MOO – For Custom Printing

STUFF YOU SHOULD USE

MOO

For custom printing

There are plenty places to get stuff printed, and Moo is probably not the one to choose for cost-effective for printing in large scale.

That said, Moo is a really great option for creating high-quality printed materials in small batches for prototyping and testing parts of your business model.

Moo provides a killer feature that makes this possible.  They call it “printfinity” which is, unarguably, ridiculous. That aside, what it means is, you can customize each printed item within an order (and on both sides).  This, combined with short runs (meaning you can order pretty small batches of, say 25 or 50) makes Moo products very useful for high-quality prototypes.

Here are a few examples from Moo’s Inspiration Gallery

This is a simple example of a promotional item made in different colors, but they could just as easily have been different promotions. On the backside you could easily print several different marketing messages that would help you track where/how/by whom these were used for some easy A/B testing of a customer acquisition strategy.
This really shows how you could use the printfinity feature.  With one low-cost order of cards, this company can make a ton of customized fortune cookies each with a unique message. This same technique would be great for prototyping any product with a lot of customized parts.
Here’s another example of some A/B testing of a customer acquisition strategy. Like the example above with the glued-on tokens, these cards were printed (with different promotional messages that can be tracked for testing) and then customized by the company using them… they put a scratch-off sticker over each message.

This cool feature makes creating a high-quality paper prototype for a lot of different things possible, and for a price that’s affordable enough to do it over and over.

https://www.moo.com

Squarespace – For Making Websites

STUFF YOU SHOULD USE

SQUARESPACE

For making websites

I cut my teeth in the startup world back in the dotcom boom of the late 90’s, so I’ve been building websites since the very beginning.  Back then, it took a lot of know-how and a ton of effort to create even the simplest things.

Today, my students routinely build production quality websites so quickly and easily, they can effectively use them as prototypes for testing their business models. It’s so effective, in fact, that they can easily update their prototypes, in real time, in the middle of a conversation with their customers. That would have blown my apathetic, Gen-X mind 20 years ago.

The emergence of tools like Squarespace makes this possible . Squarespace isn’t the only great website builder out there, and it certainly isn’t the only way (nor always the best way) to prototype. But, it is pretty great. I’ve yet to see their combination of polish, simplicity, and price be matched by any other service.

https://www.squarespace.com

In keeping with the 90’s throwback theme running through this review, I hereby give Squarespace a red-faced, enthusiastic, Clinton-style, tiny thumbs-up.

Getting Unstuck – Hidden Brain #56

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Getting Unstuck

Hidden Brain Podcast, Episode 56

CC Image - Stuck - Courtesy of Stefan Lins on Flickr

Design thinking is a big part of what I teach in entrepreneurship classes (and what expert entrepreneurs do). But, design thinking didn’t originate in startups, and its usefulness is certainly not limited to them either.

In this really great episode of Hidden Brain (#56 – Getting Unstuck) host Shankar Vedantam learns how design thinking can help people effect big (and really challenging) changes in their lives.

Brew Better Beer (Emma Christensen)

RECOMMENDED READING

Brew Better Beer

by: Emma Christensen

If you’re interested in learning how to brew beer (which I recommend, because it is great fun). This is a great book to get you started.

It is extremely clear and complete, and as a bonus, Christensen includes 1 gallon batch versions of all her recipes which are much more manageable and affordable than the standard 5 gallon if you’re just getting started.

Brew Your Own Beer

STUFF YOU SHOULD DO

Brew Your Own Beer

CC - Sleeper Train Stout - Courtesy of Adam Wilson on Unsplash

It’s no secret. I love great craft beer.  I geek out trying different styles, talking about Belgian yeast strains, and testing the maximum IBU limit of my taste buds (haven’t found it yet). Heck, Prof. Rhett Brymer and I are even studying to sit for the cicerone exam.

But, you know what’s almost more fun than geeking out on tasting beer?  Geeking out on making beer!

To me, making beer is equivalent to other tinkering-heavy pursuits like woodworking, fixing engines, or gardening (to be fair, I don’t do any of those things, but I feel pretty confident I make beer for similar reasons.)  It’s something you can work on, do and re-do, and slowly become an expert. Given my strong belief in the value of dedicated practice, problem solving, and building expertise over the long haul, I suppose that figures.

Brewing beer also has an element of mad science to it because fermentation is a crazy phenomenon and it always feels a little like magic that it actually works.

Oh, and if you get really good at brewing, you’ll make lots of new friends.

If you’re interested, I highly recommend the book Brew Better Beer by Emma Christensen. It wasn’t my first book on brewing (not even in my first 10) but I think it’s great for beginners and intermediates (like me) alike. Also, it has the distinct advantage of starting you on 1 gallon batches which is much more manageable and affordable than the standard 5 gallon homebrew batch if you’re just getting started. Check out my recommendation of the book for more details.

Also, if you live near where I do, there is a surprisingly good selection of great beer in the Cincy/Dayton metro (see a short list at the bottom of this page for my personal favorites).  Sadly, we no longer have a local brewery here in Oxford, OH. Quarter Barrel, founded and run by my friend, Brandon Ney, is no more.  Thankfully, Brandon is still brewing, now at Common Beer Co. in Mason, OH.  This means his award-winning Chapeau Gris saison will live on.

Meanwhile, the beer scene in Oxford proper is utterly sad.  There are precious few taps running in town that are stocked by people who know beer.  Steinkeller is an excellent German beer hall and O’Pub’s beer selection is surprisingly decent given the kind of establishments its owner typically inflicts on our town.

RIP Quarter Barrel

Do a Startup Weekend

STUFF YOU SHOULD DO

Do a Startup Weekend

In about 48 hours, you can build the beginnings of a new business, non-profit, or other organization; No previous experience required.

You can learn an awful lot at one of these events. You’ll also meet a lot of cool and very smart people and have a ton of fun to boot.

We run multiple Startup Weekends on Miami’s Oxford, OH campus every Fall – you can even get course credit for doing it.  Check out what some of the past participants have to say about their experience (below) and go to the Miami Entrepreneurship website for more information (or just ask me about it). 

If you’re not able to join us at a Miami Startup Weekend, you can almost certainly find another one happening near you.  I recommend you do.

The 7 Differences Between Professionals and Amateurs (Jeff Goins)

RECOMMENDED READING

The 7 Differences Between Professionals and Amateurs

by: Jeff Goins

CC Image - オシャレのDays off - Courtesy of Christian Bucad on Flickr

If you’re eager to be a professional and not an amateur, sorry… it doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes a long time no matter how motivated or disciplined you are

But… If you want to know how to start becoming a professional, check out this solid advice from professional writer Jeff Goins.

https://medium.com/the-mission/the-7-differences-between-professionals-and-amateurs-f8efc4840861

Personal Kanban (Jim Benson & Tonianne DeMaria Barry)

RECOMMENDED READING

Personal Kanban

by: Jim Benson & Torianne DeMaria Barry

If you’ve ever been in my office, you’ve seen the giant wall full of Post-its. This is my version of the personal kanban Benson & Berry describe in their book. Their method is simple, flexible, and effective. As a bonus, it’s also based on agile project management which happens to be my jam.

There are many (many, many, many) tools and systems out there people use to manage their work, keep track of projects, and be productive. The kanban method works really well for me, and I recommend this book for anyone who wants to be more intentional about the way they work and spend their time (even if you use some other system to do it.)

You may find this particular tool is right for you, or you may not (you should be very skeptical of any system that claims to work for everyone). That said, there are some important benefits you should demand of any productivity system, method, or tool you consider using.

It should save you time, not cost you time – This seems obvious, but I’ve found it’s very easy to get wrapped up in feeding & caring for your productivity system. It can become a major distraction from getting real work done. The system should exist to serve you, not the other way around.

It should help you focus – One of the features of my kanban-style system is that it limits my work in progress to only a few things at a time (for me, it’s a maximum of three). This allows me to focus on only a manageable amount of work and free my mind of all the other things I will eventually have to deal with. Most of the systems out there do a reasonable job helping you capture and organize all the to-do’s in your life, but many fall short of helping you focus on accomplishing the work you really need to be doing.

It should help you see and understand what’s actually happening and how that relates to your priorities – This is a big deal. Is the work that’s really meaningful getting done? If not, it’s probably not (just) because you’re lazy. More likely, you’re doing a lot of work but not the important work. What’s worse, it’s probably because you just don’t really have a handle on how you spend your work time… because that can be surprisingly hard to do when you’re really busy. A productivity system won’t make the right decisions for you, but a good one will make it possible to see what you’re actually doing with your time. That way you at least have a chance to do something about it.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You (Cal Newport)

RECOMMENDED READING

So Good They Can't Ignore You

by: Cal Newport

I know for a fact someone in your life (probably a lot of people) told you the key to a successful and fulfilling career is to find your passion and follow it, no matter what. Cal Newport thinks this advice is not only misguided, but that following it can actually prevent you from finding work you can be great at and love doing.

I agree with him.

Fortunately, this book doesn’t just crush your pursuit of your dreams and leave it at that (as much as that prospect may appeal to cynical Gen-Xers like me.) Newport also offers some great advice about what you should do instead of relying on passion as a silver bullet (spoiler alert: it’s building valuable skills and experience and using that to gain more autonomy and pursue mission in your life).

Having passion for what you do is a very good thing. I want that for you… but, like Newport, I believe that will be the result of meaningful work, not the cause. If you want to figure out how to do work that you love, I hope you’ll come talk with me about it. When you do, chances are very good I’ll give you this book.