4 Reasons Why Every Startup Needs to Create Its Own Blog

– Originally published through Voices of The MSU Hatch – 

As an agency-experienced PR student at Michigan State University, I’ve grown to understand and appreciate the many benefits that well-groomed blog content can offer organizations both big and small. In fact, I came up with the idea for this blog channel you are reading now and act as its editor.

It’s rather easy to start a blog — create a new tab on your company’s website or make an account on Medium. However, you’ll need to give people a reason to spend time with your brand, and there’s only one way to actualize this phenomenon: by creating appealing content.

For a startup, blogging comes in many shapes and sizes. But the process begins with determining who your audience includes and thinking critically about the topics they’ll find most intriguing. For example, our blog’s primary audience consists of young entrepreneurs and early-stage startup owners, as well as anyone who’s involved with entrepreneurship at Michigan State. The goal of our blog is to not only provide useful insight and ideas about starting a business, but to tell stories from The Hatch and MSU Entrepreneurship that readers will find interesting. In the end, we want to increase student and alumni involvement in campus entrepreneurship, as well as position our organization as a fresh source of startup-related guidance.

A glimpse of what some of our readers may look like. Pictured are the winners of the 2018 GreenLight Michigan Business Model Competition, hosted by Spartan Innovations. (Photo: John McGraw Photography)

Thought leadership, employee profiles, how-tos, features, company news and updates, opinion pieces, and more are all popular forms of writing that your startup’s blog could embody. Among these, thought leadership is one of the most widely adopted themes. It involves exploring trends throughout the larger industry landscape that your business competes in and providing original insight regarding these attitudes or behaviors. (This blog is considered a thought leadership piece.)

One effective way to shape your content focus is to do some research and explore your competitors’ blogs to discover what they’re writing about.

~ Scroll down to discover an outstanding list of blog post options. ~

Now that you have some sense of where to start when producing compelling blog content, you may be wondering, “Why should I make such an effort in the first place?” Here are four reasons to consider.

1. To Increase Site Traffic and Generate Leads

First and foremost, blogging will increase traffic to your site or other owned page and generate leads and sales opportunities. As a consumer, do you frequently visit a brand’s site unless you’re interested in learning more about the company and what product/service it offers? For most, the answer is no.

A well-written blog can change that.

Although there are plenty of marketing tactics focused on generating leads, very few are more organic than a blog. This kind of content marketing will allow you to capture attention through a distinct avenue and engage individuals using something more unique than boring product information. If readers are intrigued by your writing, they’ll be enticed to browse your site and discover what else is available.

To ensure you reach the right people, however, it’s critical to craft blogs with the interests of your audience in mind.

2. To Shape the Image and Voice of Your Brand

As a startup, differentiating your brand is of the utmost importance.

Entrepreneurs need to do everything in their power to positively position their brand in the mind of a consumer, whether it’s the first or fiftieth impression. This is especially true for a young business attempting to enter a highly competitive industry. By blogging in a consistent and genuine manner, you can shape the image and voice of your company to reflect its ideas and values.

Look at the attitudes that summarize your company’s culture and implement some of these aspects into your blog content. If you’re a more serious, down-to-earth team, your writing should reflect these beliefs. If your team is unconventional and somewhat goofy, don’t be afraid to give readers a sense of the way you collectively think and act.

Lastly, try to focus on subjects that will strengthen and reflect various elements of your mission. Understand the mutual convictions you share with your audience. In addition, make an effort to write in an understandable and friendly manner, and avoid using a lot of generic industry buzzwords as these won’t truly distinguish your ideas.

3. To Demonstrate Industry-Relevant Knowledge and Insight

As I mentioned earlier, thought leadership is one of the most popular blog themes for businesses of all kinds — and for good reason. Demonstrating an attitude of forward-thinking shows that your business is actively exploring the premier trends and next big innovations within your industry. Not only does it reflect in-depth knowledge, it positions your brand as a leader and your blog as a progressive source of information.

Plus, as a young startup owner, developing thought leadership pieces will help you learn more about trends and top-of-mind topics that are shaping your industry. By refining your own perspective on best practices and important shifts, you’ll be prepared to answer tough questions about how your startup is prepared for the future when it comes time to pitch your idea to potential investors or participate in an interview.

To gain a better comprehension of thought leadership content and what it looks like, check out these 10 awesome examples.

4. To Encourage Creativity Among Employees

Although there are plenty of business benefits to blogging, it should always act as a fun, creative outlet where founders and employees alike can express originality and hone their writing skills. Being an entrepreneur or working for a startup can involve many hectic and tedious activities, but taking the time to create a unique piece of writing is a perfect way to remain productive while refocusing energy.

Not only will this help your startup achieve its content goals, employees will feel an enhanced level of satisfaction and creativity. They may even feel inspired to share their work on their own social media.

Furthermore, writing is a powerful skill in business communications. Consistent blogging will significantly advance your writing ability and, therefore, further the success of your startup and your career.

Read more about why writing in business is so important.

It takes time to realize the full potential of your startup’s blog, but remember to enjoy the journey and celebrate symbolic milestones.

Now, get to writing!

~ Over 70 different blog content options to spur your motivation ~

A Team of MSU Student Developers Created 4 Apps in Only 2 Months — And They’re About to Do It Again

The MSU Hatch Dev Shop team. Pictured from left to right: Aakash Bhargava (‘18), Gustavo Fernandes (‘18), Yash Vesikar (‘20), Chess Luo (‘19), and Simeon Goolsby (‘18)

Continue reading “A Team of MSU Student Developers Created 4 Apps in Only 2 Months — And They’re About to Do It Again”

Dreamers Turned Doers: How Michigan State University is Incubating the Next Generation of Student Entrepreneurs

– Originally published through Voices of The MSU Hatch – 

If you ask any successful entrepreneur about their journey toward triumphant innovation, they will undoubtedly reference someone who provided them with vital guidance along the way.

For Bill Gates, it was Warren Buffett. For Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs.

Yet the majority of aspiring entrepreneurs don’t have access to a revolutionary billionaire. And because starting a business involves many different kinds of expertise and all sorts of uncertainties, it can be difficult to find people and organizations committed to helping one realize their vision for a better tomorrow. Even at the most fundamental levels.

However, this is not the case at Michigan State University.

Thanks to a growing number of resources focused on entrepreneurship and innovation, such as The MSU Hatch and Spartan Innovations, there has never been a better time for MSU students to make the transition from a dreamer to a doer — no Mark Zuckerberg needed.

The MSU Hatch (aka, The Hatch) is a co-working space designed for student entrepreneurs. It’s where teams find freedom to explore their ideas, conduct research, collaborate, and develop their startups. But they are not alone in their exploration — The Hatch also provides hands-on mentorship from entrepreneurship experts as well as a fleet of business, marketing, design, and development interns. In fact, these interns are students themselves, sharing the same passion for innovation that drives student entrepreneurs and employing their distinct skills to help peers achieve necessary goals.

But this group of nearly twenty interns represents only one part of a teamconnected to Spartan Innovations, the organization that manages and operates The Hatch. And herein lies a great asset for MSU student entrepreneurs: direct access to individuals dedicated to connecting them with capital funding opportunities, mentorship programs, alumni lectures, networking events, and much more. So, regardless of a startup’s proposed direction — success is the priority.

The main entrance of Spartan Innovations.

Paul Jaques, Director of Student and Community Engagement at Spartan Innovations, was one of the first people brought on board to mold The Hatch and Spartan Innovations and expand the entrepreneurship program back in 2012.

Paul Jaques

Previously, Jaques was working as an Internship Developer for MSU Career Services, where he doubled as an unofficial liaison between students who had business ideas and the external entrepreneurial resources they needed.

As an entrepreneur himself, he possessed valuable connections into the venture world. And by having his hand on the pulse of a budding student community of entrepreneurs, Jaques was a natural fit for the challenge of building Spartan Innovations from the ground up. (In many ways, Spartan Innovations developed similarly to a startup and remains one to this day.)

Although there was no exact blueprint for this type of organization, other universities, such as Harvard, Stanford and The University of Michigan, were also developing their own entrepreneurship programs. So, Jaques began researching how these universities were forming their plans and what types of strategies were prevailing. In addition, he began cultivating relationships with professors from both MSU and elsewhere who were passionate about entrepreneurship, gathering insight on effective ways to outline such a diverse professional escapade.

After assembling an initial foundation of knowledge, Jaques began to reach out to his target audience — MSU students. The goal was to compile a better understanding of their initial thoughts regarding entrepreneurship, helping to determine what was needed to spark enthusiasm and encourage achievement.

“Right away there was a huge interest from students who were getting involved with the Entrepreneurship Association and wanting to learn innovation and start companies,” said Jaques.

TempoRun, an app that enabled runners to categorize music based on tempo and create playlists complimentary to their various running paces, was one of the first startups from The Hatch and Spartan Innovations to see notable success. In fact, the five MSU students who made the app won a student startup pitch competition at SXSW; allowing them to fully develop and launch their product.

Indeed, the stage was set for other students to start building their own companies.

Then, in 2014, The Hatch underwent major renovations stemming from an influx of student interest, doubling in size and adding amenities. A sign of things to come, the appearance of the space continues to change as students offer new ideas on how it should look and what should be included.

“What we thought we had then has evolved every year,” Jaques said.

Some of the more obscure items to make the cut: space chairs, standing desks, a 3D printer, ping pong table, gumball machine, and kegerator.

For the more traditional types — a coffee maker.

A panorama view of The Hatch.

As The Hatch and Spartan Innovations continue to grow, additional resources are being implemented for students who are interested in entrepreneurship.

Intro nights, workshops, and Innovate State speaker events offer engaging, yet casual opportunities for students to learn and network with peers, faculty, and successful alumni entrepreneurs (not to mention occasional free food and drinks). You can view a full calendar of events by clicking here.

Another resource is Conquer Accelerator, which recently finished its second-ever cohort season. In partnership with The Hatch and Spartan Innovations, Conquer has become one of the premier business acceleration programs in Michigan, helping startups, many of which are founded by MSU students, overcome hurdles by providing $20k in funding and ten weeks of thorough hands-on mentorship and training.

There’s also a new dev shop competition hosted by The Hatch where students pitch their ideas to a team of in-house app developers, and the top four to five ideas are chosen for development. As it happens, the initial round of pitching yielded a whopping 19 business ideas!

When asked about The Hatch and Spartan Innovations and the role it’s played in shaping his business, Matthew Eleweke ’17, founder of Sympl., said, “I had no prior experience with running a business, LLC paperwork, business plans, executive summaries, or anything like that. Spartan Innovations introduced me to these things and provided me with network connections who helped me learn the things needed to move from idea phase to functioning business. If you are driven and are willing to put in the work, there is a lot you can learn from the Spartan Innovations program.”

Matthew Eleweke

Like Sympl., there have been many other novel startups to come out of The Hatch and Spartan Innovations since its inauguration over five years ago, including: Conecter, The York Project, Protection, GoSpot, Prndl, and Vade Nutrition, among others.

However, getting involved with The Hatch and Spartan Innovations provides more than the opportunity to blaze a trail of entrepreneurship. It also empowers students to learn unique business skills and gain valuable experience, preparing them for future career work. Many former student entrepreneurs who have gone on to land jobs at intriguing startups and other incredible organizations credit their participation in MSU’s entrepreneurship program as a key step in their professional development.

Now, it’s your turn. If you have an idea for a product, service, app, or are simply interested in learning more about how you can get involved with entrepreneurship at MSU, visit The Hatch website. Also, did you know there’s a university-wide entrepreneurship and innovation minor? Click here to learn more, and don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter!

You could even stop by and say hello. The Hatch and Spartan Innovations are located on the third floor of 325 E. Grand River Ave. in East Lansing.

We can’t wait to collaborate.