 and beyond. it is small companies like nooka that need to be very creative and careful in years like these.

luckily this recession, i have not had to lay off any of our staff [though christmas bonuses will hardly qualify as a down-payment on a house or car]. to be honest, even with the few scattered problems of financing and stores going under, we're coming out of 2009 ahead! 2010 will be our 5th anniversary as 'nooka inc.' and i am very happy to enter this milestone with added vigor and determination to build a mindstyle brand bringing optimism for the future via design!

so for that, i really want to thank all the amazing partners i've worked with this year: our amazing PR staff at raw information group, all of the fabulous magazines who showed us love and support in print and online, BLOGGERS [you know who you are], purpose built for our fragrance launch, all our manufacturing partners, our wonderful distributors in foreign lands, our north american sales staff, our legal team, all the celebs, sports personalities, designers and musicians like lil wayne, semi precious weapons, michna, kate simko etc, who embrace nooka without any prodding from us [well, maybe a little], the one club for choosing us as their corporate design project, redbull, kidrobot, the KDU, – and most importantly – the fans of our designs who keep buying what we make! i also want to thank my staff and wonderful crop of interns we had from sweden and spain [we are currently looking for an adobe indesign wiz intern!].

so what words of wisdom can i offer up for other young businesses?
banks suck. none of the major banks that took government bailout money have made any overtures to make credit available to small businesses. moreover, they are returning the money so they can be free from any pressure to do anything that may benefit society and the small business community. it's an unfortunate reality that you have to even use them. but since you do need a bank, i can only recommend sovereign. i really like HSBC for my personal banking especially since i travel so much all over the world [there is an HSBC ATM EVERWHERE i travel to with the glaring exception of japan (japan is infamous for having a closed market to foreign banks)], they totally failed at being a good bank for business. they have high turnover of dedicated bankers and no mechanism in place to notify customers of personnel changes – they don't even bounce back emails when the person has left the company with an automated response! they lost loan applications on numerous occasions and seem to show no interest whatsoever in making their small business customer feel valued. we spent most of 2009 meeting with the small business agents for every bank you can name in NYC to find someone we would feel is actually interested in our business and the winner was sovereign! really amazing people who took the time to google search nooka and matthew waldman, visit our office, and make every process easy for us.

network your successes and your challenges. don't keep your problems to yourself. you share your successes on your blog and twitter feed right? so why hold back on your difficulties? there will be someone out there in your network with some helpful advice or an introduction to expand your network. remember, you're not complaining if you create a narrative about your challenges. in this way, you'll find more motivation for yourself and staff as well as the added value of engaging other people to help you further your goals.

as cliche as it sounds, read the business press. magazines like fortune, Inc., and fast company have good information in them for small businesses. read anything by malcom gladwell, especially what the dog saw. i found the insights and fresh views on statistical information help train my brain to continue to look past the emotional content we are continually fed as truth. there is beauty and clarity in logic too! the freakonomics sections of the is also an amazing source of exercise for the brain.

be an optimist! embrace technology and new materials! follow your gut! be analytical! support universal standards! do not live in a city or a country – live on a planet – it is the only way towards a better future for all!

i think this is enough for now. what do you think?


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