en Local Resources Explained – Women’s Business Centers, Export Centers, Veteran Business Outreach Centers, Procurement Technical Assistance Centers <p>You know from our blog post <a href="" title="link to blog post">SBA, SCORE, and SBDCs Explained &ndash; 3 Essential Local Resources for Small Business Owners</a> that there are a number of resources available to help your business succeed.</p> <p>There are also a few resources available to specific small-business audiences such as women, veterans and those interested in guidance about exporting or government contracting.</p> <p><strong>1. Women&rsquo;s Business Centers (WBCs)</strong></p> <p><a href="" title="link to Women's Business Centers info">Women&#39;s Business Centers</a> (WBCs) provide counseling, training and networking opportunities for women across the United States and its territories. With a network of nearly 100 educational centers, women around the country can receive tailored assistance to help them start and grow their small businesses. WBCs seek to &quot;level the playing field&quot; for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the business world.</p> <p>Offerings vary by location, but you can expect to come into a WBC and get help with questions about developing a business plan; financing and funding sources; certifying your business; bookkeeping; and more.</p> <p><a href="" title="link to SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership">SBA&rsquo;s Office of Women&rsquo;s Business Ownership</a> (OWBO) oversees the WBC network, which provides entrepreneurs (especially women who are economically or socially disadvantaged) comprehensive training and counseling on a variety of topics &ndash; and in several languages.</p> <p><strong>2. Export Assistance Centers</strong></p> <p><a href="" title="link to export assistance info">Export Assistance Centers</a> are customized for small business owners and entrepreneurs interested in taking their business global. There are a number of unique challenges you&rsquo;ll face in the business of exporting, but rest assured that there&rsquo;s help tailored for your needs!</p> <p>Staffed with professionals from SBA, Department of Commerce, Export-Import Bank and other public and private organizations, Export Assistance Centers can help you with a variety of topics:</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Trade Counseling</strong>: planning and strategy; legal and regulatory issues; documentation and product requirements; trade problems; trade finance and insurance</li> <li> <strong>Business Matchmaking</strong>: contact lists and identifying potential partners; trade missions; trade shows; in-country promotions</li> <li> <strong>Market Intelligence</strong>: country and industry reports; customized market research; background reports; trade data and analysis; commercial diplomacy</li> </ul> <p>Some Export Assistance Centers even have SBA representatives who are available to help you with all of your <a href="" title="SBA export financing">SBA export financing</a> needs.</p> <p><strong>3. Veteran Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs)</strong></p> <p>If you&rsquo;re a veteran interested in entering the business world from the military word, then consider the services available from your local <a href="" title="link to Veteran Center info">Veterans Business Outreach Center</a>. One of sixteen centers available can assist you with business topics that are unique to you and questions you may have as you enter into your business ventures. So, what can you expect?</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Pre-Business Plan Workshops</strong>: You&rsquo;ll have the chance to work directly with a business counselor during entrepreneurial development workshops.</li> <li> <strong>Concept Assessments</strong>: You&rsquo;ll get help gauging your entrepreneurial needs and requirements.</li> <li> <strong>Business Plan Preparations</strong>: Important to all business owners is a business plan, so you&rsquo;ll get help developing and <a href="" title="maintaining a business plan">maintaining a business plan</a>.</li> <li> <strong>Comprehensive Feasibility Analysis</strong>: Following the preparation of your business plan, a VBOC will help you identify and analyze its strengths and weaknesses. You&rsquo;ll use the analysis results to revise the strategic planning portion of the business plan, with the ultimate goal being to increase the likelihood of success.</li> <li> <strong>Entrepreneurial Training and Counseling</strong>: Working with other SBA resource partners, VBOCs conduct entrepreneurial training and counseling sessions specifically for service-disabled veteran entrepreneurs.</li> <li> <strong>Mentorship</strong>: When needed, VBOCs conduct on-site visits to ensure you&rsquo;re following your business plan. Additionally, VBOCs review monthly financial statements to determine if you should change your business plan to achieve targeted goals.</li> <li> <strong>Other Business Developmental Related Services</strong>: VBOCs also provide assistance and training in topics such as <a href="" title="exporting">exporting</a>, <a href="" title="franchising">franchising</a>, <a href="" title="marketing">marketing</a>, accounting and more.</li> </ul> <p>As you can see, these extensive services can go a long way to help you on your way to success with a career in small-business ownership. Another great benefit of visiting a VBOC is the chance to meet other entrepreneurs like yourself &ndash; the opportunity to network and exchange experiences with folks going down a similar path can also be tremendously valuable.</p> <p><strong>4. Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)</strong></p> <p>If you&rsquo;d like to go into business with some of the biggest customers around &ndash; the government &ndash; then you&rsquo;ll probably benefit greatly from visiting a <a href="" title="Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)">Procurement Technical Assistance Center. </a>They provide local, in-person counseling and training services (either for free or at a nominal cost) to enable you to succeed with government contracting. Here are some questions you can expect to answer when you visit a PTAC:</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Is my business ready for government contracting? </strong>It&rsquo;s not the simplest task to pursue government contracts, and can be especially challenging for your company if you don&rsquo;t have the resources to handle a contract. A PTAC representative can sit with you one-on-one and determine if your business is ready, and help position you for success.</li> <li> <strong>Where do I register? </strong>There are numerous databases to register with to get involved with the government marketplace, including the Department of Defense&rsquo;s <a href="" title="Central Contractor Registration (CCR)">Central Contractor Registration (CCR)</a>, <a href="" title="GSA Schedules">GSA Schedules</a>, and other government vendor sites. A PTAC representative can help you determine where and how to register.</li> <li> <strong>Is my business eligible for any small business certifications? </strong>Did you know that some government contracts are set aside for businesses with special certifications? Examples include <a href="" title="woman-owned">woman-owned</a>, <a href="" title="small disadvantaged businesses">small disadvantaged businesses</a> and <a href="" title="HUBZone">HUBZone</a> businesses. A PTAC representative can help you obtain these certifications if you&rsquo;re eligible.</li> <li> <strong>What about contract opportunities? </strong>A PTAC representative can look into past contracts to see what types of contracts have been awarded to businesses like yours. This will give you a good idea about the overall business landscape and potential competition. A PTAC can also help you identify and bid on a contract, and if you are awarded the contract, measure your performance and help with contract audits.</li> </ul> <p>So regardless of who you are and what kind of business you&rsquo;re starting &ndash; or the type of business you&rsquo;d like to do &ndash; SBA and its resources partners are here to guide you along the way. You don&rsquo;t have to go it alone. These <a href="">and others</a> are available to help you start up, succeed and grow</p> Small Business Matters Mentoring and Training Wed, 02 Apr 2014 11:56:21 +0000 kmurray 813121 at Is There a Form for That? An Introduction to Commonly Used Exporting Forms for Your Small Business <p>If you&rsquo;re a small business owner interested in exporting &ndash; or are already navigating the international arena &ndash; you know there&rsquo;s a lot to get organized. The resources available from <a href="" title="link to"></a> can help you with all the stages, from training and market research to information about financing. also offers a wealth of information about <a href="" title="link to documents information">documents that are used in exporting</a>. Here&rsquo;s a rundown of a few of the most common.</p> <p><strong>Common Export Documents</strong></p> <p><em>Commercial Invoice</em>: A commercial invoice is a bill for the goods from the seller to the buyer. Governments often use them to determine the true value of goods when assessing customs duties.</p> <p><em>Export Packing List</em>: An export packing list features much more detail than a standard domestic packing list. It lists the seller, buyer, shipper, invoice number, shipment date and more. It also itemizes quantity, description, type of package (such as a box or crate), the weight and even more details.</p> <p><em>Pro Forma Invoice</em>: An exporter prepares a pro forma invoice before shipping the goods. It lets the buyer know the goods to be sent, their value and other key information. It also can be used as an offering of sale or price quote.</p> <p><strong>Transportation Documents</strong></p> <p><a href="" title="link to airway bill information"><em>Airway Bill</em></a>: Airway bills are required for any airfreight shipments and are shipper-specific. For example, USPS, Fed-Ex, UPS, etc. have individual airway bills</p> <p><a href="" title="link to bill of lading information"><em>Bill of Lading</em></a>: A bill of lading is a contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier. A straight bill of lading is non-negotiable. A second, negotiable type is known as a shipper&#39;s order bill of lading. This can be bought, sold or traded while the goods are in transit. The customer <a href="" title="link to Bill of Lading information">usually needs an original as proof of ownership to take possession of the goods.</a></p> <p><em><a href="" title="link to EEI information">Electronic Export Information (EEI</a></em>): This is the most common of all export control documents. It&rsquo;s required for shipments above $2,500 and for shipments of any value requiring an export license. It has to be electronically filed via the <u>AES Direct</u> online system, which is a free service from Census and Customs. If you&rsquo;re shipping to Canada, you don&rsquo;t need an EEI unless an export license is required.</p> <p><strong>Export Compliance</strong></p> <p><a href="" title="link to Export Licenses information"><em>Export Licenses</em></a>: An export license is a government document that authorizes the export of specific goods in specific quantities to a particular destination. Some countries require an export license for most or all exports; others require it only under special circumstances.</p> <p><strong>Certificates Of Origin </strong></p> <p><em>Generic Certificate of Origin</em>: Some countries require a Certificate of Origin (CO) for either all or just certain products. In many cases, a statement of origin printed on company letterhead is sufficient, although some countries require that it be notarized. You should verify if a CO is required with the buyer, an experienced shipper/freight forwarder or the Trade Information Center.</p> <p>Check out <a href="" title="link to"> </a>&nbsp;for more information about these and more, including documents required for shipping specific products and destination-specific requirements. You can also visit <a href="" title="link to BusinessUSA exporting information">Business USA&rsquo;s Exporting Portal</a> for additional resources.</p> <p> <strong>Related Resources</strong></p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="link to A Small Business Guide to Exporting: Part 1 – Getting Started blog post">A Small Business Guide to Exporting: Part 1 &ndash; Getting Started</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="link to A Small Business Guide to Exporting: Part 2 – Getting Financing blog post">A Small Business Guide to Exporting: Part 2 &ndash; Getting Financing</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="link to Small Business Exporting – Insights from National Small Business Week 2013 blog post">Small Business Exporting &ndash; Insights from National Small Business Week 2013</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="link to 6 Steps to Assess Your Small Business’ Readiness to Export blog post">6 Steps to Assess Your Small Business&rsquo; Readiness to Export</a></li> </ul> Small Business Matters International Mon, 10 Mar 2014 12:13:53 +0000 kmurray 805181 at Celebrating Your Small Business Accomplishments <p>Have you celebrated your small business&rsquo; accomplishments lately? In a few weeks, we&rsquo;ll be tuning in to watch the Oscars &ndash; the Academy Awards &ndash; an occasion that acknowledges the finest achievements in the film industry in the last year. If you haven&rsquo;t had the chance to step back and celebrate what you&rsquo;ve achieved, here are a few ways this popular event can inspire you.</p> <p><strong>From the movie business to small business&hellip;</strong></p> <p>The Oscars feature categories that award many aspects of films &ndash; from the costumes that each filmgoer can easily see to the &ldquo;behind-the-scenes&rdquo; work that may not be as apparent to viewers once a film hits theatres. The same can go for your small business.</p> <p>Think about the parts of your business, for instance, that are readily apparent to customers &ndash; like your website or store displays; then there are those elements that are just as crucial to success &ndash; like HR or the finance department &ndash; that may operate in a &ldquo;behind-the-scenes&rdquo; fashion.</p> <p><strong>And the award goes to&hellip;</strong></p> <p>Here are a few ideas about translating popular award categories to your business.</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Best Supporting Actress/Actor</strong> &ndash; Acknowledge your team and the roles they&rsquo;ve had in helping the business achieve success and reach goals. Maybe there was one project that stands out where someone went above and beyond what was required. Or perhaps another employee took on a task that didn&rsquo;t involve his primary skillset, but he stepped up and got it done. These are great supporting actors to have &ndash; and they should be celebrated!</li> <li> <strong>Best Foreign Language Film</strong> &ndash; Language is tough &ndash; even when you&rsquo;re speaking the same one! Take this award as a chance to make note of achievements when your business faced communication challenges, either internal or with a customer, and overcame them. Misunderstood client made happy? Tension among a project team mediated? Translating those challenges into successes and learning opportunities is a great accomplishment.</li> <li> <strong>Best Visual Effects</strong> &ndash; Did your agency deliver some stunning creative pieces to a client? Did your landscaping business create yard art from a formerly dead patch of grass? Think back to what you&rsquo;ve made possible over the last year thanks to your and your team&rsquo;s creativity and vision.</li> <li> <strong>Best Costume Design</strong> &ndash; Costumes are extensions of characters, conveying who they are with a unique look and feel, accessories, etc. Similarly, your storefront or website does the same for your business &ndash; a visual representation of what your business is. Have you had a favorite window display over the year that attracted a lot of customers? Did you redesign your website or freshen it up? Here&rsquo;s your chance to really make note.</li> <li> <strong>Best Picture</strong> &ndash; Ah! The coveted Best Picture Award ultimately celebrates how well everyone collaborated &ndash; from directors, producers, writers, actors &ndash; to produce the best possible product. Take a look at the big picture of <em>your </em>business. How well do you think you fared? How well did your team come together to deliver and succeed? Did you connect with your target audience as you hoped? It&rsquo;s a great opportunity to reflect on a job well done, so congratulations!</li> </ul> <p><strong>&ldquo;I&rsquo;d like to thank the Academy&hellip;&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>Well, you probably don&rsquo;t &ndash; but thank the people who&rsquo;ve made your business successes possible by celebrating some of these achievements and acknowledgements with them. Maybe you can make an evening out of it, which could also be a great team-building occasion. If not, a spirited email or presentation over morning coffee can help you get your message across and jazz people up. After all, you&rsquo;re celebrating not only a great year that&rsquo;s just gone by &ndash; but a bright future built on a solid foundation of success.</p> Small Business Matters Managing Wed, 19 Feb 2014 12:08:33 +0000 kmurray 797461 at How Your Small Business Can Spread the Love to Your Community <p>Valentine&rsquo;s Day is upon us, and we know that businesses large and small incorporate this holiday of love into sales and marketing efforts with the hope that customers will spread a little more love their way. But <em>another</em> great way to acknowledge this amorous day is to spread a little love yourself &ndash; back to the community that supports your business. Read on for insight about making the most of your volunteer efforts.</p> <p>Giving back through volunteering is a great way to show the value you place on your community &ndash; and your business can benefit as well. Alyssa Gregory, an entrepreneur and small business expert, points out a few <a href="" title="link to related article">potential returns</a> when you lend a hand to others:</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Networking</strong>: Getting out into your community gives you the chance to develop new relationships and strengthen existing ones.</li> <li> <strong>Marketing</strong>: Representing your business is a surefire way to send a message about what you&rsquo;re all about. You have the opportunity to make a positive, memorable impression that will stay with people.</li> <li> <strong>Skill development</strong>: If you&rsquo;re volunteering services that are a regular part of your offerings, you may have a unique opportunity to strengthen them in a different context. If you&rsquo;re giving your time for a different activity, it&rsquo;s a chance to learn something new and potentially translate those lessons into your business practices.</li> </ul> <p>So, how can you make the most of your efforts to spread the love this Valentine&rsquo;s Day &ndash; and beyond?</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Find a cause that speaks to your passion!</strong> We all want to spend time doing what we love. And as a small business owner, you may not think you have much time to spare &ndash; that&rsquo;s why you should find something that complements your existing business efforts or draws on a passion for you and your team. <a href="" title="link to Volunteer Match website">VolunteerMatch</a> can help you find opportunities specific to your interests &ndash; from animals to board development &shy;&ndash; and your availability.</li> <li> <strong>Pump up your team!</strong> Are you hoping to get others to join you? Get them excited and make it easy for them to participate. If you can afford it, order matching t-shirts or gather everyone for a meal afterward to discuss. It&rsquo;ll serve as a great team-building activity and provide an opportunity for conversation about future efforts.</li> <li> <strong>Get the word out!</strong> Press releases, Facebook updates, tweets and more. Let people know that you&rsquo;re getting out there to help your community. If the organization you&rsquo;re volunteering with also has a social media presence, don&rsquo;t forget to tag them or use their handle &ndash; they&rsquo;ll appreciate the additional publicity as well. &nbsp;</li> </ul> <p>Lending a hand to the less fortunate or providing your product or service to an organization in need are great ways to show you care about the community that makes it possible for you to do business. And the support you&rsquo;re able to show for your community is sure to be appreciated.</p> <p>So this Valentine&rsquo;s Day, skip the box of chocolates and share the sweetness of the holiday with the deserving people and causes in your neighborhood.&nbsp;</p> Small Business Matters Managing Mon, 10 Feb 2014 16:10:44 +0000 kmurray 794921 at Interested in Exporting? These Four Resources Can Help <p>Did you know that nearly 96 percent of consumers live outside the United States? And two-thirds of the world&rsquo;s purchasing power is in foreign countries. As the numbers show, the international marketplace is a big one. So if you&rsquo;re interested in exploring the world of exporting &ndash; or have gotten started but could use some guidance &ndash; check out these resources to help.</p> <p><strong>Export Assistance Centers</strong></p> <p>Did you know that assistance centers across the United States exist to help small business owners and entrepreneurs <em>exclusively</em> with exporting topics?</p> <p><a href="" title="link to United States Exporting Assistance Centers">United States Exporting Assistance Centers</a> (USEACs) are staffed by professionals from the SBA, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and other public and private organizations. USEACs can help you understand the global marketplace and get you organized to join in and succeed. Some USEACs also have SBA representatives who are available to help you with your <a href="" title="SBA export financing">SBA export financing</a> needs. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Export Business Planner</strong></p> <p>The <a href="" title="link to Export Business Planner">Export Business Planner</a> is a downloadable tool that you can save and customize as you explore your exporting options.</p> <p>The Planner starts with an introduction to exporting and helps you determine your export readiness, then walks you through training and counseling information; marketing plan and financial materials; transportation and documentation details and more.</p> <p>The Planner also provides practical worksheets, templates and forms, in addition to a glossary of industry terms and even more helpful resources.</p> <p><strong>;s FAQ</strong></p> <p> is an ideal export resource. And its <a href="" title="link to's Frequently Asked Questions">frequently asked questions page</a> is great to browse, as they&rsquo;ve organized responses by categories. From exporting basics to trade agreements and regulations, this is a good place to start if you&rsquo;re looking to learn more but aren&rsquo;t quite sure where to start. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>USTDA Consultant Database</strong></p> <p>The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) maintains a database of companies and individuals who provide fee-based consulting services to small businesses interested in importing and exporting.</p> <p>Almost all contracts with USTDA are reserved for small businesses, most of which are opportunities for technical experts qualified in the areas of energy and power; project finance; health; manufacturing; mining &amp; natural resources; telecommunications and information technology; transportation; and water and the environment.</p> <p>Your business may be small, but there&rsquo;s a big opportunity in selling your product or service overseas. And this handful of resources can help put you on the path to international success.</p> <p><strong>Related resources</strong></p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="6 Steps to Assess Your Small Business’ Readiness to Export blog post">6 Steps to Assess Your Small Business&rsquo; Readiness to Export</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="8 Ways the U.S. Government Can Help You Finance Your Small Business Exports blog post">8 Ways the U.S. Government Can Help You Finance Your Small Business Exports</a></li> </ul> Small Business Matters International Mon, 27 Jan 2014 12:34:36 +0000 kmurray 791101 at How to Maximize the Effectiveness of Facebook for Your Small Business <p>Does your small business maintain a Facebook page? Are you thinking about venturing into social media with a presence on this ever-growing social network? Mari Smith, often referred to as &ldquo;The Queen of Facebook,&rdquo; <a href="" title="link to Mari Smith article">offers some insight</a> to help you use it most effectively.</p> <p><strong>Understand the fundamentals</strong></p> <p>Before jumping head first into Facebook, consider some fundamental questions. Ask yourself:</p> <ul> <li> Why am I on Facebook in the first place? &nbsp;</li> <li> What am I trying to do here?</li> <li> Am I trying to just generate fans and get better sentiment for my brand or actually sell product or improve customer service or just get visibility?</li> </ul> <p>Have a clear idea of what your goals are with your Facebook account so that you can measure your successes properly &ndash; and not based on standards that don&rsquo;t fit what you&rsquo;re trying to accomplish.</p> <p><strong>Think strategically</strong></p> <p>Smith says, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s really a matter of strategically thinking through what content you are posting in a manner that people are top of mind. You are top of mind because they have built this relationship with you and you&rsquo;re in their news feed, sharing valuable content and sparking interest.&rdquo;</p> <p>Be smart about what you decide to post on Facebook &ndash; what are you trying to achieve with each update? Smith adheres to an 80/20 rule. So, 80% of the time you engage on Facebook, you&rsquo;ll share &ldquo;a mix of your content, articles, resources and tools.&rdquo; For the other 20% of the time, you&rsquo;ll post content that asks for the sale or lead.</p> <p>This mix can add a lot of value to your page, which Smith suggests updating once or twice a day. With a varied approach, you won&rsquo;t be bombarding visitors with requests for sales all the time, but you&rsquo;ll be memorable because of interesting content that resonates with people and gives them a positive impression.</p> <p><strong>Be realistic </strong></p> <p>&ldquo;One thing to keep in mind as a small business owner is that just because you have 1,000 fans, all 1,000 of those people are not seeing your posts. It could be a fraction of those.&rdquo; Smith warns that the misconception of views is something she sees a lot with Facebook use. In reality, she says, only between 2% &ndash; 48% of page fans will see your updates.</p> <p>So what&rsquo;s Smith&rsquo;s recommendation for small business Facebook use? She suggests approaching it &ldquo;from the standpoint of generating email leads and gently guiding people to cross into your funnel, your e-mail list, your blog, your website and looking into your offers.&rdquo; Used effectively and realistically, Facebook can be a powerful contender in your arsenal of marketing tools.</p> <p><strong>Related Resources</strong></p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="Step Up or Get Left Behind - How to Improve Engagement with Your Facebook Fans blog post">Step Up or Get Left Behind - How to Improve Engagement with Your Facebook Fans</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="7 Ways to Use Facebook to Grow Your Email Marketing List blog post">7 Ways to Use Facebook to Grow Your Email Marketing List</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="The Social Storefront – How to Sell Your Products and Services on Facebook blog post">The Social Storefront &ndash; How to Sell Your Products and Services on Facebook</a></li> </ul> Small Business Matters Marketing Thu, 23 Jan 2014 11:19:34 +0000 kmurray 790461 at Government Contracting and Certification – What’s It All Really Mean? <p>&ldquo;Government contracting.&rdquo; &ldquo;Small business certification.&rdquo; You&rsquo;ve heard the phrases before, but what do they really mean? And does it really matter for <em>your</em> small business? Maybe &ndash; and maybe not. Let&rsquo;s cut through all the noise and define these phrases in a meaningful way for your entrepreneurial endeavors.</p> <p><strong>What is government contracting?</strong></p> <p>Government contracting is the process that lets you sell your goods or services to the government and its various agencies. The government has a contract, or agreement, with you whereby it purchases what you do or make. And U.S. government agencies buy a <em>lot</em> from small businesses &ndash; nearly $100 billion worth of goods and services each year! From market research to janitorial services, if you want to make the government your customer, there&rsquo;s a good chance there&rsquo;s a need for what you offer.</p> <p><strong>So, what does it mean to be certified as a &ldquo;small business&rdquo;?</strong></p> <p>Being certified as a &ldquo;small business&rdquo; is only significant <em>if </em>you&rsquo;re interested in government contracting. Why? Because there are certain set-asides that the government must adhere to when they&rsquo;re looking to buy goods or services &ndash; there&rsquo;s a percentage of business <em>set aside</em> for different kinds of companies, including small businesses. (Others include <a href="" title="link to women-owned business info">women-owned</a>, <a href="" title="link to veteran-owned business info">veteran-owned</a>, etc.) So if you want to be a contender in the federal marketplace, your small business has to meet official criteria to be eligible for government contracts.</p> <p><strong>How do I certify my business as small?</strong></p> <p>First, make sure you <em>do, </em>in fact, have <a href="" title="link to small business qualifications info">a small business</a>. For most industries, SBA defines a &quot;small business&quot; either in terms of the average number of employees over the past 12 months, or average annual receipts over the past three years.</p> <p>Then, when you know you adhere to the size standards, you <a href="" title="link to registration info">register for government contracting</a>. This process <em>also</em> serves the purpose of &ldquo;certifying&rdquo; your business as small.</p> <p><strong>Where can I get some help?</strong></p> <p>Starting out in government contracting can be overwhelming, but SBA has resources to help:</p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="link to The Government Contracting Classroom">The Government Contracting Classroom</a>: Online, self-paced training courses to fill you in on the government contracting landscape &ndash; from starting out to special programs</li> <li> <a href="" title="link to Procurement Technical Assistance Centers">Procurement Technical Assistance Centers</a>: PTACs offer local, in-person counseling and training services to businesses that want to sell products and services to federal, state and/or local governments.</li> <li> <a href="" title="link to Selling to the Government – Get Started With These 5 Steps blog post">Selling to the Government &ndash; Get Started With These 5 Steps</a>: A five-step plan that summarizes the process of entering the federal marketplace, plus links to additional resources.</li> </ul> Small Business Matters Government Contracting Tue, 21 Jan 2014 11:44:48 +0000 kmurray 789981 at Optimism Runs High for the Independent Workforce <p>2013 was a good year for independent workers &ndash; and the future looks even brighter. Self-described contractors, freelancers, consultants, temps, &ldquo;solopreneurs,&rdquo; and microbusiness owners surveyed for <a href="" title="link to MBO’s Third Annual Independent Workforce Report">MBO&rsquo;s Third Annual Independent Workforce Report</a> are feeling optimistic about their employment status. Check out these positive figures if you&rsquo;re thinking about joining their ranks.</p> <p><strong>Independents have a positive impact on the economy</strong></p> <p>The MBO study reports a 5% increase in independent workers when compared to 2012 &ndash; up to 17.7 million. And with these numbers comes a noteworthy contribution to the economy. Independents generated nearly $1.2 trillion in total income both globally and locally, up a whopping 20% from 2012. They also spent over $150 billion on non-payroll/contractor expenses.</p> <p><strong>Independents hire other independents</strong></p> <p>The vast majority of independent workers are &ldquo;solopreneurs&rdquo; and don&rsquo;t have traditional employees, but that doesn&rsquo;t mean they work alone. Through contract hiring over the past year, 26% of independent workers spent a total of $96 billion to hire the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time workers.</p> <p><strong>Independents want to grow their businesses</strong></p> <p>One in seven independents plan on building a bigger business, which means that close to 2.5 million independent workers will launch businesses that will create additional traditional jobs and ignite even greater economic activity.</p> <p><strong>Independents are feeling less burdened</strong></p> <p>As it becomes more conventional to have an independent work style, independents are finding more tools and solutions to overcome challenges they face. Concerns over retirement, project pipelines, benefits, self-marketing and job security all fell slightly from the 2011 base year.</p> <p><strong>Independents are happy in their work</strong></p> <p>Job satisfaction remains strong among independent workers, with 64% reporting that they are highly satisfied with their work style. Most plan to continue as independent workers, with 77% saying they will either continue as &ldquo;solopreneurs&rdquo; (63%) or grow a larger business (14%).</p> <p>These independents &ndash; representative of all ages, professions, educational levels and geography &ndash; are part of a workforce that&rsquo;s predicted to grow to 24 million workers by 2018. Will you be a part of it?</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re thinking about starting your own small business, <a href="" title="link to resources to start a business">check out our resources</a> to get you started. SBA is here to help you succeed &ndash; so let us know how we can do just that.</p> <p><strong>Related Resources</strong></p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title=" The Early Years of Entrepreneurship: A Step-by-Step Approach to Surviving and Thriving blog post">The Early Years of Entrepreneurship: A Step-by-Step Approach to Surviving and Thriving</a></li> </ul> Small Business Matters Managing Starting Thu, 16 Jan 2014 11:34:01 +0000 kmurray 789131 at SBA’s Mentor-Protégé Program <p>Is your small business part of SBA&rsquo;s <a href="" title="link to 8(a) Business Development Program page">8(a) Business Development Program</a>? Have you considered entering the <a href="" title="link to Mentor-Protégé Program page">Mentor-Prot&eacute;g&eacute; Program</a> to develop your business and compete more successfully for federal government contracts? As either the mentor or the prot&eacute;g&eacute;, there&rsquo;s a lot to be gained from participating. Here&rsquo;s how it works and the requirements to participate. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>How does it work? </strong></p> <p>The Mentor-Prot&eacute;g&eacute; Program fosters private-sector relationships between small businesses. It&rsquo;s designed to allow approved small businesses &ndash; as mentors &ndash; to provide various kinds of assistance to their prot&eacute;g&eacute;s, which are other eligible 8(a) participants that are still in the developmental stage of the <a href="" title="link to 8(a) Business Development Program page">8(a) Business Development Program</a>.</p> <p><strong>What are the benefits?</strong></p> <p>The benefits go both ways in this program. As a mentor or prot&eacute;g&eacute;, you&rsquo;ll have the opportunity to learn and grow as a small business and prepare for greater success in the realm of government contracting.</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Technical and management assistance</strong>: Prot&eacute;g&eacute;s can benefit from their mentors&rsquo; expertise, resources and capabilities. In passing along this knowledge, mentors can hone their skills and note potential areas for improvement.</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <strong>Prime contracting</strong>: Mentors can enter into joint-venture arrangements with prot&eacute;g&eacute;s to compete for federal contracts so they can sell their products or services to the government.</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <strong>Financial assistance in the form of equity or loans</strong>: Mentors can own equity interest of up to 40% in prot&eacute;g&eacute; firms to help them raise capital.</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <strong>Qualification for other SBA programs</strong>: Prot&eacute;g&eacute;s can obtain other forms of SBA assistance as the result of good standing in the Mentor-Prot&eacute;g&eacute; program.</li> </ul> <p>The Mentor-Prot&eacute;g&eacute; Program also expands SBA&rsquo;s efforts to identify and respond to the developmental needs of 8(a) clients.</p> <p><strong>What are the prot&eacute;g&eacute; requirements?</strong></p> <p>To participate in the program, prot&eacute;g&eacute;s must:</p> <ul> <li> Be in the developmental stage of the 8(a) Business Development program</li> <li> Have never received an 8(a) contract</li> <li> Be less than half the size standard for a small business based on its primary SIC code</li> <li> Be in good standing in the 8(a) Business Development program and current with all reporting requirements</li> </ul> <p>Prot&eacute;g&eacute;s can only have one mentor at a time.</p> <p><strong>What are the mentor requirements?</strong></p> <p>To participate in the program, mentors can be a business that have graduated from the 8(a) Business Development program, in the transitional stage of the program, or a small or large business. Mentor businesses must also:</p> <ul> <li> Have favorable financial health, including profitability for at least the last two years</li> <li> Be a federal contractor in good standing</li> <li> Be able to provide valuable support to a prot&eacute;g&eacute; through lessons learned and practical experience gained from the 8(a) BD program (or through general knowledge of government contracting)</li> <li> Make at least a yearlong commitment to the prot&eacute;g&eacute;</li> </ul> <p>A mentor will usually have one prot&eacute;g&eacute; at a time, but may have more with SBA authorization.</p> <p>Want to learn more or apply? Contact your <a href="" title="link to district office page">district office</a> to apply for the Mentor-Prot&eacute;g&eacute; Program, or call (800) 827-5722 with any questions.</p> <p>Related Resources</p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="link to 8(a) Business Development Program page">8(a) Business Development Program</a></li> </ul> Small Business Matters Government Contracting Mentoring and Training Mon, 13 Jan 2014 12:52:26 +0000 kmurray 786741 at Tips for Young Entrepreneurs During National Mentoring Month <p>As a young entrepreneur, you may be looking for advice or guidance as you consider starting your own business. A great place to turn? A mentor.</p> <p>And January is National Mentoring Month. Every year, this month highlights the positive role that mentors have in helping shape the success of young people &ndash; from the classroom to the working world. Read on for more about why and how to get started with a mentor.</p> <p><strong>Why should I have a mentor?</strong></p> <p>According to the <a href="" title="link to Startup Genome Report">Startup Genome Report</a>, statistics show that entrepreneurs and startups are more likely to succeed with the help of an effective mentor. That may not come as a surprise &ndash; a mentor brings with him or her a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight that you won&rsquo;t find anywhere else.</p> <ul> <li> <strong>An insider perspective</strong></li> </ul> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Aside from the &ldquo;been there, done that&rdquo; know-how a mentor can pass along, consulting with one can be a great way to gain a fresh perspective and broaden your outlook. Especially if you&rsquo;ve been developing your ideas solo, having a sounding board in a business mentor can offer a sanity check or an outlet to help focus your ideas.</p> <ul> <li> <strong>A sophisticated skillset</strong></li> </ul> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">If you feel that you&rsquo;re struggling with a particular task as you&rsquo;re trying to start your business, a mentor can help. From accounting to technology, many mentors have a particular area of advanced skills. So as you gain high-level industry insight, you can also further your technical abilities essential to your future business.</p> <ul> <li> <strong>A vast network</strong></li> </ul> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">With years of experience, a mentor likely has an enviable network of industry connections. The importance of networking can&rsquo;t be understated, so expanding your network with the help of a mentor can be a great way to meet potential partners, customers and decision-makers in your target market. A personal introduction can strengthen that new tie when compared to meeting someone randomly at an event.</p> <p><strong>How can I find a mentor?</strong></p> <p>Two great options to consider for mentorship are <a href="" title="link to SCORE description">SCORE</a> and <a href="" title="link to Small Business Development Center description">Small Business Development Centers</a>.</p> <ul> <li> <strong>SCORE</strong></li> </ul> <p>Sponsored by SBA, <a href="" title="link to SCORE site">SCORE</a> is a nonprofit network of retired business executives, leaders and volunteers who provide free and confidential counseling, mentoring and advice. It has more than 358 chapters with 13,000 + volunteers who share their expertise through<a href="" title="link to SCORE chapters map"> in-person</a> and <a href="" title="link to SCORE online mentoring">online mentoring</a>.</p> <p>SCORE counselors often have a specific area of expertise for all stages of business. While your primary counselor will be your main point of contact, he or she can help identify and introduce you to other specialists &ndash; from accounting and marketing to management and technology.</p> <p>In addition, the <a href="" title="link to SCORE website">SCORE website</a> is chockfull of great resources, including <a href="" title="link to SCORE templates and tools">how-to guides and tools</a>, <a href="" title="link to SCORE online workshops">online workshops</a> and more. You&rsquo;ll also find a listing of its local branches that operate in-person workshops.</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Small Business Development Centers</strong></li> </ul> <p>Also sponsored by the SBA, <a href="" title="link to Small Business Development Centers page">Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)</a> are partnerships primarily between the government and colleges or universities that provide educational services to small business owners and entrepreneurs at any stage of the business process. They offer technical assistance through confidential one-on-one counseling, training seminars, assistance with SBA loans, business plan guidance and more.</p> <p>Find your <a href="" title="link to Small Business Development Centers page">nearest SBDC</a>.</p> <p>So if you&rsquo;re getting started with ideas to start your own business and are looking for some guidance, consider reaching out to a business mentor to help you succeed.</p> <p><strong>Additional Resources</strong></p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="link to 8 Things you Can Do to Be Taken Seriously as a Young Entrepreneur blog post">8 Things you Can Do to Be Taken Seriously as a Young Entrepreneur</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="How to avoid the pitfalls of being a young entrepreneur">6 Tips for Avoiding the Common Financial Pitfalls of Being a Young Entrepreneur</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="Tips for Borrowing Startup Funds from Friends or Family">6 Tips for Borrowing Startup Funds from Friends or Family</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</li> </ul> Small Business Matters Mentoring and Training Starting Wed, 08 Jan 2014 13:31:47 +0000 kmurray 785481 at New Year, New Hires – Growing Your Business With New Employees <p>If the new year could mean new hires for your small business, there&rsquo;s a lot to think about. Here&rsquo;s some insight to consider from experts interviewed for SBA&rsquo;s Learning Center Series, &ldquo;<a href="" title="link to Learning Center video series">Strategies for Growth</a>.&rdquo; They&rsquo;ve shared some lessons they&rsquo;ve learned that can help you develop a plan for expanding your team.</p> <p><strong>Short and sweet job descriptions</strong></p> <p><a href="" title="link to video">Casey Wilson</a>, Retail Industry Manager, Maryland Small Business Development Center, asserts the importance of a clear, well written job description: &ldquo;The position needs to be well defined in how it will contribute to the business&rsquo;s growth and success. It doesn&rsquo;t have to be complicated, but direct and to the point with the main responsibilities for the person.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Communicate your vision and mission</strong></p> <p>Wilson also stresses the important of being able to clearly communicate your company&rsquo;s vision statement &ndash; and mission statement, which is how you&rsquo;ll accomplish that vision. Be able to &ldquo;explain your reason for being&rdquo; in a 30-second elevator pitch in an interview.</p> <p>By clearly communicating &ldquo;who&rdquo; your company is and how you accomplish your goals, you&rsquo;ll have a better idea during the interview process if a potential hire will be a good fit in contributing to your business&rsquo;s success.</p> <p><strong>Incentivize current employees</strong></p> <p>Your current employees may be a great resource for new hires. Some business owners, like <a href="" title="link to video">Jeanna Sellmeyer</a> of ASSET Group, Inc., offer cash incentives to employees who refer qualified candidates. If those candidates become part of the team and stick around for a certain amount of time &ndash; usually a year &ndash; that referring employee gets a little something extra in the next payroll.</p> <p>Your employees can help bring in talent on par with your standards; after all, they don&rsquo;t want to compromise their own jobs. Making it financially work their while to help grow the company can help keep your employees motivated and give you confidence that you&rsquo;ll have promising prospects.</p> <p><strong>Clients can help </strong></p> <p><a href="" title="link to video">Mary Tappouni</a> of Breaking Ground Contracting has said that clients can be a great source of advice on personnel decisions. Customers that her company has had for years have become friends, and she values how they can look at potential hires not only as someone who might be a good fit for the company, but also as someone they&rsquo;d want to do business with.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s important that as the company grows, Tappouni says, clients feel comfortable that the people you&rsquo;re hiring will take care of them with the same level of quality that&rsquo;s always existed in the business relationship.</p> <p>So, involve some of these trusted clients in the interview process and gather feedback as you move forward with making a decision.</p> <p><strong>Additional Resources</strong></p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="Steps to Hiring your First Employee">Steps to Hiring your First Employee</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="4 Interview Questions that get to the Heart of a Candidate's Potential">4 Interview Questions That Get to the Heart of a Candidate&rsquo;s Potential</a></li> </ul> Small Business Matters Managing Thu, 02 Jan 2014 12:18:26 +0000 kmurray 783931 at Cybersecurity Essentials for Small Businesses <p>You may be hearing the term &ldquo;cybersecurity&rdquo; more frequently these days and wondering how it applies to your small business &ndash; if at all. It does. Cyber threats are an issue for everyone, and small businesses are becoming more common targets for such threats and crimes because they often have fewer preventative or responsive resources. So, what do you need to know? Here are some essentials as featured in <a href="" title="link to online training">one of our latest online trainings</a>.</p> <p><strong>What is cybersecurity?</strong></p> <p>With the help of technology and best practices, cybersecurity is the effort to protect computers, programs, networks and data from attack and damage.</p> <p><strong>Why is cybersecurity so important? </strong></p> <p>Consider all the information you have that needs to be secure:</p> <ul> <li> Personal information for employees</li> <li> Partner information</li> <li> Sensitive information for customers/clients</li> <li> Financial and sensitive business information</li> </ul> <p>It&rsquo;s essential to do your part to keep these details safe and out of the hands of those who could use your data to compromise you, your employees and the foundation of your small business. Think it can&rsquo;t happen to you? Think again:</p> <ul> <li> CNN <a href="" title="link to CNN report">reports</a> nearly half of the data breaches that Verizon recorded in 2012 took place in companies with less than 1,000 employees.</li> <li> A Symantec <a href="" title="link to Symanec report">report</a> showed that 31% of all attacks in 2012 happened to businesses that had less than 250 employees.</li> <li> A different Symantec <a href="" title="link to Symantec report">report</a> showed cyber attacks were up 81% in 2011.</li> </ul> <p><strong>What are common cyber threats and crimes?</strong></p> <p>There&rsquo;s a broad range of information security threats. Some of the most common include website tampering, data theft, denial-of-service attacks and malicious code and viruses.</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Website tampering</strong>: Website tampering can take many forms, including defacing your website, hacking your system and compromising webpages to allow invisible code that will try to download spyware onto your device.</li> <li> <strong>Data theft</strong>: Data theft can come in various forms, and the problems that come with it depend on what kind of data is stolen. Some examples include: <ul style="list-style-type:circle;"> <li> Theft of computer files</li> <li> Theft of laptops, computers and devices</li> <li> Interception of emails</li> <li> Identity theft</li> </ul> </li> <li> <strong>Denial-of-service attacks</strong>: A denial-of-service attack happens on a computer or website and locks the computer and/or crashes the system with which you&rsquo;re working. This results in stopped or slowed workflow and prevents communication. The ultimate goal of this kind of attack is to prevent you from conducting business with your internet-connected systems.</li> <li> <strong>Malicious code and viruses</strong>: These threats are sent over the internet and aim to find and send your files; find and delete critical data; or lock your computer or system. They can hide in programs or documents and make copies of themselves &ndash; all without your knowledge.</li> </ul> <p><strong>What can I do to protect my business?&nbsp; </strong></p> <p>The first step to protecting the information in your business is to establish comprehensive security policies &ndash; and keep them up to date. Make sure your employees know <em>and</em> adhere to your policies and best practices for internet, email and the desktop. Here are just a few to keep in mind:</p> <ul> <li> Don&rsquo;t respond to popup windows telling you to download drives</li> <li> Don&rsquo;t allow websites to install software on your device</li> <li> Don&rsquo;t reply to unsolicited emails</li> <li> Use screen locks and shut off your computer at the end of the day</li> </ul> <p>Ensure that your computer hardware and software are updated regularly on all devices throughout the company. Change passwords periodically and use firewalls to protect your systems. You should also consider backing up your data on a regular basis so that if anything is compromised, you have a copy.</p> <p>Want to learn more about how to help make your business more cyber secure? Check out our self-paced <a href="" title="link to online cybersecurity course">online training course, &ldquo;Cybersecurity for Small Businesses,&rdquo;</a> which features more tips and additional resources to help you along the way.</p> <p><strong>Related articles:</strong></p> <p><a href="" title="link to Do Small Businesses Need to Worry About Cyber Security blog post">Do Small Businesses Need to Worry About Cyber Security?</a></p> Small Business Matters Managing Mentoring and Training Mon, 23 Dec 2013 13:17:21 +0000 kmurray 782501 at Government Contracting – Resources to Help You Succeed <p>If you&rsquo;re just getting started in the world of government contracting, you&rsquo;re not alone if you&rsquo;re feeling a bit overwhelmed! Entering the federal marketplace is one unlike any other &ndash; but there are specialized resources to help you succeed. A great one to take advantage of is a Procurement Technical Assistance Center.</p> <p><strong>Procurement Technical Assistance Centers</strong></p> <p>Administered by the <a href="" title="Defense Logistics Agency link">Defense Logistics Agency</a>, <a href="" title="link to Procurement Technical Assistance Centers website">Procurement Technical Assistance Centers</a> (PTACs) provide local, in-person counseling and training services to businesses that want to sell products and services to federal, state and/or local governments.</p> <p>PTACs are hosted by organizations such as universities and local chambers of commerce, and the training and assistance they provide is usually free. Located in 49 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam, their expertise can help you&hellip;</p> <p><strong>Determine if your business is ready for government contracting</strong><br /> Pursuing government contracts can be challenging, especially if you&rsquo;re unfamiliar with the particulars of the landscape. If you don&rsquo;t have the resources to handle a contract, you may find that you&rsquo;re in over your head. A PTAC representative can sit with you one-on-one and determine if your business is ready, and help position you for success.</p> <p><strong>Register in the proper places</strong><br /> There are numerous databases to register with to get involved with the government marketplace, including <a href="" title="System for Award Management link">the System for Award Management (SAM)</a>, <a href="" title="GSA Schedules">GSA Schedules</a> and other government vendor sites. A PTAC representative can help you sort through the databases, provide insight about where you need to register and provide guidance about how to proceed with the registration process.</p> <p><strong>See if you are eligible in any small business certifications</strong><br /> Some government contracts are set aside for certain businesses with special certifications, such as <a href="" title="woman-owned businesses link">woman-owned</a>, <a href="" title="small disadvantaged businesses link">small disadvantaged businesses</a> and <a href="" title="HUBZone link">HUBZone</a>. A PTAC representative can help you determine if you&rsquo;re eligible for any and then let you know how to obtain these certifications.</p> <p><strong>Research past contract opportunities</strong><br /> A PTAC representative can look into past contracts to see what types of contracts have been awarded to businesses like yours. In addition, a PTAC can help you identify and bid on a contract, and if you are awarded the contract, measure your performance and help with contract audits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>PTACs offer a wealth of information, experience and insight into government contracting, so <a href="" title="link to find nearest Procurement Technical Assistance Center">find your nearest one</a> today so you can make the government your business&rsquo; next customer! For additional information, you can also check out the site for the <a href="" title="link to Association of Procurement Technical Assistance site">Association of Procurement Technical Assistance</a>.</p> Small Business Matters Government Contracting Thu, 12 Dec 2013 11:34:10 +0000 kmurray 776741 at 5 Ways to Market Your Business for the Holiday Season <p>The holiday season is quickly approaching, and the time is now to make sure you get the most of your marketing efforts to help secure sales success in the coming months. Here are a few budget-friendly ideas to help get you started.</p> <p><strong>Social Media Contests</strong></p> <p>If your small business has a social media presence, contests on Facebook and Twitter are often a popular way highlight your brand and engage with customers, reminding them that your product or service is available &ndash; and a potentially great gift idea. With a few rules, a clever hashtag and incentive such as a prize or discount on your offerings, you can drum up excitement about &ndash; and draw people in to &ndash; your business.</p> <p><strong>Extra Appeal for Your Loyal Customers</strong></p> <p>Take this time to make your loyal customers feel extra special &ndash; it may come back to you by way of additional business and referrals. Without breaking the bank, you can provide special offers, sneak previews, free shipping or secret sales.</p> <p><strong>Special Events or Open Houses</strong></p> <p>Make your small business stand out by hosting an open house or special event at your store or restaurant. Use it to showcase holiday season gifts, menus and merchandise so customers can get a glimpse of your seasonal goods in advance. Pair the browsing with light refreshments &ndash; a mug of hot cocoa or a glass of cider &ndash; to get people in the holiday spirit. On their way out, give a special offer or coupon that invites customers back to make their purchases at a discount.</p> <p><strong>Holiday Help</strong></p> <p>This is a great idea from Illana Bercovitz at <a href="" title="link to Small Business Trends article">Small Business Trends</a>: use social media to offer helpful tips during a stressful holiday season. Consider your industry, product or service and related advice you could offer to make customers&rsquo; lives easier. &ldquo;Everyone appreciates useful advice and your customers will thank you for pushing content that makes their holidays slightly less stressful,&rdquo; Bercovitz says. Use an original hashtag to maintain brand awareness across platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.</p> <p><strong>Email</strong></p> <p>Although it&rsquo;s often considered overused, email remains inexpensive and easy to implement when it comes to maintaining contact with existing customers. That&rsquo;s a key to remember &ndash; to be effective, email marketing should be used with folks you have already done business with or who have expressed an interest in your business and have requested email from you (otherwise known as permission marketing).</p> <p>Keep these tips in mind if you plan to use email to support your holiday marketing efforts:</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Keep the e-mail short and sweet. </strong>Link directly to the content of interest so you make the process as easy as possible for your customers.</li> <li> <strong>Clearly state the email&rsquo;s intent in the subject line.</strong> For example, &quot;A Special Offer Just for You. Thanks for Your Business in 2013.&rdquo;</li> <li> <strong>Be festive in your design. </strong>Appeal to the sights of the season with a special design for the holidays.</li> <li> <strong>Follow online marketing rules. </strong>Don&#39;t forget that online marketing is regulated, so whatever tactics you employ be sure to follow <a href="" title="link to government guidelines about email marketing">government</a> guidelines that apply to list management, SPAM and other guidelines.</li> </ul> <p>For more great holiday marketing insight, check out this recent post from guest blogger Rieva Lesonsky, &ldquo;<a href="" title="Start Now to Plan Your Holiday Retail Marketing Campaign article">Start Now to Plan Your Holiday Retail Marketing Campaign</a>,&rdquo; and our 2012 <a href="" title="link to holiday marketing web chat">web chat</a> with Caron Beesley.</p> Small Business Matters Marketing Wed, 23 Oct 2013 11:23:37 +0000 kmurray 755186 at 9 Cyber Security Tips for Small Business Owners <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Small businesses are becoming a larger target for criminals seeking to access sensitive data because attackers are well aware that small businesses have limited resources or personnel dedicated to information system security. In an effort to combat cyber-attacks, the Department of Homeland Security established October as <a href="">National Cyber Security Awareness Month</a> to educate the public about cyber security and to prepare the nation in the event of a cyber-incident.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Here are 9 cyber security tips for small business owners: </span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><strong>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Use the FCC&rsquo;s Small Biz Cyber Planner to create a cyber security plan</strong></span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">The <a href="" style="font-size: 12px;">Small Biz Cyber Planner</a> is valuable for businesses that lack the resources to hire a dedicated staff member to protect themselves from cyber threats. The tool walks users through a series of questions to determine which cyber security strategies should be included in the planning guide, and generates a customized PDF that serves as a cyber-security strategy template.</span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><strong>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Establish cyber security rules for&nbsp; your employees</strong></span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect personally identifiable information.&nbsp; Clearly detail the penalties for violating cyber security policies.</span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><em><strong>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong></em><strong>Protect against viruses, spyware, and other malicious code</strong><br /> Install, use, and regularly update antivirus and antispyware software on every computer used in your business. Such software is readily available online from a variety of vendors. </span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><strong>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Educate employees about safe social media practices</strong></span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Depending on what your business does, employees might be introducing competitors to sensitive details about your firm&rsquo;s internal business. Employees should be taught how to post online in a way that does not reveal any trade secrets to the public or competing businesses. This type of safe social networking can help avoid serious risks to your business.</span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><strong>5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Manage and assess risk</strong></span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Ask yourself, &ldquo;What do we have to protect? And, what would impact our business the most?&rdquo; Cyber-criminals often use lesser-protected small businesses as a bridge to attack larger firms with which they have a relationship. This can make unprepared small firms a less attractive business partner in the future, blocking potentially lucrative business deals.</span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><em><strong>6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong></em><strong>Download and install software updates when they are available</strong><br /> All software vendors regularly provide patches and updates to their products to correct security problems and improve functionality. Configure all software to install such updates automatically.</span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><strong>7.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Make backup copies of important business data and information</strong><br /> Regularly backup the data on every computer used in your business. Critical data includes word processing documents, spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files. Backup data automatically if possible, or at least weekly.</span></span><br /> &nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><em style="font-size: 12px;"><strong>8.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong></em><strong style="font-size: 12px;">Control physical access to computers and network components</strong></span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft, so make sure they are stored and locked up when unattended.</span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><em style="font-size: 12px;"><strong>9.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong></em><strong style="font-size: 12px;">Secure Wi-Fi networks</strong></span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">If you have a Wi-Fi network for your home business make sure it is secure and hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, configure your wireless access point or router so that it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID).&nbsp; In addition, make sure that passwords are required for access. It is also critical to change the administrative password that was on the device when it was first purchased.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Click <a href="" style="font-size: 12px;">here</a> for a list of cyber security events and webinars.&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><em style="font-size: 12px;">Source:&nbsp;</em><a href="" style="font-size: 12px;" title="FCC PDF"><em>FCC&#39;s Cyber Security Tips for Small Business</em></a></span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;"><em>Other Related Resources</em></strong></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px;"><em>Federal Communications Commission &ndash; Cyber Security for Small Business</em></a></span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><a href=""><em>Learn more about National Cyber Security Awareness Month</em></a></span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><a href=""><em></em></a><em>- Federal government&rsquo;s website to help protect you online</em></span></span></p> <p align="center">&nbsp;</p> <p align="center">&nbsp;</p> Small Business Matters SBA News and Views Fri, 18 Oct 2013 00:02:01 +0000 ngoriel 754840 at Over 50 and Ready to Start a Business? Free Resources To Inspire You to Make it Happen <p>Over 50 and thinking of starting your own business? Looking for real-world, actionable information to start your own business?<img alt="Image of encore entrepreneurs" height="172" src="/sites/default/files/images/Untitled(1).png" style="float: right;" title="Image of encore entrepreneurs" width="442" /></p> <p>Entrepreneurs over the age of 50 are one of the fastest growing groups of new business owners. Perhaps you are looking to turn a hobby into a business and finally have the resources to do so. Or you want the flexibility or supplemental income that running a business or being your own boss affords. With a lifetime of experience, skills and connections under your belt, why not?</p> <p><strong>Making it Happen</strong></p> <p>Take, for example, Portland-based husband-and-wife team Dave Faul and Sandra Yates, who started <a href="" title="link to Wash n’ Roll Pet Grooming site">Wash n&rsquo; Roll Pet Grooming</a> business after more than 25 years of employment in the women&rsquo;s apparel and real estate industries respectively. Both Faul and Yates were animal lovers, but when Faul suggested that they start a business washing dogs and cats in a van parked a client&rsquo;s curbs, Yates said, &ldquo;Thinking he was nuts was an understatement.&rdquo; However, after three years in business, Wash n&rsquo; Roll has expanded to two vans and serves the entire Portland metropolitan area.</p> <p>Faul began research for a new business when he realized his job could evaporate in a corporate merger&nbsp;or store closure. He learned that the U.S. has a $30 billion pet industry. He also looked at&nbsp;who spends a lot of those dollars. &ldquo;The baby boomers, whose children are getting older or who are&nbsp;empty-nesters, are willing to spend money on keeping their fur kids happy,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Sounds a common enough business venture, but mobile pet groomers weren&rsquo;t prevalent in the Northwest at the time. Faul attended a pet grooming school in Albany for six months, and Yates wrote a business plan.</p> <p>In need of funding, they approached local&nbsp;bankers who said the business had to operate for two or three years before they could get a business loan; instead, the couple paid their own startup costs. They also received assistance from <a href="" title="link to SCORE site">SCORE</a>. SCORE members volunteer as counselors for small entrepreneurs. &ldquo;They were&nbsp;really helpful,&rdquo; Yates said, &ldquo;and it was surprising that it was all free.&rdquo;</p> <p>Growing mostly by word of mouth, the business now has three part-time and three full-time&nbsp;employees.</p> <p><strong>More Nuggets of Wisdom</strong></p> <p>Other entrepreneurs who have found success at 50+ talked to <a href="" title="link to AARP site">AARP</a> and offered the following useful tips for aspiring encore entrepreneurs:</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&quot;<em>Find a business mentor. I went to&nbsp;</em><em>SCORE</em><em>. Having a good mentor helps you cut through the BS. They will tell you like it is. Do you have a good idea? Will your concept work? Once you&#39;re 50, you don&#39;t want to waste your time</em>.&quot; <strong>Annemarie du LeBohn, 51, launched a motivational speaking business after a former career in corporate marketing.</strong></p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"><em>&quot;Develop your team, people who will help you take your business where you want it to go. For me, it&#39;s my business coach, website support and others. Take the risk and have fun. Unlike during my younger years when I wanted to prove myself and was driven to &#39;be successful,&#39; this time around it&#39;s about leaving a legacy and pursuing dreams. It&#39;s about incorporating my business and retirement goals with my personal values.&quot; </em><strong>Barbara Hyatte Boustead, 61, a licensed clinical social worker for 37 years, runs&nbsp;</strong><a href=";Larger_Image=More+Info"><strong>Mary&#39;s Daughter</strong></a><strong>&nbsp;to provide daily money management services to older adults and veterans.</strong></p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&quot;<em>Know your product and know how to sell it. If you are familiar with the saying, &#39;selling ice to Eskimos,&#39; you will be aware of the necessity as an entrepreneur to develop good salesmanship. You must develop the ability to sell, or better put, to convince people to buy. Also, think carefully about how to market your product, and be 100-percent confident about the merit of your product or service. My long career in the arts taught me one important lesson: if the main door is shut, look for the side or back door. They always exist and are much less guarded</em>.&quot; <strong>Yuval Zaliouk, 74, a former orchestral conductor, who at age 50, (while still conducting) started </strong><a href="" title="link to Almondina Cookies site"><strong>Almondina Cookies</strong></a><strong>, an online cookie business.</strong></p> <p><strong>Inspired? &ndash; Free Resources that Can Help You Start your Encore Business</strong></p> <p>Check out SBA&rsquo;s <a href="" title="link to Encore Entrepreneurs section">50+ Entrepreneurs</a> web guide for tools, resources and training that can help you assess your readiness to get started and walk you through the steps involved in starting a business &ndash; including connecting you with a free mentor, finding the right business type (home-based, online, etc.), as well as the legal and regulatory steps involved such as incorporating your business, getting the right permits and so on.</p> Small Business Matters Starting Wed, 25 Sep 2013 11:36:47 +0000 Caron_Beesley 754109 at Leaving Military Life for Entrepreneurship – 5 Essential Resources That Can Help <p>More than 250,000 service members transition each year from the military to civilian life. These men and women are proven leaders and they have the skills and experience needed to be outstanding business leaders. And the figures prove it &ndash; one in seven veterans are self-employed or small business owners, and about one quarter of veterans say they are interested in starting or buying their own business.&nbsp;</p> <p>If this sounds like you, there are a number of exciting resources and programs that can help you start and grow your business.</p> <p>Here&rsquo;s a round-up of five essential resources that can help you leverage the power of new social media programs to connect with and learn from experts; find a mentor; access discounted resources such as computer equipment and software; benefit from reduced franchise fees; and, of course, get vital training, counseling and help in your community.</p> <ol> <li> <strong>Veterans Business Outreach Centers</strong></li> </ol> <p>Funded primarily by the SBA as a public-private partnership&nbsp;between the SBA and the Veterans Resource Centers of America, <a href="" title="link to Veteran Business Outreach Centers">Veterans Business Outreach Centers</a> (VBOCs) provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, mentoring and referrals for eligible veterans owning or considering starting a small business. <a href="" title="link to find a Veteran Outreach center">Find a center near you</a>.</p> <ol> <li value="2"> <strong>Veteran Fast Launch Initiative </strong><img alt="" height="169" src="/sites/default/files/images/vet fast launch.png" style="float: right;" title="Veteran Fast Launch Initiative logo" width="263" /></li> </ol> <p>For years, <a href="" title="link to SCORE website">SCORE</a> has provided free mentoring services to small business owners. But in 2011, it launched its <a href="" title="link to Veteran Fast Launch Initiative">Veteran Fast Launch Initiative</a> in partnership with the Wal-Mart Foundation. The initiative provides veterans and active duty military members (and their spouses) with free or significantly discounted resources for starting businesses, such as computer software and business services (provided by major corporate partners such as Microsoft, Cisco, Constant Contact and others). Participants also get access to training in how to start and how to grow a successful/profitable business and are assigned a knowledgeable and highly experienced mentor to guide them every step of the way.</p> <ol> <li value="3"> <strong>VetNet by Google</strong></li> </ol> <p>Powered by Google+, <a href="" title="link to VetNet">VetNet</a> is designed to provide a full spectrum of business resources and connect veterans who are re-entering the working life or looking to start a business. VetNet partners include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce&rsquo;s&nbsp;<a href="" title="link to Hiring Our Heroes program">Hiring Our Heroes</a>&nbsp;program, the <a href="" title="link to Institute for Veterans and Military Families">Institute for Veterans and Military Families</a>&nbsp;(IVMF) and&nbsp;<a href="" title="link to Hire Heroes USA">Hire Heroes USA</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>The program is also targeted at veterans looking for employment opportunities; it also features numerous resources for veteran entrepreneurs including regular online training sessions held via interactive hangouts (Google+ speak for a live video web chat or event).</p> <p>Topics vary &ndash; from how to conduct market research to building your business team and more. Class participants can also attend follow-up forums in Google+ where they can pose any questions they have about previous training sessions and connect with other veterans. Check out all upcoming classes and events <a href="">here</a> (click on &ldquo;Entrepreneur Track&rdquo;). You can also download workbooks and other resources to help you start and grow your business.</p> <p class="rtecenter"><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/images/pic 2.png" style="width: 336px; height: 240px;" title="screenshot of VetNet website" /></p> <ol> <li value="4"> <strong>SBA&rsquo;s Veteran-Owned Business Guide</strong></li> </ol> <p>&nbsp;SBA&rsquo;s&nbsp;<a href="" title="link to veteran business guide">Veteran and Service-Disabled Veteran Small Business Guide&nbsp;</a>is a one-stop portal with links to programs and resources, financing information, government contracting opportunities and other resources.</p> <p class="rtecenter"><img alt="" height="257" src="/sites/default/files/images/pic 3.png" title="screenshot of SBA’s Veteran-Owned Business Guide" width="305" /></p> <ol> <li value="5"> <strong>VetFran Directory &ndash; Franchising Opportunities for Vets</strong></li> </ol> <p>If&nbsp;you want to be your own boss but are wary of the startup risks, buying a franchise can be an appealing alternative. The&nbsp;International Franchise Association (IFA)&nbsp;estimates that one out of every seven franchises in the U.S.--more than 66,000 businesses in total--is owned and operated by a veteran.</p> <p> For veterans considering buying a franchise, there are added incentives. The <a href="" title="link to VetFran program">VetFran</a> program, started by the International Franchise Association, for example, provides financial incentives to veterans, such as franchise fee that are not available to civilian franchise investors. To date, more than 500 franchise companies participate in the program. A current list of participating companies and the discounts they offer is available on the <a href="">VetFran</a> site.</p> <p><strong>Related Blogs</strong></p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="link to 10 Tips for Veteran-Owned Businesses Seeking to Sell to the U.S. Federal Government article">10 Tips for Veteran-Owned Businesses Seeking to Sell to the U.S. Federal Government</a></li> </ul> Small Business Matters Starting Wed, 18 Sep 2013 11:36:03 +0000 Caron_Beesley 753702 at 3 Signs That Social Media Might Not Be the Right Fit for Your Small Business <p>Small-business social media use has become a barometer of our times for industry analysts who are eager to gauge the impact the economy and new technologies have on the way small firms do business.</p> <p>And despite a few sluggish years, the latest data suggests that small businesses are turning to social media in droves in an effort to increase sales (source: <a href="" title="link to Forbes">Forbes</a> and <a href="" title="link to Manta">Manta</a>). The problem is, no matter how much time they spend, some small businesses are not reaping rewards.</p> <p>Why is this? The problem is that small businesses are expecting leads and sales, and while social media can definitely be a lead generator, Forbes reports that the expectations that small businesses have of social media is completely out of whack with how they are actually using it. Setting up a social media page, then posting promotions and events and hoping the sales will follow just isn&rsquo;t going to cut it. Social media is not another direct marketing channel; it&rsquo;s a patience game. It&rsquo;s a place to answer customer service questions, to get to know your followers and build community.</p> <p>But the question, &ldquo;What should I be doing on social media?&rdquo; is one that won&rsquo;t go away for small business owners, eager to take advantage of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. So if you&rsquo;ve ever asked what your business should be doing on social media, take a step back and consider whether it&rsquo;s actually a good fit for your business at this point in time.</p> <p>To help you decide, here are some signs that social media may not be right for your small business:</p> <p><strong>Do you have a website?</strong></p> <p>Do you have a website to act as a hub of information and back up your social media presence? Social media should never be considered the be all and end all of your online presence. If a user can&rsquo;t find out more about who you are or what you sell online, then don&rsquo;t get social. In addition, your website functions as a repository of other content that supports your social media strategy &ndash; blogs, white papers, and ebooks should all be housed on your website and then amplified and shared on social media networks. Your website is also home to lead capture devices that you promote on social media such as your newsletter sign-up page, customer surveys, event registration pages and so on.</p> <p>Bottom line: a website lends your business and your social media presence credibility. Build that first before you get social.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>How are your other marketing activities doing?</strong></p> <p>Think of social media as the outer circle of your marketing efforts (your website is at the core). Between the two, there are a number of marketing must-haves that you should put in place before you get going on social media. Social media may be free, but it only works as part of a wider, integrated marketing strategy.</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Get your logos and brand imagery in order</strong> &ndash; Make sure you have and are happy with your company logo and any other brand imagery that you use and that they are implemented consistently across all your marketing materials. Sounds obvious, but growing small businesses can sometimes go through frequent iterations of their corporate look as they try to establish a brand identity. Google Plus, Facebook and Pinterest are highly visual, so it&rsquo;s important to get it right.</li> <li> <strong>Claim your profile on search listing profiles </strong>&ndash; If you are a local business, claim your listing on Google Plus, Bing, Yahoo, Yellow Pages, etc. When people search for your business or the types of services you offer online, these listings are likely to show up prominently and help you get found. Add basic information to build out your profile.&nbsp; Don&rsquo;t forget to add your personal profile to LinkedIn, too.</li> <li> <strong>Start a newsletter </strong>&ndash; eNewsletters are a great way to connect directly with those who want to hear about your business. You have a captive audience there; your message is delivered to their inbox and allows for a deeper conversation. It&rsquo;s also a useful tool to help you spread the word about your social media presence.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Do you have the staff and resources to support social media?</strong></p> <p>Social media is a commitment that you shouldn&rsquo;t take lightly. It may be free, but if you are going to be successful at it, you need to commit the right resources. Getting online once or twice a day and posting an update isn&rsquo;t enough. If you want social media to work for you as a lead generator, then you&rsquo;ll need to throw some headcount at it &ndash; someone who can write blogs, search and listen to what is being said about your industry, your business and your products or services. Someone who can gauge and track what type of content people are responding to.</p> <p>I mentioned earlier that answering customer service questions is going to be a big part of &nbsp;your social media efforts. This means that whoever is monitoring and posting content needs to be qualified &ndash; they don&rsquo;t need to be a social media whiz, but they should know something about your company, its values, goals and customers.</p> <p>Furthermore, be prepared to involve them in team meetings so they are informed about all elements of the business. In the same vein, make sure that each department &ndash; from sales to billing to product development &shy;&ndash; are aware and engaged with your social media efforts so that they can provide the appropriate responses to issues, learn from feedback and hear what the customers are saying.</p> <p>Social media is not just some throwaway marketing strategy; it&rsquo;s a public face of the company. So be prepared to understand the commitment you are making.</p> <p><strong>Related Articles</strong></p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="Don’t Be a Social Media Marketing Skeptic – Learn Where and How to Start article">Don&rsquo;t Be a Social Media Marketing Skeptic &ndash; Learn Where and How to Start</a>.</li> <li> <a href="" title="7 Tips for Getting more from Your Customer E-Newsletter article">7 Tips for Getting more from Your Customer E-Newsletter</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="8 Ways to Strengthen Your Email Marketing Offers and Calls to Action article">8 Ways to Strengthen Your Email Marketing Offers and Calls to Action</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="How to Use Social Media to Do a Better Job of Customer Service article">How to Use Social Media to Do a Better Job of Customer Service</a></li> </ul> Small Business Matters Managing Marketing Mon, 09 Sep 2013 11:21:14 +0000 Caron_Beesley 752931 at Starting a Business? Learn How to Easily Create Your Business Plan <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Are you thinking about starting a business? One of the first things you will need is a business plan.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Business plans are essential in helping entrepreneurs prepare, manage and direct their businesses, however, creating a plan can be intimidating and time consuming. It&rsquo;s also hard to even know where to start.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">As a part of SBA&rsquo;s mission to help small businesses grow and succeed, the agency has created a <a href="" style="font-size: 12px;">Business Plan Tool</a> &nbsp;which helps simplify the process.&nbsp; The tool consists of eight steps which include:</span></p> <p style="margin-left:40.8pt;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Cover page [Company name, address, phone and logo]</span></p> <p style="margin-left:40.8pt;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Executive Summary [An introduction to your business]</span></p> <p style="margin-left:40.8pt;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Company Description [High-level review of your business]</span></p> <p style="margin-left:40.8pt;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Market Research [Description of your target audience]</span></p> <p style="margin-left:40.8pt;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Product/Service Line [Description of your product or service]</span></p> <p style="margin-left:40.8pt;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Marketing and Sales [Your marketing and sales strategies]</span></p> <p style="margin-left:40.8pt;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">7.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Financial Projections [How your business will meet financial obligations. The plan includes four spreadsheets which allow you to easily plug in your numbers.]</span></p> <p style="margin-left:40.8pt;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">8.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Finish up [Once you have completed steps one-seven, you can print your plan in either a Word or PDF document.]</span></p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">To get started, create an account or log into <a href="" style="font-size: 12px;"></a>.&nbsp; Once logged in, you can easily move through the step by step process of inputting your information into the sectioned templates.&nbsp; You also can move at your own pace through each section, save your work, and email the plan.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">After you completed your business plan, <a href="" style="font-size: 12px;">let us know what you think about the tool</a>. &nbsp;Your feedback is valuable to us.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Small Business Matters SBA News and Views Starting Fri, 06 Sep 2013 20:07:07 +0000 anbazemo 752898 at Finding Expert Business Advice & Resources for Hispanic Entrepreneurs <p><a href="" title="link to local assistance"><img alt="" height="237" src="/sites/default/files/images/Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 4_05_01 PM.png" style="float: right;" title="image of local resources map" width="296" /></a>Are you getting ready to launch your business, but in need of some expert guidance? Or could you use some insight about how to manage and grow your existing small business?</p> <p>There are plenty of self-proclaimed professionals out there who will clamor to help you achieve your goals &ndash; but at a cost. So don&rsquo;t get scammed &ndash; rely on SBA&rsquo;s trustworthy resource partners who counsel, mentor and train small business owners and entrepreneurs either for free or at a low cost. And in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month coming up, take note of the resources available that are aimed specifically toward supporting Hispanic business growth.</p> <p><strong>1. Small Business Administration (SBA) District Offices</strong></p> <p>SBA&rsquo;s district offices can be found across the country. They provide free or low-cost advice and counseling on a variety of small business issues, including guidance on SBA loan options, the application process and small-business-friendly banks.</p> <p>Local offices also provide regular in-person and online training and workshops on a variety of topics including government contracting opportunities; disaster preparedness; assistance for veterans and minorities; the SBA loan process and more.</p> <p>And if you&rsquo;re rebuilding your business following a federally declared disaster, there&rsquo;s specialized help available. Through SBA&rsquo;s disaster field offices, you can receive counseling and guidance with the disaster loan assistance process.</p> <p><strong>What Not to Expect</strong>: SBA local offices don&rsquo;t help you process any loan paperwork, because you must work through your bank for an SBA loan. Keep in mind that the SBA itself doesn&#39;t provide direct loans; your lender will submit your loan package to the SBA for approval. SBA offices also don&#39;t provide grants for start-ups or for-profit businesses. <a href="" title="link to loan information">Learn more</a> about the SBA loan process and other financing options.</p> <p>Find your <a href="" title="link to district offices page">SBA District Office</a> now.</p> <p><strong>2. SCORE - Counselors to America&#39;s Small Business</strong></p> <p>The SCORE Association (previously known as Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a nonprofit network of retired business executives, leaders and volunteers who provide free and confidential counseling, mentoring and advice to small business owners nationwide.</p> <p>Sponsored by the SBA, SCORE has more than 358 chapters with 13,000 + volunteers who share their expertise through<a href="" title="link to SCORE chapters map"> in-person</a> and <a href="" title="link to SCORE online mentoring">online mentoring</a>. SCORE counselors often have a specific area of expertise for all stages of business &ndash; whether you&rsquo;re starting, growing or exiting. While your primary counselor will be your main point of contact, he or she can help identify and introduce you to other specialists &ndash; from accounting and marketing to management and technology.</p> <p>In addition, the <a href="" title="link to SCORE website">SCORE website</a> is chockfull of great resources, including <a href="" title="link to SCORE templates and tools">how-to guides and tools</a>, <a href="" title="link to SCORE online workshops">online workshops</a> and more. You&rsquo;ll also find a listing of its local branches that operate in-person workshops.</p> <p><strong>What Not to Expect</strong>: SCORE volunteers don&rsquo;t provide small business financing or legal advice. Depending on the nature of your business concerns, you may be better served by a lawyer.</p> <p>Find <a href="" title="link to SCORE locations map">SCORE locations</a> near you.</p> <p><strong>3. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)</strong></p> <p>Also sponsored by the SBA, <a href="" title="link to Small Business Development Centers page">Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)</a> are partnerships primarily between the government and colleges or universities that provide educational services to small business owners and entrepreneurs. They offer technical assistance through confidential one-on-one counseling, training seminars, assistance with SBA loans, business plan guidance and more.</p> <p>SBDC professionals can help you at any stage of the business process and are attuned to specialized business needs, including those of veterans, women, youth and other minority groups. In addition to free counseling and other low-cost training and services, several SBDCs (funding permitting) also operate resource centers that provide free use of PCs, business software and access to advice from counselors and a library of business publications.</p> <p><strong>What Not to Expect</strong>: As with SCORE, SBDCs don&rsquo;t provide financing or legal advice. (But many SBDCs have local partnerships with legal service providers and law offices that may provide free consultations to SBDC referrals.) In addition, not all of the services SBDCs are free, but may come at a low cost.</p> <p>Find your <a href="" title="link to Small Business Development Centers page">nearest SBDC</a>.</p> <p><strong>4. Additional Resources for Hispanic Entrepreneurs</strong></p> <p><a href="" title="link to The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) site">The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC)</a> actively promotes the economic growth and development of Hispanic entrepreneurs across the country, representing the interests of more 3 million Hispanic-owned businesses nationwide. It can connect you with over 200 local chapters, which help provide technical assistance to Hispanic business associations and entrepreneurs. Find a<a href="" title="link to local Hispanic Chamber information"> local chapter near you</a>.</p> <p>As an agency within the US Department of Commerce, the <a href="" title="link to Minority Business Development Agency site">Minority Business Development Agency</a> provides technical assistance and access to capital, contracting opportunities and markets for small businesses owned and operated by minority populations. With a network of more than 40 <a href="" title="link to Minority Business Development Agency business centers information">business centers</a> and a wide range of domestic and international strategic partners, the MBDA can help you access the resources you need to help your business succeed.</p> Small Business Matters Managing Mentoring and Training Starting Wed, 28 Aug 2013 11:45:49 +0000 kmurray 752090 at Small Business Exporting – Insights from National Small Business Week <p><em>&ldquo;When you &ndash; as a small business &ndash; export, you strengthen our economy back here at home and help create real jobs for real people.&rdquo; &ndash;</em>Cory Simkek, Director, USEAC (Dept. of Commerce) St. Louis, MO<img alt="" height="189" src="/sites/default/files/images/iStock_000020447326Small.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Image of globe" width="289" /></p> <p>This year, small businesses across the country were celebrated during the 50<sup>th</sup> National Small Business Week, an annual event acknowledging the contributions of America&rsquo;s entrepreneurs. Of the many topics discussed during the sessions, expert panels and Google + Hangouts, insights about exporting abounded during the daily &ldquo;Growing and Going Global&rdquo; panels.</p> <p>So, how can you take your business to the next level by selling overseas? What do you need to be successful in exporting? What resources are available to help your small business export endeavors? These experts came together to answer these questions and more. Here are highlights from their discussions.</p> <p><strong>What kind of help can I find &ndash; especially if I&rsquo;m in the early stages of exploring exporting opti</strong><strong>ons for my small business?</strong></p> <p>The value of mentoring and networking can&rsquo;t be overstated. Many of the panelists encouraged aspiring exporters to reach out to their local resources for expert help from <a href="">SCORE</a> and <a href="">Small Business Development Centers</a> (SBDCs). The skilled volunteers at these organizations provide counseling and guidance &ndash; at no cost to you &ndash; to help you get started or guide you in the right direction toward export success. You can use SBA&rsquo;s <a href="">Local Assistance Tool</a> to find your nearest office.</p> <p>Another resource mentioned during the session in Seattle came from Pru Balatero, Washington Regional Manager of SBA International Finance Programs. He&rsquo;s a fan of the <a href="">&ldquo;Take Your Business Global&rdquo; training course</a>, available in the online Learning Center. It can help you generate questions that you may not have previously thought of before you meet with a potential mentor or program representative, he explained.</p> <p>Danielle Ellingston of the Washington Department of Commerce STEP Grant Program touted the benefits of visiting <a href=""></a> and using its &ldquo;<a href="">Country Commercial Guides</a>&rdquo; to help you conduct research. offers information about trade shows, training, finances and more.</p> <p><strong>Are there financial resources or programs available to help my exporting efforts? </strong></p> <p>Yes! SBA has a number of programs to help, and again Balatero gave us the scoop. The <a href="">International Trade Loan Program</a> (ITL) provides small businesses with financing options for a combination of fixed asset, working capital and related debt refinancing. Do you need additional equipment, machinery or improved facilities to meet an order request? The ITL can help.</p> <p>Are you looking for working capital to support labor or to buy raw materials to produce more of your product? The <a href="">Export Working Capital</a> (EWCP) loan can be tailored specifically to a purchase order, contract or multiple contracts on a revolving line of credit basis. It also has a quick processing time.</p> <p>John Brislin, Director of Seattle&rsquo;s Regional Office of Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank, also shed some light on products available to help finance and in insure your exports. The Ex-Im Bank website has a <a href="">section devoted to small business owners</a>, so check out the programs and offerings they have, including <em>Global Credit Express </em>(a working capital line of credit) and various trade credit insurance options.</p> <p>These SBA programs can help you access the capital you need to export, and the bank will also help you work through other questions you may have about your finances and exporting. On the St. Louis panel, we heard a few examples. For instance, what are your precise capital and cash flow needs? To what extent is there foreign exchange risk? What happens if things don&rsquo;t go as planned? You can discuss these kinds of issues with your bank to mitigate the credit and foreign exchange risks you&rsquo;ll face as a seller.</p> <p><strong>How can I best prepare for when I use one of these resources? </strong></p> <p><em>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s critical to understand is that when you go to one of these resources &ndash; whether it be a mentor or organizations that have the resources you need to complete that transaction &ndash; is that you be prepared to effectively talk with them.&rdquo;</em> &ndash; Terry Chambers, SBDC, International Trade, Export Readiness Center</p> <p>&ldquo;Do your homework,&rdquo; says Ellingston. Make sure you really know your product or service that you&rsquo;re planning to export. Have an idea of the market you want to go into and make sure to have done research. Get a good sense of where you want to go so your mentors and advisors can help you figure out how to get there.</p> <p>A business plan was another agreed upon essential during the Seattle panel. Brislin also highlighted the importance of providing recent financial information or analysis with your plan. Wondering where to get started with yours? Check out SBA&rsquo;s &ldquo;<a href="">Build Your Business Plan</a>&rdquo; tool, which guides you through the process of creating a basic, downloadable business plan. You can develop your plan in smaller chunks of time, save your progress and return at your leisure.</p> <p><strong>How do I figure out where I should I export my product or service? </strong></p> <p>Ellingston indicated that people generally explore exporting starting with countries they&rsquo;re familiar with, where they have spent time growing up or have family. This is a good place to start, she says, but you should also be aware that there might be other markets that are a better fit for your product. Ask yourself: Where have I been successful already? Where does that market exist elsewhere in terms of GDP per capita, culture of the people, what kinds of products those people are looking for, etc.? Again, check out;s &ldquo;Country Commercial Guides&rdquo; to help you examine your market.</p> <p>Another way you can gain insight about where there may be success &ndash; or where you should maybe <em>avoid</em> exporting &ndash; is by checking out industry association meetings, according to Brislin. And Tony Clayton of Clayton Agri-Marketing, Inc. suggested also attending trade shows. See who&rsquo;s there, what kind of products they&rsquo;re exporting and find out what problems they&rsquo;re facing. With everyone in one place for a few days, he said, it&rsquo;s a great time to learn secrets and gain insight about market interests. &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Additional Resources:</strong></p> <ul> <li> <a href="">U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs)</a> &ndash; Your local USEAC is staffed by professionals from the SBA, the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Ex-Im Bank, and other public and private organizations to provide export assistance for your small business.</li> <li> <a href="">6 Steps to Assess Your Small Business&rsquo; Readiness to Export</a></li> <li> <a href="">8 Ways the U.S. Government Can Help You Finance Your Small Business Exports</a></li> <li> <a href="">SBA&rsquo;s Export Express Loans</a> &ndash;&nbsp;This short video describes SBA&rsquo;s Export Express Program, a loan program designed to help small businesses achieve exporting success.</li> </ul> Small Business Matters International Managing Mentoring and Training Wed, 14 Aug 2013 11:37:18 +0000 kmurray 751193 at 10 Tips to Help You Build and Grow a Stand-Out Small Business Brand <p>The United States loves small businesses &ndash; it&rsquo;s official! That&rsquo;s according to a survey by the Pew Foundation (<a href="" title="Pew Foundation survey">reported here on SmallBizTrends</a>) which found that 71 percent of Americans view small business more favorably than any other institutions, including religious organizations.</p> <p>Why is this? Well, small businesses are seen as a positive influence &ldquo;on the way things are going in this country.&rdquo; But it&rsquo;s more than that.</p> <p>Small businesses are in a unique position to create valuable customer experiences. Their products and services are often niche; the target customer is very defined; and business operations are agile and unconstrained by corporate rules and processes. Small businesses are also trusted for their integrity, community engagement and customer service. When was the last time you called a small business and got put through to an automated call center? These seemingly small things come together to create a hugely competitive value proposition &ndash; and are the lynchpin of your brand.</p> <p>But what can you do to leverage these experiences and grow the appeal of your brand &ndash; without breaking the bank? Here are 10 tips that can help:</p> <ol> <li> <strong>What is Your Brand?</strong></li> </ol> <p>First, it&rsquo;s important to understand that your brand is much more than your logo, merchandising or products. As I mentioned above, it is about the sum total of the experiences customers have with your business. This includes the visual elements of your business, but it also includes what you do, how you do it, what your customer interactions are like, the type of information you share in your marketing and on social media. All these elements help establish the trust and credibility of your business.</p> <ol> <li value="2"> <strong>Stand Out</strong></li> </ol> <p>Standing out means being different. If your brand is going to be strong, you need to be able to pinpoint what it is that makes what you do unique. What differentiates you from others in your industry? Read <a href="" title="5 Tips for Using Competitive Differentiators to Build Your Business Brand post">5 Tips for Using Competitive Differentiators to Build Your Business Brand</a>. Don&rsquo;t forget to weave your differentiators into your company&rsquo;s messaging and marketing. Here are some tips for doing that: <a href="" title="7 Tips for Getting your Marketing Message Right post">7 Tips for Getting your Marketing Message Right</a>.</p> <ol> <li value="3"> <strong>Have Great Products and Services</strong></li> </ol> <p>Word of mouth is often a small businesses greatest lead generator, so having great products and services that people talk about is a critical part of your brand and why you are in business. &nbsp;Even the most outgoing and charming small business owner is not going to succeed in bringing customers back, unless the product or service they provide delivers and exceeds expectations. Don&rsquo;t lose sight of your product &ndash; keep refining it, testing new offerings, and making sure you always put product first, not the money it brings in.</p> <ol> <li value="4"> <strong>Make Sure Your Customers Know the Face Behind the Product</strong></li> </ol> <p>One of the biggest reasons that small businesses fail is because of the persistent absence of the business owner. You only need to look at a few episodes of business makeover TV shows like <em>Ramsay&#39;s Kitchen Nightmares </em>and <em>Tabatha Takes Over</em> to witness what can go wrong if a business is left to run itself. Without an actively engaged owner, employees lose motivation and structure, which can quickly lead to sloppy service, a poor product and customer churn. Yes, your business needs to be able to function without your constant presence, but it&rsquo;s important to strike a balance &ndash; find ways to make sure your customers know you and connect with the face behind the business. Businesses really thrive when the energy of the owner is there.</p> <ol> <li value="5"> <strong>Get Your Name and Logo Right</strong></li> </ol> <p>This is essential to brand recognition and it&rsquo;s important to get it right the first time (changing your name and logo can be costly down the road). Your logo and name should be easily recognizable and reflect the nature and tone of your business as well as appeal to your target market. I&rsquo;m a dog owner, and two of my absolute favorite small businesses cater to pet owners &ndash; <a href="" title="link to Woofies">Woofies</a> (my local provider of dog walking services) and <a href="" title="link to Doggone Natural">Doggone Natural</a> (a healthy pet food store). The names and logos of both these businesses reflect the personality of their brands, what they stand for, the products they offer, their market (people and their pets) and the overall tone of their businesses. When I see their logos, it makes me feel good; I feel an affinity with them &ndash; and that&rsquo;s what you need to shoot for.</p> <ol> <li value="6"> <strong>Have a Distinct Voice</strong></li> </ol> <p>A great way to ensure your distinct brand message is delivered consistently across your business is to focus on how you and your employees interact and communicate with customers &ndash; in-person, on the phone and on social media. Not sure what your &ldquo;voice&rdquo; should be? Look to other brands. What do they do that you&rsquo;d like to emulate? How do they greet and interact with you? What is it that they do that makes you feel good about doing business with them?</p> <ol> <li value="7"> <strong>Build Community Around What you Do</strong></li> </ol> <p>A successful brand is one that is trusted and respected by customers &ndash; building a strong community online and off can help you achieve this.</p> <p>You don&rsquo;t have to spend a lot of money to do this. In fact, many successful brands concentrate almost exclusively in online and offline community building as opposed to traditional advertising. Facebook and Twitter are great outlets for this, as is your blog. Offline participation in community activities such as local events, fundraisers, charities, as well as hosting your own events such as workshops or loyal customer events, can all help you build community and extend the trust you&rsquo;ve earned to your brand.</p> <ol> <li value="8"> <strong>Be an Advocate for Your Business &ndash; Not Just a Salesman</strong></li> </ol> <p>You don&#39;t have to be the greatest salesman to succeed in business. Selling takes many forms &ndash; and being a brand advocate gels them all together. For example, many small business owners strive to be the number one salesman, the number one cheerleader, and the number one fan of their own business (you&rsquo;ve got to be excited about it if you want others to be excited too). If you are passionate about your business, be an advocate for it. Use many of the tips in this blog to make sure people understand what you do, the story behind your products, what your products have done for people, your methods and mission, and all that good stuff. Invite people in!</p> <ol> <li value="9"> <strong>Be Reliable</strong></li> </ol> <p>Letting your customers down by failing to live up to your own promises and brand standards can be particularly harmful for small businesses that depend heavily on referrals. The foundation of brand loyalty lies in great service &ndash; a happy customer is a loyal customer. So make sure you aren&rsquo;t making promises that you can&rsquo;t keep &ndash; whether you run a pizza business and pledge to deliver within 30 minutes, or are a painting contractor who promises to start a job on a Monday at 9:00 AM sharp. Stand by your promises. &nbsp;</p> <ol> <li value="10"> <strong>Have a Value Proposition</strong></li> </ol> <p>Value, not to be mistaken with price, can help define your brand and differentiate you from the competition. This goes back to my second point about standing out. What niche do you serve? What do you do well in that niche that makes you different from everyone else? What are the emotional benefits of what you do? The answers to these questions will help define what your value is to your customers &ndash; it could be your great customer service, product quality, innovation, or any combination of these.</p> Small Business Matters Managing Marketing Mon, 29 Jul 2013 14:02:53 +0000 Caron_Beesley 744621 at 10 Ways to Make Your Small Business Social Media Activities Rock <p>Social media may have the lowest cost of entry of any marketing tool, but is not actually that easy to do well. In fact, a&nbsp;<a href="" title="eMarketer report">report by eMarketer</a> found that small businesses are struggling to adopt social media, with only 24 percent of small firms having integrated social media in a structured way into their operations.<img alt="" height="173" src="/sites/default/files/images/socmed.png" style="float: right;" title="Social Media Graphic" width="259" /></p> <p>Knowing where to start is perhaps the number one obstacle holding many small business owners back. Knowing what to do when you get there is next.</p> <p>So, whether you are new to social media or looking to go beyond using it in an ad hoc or informal way, here are 10 ways to make your small business social media activities rock.</p> <ol> <li> <strong>Pick the Site(s) that Works for You</strong></li> </ol> <p>Social media sites are emerging on an almost weekly basis, and it&rsquo;s easy to become distracted or lost in the speed of change. So where should you focus your efforts?</p> <p>Speaking at last year&rsquo;s National Small Business Week social media panel, Erica Ayotte, social media manager with Constant Contact, recommends businesses start with one channel to test and nurture it. Then try to diversify: &ldquo;<em>Spend a little time each week exploring new platforms and figure out if they might be for you</em>.&rdquo; Speaking at the same event, GrowBizMedia&rsquo;s Rieva Lesonsky recommends that you &ldquo;<em>find out where your customers can be found, go there first, and then spread out from there&hellip; if you run a restaurant, yes, you probably should be on Twitter, but you should really be on Yelp first</em>.&rdquo;</p> <ol> <li value="2"> <strong>Share Interesting and Visual Content</strong></li> </ol> <p>This is one area that really does take time. What&rsquo;s interesting anyway?</p> <p>Well, let&rsquo;s start with the basics. If you have any news to share, and by news I mean &ldquo;newsworthy&rdquo; (i.e. something that impacts your customers directly) then go ahead and share it &ndash; things like holiday opening times, new offices, menu updates, charity events, etc.</p> <p>Then add another tier &ndash; share quality content. Something you do well that will help you stand out in a crowd &ndash; blogs, white papers, tips, or quick &ldquo;how to&rdquo; videos (host them on YouTube or Hulu).&nbsp; Then use social media to amplify it. Feel free to share content from others (without breaking copyright) if it is relevant to your fans. Don&rsquo;t be afraid to ask people what content they want you to share!</p> <p>Another tier of content should focus on telling the big picture story of your business &ndash; showcase employees, community activities, or how customers are using your product or service. This is a great opportunity to be visual and stand-out in busy newsfeeds.</p> <p>Remember, give it time. It takes time to figure out what works. For example, you might think about using polls and surveys to engage with followers, but if you are still growing your network, you might not get the right results &ndash; yet. So, keep trying new things until you find a sweet spot. And don&rsquo;t forget, just because people may not be interacting with you yet, that doesn&rsquo;t mean they aren&rsquo;t listening, so keep the faith!</p> <p>For more tips read:</p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="8 Ways to Develop Online Content for Your Business – Even if You Hate to Write blog post">8 Ways to Develop Online Content for Your Business &ndash; Even if You Hate to Write</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="8 Ways to Develop Online Content for Your Business – Even if You Hate to Write blog post">Never Run Out of Blog Topic Ideas: Here are 36</a></li> </ul> <ol> <li value="3"> <strong>Listen</strong></li> </ol> <p>Great content drives engagement and grows social communities, but equally important is the art of listening. Think of social media as a form of conversation &ndash; it&rsquo;s a two-way dialog. If you&rsquo;re not prepared to listen to what is being said to you, about you, or with you, then you simply aren&rsquo;t &ldquo;being social.&rdquo; In addition to listening to your consumers, carve out time to listen to influencers in your business, to your competitors, and to those who can help you perfect your social media strategy (<a href="" title="Hubspot link">Hubspot</a>, <a href="" title="Mari Smith link">Mari Smith</a>, and <a href="" title="Social Media Today link">Social Media Today</a>, to name just a few).</p> <ol> <li value="4"> <strong>Have an Authentic Voice</strong></li> </ol> <p>Again, &ldquo;be social!&rdquo; Drop the corporate marketing speak; people like dealing with people. So don&rsquo;t be afraid to loosen up a little and when responding to problems or complaints; sign off with your first name.</p> <ol> <li value="5"> <strong>Foster Fan-to-Fan Engagement</strong></li> </ol> <p>Some of the strongest social networking communities are based on supportive relationships and information sharing between fans.&nbsp;If you are posting interesting content, this will follow naturally as fans start to engage with others based on common interests. There are a few things you can do to encourage these relationships, many of them mentioned in this blog - listen to fans, chime in when you think you can add something, respond to comments, open the doors to shared experiences/needs, encourage fans to share photos and experiences and always communicate authentically (drop the corporate hat).</p> <ol> <li value="6"> <strong>Don&rsquo;t Overly Automate</strong></li> </ol> <p>While there are some great free tools that can help you automate your posts, don&rsquo;t overly rely on these to get you through the day &ndash; it will show. Instead, set aside some time, 2-3 slots a day to post (note that the evening is a high volume time to post and get noticed), monitor and respond to fans.</p> <ol> <li value="7"> <strong>Commit to Social Media </strong></li> </ol> <p>If you are truly going to succeed at social media, then you need to take it seriously and commit to it. For many small businesses, this means adopting a new paradigm. Don&rsquo;t treat social media as an aside to be taken advantage of when you want to get the word out about your latest offer. Commit to a content strategy. Ensure all levels of the organization are on-board and are involved in your social media strategy. Don&rsquo;t just assign daily responsibility for it to an office junior &ndash; this is the face of your business, after all, and it involves dialog with your customers (is a junior up to that?).</p> <ol> <li value="8"> <strong>Treat Social Media as an Arm of Your Customer Service Operations</strong></li> </ol> <p>Social media is also an essential part of your customer service strategy. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, then you need to be prepared to monitor and respond to questions and complaints. These blogs offer more advice on this topic:</p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="How to Use Social Media to do a Better Job of Customer Service">How to Use Social Media to do a Better Job of Customer Service</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="7 Tips for Dealing with Criticism of your Business on Social Media">7 Tips for Dealing with Criticism of Your Business on Social Media</a></li> </ul> <ol> <li value="9"> <strong>Don&rsquo;t Forget Your Other Marketing Channels</strong></li> </ol> <p>Social media may be free, but it only works as part of a wider, integrated marketing strategy. It should never replace your website (which is the hub of all your marketing activity and the home of your online content). Email is also still important. You have a captive audience there; your message is delivered to their inboxes and allows for a deeper conversation.</p> <ol> <li value="10"> <strong>Measure</strong></li> </ol> <p>Don&rsquo;t forget to measure the impact of your social media efforts. Use third party apps or Facebook&rsquo;s Insights tool to monitor click-through rates. Compare these across posts to see if there&rsquo;s a trend as to the type of content that&rsquo;s popular. Measure engagement by tracking how many likes and shares your posts get (measured by Facebook as &ldquo;reach&rdquo;). Use this data to inform and adjust your content strategy.</p> <p><strong>Additional Articles</strong></p> <p>Here&rsquo;s a selection of SBA blogs that can also help with key areas of your social media strategy:</p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="How to Make a Social Media Plan for your Business">How to Make a Social Media Plan for your Business</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="Tuning up your Website for Social Media">Social Media Tune-Up for your Website</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="Tips for Getting More out of your Business Tweets">6 Tips for Getting the Most out of your Small Business Tweets</a></li> <li> How to Build and Engage with a Loyal Social Media Following &ndash;&nbsp;<a href="" title="How to Build and Engage with a Loyal Social Media Following - Part 1">Part 1</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="" title="How to Build and Engage with a Loyal Social Media Following - Part 2">Part 2</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="Tips for Interacting with Your Customers via Social Media">Putting the &quot;Social&quot; into Social Media Marketing: 3 Tips for Interacting with your Customers</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="How to Use Facebook to Grow your Email Marketing List">7 Ways to Use Facebook to Grow your Email Marketing List</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="7 Tips for Dealing with Criticism of your Business on Social Media">7 Tips for Dealing with Criticism of Your Business on Social Media</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="How to Use Social Media to do a Better Job of Customer Service">How to Use Social Media to do a Better Job of Customer Service</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="How to Drive your Social Media Fans to your Offline Business">6 Ways to Drive your Social Media Fans to your Offline Business</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="How to Measure Social Media ROI">How to Measure Social Media ROI</a></li> </ul> Small Business Matters Managing Marketing Starting Mon, 15 Jul 2013 12:03:00 +0000 Caron_Beesley 726701 at 7 Marketing Ideas That Can Help Boost Your Profits this Father’s Day <p>Father&rsquo;s Day is right around the corner, providing another opportunity for small businesses to reach out to customers with an incentive to visit their stores, restaurants or websites and make a purchase.</p> <p>Who&rsquo;s your target market? Wives, moms, children and even grandparents are all about to start thinking about gift giving and doing something special for the fathers in their lives. And they spend big; according to a <a href=";op=viewlive&amp;sp_id=1381" title="National Retail Federation Survey">National Retail Federation survey</a>, the average person will shell out $117 on a gift for Dad &ndash; that&rsquo;s $12.7 billion in total spending.</p> <p>What gifts can Dad expect? According to the survey, special outings, such as golfing, eating out or heading to a sporting event, are the most popular ways to celebrate. Electronic gift items and apparel are also big draws. Gift cards are another favorite, followed by sporting goods, books or music.</p> <p>Let&rsquo;s face it: choosing the right gift isn&rsquo;t easy. Dads can be tricky to buy for. So what can you do to help them out and make their choices easy and the day special for fathers everywhere? Here are seven Father&rsquo;s Day sales and marketing tips to help you boost your profits &ndash; regardless of your business.</p> <p><strong>Make it Easy for Buyers </strong></p> <p>Dad has it all, right? So think of ways to help make the gift-giving choice easy for your customers. If you run a store or website, a gift guide is a great way to do this. Offer suggestions by price and/or interest and use emails, social media and e-newsletters to group and highlight inventory along the same lines that appeals to Dad (and perhaps more importantly, women &ndash; who are often the buyers this holiday).</p> <p>Offer complimentary gift-wrapping too (and don&rsquo;t forget to promote it) &ndash; this is a big time saver for busy moms. Online stores can offer free shipping or offer free upgrades (regular to expedited shipping) as Father&rsquo;s Day draws nearer.</p> <p><strong>Make Dad&rsquo;s Life Easier</strong></p> <p>Could you offer a Father&rsquo;s Day special that frees up Dad&rsquo;s time so he can spend more of it with the family? This is an idea that works best for service businesses. Get creative. For example, a restaurant could do a promotional tie-in with a local car wash, so Dad can enjoy a Father&rsquo;s Day brunch and the gift of a car wash bundled in.</p> <p><strong>Give Dad a Reason to Visit Your Business &ndash; Indulge and Pamper Him!</strong></p> <p>Think of ways to entice dads into your store or business over Father&rsquo;s Day weekend. This is something that can work for all types of businesses &ndash; from health care practices to hair salons. Offer a demo or complimentary service. For example, if a chiropractor could offer a free spine or posture evaluation &ndash; we all want our dads to be healthy, after all! If you sell technology or home / DIY goods, hold an open house and give Dad a hands-on demo of popular products. Offer an incentive to make a purchase in the next seven days.</p> <p><strong>Target Kids (and Mom)!</strong></p> <p>Kids are part of the buying decision, so think of ways to entice children into your store or restaurant. Whether it&rsquo;s a special offer for kids who actually make a purchase using their own pocket money, or a special event or offering that attracts kids (and their parents) to your business &ndash; such as &ldquo;kids eat free on Father&rsquo;s Day,&rdquo; or free giveaways for kids when mom makes a purchase.</p> <p>Alternatively, look for ways to help Mom make a purchase while her kids have a designated play area, or vice versa!</p> <p><strong>Offer Something That Dad Can Do With His Kids</strong></p> <p>We tend to think of Father&rsquo;s Day gifts as a treat for Dad that he can enjoy away from home (golfing, fishing, etc.). Be unique &ndash; offer gifts that Dad and the kids can enjoy together. It could be a class that they could take together or a discount on a combo product that Dad can enjoy with his kid(s).</p> <p><strong>Generate Buzz</strong></p> <p>Even if you don&rsquo;t have specific Father&rsquo;s Day specials, don&rsquo;t pass over the occasion. Recognize the day in other ways. Host a contest on Facebook &ndash; ask your fans to submit their silliest Dad pictures or host a Dad-themed contest or raffle in your store.</p> <p><strong>Honor Dads Across Demographics</strong></p> <p>No one dad is the same. Some are overseas serving their country; others may be dads for the first time. Think of ways to honor these fathers. Develop a theme and make sure it runs through all your marketing and promotions.</p> Small Business Matters Managing Marketing Thu, 06 Jun 2013 13:33:58 +0000 Caron_Beesley 657381 at Newly Graduated? – 10+ Tools and Resources to Help You Start Your First Business <p><img alt="Graduates" src="/sites/default/files/images/2466137597_8c0937c3e2_o.jpg" style="float: right; height: 351px; width: 225px;" />Just graduated from college and looking to start your own business? With the economy still in recovery mode, many students are actively seeking an alternative to traditional post-college career paths.</p> <p>According to&nbsp;<a href="" title="Link to Kauffman Foundation">Kauffman Foundation</a>, young entrepreneurship in the U.S. is on the rise, with the 20-34 age group comprising 29 percent of the total new entrepreneurship activity in 2011.</p> <p>Starting a business isn&rsquo;t easy, and clearly for many young people it&rsquo;s a risky path to take. Concerns range from worrying about being able to get a loan or line of credit; not having the skills or knowledge to start; and not knowing how to run a business (source: <a href="" title="iHonest Report"></a>).</p> <p>But for those with great ideas and a desire to be their own boss (and employment generator), support is at hand. Both online and in small business assistance centers throughout the country, SBA and its partners offer a variety of tools, programs and resources to help young entrepreneurs plan, start and grow their businesses.</p> <p>Here are just a few tools that can help make the difference between success and failure as you plan your post-college entrepreneurial dream:</p> <p><strong>Free Online Training for Young Entrepreneurs</strong></p> <p>For a useful overview of the steps you need to take to get started, as well as some considerations that can help you understand if running a business is for you, take a look at this <a href="" title="Free Online Course for Young Entrepreneurs">Free Online Course &ndash; Young Entrepreneurs: An Essential Guide to Starting your Own Business</a>. This&nbsp;self-paced training course&nbsp;walks you through the steps of turning a business idea into reality. It includes tips on doing your research, deciding on a business model, understanding financing options for young entrepreneurs and six &ldquo;must-do&rsquo;s&rdquo; for getting started.</p> <p><strong>Get Help and Mentorship</strong></p> <p>As mentioned above, not knowing how to start or manage a business is a huge concern for young entrepreneurs. But did you know you can get the services of a mentor &ndash; someone who has walked in your shoes &ndash; for free? <a href="" title="SCORE"><strong>SCORE</strong></a> is one such organization that can pair you with a mentor for general business guidance, or help in specific areas such as finance or marketing.&nbsp; Local Small Business Development Centers, Women&rsquo;s Business Centers and other organizations also offer counseling, training and assistance. <a href="" title="Small business local assistance resource directory">Find one near you here</a>. You can also use SBA&rsquo;s <a href="" title="SBA Events Calendar"><strong>Events Calendar</strong> to find and sign up for training in your area</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Online Tools That Help at Every Stage</strong></p> <p>Wondering how to create a business plan? Need help determining how your business stacks up against the competition? Unclear of the steps involved in starting your business?</p> <p>The website has developed numerous online tools and guides to help small businesses get information and answers they need quickly and efficiently. For example, these&nbsp;<a href="" title="10 Steps to Starting a Business">10 Steps to Starting a Business</a>&nbsp;and these <a href="" title="10 Steps to Hiring your First Employee">10 Steps to Hiring your First Employee</a>&nbsp;guides are essential reading.&nbsp;Did you know you need a business license or permit to operate legally? This&nbsp;<a href="" title="Licenses and Permits Search Tool">Licenses and Permits Search Tool</a>&nbsp;can point you to what you need.</p> <p>Other tools that business owners are finding extremely valuable include:</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Build a Business Plan Tool</strong> &ndash; Many of us put business planning off, thinking we&rsquo;ll come back to it when we need to put something official in front of a potential investor. But it&rsquo;s vital that young entrepreneurs plan their businesses, set goals and define plans for achieving them. To help create your plan, check out SBA&rsquo;s interactive &ldquo;<a href="" title=" Build a Business Plan tool"><strong>Build a Business Plan</strong></a>&rdquo; tool, which guides you through the process of creating a basic, downloadable business plan. The great thing about it is you can build a plan in smaller chunks of time, save your progress and return at your leisure.</li> <li> <strong>&ldquo;SizeUp&rdquo; Your Competition</strong> &ndash; How does your business stack up against the completion? Where are your competitors located? What are the best places to market your business? Use SBA&rsquo;s&nbsp;&ldquo;<a href="" title=" SizeUp tool"><strong>SizeUp</strong></a><strong>&rdquo;</strong>&nbsp;tool to crunch millions of data points and get customizable reports and statistics about your business and its competition. Just enter your industry, city, state and other details. SizeUp then runs various reports and provides maps and data related to your competition, suppliers and customers. It also highlights potential advertising opportunities.</li> <li> <strong>Want to Sell to Uncle Sam?</strong> To help you determine if your new business might qualify with the largest buyer in the world &ndash; the U.S. federal government &ndash; use SBA&rsquo;s <a href="" title="SBA Size Standards Tool"><strong>Size Standards Tool</strong></a> to see if you qualify for special set-aside contracts for small businesses.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Additional Resources</strong></p> <ul> <li> <a href="file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/ADCASSEL/Local%20Settings/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.Outlook/YVRUJ79V/%E2%80%A2%09http:/" title="8 Things you can do to be taken seriously as a young entrepreneur">8 Things you Can Do to Be Taken Seriously as a Young Entrepreneur</a></li> <li> <strong>Defer your Student Loan</strong> - Don&rsquo;t let your student loan repayments hold you back from starting your own business. The&nbsp;<a href="" title="Student Startup Plan">Student Startup Plan</a>&nbsp;(through the&nbsp;<a href="" title="White House-led Startup America Initiative">White House-led Startup America initiative</a>) enables college graduates, including those looking to start a business, to lower student loan repayments.</li> <li> <strong>Young Entrepreneur Guide</strong> - SBA also hosts a one-stop <a href="" title="SBA Young Entrepreneur guide">portal for young entrepreneurs</a> that brings together these resources and more.</li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Image courtesy of <a href="">Steven Depolo</a> via Flickr</em></p> Small Business Matters Mentoring and Training Starting Thu, 30 May 2013 10:56:07 +0000 Caron_Beesley 645391 at Grow Your Business This Summer – 7 Marketing Tips that Won’t Break the Bank <p>Looking for ideas to incorporate the summer season into your marketing plans this year? Whether it&rsquo;s a busy or quiet time for your business, here are some things you can do to take advantage of the summer months!</p> <p><strong>Take Your Business Into the Fresh Air</strong></p> <p>Don&rsquo;t wait for your customers to come to you; look for ways to get in front of them. Whether you run a retail store, restaurant or provide a service to customers, consider the following:</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Host a Cookout</strong> &ndash; Invite your customers (past and present) to join your business for a celebration of summer. Use your parking lot or public park and plan on catering yourself (a grill, hot dogs, hamburgers, salad, and cold drinks are fine). Look for ways to make this a worthwhile event for folks to want to join &ndash; hire a magician, moon bounce, or give away prizes. Don&rsquo;t forget to offer incentives (demos or special offers) to those who attend so that they have a good reason to keep frequenting your business over the summer.</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <strong>Take Part in Local Markets, Events and Fairs</strong> &ndash; What better way to win new business? Check out this quick blog from Rieva Lesonsky on how to go about finding the best fit and ensuring your participation is a success: <a href="" title="How to market your business at festivals and fairs">How to Market Your Business at Summer Events, Fairs and Festivals</a>.</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <strong>Take Your Food Business on the Road</strong> - If you are in the food business, taking a concession stand on the road is a great way to earn money and give new customers a taste of what you&rsquo;ve got to offer back at your restaurant or store. This article can help you understand how to start up a concession business:&nbsp;<a href="" title="Link to blog about starting a food concession business.">Starting a Mobile Food Concession Business</a>.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Spoil Your Customers </strong></p> <p>I mentioned hosting a cookout above, but what about treating a select group of loyal customers to an appreciation event like an afternoon at a winery, a round of golf, or an afternoon of fishing? Don&rsquo;t forget, as long as there is a business purpose for these activities&mdash;and substantial business discussions occur before, during or afterwards&mdash;you can claim the cost of customer entertainment expenses (including meals) as a tax deduction (typically up to 50 percent of the cost).</p> <p><strong>Hold a Themed Week or Day</strong></p> <p>Like restaurant week or Small Business Saturday, think of ways to really showcase what your business does for one week or one-day only. You might want to use some of the tips in this blog &ndash; events, community charity participation, promotions, and giveaways &ndash; or combine them to maximize visibility and interest in what you do. You could even partner up with complementary businesses or those in the same district as you and co-market each other&rsquo;s products, services and specials with fliers, coupons and teasers. Try to come up with a theme, something like &ldquo;ABC Town Small Business Week,&rdquo; &ldquo;Take a Staycation with Us,&rdquo; or &ldquo;Back to School Week&rdquo; and weave it into all your marketing and advertising.</p> <p><strong>Give Back to the Community</strong></p> <p>Community projects are a great way to build your brand and give back to the community. Why not organize or sponsor a community service day or charitable event? Pick a cause that&rsquo;s a good fit for your business and reach out to the media, in addition to your own marketing, to publicize it. You can also <a href="" title="Understanding charitable giving business tax deductions">deduct certain expenses related to any volunteer work or charitable giving</a>.</p> <p><strong>Summer-ize your Marketing Activities </strong></p> <p>From your website to your email newsletter, look for ways to incorporate summer themes and information that are relevant to your customers. Send out newsletters that showcase your summer specials, but mix it up with good content&mdash;summer fashion tips, recipes, or pet care in the heat.</p> <p>Pre-order low-cost summer promotional items now. Branded goods such as Frisbees, beach balls and drink coolers will ensure your logo is in front of customers all summer long.</p> <p><strong>Drum Up Business with Promotions</strong></p> <p>If summer is a slow season for your business, consider offering financial incentives to increase foot traffic. Don&rsquo;t just dive in with a wholesale across-the-board discount; instead, consider some of the following options:</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Discount Certain Products and Services</strong> &ndash; Test the market to see if you can shift slower selling products with a limited-time discount (say, for the month of July). Promote your offer to a select segment of your email list, perhaps those who haven&rsquo;t purchased from you for some time.&nbsp; Monitor the results. If the offer works, then consider extending it to other products and consumers next month.</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <strong>Package Promotions </strong>&ndash; Offer a discount if customers buy more than one product or service. For example, buy a coffee and a donut for $3.50 instead of $5.</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <strong>Off-Peak Specials</strong> &ndash; Many people have more flexible schedules during the summer months. Consider ways to draw people in during your off-peak hours, whether it&rsquo;s a time-bound discount or another incentive (free corkage, bring a friend for half price, or a free consultation).</li> </ul> <p><strong>Plan for Your High Season &ndash; Take the Pulse of your Market</strong></p> <p>Again, if summer is your slow season, use the time wisely and start planning your marketing activities for the rest of the year. Conduct market research to gauge what your customers think of your business and the products and services you offer. What could you do better/more of/change? Is there a certain product that they&rsquo;d like to see you carry? Are there any market or demographic trends that might impact your business in the coming year? Market research doesn&rsquo;t have to cost much money; this blog explains some free resources that can help: <a href="" title="Free official sources of market research">Conducting Market Research? Here are 5 Official Sources of Free Data That Can Help</a>.</p> <p>SBA&rsquo;s <a href="" title="SBA Size Up Tool"><strong>SizeUp Tool</strong></a> can also help you benchmark your business against competitors, map your customers and locate the best places to advertise.</p> <p>You can also use surveys to gauge customer buying and spending habits. Use this data to inform your product marketing strategy and any other changes you may need to make in your business before your high season starts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Small Business Matters Marketing Thu, 23 May 2013 11:39:03 +0000 Caron_Beesley 635411 at Give Your Small Business a Spring Clean – 8 Tips That May Inspire You <p>Did you give your business a spring clean this year? &nbsp;Are you looking for new ways to boost sales, build your brand or get your business plan back on track?</p> <p>This is the topic of one of SBA&rsquo;s monthly web chats &ndash; <a href="" title="SBA web chat archive">Small Business Spring Clean: How to Keep Your Business Ideas Fresh</a> &ndash; hosted by Octavia Kuransky, Program Development Manager at Central Alabama Women&rsquo;s Business Center (and archived on <a href="" title="SBA Learning Center">SBA&rsquo;s Learning Center</a>).</p> <p>Check out some of these great suggestions from Octavia&rsquo;s session and be inspired!</p> <p><strong>Q</strong>: <strong>When should a small business website be updated? </strong></p> <p><strong>A</strong>: &ldquo;Great question. &nbsp;An outdated website sends the wrong message to potential clients. Recently, we had an expert in to talk on web development.&nbsp; He recommended a monthly sprucing and the inclusion of a blog in order to make your website more attractive to Google.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Q: What&#39;s one of the best ways to get your press releases picked up by the media?</strong></p> <p>A: &ldquo;I notice greater success in generating press coverage when I can connect to a breaking news story or some issue that is of interest already. Cultivate a relationship with a reporter so that you can call them directly and not have to reinvent the wheel each time. Collaborations always seem to be of interest to the press especially if the outcome can be shown to have some real impact. That should be your aim&mdash;to show impact. Impact equals news.&rdquo;</p> <p>I&#39;d also add another point - try and target reporters who have influence on social media. Check their <a href="" title="">Klout </a>score (a measure of influence), the kind of stories they write about and share. Look for a match with your product/industry.</p> <p><strong>Q: As business development specialists, most of our business involves providing a service to our clients (i.e.: consultations, training, etc.). How can we combine our services with technology to better conduct business? How can we take advantage of technology as service providers? And, is it prudent to do so?</strong></p> <p><strong>A</strong>: &ldquo;Let me share with you a strategy we are currently launching here at The Women&#39;s Business Center. The most requested workshops&mdash;usually those containing basic building block type information&mdash;we&rsquo;ll be putting online. This frees our rather small staff to do more sophisticated work and workshops because we aren&#39;t continually having to do ALL workshops. And the basic ones can be self-tutored. We believe this to be a good strategy because, in effect, we can provide more and more varied workshops to the general public.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Q: What is the best format to utilize social media to grow your business?</strong></p> <p>A: &ldquo;The short answer is, it depends on the business. Some businesses should stay away from certain forms of social media. For example, a Facebook page might not be appropriate for a medical doctor. A review of your target market and a short consultation with a professional can help you determine what kind of social media is appropriate and most effective for you.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Q: What are some easy ways to spring clean my expenses related to my business?</strong></p> <p><strong>A:</strong> &ldquo;Great question. I would pick a number, say $200 or so, and any expenditures with an annual outlay of above this amount would have to either show a benefit&mdash;meaning the expenditure is directly parlaying into revenue&mdash;or absolute necessity. If the expenditure cannot do that, eliminate it or find a less costly way. You might even set some goals for expenditures&mdash;like how much you will spend on advertising for the year.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Q: I own a franchise business. It&#39;s been open for 7 years, and I need some capital infused to help me grow. I am a sole proprietor. Any suggestions?</strong></p> <p>A: &ldquo;Yes, I have a suggestion. Gather up all your financial reporting, including tax returns, and make an appointment with someone at <a href="" title="Directory of small business assistance centers">SCORE or an SBDC</a>. Did you know that it might be possible to get a coach at SCORE who has experience in your industry and can mentor you? You can, of course, also make an appointment for an informal meeting with your original funder. If your cash flow is marginal, ask about a <a href="">SBA (loan) guarantee</a>.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Q: How do you get started with marketing in a service-oriented business?</strong></p> <p>A:&nbsp; &ldquo;I always recommend to any business, regardless whether it&rsquo;s a product or service, that it be informed by the target market which has been previously identified in the marketing section of your business plan. This is because we know that certain demographics have certain shopping habits. For example, girls 18-25 tend to shop online. So if you&#39;re marketing to that age group for merchandise, I would advertise online. It helps to pay attention to where your competition is marketing; they may have done the research for you.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Q: How do you fine tune your elevator pitch after you do your spring cleaning? </strong></p> <p><strong>A:</strong> &ldquo;Here is a general rule of thumb for composing elevator speeches. Name (you&#39;d be surprised how often people forget to say their name in the press of the moment), the name of your company (again, people forget), the purpose of your service or product (this should just be a sentence or two) and last but not least, something that adds a sense of urgency or uniqueness about your firm or product.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More Information about SBA Web Chats</strong></p> <p>SBA&rsquo;s monthly web chats provide small business owners with the opportunity to submit questions live or in advance to experts in fields such as business law, tax, marketing and more. If you&rsquo;re looking for an opportunity to get your questions answered, find out about upcoming web chats by <a href="" title="SBA email updates">signing up for SBA email updates</a> or follow SBA on <a href="" title="SBA Twitter page">Twitter</a> and <a href="" title="SBA Facebook page">Facebook</a>. You can view the web chat archives on the <a href="" title="SBA Learning Center">SBA Learning Center</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Small Business Matters Managing Marketing Thu, 16 May 2013 11:44:11 +0000 Caron_Beesley 626141 at 7 Inspiring Home Business Ideas for Stay-at-Home Moms (or Dads) <p><img alt="Home business" src="/sites/default/files/images/Home-Biz.jpg" style="width: 250px; float: right; height: 250px;" />Are you a stay-at-home mom (or dad)? Hoping to kick start an entrepreneurial dream or simply looking to bring in some extra income?</p> <p>Starting a home-based business is a great way to do this. In fact, 52 percent of U.S. companies operate as home businesses (<a href="" title="SBA research">source</a>) and many of today&rsquo;s biggest brand names were established by stay-at-home moms &ndash; (Dorothy) Gerber, Mrs. (Debbi) Fields, and Julie Aigner-Clark&nbsp;(Baby Einstein), to name but a few. But what types of businesses can grow and thrive in the home environment?</p> <p>Here are some business ideas and considerations for stay-at-home moms!</p> <p><strong>Freelancing</strong></p> <p>Perhaps the easiest form of business to delve into and operate is freelancing. Whatever your skill &ndash; writing, web design, marketing, tax advisor, or photography &ndash; freelancing affords an enormous amount of flexibility and freedom, and can be started with little cost or paperwork. Many freelancers get their start by approaching a former employer or customer who could benefit from their services, then branch out as their body of work and reputation grows.</p> <p>Freelancing does have its challenges and requires discipline &ndash; you are running a business after all. Common mistakes freelancers make include not setting the business up properly and legally (getting the right permits, or licenses), forgetting to put money aside to <a href="" title="Information about paying estimated taxes">pay estimated taxes</a>, and not planning for peaks and valleys in cash flow. &nbsp;</p> <p>Check out these blogs for tips and guidance to help you through the process of starting and operating your freelance business:</p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="How to take care of contractual paperwork when starting a freelance business">Starting a Freelance Business &ndash; How to Take Care of Legal, Tax and Contractual Paperwork</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="How to set and negotiate your freelance business rates">How to Set and Negotiate your Freelance Business Rates</a>.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Become a Virtual Assistant</strong></p> <p>Virtual assistants (VAs) provide a wide variety of &ldquo;virtual&rdquo; services to other businesses including administrative, marketing and technical support from a home office. My local window cleaner, for example, uses a VA to answer his calls and manage his calendar while he&rsquo;s busy on-site. VAs are growing in popularity, too, as firms look to cut costs and outsource administrative functions. If you are organized and have an administrative background, this might be for you. Start with your own connections or take advantage of the services of a VA organization or association who can help you get started and connect you with clients.</p> <p><strong>Make Money from Blogging</strong></p> <p>Yes, you can make money by blogging. I follow several stay-at-home moms who happen to be fashion and style bloggers &ndash; and it&rsquo;s their business. If you can write and have a passion for a specific topic or hobby that you know will garner some attention, then this might be for you. Income generation opportunities can come in the form of <a href="" title="Affiliate marketing basics">affiliate marketing and advertising</a> on your website or from companies who ask you to review and blog about their products. Look for ways to get traffic to your website through social media, search engine optimization and by getting involved in the wider blogosphere (networking with and commenting on the blogs of others in your niche).</p> <p><strong>Start a Creative Business</strong></p> <p>Whether it&rsquo;s making gift baskets or offering interior design consultation services, if you have a creative streak and the room to store and create, then why not consider making money out of your talents? Get to know the market and do some planning to identify an untapped niche. SBA has several tools that can help including the <a href="" title="Build your Business Plan tool">Build your Business Plan</a> tool and <a href="" title="SizeUp tool">SizeUp</a> a market and business analysis tool that lets you benchmark your business against competitors, map your customers, competitors and suppliers, and locate the best places to advertise.</p> <p><strong>Start a Home-Based Bakery or Food Business</strong></p> <p>Food production from a home is heavily regulated but it&rsquo;s not impossible. Take Martha Stewart, for example&mdash;she famously entered the food service business with a basement-based catering company in 1976.&nbsp;Before you start a home-based food business you will need to understand the rules and regulations that govern the production of food for public consumption in an at-home environment. For example do you need a separate kitchen? What about product labeling? And so on. For tips and insight, read: <a href="" title="Starting a home-based food production business">Starting a Home-Based Food Production Business: Making Your Culinary Hobby Your Job</a>.</p> <p><strong>Child Day Care</strong></p> <p>Home childcare businesses offer a potentially lucrative and long-lasting business opportunity. A home environment is often appealing to parents and once their kids are settled (and assuming you are doing a great job), then it&rsquo;s likely you&rsquo;ll have that business until they are old enough not to need care.</p> <p>Of course, this is another regulated business and you&rsquo;ll need to ensure you comply with state and local regulations that govern issues such as the provision of meals, minimum space requirements per child, and the number of licensed care workers per child. For information on starting a child care business including financing options, licensing requirements, and other regulatory matters read: <a href="" title="Information about starting a child care business">Starting a Child Care Business? Government Tools and Resources that Can Help</a>.</p> <p><strong>Start an Online Marketplace Store</strong></p> <p>If you have clutter that you want to get rid of and like the idea of selling products to an established worldwide network of consumers, consider starting a business on eBay, Etsy or Amazon. You can source products to sell from junk/yard sales or charity shops. If you want to get a bit more sophisticated, then consider <a href="" title="How to find wholesalers ">buying wholesale</a> or adopting a drop-shipping model. The goal is to find products that are in high-demand and not readily available from other sources. Read more about getting started here: <a href="" title="How to start a business on an online marketplace">More Than Just a Seller &ndash; How to Start a Business on an Online Marketplace</a>.</p> <p><strong>More Ideas</strong></p> <p>Other business ideas including a <a href="" title="Information about animal care industry">dog walking/pet care business</a>, a travel agent, <a href="" title="Information about starting a home-based franchise">start a home-based franchise business</a>, event planning, architectural design, or tutoring students!</p> <p>Whatever your idea make sure you start, structure and operate your business according to legal and regulatory requirements. Check out SBA&rsquo;s <a href="" title="10 steps to starting your business">10 Steps to Starting your Business</a> for the facts.</p> Small Business Matters Starting Thu, 09 May 2013 10:57:03 +0000 Caron_Beesley 616461 at 8 Ways Your Business Can Get Ready for the 2013 Tourist Season <p>While the U.S. economy continues to see positive signs of growth, consumer spending in one sector is booming &ndash; tourism.</p> <p>Consider the facts &ndash; spending by international travelers to and within the U.S. increased 10.5 percent in 2012 (source: <a href="" title="U.S&gt; Travel Association website">U.S Travel Association</a>). Travel also continues to lead export growth, accounting for a 23 percent rise in U.S. exports. Home grown tourism is also experiencing a surge, with more and more Americans opting to take &ldquo;staycations&rdquo; &ndash; enjoying recreational and entertainment options closer to home &ndash; as opposed to hitting the roads and skies.</p> <p>The forecast is good too. The Department of Commerce predicts that the U.S. can expect a 3.6 to 4.3 percent average annual growth in travel and tourism over the next four years.</p> <p>To further spur tourism in the U.S., the federal government has set a goal of increasing American jobs by attracting and welcoming 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021, bringing an estimated $250 billion per year into the U.S. (read the <a href=";pageid=295021" title="National Tourism and Travel Strategy PDF">National Tourism and Travel Strategy</a>&nbsp;for more information).&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>This all represents a unique opportunity for the U.S. tourist industry and the businesses that underpin it. <strong>So what can your small business do to take advantage of this uptick in tourism? Here are eight marketing and management tips to help you get ready for the 2013 tourist season!</strong></p> <p><strong>1.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Make it Easy for Tourists to Come Back to Their Favorite Spots</strong></p> <p>Start with a plan to reach your low hanging fruit &ndash; repeat visitors. The best way to do this is to stay in touch with them all year round with special offers, email marketing and social media updates. Let them know what plans you have for the tourist season this year, any upgrades you&rsquo;ve made to your business and so on. If the summer is your peak season, then fall, winter and even early spring should be your busiest marketing seasons. &nbsp;</p> <p>These articles offer some useful tips for staying in touch with customers:</p> <ul> <li> <a href="file:///C:/Users/Caron/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.Outlook/LGCVLKW9/Six%20Ways%20to%20Get%20More%20from%20Your%20Email%20Marketing%20Efforts" title="6 ways to get more from your email marketing">6 Ways to Get more from Your Email Marketing Efforts</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="Tips for getting started with social media">Don&rsquo;t Be a Social Media Marketing Skeptic &ndash; Learn Where and How to Start</a></li> </ul> <p><strong>2.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Staycationers &ndash; &nbsp;How to Attract These Lucrative Tourists</strong></p> <p>Just as you want to reach out to travelers and tourists from out of town, don&rsquo;t forget to focus some of your marketing and advertising efforts closer to home. Be persuasive in your benefit statements. For example:</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Explain what differentiates you</strong> &ndash; Are you family/pet friendly? Do you stock/grow local products? How easy is it to get to you? &nbsp;Do repeat visitors receive any special discounts?</li> <li> <strong>Source local </strong>&ndash; Even if you don&rsquo;t grow or produce your own products, look for ways to integrate local produce into your business so that customers get a real flavor of what your community offers and the dollars stay local. Ask fellow businesses to reciprocate too.</li> <li> <strong>Team up with complementary businesses</strong> to cross-promote and market your businesses &ndash; with something for everyone, tourists might be more likely to make the trip to your community and stay for a while! Get some tips for doing this in this blog from Rieva Lesonsky:&nbsp; <a href="" title="Tips for working with your competitors">Forget Competition it&rsquo;s Time for Co-Opetition</a>.</li> <li> <strong>Cash in on what your region has to offer </strong>&ndash; Is your region known for its wine or green credentials? Are there certain certifications that you can seek out to help promote your business?</li> <li> <strong>Develop messages and advertising that targets larger groups</strong> &ndash; Can you handle bus tours or school field trips? Any incentives or package deals for larger groups or families?</li> <li> <strong>Remind visitors that they will save</strong> money on gas, lodging, airfare and even time by vacationing near home.</li> <li> <strong>Get Involved in Local Events/Festivals </strong>&ndash; Community fairs, farmers markets, sponsored sports events and concerts offer great opportunities to reach locals and tourists alike. Read guest blogger Rieva Lesonsky&rsquo;s:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" title="Marketing Your Business With Events">Marketing Your Business with Events</a> and <a href="" title="Sponsoring or hosting an event - how to maximize your return">Sponsoring or Hosting an Event &ndash; 6 Ways to Maximize your Return</a>.</li> </ul> <p><strong>3.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Use Location-</strong><strong>Based Services to Attract Passersby</strong></p> <p>Don&rsquo;t forget to take advantage of mobile technology. Promoting your small business to tourists who might be passing by using mobile apps isn&rsquo;t that difficult. Groupon, Living Social, FourSquare and ThinkNear, among others, let you post information about your latest offers and limited-time deals to consumers within a certain distance of your business. You can also schedule deals so they get delivered during key hours. Keep your Google, Yelp, Yellow Pages and other online listings up to date too.</p> <p><strong>4.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Take Your Business on the Road</strong></p> <p>If the best way to reach tourists is to take your business on the road, a concession stand or a booth at a craft or community fair is a great opportunity to bring in extra dollars and spread the word. These articles offer some advice:</p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="Link to blog about starting a food concession business.">Starting a Mobile Food Concession Business</a></li> <li> <a class="Turning your mobile device into a cash register" href="file:///C:/Users/Caron/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.Outlook/LGCVLKW9/%E2%80%A2%09http:/">Payments On the Go &ndash; Turning Your Mobile Device Into a Cash Register</a></li> </ul> <p><strong>5.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Become a National Park Concession Business</strong></p> <p>Did you know there are opportunities for small businesses in national parks? Food, lodging, tours, whitewater rafting, boating, and many other recreational activities and amenities in more than 100 national parks are managed by private businesses under contract to the National Park Service. The services, provided by more than 600 concessioners, gross more than $1 billion every year and provide jobs for more than 25,000 people peak season. Every year, the Park Service <a href="" title="National Park Service prospectuses">issues prospectuses</a> that detail these business opportunities; it also publishes notices at <a href="" title="FedBizOpps website"></a>. Many of these opportunities are smaller operations featuring unique recreation activities.</p> <p><strong>6.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Need Short-Term Capital?</strong></p> <p>Seasonal businesses often have to pour capital into business improvements, marketing, inventory and staff long before they can expect to make a profit. If you don&rsquo;t have sufficient cash flow or funds to prepare your business for the 2013 tourist season, you may want to consider a short-term loan or line of credit. <a href="" title="SBA CAPLines Program">SBA&rsquo;s CAPLines Program</a>, for example, provides advances against inventory needs and accounts receivable to help you weather seasonal sales. <a href="">Read more</a> and talk to your <a href="">regional SBA Office</a> for more information.</p> <p><strong>7.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Plan Your Seasonal Work Force</strong></p> <p>If your business counts on the summer season or tourist trade, then start planning your seasonal workforce now. If you&rsquo;re new to this process or have questions about hiring and compensating seasonal workers (for example, do you need to pay unemployment taxes for seasonal workers?), check out this blog &ndash;&nbsp;<a href="" title="5 thins to know about hiring temporary or seasonal workers">5 Things to Know Now about Hiring Temporary or Seasonal Workers&nbsp;</a>&ndash; for tips on hiring and working with seasonal workers within the law.</p> <p><strong>8.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Partner with Local Business Groups</strong></p> <p>Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce and local tourism associations or sector organizations that promote clusters of businesses in the same business sector such as hotels, restaurants, tour operators, B&amp;B&rsquo;s, camp grounds and so on. Many of these offer small businesses an opportunity to participate in their targeted and collective approach to seasonal marketing.</p> <p><em>What are you going to do to boost your revenues this tourist season? Leave a comment below!</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Small Business Matters Managing Marketing Thu, 02 May 2013 11:01:26 +0000 Caron_Beesley 602541 at 8 Things you Can Do to Be Taken Seriously as a Young Entrepreneur <p>Are you a teenager or in your early 20s? Do you have a great business idea? Perhaps you&rsquo;re already making headway towards starting your own business.</p> <p>But how do you get others to believe in you and your business idea?</p> <p>Here are eight surefire ways that you can be taken seriously as a young entrepreneur:</p> <p><strong>1.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Have a Plan</strong></p> <p>Having a plan means knowing where you want to be and what steps you are going to take to get there. If you can&rsquo;t communicate this to investors, vendors, distributors, employees, and so on, you will never be taken seriously.</p> <p>Case in point &ndash; SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 &ndash; <a href="" title="Link to bio of Mollie">Mollie Breault-Binaghi</a>. Now in her mid-20s, Mollie owns two successful graphic design and printing businesses in Vermont. With input from her boyfriend and her family, she spent considerable time working out the details of a business plan.&nbsp;&ldquo;<em>When you&rsquo;re going to be investing not only money but your time, you need to invest an equal amount of energy laying it out on paper before you jump in</em>,&rdquo; Mollie said. (Read more about Mollie&rsquo;s story <a href="">here</a>).</p> <p>Not sure where to start with your business plan? Check out SBA&rsquo;s online <strong><a href="" title="Build your Business Plan tool">Build your Business Plan</a></strong> tool&mdash;a step-by-step guide to help you get started. Save your plan as a PDF file and update it at any time.</p> <p><strong>2.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Be Serious About Your Passion</strong></p> <p>While Mollie&rsquo;s advice for other young entrepreneurs is simple: &ldquo;<em>Plan!</em>&rdquo; she also added: &ldquo;<em>And you have to be passionate about it. Otherwise it&rsquo;s not worth doing. Owning your own business is not easy and it&rsquo;s not going to make you rich quick. You&rsquo;re going to be in it for the long haul, so it&rsquo;s got to be something you love.</em>&rdquo;</p> <p>It&rsquo;s inevitable that you are going to come across people who are going to try and talk you out of your idea&mdash;put your ear muffs on and stand your ground. Be proud of your idea, innovation, or business and be ready to showcase what you&rsquo;ve done to get this far and what your plans are for the next step.</p> <p>A few sure fire ways to demonstrate your commitment include:</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Work at it</strong> &ndash; Be prepared to put the hours and weekends into your business.</li> <li> <strong>Educate yourself</strong> <strong>and take educated risks! </strong>&ndash; Take advantage of free or low-cost business start-up workshops from your local business incubator, <a href="" title="Directory of Small Business Development Centers">Small Business Development Center</a>, <a href="" title="Directory of Women's Business Centers">Women&rsquo;s Business Centers</a> and more. Check out free online courses such as those offered by SBA in the <strong><a href="" title="SBA Learning Center">Learning Center</a> </strong>on this site. Learn about your industry but also what it takes to be a successful business leader/marketer/planner, and so on.</li> <li> <strong>Stick at it through adversity</strong> &ndash; Nothing says commitment better than sticking with something even when you feel like throwing in the towel.</li> <li> <strong>Identify what went wrong and learn from it.</strong></li> </ul> <p><strong>​</strong><strong>3.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Find a Mentor</strong></p> <p>Many young entrepreneurs struggle to succeed because they don&rsquo;t have a mentor. Whether it&rsquo;s a former boss, someone in your business network, or family friend, find a mentor who has experience in your field and has walked in your shoes before. Not only can a mentor provide valuable advice, they can also give you access to contacts, resources, and events that you might not otherwise have access to. If you can&rsquo;t pinpoint a mentor, check out <a href="" title="SCORE website">SCORE</a> &ndash; a network of over 13,000 volunteer business mentors who have helped over 10,000 Americans start and grow their businesses.</p> <p><strong>4.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Surround Yourself With the Right People</strong></p> <p>Just as it&rsquo;s important to have a mentor, it&rsquo;s also important to work on being around the right people &ndash; as much as you can. Surround yourself with the kind of people who are living the life you want to live or exemplify &ndash; they will challenge you and probably tell you things you don&rsquo;t want to hear, but they&rsquo;ll also tell you the things you have to hear. Look to entrepreneurial groups, experts in your industry, college professors &ndash; those who are respected in your industry or community.</p> <p><strong>5.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Put Yourself in Environments That Will Allow You to Grow</strong></p> <p>Just as surrounding yourself with the right people will challenge your way of thinking, push yourself to seek out new possibilities beyond your comfort zone. As a series of young entrepreneurs explain this &ldquo;<a href="" title="YouTube video">Advice for Young Entrepreneurs</a>&rdquo; video from PHP Associates: &ldquo;<em>Putting yourself in an environment that causes you to be against the wall and maybe is a little uncomfortable, but being around it enough times you start to own it and you start to get a little bit more belief, in increments, in yourself and all that adds up to where you&rsquo;re comfortable in your own shoes</em>&hellip;&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>6.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Don&rsquo;t Be Flash with Cash!</strong></p> <p>One of the surest ways to show you are serious about your business idea is to demonstrate that you can manage your cash and keep it flowing. Look for ways to keep costs low. Consider working part-time when you launch your company; this will help you build your business with less risk and provide you with a steady cash flow from another source. Once you&rsquo;ve established a base, then transition to full-time business ownership.</p> <p>You should also utilize technology and the resources around you to keep costs low &ndash; think of using garage space to store inventory instead of paying for a warehouse, or use social media to make the most of low-cost marketing.</p> <p><strong>7.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Need Financing? &ndash; Do Your Homework</strong></p> <p>Securing financing as a young entrepreneur can be particularly challenging. Without a credit history or career history, finding someone who will entrust their money to you isn&rsquo;t going to be easy. But with a solid business plan and commitment to success, investors are out there ready to take you seriously. Here are just some of the options that young entrepreneurs can explore:</p> <ul> <li> <a href="" title="Borrowing money from friends and family">Borrowing from Friends and Family</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="Blog about bootstrapping">Bootstrapping</a></li> <li> <a href="" title="Peer-to-Peer Lending and Crowdfunding">Peer-to-Peer Lending and Crowdfunding</a></li> <li> <a href="">Microloans</a></li> </ul> <p>Also read <a href="" title="Tips on what lenders look for">What Lenders Look For and Tips for Winning them Over</a>.</p> <p><strong>8.&nbsp;</strong><strong>Look Like a Pro</strong></p> <p>It goes without saying, or does it? Try to look like you are serious about what you are doing. Whether you are meeting customers, potential partners, mentors or investors &ndash; clean up your act. No, you don&rsquo;t need to wear a suit all the time, but dress appropriately. &ldquo;<em>Remember, you might need to overcome some preconceived ideas about what teenagers are like, so be sure your looks and your language reflect the fact that you&#39;re serious about your business</em>,&rdquo; <a href="" title="Young Entrepreneur website">advises Young Enterpreneur&rsquo;s, Adam Toren</a>. &ldquo;<em>When communicating through email, use spell check and keep slang and abbreviations to minimum.&nbsp; If you&#39;re polite, professional and knowledgeable, your potential customers are sure to take you seriously</em>.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More Information</strong></p> <p>Young entrepreneurs can get more tips and practical guidance about starting a business in SBA&rsquo;s online course: <a href="" title="Link to online course featuring tips for young entrpreneurs">Young Entrepreneurs - An Essential guide to Starting Your Own Business</a>. Also check out SBA&rsquo;s <a href="" title="SBA's Young Entrepreneurs guide">Young Entrepreneurs</a> guide for resources and programs to get you started.&nbsp;</p> Small Business Matters Financing Mentoring and Training Starting Thu, 25 Apr 2013 11:11:03 +0000 Caron_Beesley 587741 at