Class: 2013 Summer Accelerator

Company Description

A mentor and funding platform for women entrepreneurs.


Today (Thursday July 18, 2013), we learned about Communication and Branding. Before we invited our speakers to come speak with us, for the first hour, we first went around in circle sharing what we have accomplished and had a group advice discussion/brainstorm on any problems/issues that had arisen. It was awesome how all the issues that were brought up were answered in a cooperative and supportive environment. David was especially helpful – he had something to say for everybody. It’s nice that this kind of session will be done every once in awhile.


In the second hour, our guests were invited in. They were Samir ElKamouny, Founder of Green Bikes of Lowell & 2013 Winter Accelerator Finalist, Charu Gupata, Partner at VENG Group and former journalist, and Liron Asher, freelance graphic designer and affiliated with UMass Lowell. Samir took over website strategy and Charu shared her expertise in communications strategy. And interestingly enough, Liron is the designer of all the Sandbox posters!


Liron went first by informing us that graphic design makes your business “come to life”. It’s important to stick with the design and keep the SAME COLOR scheme for EVERYTHING! Font design is also important as well as the motto ‘less is more’ - a modern, clean, minimal look is best. Overall CONSISTENCY takes the prize.


Samir started off by listing the three must-haves for an entrepreneurs: a website, business card, and a logo. The website in particular must get straight to the point within 30 seconds (because people do not read more than 3 paragraphs!). You can also plug in Google Analytics (see if people are looking/not looking at a website) as well as Google Trends (look up search trends - people may be searching for something that you didn’t know about, but is related to your business), as well as Google Insights.

A good website has:

-          A strong clear message!

-          Easy navigation (NO drop-down menu for the sake of mobile users!)

-          Content & more content (but NOT too much) – SEO/keywords are important

-          A community – redirect to fb/twitter and vice versa – make sure that they are ALL CONNECTED

-          is already STARTED


Charu talked about focus groups which consist of few staff and a small budget. She wanted us to ask important questions about our consumers in terms of:

  • What kinds of things would make them buy it/use your services

  • What action do you want consumers to take? (Ex. buy something/sign up/use some kind of service) → it will influence how you need to talk to them about your product

Communication strategy – ex. Email database (don’t send too many emails) - creates feedback

Also some notes on social media – do NOT jump into social media because it is a HUGE commitment (be on top of it to use and sustain it for followers to retain their loyalty and to continue to like/share your stuff). As for press strategy, do not only target the Boston Globe or community papers, but also look into the trade press to get word out about your services.


Afterwards it was Q&A Time. Questions were mostly about technology in terms of mobile/desktop website and email, but finalists were also very interested in getting some tips for logos, too.


For mobile website/desktop website optimization, Samir replies that it is not imperative that you need two different websites (in desktop form as well as from a mobile widget), but it is important to make the website mobile-friendly (due to EASE OF USE + majority of people are on small devices). Therefore, NO DROP DOWN WEBSITE – you want desktop version to be able to work on a phone


Charu answered some questions based on the concept of a Feedback Group: how to ask for feedback but not being annoying. She suggests legal databases (ex. Constant Contact), fb (shows how many people are interacting as well as whether they are sharing content w/ friends. However,  ‘likes’ don’t reveal much. It is the repostings that matter). One must learn how to post things that are more ENGAGING – REPHRASE/REPACKAGE content – so people are drawn to say something about it.


About email – Charu reassured that open rates between 5 ~ 10% is not bad HOWEVER, between 1% or <1% is NOT good. Every email blast you send out, you need to rethink the strategy. Think about what you have done, and then create some benchmarks (make content or frequency, more engaging)


Samir continued that one must DEFINE GOALS knowing the TARGET audience.Charu gave further emphasis on how knowing what target audience WANTS and how you want them to REACT will create key discussion.You can have more than one target audience, but need to customize the message for each audience.


Liron finished with some tips on having a good logo:

  • visuals/pictures over wordy paragraphs

    • make sure there is something visually pleasing AND the visuals don’t necessarily have to connect with what is being sold (such as in advertising as well as her affectionate ‘dog with a crown’ images that never fails to grab someone’s attention)

  • Samir added that humor helps

Finally Charu concluded that one must give potential customers an emotional experience through marketing (ex. feelings of ‘newness’ or ‘elation’). Give them an emotional journey/arc, or create a story because people remember emotions.


For the final hour of this session, we divided into 3 groups. Liron covered pricing and concept for a logo, Samir talked about website and MVP, and Charu’s topic was ‘How to think about identifying a target audience or multiple target audiences as well as communication strategies.


We mainly stayed with Liron in order to figure out how to handle our current issue with how our logo looked similar to those of our competitors. Some tips we picked up were:

  • In terms of graphic designer, it is better to pay a freelancer than in advertising firm because you will be assured to have full rights

  • Get logo through Illustrator than Photoshop - Illustrator is vector-based (get at least 300 dpi) so it is possible to blow it up on anything if necessary whereas Photoshop is pixel-based

  • For colors

    • LESS IS MORE - 1 to 2 colors, 3 at most!!

    • Expresses an image (ex. a certain color scheme can convey ‘computers’ and even ‘diapers’

    • No gradients - cost more, and fades/shadows look cheesy (as well as distracts the eye and makes the viewer confused)

    • NEVER shadows behind text

    • in terms of certain colors:

      • Turquoise - a tough color to differentiate between print and screen - which is why spot/solid colors are important - but still a good color choice

      • Lime Green - looks new and fresh, light and airy

      • Yellow - women like it (even more than pink!)

      • and DARK color is BAD

      • Baby blue - feminine

  • Fonts:

    • need to be clear enough to see from far away - make it THICK

    • Not too long - condensed - think square-shape (to make it visually pleasing)

    • simple as possible

    • have a VISUAL connection - it is not just a whole lot of letters

    • have a VISUAL (a circle, square, some shape)

    • never have too many letters to be too dense - separate separate text, word-by-word, letter-by-letter – adjust spacing and alignment

    • Think Capital Letters

  • Pricing

    • based on expertise,

    • specifications,

    • turn-around time


Overall, the way your business looks is EVERYTHING. It is your identity, and it may even be what gets you through the door, or the email.

Accounting 101

On Tuesday (July 16, 2013), we invited two accountants, Jerry and Scott, from MFA to the program to talk to us about basic accounting for start-up businesses. Jerry is a tax manager and Scott is an audit manager at MFA. They stressed the importance of understanding financial statements because they are a tool of decision making and correlate directly with all the processes of tax returns.


As a tax expert, Jerry listed a list of steps related to tax necessary for start-up businesses as shown below:

  1. Entity selection- setting up your business: the three types of business are Sole Proprietorship, Copr, and Limited Liability Company (LLC)

  2. File for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) ( You will need it for everything related to tax, payroll, etc. The link is

  3. Other tax filings

  • Employees (W-2's, 941's, etc.)

  • Sales tax filing. Some states have sales tax online, but others may not. For Massachusetts, we can go on website, choose business, and there are instructions there to file sales tax.

  • File 1099 if we have independent contractors. The company should have a discussion with them that if the company pays more than $600, they have to have an amount of money aside to pay for tax.

*** An important piece of advice Jerry gave us was to ask the employee to file W-9 when they start working so that we can have all the information ready for the tax season.


Jerry also talked about other important parts of starting and running a business such as

  1. Establish a team of advisors like CPA, attorney, IT, and other advisors depending on the business

  2. Record keeping: there are different softwares we can use for record keeping such as Quickken, Quickbooks, or some other online version. He advised to use Quickbooks because it is easy to use and not so expensive. While doing recordkeeping, it is really important to separate checking account, credit card STRICTLY for business reporting, and maintain accurate books and records, revenue and expenses; EMPHASIS on SEPARATION of business and personal.

  3. Financing consideration. It can be home-equity, borrowing from family/friends, or traditional financing methods.

  4. Insurance. It is a big part of cost in the business to consider. It can include professional liability, property, health, life, disability. Remember to deduct the health insurance into the expense of the company to get benefit in tax.

  5. Marketing and networking.

  6. Working schedule and places. A small business can take a lot of time and effort, however, having a working schedule and knowing where to work is really helpful in maintaining the energy and reduce stress.

  7. Goals. Know what we want to accomplish, what will happen in the future.

  8. Manage cash flow by establishing a cash reserve fund, line of credit.

  9. Method of accounting includes cash vs. accrual (cash is preferred). Company has less than 1 million/year and not having inventory, should use the cash method which is a lot easier for the business, but when it goes over 1 million, it should use the accrual method.

  10. Plan for taxes. There are income taxes and self-employment tax. Income taxes include Federal and State tax, they are usually estimated quarterly.

*** Start-up costs are deductible in reporting income tax.

*** Some businesses/start-up businesses have tax incentives from IRS.

  1. Home office. Look up 587 for instructions of business use of your home. The link is

  2. Retirement plan. Check solo 401K, SEP-IRA

  3. If the company employs children, we should look up the legal side of it to make sure we follow the law.


As a finance expert, Scott explained to us basic understanding of financial statements

1. Balance sheet is a snapshot of the business at a single point in time. It is known as financial position. It includes assets, liabilities, and equity. Assets are amounts owed to the business or other sources of cash used to operate the business, liabilities are sources of cash used to operate the business, equity is the net worth of the business.

2. Income statement: a summary of revenue and expenses of the business for a period of time. It is also knowns as statement of operations, P&L statement or statement of revenue and cost. In the R&D, we can check what expenses can be recorded as R&D. There is tax incentive in R&D.

3. The statement of cash flows can be the most difficult statement but it offers the best information as the how business generated and used its cash for a period of time. It includes three areas of cash flows and outflow: operating, investing, or financing activities.

*** He mentioned that many people do not know the difference between financial forecast and financial projection. Financial forecast is to forecast what is going to happen in the future based on the known facts. Financial projection is knowing what is going to happen to the company if something happens in the future. The company, lenders, or current and future investors would use a forecast. The company and current investor would like to use projection.


Scott also showed us an example of financial statements. It was really helpful to see the example because we could see the accounting terms and their neat organization in three excel sheets.


Jerry and Scott also helped the entrepreneurs at the program individually after the talk. The class ended successfully with people at the program got a lot of help from the tow experts.

On Thursday (July 11, 2013), we invited Todd Fry to come and speak to us about pitching and public speaking. We began the session by partnering up with someone outside our groups to talk about how we personally felt about public speaking and what we fear most from it. From this discussion, he shared with us the four reasons ‘Why Public Speaking is a Problem’:

  1. Speeches scare us! (or some of us because other people at the Accelerator seem to be totally fine speaking in front of an audience)

  2. Preparing is a drag!

  3. Knowledge can be a curse!

  4. Delivery is awkward!

(And yes, all the exclamation points are necessary after every point!)

Here are some of his suggestions as well as the suggestions we came up with as a group for each issue:

  1. 3 main tips for getting over the fear of public speaking:

    1. Reframe the nervousness - “Oh good! I’m nervous. :)”

    2. CARE - you are giving a “gift”. “You are lucky to have me!”

    3. Commit to your words because the audience is constantly thinking (subconsciously) “Can I trust this person?”

    4. Bonus: in order to relax the nerves

      1. Loosen up shoulders and neck area

      2. Make sure palms touch the thighs

      3. Breathe through the belly

      4. And maybe eat a banana before speaking?

  2. 3 main tips for preparation:

    1. NO SCRIPT - this is a performance and a physical activity

    2. Use mirrors, friends, and/or family - things and people who will make you talk it through

    3. Prepare EARLY - start DAYS in advance and chip at it little by little (better to do it 10mins/day for 2 weeks than to wait for the ‘perfect opportunity’; some good times are right before you go to bed and right before you wake up)

  3. There is so much in your head! How do you boil it down?

    1. Create a framework:  “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them” – repetition and clarity is important in making it stick!

    2. MOTIVATE people to listen: Follow Monroe’s Motivated sequence: Problem (Why? Why even listen to me?) → Solution (I HAVE THE ANSWER! I do it better/cheaper/etc.) → Action w/ Concession

    3. Tell a story: People understand better through narrative than analysis. Think about an image/symbol/proverb that pulls it all together.

  4. In order to not make your delivery as awkward, it can be an advantage to know who the audience is, BUT don’t feel pressured to change the wording to only what you think they want.


At the end, we were able to learn even more through Ron and Leslie’s practice pitches.

These are some points that we gathered:

  • The speech/pitch begins the moment that the audience SEES you.

  • Gesture above the waist and below the shoulders - NEVER below the waist! Make them sustained, clear, and varied (we can get some pointers from Leslie).

  • Open with a need focused on your audience, NOT on you! Trigger stories and images in their heads

  • Decide and practice movement in advance.

  • In terms of eye contact, NEVER look over people’s heads! (Where you look is where the focus is) Instead, keep shifting the focus from face-to-face.

  • And last, but not least, change creates interest and meaning.

Overall: “The rhythm of the mind and the body must be in sync.”


This was the most interactive and loudest session by far! We can also now add Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick to our summer reading list (the book that Todd would refer to throughout the entire session).

Tuesday’s event (July 2, 2013) invited Stephanie Cauvet, Marketing Manager at MFA, to come and teach us the basics about marketing. In Marketing 101, we were exposed to the basic of marketing: How to develop a marketing strategy, building a brand and online marketing.

Stephanie boiled down marketing to “putting the right product in the right place, at the right price, at the right time”. The key is to listen to the customers and the marketplace. She also differentiated the different types of marketing such as strategic marketing (the focus of that day), outbound marketing (when you reach out directly in search for customers), and inbound marketing (when clients reach you by searching for relevant topics, or keywords in your domain).

The picture below represents what Stephanie calls the “4 Ps of Marketing”:

  • Product or Service - is it truly a valuable service for the consumer?

  • Place - where will buyers look for your product?

  • Price - listen to the consumer to figure out how much they would pay for the product or test your hypothesis

  • Promotion - when and where should you promote? Will seasonality be a factor?


Next, we discussed a basic overview on how to develop a marketing strategy, and that consists of :

  1. Market Segmentation - divide consumers into groups and target one group or more in order to:

    1. Meet consumers more precisely

    2. Increase profit

    3. Segment leadership

    4. Focus on marketing communications

  2. Market Targeting - target that group(s)

  3. Differentiation - stand out among competitors

  4. Positioning - the position of product in the consumer’s minds compared to that of competitors or “Perceptual Positioning Maps”


Third, we learned about Building a Brand, a memorable image that displays the company’s promise. She emphasized the fact that we, along with our company, are the brand - we represent the brand, and must live up to the brand name. The elements of a brand are: Brand Name, Brand Promise (which we must deliver every time. Ex. Geico: “15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance”), Brand Personality, and Brand Association.

Some branding tactics:

  1. It is best to launch via word-of-mouth marketing and public relations (PR), and then build through advertising

  2. Grow personal brand by:

    1. Developing a relationship with the community

    2. Update LinkedIn

    3. Network with other professionals

  3. And last, but most definitely NOT least: Jump on Social Media!!

Also, remember: no faking - don’t change yourself to appeal to the marketplace. One example of this that I can think of in terms of Jumply is to stick with our original plan in targeting product-based business instead of changing our focus to the popular (but not as easily scalable) service-based businesses.


Lastly, we tackled the topic of Online Marketing which encompasses: Email, Social Media, Viral Marketing, SEO/SEM (Search Engine Marketing), Websites, and Blogs. The advantages of these are:  

  • A one-on-one approach

  • Catering to specific interests

  • Geo marketing –  targeting specific areas

  • Global business

  • Measuring statistics is easy – we can measure the effectiveness of the marketing

Emails and occasional newsletters can build loyalty, trust, and/or brand awareness. A general guideline when it comes to email is to ALWAYS ASK PERMISSION TO SEND THE EMAIL!! (do not become a spammer from the very first email). Some recommended tools for mass email blasting are Constant Contact and Mailchimp (our favorite because we are on a ramen noodle budget Smile).


Stephanie ended her talk with memorable examples of both Guerilla (low-budget, surprising, unorthodox, and creative marketing. Ex. cars, t-shirts) and Viral Marketing (‘viral’ sharing from person to person via social media) such as a blender that can blend an iphone and a magical college coca cola machine.


Thursday's event (June 27, 2013) was a discussion about goal-setting for all the entrepreneurs of the Sandbox. Each participant talked about their short term goals for the summer. After each participant finished talking about their goals, they received generous comments and suggestions from everyone else at the event. It was helpful for everyone to learn something more about how to set goals as well as how to achieve them successfully. Take aways from the discussion:

  1. Have a timeline for the goals. It is really important to know how much time we have, so that we could plan our schedule to achieve our goals.

  2. Have a clear picture of the revenue lines of the business. The revenue lines will show where the money to sustain and grow the business will come from.

  3. Simplify! Simplify! Simplify! Have a simple way to explain the goals or the product of the business, it becomes really helpful when we give a pitch to investors. David suggested that any business should be able to describe the product of service of the company with one sentence. This was mostly an advice to Jumply.

  4. Have a metric for the goal. For example, instead of “having a website running,” we should have “having a X amount of users on the website,” or “having Y amount of customers to cover the cost in September.”


The discussion ended successfully with participants open to share their goals, comments, and give suggestions to other entrepreneurs' goals.


Jumply’s goals to achieve by the end of August are:

  • Come up with a basic MVP to enable us to soft launch our platform and get feedback from early users.

  • Connect with 3 to 5 partner organizations that support/serve women entrepreneurs (specifically ones who have product-based businesses)

  • Construct a timeline or a visual roadmap of where Jumply is headed.


The feedback, comments and questions we received were: how do we plan to come up with an MVP for our kind of business and how does the mentorship aspect work. We were also advised to simplify the message to prevent confusing our audience.