🎉🥂Almost Happy New Year!⭐🎆
Welcome to your monthly edition of The Lemonade Stand. We’re turning ✨teens into startup founders✨with intensive playbooks covering ideation, marketing, finance, and more.
Here are today’s playbooks:
- ✏️Playbook #1: How to Write so Nobody can say no.
- 📣Playbook #2: Writing a Press Release for your Startup
- 📊Playbook #3: How to Invest like Warren Buffet
- 💸Playbook #4 The Holy Grail Of Financial Learning Techniques
Reply to this email with any topics you would like us to cover next month!
Playbook #1: How to Write so Nobody can say no
Get to the point
Erase EVERYTHING your English teacher has taught you.
Do not use suspense.
Get to the point.
This applies for both verbal and text communication. If you’re writing a cold email/copy for landing page/product description, write the most exciting part first.
Do NOT use long paragraphs
What looks more readable?
- This boring piece?Nobody likes long text. Nobody likes long text. Nobody likes long text. Nobody likes long text. Nobody likes long text. Nobody likes long text. Nobody likes long text. Long text is boring and old-school. I am boring text that nobody wants to read. The cooler way is to have shorter paragraphs that are each 2-3 sentences. Wow this is a big chunk of text!!! In fact, I am so long that you probably stopped reading by now.
- Or this? Shorter paragraphs are refreshing. Better to keep your chunks of text to 1-3 sentences. Ahh… so much easier to read right?
(You may notice us clumping text together in this email! We’re doing that because Gmail has a size limit, sadly)
I’ll give you an example. Try to guess what company this is.
We are a collective of neighborhood vehicles that strives to provide an interconnected nexus connecting city natives and drivers.
It’s Uber. But you could describe the same company as:
💥Bam! Isn’t that so much more simpler to read and understand?
An awesome trick is the Mom Test. Ask yourself: “Can my mom understand this”? If not, try to make it simpler.
Again: do NOT follow your English teacher. Flowery stuff only works in your Great Expectations analysis essay.
When you try to sound smart, you end up sounding the opposite.
Write as if you’re writing to a friend.
Casual > Formal 100%
Of course, don’t address advisors in emails like “What up bro?”. Be formal when you need to be.
But I would write to a friend who you respect :)
Write for the purpose of scanning.
Nobody ever reads emails/landing pages/Instagram Posts looking at every single word. Instead, make it ✨scannable ✨
- Bolding/underlining/italicizing text
- Using bullet points or 1,2,3
- Short paragraphs
- Pictures whenever they’re better than words
What is the benefit?
Harsh reality: Nobody cares as much as you think about your product.
Frame everything (even the littlest asks) from the other person’s point of view. Write explicitly the benefit they get from helping you.
Playbook #2: Writing a Press Release for your Startup
What is a press release? When and why do I need one?
For high school founders with a flair for writing and a fire for PR, press releases are a golden ticket to getting free brand publicity. A press release is simply a concise, official announcement about a newsworthy event. It is directed toward targeted members of the media and contains all the core details reporters need to craft a publication-ready story. Unlike media advisories, which are released in advance of events, press releases are created and disseminated immediately after noteworthy events take place. In the context of your life as a high school entrepreneur, you might create a press release for situations like these:
- 🚗Your startup rolls out a new product or service
- 🎒Your school’s business club launches a district-wide entrepreneurial mentorship program
- 📕You publish your own book, podcast, or other form of media
So, why write a press release in the first place? Well, the primary goal of press releases is to attract the attention of journalists and get news coverage of your event. Especially as youth, it’s difficult to establish credibility for your initiatives. (You’ve surely noticed how every 3rd high schooler on LinkedIn these days seems to be a “Founder and CEO”.) News coverage validates your work from a professional outsider’s perspective. Press releases are a 100% free way to reap the benefits of press coverage, which include the following:
- Grow brand credibility
- Build name recognition
- Raise awareness of your products, projects, initiatives, etc.
- Attract new customers, team members, and partners
- Drive online traffic and improve SEO ranking
- Provide proof of your accomplishments
Knowing all these benefits, it’s tempting to just dive right into writing your latest press release! Before that, though, you need to take some preparatory steps to ensure your press release hits the right points, reaches the right people, and ultimately turns into a news story.
How do I prepare to write a press release? What research do I need to do?
Research your recipients
Before you begin writing your press release, research the audience for your press release. Do you want to reach business professionals, other teens, or the community at large? As high schoolers, the vast majority of us will likely be contacting local press outlets, at least in the early stages of our initiatives when our impact is typically more localized. As such, this post will focus on local (district/city/county level) coverage. Regardless of who your target audience is, you should have logic-based answers to the following questions:
- To which media outlet(s) will you be marketing your story?Ex: Chamber of Commerce magazine to reach local business-owners
- Ex: Chamber of Commerce magazine to reach local business-owners
- Is your desired medium print, televised, or radio? Ex: print (online) because articles are easier to share via social media (which users are especially active on nowadays due to COVID-19)
- Ex: print (online) because articles are easier to share via social media (which users are especially active on nowadays due to COVID-19)
- Within those media outlets, which specific journalist(s) will you be reaching out to?Ex: small business reporter because they have the same target audience as you
- Ex: small business reporter because they have the same target audience as you
Most local newspaper websites have “Contact” or “Staff” pages where you can find journalists’ contact information and reporting roles (e.g., Education Reporter, Politics Reporter, etc.). Be sure to check other stories these journalists have published to ensure your story fits soundly into their niche.
If you plan to contact multiple journalists from different publications, consider keeping track of reporter names, contact information, and reporting areas in a spreadsheet. You could even share this spreadsheet with your team and have team members contact their local press independently for wider geographic coverage.
Build Relationships in Advance
Example from Neil Patelof a successful initial outreach email. Short, sweet, & to the point.
Remember, journalists are busy people. Especially in more populated cities, even local journalists could be inundated with hundreds of emails and press releases every day. Personal connections and established relationships will do you wonders here. As you start writing your press release, reach out in advance to the journalists you intend to contact. Introduce yourself and why you’re relevant to them (e.g., I’m a student at [local high school] who recently launched a startup with 2k in revenue and would love to share my story with our community).
You could then ask them about what kinds of stories they want to cover, what issues they see as important in the local community, or what their short-term publishing schedule looks like (so you know when there might be an opening for your press release to be published). Like all good networking, your focus here shouldn’t be on what the journalist can do for you, but what you can do for each other.
When sending these cold reach-out emails, capitalize on existing connections you have to the journalist to establish rapport from the get-go. You might mention a particular story of theirs you enjoyed or a connection you have to an individual they interviewed. This is great news (pun intended) for those of you living in smaller towns. Chances are you know at least one person who has ties to the local press, whether through a parent who works in city government or a neighbor who frequently organizes community events. Take advantage of these relations, and see if someone you know would be willing to put in a good word for you or even arrange a meetup for you with the journalist. This helps build your relationship more organically.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your school administrators or teachers and see if they can offer any guidance, resources, or connections that will help you understand the media workings of your school district and local community. Remember, your school officials’ job is to support students as much as possible, and chances are they’ll be happy to share startups, events, and other impressive projects founded by their own students. (Not to mention, schools receive positive PR for their own institutions by producing self-motivated, entrepreneurially-minded students.)
How do I write a press release?
Press releases are stories, not advertisements. They are told in an objective 3rd-person tone and read like a standard news article, complete with quotes, statistics, and sources. Good press releases cover the “who, what, when, where, how, and (most importantly) why” of the event as concisely as possible and should be no longer than a page.
It’s typical to put the name, email, and phone number of the individual who wrote the press release at the header of the page. “For Immediate Release: [Date of release]” is also commonplace here; some also add the company logo at the top.
Your headline needs to be catchy, clickable, and share-worthy. The journalist may be doing you a favor by providing coverage, but you should also think of how you can do the journalist a favor by driving readers and revenue to their published story.
Target your headline so it’ll not only fit your needs but also suit the journalist’s beat. Ultimately, your goal is to drive traffic and build credibility for your organization; to do that, prospective readers need to be captivated by your headline enough to click on your story in the first place.
Take note that local media loves a feel-good story. As teens, we have the added advantage of youth: people love stories about kids doing inspiring things and helping their community. Does your event/product benefit your community in some way, particularly community members who are most in need (e.g., unemployed, low-income, elderly)? Does it relate or provide a solution to a current issue (e.g., COVID-19, social isolation, loneliness)?
Depending on the angle of your story, emphasizing your positive contributions to your community as well as your age can add an additional wow factor. Headlines like “16-year-old founds startup aiding unemployed” are be more compelling than “New Bay Area startup successfully launches.”
Begin with a location stamp (as in “Albany, OR”). Following this will be your 1st sentence, or lede, which summarizes the who, what, why, where, and how of your update in 25 words or less. Some press releases include a brief 1-line summary of the article right beneath the headline and above the 1st paragraph too, as seen in the lovely “Catbrella” example below. Like much of press release formatting, this line’s inclusion is largely up to personal preference.
2nd, 3rd, and (Optional) 4th Paragraphs
The order of these final body paragraphs is flexible. Collectively, though, these paragraphs should provide applicable supplementary details that strengthen the narrative behind your update and answer additional questions readers/journalists may have. Keep in mind that no new key information (e.g., any of the 5 Ws) should appear after the 1st paragraph.
Quotes (from the founders, customers, or anyone else associated with the event) are key in developing the human side of the story. Statistics further create credibility for your brand. A call to action (e.g., link to pre-register for your next product) may be included in the concluding paragraph depending on the nature of your release.
Your boilerplate paragraph sits at the bottom of the press release as a separate blurb introducing your company’s work. However, some press releases combine the boilerplate company description with the concluding paragraph. Again, it’s all personal preference — just be consistent with what you choose. One more commonplace rule, however, is including 3 hashtags (###) to conclude your releases. This is a leftover tradition from the days of paper press releases, but it is still common practice for professional press releases.
How do I distribute my press release and turn it into media coverage?
Sending the Release
After editing and proofreading your press release, the next step is distribution. If the contact information is provided, you could call the journalist with your self-introduction and pitch ready (after ensuring the journalist isn’t busy or working towards an imminent deadline at the time of your call).
However, the most common and accessible way to distribute your press release is by emailing your target journalist. Given our limited resources and funding as high schoolers, paid services like PR Newswire are rarely worth it and would probably yield fewer results than well-prepared pitches to specially targeted journalists. The final press release email is quite simple:
- Paste your headline into the subject of the email.
- Paste the body of your press release into the body of the email.
If desired, attach a PDF or Word document of your press release to the email. Opinions differ on this, as large attachments bog down emails and are prone to spam filters. So, if you want to stay on the safe side, avoid attaching files to your email. If there are special images and formatting you want to include, consider linking a permalink to the PDF or the applicable press release page from your website/social media.
According to Prowly, the best time to send your press release is Thursdays (26% email open rate) from 10 am to 2 pm. Keep in mind that local media schedules might differ (which you should now know from the preliminary research inquiries you sent).
Time your press release in accordance with the event your press release is about. Ideally, you should be working on journalist outreach and press release drafts even before your event concludes. That way, you can send your press release right after the event occurs to maintain timeliness in the current news cycle.
As we’ve touched on before, journalists are busy people! Don’t fret if they don’t respond straight-away to your message. However, if a few days pass and there’s still no word back, then it’s time for a quick follow-up email and/or call asking if they’ve gotten the chance to review your email. Be polite but consistent. Very light guilt-tripping will probably not hurt you; for example, on your 2nd call after no response, you might say “You might’ve missed my last call, but I just wanted to double-check….” However, if several weeks have passed, it’s likely time to focus on something else.
A Final Word
It might take a few tries to translate your press releases into media coverage. However, even if you don’t get your intended end result, you build your writing, communication, and PR skills every time you construct a press release. Not to mention, you’ll have an opportunity to keep formal documentation of your major accomplishments as a high school founder that you can reflect on and learn from long into the future. It takes time, effort, and grit, but that’s what entrepreneurship is all about! You can only get better with each press release you write and closer to achieving press coverage each time. You’ve got this!
Playbook #3 How to Invest like Warren Buffet
Warren Buffett is widely known as the greatest investor of all time. With a net worth of 85.6 billions, he is currently ranked 7th in the Forbes Richest list. He started investing at a young age and has refined his skills throughout his 90 years of life.
He is also the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, which is the 8th most valuable publicly traded company. Clearly, he is an incredibly qualified individual whom the world can learn a lot from.
Buffett uses a method called value investing to select which stocks to invest in. According to Investopedia, “Value investing is an investment strategy that involves picking stocks that appear to be trading for less than their intrinsic or book value. Value investors actively ferret out stocks they think the stock market is underestimating.
They believe the market overreacts to good and bad news, resulting in stock price movements that do not correspond to a company's long-term fundamentals. The overreaction offers an opportunity to profit by buying stocks at discounted prices—on sale.”
With the seven strategies in this post, you’ll come one step closer to value investing like Warren Buffett.
1. Find sustainable businesses that will last
Buffett likes to focus on the long term rather than the short term. Thus, he looks for businesses that will stay thriving for a long time. If a business is lagging behind its competitors and not continuously innovating, it will eventually go bankrupt. That is why it’s important to find companies that will do well over the long term.
2. Ignore daily price fluctuations
Buffett never lets his emotions get the best of him. One of the reasons many investors fail is because they’re too worried about the short-term price of the stock rather than the long-term price. When emotions get tangled with investing, individuals tend to sell a stock when it's down on the day or even the week instead of looking at the long-term prospects. If an investor can ignore the price of a stock as it changes on a daily basis, they will be able to hold the stock for a long time and do well in the future.
As Buffet himself once said, “If you aren't willing to own a stock for 10 years, don't even think about owning it for 10 minutes.” In other words, if you don’t trust the company enough to hold its stocks for a long period of time, don’t buy its stocks in the first place.
3. Only invest in what you understand
Warren Buffett does not invest in sectors/businesses he does not understand. For example, he tends to stay away from the technology sector as he is not familiar with the intricacies of technology. Likewise, individuals should not invest in markets they are unfamiliar with. For example, Bitcoin is a popular but risky investment; many investors stay away from it because it is a relatively new investment, and they do not know how it works. If you only invest in what you understand, you will be able to mitigate risk and achieve a high ROI.
4. Focus on buying companies rather than stocks
Rather than fixating on a stock itself, pay attention to the stock’s overarching company. Buffett focuses on the company's underlying assets and its management structure rather than the price of the stock. When buying, you should take on the mindset of an individual who is buying a part of a company rather than someone who is simply buying a stock. That mindset shift will allow you to think more like Warren Buffett.
5. Buy a stock when is it on sale
By saying “on sale,” I’m referring to when a stock is below its intrinsic value. As defined by Investopedia, “Intrinsic value is a measure of what an asset is worth. This measure is arrived at by means of an objective calculation or complex financial model, rather than using the currently trading market price of that asset.” You can go online and research different ways to measure intrinsic value. Once you’ve found the stock’s intrinsic value, you can compare it to the current price of the stock and decide whether the stock is undervalued or overvalued. If the stock is undervalued, then it would be a good time to buy, but if a stock is overvalued then it would not be a good time to buy.
6. Buy when others are selling
Recessions and stock market crashes are the best time to invest because stocks are cheaper than ever. For instance, it would have been a great time to invest during the recent Covid-19 market crash in March. Many stocks were cheap and major returns could’ve been made. Some people panic when the market crashes, but those people don’t understand that the stock market always corrects itself. Throughout history, every time the market has crashed, it has come back stronger than before. This is why you shouldn’t follow the herd, but rather buy when 99% of the population is panicking.
7. Make your own opinions
Instead of following analysts, it is crucial that you do your own research and formulate your own opinions. Many individuals like to follow analysts and their commentary. But if analysts were correct at predicting stock prices, they’d be billionaires themselves! So, instead of relying on other people’s opinions, you should invest in companies that you believe in.
To summarize, Warren Buffett has become successful because of his tendency to focus on long-term prospects rather than short-term ones. Instead of seeking instant gratification, Buffett controls his emotions and stays disciplined to achieve enormous gains on his investments. We should apply this same principle when we invest and understand that holding stocks for the long term is usually the best course of action.
Playbook #4: The Holy Grail Of Financial Learning Techniques
By Ronith Gungurthi
According to the NFCC (National Foundation For Credit Counseling), only about three out of five American adults have a planned budget and respectable credit score. The absence of these fundamental money management skills in the other 40% of the population are indicative of widespread financial illiteracy in the U.S., an issue largely rooted in insufficient financial education. As the next generation of workers, leaders, and providers for ourselves and our economy, it is urgent that Generation Z and youth in general learn essential financial literacy skills.
Today, we’ll investigate the state of financial education in my school district and extrapolate broadly applicable conclusions about best practices for learning financial literacy. We’ll then discuss various learning techniques for building financial literacy that you can (and should!) begin employing today.
Financial management and literacy courses can positively impact students to a certain extent. However, these classes rarely have a long-lasting effect on the financial understanding of all students. Basic education doesn’t play a major role in the developing and strengthening of student’s financial habits. For example, I conducted a survey on the financial experience of over 300 students within my surrounding community and nearby schools. This survey not only opened my eyes to the poor conditions of financial education , but the lack of opportunities to actually learn.
The first survey question asked, “What are the main sources you learn about financial topics through?” Respondents answered in the following distributions:
- 68%: parents’ teachings
- 21%: out-of-school courses
- 20%: extracurricular organizations
Only 30% said that they learned business and finance in their school courses, illustrating the lack of proper financial education opportunities within traditional school subjects and curriculum.
The second question asked, “Out of a scale of 1-5 (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest), how often are financial topics addressed in your everyday curriculum within school?” A whopping 90% of the respondents answered either a one or a two, further emphasizing the lack of classroom education in financial literacy.
Another question asked, “Have you learned more about finance through first-hand experience or actual financial education?” 54% answered that they learned through failure or first-hand experience rather than actual financial education.
Given that most students chose parents as a main source of financial knowledge, I asked some more in-depth questions regarding the effectiveness of this method. One question asked, “Out of a scale of 1-5 (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest), how much do your parents teach you about financial topics such as taxes, debts, and investing?” The results for this question were decent, with 67% of students answering either a four or five.
However, results were less encouraging when we asked, “Be honest, do these lessons that you learned through your parents guide you to becoming financially prepared?” Only 23% of students stated that these parental teachings positively impact their financial understanding.
Keep in mind that the teaching method depends on parents and that the learning style depends on the student. However, this evidence may still be confusing. Should we not learn from our own parents? Is this method completely fruitless? To keep it simple, no, you should take every opportunity you’re given to build your financial foundation. Elders and parents can provide experience-backed advice tailored to your particular needs and life situation. However, given the subjectivity inherent in any parent’s perspective, there might be better alternatives for learning the facts of finance.
Student-led organizations and competition clubs are examples of such an alternative. In our survey, we investigated the role of clubs in developing financial literacy. We first asked, “Out of a scale of 1-5 (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest), how impactful were student-led organizations and clubs relating to business/finance in increasing your financial knowledge?” About 55% responded with a rating of two or three. This illustrates that spending time in business driven organizations ranging from holding an officer position to simply being a member was somewhat effective.
The next question asked, “Have you competed in finance and business related clubs? If so, out of a scale of 1-5 (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest), how much do you believe you learned from the experience in terms of financial comprehension?” In line with the previous question, 57% chose either a two or a three as their ranking. Thus, although investing time within organizations or competing in clubs can positively impact you in many ways, it is only somewhat effective in expanding basic financial skills.
Through analyzing this questionnaire, one can understand that there is an underlying problem with the methods of learning finance and developing successful financial habits among students. However, you’re already taking control over your financial future by reading this newsletter! Here we’ll discuss some concrete ways in which you can grasp the essentials of finance and become more financially prepared.
Financial Learning Techniques
Self Study & Research
The first way to better your financial capabilities is to self-study and research on your own time. Although this method takes a commitment and discipline, it is highly effective if implemented well into your daily schedule. Typically, people self-study topics that they are deeply interested in and that may be outside their current scope of knowledge or traditional school curriculum.
To get started, Google searches can provide loads of resources on literally any topic you’re self-studying, as well as answers to your burning questions. For finance specifically, many financial service firms, banks, credit unions, and fund companies offer briefs and insights on various financial topics. In addition, searches for specific queries can pull up endless articles, magazines, and newsletters on topics ranging from getting your first job to day trading on a regular basis.
Reading has innumerable benefits for both your work life and personal life. Reading may increase comprehension levels, improve brain connectivity, reduce stress, and more. Additionally, innumerable celebrities, successful entrepreneurs, and prominent business professionals swear by reading as a daily activity/hobby. To maximize your financial learning through reading, you must constantly evaluate, reflect, and engage with the text. This active reading, which might be supplemented by note-taking, will not only save you time (because you don’t need to read the text multiple times) but also allow you to retain more information long-term.
Similar to self-studying, there are many resources readily available online and in your local library providing a wealth of financial information. Here are some top-rated, beginner-friendly books on finance:
- Managing Your Money for Dummies
- Budgeting for Dummies
- Mutual Funds for Dummies
- The Richest Man in Babylon
- The Wall Street Journal Guide to Understanding Money & Investing
- Wisdom From Rich Dad Poor Dad.
Simulations & Virtual Competitions
Regardless of what you are interested in, it is essential to measure your growth concretely. After establishing an base of financial knowledge, you can participate in real-market simulations and similar competitions in order to put what you have learned into practice. The best way to do so would be to join the virtual stock simulation in competitions such as DECA and BPA. Simulations provided by such organizations may relate to the principles of investing, marketing, various business genres, and communicating/networking skills.
There are numerous ways to learn about money management, and the way you begin your journey into the wonderland of finance is up to you. However, it is essential to start now if you’re a teen aiming to be financially successful. After self-assessing your current financial abilities, background knowledge, and prior experiences with learning, try out different educational strategies to get a feel of which method suits you best. Like all knowledge-based skills, financial literacy is a process. There is no right or wrong way to learn — so start your financial literacy journey today!
That’s it for this month! We hope you have an awesome new year.
Remember, you can ask us questions anytime in our ✨Question and Answer Service✨. Send in your startup questions and we’ll pick a few to cover in the next edition.
And, drop a like if you enjoyed this newsletter :) It really helps.
The Lemonade Stand Team