Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Interview With Stacey McBride-Irby

Stacey McBride-Irby is a designer/intrapreneur at Mattel. Recently, she received rave reviews from the national media for creating their new "So In Style" line - a new line of black Barbie dolls with fuller lips, a wider nose and more pronounced cheek bones.

The hype is mostly based on the fact that the dolls accurately reflect how African American women look, compared to the original "Christie" doll that Mattel debuted in the 1960s that was "essentially a white doll painted brown".

Stacey, who is very down-to-earth, and obviously very intellectual and entrepreneurial was kind enough to grant me the following interview:

Dante: Thanks for making yourself available Stacey. Tell me - What's your background, and how did you get a deal with Mattel?

Stacey: I have a background in fashion design. I started out designing clothes for little girls, assisted adult line clothing designers, then was blessed with the opportunity to be a design assistant at Mattel. I’ve been designing Barbie dolls for over 12 years now.

Dante: How does your new dolls differ from previous African American dolls sold by Mattel?

Stacey: My dolls are different because they give parents and girls a variety of skin tones and facial features to choose from within an African American fashion doll. The dolls also have features that little girls can relate to while playing and dreaming up stories. We’ve also added a positive message behind the dolls. For instance, the big dolls are teenagers and after school they mentor their little sisters. I hope that this message will inspire girls to aspire to be role models to their little sisters or girls in their community.

Dante: You refer to yourself as an "intrepreneur". What does that mean?

Stacey: Yes, I am considered an intrepreneur - which is basically a person who develops a new business in the context of a large organization. So, I created a passion project within Mattel’s larger organization. While designing the Barbie and Pets, and Barbie “I Can Be” Career dolls - I embarked on the creation of the "So In Style" line in the summer of 2007.

Dante: Will your dolls be sold worldwide?

Stacey: Yes, the dolls will be sold at Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, and their online stores. They're also available on and Other countries that are interested in "So In Style" include Brazil, Italy, and Canada.

Dante: We all know that millions of dolls are sold annually, and you certainly stand to make a lot of money from your designs. What advice do you have for entrepreneurs with innovative products looking to partner with a major distributor like you did?

Stacey: Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to design for a great company (Mattel) and brand (Barbie). Two years ago, I presented the "So In Style" concept to upper management and they saw my passion and believed in it. If there is something that you are passionate about - work for it, fight for it, and don’t give up on your dream. I am a witness that dreams don’t happen over night, but do come true.

Dante: Thanks for the interview! You're very inspirational, and hopefully many will learn from your fine example of passion, patience, and persistence.

For more info, follow Stacey on Twitter at @StaceyMcIrby

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Only 1.6 Billion People Use The Internet

I use the word "only" because that doesn't even amount to half of the nearly 7 billion people on this planet. In fact, it calculates to about 24.7% of the world's population.

Granted, many are babies and many are elderly - but many of the people who don't use the Internet are able-bodied individuals just like you. They simply don't have the resources to connect online.

Interestingly enough, reports that between the year 2000 and 2009, Internet usage grew at a rate of 362.3%.

What does this mean for you? It means that more Internet users are coming, and by the hundreds of millions. At that rate of growth, the number of people using the Internet could easily double in just 10-15 years or less.

Now is the time to start planning for this. Millions of new potential customers will soon be within your reach.

Also, now is the time to consider pursuing international business opportunities. The Internet makes it extremely easy to conduct business in other countries without ever leaving your home.

What you should do exactly, depends greatly on what products and services your company offers. I would start with daily sessions of brainstorming and blueprinting.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lack of Diversity - A Classic Mistake

It still shocks me that many companies don't embrace diversity of any sort in their advertising campaigns. In fact, it baffles me.

This country has millions of minorities. Nearly 40 million African Americans, another 40 million Hispanics, about 5 million Asian Americans, and another 1 million or so Native Americans.

Just yesterday, I was watching late night television and noticed two companies that are very guilty of this. One was Hydroxycut and the other was - both of whom have several commercials that only feature white actors and models.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to pick on these two companies. There are plenty of others that do the exact same thing.

I'm just perplexed as to why they wouldn't want to include minorities in their ads. Research shows that minorities respond favorably to advertising that features people that look like them. Being that more than 35% of the country are minorities, I don't understand why any company would not want to tap in to this market share.

Do the folks at Hydroxycut think that minorities don't want to lose weight?

Do the folks at think that minorities don't stay in hotels?

Or are they both too ignorant and think that they can capture all audiences without making an effort to be more diverse?

Seriously, this is basic stuff - Diversity Marketing 101.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

2009 African American Internet Marketing Summit Comes To Chicago

Target Market News has announced it will host the 2009 African American Internet Marketing Summit on Thursday, Nov. 19th in Chicago at the Wyndham Hotel downtown. The all-day conference - the only such gathering of its kind in the nation - will feature some of the industry’s leading executives and companies in marketing, advertising, media, technology and research.

Hosted by my good friend Ken Smikle (pictured right), the Summit will examine how numerous Fortune 500 companies have effectively used digital platforms to reach African Americans including State Farm, AT&T, McDonalds, Toyota, American Airlines, Ford, Walmart and the U.S. Navy. Among the advertising agencies invited to participate and make presentations are UniWorld Group. GlobalHue, Sanders/Wingo, Burrell Communications, Vigilante and Carol H. Williams Advertising.

Research continues to point to the growing importance of African-Americans and digital media. Recent studies have found that nearly have of all African-Americans have access to the Internet; that blacks are the most active segment of those who access the Internet from a mobile device; and 11 percent of all bloggers are African-American.

Here are just a few topics that will be addressed by panelists at the Summit:

* The Obama Factor: Internet Lessons For Savvy Marketers
* Marketing to African Americans Through Targeted Social Media
* What The Loss of Means to Digital Platforms
* How the Internet Empowers Black Women Consumers
* Digital Decisions: Is Your Content Audience or Advertiser Driven?
* How Black Media Has Incorporated and Adapted to the Web

For more information, visit or call (312) 408-1881.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

People Judge Books By Their Covers

Yes, I know about the saying that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. The reality, however, is that people do this all the time. So when you decide to write a book, you need to keep this in mind.

I'll even say this: Your book cover is more important than the content in the book. I know, I know - It sounds crazy, but trust me it's true.

I'm not telling you to write a bad book. I'm just encouraging you to put more effort in the book cover, than you do in the actual book content. If you're not a graphic designer, don't try to be one.

Hire someone to do it for you. If you can't find someone, look harder. Never, ever settle for a poorly designed book cover. You will have wasted your time, because no matter how good a read your book is, people will never know.

If you are unsure of whether or not your book cover looks amateur, ask 5-10 people who regularly buy books. If just one of them says it looks amateur, than it probably is.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Skype For Business

Skype is a popular online tool that allows people to hold video conferences with anyone in the world for free - right from their personal computer. It's very unique, and it actually works extremely well.

The company, which is owned by Ebay, generates revenue by charging for other features such as call forwarding, text messaging, and Skype-to-Landline calls.

Although commonly used for personal socialization, the company just recently released a version of the software that's just for businesses. Essentially, it has the same features as the standard version; however, it also includes Windows Installer (commonly known as MSI) which makes it easy to install Skype to multiple computers in your company. It also gives more control to IT administrators.

I've been using Skype for years now, but never really had a need to use it for business. Despite this, I highly recommend it for your company if you need to do video conferencing.

For more details, visit:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Desperate Sales Pitch

It's very common to be approached by a salesperson, but have you ever been approached by a desperate one? Perhaps it was a family member or friend who wanted you to buy something, not because you needed or wanted it, but because they needed your help.

Well, here's the problem with the desperate sales pitch. You may end up with a sale, but you've just lost a life-long customer. Anyone who buys something because of pressure, is likely not to want to buy from you ever again.

When selling products, the key is to find people who actually want and need them. If you can't find people like this, then you're selling the wrong product - period.

When pitching to someone, your pitch should be about how the product solves their problem. Pressuring family, friends, and others to buy into it because you need their help is unprofessional and will not help you in the long run. In fact, it will hurt you greatly.

I always tell fellow entrepreneurs to use the CarMax approach. CarMax, if you don't know, is the 2nd largest chain of used car dealerships in the country. They have an active policy to use "no haggling, no high pressure sales" tactics - the complete opposite of what nearly every other car dealership does. Not surprisingly, CarMax sells over 300,000 used cars a year.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How To Get Government Contracts

The New York Times recently published the following extremely well-written article on what exactly to do get a government contract:

There are many federal contracting opportunities for small businesses, but to take advantage of them you have to know the ins and outs of the government’s contracting rules and regulations.

Of the more than 20 million small businesses in the United States, only about 500,000 are currently in a position to do business with the federal government. That’s not because they are the only ones capable of doing the work; it’s because they know how to get the work.

Here’s how big the opportunity is: small companies are eligible to bid on any size contract, but the government is required to reserve all federal purchases between $3,000 and $100,000 for small businesses — unless the contracting officer can’t get offers from two or more small businesses that are competitive on price, quality and delivery.

To read the full article, visit:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Top 10 Twitter Accounts For Minority Entrepreneurs To Follow

Twitter is a great way to connect with people and share valuable information. Those who actively tweet have found great benefits, especially since you can do so through most mobile devices.

Like anything, Twitter can either be a complete time waster or a very valuable tool. To make it the latter, I recommend that all minority entrepreneurs follow these top 10 accounts:

1) @BlackEnterprise - the official account for Black Enterprise Magazine; the largest publication for African American professionals and entrepreneurs.

2) @BizGrants - the official account for the National Institute of Business Grants, a leading resource for business funding opportunities.

3) @MBNUSA - the official account for Minority Business News USA (MBN USA), an award-winning magazine authority on supplier and workforce diversity.

4) @MiBizNet - the official account for the Minority Business Network, an organization that actively promotes the competitiveness and growth of businesses.

5) @NASEtweets - the official account for the National Association of the Self Employed (NASE), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides resources to entrepreneurs and micro-businesses.

6) @EntMagazine - the official account for Entrepreneur Magazine, the premier magazine of the small-business community.

7) @WSJ - the official account for Wall Street Journal, the world's leading resource for daily financial news and data.

8) @ExecTweets - an account powered by Microsoft that helps you find and follow the top business executives on Twitter.

9) @SmallBusinessAd - the official account for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), offering the latest news and tips to help your business succeed.

10) @SmallBusiness - the official account for, an online resource for news and advice pertaining to small businesses.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mobile Coupons Gaining Popularity

The concept is actually a couple of years old, but the popularity has grown in recent months. Just recently, retailer JCPenney made its first jump into mobile couponing, with a pilot program in 16 stores in the Houston metropolitan area.

Other companies that are doing it include Starbucks, Domino's Pizza, Caribou Coffee, and other well-known grocery and fast-food brands.

It works quite simple. You receive an email on your phone with a picture of a coupon, and when ready to use it - you show the clerk your phone, and they scan it. It works exactly like a traditional coupon, if not simpler.

Some companies are using the technology to get new customers, but have also found it to be successful when attempting to retain existing ones.

First-hand research shows that redemption rates for mobile coupons are around 10% to 20%. This is much higher than traditional paper coupons, which only see about 0.5% redemption.

If you think mobile couponing can help your business, the following companies can help you get started: CellFire, Proximity Media, MobiQpons, and

Monday, October 5, 2009

In A Failing Economy, It's Okay To Change Up The Game

While many companies have gone out of business because of a failing economy, others have found success by adapting to changing markets.

An entrepreneur may find this to be an awkward thing to do, but it's actually quite normal - and happens quite often.

Consider the following companies as outlined in a recent article on

1. Avon
David H. McConnell started Avon in 1886 without really meaning to. McConnell sold books door-to-door, but to lure in female customers he offered little gifts of perfume. Before long, the perfume McConnell was giving away had become more popular than the books he was selling, so he shifted focus and founded the California Perfume Company, which later became Avon.

2. Nokia
The telecom giant got its start in Finland in 1865, when Fredrik Idestam opened a pulp mill and started making paper on the banks of Tammerkoski. The company later bounced around a number of industries before getting serious about phones in the 1960s.

3. Wrigley
Like Avon, the chewing gum company got its start with a popular freebie. William Wrigley, Jr. founded the company in 1891 with the goal of selling soap and baking powder. He offered chewing gum as an enticement to his customers, and eventually the customers didn't care about the baking powder; they only wanted the gum.

4. Colgate
The hygienic products company got its start in 1806, but it didn't make its first toothpaste until 1873. Founder William Colgate initially manufactured soap, candles, and starch.

5. Xerox
When Xerox got off the ground in 1906, it was as a maker of photographic paper and photography equipment called the Haloid Company. The company didn't introduce what we would think of as a copier until the Xerox 914 made its debut in 1959.

For the full article, visit: