The web is a huge resource of information, of tools, of services and of like-minded people who all want to help you become a success. For any small business or entrepreneur it is an absolutely invaluable resource and so much so in fact that many business models that exist today simply couldn’t have before the internet took off.
In fact the only problem with the internet you could argue is that it’s so incredibly huge that we often fail to miss things that could be of immense value to us. Sometimes I have a eureka moment in the middle of the night when I realise how to phrase a Google query – it’s not that I’ve found the answer to my problem, I’ve just realised how I can get Google to tell me that answer. Of course sometimes though I still miss out because I’m simply not aware that some things even exist until I stumble upon them.
With this in mind, and to save you the trouble, here we will list a few of the incredible services that the web provides so you know precisely what you should be looking for when you’re surfing the net for powerful tools and resources. Here are some of the best things available for small businesses…
Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding is a brilliant concept that takes real advantage of the web by getting people to group together and provide funding for projects that they care about. On one of these sites a creator will come up with their idea and build their prototype/design sketches, and will then create a page for it and offer discounts/credits/other benefits to those who help them to raise money. Kickstarter is the huge one and has had a lot of success getting projects off the ground so far, but Indiegogo is also another successful contender and a great alternative if you’re struggling to get noticed on the former.
3D Printing: If you wanted to run a business selling some kind of gadget or invention in the past, then you would need to invest in a lot of space and a lot of equipment to begin the manufacturing process or you’d have had to pay a lot to have it outsourced. Today though you can simply upload a design to a site like Shapeways and have it cut out of raw materials precisely to spec and in whatever quantity/size you want. This is also of course very useful for making prototypes too that you can test (or use for crowd funding as mentioned above).
POD: POD stands for ‘Print on Demand’ which means that you can get your books/pamphlets/CDs printed each time someone orders one and then delivered right to them. This is game changing because it moves away from the old system that publishers relied on where they would have to order a batch of thousands of a book or magazine before they could then sell them, and means that it’s free to become a published author. If you want to set up a publishing business then this is ideal, but it’s also great for creating other materials like pamphlets. Check out Lulu for my personal choice.
Digital Product Infrastructures: This is a broad term, but I’m talking about things like Amazon’s Kindle Store, the Play Market and of course iTunes. All these above options provide ways for you to get around the need for large up-front investments, but by selling a digital product you can sidestep the overheads altogether and if you’re smart there’s a ton of money to be made from apps and e-books. If you’re selling on Android then be sure to check out ‘Basic4Android’ which makes the process of creating an app as simple as coding on your old ZX Spectrum (if you get the reference, you’ll be able to make some good apps…).
Sara Brown is the brain behind this perceptive article. She is with the Berkeley Sourcing Group who are well know for their work in the manufacturing business. They are well known for their contribution in the injection mold manufacturing business.