The Toastmaster’s Log (www.mytlog.tk)

If like most people you have ever “Googled” for solutions to problems or answers to questions, you know that there is virtually nothing you cannot find online. From web applications to native apps, going through web app, browser extensions and plugins, there is an online service to solve (or guide you toward solving) almost every challenge you could be faced with. phone-apps

When I joined Toastmasters International in June 2012 my objective was to earn my Distinguished Toastmaster Award within a maximum of 18 months. I missed that objective. I know people who have done it and it was a goal in alignment with my life plan and priorities at the time. Getting familiarized with the Toastmasters International educational program, I admired the fact that they had one of the best system to turn any dedicated learner into a top-notch communicator, and leader. I shifted my focus to enjoying the process and making the most of the experience. That might sound like a justification for not reaching my initial objective, because it is. 🙂

I spend a lot of time online and belong to an age group that is estimated to spend on average 7 hours online every day. After serving as a VP Education for 18 months with two different clubs, I thought it would be nice to have an online tool to help me keep a record of my speech and leadership projects completed. This online record would be maintained concurrently with my physical manuals.  One of the benefits of such a solution would be to show me in real time my progress toward my DTM.

mytlog dashboard
www.mytlog.tk

Before setting out to create a system that would help me in that way, I googled and the best results came from this page on the Toastmasters International website: http://www.toastmasters.org/software. As you notice on that page, all the tools available are geared toward club management as a whole. Therefore they are club-centric, rather than member-oriented.

After a few dozen hours of hacking, The Toastmaster’s Log emerged. It is currently a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and it already serves its intended purpose well. The system is available here: www.mytlog.com and I have used it for a few months. There could be dozens of more features added to make it more appealing and features-rich, but that will defeat my initial purpose of keeping focused on individual member’s need to complete record their progress towards their DTM, online.

If you are an active Toastmaster, you are welcome to sign up and start using the system, it is and shall remain free. If you are not a Toastmaster, you can use the application to record speeches you give. It is always good to have a log.

Is there any other tool you have used for similar logging purposes, what features do you feel you need most?

Best online and offline credit card processing services for entrepreneurs

Finding a reliable credit card processing company can be a real hassle for first time business owners, or entrepreneurs with a business idea. Last year a friend and I started a business providing an affordable referral service to medical doctors. Our clients were people needing uncommon prescription drugs. One of the reasons why the business did not do as well as it could have is because we could not find a payment processor who would do business with us. startup-payment-processing

There were various reasons. Some of the companies we reached out to had very strict requirements. That is understandable as there are a lot of regulations in the financial services industry, especially payment processing. However, when we see how simple it is get started and run a business with Square, it does not make sense when having to cross as many hurdles as we had to. We eventually had one of our payment providers freeze our merchant account with over USD $2000 in it. That was rough, especially for a group of enthusiastic and self-motivated entrepreneurs. That’s a story for a different day.

Having done quite some research to solve this credit card payment processing problem, below are my top recommendations for entrepreneurs starting a new business.

I have an account with Stripe and their platform and API is well documented for developers. Stripe charges 2.9% + 30¢ per successful charge, or less based on volume. Earnings are transferred to your bank account on a 7-day rolling basis.

My Spacebox.io account was created to take better advantage of the Stripe.io API. Spacebox.io requires you to have and connect your Stripe.com account to have access to their service and process your payments.

Dwolla is one of the most startup friendly payment processors. The charge just 25¢ per transaction or free for transactions $10 or less. Nobody beats this price.

Through very good PR and advertising campaigns, Square has positioned itself as the go to company for small businesses and individuals when payment processing is mentioned. I have a Squareup account and find their user interface very well designed. They will send you a free Square reader for your smartphone in exchange for a $10 donation to fight AIDS. Well worth the money.

Gumroad is the best platform is you want to sell and deliver digital files online. Digital files include electronic books, softwares, images, and anything else that can be sent via email. This is a great resource for those starting up with selling information online.

Flint is one of the latest startups in the payment processing sphere. With a smartphone and their app, you take a picture of your client’s credit cards and the payment is done. They claim to be very safe and secure, and the details of the credit card are not stored on the phone. Their service does not require a card reader. Worth a try. Their fees start at 1.95%

As mentioned on their website home page, FastSpring provides an all-in-one cloud-based e-commerce, merchandising & fulfillment platform. Sell your desktop software, SaaS, games, e-books or other digital products online—worldwide. I have not personally tried their service but it was highly rated when I did my research.

Amazon payments works, I have used them personally. For a company as big as they are, I must say that they do quite well with their customer service. My emails to them are always answered within the first 24 hours.

Do you know of any other startup friendly payment processing company or service that should be on this list? Mention it or them in the comments box below.