Creating a Company Logo

A couple of months ago, just after I had finalized the company name, I thought about creating a logo. I would need one eventually for things such as social media, business cards, and of course the website. I could try to create one myself or find someone I know who makes them.

It was around that time that I had started listening to a number of podcasts. I had recently gotten the iPhone 7, having switched from the Galaxy Note 4, and found the wonder of podcasts again. I had used to listen to them occasionally a number of years ago but had since stopped.

I searched for any podcasts that had to do with startups, entrepreneurship or small businesses. I found a number of them and started listening to see which ones I would like. They included: Mixergy, The Small Business Show, Foundr Magazine Podcast, This Week in Startups, Lean Startup and the No Sleep Startup (if you have more suggestions or comments on any of these I’d love to hear).

I’m not going to get into any of the specifics of these podcasts at this point (maybe later) but what is pertinent to this post is that while listening to an interview on Mixergy I heard about one of their sponsors, Design Crowd (you can save $100 with this link thanks to Mixergy).

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The way the sponsors are introduced is not by commercials, but by the host of the show talking about his experience working with that product or company, otherwise known as a testimonial. Its a much more effective way to promote a product or service and seems to be rather common in the world of podcasts. In this case the description of DesignCrowd seemed good and was what I was looking for, so I took a deeper look.

The way it works is after you create an account you create a project or “brief” and specify what it is you want. You need to describe the business or whatever it is you need a logo for so that the designers have something to go on. You can give them your ideas, any sketches you have made, or anything else that might help them design the perfect logo for you. Then the contest to see who can make the best design for you begins.

Within a day I started to get a few, but not all that many. One thing that turned out to be important was that I hadn’t committed to paying anything, and the designers knew it. While the contest was going on I eventually made a commitment to pick a winner and pay them. Suddenly I was getting entries from all over the world: South Africa, Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Peru, Serbia, Brazil, Pakistan, Australia, Indonesia, Belgium, Paraguay, Vietnam, Malaysia, Austria, UK, US, Netherlands, Kenya, Cameroon, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Germany, Sweden, Argentina and India.

The vast majority of them were good, some very good. I could tell that a number of them were designs that they had come up with previously and just changed it to my company name. They were good, but not what I had asked for. Some got very creative and were definitely trying for what I asked for, but had gone off on tangents that I didn’t care for.

I received 183 designs over the course of the contest. Many of those were the exact same design from the same designer, just displayed on different surfaces, or using different color schemes. Frequently the designers would send me a message within the app asking for comments or input. It was a way for them to get noticed.

I eventually went with ironically the very first design I received, before I had committed to paying. It was from prodesigns99 in India. I really loved their concept and it was completely unique among the 183 entries. Before the contest was over I asked them to make a number of small refinements to get it just right and it worked out really well.

So here is the final logo I selected from the contest. I think this is also the first time I have revealed the name of the business on this blog as well, Parandama, LLC.

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The word “parandama” is an Estonian word that means “improve” (and also “repair”, but I like improve better). My father is from Estonia so I liked taking a word from his birth language. I found out later Parandama is also a Hindu boy’s name that means Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu means, from one source I found, “all pervasive.” I think that can apply to the site as well, so I found meaning with the name from two sources.

This is where the tag line “Improve Yourself” comes from, and actually it is a shortened version of the full tagline I intend to use, “Improve yourself and someone you care about.”

The idea behind the logo is somewhat obvious. Your path is up the stairs to a door that leads to better things. The colors of the stairs and the door make up the colors of the visible spectrum, and the white inside the door is what happens when all of the colors blend together. The site will provide many different means of improving yourself as well as helping you help others. More on that to come.

I would definitely recommend DesignCrowd. I had a great experience and got a great logo out of it.

 

Deciding on a Company Name

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So far this has been absolutely the hardest thing I have done for this new business. I spent countless hours over months trying to come up with a name. I’m happy with my final choice but I could have done without the pain of finding it.

Domain Name

Since this is going to at least initially be an online business one of the most important aspects of the company name is can I get the right domain name for the website. In case you don’t know, the domain name is the “google.com”. There can be only one site using “google.com” and it is owned by Google (or maybe their parent company Alphabet). So you can’t use it. You must find your own.

When are you ready to start checking names, find a site where you can see if your name is available. Two sites that I use for checking are GoDaddy.com and Register.com, but there are plenty of others out there in the series of tubes.

State Laws

There are also laws prohibiting you from using the same name as an existing company in the state where you create the business. You might find that your name is unique to your state, but it might exist in another state and then they might have the domain name you want, or something very close to it that would confuse potential customers. Forgetting about the domain name, if both of your companies are national you will no doubt have conflicts. Make sure your name is unique.

When you have a name picked out, check with your state government to see if your name is available. It most likely will be your state’s Secretary of State’s office or web site where this can be found. You should be able to do it online, though likely for a small fee. When you’re ready to formalize your company name you’ll have to do it here anyway so you might as well get to know their site.

Finding a Name

Before you even try to figure out the right name to call your business you are limited to what it can be. Don’t fret. The 26 letters of the English alphabet can still be formed into all kinds of interesting names. You just have to work a bit harder to find the right combination of letters.

Descriptive vs. Implicative

In my mind there were two main types of names: descriptive (like weather.com) or implicative (like amazon.com).

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A descriptive name tells you exactly what you will find on the site. When you go to weather.com you won’t find the latest film releases or stock prices (unless they have branched out and I don’t know about it). You will find the weather. The name tells you what they do.

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An implicative name doesn’t lend itself immediately to what it is, but gives you an overall feeling of what to expect there. With the example of amazon.com, I see dual meaning. There is the obvious “A -> Z” that they make clear in their logo above, meaning that you you will find everything from A to Z on their site. But there is also the word itself, Amazon, which makes you think of the Amazon rainforest. That area, according to Wikipedia, “comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world”.  So if you want to find a type of living thing, odds are you’ll find it there. So, like the rainforest, if you are looking for something to buy, odds are you’ll find it at amazon.com.

Get to Know Your Competitors

You absolutely MUST get to know who your competitors are before you start your business. At this point though you need to know them to avoid similar names. Keep a list of them handy as you go through the process to make sure you avoid them or anything like them. Jot down the domain names they use too.

Naming Process

Come up with a process that feels right for you. Try brainstorming names and write them all down. Try descriptive ones first as they would be easiest and move to the implicative names if you want.

When you have some that you think aren’t too bad then first look up possible domain names. The domain name doesn’t have to be exactly the company name but it is good for it to be very close. Keep a record of what is available and what is taken. Put some thought into what suffix you want to use as well (that is what I call the “.com” or .org”, what it really is is the top level domain). When you pick one it is a good idea to go ahead and buy the other top level domains as well to protect your name so others can’t come up with sites with your name and steal your traffic. This means if you pick a domain name of “xyz.com” then you should also buy “xyz.org”, “xyz.net”, etc.

When you have a name and a domain name set then check with your state (the state where you intend to form the business). If it is available then you are good to go! If not, start over.

Final Thoughts

I thought I had a name at least three times before I finally picked the one I have gone with. Just remember to be sure about your name before you open for business. It is a lot easier to change the name before than it is after. After you open if you change your name you lose your name recognition and have to possibly pay for a lot of renaming costs. Be sure before you go live.

Good luck and happy naming!

Avoiding Distractions

Distractions are a constant problem. Especially when you are bootstrapping a startup by yourself, working a full time job, living in a house of 5 people (myself, my wife, my daughter, my Dad, and a good friend) as well as 4 dogs.

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I recently returned from LA to see family on my aunt’s 80th birthday (woo hoo!!), my daughter just finished her freshman year of high school, and my duties as a volunteer in the band booster organization for my daughter’s high school band have come to a close (for now). Paperwork for my finances has been piling up for a while (not that I haven’t been paying anything, just not filing/scanning), I am planning to start going to a gym on a regular basis to lose 30 pounds, and I still have all of the usual little daily activities that goes with being part of a family and having a house and a job.

Setting Myself Free by Scheduling

So how do I get past all of this and build a new business from scratch? I have no special knowledge of the best way to do this. I have read and listened to many different people talk about how best to do it. Some sound good, other sound idiotic and there is no way I’d ever do what they suggest.

But one thing that I know will help (not just because my wife says it will, but that does play a part 😉 ) is creating a very specific schedule and then sticking to it. Once you look at the hours you have in any given day you begin to realize how finite your time is.

So I am going to follow these steps and create my schedule:

  1. Fill out my calendar with activities/appointments I absolutely have to attend (like working my regular job, need to keep the money coming in!)
  2. List the things that I have to do on a regular basis (finances, house work, meals, walk the dogs, etc) and allot time for that in the schedule.
  3. List the things that I want to work on and achieve and place them in an order of precedence, giving them specific definitions and completed by dates.
  4. Add these things to my schedule where available trying not to overload myself and get too aggressive (I do need to sleep occasionally!).
  5. Make sure there is some free time occasionally to have a life here and there. I’d like to see my family some 🙂

Avoiding the Little Distractions – Staying Focused

There are of course tons of little distractions, and for me that is social media and news. I can very easily get caught up scrolling through my various social media accounts or reading articles in the different newspapers I subscribe to or follow. Some of this is pertinent to what I am trying to do and that is fine, but some of it is sheer escapism and just goofing off. While I do need that a little I certainly don’t need it as much as I do it!

This comes down to a matter of will. I think having a schedule will help as it will give me time constraints to get things accomplished, but otherwise I just have to make my mind up to stay focused. I have been mostly doing well at this but need to step up my game even more. Getting this done is all up to me and it won’t get done if I don’t do it.

I want this, I want this business to succeed. I just have to continue to keep that at the forefront of my thoughts, keep pushing, get organized and focused, and do it.

I’ll keep you updated on how things go!

So What’s the Business?

So far I haven’t given much of an indication as to what the business is going to be. That is intentional as I plan to build up to that as I build the business. But I will give you some hints as to what my idea is and I will definitely detail how I plan to build it.

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The business will initially be strictly online and something that anyone can find something to enjoy, learn from, and even profit from. It’ll also give you a way to give to your favorite charities or other non-profit organizations in a very creative way that will entice others to give as well.

Given the business will be online, I obviously have a website to build! Good thing I’ve been involved in that kind of work for quite a while now. But the tools I plan to use are very new, some are just being made available and not fully mature. Why would I risk a new business on untested technology?

As the name of this blog reveals, I am bootstrapping this new business. What exactly does that mean? I am not getting any outside funding, its all what I can put into it myself and what I can earn from it that will keep it going.

As a result, I need to keep expenses as minimal as possible. With a website there are definite costs, such as hosting, scaling, storage, support, etc. These costs can vary quite a bit, so how to minimize?

Hosting on Home Servers Option

I could do what used to be done, buy or build my own server and host it at home. I’d have total control over it but then I’d also be the sole support of it. Also what happens as the business grows (hopefully)? Do I buy more servers to allow it to scale, more storage as the needs grow? Where does that end?

Maybe this would be something I would want to do eventually when the business can afford to operate its own infrastructure with full support and personnel, but that is a long way off. There has to be something else.

Hosting on the Cloud Option

How about the cloud? This is a mature technology now and I have had multiple years of experience working in it. There is no equipment to buy or maintain, just pay for the virtual machines and services that you use. Someone else makes sure it is always up and running and is there to help when you need it, plus you can automate it to quickly scale as the load fluctuates. I wouldn’t want my website going down right when its getting busy or running at full capacity when no one is on it.

This sounds much better but there is a small problem. When you create virtual servers in the cloud to host your application, you pay for it 24 x 7, as long as it is running and you ALWAYS want it running. As your business grows you’ll need more servers, and that cost will increase. Is there any way to get these costs down?

The Serverless Option

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What is serverless? Does this mean hosting computers without a server? NO! It does not. You still have to have a server, hopefully multiples of them as your business is booming. What it means is that the details of the server are abstracted away from you. You no longer have to manage it, you don’t have to handle the scaling, you just have to use it (and of course monitor it).

And you only pay for exactly what you use!! If no one is visiting your site (hopefully that’ll never happen) then you don’t pay for it to be there. It’ll still be there when someone visits.

But to get the full benefit of this technology you have to design your site to take advantage of it. The old monolith apps of days gone by (well, today still) won’t give you any benefit. It’s all about microservices baby!

I’m going to delve into each of these topics over the coming weeks, and also talk about a couple of conferences I attended to learn about all of this: ServerlessConf and OSCON.

For now though I have to finish packing. I have to head to the airport in an hour! Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend everyone!

Forming the Business

Last night I began the process of officially forming my business. Woo hoo! Its about to become real 🙂

Choosing a Name

This can be the most difficult thing you have to do. Really. What is so difficult is that, if you intend to have a website, your domain name has to be available (mybiz.com). I can’t tell you how many names I have thought up that were so amazing, so original, so creative, only to find someone already owned it.

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So you start looking into variations of the names you like, different spellings, cute blending of words, foreign words. You get very familiar with Thesaurus.com since there has to be a similar word to my favorite name that means the same thing but is available. There just has to be…..

I can’t tell you how many iterations I went through trying to find the right name. I thought I found it a couple of times, only to either have it shot down by people I know or to find another site with almost the exact same name that does something similar enough to potentially be a problem.

All I can say is keep trying. Don’t settle. Yes, you can always change it later but the longer you wait the harder that will be. If you do it after you open your doors for business it will be even more difficult because then you introduce rebranding.

Don’t let it cripple you though. Work on it a little here and there. You never know when or where inspiration will appear, and when it does WRITE IT DOWN IMMEDIATELY! Then check to see if the domain exists. I use GoDaddy.com but there are plenty of sites out there from which to choose.

Once you find one you like and is available let it stew in your mind for a day or two. See what others think. When you come to the conclusion that it is good then go get that domain for a year. Don’t commit to more since you still might change your mind, but at least you’ll have it.

Business Structure

The first question I had to ask myself, though I had already decided, was what form should the company take. Should it be a corporation? A sole proprietorship? A partnership? A Limited Liability Company (LLC)? I decided on an LLC and here’s why.

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The owners of an LLC, also called members, have limited liability. This is a big deal. The owners are (mostly) shielded from any personal liability. So if someone goes after your company, they can’t try to get your house too. In Texas it seems that courts have ruled that limited liability can be bypassed if there is fraud or misrepresentation, so I’ll have to avoid any of that (but of course!)

The owners of an LLC are able to choose their own management structure, even manage it all themselves. There is no board of directors, no one else dictating what you need to do or how you need to do it, just the owners. Since I want to make sure that as the business grows I am able to keep a firm grip on it this sounds good to me.

The owners of an LLC are also not required to adhere to any rigid rules as to how the business operates, as do corporations. There are no requirements for holding specific meetings, taking minutes, etc. Though it is a good idea to do these things, as an LLC I will have the flexibility to define it as I choose.

Finally, owners of an LLC can choose how the business is taxed. They can be classified for taxes as a partnership or a corporation. If a partnership, then it all flows through to the owners and is much simpler. If taxed as a corporation, then they get double taxed, where the business gets taxed on profits, then the owners get taxed as well. So its a partnership for me!

Where to Form the Business

So I know what type of business I want. Now where do I create it? I live in Texas so my first thought is form it right here in my home state. But wait, I have heard there are states that are better for this, that have added benefits if you form there. Specifically I have heard that Delaware is the best state. Where should I do this?

If I set the business up anywhere but my home state of Texas, where the primary address of my business will be (specifically my house), I would then have to register my business with the state of Texas as a “foreign entity”. Taxes would then be a more complicated issue (and more costly), and that is one thing I would definitely like to keep simple! So I decided to just form it right here at home. This pic below is Lady Bird Lake in Austin, when I was out on a walk recently. Such a beautiful city!

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How to Form the Business in Texas

So I applied to form the business in Texas (There is a more detailed description of what to do here, though I will take you through a little of it). You can do that here:

Texas Secretary of State

You have to create an account and give them credit card information. The reason for the credit card is that there are fees to do some things on the site, such as searches. And one search you have to do is see if anyone else has your business name already registered with the state. There can be only one! You can do this with the “Name Availability Search” at the top left of the menu. I think it costs $1 to perform the search.

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To apply your new business with the state you need to submit a Certificate of Formation. To get to that, in the image above under “Reservation * Formation * Registration Documents” select the type of business structure you are forming, which for me was “Domestic Limited Liability Company (LLC)” and then press “File Document”.

The next page you see will be what you see below. Select “Certificate of Formation” from the drop down list then “Continue”.

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From here just follow the directions. There is a $300 fee for this, but you won’t have to pay it until you are approved.

Obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

EIN Assistant Link

The next step was registering with the US Government. This is absolutely necessary to be able to open a bank account for your business, to pay taxes (yes, we have to do that) or to have employees (hopefully, eventually). You can do this online here. But remember, do this after submitting the application to your state and do it during the specific hours that they don’t tell you about until you have completed three or four pages of the application 🙁 If you are doing it after 10 pm Eastern Time then it will kill your application and you’ll have to start over later. It is a painless process though and fairly quick.

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Now what?

This is where I am now. As far as forming the business goes my next steps are opening a bank account, putting money in it (hmmm, need to get some of that), and creating an Operating Agreement. I might get into all that in a later post.

For now though I have to get ready to head out of town. I’m heading to Los Angeles to help celebrate my aunt’s 80th birthday!

Welcome to the Journey

Though this is my first blog entry it is by no means the beginning of the story. I have notes in Evernote dating back to late 2013 though I know it goes back a while before that. Having a business is something I have thought about for a very long time, though only over these past 4 to 5 years has it all started coming together. It has taken a lot for me to get to even this point.

My name is Ron Rabakukk and I live in Austin, Texas. I’m a senior software/devops engineer working remotely with a team in Oklahoma City, OK. My family, including our dog, moved here nearly two years ago from Oklahoma City.

My 81-year-old father and his dog moved in a few months after that. My Mom passed away back in 2009 and my Dad had been living alone ever since. Having him live with us just made so much economic sense. His activity has increased and his diet has vastly improved too. Its fortunate we all get along so well!

Our youngest daughter is in marching band at her high school and I am very involved with it as a volunteer. The band runs the concession stands at all of the home Varsity, JV and Freshman games as a way to raise money and this coming Fall I’ll be running the show!

Writing all that makes me wonder how I am going to find the time to do all I need to do to start this new business. I’m going to get a little help from family and friends, but the vast majority of it will be all on me. I know I will find the time because of one thing, I want this. I have what I think is a good idea (and so do the people who know about it), I think it will succeed and it lends itself to a slow-paced, bootstrapped startup. This is going to happen, one way or another.

The picture below is of me when I was about a year and a half. I like to think of this business as being in a similar state: very young, full of promise, currently sleeping but soon to be awakened.

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Over the coming weeks I’ll mix in posts on how I got here and what I have planned. I certainly don’t have all of the answers and will no doubt make many mistakes along the way, but through this blog I hope find others who have similar interests who can occasionally offer encouragement or guidance and I can document what you have to go through to bootstrap a startup. Welcome to the journey!