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Entrepreneurship, Startup
Every founder is an investor because founders are the first to place a bet on their company. These investments come in a few forms; seed capital, sweat equity, partnership or in-kind contributions. Regardless of the structure, one truth remains – if you want to grow your business from a side hustle into a scalable, full-time operation, you need capital. You’ve put in the sweat equity to-date, and moved your idea from notes on paper to a business plan or working prototype. Now is time to show investors you’re serious by putting your money where your mouth is. 
 
Why smart founders invest in their startup
You need to put money into your startup if you want to build your product, land critical sales and grow into a sustainable business. After the initial idea-inertia, founders tend to run right out to fundraise, assuming that with their shiny deck they are ready to chase investment. However, few are equipped to present investors with more than just an idea. If you’re standing up there, tossing out a business without fully costing it out, or even ensuring there’s a product-market fit, just wastes the investors time. Usually, It ends worse the founder. If you’re pitching without something concrete to present, like a prototype, your chance of landing an investment is basically shot.
 
As talk with investors, they’ll want to know how much cash you put in. Making the commitment of putting your money on the line shows investors that you’re serious about this idea and you are willing to take the risk as well. When you put your own cash in, you’re demonstrating that you expect to see a return and you have faith that other people will invest. Bottom line; if you plan on asking others for money, you have a far better chance when investors know that you invested in your startup first.
 
When I was actively fundraising for my businesses – meeting with private equity investors and doing the well-rehearsed dog and pony show – without fail one of the earliest questions was, “what’s your investment?” Proving that you have skin in the game, that you’re not only working off the sweat equity, is a critical component to securing investment. That’s not to say that you can’t pitch sweat equity alone, simply that you should be prepared for a tougher raise and to see a higher equity requests from investors who are taking the larger risk. 
 
Should you find yourself in a sweat equity position, it might be in your best interest to carve off a larger employee option pool and have it written into your term sheets that the founders get first shot at the options (up to X amount) to help top up their shares should the company reach its initial stages of success and is proceeding towards a Series A or B. This route allows you to give up more at the start, but saves the opportunity to gain back some equity once the agreed upon metrics of success have been proven. 
 
If you are ready and capable of making an investment then you’ve already planned out the initial growth and know how much you should be putting in to give yourself enough runway to reach either initial sales, MVP, government grants or fundraising. When investing one big cheque into your new bank account remember the business plan, and make sure you have build a strong set of financials so you know exactly where every dollar is going, and when. As long as spending doesn’t get out of control and threaten cash flow, the business should grow along.
 
It would be wonderful if every founder was already independently wealthy and could self-finance their startup but short of that, there are other ways to get your proverbial skin in the game. 
 
Credit Cards/Line of Credit
Google’s founders, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin, famously maxed out their Amex cards racking up over $15,000 in credit card debt. Just like you at the start of your company, they didn’t know they’d be building Google, they simply had a vision and used what limited resources they had to bring it to life. This is not to advocate racking up unsustainable debt or putting yourself or your family in a precarious position. If you are in a stable enough position to start drawing upon credit – with a plan to pay it back – then credit might be a solution for you.
 
Friends & Family
Imagine having a network of friends with deep enough pockets that they can drop five digits (or more) into your startup to get you up and running? Not so far fetched as most serial entrepreneurs run in circles with other serial entrepreneurs who would want to invest in the next big thing. Even if you’re not rolling with an exited friend or two, it’s always worth practicing your pitch on friends and family and asking for a small sum to help get up and running. If you can match to make it a ‘friends & family & founder’ round, you’ll look more committed to potential investors down the line. If you’re not willing to take the risk with your friends and family’s money, why should an investor take the risk?
 
Crowdfunding
Everyone’s favourite counter culture party game, Cards Against Humanity, launched via an incredible  Kickstarter campaign that showed how bang-on the creators knew their product-market fit, along with a complete understanding of their end users. With crowdfunding platforms the name of the game is marketing. If you or your co-founders have a marketing background, especially advertising, this is where you can let it shine. Crowdfunding is great for smaller scale prototypes and favors more physical product-based startups.
 
In-Kind Contributions 
Your startup is focused around what you know, and how to do it better. Chances are, you have some equipment or other types of contribution from your previous career or hobby that you can give to the company. Whether its computers, machinery, lab space/time, vehicles, etc… these can all count as an investment. Your accountant will need to know about this, so they can track depreciation and factor that into your financials. Vice’s three founders made their initial investment in thirds. Co-founder Suroosh Alvi spoke on NPR’s How I Built This. “I borrowed five grand from my parents, Gavin borrowed five grand from his parents, and Shane got $5,000 worth of computers from his dad. His dad worked in IT or something. And so it was with the ten thousand dollars Canadian that we started Vice.”




At the end of the day, you’ll need to keep track of your investment to show for tax purposes initially, but to also use as a point of reference as you go forward. This is where your accountant comes in. Don’t have one? Now would be the time to find someone trustworthy and affordable. If that really isn’t an option, using software like Wave Accounting or QuickBooks is a bandaid alternative. Your accountant will structure your business using the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to ensure that you’re not only set up with the Canada Revenue Agency (or your national tax collector) but that you are following standard business practices that can be showcased when fundraising. When it comes to taxes, your accountant will thank you for keeping track of where the money is going so that it can be correctly reported to maximize your returns (and save you hours on your accounting bill). Additionally, with funding allocates in streams, you might be able to claim additional tax breaks, or apply for government grants, loans, and incentives. When approaching investors, having the ability to show them where the cash went and a full accounting from day one will be a requirement from you and absolutely part of their due diligence. 
 
When you’ve reached the point that you’ve brought on other investors, it is good to have a plan on what to do with your investment as the company grows. Most founders will roll their money into their existing equity stake to grow their ownership back up to stem the tide of dilution. Others offer the cash as a loan and treat it to similar loan conditions. A note of caution with the loan route – this is something you’ll want your lawyer involved in. They can make sure you have the proper terms regarding repayments and consequences of a default. These term sheets will need to be included with your investors due diligence package so there is a clear understanding that their investment dollars could be used to pay you back. Expect this to come up during negotiations! Either way, if the business does not succeed you will not get a return at all and either have to write off the loan or write off the investment. Make sure your accountant has a plan for either scenario when tax time comes around.
 
How much to put in depends on your personal situation and your tolerance for risk. Some companies have gone on to incredible success, launching will as little as $10,000.

Startups are risky. If you don’t want to bet your own (or your friends and family’s) cash, your prospective investors might not want to either. The bottom line is, if you want your startup to be successful, you should invest in it. However, like any investment, don’t just roll the dice and hope for the best. Know what you’re trying to do, understand the market and the chances of success. This is an investment into yourself, so plan diligently and make a smart investment.



Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.

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Design, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Startup
Think of all the great creative work we see on a daily basis. How the right image paired with the right words evoked reactions. How a new interface felt like a friendly piece of software that you were able to use with ease. Or a new product that came in such precise packaging that you wonder if you should keep the box as well. 
 
All of these pieces, products, and designs came to life from a creative brief. A creative brief is the foundation of any design project, UX product, marketing campaign and really anything produced by a creative team. In essence, a brief is a roadmap outlining the journey that the creative team is about to embark upon. The brief shows the team where to start driving to discover ideas but also how to evolve those ideas into fully formed concepts that complete the journey. 
 
One of the biggest challenges multidisciplinary teams face is getting, and keeping everyone on the same page. The creative brief is the proverbial shepherd herding all the stakeholders together. It provides a central point of reference to clarify the project goals, details, mandatory elements, timelines and budgets for creatives and clients to reference throughout a project. It also has the added bonus of acting as a cover for scope creep for creatives and a deliverable list for clients. A creative brief also provides a way to navigate the messier parts of collaboration on big, complex projects with multiple moving parts and people.
 
In the blog, 5 Ways to Keep Revision Costs Down, one of the key elements for cost control is a detailed creative brief. By capturing all the project elements in one place, both client and agency teams can be held accountable allowing for a more accurate quote and fewer revisions in the final stages.
 
A 2017 survey of over 1,200 international advertising executives by Ad Age asked them to rank clients on topics including integration, procurement, compensation, and consolidation.
 
Specifically, regarding creative briefs, their response was, “Agency assignment briefs were a major problem area, highlighting the old ‘garbage in, garbage out’ mentality. Most agencies reported some level of frustration regarding the quality of assignment briefings: 53% found briefs complete but lacking in focus; 27% found them incomplete and inconsistent; 20% found them complete and focused most of the time, and zero respondents found them complete and focused all the time.”
 
Now, more than ever, teams need to orchestrate and distribute brand campaigns that include multiple media options, timed deliverables, and collaboration efforts with creatives located all over the globe.
 
At the start of a creative project, it is important to answer some essential questions from the key stakeholders.  
 
      • What problem needs to be solved?
      • Who is the target audience?
      • What product, service or solution will solve the core problem?
 
Clarity around these aspects is at the heart of any project success. These questions work for any project type and help get everyone on the project aligned with the main objectives.
 
At its purest, a creative brief is like building a house; a strong foundation will ensure everything else stays together. So, how do you want to build your house? Here are some tips.
 
1. What Are Your Goals?
Before diving into the details of the project, try focusing on a few details. This will allow you to keep the project manageable and your brief focused. However your project is structured, it is important to lay out individual goals that will comprise the steps required to complete the project. 
 
Having a clear vision of who you are is critical when communicating your goals to the team, so they can amplify your amazing qualities. If you have a brand guide, you’ll need to attach it to the creative brief to reinforce who you are and give the creative team a reference they can look to when questions arise. If you do not have a brand guide, now is the time to get one (warning: self-promo ahead) from Method Creative Studios; user experiences driven by simplicity. 
 
2. Who Are The Key Stakeholders?
Ownership drives accountability, on both the client and agency side. Having someone, or team, listed as the decision makers for the client and main point of contact for the creative team allows each group to identify the project leaders. The brief should clearly outline who’s driving the car and who is the senior leadership that can provide guidance if problems arise.
 
Selecting stakeholders who will play an active role in the process will leave the teams with a clear understanding of who they need to turn too when questions arise. However, be sure to not overload already busy staff who might overlook important details. Realistically, this isn’t always possible, but it’s nice to dream, right?
 
3. Who Are We Talking To?
This should be self-explanatory. If you don’t know who you’re talking to this project is far too embryonic for a creative brief. At this point, you should know who your audience is and what their customer person looks like. This needs to be clearly communicated to the creative team. If you have research and detailed persona outlines, put this in an appendix. The agency teams love having a detailed understanding of who they’re talking to.
 
4. What’s The Deal With Your Competition?
Who’s the competition? What are they doing? Where are they finding success? When are the right market conditions? Tell us your ‘why’ statement. This information will help inform the direction that your product, service or brand will go to stand out and help focus both client and creative teams towards a clearer picture of the destination on the roadmap that is our creative brief.
 
5. What Is Our Key Message?
This is the biggie of the project, everything created is in service of this message. To help point the creative team in the right direction try to position the tone and style around the brand’s voice, mission and/or values. 
 
Thinking about the overall goal, try to distill it down to one sentence, or even a few words if possible. If this is presenting itself as a challenge, try using the Golden Circle approach to simplify your message to its core elements. From there, both teams will be able to focus on the best way to communicate it with your audience. 
 
6. How Are We Communicating Your Message?
Let’s get into the specifics now. What channels are you using to push your message? On a screen in a conference hall is a far different screen than your phone playing on Instagram. By narrowing down where your message will be placed, the creative team can design it to cater directly to your audience.
 
7. What Are The Deliverable Details?
Now it’s time to dive into the details. This is where you document exactly what needs to be developed, what mandatory elements are needed, what size the final product needs to be, how it will be produced, who’s responsible for completing a phase and who is it being passed onto. 
 
Let’s get a laundry list of what MUST appear on your piece. Things like logos, selling lines, legal copy, phone numbers, web address, etc. You can also help us out by identifying any possible legal pitfalls or regulatory issues. Do you have a branding guide? What are your corporate colours and fonts? Does it need to be bilingual?
 
This is also your chance to have some fun and join us in the creative process. Please share with us the idea you have in the back of your head, let’s call it a ‘bad ad’ or a ‘jumping off’ point. We know you have an idea of how you see things ending up, it’s time to share. Pull out the crayons and get started. If you have samples of images, brands, ads, apps, websites, or anything else that inspires, this is the time to share it. By knowing what styles, UX’s, tones, etc. that you like, the creative team and focus in on delivering your vision.
 
Don’t be afraid to get really into it here, the more details on the final deliverables, the more focused the creative team can be thus saving you revision costs in the long run.
 
8. How Is Success Measured?
Before the creative team goes nuts building the next great app, do we have tangible metrics to track that will determine growth and success? Do the current analytics account for multiple campaigns and outbound sales activities so this project can be isolated and measured on its own? 
 
Establishing metrics in advance for reporting data helps facilitate stronger client-agency relationships in the long run. It builds trust upon everyone delivering their tasks, and allows for insight into problem areas as they arise. Just make sure there are agreed-upon metrics so everyone knows whether goals have been reached.
 
9. What Are The Timelines?
Let’s face it, some projects are far simpler than others and some are multi-agency, multi-disciplinary complex projects that require a lot of detailed specs. Understanding where this project falls within the marketing mix, content calendar or marketing strategy can help outline the appropriate timeline for completion. 
 
Timelines are the backbone of your project and should be laid out plainly in the creative brief. Try to focus on time windows and then narrow them down to specific days after working with your creative team to fit your project into the production schedule if possible. Ultimately, each deliverable needs to have a due date, as well as a sign-off date. These timelines let the teams know what needs to be done to hit the deadline and how things may be delayed if something is not completed for the next phase.
 
Remember, if every job is a priority, then none of them are a priority. 
 
10. What Is The Budget?
Let’s talk money. What is your budget? We can tailor the job to your budget? Does your budget include hosting, media buys, delivery, and/or printing and production costs? Have you factored in translation costs, audio production, stock image/video purchases, transportation, location fees, licensing, permits, etc.?
 
In most cases, you’re working with a set budget based on the complexity of the project – a 15 second motion graphic ad for Facebook has a smaller budget than a live action 30 second on-location spot that includes digital and print ads to accompany it – this needs to be included in the brief and part of the discussion with the agency team. They will want to know where the flex points are to see if new ideas or techniques could be applied. 
 
If the agency’s quote is above your budget, talk it over with them. Quite often we’re willing to tailor a job based upon budget and needs. Through this dialogue, we can figure out realistic expectations and deliverables before jumping into the project and discovering that the budget has been burned two-thirds of the way through. 
 
Final Thought
Taking the time at the start of the project to think through these 10 tips, and reviewing the brief your agency sent, you’ll be able to build a creative brief that is not only thorough but effective and focused. Now armed with your creative brief, you and your agency team can build the right project for your business. 
 
If you would like a sample of our thorough creative brief here is a copy of Method’s that you can use as a starting point (here is our additional website brief to compliment the main brief). Now go out there and create something beautiful.
 
 
 
Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.
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Entrepreneurship, Startup
The bags under your eyes betray the forced smile on your face. It takes twice as long to get ready in the morning, picking the right clothes feels like a monumental chore, and in the end, you’re dressed in black anyway. Stress has overwhelmed you, hampering your ability to simply pick an outfit and now you need to come up with creative and innovative ideas.
 
While we’ve all experienced burnout and have developed solutions to survive it, there is added pressure if you’re in a creative field, or are faced with developing a creative solution. Unfortunately, burnout can hit when you need the clearest focus to be creative. 
 
Some people live to work towards a deadline, crushing items off the list and squeezing a project out just in time. Others prefer to manage their time in chunks so they can methodically proceed through their days in a comfortable manner. Some people believe that their work is better when it is produced under pressure while some know their output is best when they can dedicate days on end to the task.  But there are times when no matter what your style is, it feels like stress is winning and your creativity has been zapped. During these times of creative block, it is great to be able to turn to some proven tactics outlined here to help keep your head in the game, and your creativity flowing.
 
Set Deadlines
Waiting until the last minute to start a project was a terrible idea back in university, and it’s even worse as a professional. But that’s never stopped any client or boss from last minute requests. One of the best time management techniques is to break big projects into smaller pieces and this can help stimulate creativity every day – taking baby steps or breaking a project into the sum of its parts. By driving yourself towards daily deadlines, that rush to hit the goal can inspire new and creative thoughts on how to complete the task. Smaller steps help you to focus as you reach each milestone and once it is achieved you can then think and concentrate on the next step.
 
Collaborate With Others
Stress is usually caused by other people, so it might seem like working with others is the antithesis of calming stress to be creative but it can be the exact opposite. Gathering a small team of your co-workers can help you increase the opportunity for those breakthrough moments of innovation and ideation.
 
Allowing yourself to listen to other ideas being generated fuels your own mind. It also comes with the added benefit of removing your head from your personal situation which is causing the stress. This gives your brain a much needed constructive distraction that can help realign your thinking. Sometimes listening and seeing what others are doing – or have done – can lead you to your own innovations and creative solutions. 
 
Reduce Distractions
Loud office, text messages, emails, aggressive music and more are all competing for your attention. While you might have one eye on your work and the other on the clock counting down to your deadline, distractions sneak in and become productivity vampires. Distractions pull you away from the task and pull your mind out of the zone you worked so hard to get into. 
 
By focusing on a single task (sometimes easier said than done while under pressure) you can improve your creativity. Giving yourself a spotlight on the task at hand can open doors of thought that you might not have expected to see. Adding in some ambient music like low-fi beats or classical have been proven to increase brain activity and also lower blood pressure, thus reducing stress. When you’re able to block out distractions your anxiety and stress go down and your mind is prone to be more creative with your thoughts. 
 
Take a Break
Go for a walk. Seriously, get up, grab your jacket, leave your phone and go wander for 15 minutes. Doesn’t matter where, simply get outside, breath the fresh air and soak up all that is life in your part of the world. Walking is consistently touted as one of the most underrated exercises – it is low impact, improves circulation, steadies breathing and burns those extra lunch calories. 
 
By leaving your workspace you get to leave your stresses on your desk for the time being. You can bring your thoughts along and take the time to untangle the problem without distractions during increased cardio activity where your brain is alert and firing on all cylinders. Walking is the perfect exercise to wake the brain and keep it clear enough so you can focus on one problem at a time. There’s truth to the CEO’s who constantly say, ‘walk with me’.
 
Immerse Yourself in Inspiration
Does music evoke emotions, photography inspire dreams, written verse transport you into new worlds? As we know, inspiration is supposedly everywhere, but when faced with a creative block due to stress, inspiration needs to be strategic and selective. Not just any song or playlist will do (Throwback Thursday might be fun to dance to in the shower but it might not inspire writing a pitch deck), and not every visual stimulation will connect to a dream. Being selective about your stimulation can help break down the walls of stress and lead to productive solutions.
 
In our modern connected world, keeping a selection of inspirational stimulants on our devices has never been easier. Finding opportunities to save playlists, images, verses, dances or more can help you build an inspiration library that you can turn to in times of stress. Think of it as another tool in your kit to stimulate creativity and innovation. 
 
Stop Beating Yourself Up
This one can be the hardest, especially if you’re a perfectionist. Simply the thought of missing the mark on your tasks can send you into a tailspin of negative thoughts which can become a millstone pulling your mind down into the darkness. Get in front of the negativity before it creeps up on you. While this might sound a little like a self-help TED Talk, it is important to remind yourself that you are doing fine, strike a power pose in the mirror, find a quiet corner to practice calming breathing or simply look at some cherished memories on your phone. 
 
The important thing is to get out of your head, to stop questioning your abilities and punishing yourself for simply being stressed. Remember, stress comes from events and actions outside of your control and while you can’t change the past, you can choose the attitude you carry into the future. Go a little easier on yourself and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your creativity and clarity of thought come back.
 
 
 
Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from an experienced creative professional? Click below to set up your 30-minute consultation. We’ll sit down and work through your branding, marketing, or creative materials to find where you need some work, and offer our suggestions.
 
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