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Nonprofit Success Depends on Your Business Mindset

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: August 6, 2015

Running a nonprofit takes passion dedication, and a big heart. Whether you’re working to save endangered animals, slow climate change, or help your neighborhood prosper, it’s easy to let your mission take center stage. After all, tirelessly serving that mission is key to your nonprofit’s success.

But are you looking at your nonprofit like a business?

While the mission-focused work of your organization is essential, that on-the-ground progress simply won’t happen unless you’re in a business mindset. Money, paperwork, and procedures all add up to help your daily work have a greater impact on the causes you care so much about.

As you put plans in place to launch your nonprofit, keep these three essential business components in mind:

Cash flow

When you start a nonprofit, you have to start separating your automatic association between “making money” and “profit.” You’re not in this business for the millions, but cash flow can make or break your meaningful work in the nonprofit sector.

Along with good money management, responsible funding at a nonprofit leaves room for reinvestment. If you’re planning to receive grants or other funding specific to particular projects, you may not be able to plan for “extra” money in the bank. But it’s wise to think of ways to put money back into your nonprofit, just like you would think about how to invest revenue back into a flower shop or consulting firm.

That reinvestment might come in the form of launching a new program, boosting a social media campaign, or budgeting to give a dedicated employee a raise. By keeping costs in check, your nonprofit can manage its funding to go the furthest possible distance.

Staff Salaries

Nonprofit executives can get a bad rap for taking large salaries. But try not to think about the extreme cases of poor fiscal responsibility. Think about the people who work with you, and the tasks you rely on them to perform. Who takes care of your annual reports, IRS form 990 filings, and audits? Who oversees marketing so that your organization gets the word out about your efforts?

A team of entry-level staffers may be eager to work, but in many cases it’s worth the higher price tag for a seasoned professional. When you review job descriptions, make sure that your team is making salaries comparable to their colleagues in the private sector. Providing healthy compensation for those professionals who are essential to your nonprofit mission builds the strength of the entire organization, while keeping your staff excited to come to work each day.

Don’t leave yourself out of the salary equation, either. As much as you we might wish and hope, passion alone can’t pay the bills.

Business Plan

You may not be expecting huge returns like a for-profit business, but your nonprofit will need a plan for growth. A complete business plan for a nonprofit should cover your cash flow -- including how you intend to raise money to support your work -- along with realistic salaries and anticipated rent or lease costs. Don’t forget administrative expenses, and the little things like copy paper that add up quickly.

When it’s time to apply for grants or reach out for other forms of funding, that business plan can help you make a solid case for your nonprofit.

But no good business, whether for profit or a worthy cause, was magically built overnight. Many SCORE mentors across the country have worked in nonprofits, as executives or as founders -- and sometimes both.

Your local office can match you with a mentor that can help with your specific needs, or you can browse email mentors who are versed in the nonprofit world.

So go ahead, kick your feet up onto your desk and start thinking of the big picture for your nonprofit. How can you apply for-profit business lessons to your work for the greater good?

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.

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Let’s Pop the Bubble on Startups, Ideas, and Investments

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: July 28, 2015 Updated: July 28, 2015

Maybe it’s because business schools teach it that way. Maybe it’s because it’s easier to write about. Maybe it’s because of the dream and the glamor involved. Whatever the reason, there is widespread misunderstanding about the reality of business ideas, startups, and investors.

This misunderstanding results in a stream of questions on social media, blogs, and entrepreneurship sites. They come with different wording around these core concepts: 

I have a great new business idea, but no money. Where do I find investors?

I want to start a business but I have no money and no contacts. Where do I get investors?

I have a great idea for an existing company. I don’t have the resources. How do I sell it to them?

I have a great business idea but I don’t have experience or resources to execute. How do I sell my idea?

Let’s look at reality in this area.  Consider this a reality check.

 

1. Very few startups get outside investors.

Only two or three of every 100 real startups get outside investment from angel investors, and about one per 1,000 get venture capital in the beginning. That’s a hard number to track down because statistics vary and they depend on definitions. The SBA reports about half a million startups with employees per year, but there are about five times more businesses without employees than those with, so I figure anywhere from half a million to two million startups per year in the U.S. alone. The Angel Capital Association says there are only about 75,000 angel investments and 5,000 venture capital investments per year, and many of those are duplications, second and third rounds, or new investments in already-existing companies.

Those numbers make sense to me. After all, outside investment is a special case in startups, related to the best of the best, normally only startups with a lot of potential growth, experienced teams, and product-market fit. Investors need companies that aren’t just likely to succeed, but likely to succeed and sell out within five years or so.

What doesn’t make sense is how many people think the natural, normal process of starting a business involved getting somebody else’s money. That’s the exception. The rule is elbow grease and shoe leather, struggling to get the first customers, focusing on a subset of the larger vision, starting with what you have, not what would be ideal. This is the realm of the normal, in which entrepreneurs turn to friends and family for help, they borrow from house equity, and they work their startup in their spare time. And sometimes, when they have a business plan and some minimal startup resources, they go to their local banks and get an SBA-guaranteed loan through the bank.

For those who complain that they can’t get startup investment, as if that were a natural right, I say welcome to entrepreneurship. Nobody is entitled to startup investment. Build a startup that’s a good investment, and you’ll get investment. Do the work.

 

2. Nobody invests in business ideas.

No offense, but your idea, no matter how good, has no value. What gives it value is the work involved in getting started. You develop the idea, gather a team, do a product prototype or minimum viable product, and prove the concept with actual users, subscribers, customers, distributors, or whatever consists of traction in that business.

You don’t even own that idea. If it’s an invention, you have to design and describe and win a patent to own it. And patents don’t always protect against imitations. You can own a creative work with copyright, which covers books, software, pictures, and art. You can own commercial words, images, sounds, and such with trademark. But you don’t own a business idea.

Companies don’t buy ideas. They don’t even listen to idea-holders wanting to pitch ideas.

 

3. You have to do the work.

A business idea doesn’t make you an entrepreneur. It doesn’t entitle you to investment. It puts you in the same boat as the rest of us, facing the journey of execution that turns an idea into a business of value. You aren’t entitled to financing; your business has to earn that with milestones met and progress made.

Does that sound daunting? Here’s the good news: If you’re there, at the start of the journey, you’re in good company. Millions of entrepreneurs have done that already, the vast majority of them without somebody else’s money to help. Solve a problem, give value, make the world better for your potential customers, and you can do it. Do the work. 

 

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .

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5 Reasons a Business Revolving Line of Credit May Benefit You

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: July 14, 2015 Updated: July 14, 2015

Many businesses at one time or another may have cash flow challenges. One popular option to obtain short term funding is to secure a revolving line of credit.  This not only helps with basic day to day operations, such as meeting payroll, purchasing supplies, increasing working capital or obtaining extra inventory; it also provides many other benefits.

What is a revolving line of business credit?

In basic terms, a revolving business credit line refers to a bank or merchant offering a specified amount of always available credit for an undetermined amount of time. The debt is repaid periodically and can be borrowed again once it’s repaid. There is no set monthly payment, but interest accumulates and is capitalized like any other credit. As a business makes payments on the revolving credit line, those funds become available for borrowing again. The credit limit may be used again and again as long as you do not exceed the maximum limit.

Having access to a source of funding is an essential part of success in business, but not all forms of financing are created equal. Unlike other kinds of lending, a revolving business credit line offers a number of advantages over other types of funding such as:

1) Flexible Payment Terms – Traditional term loans require set monthly payments that can potentially present a challenge to the growth of a start-up business. On the other hand, a revolving credit line offers flexible repayment terms. Unlike a term loan, if a business has a slow month it can pay the minimum amount due.

2) Personal and Business Separation – One of the challenges many business owners face is keeping personal and business expenses completely separate. The benefit of a revolving business credit line is that it enables you to streamline and track your business expenses since your credit line is dedicated solely for business.

3) Access to Cash on Demand – Unlike a traditional loan, a revolving credit line enables you to source funding before your business actually needs it. Because of the cyclical nature of business, you may find yourself wanting to borrow money to take care of your company’s short terms needs.  By being able to access funds on the credit line at any time you can keep your business running smoothly, day in and day out.

4) Builds Business Credit – Businesses need to establish ratings with the major business credit reporting agencies. Using a business revolving line of credit allows you to build a positive payment history that appears on your company’s business credit report. This will allow you to potentially obtain future credit for your business based on your company’s creditworthiness.=

5) Flexibility of Usage – A closed-end loan is for a particular use whereas a revolving business credit line allows you to decide what to spend your cash on for your company. Since the credit line is revolving a business can use the cash for multiple purchases compared to a loan that can only be used for one purpose.

A business revolving line of credit provides companies the flexibility needed to meet their short term funding needs. When the need for cash is there, funds are there. By having access to cash on demand, you can take your mind off of money and focus on running and growing a successful business.

About the Author:

Marco Carbajo
Marco Carbajo

Guest Blogger

Marco Carbajo is a business credit expert, author, speaker, and founder of the Business Credit Insiders Circle. He is a business credit blogger for Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the SBA.gov Community, About.com and All Business.com. His articles and blog; Business Credit Blogger.com, have been featured in 'Fox Small Business','American Express Small Business', 'Business Week', 'The Washington Post', 'The New York Times', 'The San Francisco Tribune',‘Alltop’, and ‘Entrepreneur Connect’.

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Tips on Buying an Existing Small Business or Franchise

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: July 9, 2015 Updated: July 9, 2015

The dream of owning a small business doesn’t always mean starting from scratch. You can skip the headaches of creating a startup and jump to buying an established company. Purchasing a franchise offers another path to entrepreneurship. With either option, someone has already developed a solid foundation for a company. Here are some resources to help you decide if buying an existing independent small business or franchise is right for you.

Research Your Options

Even if a business seems successful on the outside, a closer inspection before purchasing is critical. In the SCORE podcast, “Buying a Business,” mentor Norm Silverstein details how to thoroughly examine an existing company.

When you acquire an established business, you inherit important intangible assets, such as a customer base and brand recognition. Risk is potentially lower than owning a startup because you will have immediate cash flow. Also, the previous owners have hopefully ironed out the kinks in the beginning stages allowing you to focus on the future.

After finding an affordable, promising business, Silverstein recommends using a “due diligence” process to determine if the company is a right fit. Some of the financial factors to investigate include:

  • Profit and loss statements from previous years
  • Projected financial statement
  • Last three years of tax returns
  • Cancelled checks
  • Lease conditions

You want to learn as much as possible about the business beyond what the seller tells you. An attorney, accountant and a SCORE mentor can advise you during this intensive process.

Ready to Purchase?

You found your dream business, which passed a thorough investigation. Now what? You must decide whether to purchase the business entity or its assets. These are the major differences:

  • Buying the “business entity” entails buying the corporation or limited liability company (LLC). You inherit the assets and contracts but also its debts. You may not know what is lurking beneath the surface, such as tax liens or unpaid loans.
  • Buying the “assets” means you are buying the tangible items like equipment and property. However, you must create a new company with new loans, leases and contracts as if the seller’s business no longer exists.

For more details on the types of purchases, read the entire “Buying a Small Business: Assets vs. Entities” article.

Buying into a Community

Another road to small business ownership is purchasing a franchise. Bob Melberth, a franchisee coach, details the pros and cons in the SCORE podcast appropriately titled, “Franchising.”

What exactly is a franchise? An entrepreneur buys the license of a larger trademarked company to sell its products or services. The new offshoot is backed by a well-known brand name, training and support from the larger company and fellow franchisees. Melberth says, “You're in business for yourself, not by yourself,” highlighting the community aspect of owning a franchise.

With this established business structure, the success rate of a franchise is usually higher than an independent business. You don’t need to be an expert in all aspects of running a company because the franchise provides specific guidelines to help sell their products. Even though it’s a franchise, it’s still your business.

Finding your ideal business can be a lengthy, involved process, but remember that you don’t have to do it alone—a SCORE mentor can help you along the way. After thoroughly examining the foundation, you may find an existing independent company or franchise is the answer to your small business dreams.

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.

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This July 4th, We Salute Veterans Who Own Small Businesses

By mbramble, Contributor
Published: July 2, 2015

Independence Day is right around the corner, and as the preparation begins for 4th of July festivities, it’s important to recognize the contributions that veterans have made not only while in service, but as business owners. These men and women make exceptional entrepreneurs because they have the know how and leadership experience.

For many service members transitioning into a civilian lifestyle, entrepreneurship is a preferable option for the next phase of their lives. One in every ten entrepreneurs in this country is a veteran. Fortunately, there is a great deal of veteran-specific resources to help veterans utilize their unique experiences to build better businesses.

Here are five essential resources that can help service members connect the dots between service experience and business ownership through tailored counseling and training necessary for success:

  1. SBA Veteran-owned Business Guide: This is a one-stop portal with links to programs and resources, financing information, government contracting opportunities, and other resources for veterans.
  2. Operation Boots to Business: Boots to Business is a transition assistance program that gives service members essential training to build a successful business. The curriculum offers key steps for evaluating business concepts and the foundational knowledge required to develop a business plan to veterans exploring business ownership or other self-employment opportunities. In addition, participants are introduced to SBA resources that can help them access start up capital and additional technical assistance.
  3. Business Resources for People With Disabilities: Starting a business can be a great opportunity for veterans with disabilities. In addition to meeting career aspirations and goals, owning your own business can provide benefits such as work flexibility and financial stability. This page offers resources to help disabled people start, grow, and manage a small business.
  4. Office of Veteran Business Development (OVBD): OVBD offers veteran-entrepreneurship training programs, a network of localized Veteran Business Outreach, and specialized loan programs through SBA partners. OVBD works to provide veterans, service-disabled veterans, reservists, active duty service members, transitioning service members and their spouses, dependents, and survivors with the training, counseling, and access to capital that they need to start and grow a small business. 
  5. Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs): VBOCs provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling and mentoring, and referrals for eligible veterans owning or considering starting a small business

​Are you a veteran business owner? What resources were helpful for you when you first started your business?  

About the Author:

Mariama Bramble

Contributor

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What Business Plan Type Is Best for Me?

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: June 23, 2015 Updated: June 23, 2015

Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I say a plan by any other name is still a plan; but many different things get labeled "business plans." 

You'll see that label on:

  • Strategic plans
  • Annual plans
  • Operational plans
  • Feasibility plans  
  • Business plans for startups seeking investment money   

And of course I use the term “lean business plan,” which is what I say all business owners need. No wonder it's confusing! Here are a few tips to help you sort it out.

1. Start At the Beginning

All business plans begin with this basic principle: form follows function. What do you want from your business plan? The answers to that question determine what kind of plan you need.

2. Think Lean

At its heart, every business needs a lean business plan. It’s faster, easier, and much more useful than the mythological big business plan. It’s what every business owner deserves as a tool for optimizing the business. The Lean business plan:

  • Leads off with bullet points for strategy. This is for your own business eyes only, not for public consumption. It's not explanations, rationales, or supporting documents. It's a simple list of reminders about focus: your target market, your product, and your business's identity. Sometimes it also includes a breakdown of what you'll call "success" — but it's quick and dirty, in list form only  
  • Develops the right tactics. You can have a great strategy, but you'll never make it happen without tactics. These are also bullet points featuring what you've decided are the key points of your marketing, product, financial, and recruitment plans. These are for your team's eyes only, again … not for outsiders. And they'll cover pricing, channels, social media, launch dates, products, services, features, and so forth
  • Includes concrete specifics. This is where you list your assumptions, milestones, tasks, deadlines, responsibilities, and performance expectations. The key here? Measurable, trackable, and accountable
  • And finally, pulls everything together in budgets. These are concise, too: your sales forecast, spending budget, and cash flow

With this lean business planning as a jumping-off point, you continue a regular process of review and revision to keep it fresh. Even if your business doesn't need an elaborate plan, it'll benefit from this framework.  Review and revise as needed, at least once a month.

3. Those Other Types of Plans You May Need

Again, because terminology tends to "bleed" from one type to another, don't rely on labels. Think of the function of the plan and you'll be able to narrow down the type that will best serve your business needs. Here are a few more common scenarios.

Plans for Banks, Investors, Buyers, and Partners

When you're presenting a business plan to a bank, angels, or other investors, your latest revised "lean" plan is the first draft. Once again, remember, that plan is just for management; you'll need to dress it up to include the additional content that outsiders will want and need. Among these items are:

  • Summaries and Explanations: make sure your executive summary is strong; that's all some of your outside target audience will read. Keep it short, and make sure it fits the need.  If you're immersed in a selling-the-idea or selling-the-potential mindset in the written plan, your summary should include key highlights that will pique those readers' interest.  Your lean plan also won't include detailed explanations of your strategy, your company, your market, or your product. It has just summary tactics for marketing plan, product plan, financial plan, and management plan. Think of your readers – outsiders looking in – and help them understand the business. Achieve the specific goal of this dressed-up business plan
  • Formal Financial Projections: while the lean plan might be fine with just sales forecast, expense budget, and cash management, a formal traditional business plan has to include formal financial projections that respect finance and accounting standards and include Profit and Loss, Cash Flow, and a Balance Sheet.  Banks will want to see projections of key ratios as well, and investors will like a Use of Funds table and sometimes a Break-even Analysis.

Startup Plans

Startup plans should be lean business plans with the simple addition of estimating startup costs and financing tactics. They become plans for investors or banks only when the startup looks for financing from investors or banks.

Operations or Annual Plans

Operations plans are lean business plans by another name – and annual plans should be lean business plans narrowed down to just the next year. 

Growth or Expansion Plans

A growth or expansion plan tends to be narrower, with a focus on a specific area or subset of a given business — for example, plans to develop new products. These plans can be strictly internal, or they can be linked to loan or investment applications.  And they should adhere to the principles of the lean business plan.

Growth or expansion that's being funded internally needs only internal plans, but don't skimp on the details. Know what you're funding before you fund it: take the time to estimate both potential sales and expenses for the new product.

On the other hand, if you're pitching prospective investors, whether banks or individuals, approach a growth plan as if you're pitching the business from scratch. You'll need just as much detail in terms of company and product descriptions, management team backgrounds, and solid financial data.

Strategic Plans

Strategic plans tend to be a subset of internal plans. They focus on strategy and tactics, but skip the detailed financial data and milestones of an operations plan, with a focus on company-wide priorities. In that context, one key to setting strategy for your company is carefully examining your strengths and weaknesses as a business. Knowing what your company does well enables you to play to your strengths and select the right opportunities to optimize them.  That way, you're funneling resources efficiently, to the areas where they provide the best payoff.

Conclusion: Do Only What You Need

With all the different meanings of “business plan,” I recommend you use good planning to help you run your business as well as possible. Keep it lean. Don’t make it a document for outsiders unless you have a business reason to show a business plan to outsiders. Keep it fresh. Use it to get what you want from your business. 

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .

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Franchise Buying Tip: Bounce Your ideas Off of Others

By FranchiseKing, Guest Blogger
Published: June 16, 2015 Updated: June 16, 2015

Bouncing your ideas off of others is a strategy that can and should be used before making any major purchase, like the purchase of a franchise business – especially because it’s easy to lose perspective when you’re focused on all of the intricacies that go into choosing and researching a franchise that you feel is right for you.

Perspective

I really like the British *definition of the word “perspective.” This: “The proper or accurate point of view or the ability to see it; objectivity.”

If you’re seriously contemplating the purchase of a franchise business … or any kind of business, you are way too close to it. You’re too close to get the proper perspective. Your decision-making skills have the potential to be affected in a very negative way. That’s why it’s wise to bounce your ideas off of people you like and trust.

When to Bounce Your Ideas Off of Others

You really need to make sure you do this at the right time in the process. Don’t get others involved too early, as you aren’t going to know enough about the franchise concept and all the bells and whistles that are part of the opportunity you’re interested in. You need to make sure you have a good understanding of the business, and what your role as an owner would be, before you bounce the idea off of others.  You also have to make sure you’re *ready to become an owner. In other words, before you bounce your ideas off of others, you need to be pretty serious about investing your money in a franchise. 

You definitely shouldn’t ask for opinions on what you may be about to do too late in the process, either. That’s because you may be at the point of no return. That’s the point in which you’ve convinced yourself that whatever franchise opportunity you’re looking at is the perfect one for you. You’re 100 percent sure that it’s “the one.” Once you’ve made the mental decision to buy, it’s going to be almost impossible for anyone you confide in to slow you down, or even to reverse your decision.

The best time to approach others about your future plans is during the middle of the process. Not too early and not too late.

Who

There are all sorts of people you can share your ideas with.

Friends who have proven to be open to different things are good people to bounce your ideas off of. The more open the better.

Friends who own small businesses are wonderful people to bounce your ideas off of too. After all, they’re living the trials and tribulations of business ownership every day.

Caution: Some independent business owners are what I call “franchise-negative.” They don’t like franchise businesses. Maybe they’ve had to compete against a franchise business or two, which is no easy feat. If you find some negativity when you bring up the word “franchise,” you may have to go find another friend to share your plans with. 

Certain family members could prove to be good choices to share your ideas with, too. Who’s really successful in your family? Talk to them. See what they have to say.

Use Business Experts Too

Since you’re thinking of going into business, consider approaching business experts with your ideas:

  • Contact business professors at colleges in your area. See if they would be willing to spend some time with you
  • Contact SCORE. They have experienced business counselors on staff who listen to business ideas all day
  • Your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has business counselors on staff, too. Not only can you bounce your ideas off of them, you’ll also be able to tap into the information they have on financing and business plans

Don’t do this alone. Buying and owning a franchise business is a big commitment. Don’t keep everything to yourself. Bounce your franchise ideas off of others – you’ll be glad you did.

*Non-U.S. Government links 

About the Author:

FranchiseKing
Joel Libava

Guest Blogger

The Franchise King®, Joel Libava, is the author of Become a Franchise Owner! and recently launched Franchise Business University.

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Tips for Entrepreneurs

By mbramble, Contributor
Published: June 8, 2015 Updated: June 16, 2015

As an entrepreneur every now and then it is important to take a step back and really take a look at the big picture and dive back in with refreshed energy. Here are few points to revisit and reevaluate after you get up and running.

Reach Out to Your Network

Maintaining relationships is a job in itself; this is why you should schedule it if you have to. As the old saying goes “your network is your net worth”. Often time’s entrepreneurs go on a networking campaign when they first start up and fall off once they open shop, when it really should be an ongoing exercise. Segment your network, keep all your online profiles up-to-date, reach out, and pay it forward.

7 Ways To Build Social Capital

How To Maintain Your Professional Networking Relationships

Give Back

Never forget to give back after your business is up and running. There are enormous business benefits from giving back. Community service builds credibility, helps to establish your business within the community, and reinforces your business values. You may also consider mentoring an aspiring business owner within your network!

The Power of Giving Back: How Community Involvement Can Boost Your Bottom Line

What Your Small Business Needs to Know About Charitable Giving 

Never Stop Being a Student

We know that small business owners are time-starved individuals. It’s easy to go on autopilot when you have established a routine. However, it is important to have your ear to the ground and always remain a student. We live in a fast paced world; technology is ever-changing, new competitors will emerge, and you must remain engaged and up to date on changes and trends in your industry so that you can make better business decisions. Stay up to date with you knowledge community by attending industry events and participating in industry association. Take time to read industry publication and remain current on certifications and licenses.

Keeping Up-to-Date on Your Industry

Customer Experience Management

This is one of the most important things to continuously measure and audit. Mastering the customer experience can inspire return business, encourage word of mouth referrals, and help inform business decisions. Consistent brand experience throughout your business operations is good for employees, customers, and ultimately revenue.

Customer Experience Management

Five Small Changes That Make a Big Impact on the Customer’s Experience

Customer Service Training

About the Author:

Mariama Bramble

Contributor

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The Ins and Outs of Alternative Financing

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: June 4, 2015 Updated: June 4, 2015

After the recent financial crisis, traditional banks are more reluctant than ever to fund small businesses. Entrepreneurs need not be discouraged though, as a new trend has emerged in the world of finance: “alternative lending.” What exactly is alternative lending and is it right for your business? Here are some resources to help demystify the latest options in small business financing.

“Alternative Lending” Defined

You may walk through open doors of your local bank only to hit a brick wall. According to this Alternative Lending e-guide, traditional banks decline up to 80% of small business loan applications.

Enter the “alternative lenders,” aka non-bank lenders. With faster underwriting and shorter decision processes, alternative funders have grown increasingly popular. They lent approximately $3 billion in 2013, double the amount from 2012. Banks tend not to loan amounts less than $200,000, so alternative financing appeals to small business owners in need of smaller loans.

Types of alternative funding include term loans, merchant cash advances, factoring and equipment loans, and you can apply for alternative financing online.

Beyond Brick-and-Mortar Banks

It seems like you can find everything online, even money for your small business. In the SCORE online workshop, “An Insider's View: Securing Capital to Grow Your Business,” Ty Kiisel, Contributing Editor at OnDeck, explores these new financial options in depth.

Applying for online business loans requires less paperwork with a shorter wait period. You can often learn your fate in five minutes and receive funding in 24 to 48 hours. However, interest rates are often higher than those of traditional bank loans.

Sources of online financing include:

  • Non-profit lenders
  • Invoice financing
  • Online business loans
  • Loan matching sites or aggregators
  • Crowdfunding

Get the Crowd Behind You

Another buzzword has hit the world of financing: “crowdfunding.” This is the funding of a business or project by raising money from a large number of people. Individuals can commit as little as $5 and receive a reward for their donation. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are popular options, but the list of crowdfunding websites grows every day.

In the SCORE Small Business Success podcast on Crowdfunding, Maryann O’Neil and John Montelione, co-founders of a crowdfunding website called MsGenuity, detail the process. They explain the two types:

  • Reward based crowdfunding: A person contributes money and receives a reward in exchange
  • Equity based crowdfunding: A person contributes to become an investor of the business

Why is crowdfunding so popular now? The great recession and high unemployment rates inspired the Jobs Act of 2012. The new law encourages small business financing by relaxing securities regulation so entrepreneurs can raise money from the public.

Alternative financing may seem like the perfect answer for a small business owner, but every loan comes with risks. A SCORE mentor can help weed through your financing options, so you can decide what’s best for your small business; get connected today.

 

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.

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#DreamSmallBiz: National Small Business Week Recap – Part Two

By sfield, Contributor
Published: May 27, 2015 Updated: May 27, 2015

Last week, we gave you a recap of some of the events that took place during the first half of National Small Business Week, which took place May 4-8.  Throughout the week, we held events focused on trade, lending for small businesses, veteran support, how to target millennial entrepreneurs, and an InnovateHER competition in which entrepreneurs live-pitched their products and services for a chance to win prize money provided by Microsoft. 

In last week’s post, we noted that while many participants physically attended our events, we also gave participants the option to watch our events via live-stream and join in on the conversation.  If you weren’t able to join us for live-streaming, here’s a second recap of some of the events that took place later in the week during National Small Business Week 2015:

Day Three:  Financial Programs in San Antonio

On Wednesday, May 6, we landed in San Antonio, Texas for a town hall-style meeting focused on how businesses can benefit from SBA’s financial programs including LINC, a new SBA program that connects small businesses with SBA approved small business lenders.  Participants also had an opportunity to engage in a discussion with the SBA Administrator, Maria Contreras-Sweet, on the opportunities and challenges facing the small business community. 

Members from President Barack Obama's cabinet were also present as Sweet focused on what makes San Antonio unique for small business owners, noting the way its citizens embrace immigration, something she flagged as important to the growth of small businesses.  “40 percent of the Fortune 500 were started by immigrants (or) are children of immigrants,” she said.  “There’s just a lot of good stuff happening with immigrants today.”

Day Four:  Entrepreneurship in New York

On Thursday we came together in New York City for a town hall conversation focused on entrepreneurship.  Mike Muse, CEO of record label, Muse Recordings, and a successful music executive and radio personality who has been able to sustain his success throughout his career, hosted the event, which highlighted the individual journeys of a diverse set of entrepreneurs, giving attendees an opportunity to hear from successful millennial entrepreneurs across various industries across New York City.  According to recent data from the Kauffman Foundation, 54 percent of millennials want to start a business or have already started one.  The SBA continues to foster the growth of millennial startups through many outreach efforts including a Millennial Road Show that is a part of SBA’s “My Brother’s Keeper Initiative,” a Presidential priority to ensure that all young people have opportunities to improve their life outcomes and overcome barriers to success.  If you missed the live-stream of Thursday’s event, you can watch the full session on YouTube here

Day Five:  Awards and More in Washington D.C.

As we closed out National Small Business Week on Friday, May 8, in Washington D.C., we wrapped up the inaugural InnovateHER final competition, a live pitch competition which featured 15 entrepreneurs whose products and services best met the SBA’s competition criteria and presented the greatest potential for success in supporting the lives of women and families.  Each of the top finalists gave a two-minute pitch on their product or service in front of a team of expert judges and answered judges’ questions.  The first place winner, Bethany Edwards of Lia Diagnostics, received $15,000 in prize money provided by Microsoft for her flushable pregnancy test.  The second place $10,000 prize went to Lisa Crites, creator of The Shower Shirt, a garment for breast cancer mastectomy patients to wear in the shower and keep surgery sites dry and clean.  The $5,000 third place prize went to Sophia Berman of Trusst Lingerie, which provides a better bra for larger busted women.  The full video of the final InnovateHER pitches, the Administrator’s commentary, commentary from Microsoft’s Cindy Bates, and an all-female panel on small business investment tips is available here

The SBA also distributed National Small Business Week awards, including its Exporter of the Year Award and the award for the National Small Business Person of the Year.  Check out this video clip for live video highlighting this year’s winners from a portion of that awards ceremony.   

If you missed any of the excitement from National Small Business Week 2015, be sure to check out the full list of webinars, training materials, and event videos on the National Small Business Week YouTube page.  We look forward to celebrating with you again in 2016!  

 

 

About the Author:

sfield
Sarah Field

Contributor

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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