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When to register your trademark

One question I hear from a lot of first-time entrepreneurs is how they should go about registering their trademark. There area  few issues to consider here. First, let me state upfront that I’m not an attorney, not an expert in intellectual property, and I’m not giving anyone legal advice. But I hope that I can clarify the role of trademark in your company’s startup journey.

Interbrand's Top 8 brands of 2015

Interbrand’s Top 8 brands of 2015

Trademark Basics

In the United States, trademark is handled by the US Patent and Trademark Office. A trademark is the mark that helps customers to tell your product or service from those of your competitors. It’s an important part of your company’s brand identity. As with copyright, you don’t have to actually register your trademark to start using it. Unlike copyright (which costs $55 to register), it costs between $10,000 and $30,000 to register a Trademark. It’s so expensive because of the time needed to search for previous similar uses of the mark and the attorney’s fees required for the lengthy application process.

When to register

The biggest misconception I hear about trademarks is that you need to go through the extensive registration process before you begin selling products or services to customers. The truth is that this is NOT a preliminary step, and you can start doing business without registration.

I can almost hear the objection: “But what if someone rips off my trademark and starts using my before I can get it registered?” My response is that entrepreneurs shouldn’t rely on a trademark as the only differentiator between their products or services and those of their competitors.

If the only thing that makes you better than your competitors is a logo, then you don’t deserve to lead your intended market. Your goal as an entrepreneur is to create as many barriers to entry behind you as possible. Trademark will eventually be one of these, but you should also consider how to outperform your competition on cost, price, service, delivery, availability, quality, and usefulness.

It’s good to look better than your competition, but it’s preferable to BE better than your competition.

You should plan to register your trademark eventually. But your first task as an entrepreneur is to develop a product or service, get it into customers’ hands, start generating revenue, and focus of being the best (or cheapest or fastest) at what you do. Some of these tasks require money, but they all require hustle. And hustle is both free and rare.

Get out there and make it happen!

*Note: Below is a video that explains all the details of Trademarks and registration, straight from the US Patent and Trademark office. They provide the best technical guidance available. The video IS almost 42 minutes long, so strap in if you plan to watch the entire thing.

Pitching Your Idea

I spent today watching college entrepreneurs (including Stay Grindin’, who I’m coaching) give elevator pitches to potential investors. After watching business ideas all day, I have a few observations:

  1. Funding is not a rare commodity, but validated, vetted business ideas are.
  2. It’s vitally important to know the pain you’re solving for your customers. If you can talk to them, do it. If you feel the pain, make sure you’re not the only one.
  3. Scale, and your ability to multiply a business model to scale, matter a lot.
  4. Huge dreams are okay, but only if you can prove you have the ability to execute on them. How do you prove this? Partner with credible people who bring high-level skills to your team. If your idea is stupid, but you’ve been able to talk five PhD-level experts into leaving their jobs to join your team, I will take a hard look at it.

The talented student entrepreneurs I saw today encouraged me about the future, and reminded me that taking public steps toward your dreams is a great way to get closer to success. Take our quiz and let us know if you want to take steps toward your success!

Pricing Magic: Coming Soon!

Entrepreneur Working on her Pricing PlanAll entrepreneurs have to make decisions about pricing. We’ve learned some lessons the hard way, and we’ve talk hundreds of entrepreneurs to price for profit – the easy way!

We’re producing a kit that distills our pricing best practices into an easy-to-follow video, an e-book, and a worksheet to help you with pricing.

We’re really excited to let you in on the secret. Want to hear when it’s ready?




Why Craft Startups?

Why do we think of starting companies as a form of craftsmanship? Great question!

Humans are made to make things. We do it for fun, for pay, and to express our humanity. Craftsmanship is the perfect blend of art, science, and genius. Entrepreneurship is a craft: the meeting of creativity (art), practices (science), and inspiration (genius). We can help you become an entrepreneurial craftsman: someone with the skills, knowledge, and tools to create the business of your dreams!

Each of the products we offer contain some portion from each element: art, science, and inspiration. Without the art, there’s little room for employing the skills of creativity. Without the science, the material is just a lot of feel-good fluff. Without the inspiration, the art and science can be a grind and you forget why you’re doing this. We want to make people who who are both empowered AND inspired, who engage in the entrepreneurial process because it’s a beautiful expression of what it means to be human.

New Products Coming

Welcome to Shinn Business! We’re working on Startup kits for different kinds of businesses, checklists to help your business start with a great foundation, and moneymaking ideas to help you take your business to the next level. We love empowering entrepreneurs!

Our first product is ready: it’s a presentation and a toolkit to help entrepreneurship educators run microbusiness experiments, taking the results back into the classroom. Check it out here.

While we work on new products, fill out this survey to let us know how we can best serve you. Or fill out the form below to get in tough with us. Happy enterprising!

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