April 28, 2009

To the Land Down Under

Right around the time I meant to start The 23 Year Old Publisher blog, I received one of the most shocking emails ever. It went something like this: “Dear Amanda, We would like to invite College Media on a press trip to Australia.” Australia! Sure I’ve tried Vegemite and yes, I’ve had an Australian boyfriend at summer camp, but I never imagined actually traveling to Australia, not yet at least. I’m at the age where beach vacation usually means Ocean City, not Queensland.

The email continued: “The trip is next week.” My first thought: scam. Well, little did I know, in the media industry, these press trips are not that unusual. Tourism Australia is promoting their fairly new U.S. student work/holiday visa and since College Media caters to their target demographic, they wanted to work with us. What better way to promote a country than to send magazine editors there to experience it themselves?

At first I was hesitant, because with only a weeks notice, I wasn’t sure if I could step away from College Media for a whole ten days. In fact, I’ve never really taken off. Is it wrong to wonder if your whole business will die if g-d forbid you’re not there? Wait a minute, what was I thinking. I have the best team imaginable and there’s a solid system in place; College Media doesn’t need me physically there 24/7, and if it did, then I have failed as an entrepreneur. Plus, wasn't the perk of entrepreneurship the ability to experience a different kind of working world, one where adventure and possibility exists—this was an opportunity of a lifetime.

A week later, I was on a flight to Sydney along with a few other lucky media representatives. I would tell you all the sweet details but you’ll have to wait until the article releases in our September issue. I will, however, reveal that I did in fact see a koala, I tasted kangaroo...and liked it, I can officially say I’ve herded cattle on a horse and I learned how to surf.

Stay tuned for my post on maximizing your press trip!

April 23, 2009

How to Pitch Your Business

If I could only list 3...

1. Make every word a home run
2. Practice
3. Get Real

1. Your presentation should only say the most important "Home run" points. Go through and say to yourself, "Does the audience absolutely have to know this about my business?" If not, cut it. If so, make it one of few. Keep your presentation down to one message per slide and three speaking points to convey that message. As for your slides, use less text (and only "home run" text) and more visuals. Take advantage of showing trends through one simple graph or chart. Making every word a home run was advice that Dominic Crapuchettes, founder of North Star Games and a previous Cupid's Cup winner, gave to me when I was preparing for my presentation; it was, without a doubt, the best advice for my College Media pitch.

2. If your business means a lot to you, you need to convey that to your audience. Practicing your business pitch to the point of memorization so that you can present with confidence and with a conversation-like style, shows that you put in that extra effort. If you can run a business, then you can prepare a solid business presentation. No matter how many people I've seen do this, and do it well, holding a piece of paper in your hands just looks unprofessional.

3. This is not just any business, this is your business, this is your dream. Show your passion. Share the real story, how much this business means to you and why.

April 20, 2009

Struck By Cupid

I won my first business competition! It feels like a dream. Unreal. Of course I went into the competition prepared with my slides, my story and a super high dose of passion—ready to win it. But when I actually won, when I stood there next to Kevin Plank and a held this humongous check, the kind you only see in movies, I was completely ecstatic and surprised. No matter how much I knew I wanted it and could win, to actually win is such an amazing feeling. It felt like everyone in the room, almost 300 people, the business students, my advisers, the judges, they all believed in College Media Group. I felt really proud of the business I had built thus far. I was proud of my team for all their hard work. I felt like after this, we could do anything.

I applied to the University of Maryland’s Cupid’s Cup Business Competition, sponsored by Kevin Plank, CEO and Founder of Under Armour, back in February and then found out I was one of five finalists to compete. So I spent over two weeks preparing slides, deleting them, and preparing new slides. Then I shared them with my advisers to get the business perspective—did I describe the spending power of my audience, explain the market size, present a visual of my growth projections? Once I had my message down, I re-organized my slides into a new order: Audience, Challenge, Solution, Growth, Business Plan, Competition, Team and Future.

For each slide, I wrote down three key speaking points and practiced presenting in front of my neighbors to get the outsider's perspective. They immediately pointed out that my presentation was an information overload. From there I went through my speaking points and only kept the "home run" statements. Then I rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed.

On the competition day of I tried not to get shaken by the other finalists. Watching them freak out too was not helping, so instead I went off to review my slides a couple times before showtime. I was the first to present. Sure every minute of that day was nerve wrecking, but once my mic was set up and I was standing in front of the crowd with the power point clicker in my hand, I felt calm and ready.

Stay tuned for my post on How to Pitch Your Business.

April 15, 2009

Signs That You're an Entrepreneur

If I could only list 3…

1. You see quality solutions everywhere
2. "Rainmaker" is a serious word
3. Your enthusiasm is contagious

1. When you're in the car, do you simply accept the fact that your cup holder only holds a medium sized cup and that when you place a water bottle in it, it topples over? Or are you the one who says "What if I came up with a new cup holder that expanded and had higher sides to keep bottles in place?" If you're consistently seeking quality solutions to daily problems, one of these solutions might just be the perfect start-up business.

2. If you set your mind to something, can you make it happen? Do you start out with a project concept and follow through? Can your friends consistently rely on you? If so, you're probably a rainmaker. Anyone can have a good idea, but it's the rainmaker that turns an idea into a great business.

3. Behind any solid business is a solid team. How do you find your dream team? By spreading your enthusiasm. If your team is as excited about your business as you are, then they'll be just as determined as you are to make it succeed.

Entrepreneur Since the Fourth Grade

Back in the day I designed a clothing line for troll dolls. In my spare time I created a headhunting business, signing actual checks and reading resumes. I even partnered with my next-door neighbor and we opened up our own pharmacy. I created a game that mixed treasure hunting with hide-and-seek. In less than a week, I wrote a play…for my Barbies. I guess you could say I was pretty accomplished by the age of eight. If you knew me back then, you’re probably laughing right now because you played these games/mini businesses with me.

For me, entrepreneurship revealed itself early on. Just like the kid who plays dress up and becomes a fashion designer, I recruited my friends for my pretend businesses in preparation for a real life start-up.

I’m twenty-three now and running College Media, my dream business, and I love it. The downside/upside? It’s a rollercoaster. Just like the Shockwave at Kings Dominion. The summer after fifth grade when Jessie Tischler and I were finally tall enough to ride the only roller coaster that strapped you down in a standing position—yeah, it’s kind of like that.

One day an advertiser says “yes!” The next day she says “no.” One day the articles are running on schedule and looking hot, the next day there’s a blank page staring at me on the layout saying, “You’re going to the printer tomorrow, what’s your backup plan?” One day I start at 9am and I’m finished by 6pm, the next I start at 9am and I’m lucky if I'm finished 3am. But I have to say the best work really does happen after midnight (maybe I’ll always be a college student at heart.)

And I know what you’re thinking, “Haha, 9am, that’s funny.” Okay, okay, so maybe I don’t always wake up early, but I really do try to wake up by 8:30. I just end up starting that workday in pajamas…

April 14, 2009

The 23 Year Old Publisher

Welcome to my very first blog! I'm 23 and I'm the CEO and Publisher of a media company called College Media Group.

It all began with an idea I had to start a magazine for college students, by college students, called [shock] College. Not only would the magazine serve as a resource for students (with articles covering the academic issues such as tailoring your resume to the real life social issues, such as living with a drug-dealing roommate) but also as an opportunity for aspiring student journalists and photographers to get their work published and distributed to students worldwide. I started working on the first issue May 2007 during my senior year of college at the University of Maryland. I decided to start small with just 5,000 magazines at Maryland—“start small and make it great, then grow” was the plan. College magazine officially released September 2007. It was a beautiful, 32-page glossy with Rachel Wood, freshman and aspiring actress, on the cover.

Today we're on our sixth issue of College magazine, we distribute to nine universities in the DC/Baltimore area, we launched our website: www.collegemagazine.com, every three weeks we release our College e-newsletter and we run College events. College Media has come a long way from just a magazine and this is only the beginning.

I work with an amazing team of students and professionals and minute-by-minute College Media gets bigger and better. Every day, working on the business is an adventure; there are some things you plan for but there are so many surprises along the way.

Simply put, I love what I do! I hope this blog will serve as a resource for you and other young entrepreneurs. Sure our parents wish we were working the always-dependable 9-5, but life is just more exciting when you're running your dream business.