Archive for the 'Brand New Business' Category

Should I Try On a Grant Writing Hat?

July 31, 2008

In one of my many former lives, I spent almost 10 years writing government and other types of business proposals for a small environmental services and training company. (Mayhew Environmental Training Associates). So another hat I wear (and look good in) is preparing government and business proposals, from 800 page, multipart ones worth hundreds of thousands, to simple letter proposals. But I’ve never tried writing grants.

Which is a shame since there’s this giant market that’s largely underserved by writers (mostly freelancers out to make a quick buck or people who aren’t very good writers, but have to do something for a living): grant writing.

I get these GURU.com listings everyday, but I figured 1. I bet the writers low-ball everything like the writers on elance.com do; and 2. I know very little about grant writing; so it doesn’t make any sense for me to bid.

Anyhow, so today, somebody posts (actually re-posts because they were so ill-served by the people they’d hired before) this request:

Category: Writing / Editing / Translation
Description:
We are a small church in southwest Arkansas preparing to purchase a group home for people with mental retardation. We want to bring this home under a Christian based board of directors and improve living conditions, programs, and open a community based work shop to ser the six men living in the program and others in the comunity.

We have an expected budget range of $800,000 and are in need of a grant writer to write, submit, follow up on, and obtain grants to assit toward the $800,000 goal.

This project has been posted in the past without much success due to serveral factors, but some things we will need is the following: 1. References, 2. Fee Rates or flat fee, 3. projected time, 4. contact information, and 5. follow up.

Unfortunately, we have hired grant writers who have had little follow up with his, little assistance in submission of our proposals, and no return calls. Most of the recent bids we got were figures from $600 to $4,000. When we tried to obtain further information about the fees, we felt sidelined and ignored. Please be prepared to give a detailed billing.

A flat fee would be good and the person needs to keep in mind we are a very small church. However, once the facility is obtained through grants and loans, there will be a substantial Medicaid income that will sponser new grant projects (i.e. the workshop mentioned for example. We will need a grant writer who is prepared to grow from what we feel is a small project to a rather large project.

So that turned on my “oh my gosh, I could help here” meter (plus I could make a living if it pays between $500 and $5000 per grant submission), so I figured, well, damn! How do I get to where I can help? Someone must put on a decent course on grant writing . . . but I bet it’s $2K or $3K and takes a week or two . . .

Then I found this: it’s $425 for 2 days of instruction (which is a steal), and looks very professional:
Grant Writing USA.

So I’m taking the course so I can start bidding on select projects–some projects are just idiotic, but many are churches and philanthropic groups who just don’t have the skills to apply (or know where to look for) a grant.

I think it’s an opportunity for me and a chance to do something more meaningful than make rich people richer (not that there’s anything wrong with that ;~}).

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Moving toward meaning

July 21, 2008

Intuitively–and really more as an adaptive tool to compensate for a bad memory–over the years as a writer I’ve made a habit of furiously jotting down as much of everything anyone says in meetings with clients prior to doing creative work. 

I came to call those meetings “Discovery” meetings (from the legal tasks also called “discovery”), but in Creative Discovery, the aim is not to uncover everything there is to know about a business, but to find out very specifically, what makes the business (or product or service) tick, why people buy what they do from them, and what people do and say to help their potentials make the decision.  I take those things, sort of “glorify” them if I can, distill it down so it will fit in an advertisement, buff if up following the client’s direction, the send it off for production.  That’s pretty much what I do for a living in practical terms.

But what’s my core?  What makes me (and eventually my business) “tick?”  What the heck is it that I say that convinces people that they should entrust their marketing messages to me? (It’s amazing how many business people–even in Fortune 500 or 1000 companies–don’t have any or only the vaguest idea, either, of what they do or why anyone should work with them–or worse: I find they often have conflicting ideas–and send mixed messages to their market).

I do have an idea of “what it is I do and why” and will build on it as I go (and have this looney notion–brought on by reading “The E-Myth”–that I can somehow standardize and package that up as a repeatable business).

An interesting parallel example (and much more interesting than the examples Michael Gerber uses in his book) is a maker of saxophone mouthpieces, Theo Wanne.   He apparently makes amazing mouthpieces (for around $700 a pop!), but hiis real goal, though, and he uses it throughout his marketing messages, is that of developing his own and his client’s spiritual well-being–for Theo, it’s about Soul: http://www.theowanne.com/ (check out his blog).

That got me to thinking about where my own internal thing–my soul (or whatever)–is centered . . . I re-read the summary post on my blog (because I thought I said something about it there), and there it was, “helping people.”  Of course that’s too broad and doesn’t say anything about what I do to “help people” . . .  but guess what?  It doesn’t matter what I do, so long as I’m guided by that central motivator–the meaningful part of why I do what I do.

So, I choose to do what I’m good at as a vehicle to help people find what they’re looking for:  When I teach, I begin by asking the (music) student where they’re going and what they want to do with music, in almost the same way that I ask business people what they’re doing and where they want to go with it.  I imagine working as a personal chef in the same way.

So I’m moving away from working to make money or because I feel I must work to pay bills and support a spending habit; instead moving toward sort of the Zen of working . . . my own need to help people, and to perform work centered around helping them get from where they are to where they want to be . . .

Finally Made the Decision . . .

July 16, 2008

Just today, I know I’m better off running my own business than working for someone else.  I thought it was a stop-gap, but am still liking the feeling of truly being my own person, chasing down my own jobs (which I’m billed out through the next month if the last two deals close), etc.  I also like dealing so much more directly with clients than I did the last couple of years as a staff-person.

I’m also reading “The E-Myth Revisited” (a recommendation from by brother, who has a purer enterpreneurial spirit than I do), and I “get it” about how successful businesses set out to (or after faltering, make the strategic decision to) build a business that’s not a cult of personality or based on one person’s unique expertise.  it has to be repeatable, expandable, and documented procedurally well enough so that if I’m Joe Businessman or Investor, I think, “Hey, I could do that.”

So, will be talking about what that means for a fledgling business and one that’s a little more complicated than the pie shop example the author (Micheal E. Gerber) uses throughout the book.

Way Past “Day One”

July 14, 2008

So I think the real reason for having a web-log should be closer to fulfilling the desire to keep an online journal than to just have another marketing tool . . . my hope for this one is that it becomes a story of building a business (and reveals some of the thinking behind all of the effort), as well as a place to try out my thinking (and if I’m lucky, receiving some of your feedback, whoever “you” are) before I put it into practice.

So here we go.

I’ll add more background as I post over the next couple of weeks, but just, “for the record” Many Hats Creative started the day I left a small, Kansas City-based Interactive Marketing and software development company.