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February 25 Deadline for BizClips Video Contest to Win Great Prizes and Free Publicity for Small Business

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: January 14, 2014

What small business challenges are you facing this year? Help transform these challenges into successful opportunities by making and uploading your small business video story by midnight, Eastern Standard Time, on February 25, 2014. You could win great prizes and free publicity to improve your small business productivity.

Enter the Small Business Productivity Makeover Contest Today

You could win the grand prize, valued at $3,500, by sharing your story through “BizClips: The Small Business Productivity Makeover Video Contest” at www.bizclips.score.org. The Contest is sponsored by SCORE and Brother International, a premier provider of print and communications products and services. The Contest celebrates SCORE’s 50 years of helping more than ten million small businesses learn how to start a business, grow, and achieve their business goals through free business assistance and education.

MAKE a Video about Your Small Business

The Contest is easy to enter, but the entry deadline is approaching quickly. Make your 30-60 second video, describing your need for a business makeover and how SCORE could help address your challenges. Or you can also tell how SCORE previously helped your small business. The video can be simple or fancy, as long as it meets the minimum requirements. Here are some great tips on how to make a video: http://bizclips.score.org/additionalinfo.

UPLOAD your video to the BizClips Contest website before midnight, February 25, 2014.

Don’t be left out. The deadline to create and upload your video at www.bizclips.score.org is midnight, Eastern Standard Time, on February 25, 2014. Late entries will not be accepted.

VOTE online for your video and ask others to help you get to the final round.

Voting is easy, too. All videos that meet the minimum requirements will be eligible for online voting beginning April 1, 2014. Spread the word of your video and ask your friends, family, customers and supporters to vote for you, too. They can also help you win by spreading the word. Public voting makes up 40 percent of the judging criteria. Voting closes at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, on April 30, 2014.

WIN great prizes and free publicity for your business.

The top 25 vote-getters will become finalists, gain significant free national media exposure, and win a Brother P-Touch prize. The Grand Prize winner will be selected by a panel of small business experts to receive a business makeover with up to $2,500 of products and services from Brother. The Grand Prize winner and a companion will be flown to Washington, D.C. in September 2014 for a special national announcement and awards ceremony at the 2014 SCORE Awards Gala. The grand prize winner will have a professional business makeover video created to be shown at the Gala and promoted by SCORE. The winner can also use the video for its own promotion. The total value of the grand prize is $3,500.

“This is a unique opportunity for your small business to be in the limelight in front of a national audience. We’ll be thrilled to help make the winning small business better, stronger and more productive to meet its challenges,” said Ken Yancey, SCORE CEO.

BizClips, The Small Business Productivity Video Contest launched on November 25, 2013. Don’t miss the deadline for this opportunity to help your small business turn its challenges into opportunities. Complete details are at www.bizclips.score.org.

About the Author:

bridgetwpollack
Bridget Weston Pollack

Guest Blogger

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy.

SBA’s Mentor-Protégé Program

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: January 13, 2014

Is your small business part of SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program? Have you considered entering the Mentor-Protégé Program to develop your business and compete more successfully for federal government contracts? As either the mentor or the protégé, there’s a lot to be gained from participating. Here’s how it works and the requirements to participate.  

How does it work?

The Mentor-Protégé Program fosters private-sector relationships between small businesses. It’s designed to allow approved small businesses – as mentors – to provide various kinds of assistance to their protégés, which are other eligible 8(a) participants that are still in the developmental stage of the 8(a) Business Development Program.

What are the benefits?

The benefits go both ways in this program. As a mentor or protégé, you’ll have the opportunity to learn and grow as a small business and prepare for greater success in the realm of government contracting.

  • Technical and management assistance: Protégés can benefit from their mentors’ expertise, resources and capabilities. In passing along this knowledge, mentors can hone their skills and note potential areas for improvement.
  • Prime contracting: Mentors can enter into joint-venture arrangements with protégés to compete for federal contracts so they can sell their products or services to the government.
  • Financial assistance in the form of equity or loans: Mentors can own equity interest of up to 40% in protégé firms to help them raise capital.
  • Qualification for other SBA programs: Protégés can obtain other forms of SBA assistance as the result of good standing in the Mentor-Protégé program.

The Mentor-Protégé Program also expands SBA’s efforts to identify and respond to the developmental needs of 8(a) clients.

What are the protégé requirements?

To participate in the program, protégés must:

  • Be in the developmental stage of the 8(a) Business Development program
  • Have never received an 8(a) contract
  • Be less than half the size standard for a small business based on its primary SIC code
  • Be in good standing in the 8(a) Business Development program and current with all reporting requirements

Protégés can only have one mentor at a time.

What are the mentor requirements?

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:

  • Have favorable financial health, including profitability for at least the last two years
  • Be a federal contractor in good standing
  • Be able to provide valuable support to a protégé through lessons learned and practical experience gained from the 8(a) BD program (or through general knowledge of government contracting)
  • Make at least a yearlong commitment to the protégé

A mentor will usually have one protégé at a time, but may have more with SBA authorization.

Want to learn more or apply? Contact your district office to apply for the Mentor-Protégé Program, or call (800) 827-5722 with any questions.

Related Resources

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

What to Know About Small-Business Licenses and Permits

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: January 9, 2014 Updated: March 14, 2018

So, you’re starting a business – congratulations! You already know that there’s a lot to take care of, from choosing your business structure to registering your business. You’ll probably also need a business license or permit – virtually every business does in order to operate legally. It depends on the kind of business you run, where it’s located and what state and federal rules apply. Here’s what you should know to make sure you’ll be running your business within the law.

Why Does My Businesses Need a License or Permit?

Licenses and permits serve two major purposes: They allow the government to track your business’s revenue for tax purposes, and they also protect the public.

For example, if your business is involved in activities supervised and regulated by a federal agency – such as selling alcohol, firearms, radio broadcasting, commercial fishing, etc. – then you’ll likely need to obtain a federal license or permit.

Other special state licenses, known as professional licenses, are required for dentists, hairdressers, veterinarians, realtors, physicians and more. These licenses indicate the level of expertise of an employee or business owner and that they’ve met a certain requirements when it comes to training or education.

State licenses are also required of businesses, such as restaurants and those that serve alcohol, to demonstrate that they meet certain state standards or codes. Particular regulations may vary by state.

Defined by local and/or state laws, permits generally regulate the safety, structure and appearance of a community and its establishments. There are a number of different kinds of permits to be aware of, including:

  • Seller’s Permits – if you’re purchasing wholesale merchandise for resale
  • Building Permits – if you’re remodeling or building commercial space
  • Health Permits – if you’re preparing food
  • Home Occupation Permits – if you’re running a home-based business

What About Tax Permits?

The IRS doesn't license your business, but it does require that certain businesses register to receive a federal tax identification number. You’ll also need to register with state and local government agencies for applicable tax permits such as a sales tax license, income tax withholding and unemployment insurance tax.

Managing and Maintaining Your License or Permit

Once you have your license or permit, you’ll need to manage and maintain it. Keep these tips in mind to help make sure you don’t lose sight of your obligations:

  • Keep track of renewal dates.
  • Keep a copy of all licensing applications and forms in your business records.
  • Display your licenses or permits correctly. Most states and localities require businesses to prominently display their business licenses so customers can see them.
  • If you expand your business – whether it’s physical building expansion or launching a new product or service – you may need additional business licenses.

Additional Resources

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

Tips for Young Entrepreneurs During National Mentoring Month

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: January 8, 2014 Updated: September 9, 2016

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.

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 – from the classroom to the working world. Read on for more about why and how to get started with a mentor.

Why should I have a mentor?

According to the Startup Genome Report, 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 – a mentor brings with him or her a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight that you won’t find anywhere else.

  • An insider perspective

Aside from the “been there, done that” 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’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.

  • A sophisticated skillset

If you feel that you’re struggling with a particular task as you’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.

  • A vast network

With years of experience, a mentor likely has an enviable network of industry connections. The importance of networking can’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.

How can I find a mentor?

Two great options to consider for mentorship are SCORE and Small Business Development Centers.

  • SCORE

Sponsored by SBA, SCORE 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 in-person and online mentoring.

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 – from accounting and marketing to management and technology.

In addition, the SCORE website is chockfull of great resources, including how-to guides and tools, online workshops and more. You’ll also find a listing of its local branches that operate in-person workshops.

  • Small Business Development Centers

Also sponsored by the SBA, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) 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.

Find your nearest SBDC.

So if you’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.

Additional Resources

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

4 Marketing Resolutions to Make This Year

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: January 7, 2014 Updated: January 7, 2014

If there’s one area of operations most small businesses can stand to improve, it’s marketing. As a small business expert, I get more questions about marketing than any other aspect of business—and it’s been that way for the last 30 years. Since the New Year is all about improving oneself, how about making some marketing resolutions for your business? Here are four to consider.

  1. I resolve to make a marketing plan. Many small business owners market haphazardly, throwing time and money at one marketing method and then, when it doesn’t pay off immediately, switching gears to the “next big thing.” This scattershot approach does nothing but waste your resources and leave you frustrated and frazzled, convinced that marketing doesn’t pay off. Instead, resolve to sit down and set goals for your marketing this year. What exactly do you want to accomplish—more leads, more sales closed, more inquiries? Once you’ve got goals on paper, figure out the marketing methods that are most likely to get those desired results. Finally, figure out how you’ll track results from each marketing method so you can see what’s really working.
  1. I resolve to market consistently. It’s easy to fall into the trap of marketing only when you’ve got the “spare” time for it (which often means “never”). Or maybe you market wildly right before your busy season, then do nothing for months on end. As a result, your sales pipeline slows down. Keep your pipeline full by marketing consistently all year long. That doesn’t mean you need the same level of marketing year-round—for instance, a toy retailer would obviously market more before and during the holiday shopping season than in, say, July—but it does mean you need some level of marketing all year. Create a marketing calendar that sets out what you’ll do each month and breaks it down further into weekly and even daily marketing efforts. Then put someone in charge of making sure it’s all carried out.
  1. I resolve to keep learning new things. Is your marketing stuck in the past? Advertising only in the print Yellow Pages might work if your clientele is solely seniors…and even seniors are increasingly going online to find businesses instead of letting their fingers do the walking. If you want your business to grow, you’ve got to keep up with the (marketing) times. Resolve to regularly read industry blogs and publications, attend networking events and conferences, and take webinars and seminars to learn more about new marketing trends and how they’re affecting your industry. Pledge to learn something new every month, and at least try some of it. Marketing is moving fast, and if you don’t keep up you’re going to get left behind.
  1. I resolve to do market research. Many small business owners see market research as something they do once—when starting their companies—and then never do again. But what happens when your market changes? The 20-somethings you might have targeted with your extreme sports company in 1998 are now in their 40s. Even if they’re still buying extreme sports products, the way you market to them needs to be different now from what it was then. Keep tabs on the demographics of your target market so you can adjust your marketing approach to changes in their incomes, lifestyles, media consumption habits and buying behaviors. Use both secondary research from other sources and primary research—that is, simply asking your customers what they want and need.

These four simple resolutions will make a big difference in your results—I promise.

What are your marketing resolutions for 2014?

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

January Webinars- Not Just Contracts: How to Navigate the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program

Published: January 3, 2014 Updated: January 3, 2014

Are you an owner of a small disadvantaged business seeking to be certified in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) Business Development Program and to become competitively viable in the federal marketplace?  

Each year, companies graduate from the 8(a) program with the potential and capabilities to grow into successful businesses as a result of the business development tools received while in the program.  Worldwide Technology, Inc. is one of many examples of successful graduates of the 8(a) Program and was #1 on Black Enterprise Magazine's list of the “Largest Black-Owned Firms” in 2013.   

The 8(a) Program – What is it?

The SBA certifies small businesses considered to be socially and economically disadvantaged under its nine-year 8(a) Business Development Program.  Individuals who are members of certain minority groups are considered to be socially disadvantaged.  These groups include: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and Subcontinent Asian Americans.  Firms owned by Alaska Native Corporations, Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiian Organizations, and Community Development Corporations are also eligible to participate in the program.

The 8(a) Program helps these firms develop and grow through one-to-one counseling, training workshops and management and technical guidance.  It also provides access to government contracting opportunities, allowing them to become solid competitors in the federal marketplace.  In fiscal year 2012, small businesses received more than $15.8 billion in 8(a) contract dollars.

The SBA will conduct two one-hour webinars to help small businesses learn:

  • the eligibility requirements for 8(a) certification;

  • about the technical assistance available through the 8(a) Program;

  • about common myths and misconceptions about the 8(a) Program; and

  • the top reasons why an 8(a) application is declined or returned. 

8(a) Webinar Part I | Not Just Contracts: The SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program | January 15th | 2:00-3:00 pm EST

8(a) Webinar Part II |Top Reasons Why SBA Returns & Declines an 8(a) Application | January 22nd | 2:00-3:00 pm EST

  • The January 22nd webinar will walk small disadvantaged businesses through the fundamental “must have” requirements and the top reasons why an 8(a) application is declined or returned. 

To get the most out of both webinars, we encourage small businesses to review the 8(a) Program website.  Both webinars will be archived on SBA's YouTube page.

 

About the Author:

SBA Learning Center

HUBZone Certification Program Webinar - Part 2

This video explains advanced concepts of the HUBZone certification program for small business federal contractors.

SBA Learning Center

HUBZone Certification Program Webinar - Part 1

This video explains the basics of the HUBZone certification program for small business federal contractors.

New Year, New Hires – Growing Your Business With New Employees

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: January 2, 2014 Updated: September 6, 2016

If the new year could mean new hires for your small business, there’s a lot to think about. Here’s some insight to consider from experts interviewed for SBA’s Learning Center Series, “Strategies for Growth.” They’ve shared some lessons they’ve learned that can help you develop a plan for expanding your team.

Short and sweet job descriptions

Casey Wilson, Retail Industry Manager, Maryland Small Business Development Center, asserts the importance of a clear, well written job description: “The position needs to be well defined in how it will contribute to the business’s growth and success. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but direct and to the point with the main responsibilities for the person.”

Communicate your vision and mission

Wilson also stresses the important of being able to clearly communicate your company’s vision statement – and mission statement, which is how you’ll accomplish that vision. Be able to “explain your reason for being” in a 30-second elevator pitch in an interview.

By clearly communicating “who” your company is and how you accomplish your goals, you’ll have a better idea during the interview process if a potential hire will be a good fit in contributing to your business’s success.

Incentivize current employees

Your current employees may be a great resource for new hires. Some business owners, like Jeanna Sellmeyer 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 – usually a year – that referring employee gets a little something extra in the next payroll.

Your employees can help bring in talent on par with your standards; after all, they don’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’ll have promising prospects.

Clients can help

Mary Tappouni 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’d want to do business with.

It’s important that as the company grows, Tappouni says, clients feel comfortable that the people you’re hiring will take care of them with the same level of quality that’s always existed in the business relationship.

So, involve some of these trusted clients in the interview process and gather feedback as you move forward with making a decision.

Additional Resources

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

Cybersecurity Essentials for Small Businesses

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: December 23, 2013 Updated: August 1, 2016

You may be hearing the term “cybersecurity” more frequently these days and wondering how it applies to your small business – 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 one of our latest online trainings.

What is cybersecurity?

With the help of technology and best practices, cybersecurity is the effort to protect computers, programs, networks and data from attack and damage.

Why is cybersecurity so important?

Consider all the information you have that needs to be secure:

  • Personal information for employees
  • Partner information
  • Sensitive information for customers/clients
  • Financial and sensitive business information

It’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’t happen to you? Think again:

  • CNN reports nearly half of the data breaches that Verizon recorded in 2012 took place in companies with less than 1,000 employees.
  • A Symantec report showed that 31% of all attacks in 2012 happened to businesses that had less than 250 employees.
  • A different Symantec report showed cyber attacks were up 81% in 2011.

What are common cyber threats and crimes?

There’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.

  • Website tampering: 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.
  • Data theft: 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:
    • Theft of computer files
    • Theft of laptops, computers and devices
    • Interception of emails
    • Identity theft
  • Denial-of-service attacks: A denial-of-service attack happens on a computer or website and locks the computer and/or crashes the system with which you’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.
  • Malicious code and viruses: 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 – all without your knowledge.

What can I do to protect my business? 

The first step to protecting the information in your business is to establish comprehensive security policies – and keep them up to date. Make sure your employees know and adhere to your policies and best practices for internet, email and the desktop. Here are just a few to keep in mind:

  • Don’t respond to popup windows telling you to download drives
  • Don’t allow websites to install software on your device
  • Don’t reply to unsolicited emails
  • Use screen locks and shut off your computer at the end of the day

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.

Want to learn more about how to help make your business more cyber secure? Check out our self-paced online training course, “Cybersecurity for Small Businesses,” which features more tips and additional resources to help you along the way.

Related articles:

Do Small Businesses Need to Worry About Cyber Security?

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

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