How much money do I need for my startup?

– Tim Berry is the president and founder of Palo Alto Software. This post originally appeared on his blog, “Planning, Startups, Stories”. The views expressed are his own. –

It’s an obvious question. And if you’re looking for startup investors you’d better be able to answer it well, and quickly too. No wandering eyes. No doubt. If you’re doing a pitch, have a slide for it. And be specific.

I liked this from Ben Yoskovitz’s Instigator Blog on Use of Funds:

… most descriptions of “use of funds” are incredibly generic and standard, typically involving the following: hire key personnel, product development, sales & marketing. Hhhm…the phrase, “No s!@# Sherlock…” comes to mind.

And on the other hand, there’s this about that, from Perfecting Your Pitch, by Guy Kawasaki’s Garage.com Ventures:

It should be clear from your financials what your capital requirements will be. On this slide you should outline how you plan to take in funding — how big each round will be, and the timing of each — and map the funding against your key near-term and medium-term milestones. You should also include your key achievements to date. These milestones should tie to the key metrics in your financial projections, and they should provide a clear, crisp picture of your product introduction and market expansion roadmap. In essence, this is your operating plan for the funds you are raising. Do not spend time presenting a “use of funds” table. Investors want to see measures of accomplishment, not measures of activity.

Online freelance industry gaining momentum

Amid the overload of economic doom and gloom, one subset of the workforce seems to be fairing rather well: online freelancers whose services range from graphic design to business writing.

In a country where unemployment continues to hover above 9 percent, it’s no surprise that demand for these contract workers is up more than 61 percent from a year ago, according to data from Elance, the largest online marketplace for this type of work.

“This new way of working has a lot of momentum and is continuing to grow,” said Ved Sinha, VP of interactive marketing for Mountain View, California-based Elance. “Small businesses are increasingly turning to online work because it’s more flexible.

Small business owners turn to pawn shops

– Cynthia Hsu is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. –

Small business owners that are struggling to make ends meet sometimes need business loans – or a pawn shop. Pawn shop loans are now something that some business owners are turning to as a result of the tight economy and lack of lending.

Pawning is probably easier than getting a bank loan, though the interest rates may be significantly higher.

10 reasons not to seek investors for your startup

– Tim Berry is the president and founder of Palo Alto Software. This post originally appeared on his blog, “Planning, Startups, Stories”. The views expressed are his own. –

Sure, maybe you need the money. Maybe that’s what your business plan says. But seriously: Do you really want to have investors involved in your dream startup?

I’ve said it before: bootstrapping is underrated. I get frequent emails from people asking how they can get investment for their new startup, and I’ve admitted to being a member of an angel investor group. But let’s not forget, while we’re thinking about it, these 10 good reasons not to seek investors for your startup.

Forcing employees to take time off

– Cynthia Hsu is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. –

Employee vacation policies can vary depending on your business. Some employers choose to have no vacation time during a year, while other employers are now instituting forced vacations for employees.

At the Motley Fool, a 250-employee financial services company located in Virginia, all employees are entered into a monthly drawing where one lucky (or unlucky, depending your perspective) employee “wins” a forced two-week vacation, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Bakery pushes own brand after years of white-label production

One way to counter the effects of the recession is to start a retail brand. That’s what entrepreneur Karen Trilevsky did.

The founder and CEO of FullBloom Baking Co, a 22-year-old natural foods bakery outside San Francisco, started rolling out her own line of branded snacks in 2008, after years serving as the behind-the-scenes regional baker for big customers like Whole Foods.

Trilevsky, 54, admited it’s been tough to create a market for new products in the crowded natural and organic foods space, which commands premium pricing –- sometimes as much as 50 percent –- over conventional grocery items. With all the belt tightening, she said customers are often reluctant to try new things.

Creditors’ rights: 5 tips on how to collect debts

– Stephanie Rabiner is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

If you’re in the type of business that extends credit to customers, then you’re officially in the business of collecting debts.

Unfortunately, collecting debts can oftentimes be difficult, time-consuming, and fruitless — not to mention a drain on your financial resources.

Putting a new spin on BYOB

Kirsten Quigley, left, and Cristina Bourelly of Lunchskins

Startup 3greenmoms wants you to BYOB, and they’re not talking about booze.

In a move that taps demand for sustainable products, the Potomac, Maryland-based company markets a variety of reusable storage bags that replace the ubiquitous plastic baggies consumers use and throw out in staggering proportions.

“I was probably using a least a dozen baggies a day between three kids and packing lunches and snacks,” said company cofounder Cristina Bourelly, who developed reusable fabric “LunchSkins” with fellow moms Kirsten Quigley and Jennie Stoller Barakat.

The team has been selling their bags, priced at retail from $7.85 to $10.95, depending on size, since 2009. Available in colorful, eye-catching patterns, LunchSkins are made from durable cotton fabric used in commercial pastry bags and can withstand high heat. Coated with a food-safe polyurethane liner, they can be thrown in the dishwasher or washing machine, giving them a lifespan of about three years and boosting their appeal to eco-conscious shoppers.

When the bull’s eye lands on your business

– George F. Brown, Jr. is a business strategy consultant specializing in business-to-business growth issues. Reuters spoke to him about the topic of a new book he co-authored, CoDestiny: Overcome Your Growth Challenges by Helping Your Customers Overcome Theirs (Greenleaf Book Group). –

Q: You talk about what happens when a business becomes a bull’s eye, that is, the target of rivals looking to undercut by price. How does this happen to small companies when they’re rarely dominant players in their market?
A: Small business is rarely the largest provider to a large company, but I’ve seen quite a few instances where a small business is a key supplier to another small business.

Q: How do you know if you’re becoming the bull’s eye?

A: Whether you’re a big business or a small business, if you sit back and reflect and this sounds right, I’m fairly important, I’m fairly visible, I could see the competitors and the procurement managers taking aim at me – assume it’s going to happen at some point and begin to prepare for that day.

Boomer sees business in discarded mannequins

Kara Ohngren is a writer and editor at SecondAct. This article originally appeared here. The views expressed are her own. –

Judi Henderson-Town felt trapped. For years she was unhappy as an account executive at such industry giants as Johnson & Johnson and United Airlines. She found corporate life “soul-destroying.”

“I wanted something more entrepreneurial,” said the 53-year-old Henderson-Town. “But I didn’t know it was an option — no one I knew growing up owned their own business.”