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Day at the Movies Inspires Business Incubator for Women

By Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator
Published: September 16, 2014 Updated: September 16, 2014

Four years ago, after a marathon grant-writing session at University of California at San Diego, scientists Lada Rasochova and Rosibel Ochoa decided they needed a break and went to the movies. Playing at their local theater was Social Network, the motion picture loosely based on the founding of Facebook.

The two doctors watched with keen interest the depiction of how a company like Facebook could grow from a small start-up to a global behemoth. Afterward, while discussing the movie, they both had the same question: Wouldn’t it be great if more women in technology could benefit from the type of dynamic start-up environment depicted in the film?

So the scientists did what came naturally to them: research. They learned that only one percent of venture-backed startups have a female founder, and that women-led startups get only 4 percent of total VC funding. This inspired them to launch mystartupXX (XX stands for the female chromosome), a business accelerator at UC-San Diego founded to help women entrepreneurs turn their technology ideas into successful small businesses.

In just two years, six teams led by female entrepreneurs have taken their ideas commercial after being mentored in mystartupXX. Their small businesses have raised more than $2.6 million and created 130 jobs. One of the startups specializes in human genome sequencing; another has created a cutting-edge video game that teaches young children how to do computer coding.

All in all, it was a momentous day at the movies for Dr. Rasoochova and Dr. Ochoa in their quest to empower the next generation of female technology entrepreneurs.

In San Diego, I recently announced the winners of SBA’s first Growth Accelerator Fund competition – a $2.5 million contest created to export the small business support structure perfected in Silicon Valley to communities across America. My startupXX was one of 50 winners selected among more than 800 applications judged by a panel of experts with experience in entrepreneurship, investment, and business planning in the public and private sector. Each winner will receive $50,000 to support its accelerator operations.

The SBA competition was focused on seeding accelerators in parts of the country where there are gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We were especially concerned with providing a support structure for underserved entrepreneurs – including women, minorities, and veterans – and on lifting up new businesses in critical industries, such as advanced manufacturing.

Accelerators provide valuable resources to potential startups: a physical infrastructure to work in their infancy, mentoring, business-plan assistance, networking, opportunities to obtain venture capital, and introductions to potential customers, partners and suppliers. The SBA looks forward to working with the entrepreneurs in these accelerators to help them go from zero to 60 in record time so they can commercialize their business ideas, create good jobs and grow our economy.

SBA Administrator Contreras-Sweet with one of the mystartupXX founders and UC San Diego students & staff

About the Author:

Maria Contreras-Sweet
Maria Contreras-Sweet

SBA Administrator

Maria Contreras-Sweet is Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and a member of President Obama’s cabinet. The SBA helps both Main Street and high-growth small businesses get access to capital, counseling, federal contracts, disaster assistance and more.

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10 Questions to Ask on Your First Phone Call With Franchise Headquarters

By FranchiseKing, Guest Blogger
Published: September 16, 2014

It may end up being the most important phone call you’ll ever have as it relates to your decision to become your own boss.

The phone call I’m referring to: your first call with a representative from franchise headquarters of the franchise concept you’re interested in learning about.

In this post, I’m going to prepare you for the call and provide some great questions to ask the franchise sales representative, so you can determine if the franchise you’re interested in could be a good fit for you.

The Call

A conference call with the franchise salesperson will be scheduled after you request information from the company. It’s the only way to get the details and some of your preliminary questions answered. The franchisor’s website may be informative, but talking with a representative of the franchisor really needs to happen if you’re serious about getting the facts.

The first phone call is usually a friendly, “let’s get to know one another” type of call. You’ll be asked questions about your career, your reasons for wanting to be your own boss and other things that relate to your interest in the opportunity. You’ll also be asked some money questions; the salesperson wants to make sure you’re financially qualified to buy their franchise.

Next, it will be your turn to ask some questions about the franchise concept. Here are 10 good ones:

  1. How long has the franchise company been in business?
  2. How long has the franchise salesperson been with the company?
  3. How many franchise units does the company currently have?
  4. What does the franchisor look for in a franchisee?
  5. What is the total investment?
  6. Is there territory available in your area?
  7. How long will it take to go through everything you need to know* and make a decision?
  8. Does the franchisor offer financing?
  9. What is the failure rate?
  10. What does the future hold for this franchise concept?

These are some great questions to ask to give you a general picture of the opportunity. You’ll probably come up with a few of your own, too, so ask away!

At the end of the call, the franchise salesperson will ask you to gauge your interest level and will outline the next steps in the process. You have a few choices at this stage. The first choice is to ask the franchise salesperson for some time to mull things over. The second one is to share that your interest level is high, and you’re ready to continue on to the next step. If the franchise concept isn’t what you thought it was, and you don’t feel that it’s a good fit, the third option is to say thank you, and tell the salesperson that the franchise isn’t for you.

In my experience, most of my clients I have worked with continue the process with the franchisor after the first call, because they haven’t learned enough to make an intelligent decision on the franchise. My suggestion: Unless you’re totally convinced that the franchise opportunity is not right for you, go to the next step. There’s so much to learn. And who knows, the franchise you’re interested in could turn out to be “the one.”

*Non U.S. Government link

About the Author:

Joel Libava

Guest Blogger

The Franchise King®, Joel Libava, is the author of Become a Franchise Owner! and is a franchise ownership advisor. He shows people how to carefully choose and properly research franchises.   

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When to Get Small Business Advice from the Pros

By plester, Former Contributor
Published: September 15, 2014

What you don’t know can hurt you. This is especially true for small business owners, who need to comply with a myriad of tax laws, government regulations and other requirements. Getting expert advice will help you avoid legal, financial and tax pitfalls – but hiring a lawyer can be expensive, costing you cash that could be used to grow your business. Since every business has its own set of unique challenges, it can be difficult to pinpoint which legal matters you can tackle by yourself and which ones require expert advice. Here are just a few general guidelines.

What you can do on your own:

  • File your “doing business as” name. Depending on the structure of your business, you may be required to file the fictitious name (the “doing business as” or DBA) of your business with local and state governments. Partnerships and sole proprietors typically must register DBAs, but rules are different for each state. Some states simply require businesses to place a notice in local newspapers; others ask for a small registration fee. Contact your state government’s business department to find out the requirements.
  • Apply for an Employer Identification Number. If you are starting a small business, you will need to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes. IRS.gov has a free step-by-step tool that helps you quickly apply for an EIN with no extra paperwork. After completing the application and verification process, you will receive your EIN.
  • Create basic contracts and agreements. Simple contracts and agreements with customers and vendors all can be made either without a lawyer. For instance, SCORE offers a free non-disclosure agreement template, which can help keep your business’ proprietary private.

What you may need help with:

  • File a patent. Patenting a product can give you a leg up on the competition, but the process can be expensive and take several years. This may or may not be the best strategy for your business. Before you file, consult a patent attorney to evaluate if your product is worth patenting, find out what type of patent you should pursue and identify what rights you will or will not have as a result of the patent.
  • Form a corporation. Although forming a partnership, limited liability company or partnership can potentially be done without legal help, forming a corporation is a much more complicated matter. Incorporating involves a complex set of legal and tax requirements at both the state and federal level. If the requirements are not fulfilled, you could lose precious time and money. A business formation lawyer can help guide you through the incorporation process painlessly.
  • Deal with lawsuits. If you need to take legal action or if others are taking legal action against you, you will need to hire an attorney. Lawsuits can be related to copyright infringement, labor laws, health code violations, environmental damages or other matters. Hire an attorney that specializes in the topic you are dealing with.

To find an attorney, check the American Bar Association, local listings and simply ask friends, family or other small business owners for referrals. After you have narrowed down your search, make sure to interview the attorneys to see if they are the right fit for you. You can also get free and low-cost business advice through the Small Business Administration’s resources partners throughout the country. Find a SCORE chapter, Small Business Development Center or Women’s Business Center near you.

About the Author:

Paul Lester

Former Contributor

I am an author for the the SBA.gov Community, writing about topics that matter to you as a small business owner. Our ongoing goal is to improve this site to meet your needs, so we're happy to receive your feedback and participation. Thanks for joining our online Community here at SBA.gov!

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Join GobiernoUSA.gov and SBA’s Live Spanish Hangout on Business Tips for Young Entrepreneurs

By CeceliaT, SBA Official
Published: September 11, 2014

Are you a young entrepreneur looking for tips on how to start a new business? The SBA and GobiernoUSA.gov will host a live Hangout in Spanish on September 25 to chat about SBA’s new online course for Young Entrepreneurs (Jóvenes Emprendedores), along with Sarah Farzam, owner of Bilingual Birdies. Farzam started the company in 2007 to help bridge the gap of cultural awareness for young children through language and music.

If you’re thinking going into business for yourself and you’re not sure of what it takes to start a small business, then this Hangout is for you. You can submit your questions before or during the live Hangout.

More on the Course
Young Entrepreneurs: An Essential Guide to Starting Your Own Business is a free, self-paced online course in Spanish that gives an overview of basic business principles and introduces resources available from the SBA. Course highlights include how to evaluate your business ideas, how to choose the best financing options and how to legally register your business.
The course also includes useful resources that will help at each step of your entrepreneurial journey.

The course is accessible from the SBA’s Learning Center under the banner “Starting a Business”, and is also available in English.  The Spanish version of the course includes a special video introduction.  Young Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs will receive a personal greeting from SBA Administrator Contreras-Sweet when taking the course.

Sarah Farzam, owner of Bilingual Birdies

Thursday, September 25, 2014

1:00 PM (ET)

Submit Your Questions to: 


To watch live and join the conversation, go to: https://plus.google.com/u/1/b/109740293027006618740/events/cb3oitffipifl4t42t9bd7uq0f4 No registration is needed to watch.

About the Author:

Cecelia Taylor

SBA Official

CeceliaT is a moderator for the SBA Community. We appreciate your participation and feedback on how we can continually improve the community to meet your small business needs.

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