Maveriqs Profile: Bernardo Barajas, Managing Member, Foundation Capital Partners
By Lamin Turay
Bernardo Barajas is a Managing Member of Foundation Capital Partners LLC, a private investment firm that provides capital procurement options for small and medium size business owners. He's originally from Mexico, which is where he learned the value of hard work, and building a future for yourself. In his role at Foundation Capital, Bernardo helps entrepreneurs gain the financial assistance they need to grow exponentially. He's a savvy investor who recognizes the importance of playing to your strengths, putting together a solid team, and most importantly, always having a plan. We met with Bernardo to talk about his experience as an investor, and to discuss his best pieces of advice for entrepreneurs seeking guidance and funding for their growing businesses.
How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
I was born and raised in Mexico City. It’s a big place, where there are a lot of people who need a job. It’s the type of place where, at an early age, you try to be ahead of everybody in order to survive. My first experience as an entrepreneur there was repackaging old bottles of cologne that my dad had, and selling them at school. Kids would buy them, but eventually their mothers got upset, and called the teachers. That’s when my first business was shut down (laughs). I was six years old when I was doing all that.
On the more serious and focused side, I reached a point in my career where I decided that I did not want to keep working for someone else, and making them rich “per se". It felt like a waste of my talent. I wanted to do things for myself. That thinking is what turned me into an entrepreneur and business owner.
What was your motivation to move from being an entrepreneur to becoming an investor as well?
I’ve had a lot of exposure to smaller companies that are up to, or under 100 employees. What I’ve seen, is that there are a lot of these companies that just need help. Even a little help can allow them to grow a whole lot. For example, I’ve seen small construction companies that were grossing under $1 million a year, and with some of our investment funds they were able to land large government contracts, and grow to making $4 million a year. That little help goes a long way for small businesses.
What advice do you have for beginner entrepreneurs who receive funding, but may not know how to deploy it properly?
Here’s the thing - You have to have a plan! You need to know what to do with the money once you get it. You can’t sit on it for a day, or even a minute. You need to know ahead of time. You should be thinking, “OK, I’m going to use this money to increase inventory,” or “I’m going to purchase more equipment.” Whatever it may be, you just need to have a plan in place for that money. You should also know that the plan is going to have a return. The cost of that money, minus the return, is going to be your profit.
A lot of people don’t put a plan in place, and they end up going under. It’s no joke though! If you don’t have a plan for how to use your funding, you will not be able to get it back, and your business will end up in a much worse position than it was to start.
If you don’t have a plan for how to use your funding, you will not be able to get it back, and your business will end up in a much worse position than it was to start."
What’s your best piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are pitching their business in order to gain funding?
I repeat - Have a plan! Business owners are not perfect. We all have our different flaws. One of the ways to make things more efficient for your company is to have a good team. You need to have a good salesperson. You need to have a good marketer. You need to have a good CEO; someone who will make the right decisions at the right time. With all of those pieces in place you have a more complete organization. A full spectrum.
When someone pitches me something that has the full spectrum, it makes more sense because it is going to succeed. When you get a pitch from an individual who does not have a clear idea of what they want to do, you know that person will most likely misuse the funds they are seeking. Then they’re gonna be in trouble. As investors, we can smell when someone is gonna be in trouble. We can smell it from far away.
Can you share your thoughts on how to identify a company as a good investment opportunity?
Good companies have good structures. They’re just like a sports team. Every one of the players on a sports team, or every executives in a company needs to be good at what they do. If you have a good team, you have a good company. Obviously, the captain of the team, which is the CEO, has to be knowledgeable about every single piece of the company. They need to know how things operate and to be involved in it. When we see that, we know that’s a successful company. There is no “One-Man Company.” Sure, there have been cases in history where there are individual innovators who know how to do it all, but those are very very rare. We focus on companies that have a quality team.
In your opinion what are the major factors in building a successful startup?
First you need a good idea. You don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel, but it needs to be a good idea. After the idea you need to have knowledge of the product you are selling. Then, after the product knowledge, you need to build a team. Have someone who will focus on the selling, have someone who will focus on the marketing, which is one of the most important things these days. You should also have someone who knows digital media, and can drive sales that way. In addition to all that, you’ll have to understand the company’s financing and legal structure. You’ll need teamwork as well.
Once you have those key components in place, then you can move to step two - deploying the money. It will either be your own capital or someone else’s capital that you will be using to make things work. It will be a lot easier if you understand all of the things I mentioned.
As an investor, what are some of the things you wish more entrepreneurs understood?
The biggest thing that I see right now, is that business owners need to understand that revenue which comes into their company is not their money to spend. You have things like payroll, operating expenses, marketing expenses... etc. You have to put a plan in place and have projections for at least six months in advance. You also need to save your money whenever possible.
Just because you have $100k doesn’t mean you should blow through $80k in one month, and only be left with $20k for the next month. You need to have a growing plan to succeed. If you have no growing plan, and you’re just spending money because you think you’re making a lot of profit, you won’t succeed. What happens when you have a slow month or quarter? Then you’re back at square one.
What are some of the more interesting upcoming projects that you as an individual, and the company you work at involved in?
Here at Foundation Capital Partners we just acquired a company called Health Through Genetics or HTG. They are the distribution channel for a genetics lab CQUENTIA LABS (www.cquentia.com) In this joint venture, we create a test “Pgx", which is able to tell Patients/Physicians whether a medication could be an effective treatment for you or whether you could have side effects to that specific medication, increasing the risk to your current lifestyle. The product itself is called CQ Live. We’ve got some of the biggest hospitals in the country signing off on it and testing it right now.
You recently performed an appraisal of Maveriqs Academy, and provided a valuation on the company. As a seasoned investor, what did you see in Maveriqs Academy that was of true value?
I think Maveriqs Academy brings knowledge to anyone who is seeking it. You just need to go online and read it. You don’t need to do anything special - It’s already there! It brings the opportunity of putting business owners, investors, and really creative people closer to the everyday individual that wants to build a business. I strongly believe it’s important for portals like Maveriqs Academy to be out there.
We would like to express our gratitude for the opportunity to interview Bernardo. His insight into developing a plan for your business is incredibly valuable. What are your thoughts on what he has to say? Have you been seeking funding for your business and would like to engage with Bernardo? Please leave any questions or feedback in the comments below?
Maveriqs Profile: Danielle Blum, CEO & Founder, World Nativ
By Lamin Turay
Danielle Blum is a former globe-trotter. She spent time learning from new cultures, working in retreat centers, and as an English teacher. After a number of years overseas, Danielle returned to the United States with a deep desire to transform the many ideas she had generated throughout her travels into a tangible community, where others could both grow and learn. In working toward this goal, she discovered entrepreneurship, her own superpowers, and created a platform where people can collaborate with others in turning their vision into a reality.
She is currently the CEO & Founder of World Nativ. World Nativ is a community of entrepreneurs and forward-thinkers, that provides networking, education, and collaboration opportunities. From business accelerators to mastermind groups, and even adventure networking, World Nativ has it covered when it comes to connecting people who are interested in interacting with other progressive individuals. I spent some time speaking with Danielle about how she came up with the idea for her company, and what it takes to build a community centered around ideas and inspiration.
How did you begin your entrepreneurial journey?
It goes back a few years ago when I graduated from the university (University of Colorado at Boulder), and I decided to travel across the world. I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet, but I knew I wanted to see the world and get out of the structured lifestyle that I was in. Up to this point I knew exactly how my life was going to look. Everything was predictable, and I craved to see what was happening outside of the bubble that I was living in.
I went across the world, and ended up having this incredible, epic journey. I became an English teacher, I lived in Spain, I ended up living in Thailand, and then Cambodia. I had all of these unique experiences, meeting all of these interesting people who had different ideas about the world. When I came back, it had completely changed me. I wasn’t the same person anymore. I started developing these creative ideas. I was no longer used to “the structure”. I was now more used to a “flow-state” movement, and that’s when I started getting all these ideas of wanting to bring people together. I wanted to bring these ideas that I had learned through community together.
So about a few years ago I discovered entrepreneurship. It was when I wanted to start learning how to bring these ideas to life.
How did bringing those ideas to life change your life?
I’ve always really been driven by this vision, and it’s almost something that just came to me. I didn’t force the idea to come to me. It came through inspiration. That idea has transformed my life. It’s pulled me to bring this new vision of what I want to see in the world. It’s helped me overcome challenges and fear, because I see the vision and the end goal. It’s put me in the most interesting situations. I’m meeting all these unique people, and I’m learning a ton. It just changes you. Making that decision to bring this idea into reality.
What problem is it that you’re solving with your company World Nativ?
I’ve always been very aware - since I’ve been very young - of seeing other people’s emotions. When people are feeling pain or what have you. I’ve seen a lot of needs in the world. A lot of it came from my own personal needs, and really, I’m my own target market here with what we’re building with World Nativ. The first need that I really wanted to tap into was this lack of community.
I came home excited - inspired to write all these ideas from traveling around the world down, and there was no one I could share these ideas with. I wanted to bring the ideas to life, but I didn’t know how to make it happen. So there were two things, wanting to have people around me, the community piece. Seeing there was a lack of community, of people that were inspired to bring visions to life. Then the second need was having these ideas, but when you’re just starting out, you have no idea what you’re doing. You have this hunger to want knowledge, and want to be around people that have paved the way before me. I could learn from them, and take those steps. So those are the two needs that we meet.
So basically you’ve created a platform for your own expression, and to help other people out?
Ya, this platform is really to bring all these different ideas together, and all these different people, and really find what it is that you want to bring into the world. What are you passionate about? What makes you feel alive? Then surround you by these people that are really behind you, and supporting you on all levels. It’s been so exciting for me because as I’m growing in this journey, not only do I get to grow my business, but I get to learn alongside these amazing people who are becoming my friends and lifelong business partners. It’s been great for everybody!
How do you come up with the unique experiences that your company provides? Where do you get inspiration from?
I believe that, if you’re having unique experiences, constantly going out of your comfort zone, and you’re willing to try new things, this is where the inspiration will come from. When there’s that spontaneity.
A lot of these ideas have come because of the traveling, or going to events and meeting people, and having conversations that just lit something up for both of us. It’s interesting. I’m just getting used to this process, but I’ll get this movement of inspiration where my mind moves to the side, and ideas will just come through because something will instigate them to move through. Whether I meet someone new and we have conversations and it’s just like, “Oh my god! We need to create this!” Or within myself, I’m like, “Uggh! I wish this existed!”, “I wish I had people I could talk to!”, “I wish I could have this, but I would do it in a way that would be the most fun, and most exciting, and most adventurous, and also with the people that I want to be surrounded with the most.” Those are the questions I asked myself, and align that with the inspirational vision.
With all of the networking groups and experiential workshops out there, what makes what you provide to the entrepreneurial community unique?
Like I said, I love adventure! I love that adrenaline where, you’re doing something new. I would go to networking events, and I felt like I wanted something more. I wanted a deeper way to connect with people. So we’ve actually created really fun ways, through our collaborative masterminding, and our networking. We’ve had glow-in-the-dark night hikes. We have a beach bonfire coming up on October 27th where we’re bringing people together, and we’re gonna have music. It’s a unique way to meet people in an adventurous way.
How do you find experts in areas like digital marketing or business growth to bring into your World Nativ events? How do you connect with them?
I’m naturally a connector, and I love going out and meeting new people. I go to a lot of events, I’ve also worked in the past in digital marketing companies. I have a network of entrepreneurs that I’ve built because of this. Usually I’ll go find people that are really successful at what they’re doing. I have conversations with them, and want to learn more from them. I really want to make sure that they’re actually doing what they’re teaching, that they’re not just teaching something they’ve read about.
We have experts in business, but also experts in personal development. This all comes from me just going out and exploring. Going to events, going to workshops, going to personal development seminars, and finding people who, when I see them it’s like, “Wow! More people need to know about you!” So I bring them in, and I bring the community to connect them together.
What about people who are not as naturally gifted at connecting with others? What advice would you offer to them to level up their networking skills?
In the very beginning when I had just started, I was terrified to send emails or go to business meetings, because I was afraid no one would take me seriously. I didn’t have all the business knowledge. I am still growing in that area. I was so scared to reach out to people, but for me it was the vision and strong desire to want to bring this into the world. I’d go out there and just ask anyways. Even if my heart is beating. Just ask, and share your vision. Share your “Why”. I’ve seen that, if you lead with that, it inspires people to want to be a part of it. Just keep going. If they say no, then find someone else.
When you're going through challenges you want to make sure you really love what you're doing. That's made me really driven."
What keeps you driven and motivated? What makes you feel alive about being an entrepreneur?
To me it’s not only about the business. I love the game of entrepreneurship that I’m learning. It’s definitely really challenging, but what I love about it, is how it’s teaching me about myself, and it’s teaching me about life. It’s constantly pushing my comfort zones. In the past I didn’t like that. It didn’t feel comfortable. I actually enjoy now pushing those comfort zones, and challenging myself, and I love learning.
What are the results that you see when you step out of the box and push your comfort zones?
What I’ve learned is, if something really lights me up, and I know it’s a “Yes!”, and want to make it happen, and it’s a new idea or partnership that know I want to do, I say yes no matter what. Then I go forward even if I have fear, and I do. I still have fear all the time. I don’t think that goes away, but I push past the fear. It ends up expanding me . It opens me up even more, and gives me more confidence in what I’m doing.
It’s at the point now where I actually like the challenges. It’s fun. When I see something where I’m being asked to speak, or be interviewed, it’s like, “Oh gosh! I’m nervous to do this”. I do it! Because it scares the shit outta me. I like that now. It’s fun.
What is your superpower?
I didn’t realize these things until I started my business. Until I started to take that step, and just go forward with my vision. Then I started seeing the skills that I have. I love connecting people. I find this person (gestures) and this person (gestures), and think, “How can I bring them together?” I can also see potential in individuals, and I see their gifts. I really believe in what they can create. I feel passionate about wanting to help them bring that to life. So connecting and really seeing people.
How do you go about executing on the ideas that you have?
In the beginning I had no idea what I was doing. I would have an idea and think, “How the heck am I gonna make this happen?” So I tried to start small in what I knew I could do. I just put on one simple event. I was scared to do that, and made a couple mistakes, but I was like, “Ok. I know I can do this”. The biggest things you can do is have your vision, but you have to take action on it. Even though you’re gonna make mistakes, and you're gonna stumble. I do it anyways.
I also do a lot of self-education. I’m constantly reading. I’m learning about business. I’m learning about marketing. I’m talking with experts. If I want to create something, and have no idea how to do it, I look for someone who’s done it before and who’s been successful, and I see if I can model them. I think that’s one of the biggest points, is to model someone who’s done it before you. If you can’t figure out how to do it, that’s the best way.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve received upon your journey in entrepreneurship?
The best piece of advice I’ve received was from my older brother, who’s a very successful entrepreneur. I’ve been very lucky that, from the beginning, he’s been there to guide me. The one piece of advice he gave me was, “Go learn from people who are successful, and absorb their knowledge. Then take that knowledge and take action and implement it”. So go learn from people that are doing it.
I took that and really just ran with it. I found people who are creating. Who are actually doing what they’re teaching. I built a business around learning.
A piece of advice I would also give is, be around people who motivate you. It gets really challenging, and sometimes you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ve seen in our community when people are feeling down, to have that person next to you who is feeling inspired to keep you going, makes the community piece so important.
How do you overcome obstacles when they come your way?
I actually have this strange analogy, and probably more women can relate to this, but I believe having a business is kind of like having a baby. The baby is going to cry, you’re gonna have to wake up in the middle of the night and change diapers, and do all these things. But you don’t think about it or question the baby. You do it anyways because you love the baby. I’ve realized that about my business. I love it! I’m so passionate about it.
I go through a lot of crappy times, but I’m inspired by what comes through me, and what I see unfolding with moving this into action. Being really connected to what you’re creating, and having that be really connected to your “Why”. When you’re going to go through challenges you want to make sure you really love what you’re doing. That’s made me really driven.
Also, shifting your mindset to seeing obstacles as opportunities. So every time you hit a block it’s not a failure. Instead of thinking, “Oh shit! I can’t do this,” see it as, “OK. How can I do this?” Freeze every challenge that you have into a question, and start getting your mind to become solution-oriented. Most people will hit their obstacle or they fail one time, and may not try again. I think that you just keep asking that question, “How can I do this?” Now when I see an obstacle it’s never a matter of “I can’t”, It’s a matter of when and how it’s going to happen. Shifting your mindset to being solution-oriented and questioning is gonna help.
When you are looking to learn more, but don’t have the ability to connect with another individual, how do you self-educate?
I’m really lucky with the network that I’ve built in that my business partners are really high-level entrepreneurs or digital marketers. I reach out to my partners and the people that are actually training individuals in our community. So I do get that attention.
I’m also always listening to podcasts. I’m always listening to YouTube videos. I love Tony Robbins and Marie Forleo. I listen to people that I really look up to. I’m constantly listening or reading books. Always learning.
I should go to a World Nativ event if…?
If I have this vision that I want to bring to life, and I want support on that vision. I should come if I want to be surrounded by this epic community of people in a fun, adventurous type of way. And I want to explore myself, explore the world, and meet amazing people. You’re gonna have fun!
Where can we follow you and World Nativ?
Find us on Facebook @WorldNativ, our website is http://worldnativ.com/, and we’re on Instagram @WorldNativ.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to Danielle Blum for taking time out to speak with us about World Nativ, and also for being our very first Maveriqs Profile video interviewee. If any of you have any feedback or questions for our latest Maveriq fee free to leave them in the comments section below!
By Lamin Turay
In order to continue our series on beginner tips and techniques for utilizing some of the more popular social media platforms out there we'd now like to cover Instagram. For those of you who do not know, Instagram is the world's most popular image-based social media platform. By "image-based," we mean that the platform is essentially all user-submitted pictures. Similar to Facebook, Instagram has a "like" function, and also allows users the ability to "follow" others. In addition, Instagram is one of a couple social media platforms where hashtags are wildly powerful. Let's talk about why Instagram can be useful for you.
Back in 2012 Facebook, who we've already stated in a previous article is the largest social media platform on the planet, purchased Instagram for approximately $1 Billion in cash. The social media giant clearly saw something of value. What they saw was that millions of people had turned to Instagram for a chance to interact with a social community that filters out all of the noise, and simply allows for the display of visuals. Instagram is the social media platform for those who love visual communication. Because of this it's a great way to get your business message across with beautiful imagery. It allows you to immerse others in your company's vision by posting pictures, short video clips, and meaningful captions. It has a very streamlined feed that allows users to focus directly on the images/videos, and that's it.
Instagram is a great platform for attracting people to your business by letting them know what your all about. Whether it's a behind the scenes look at your operations, or amazing photos of your products, the sky is the limit to how you can utilize Instagram. One thing is clear though - you'll want to make sure you attract as many genuine followers as possible. We've outlined some techniques you can use whether your just getting started, or already have an Instagram account. With these tips you should be able to increase in followers and deliver a more targeted message to your Instagram audience.
1. Decide On A Theme - All of the most successful Instagram business accounts have a content theme. That is to say, they have a consistency to the types of imagery and videos that are posted on their feeds. When selecting a theme for your own account, be sure that it is in line with your company mission and presents your business in a manner that your target audience will be attracted to . For example, a company like Nasty Gal (with their 2.2 million Instagram followers), who produces vintage-style apparel and accessories for women, has loads of images of their target audience wearing their products in hip or trendy settings. It's about conveying a lifestyle for them. Another good example is AirBnB (with their 1.3 million followers). Their company is all about finding comfortable lodging and traveling the world. Their account is full of gorgeous imagery of unique places around the world, which inspires you to get out and see those places. Whatever theme you choose, be sure that it prompts your audience to take an action that aids your business goals.
2. Play The Hashtag Game - Instagram is similar to a lot of other social media platforms in that it utilizes hashtags (#'s) as a means of allowing simplified search. What this means is that you can add specific hashtags to your Instagram content, and users who search those hashtags will have an easier time finding your feed. If they like what they see they will follow you. The best way to take advantage of this, is to add hashtags that are directly related to who you want to attract. If you have a surf apparel company add hashtags about the ocean, waves , surfboards, and beaches. If you have a business coaching service add hashtags about professionalism, consulting, or business growth. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per comment on a post. We suggest adding your target hashtags to the first comment on your Instagram post instead of the post's caption. That way it won't clutter the image/video caption space. A great tool for finding the most popular hashtags on Instagram can be found here.
3. Don't Make It About Selling - One of the traps that a lot of social media business users fall into is believing that, since their social platform allows them access to a huge audience, they should use it to mass market products and services alone. This couldn't be further from the truth. The true power of social media, and a platform like Instagram, is that it allows other users and potential customers to understand your "Why" for being in business. It gives them a chance to connect with your company mission through captivating visual content. You should never use imagery that pushes a sell on somebody. Instead provide unique opportunities for your followers to see how you run your business, or post stunning images of your products. It's about communicating what makes your company special in the most effective visual manner. A company like Adidas (with their 11.1 million followers) does an excellent job of this. Their account shows athletes across multiple sports performing at the highest levels while wearing their products.
4. Participate In The Conversation - Instagram is no different than any other social media platform in that you get out what you put in. Being a participant in your target audiences community and conversations is vital to growing your following. At the most basic level you should always follow up with users who comment or direct message you on Instagram. This lets them know that you're there, and that you appreciate them spending time to interact with your brand. In addition to following up, you should also be liking and commenting on the Instagram accounts of other companies or individuals who you would like to attract to you brand. This is a great way to build loyalty, and set up potential "Shoutouts".
5. Set Up Shoutouts - Shoutouts are an activity where one Instagram user posts or reposts content from another user's account. It allows that users following to view a post that they may not have otherwise been able to see. It's also great for gaining access to a larger audience. If you have a smaller following, you can request that someone with a big following do a shoutout for you, and post some of your content. You can direct message other users about setting up a shoutout, but be strategic, as most users with huge amounts of followers tend to charge for this service. Use the #S4S hashtag to set up a shoutout. It's commonly known among experienced Instagram users.
Those are just a couple methods that you can use to get going with Instagram or continue to grow your following. What other techniques have you used with success in the past? We'd love to keep this conversation going and share useful tactics with our entire audience. Please share any useful tips in the comments below.