I spent this Saturday at BizCamp Limerick — a thoroughly enjoyable, interesting and educational experience. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend every presentation but here’s some brief notes from those I did attend.

Mary Carty gave a great introduction to email marketing: It’s free; Be personal; Start a conversation; Get permission, never buy a list; Make it regular and stick to it; Everyone has some information they could share; Create value for your users.

James Kennedy talked about bootstrapping a start-up. He’s very much focused on the building a salary-replacement, time-freeing business rather than empire building (which I can relate to). Talked about evaluating the business ideas based on: how easy it is to describe in a single sentence; Would 400people pay €25/month; Does it require < 10hours/month to run; Is there an existing need; is it a niche?

Joan Mulvihill of Starting Today talked about her experiences of being made redundant and coping with the recession. Engaging and funny: “No pity parties” should rank up there with “Fuck the Recession” as a new slogan!

Pat Hough talked about some basic sales strategies: You need to have 10 different sales avenues; For every 20 cold calls, 10 result in a meeting, 2 in sales — i.e., each sales has 9 rejects; need a 10sec short explanation of your business with clear client benefit; your enemy is your customer’s status quo (i.e., whatever is currently working for them).

Brian O’Kane gave 10 things you need to know before you start a business. Top tips were: The only thing that matters is sales and business planning != business plan.

I usually give panel discussions a miss as they are inevitably weak and insight-less, but not this one!

  • Everyone agreeing that lots of small businesses are the future, not big multinationals.
  • Everyone agreeing that Enterprise Ireland isn’t aimed at small start-ups. Their job is to bring in / create large companies with high revenue potential. EI might provide good advice and valuable contacts but their money isn’t worth the paperwork.
  • Someone from the audience was hammering on about Export (i.e., we must export to survive). Seemed strange to me as most web-businesses are export businesses by default but there’s still plenty of money to be made in local markets (just think of all the businesses in your local town). “Export” just sounds like such an old-world way of thinking. I think James Kennedy’s approach of proving the business in Ireland before moving outside makes a great deal of sense. I felt the questioner was confusing the need for a business to make a profit with the need for the country to recover. And, surely, if lots of small business are making money, that’s got to be good for the country.
  • Mentoring of small businesses was identified as a big deal. You don’t need to take a dragon’s deal to get great advice (free!) from your peers.

I was a little disappointed that we ran out of time and the Pitching Competition didn’t happen but I guess that just shows how involved the panel discussion was. Some of the highlights of the day happened over lunch or in the corridor, talking to other attendees. It was a great mix of people in fields as diverse as event management, engineering analysis, software, etc and super- super friendly. Having attended FOWA a few weeks back I was struck by how much more friendly, helpful and social the BizCamp crowd was.

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