the rise of the wantrepreneur

Most of you won’t know this, but I have a visceral hatred of joining in.  I’m not sure what it stems from psychologically, but it’s a feeling shared by my sisters.   Maybe because there are four of us siblings and my mum’s one of eight, so between our extended family, friends etc., we’ve got a capacity rent-a-crowd going on without any effort at all.  No joining required.

It’s not that I can’t be sociable.  It’s just that I hate forced fun.  Or the sort of verging-on-hysterical collective enthusiasm that seems to spawn from spending the weekend with a bunch of strangers on any sort of “teamwork” exercise.

All told, it’s a miracle I made it to Launch48.  I suspect that The Mack may have slipped something into a glass of milk to get me there, B.A. Baracus style.  I pity this fool…

But make it I did (I may have turned up a little late… Ha! Take that, organisers, you’re not the boss of me…).  I spent a total of 28 hours over a weekend in the company of strangers, in a room with no windows.  And I paid for the privilege.

Launch48: the concept 

Here’s their schtick:  willing punters pitch ideas for tech/online businesses on the Friday night; you pick a team to join and spend all day Saturday and Sunday developing your idea, building your prototype and launching it to critical acclaim.

It’s run by a team of facilitators and mentors with different business backgrounds and skill sets to give you guidance (for which read idea-shredding) over the course of the weekend.  It’s part of Oxygen Accelerator, a scheme that takes nascent start-ups and provides a framework and seed funding to grow their business to the next level.  The idea being that Launch48 funnels great talent or great ideas into a ready-made incubator system.

There’s no specific methodology taught here – it’s not like Lean Startup Machine which is all about the process – it’s more about learning as you go and relying on the skills of your team members and input from the mentors.

the rise of the wantrepreneur 

The thing that struck me the most over the weekend was that it confirmed this growing feeling I’ve had since deciding to go into business for myself.  That entrepreneurialism is now a mainstream aspiration.  And every man, woman and dog is trying their hand at it.  There’s even a term for them (me): wantrepreneur.  Catchy.

And the fact is, the barriers to becoming an entrepreneur (particularly an online entrepreneur) have never been lower.  I’ve added links at the end of this post to various projects that were launched over the Launch48 weekend. This shows what can be created in a really short period of time, with limited resource and pretty much zero capital.  Pretty impressive.

Now some of you will be reading this thinking – great, the internet has democratised what was once the preserve of the rich, or the well-connected, or the MBA graduate.  And I agree that there is something cool in entrepreneurship being more accessible.

But I can’t help but feel that maybe Elvis has left the building.  Or is at least on his way to the loo….

My concerns are threefold:

  • It’s too easy to ignore the doubts:  because it’s so relatively simple and cheap to translate an idea into an online presence, people forget that just because you can create an app for something or create an online service or product, it doesn’t mean that you have a business.

My Launch48 team was as guilty of this as anyone.  We created a web-based app to help people be more organised.  We identified a niche market for that product and it had some useful functionality.  But when we looked closer, the problem that our product was designed to solve really wasn’t that big a problem for our target market.  And for our affiliate revenue model to work, we needed a lot of customers to use our product. Bottom line: if customers don’t really care about the problem you’re trying to solve, then that’s a hobby project, not a business.  I’m out.

  • It’s a crowded marketplace: nowadays, you do any kind of competitor analysis on your idea and chances are Google is going to spit out a gazillion hits of people all doing something similar in your target space.  Some of the mentors I spoke to about this said they weren’t worried.  That the best ideas, if well-executed, will always rise to the top.

I’m not so sure.  I don’t think it’s enough to do something well.  I think that from the customer perspective, all that competitor noise in the market is a huge distraction.  It diverts attention away from your idea.  It turns customers off.  Unless you’ve got a truly unique angle or you’re in another league to your competition, to them you’re just another [insert your product or service here].

  • It seduces you into thinking building a business is easy:  I worked for a company that grew to four times its size over the four years I was there.  I’ve seen first-hand just how difficult it is to build a sustainable, dynamic business from scratch.  Getting your idea to some tangible form is barely step one.  Turning that into a real business is the rest of the story.  I like that there are programmes like Oxygen Accelerator that try to help fledgling startups find their feet, because it’s pretty brutal out there if you’re trying to do this alone.

I like to think that I’ve picked up a bit of experience over the past 10 years.  And I still don’t feel equipped to run a real business.  I know that it will be a continuous learning curve and I’m fully prepared to fall flat on my face.  I’m all in favour of enthusiasm and having a go.  But I think there’s wisdom in knowing when to get help from more experienced people and learning to identify when it’s time to pull the plug, rather than pivot.

wanna join in?

If you’re thinking of attending a Launch48, Lean Startup Machine, Startup Weekend or any of the other workshops that are springing up all over town, here’s my guide to help you decide if it’s for you:

It’s for you:

– if you just want to see what this start-up lark’s all about;

– if you want to meet enthusiastic fellow wantrepreneurs and share ideas in an open, encouraging and facilitated environment;

– if you’ve got a burning idea and want to test it without spending much money and by using resources (designers, developers, mentors) that you might not otherwise have access to.  One of the Launch48 teams had a fairly well-developed idea and they used the weekend primarily to get developers to help them with A/B testing of various websites.

– if you’re not quite ready to work on your own idea, but want to try out some of the methods for validating business ideas – essentially a trial run before you go and do it for yourself.  You’ll pick up tips (using launchrock for a free landing page instead of paying for unbounce; using Amazon Web Services for pretty much everything your baby web app might need) that’ll save you time and money.

– if you want to talk to people who are already living the tech start-up dream.  The mentors are encouraging but realistic.  They’re not there to humour you, they’re there to challenge your hypotheses, test your assumptions and make you think like an entrepreneur.  They don’t hold back and they don’t sugar coat their feedback.  But they do know their onions and they’re more than happy to share their knowledge and experience.

– if you want to get discounts on useful products and services.  All of the weekend bootcamps provide participants with a great range of discounts, worth £thousands, on useful services – google adwords, free hosting, design services etc.

What it’s not:

– it’s not the place to come if you’re determined to work only on your idea.  We lost around 1/3 of participants after the Friday night.  They came, they pitched, their ideas weren’t chosen and they didn’t bother coming back.  If that were me, I  would be taking that feedback seriously.  If you can’t sell it to a bunch of eager wantrepreneurs, you might want to take another look at your idea, buddy…

– it’s not the place to find developers (although apparently Launch48 in Croatia is that place).  Developers were outnumbered by business peeps by about 8 to 1.  We didn’t have a developer in our team, so don’t come to one of these events expecting it to be a hackathon.  It’s not.

– it’s not the place to come to learn all the steps in creating and launching a tech start-up.  There are no teaching sessions – you get on with it as best you know how.  If skills are what you need, Launch48 has just set up some one day practical workshops for specific skills (e.g. customer discovery; methods for validating ideas etc.) or look at General Assembly‘s programme of workshops and webinars.

– if you already have great business experience, then it’s not the environment to pick up any radical new business skills.  The same principles as apply to any business apply to tech startups.  I think that the participants who got the most out of the weekend were those who had great ideas but perhaps lacked some of the business-planning and execution experience that the mentors could provide.

If anyone has any questions on Launch48 or Lean Startup Machine, then please post in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank the Launch48 organisers for putting up with my world-weary cynicism, general bolshiness and unsolicited “feedback”.

A few of the Launch48 London Teams:

Prima Christina

Christina Rinaldi is one of those beautifully cool creative types that, had I met her when I was younger, I probably would have found her pretty intimidating.

As it is, when you reach your mid 30s and kind of settle down with yourself a little, you realise that most of those cool, smart, funny, successful girls that you were scared of … well, turns out they were a bit scared of you too.    So that whole period of angst, insecurity and bravado throughout your 20s…?  Just a big ol’ misunderstanding, girls.  Phew!  Glad we worked that one out so quickly.

So, Christina is a former colleague of mine.  She is warm, funny, sassy and big-hearted.  She gives great compliments on outfits (and means them; and has great style, so they count for double).  She knows where to find the best Tom Collins(es) in New York and she’ll laugh square in your face when you’re surprised that your lobster roll is served cold.

Floral Manicure by Christina Rinaldi for the Jewelry Designer Angie Marei of Diaboli Kill Ring

Christina is the perfect example of how to go it alone.  She has the vision and the confidence that she’ll figure it out as she goes.  She’s not afraid of making mistakes and she has a work ethic that puts me to shame.  All of which is why she is well on her way to establishing a successful business for herself, whilst I’m still writing about it!

In addition to being a sought-after creative director, Christina is a phenomenal nail artist and has just launched her own range of nail polish in collaboration with The New Black, retailing at Sephora stateside.

Prepare to have nail envy…

One of Christina’s nail polish sets for The New Black

keep it lean …. how to develop a lean start up business

1994 price guide to Star Wars collectibles

The Mack is one of those guys whose CV starts at age 8: picking up unsold comics from the school summer fete and reselling them to his mates.  This was followed by a stint in events and catering (holding discos in his parent’s garage and selling orange squash and mum’s home-baked biscuits to the little ravers) and personal services (car washing).  His career peaked aged 15, when he made a killing in commodities trading: flogging his friends’ classic star wars figures to collectors old enough to know better.

It was one of those early conversations when we were getting to know each other.   It highlighted the difference between The Mack’s instinctive capitalist tendencies and my more liberal leanings.  He was making money swindling his school-mates out of their once-cherished toys.  I had a block printing press, which I used to create a free local paper for the kids in my street.  I didn’t even sell advertising.

So, you can imagine, he was pretty excited to discover that Lean Startup Machine, an Apprentice-style workshop, was coming to London.  Over the course of a weekend, this workshop aims to teach you how to apply the Lean Startup principles to get your product to market faster and more effectively.  Let’s see how he got on…

the Lean Startup philosophy

The term “Lean Startup” comes from a book by Eric Ries: The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.

The philosophy is based on creating an efficient ideation / assumption / validation / modification workstream.  In simplest terms, it’s all about getting customer feedback at an early stage in the product development life-cycle and using that feedback to make a more market-ready product.

Sure, you may think that your idea is genius.  Foolproof.  A dead cert.  But the fact is, you simply don’t know.  Those pesky consumers are a fickle bunch.  And Mr Ries doesn’t want you wasting your precious time and hard-earned money developing a product if you haven’t checked if anyone wants to buy it.  What a nice man. 

learn to be lean

The guys at Lean Startup Machine have taken this philosophy and turned it into a step-by-step process.  Their workshop involved pitching a new product, working in teams to find the best ways to test consumer feedback to the product and modifying the product, target consumer or delivery method in line with that feedback.   

This makes sense to me.  As much as I loved the film Field of Dreams as a kid, I get that in today’s world of overwhelming consumer choice, the days of “build it and they will come” are long gone.  No more dreaming.  Just build what they want.

the validation game

The entire process revolves around a validation board.  It looks like this:

You can download a copy of the validation board at and there’s a great tutorial on how to use it here.

It is deceptively simple.  You work with post-it notes, fat marker pens and a limit of 10 minutes per task and 5 words per post-it.

When The Mack described it to me, I was pretty dismissive.  My reaction involved a lot of eye rolling and “yeah, yeah, yeahs”.  And then I tried to apply it to a business idea I had.  I didn’t get out of box one.  I couldn’t define my customer or the problem that my idea was supposed to solve.  Like pretty much everyone, I’d started with a solution based on a whole load of untested assumptions.

Back to the validation board I went.  And this time I got The Mack to walk me through it:

Step 1 – Define your Hypotheses:  Who is your customer? (note, there could be more than one customer, e.g. if your idea has both a B2B and a B2C element to it: where you have a 2 or 3 sided customer group, you always validate the riskier side first).  What problem do you think that customer has?  Write these down (in max 5 words) and stick them on the board.

Step 2 – Define your Core Assumptions:  What assumptions are you making about the customer or their problem?  You need to get pretty basic with these – you are looking for assumptions that you’ve made in your mind that, if you’ve got them wrong, your business idea fails.  At this stage, all of your assumptions should be around whether or not the problem that you’ve identified actually exists for those customers.  If your initial assumptions are around things like “do they like my brand name?” or “is this the right pricing model?”, you’ve got ahead of yourself.  Write your core assumptions down (in max 5 words) and stick them on the board.

Step 3 – Identify the Riskiest Assumption:  So now you look at your 5 or 6 core assumptions that you’ve jotted down on the board.  You look for the single riskiest assumption. i.e., which is the assumption with the highest level of uncertainty?  This will normally be the key assumption on which your business idea hangs.  The reason for testing this one first is obvious.  If you’ve got this one wrong, then you’re dead in the water and all of the other assumptions are irrelevant.  Move this post-it note into the Riskiest Assumption box.

Step 4 – Decide how to Test that Assumption:  There are 3 methods for testing.

  • Exploration (interviewing target customers; making sure you ask open, not leading questions – and remember, you’re asking them about their “problem” not necessarily your perceived solution).
  • Pitching (getting customers to “buy” into your product via a dummy landing page, email sign-up, advert or similar).
  • Concierge (actually delivering your product to a small number of customers to find out what makes them happy so they’ll spread the word).

Clearly, they get progressively more time consuming and costly as you move from Exploration to Concierge, so you start with the cheapest and easiest route available to you.  Write down your method for testing your assumption in the Method box.

Step 5 – Define your Minimum Success Criteria:  This is pretty tricky.  For the assumption that you are testing, you need to decide what is the minimum threshold of validation.  Write down your minimum success criteria.  

The Mack said that a lot of the people at the workshop set their thresholds too high and wrote off their businesses as failures when they weren’t.  I would say that whatever threshold you set (for example, you develop a landing page for your product and you want at least 50 people to register their interest within 24 hours), if you don’t hit that threshold, take a moment to think about what that actually means.  It may not be total invalidation, you just may need to test again with slight tweaks to your method or you may have set your threshold artificially high.  However, don’t dismiss evidence of failure just because you’re desperate for your idea to be proved “right” – that defeats the entire purpose of this process.

Step 6 – Get out of the Building!!!:  This is where you stop thinking and start doing.  Execute your testing method (exploration, pitch, concierge).  This doesn’t have to take long – it can be a matter of hours or days.  Remember, the workshop is taught over a weekend.  The message they drill home is that it’s better to move quickly and do something than to spend hours overthinking it.  Get that feedback fast and make sure you’re talking to the right customer base.  For this purpose, friends and family do not count.  Do not include them in your results tally.

Depending on the outcome of your testing, when compared against your minimum success criteria, you will have validated or invalidated your assumption.  Move your post-it from “Riskiest Assumption” to either the “Invalidated” or “Validated” box.

Step 7 – Pivot or Test the Next Riskiest Assumption: If you’ve met your MSC, great.  Now identify your next riskiest assumption from the remaining post-its in your core assumptions box and go through the same process.  Do that until you’ve successfully validated all of your core assumptions.  All successfully validated? Now go make some money….

If your assumption was invalidated, don’t panic.  This is the whole purpose of the exercise, to identify obstacles to your product’s success.  Here’s where it gets interesting, so pay attention.  You now need to pivot.  And by Pivot, they mean more than just a minor tweak to your product.  A pivot refers to a real change to either your customer hypothesis (i.e. you were targeting the wrong customers) or to your problem hypothesis (i.e. the problem you identified doesn’t actually exist) or both (through your testing, you’ve identified a new problem for a different set of customers).  Write down your new pivot hypotheses under 1st Pivot.

And then you start the process again using these new pivoted hypotheses, so you go through steps 2 – 6 and see where you end up.  You may have validation or you may need to pivot again.  It really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you move quickly through the process.  Assumptions are validated and you build on them or they are invalidated and you move on to the next.  And if ultimately your great idea proves not to be so great, well you’ll have saved yourself plenty of time, cash and heartache in finding out.

why this changes things for me

I’ve said before that I don’t consider myself a natural entrepreneur.  I get ideas, but most times I dismiss them.  Usually after having tried to think of every reason under the sun why they will fail.  I’ve found that my biggest stumbling block has been going from idea to any form of execution.  I’m using my own money for my business ventures and I’m hesitant to spend money when I don’t have a roadmap.

Which is why this lean startup process appeals to me.  I like having a method to my madness.  I particularly like having a visual method that is very practical, focused and has a rapid turnaround.  I’m a bit impatient.  I want to know quickly if an idea has legs.

I’m finding it a little slow-going to get to grips with it this first time, but following the steps has given me so much structure to my thought process and it’s actually made me enthusiastic again for some of my dormant ideas.  I’m heading to Launch48 this weekend, so I’m going to test it out on a bunch of strangers and see if the machine works.  And if it doesn’t, I’ll just pivot.

cocktail hour … day … week

Ok, so there are 2 reasons why I’ve waited until today to tell you that it’s London Cocktail Week this week (till Sunday 14th October):

  1. I’ve got a cold, can’t taste a thing and haven’t been able to leave the house and I just couldn’t bear the thought of you all having fun without me; and
  2. I really don’t approve of drinking on a school night.

But now I feel bad.  So in addition to telling you that they have loads of cool mixology events (including free tasting sessions, and £4 cocktails at selected bars around town if you pick up a wristband in Covent Garden – see the calendar here), I’m also going to tell you that you can get a free 2 month trial of the Taste London card (which gives you 2-4-1, 50% off and other offers at tons of restaurants) via this link,

Am I forgiven?

putting off procrasti-nation: part II

Part I in this series focused on the positives of procrastination as a way of allowing ideas to germinate in the headspace you create when doing very little.

Which is great, until I remember that just sitting around having ideas without acting on any of them is basically loafing. And it’s not helping my cash-flow.

But what to do? I am preternaturally disposed toward hibernation. Yes: in October. How then to motivate myself to get my arse in gear and start a business, when winter is practically upon us and I should probably concentrate on keeping warm..??

3 task challenge

Well, over dinner the other night, I casually mentioned to my gentleman friend* (as my great-aunt Lizza calls him) that there were a few things I wanted to get done this week for my business stuff. He shared a few of his own.  We decided it’d be a good idea for each of us to email the other with our top 3 tasks each Monday, with a deadline of Thursday to complete them or chase their progress.

If that sounds a little too 90s New Age self-help:

Bleurgghh.  Don’t worry.

This is gamification, baby.  You versus me.  Boy against girl.  Pure, raw, primal competition. Type A against Type A+ (me, natch). Grrrrrrrrrr. Bring it.

See. It works. You’re already feeling pumped up and ready to take on the world. Or at least to send that email you’ve been putting off for weeks.

Let me tell you, I got more done on that Monday than in the two weeks prior. And a Monday following a boozy, lost weekend, no less … unheard of.  And the gentleman friend*?  Well, last time I checked, he was consoling himself with his first loser podium place.  Better luck next time, punk.

So post your 3 tasks for this week on this blog. Then pick yourself a mutual motivator – it needs to be someone who will be merciless in their mockery if you bail – and set that weekly email.

You need to send your list of 3 tasks by 11am on a Monday and follow up with your buddy on Thursday.

Let the games begin!

* Ps.  I asked him what he’d like to be called for the purposes of this blog and he said “The Mack Daddy”.  Class.  Who am I to deny a man such a simple pleasure…?  So from now on, “The Mack” it shall be.

I refused to add a photo of Mark Morrison.

For those of you unaware what “Mack Daddy” means, here’s a helpful definition:

© MerriamWebster

time rich cash poor … where to find fun on the cheap

Now that they’ve got over the fact that I no longer work for a living, my friends have started to express concern for how I manage to fill my time.  I think they have visions of me sitting blank-eyed and wild haired, alone on my sofa at home all day, just waiting for everyone else to finish work so I have someone to play with.

Look away now if you don’t want to hear this, but there is a whole world of stuff you could be doing, if only you had the time to do it.  And the best part, loads of it is free or under a tenner, so even us salary-dodgers can get involved.  You just need to know where to look…

Here’s my roundup of where to find free fun (as opposed to fun free: I’ll pass on that, thanks all the same) and general goings-on in London:

© 2012 Londonist

Londonist:  has a permanent “Free London” section on its site and also does a weekly roundup of all things cheap and cheerful.  Usually my first stop when looking for something to do, as it has a really eclectic mix of listings, from exhibitions and talks, to festivals and geekery.  I love the fact that it doesn’t just cover the well-known events, but lots of smaller, local happenings too and it’s well-edited, so you don’t have to search for what’s on.

Look out for:  the “Things to do in London this Weekend” section, published each Thursday and the “Week in Geek” section, for curious types.

© le cool 2012

le cool Londonsign up for their weekly email (every Thurs) to get your cool fix.  Their recommendations are usually on the quirkier side of average and it’s set out as a day-by-day guide: le monday, le tuesday (you get the idea).

Look out for: their guides to other European cities (Barcelona, Paris, Istanbul etc.) and their blog, to read about what you’ve missed out on doing!

© 2012 Thrillist

Thrillist London:  sign up for their daily email or check out their website, where you can search under categories.  Best for new restaurant and bar openings, although they do also feature some unusual events (zombie evacuation race, anyone?).  If you love pop-ups, this is your guide.

Look out for: their same-format US city guides.  London is the only non-US city featured (lucky us!), so if you’re travelling stateside and want to find the coolest hangouts, check them out.

© 2012 Scout London

Scout London:  a newish listings magazine and website.  Covers all of the categories you’d expect: art & culture, comedy, film, food & drink, music, sport etc.  The editorial is a little lacking, but think of it as a less cluttered Time Out and you won’t go far wrong.

Look out fortheir free weekly magazine available from selected London tube stations every Tuesday.

© 2012 Time Out Group Ltd

Time Out: deserves an honourable mention, particularly now that the magazine is free (available from selected zone 1 – 2 tube stations and museums/galleries) and is an edited version of the old style magazine, so much easier to find what you’re looking for.  They have critics’ choices and detailed reviews and they highlight those events that are free.  My only criticism is that the listings are so comprehensive that sometimes you lose the will to live sifting through to find the good stuff.

Look out for: their ipad and mobile apps, when you’re on the move and need a recommendation, fast.  

Lastly, if you can’t quite let go of some of your lavish habits (spa days, cocktails, fancy dinners), make the most of the ever-increasing spamathon of voucher deals (livingsocial, groupon, amazonlocal, wowcher, wahanda).  Being able to do things during the day gives you many more options for fun.  And it feels way more decadent.

Go wild.

Oh, and if anyone has any other suggestions for where to find cool stuff, please share in the comments section.  Thanking you.

putting off procrasti-nation: part I

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty certain that if I were even half as good at any one thing as I am at putting off doing stuff, then I would probably own half of Europe by now (the half that’s still worth something).

Instead, it’s taken me nearly two weeks to write this post.  And I’m still in the motivated “honeymoon” phase of blogging.  I’m doomed.

I know folk who always do what they say they’re going to do.  Who take themselves off quietly to apply themselves to the task and deliver it in good time with no drama or histrionics.  Come on guys, cut it out.  You’re giving the rest of us a really bad rep.  I honestly don’t know how you can sleep at night.

Me? I’m grateful if my procrastination takes any vaguely constructive form.  If I get as far as cleaning the bathroom or having some food in the house, I’m mentally high-fiving.  My own brand of procrastination usually involves a 4Music 50-most-identikit-songs marathon.  But, man, have I learned to bust some moves….  If anyone out there needs an expert in sitting-down pop video dancing.  Call me.  I am ready.

If someone could please teach me how to stop procrastinating, I will pay good money (and, if you’re thinking of this as a business idea, you’re also going to need to get me to sign up for the course, attend the lessons, do my homework and apply it in my daily life…).  Derren Brown, are you listening?  I’m relying on you, man.  You’re the only one who can save me now.

productive procrastination

There is another school of thought.  That says that in those moments when you do something trivial or nothing at all; when you stop forcing yourself to think, or focus, or try so damn hard, you give your brain the space to be creative and that’s when the ideas will come to you.

 “It takes a lot of time to be a genius. You have to sit around so much, doing nothing, really doing nothing.” 

― Gertrude Stein

My clever mum bought me an incredible book before I quit my job.  It’s written by an amazing woman called Brenda Ueland and it’s called If You Want to Write: a Book about Art, Independence and Spirit.    It was first published in 1938, but you wouldn’t know it.  Ueland’s advice and philosophy are timeless.  The basic premise is that we all have creative ideas and ability.  But we stifle creativity by wanting it to generate success or financial reward.

enjoy the process

I was a lawyer for a long time.  Creativity is not wildly encouraged in the legal profession.  I came out with my creative-confidence severely dented.  I really had no idea how to generate business ideas.  Then I read Ueland’s book.  And I realised that the key is not to judge your productivity or your output.  The key is just to have a go and to enjoy the process of creating.

That’s what I’m doing here.  Watching reruns of Fresh Prince and eating frozen food.  And I have to tell you that the ideas have started to come a little easier.  And I’m not judging them.  I’m just writing them down… and I’m enjoying myself in the process.