Thursday, June 30, 2016

Five Local SEO Tips for Small Business Owners

From MarketingProfs:

Search engines keep getting smarter, but that doesn't mean SEO is no longer necessary. Your business will lose out to competitors if you're not working to keep it in the public eye.

Although all SEO hinges on great content and a responsive website, local SEO has its own practices and requirements that influence how you rank locally. There are literally hundreds of local SEO ranking factors to consider, but what I've detailed here are five of the most important.

1. Create a targeted landing page for each location

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Small Business Success Story -GKIDS Inc

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  Manhattan SBDC  appears in our 2015 Annual Report


Eric Beckman
GKIDS Inc
Manhattan SBDC

GKIDS is the distributor of top-caliber, award-winning animated films from around the world. Founded in 2006 by Eric Beckman, past releases include many award winners and Eric is a founder of the New York International Children’s Film Festival. The company has scored four Best Animated Feature Oscar nominations – the most for an independent distributor – with The Secret of Kells in 2010, A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita in 2012, and Ernest & Celestine in 2014. 

As his business grew, Eric found that many NYC banks were unable to understand his industry and financing needs. GKIDS purchases rights upfront and receives the revenue in future periods. The revenue stream was fairly consistent and predictable but banks were unwilling to open their minds to his industry. The demand for GKIDS products were increasing and further investment was needed. Eric explained these difficulties to Advisor Rawle Brown at the Pace University SBDC, who was impressed with Eric’s depth of experience and industry knowledge. 

Rawle reached out to several local bank contacts and received a similar response. Eric decided he was too busy to spend more time on financing and eventually put his capital raising plans on hiatus. Several months later, Rawle was introduced to Roy Berman from City National Bank (CNB), a West Coast bank that was well versed in the film and creative industries. Rawle connected Eric to CNB and the synergy was immediately apparent. CNB approved a line of credit for Eric and they are currently working on other aspects of financing. Eric looks forward to growing his business with the assistance of CNB. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Telemarketing Sales Rule Now Prohibits Certain Payment Methods


From the FTC:


The Federal Trade Commission wants businesses to know about important Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) amendments that are now in effect. These changes make it unlawful for telemarketers to use three types of payment methods exploited by con artists and scammers.

As of this month, it is illegal for telemarketers to ask consumers to pay for goods or services using cash-to-cash money transfers, such as MoneyGram and Western Union provide, or by providing PIN numbers from cash reload cards such as MoneyPak, Vanilla Reload or Reloadit packs. It also is illegal for telemarketers to use unsigned checks called “remotely created payment orders” to withdraw money directly from consumers’ bank accounts.

As detailed in a press release issued in November 2015, the FTC finalized the payment method bans amendments to the TSR late last year. Business guidance about the new bans is available. New guidance warns consumers that any telemarketer requesting payment using these methods is a scammer because the payment method is illegal.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Employers and Providers: Electronically File Information Returns with IRS by June 30

Self-insured employers, applicable large employers and health coverage providers are reminded that the June 30 deadline to electronically file information returns with the IRS is approaching.

The deadline to provide information returns to employees or responsible individuals was March 31. While the deadline to file paper information returns with the IRS was May 31, electronic filers have more time. This chart provides a reminder about the upcoming filing requirement and the June 30, 2016, deadline.
                   

Action
Electronic Filing Due Dates in 2016 for…
Applicable Large Employers – Including Those That Are Self-Insured
Self-insured Employers That Are Not Applicable Large Employers
Coverage Providers –      Other Than Self-Insured Applicable Large Employers*
Electronically File 1094-B and 1095-B with the IRS
Not Applicable **
June 30*
June 30*
Electronically File 1094-C and 1095-C with the IRS
June 30*
Not Applicable
Not Applicable

*If you file 250 or more Forms 1095-B or Forms 1095-C, you must electronically file them with the IRS. Electronically filing ACA information returns requires an application process separate from other electronic filing systems. Additional information about electronic filing of ACA Information Returns is on the Affordable Care Act Information Reporting (AIR) Program page on IRS.gov and in Publications 5164 and 5165.

**Applicable large employers that provide employer-sponsored self-insured health coverage to non-employees may use either Forms 1095-B or Form 1095-C to report coverage for those individuals and other family members.

This chart applies only for reporting in 2016 for coverage in 2015. In future years, the due dates will be different; see IRS Notice 2016-04 for information about these dates.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Out and Down: Mapping The Impact Of Brexit

From The Economist:
Leaving the EU would trigger a recession and set real GDP back by 6% by 2020. This is one of the key findings from the latest report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Out and down: Mapping the impact of Brexit. The report, which explores a post-Brexit landscape and its impact on key industrial sectors, suggests that the impact on specific UK industries would vary by sector and would be largely negative—although some sectors will find themselves more insulated than others.

Other findings include:

The uncertainty caused by a “Leave” vote would upset consumer and market sentiment, causing a 14-15% devaluation of the pound against the US dollar.
Delayed investment and spending decisions would hit real GDP growth most in 2017.
Weaker trade ties would exacerbate this decline from 2018 onwards, therefore, in real terms the UK economy would be 6%—or £106bn—worse off in 2020.
Pharmaceutical exports, access to medicines and research grants could all be at risk. Any economic downturn would also affect NHS funding.
London’s financial sector could experience a “brain drain”, as European nationals return home.

More from The Economist.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

What Happens to High-Growth Firms?

From SSTI

Because they focus on attracting mature firms through relocation incentives, job creation strategies at the state level are often misguided, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Despite this, many metropolitan regions are increasingly focusing their efforts on attracting and retaining the high-growth firms responsible for an oversized share of job growth and economic output. While considerable research has focused on the important role that startups and high-growth firms play in the national economy, relatively little has been done to apply a regional lens to this phenomenon. New research, tracks high-growth firms over a multiple-year period to assess how their changing operations can inform regional economic development.

In The Role of Entrepreneurship in U.S. Job Creation and Economic Dynamism, researchers from the University of Maryland and the U.S. Census Bureau assess the importance of startups and young firms as contributors to job creation and productivity growth. The authors note that while startups account for approximately 10 percent of firms and more than 20 percent of firm level gross job creation, high-growth firms – those defined as firms expanding their employment by more than 25 percent per year – account for about 15 percent of firms and 50 percent of firm-level gross job creation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Small Business Success Story -Cornerstone Restaurant

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  Rockland SBDC  appears in our 2015 Annual Report


Barbara Nochturft and Andrea D’Andrea
Cornerstone Restaurant
Rockland SBDC


The Cornerstone Restaurant in Congers opened in September 1994 when owners Barbara Nochturft and Andrea D’Andrea, who had previously worked together, decided to start a venture on their own. Since 1994, the pair has served clientele savory and healthy breakfast and lunch options, and looked forward to growing the business. When Super Storm Sandy hit, an extended power outage forced the Cornerstone to close, caused extensive inventory losses, and derailed their growth plans. 

Further complicating the restaurant’s recovery was the inability of suppliers to deliver fresh inventory as soon as the storm passed because many roads were still inaccessible. With true entrepreneurial spirit, Barbara and Andrea never quit. They continued to pay their employees, who could not afford to lose their wages. The Cornerstone staff cleaned out spoiled food and prepared to re-open. When Barbara and Andrea learned about the disaster assistance available, they reached out to Advisor Andrea Giraldo at the Rockland SBDC Business Recovery Center. 

She helped them to quantify their losses, develop the required documentation, and set the Cornerstone on the path to recovery. Barbara and Andrea received $34,777 in direct NY Rising assistance, which enabled them to re-open the restaurant and get back on track for growth. They have now doubled in size and have hired two new employees to handle the additional demands of their new space. Barbara and Andrea are once again envisioning a “…a bright future now that the SBDC has cleared the storm clouds from our horizon!” 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

FTC Action Halts Phony OSHA Scam that Targets New Small Businesses

The Federal Trade Commission has charged a Florida man and his company with bilking at least $1.3 million from newly-opened small businesses by pretending to be a federal government agency, and threatening that the business will be shut down or fined unless they purchase occupational safety and other government regulation posters for their premises.

At the FTC’s request, a federal court has temporarily halted the operation. The agency seeks to permanently stop the alleged illegal practices and obtain refunds for the victimized businesses.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants call business owners, pretending to be the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or some other agency. Using names that sound like government agencies, such as “Occupational Safety and Compliance Administration,” “US Corporate Compliance Office” and “Occupational Compliance and Safety Administration,” defendants tell the businesses that they are not complying with federal law and that the government upon inspection will shut down or fine the business unless the owner immediately purchases regulatory posters, which cost from $179.99 to $189.99. After paying for the posters, victims discovered that they were dealing with a company, not the government who provides regulatory posters free. Those who called the company for refunds typically could only leave voicemails that were not returned; the defendants make it difficult to obtain refunds.

The defendants are Sean K. Juhl and D&S Marketing Solutions LLC, also doing business as US Corporate Compliance Office, Office of Compliance and Safety Standards, and Occupational Safety and Compliance Administration.

The Commission vote approving the complaint was 3-0. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on June 8, 2016.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

What Does it Really Take?

So you want to/maintain a business? And now you know why you aspire to achieve these goals. The next enivetiable question is-How do I make this happen?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Small Business Judo: Using Size to Your Advantage

From AIER:

The common narrative about small business usually goes in one of two directions. First, many predict doom for “mom and pop” firms in America, arguing small businesses must be protected from giants like Walmart, who can charge lower prices.

The second narrative focuses on the benefits these businesses bring to our economy and communities, stressing the need for consumers to “support” small and local business. Notably gigantic firm American Express, for example, sponsors Small Business Saturday every December, encouraging people to “rally their communities” to shop at local stores.

In reality, small businesses are profit-driven entities in our capitalist economy. While regulatory protection and goodwill from consumers may help on the margin, what small businesses need are working strategies to offer the market something of significant or unique value.

Friday, June 17, 2016

SEED Program Now Accepting Applicants in the Albany Area

From the Albany SBDC:

Does your business need financing, but the bank will not fund your venture?

Do you or someone you know have a great idea for a business, but no capital to get things started?

Are you looking to expand your business, but lack the necessary capital?

The SEED Program may be able to help! SEED is a character based micro-loan program that is funding entrepreneurs based off of character of the entrepreneur and capacity of the business.

Program Components
  •  Loans up to $35,000
  • Entrepreneurial Training Classes
  • One on One Business Counseling
  • Interns to Assist with Business Plan Development
  • Peer Support Network

Since the program was established, SEED has successfully funded 54 entrepreneurs that would not have been eligible for traditional commercial loan programs.

Applications for the Summer Session of the SEED Program are now being accepted.
  
For more information:
Contact Kate Baker
518-380-5073
http://www.albany.edu/seed/


SEED is possible due to a unique partnership between SEFCU, the Small Business Development Center, Univerity at Albany School of Business, University at Albany School of Social Welfare, and NYS Empire State Development.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Disruptive innovation

According to the Wikipedia, a disruptive innovation is "an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leaders and alliances. The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995."


Here are some recent articles describing disruptive technologies:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Small Business Success Story -Mindwick, Inc.

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the Stony Brook SBDC  appears in our 2015 Annual Report


Elena Yakubovskaya
Mindwick, Inc.
Stony Brook SBDC


Elena Yakubovskaya, a research scientist in the Pharmacology Dept.at SUNY Stony Brook, received her Ph.D. in the field of molecular and structural biology from the Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow. About ten years ago, she was one of the founders of School Nova, a Stony Brook University program that provides supplemental STEM instruction on weekends for elementary school students. Elena is currently the director of a summer STEM educational camp for gifted students. 

During 2014, Elena decided to sharpen her focus on STEM education by starting Mindwick, Inc. to promote early science education among public elementary school students (grades 1-3). When she needed assistance with her venture, Elena was pleasantly surprised to discover that the SBDC was conveniently located on the Stony Brook campus. Elena has worked with Senior Advisor Bernie Ryba for the past two years and attended two SBIR/STTR workshops that were held on campus to learn more about submitting applications for grant funding. 

In June 2015, Mindwick was awarded a $150,000 Phase I SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop “Ready for STEM,” a new educational program for improving reasoning skills in elementary school students. Elena intends to apply for a Phase II $750,000 NSF grant and two new Phase I grants at other agencies in 2016. Elena joined the Stony Brook incubator system in September, 2015 and is confident that with the support of the Stony Brook SBDC her dream of developing a commercialized version of “Ready for STEM” can be realized. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How to Reduce Costly Chargebacks at Your Business

From MarketingProfs

When businesses accept credit cards as a payment option, they run the risk of being faced with chargebacks: when credit card users dispute charges on their accounts and demand to be reimbursed for the purchases.

Chargebacks were designed to help credit card customers protect their accounts, and they still do, but they can also become a nuisance for businesses: Dealing with chargebacks can take valuable time away from employees, and it can be costly.

Moreover, frequent chargebacks can affect a company's ability to maintain a merchant account and accept credit card or ACH payments. Also, merchant account providers can impose steep fines associated with high chargeback rates, or they can put funds on hold.

All of that makes reducing the occurrence of chargebacks crucial.

The first step in doing so is to determine the causes of chargebacks. Sometimes, unhappy customers issue chargebacks in an attempt to get their money back without having to communicate with the business about the issue. Other times, the chargeback is a result of "friendly fraud": The customer received the goods or services, but still wants the money back. Another scenario is that the charges were actually fraudulent—i.e., not made by the credit card holder.

Determining the chargeback triggers can help you apply creative and useful strategies to help decrease the number of chargebacks you face. Although not all chargebacks can be prevented, you can take various actions to reduce their number.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Employer Costs for Employee Compensation

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Employer costs for employee compensation averaged $33.94 per hour worked in March 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Wages and salaries averaged $23.25 per hour worked and accounted for 68.5 percent of these costs, while benefits averaged $10.70 and accounted for the remaining 31.5 percent.

Total employer compensation costs for private industry workers averaged $32.06 per hour worked in March 2016. Total employer compensation costs for state and local government workers averaged $45.23 per hour worked in March 2016.

Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC), a product of the National Compensation Survey, measures employer costs for wages, salaries, and employee benefits for nonfarm private and state and local government workers.

Metropolitan area costs in private industry

Total compensation, wages and salaries, and benefit costs in private industry are included in this release for 15 combined and metropolitan statistical areas (CSAs and MSAs). In March 2016, total
compensation costs for the 15 areas ranged from $50.66 per hour worked in the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA CSA, to $28.34 per hour worked in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL MSA.

Health insurance costs in private industry

The average cost for health insurance benefits was $2.44 per hour worked in private industry (7.6 percent of total compensation) in March 2016. Among occupational groups, employer costs for health
insurance benefits ranged from 89 cents per hour worked and 5.9 percent of total compensation for service workers, to $3.81 and 6.7 percent of total compensation for management, professional, and
related occupations.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Advocacy Recommends FCC Exempt Small Businesses from Proposed Rules to “Unlock the Box”

On May 31, 2016, the Office of Advocacy submitted an ex parte letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), asking the FCC to further analyze the small business impact of its proposed rules under Section 629 of the Communications Act.  
The FCC proposed rules that would require multi-channel video programming distributors (MVPDs) to supply certain programming information in formats that conform to specifications set by open standards bodies.  The FCC published an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (IRFA) with its proposal, but did not attempt to quantify the impact that the rule would have on small MVPDs. 
Numerous commenters, including small MVPDs, as well as public interest groups and technology companies supporting the rule, have indicated to the FCC that the proposed rule will disproportionately affect small MVPDs.  These stakeholders have also suggested that the FCC can exempt small MVPDs from the regulations, while still achieving its Section 629 goals.  In comments, Advocacy noted:
  • The FCC’s proposal would have a significantly disproportionate impact on small MVPDs which must be analyzed under the RFA.
  • Given the significant impact of the proposal on small entities, the FCC should analyze the extent to which any regulatory alternatives to the proposal can mitigate those costs.
  • Specifically, Advocacy requested that the FCC adopt an exemption from the regulations for small MVPDs, and that the FCC incorporate a discussion of its rationale for either adopting or rejecting that alternative in its Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis.
  • Advocacy highlighted numerous comments in the docket that provide factual and legal support for a decision to exempt small MVPDs.

You can view Advocacy’s comments online here.  For additional information, please contact Assistant Chief Counsel Jamie Saloom at 202/205-6890, or Jamie.Saloom@sba.gov.  

Friday, June 10, 2016

SBA and AARP Renew “Summer of Encore Mentoring” for Older Entrepreneurs

The U.S. Small Business Administration and AARP are renewing their “Summer of Encore Mentoring” educational events targeting entrepreneurs over the age of 50 who want to start or grow their small business.  Building on the success of last year’s “Summer of Encore Mentoring,” the SBA and AARP will match encore entrepreneurs with successful business owners, community leaders and advisers for advice, counseling and training assistance during the months of June, July and August 2016.
 “The face of entrepreneurship is changing in America and more of those faces today belong to entrepreneurs over the age of 50.  Here at SBA, we are focused on building ladders of opportunity that are open, accessible and available to all entrepreneurs,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.  “We are fortunate to have a great partner in AARP, which has been dedicated to helping those over 50 take control of their future.”
The “Summer of Encore Mentoring” will consist of nationwide events that pair encore entrepreneurs with experienced small business mentors.  The events will also help connect encore entrepreneurs with mentors from the SBA’s resource partner network of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), and SCORE chapters who can help with every stage of a business’ life cycle.
Local area events can be found at www.sba.gov/encore
The “Summer of Encore Mentoring” is a collaboration between the SBA and AARP to promote entrepreneurship among individuals ages 50 and older.  The joint partnership, which began in 2012, has educated and trained over 475,000 existing and promising encore entrepreneurs. 
“AARP is delighted with our ongoing relationship with the Small Business Administration. This collaboration enables us to offer resources and education to help the 50-plus create businesses and jobs in their communities,” said Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President of AARP Community, State, and National Affairs.
Senior entrepreneurs are an enormous force in the economy and surveys have shown that over 60 percent of Americans plan to work during retirement.  For many, small business ownership is a good option.  More than half of all U.S. small business owners were age 50 and older in 2012, up from 46 percent in 2007, and business owners who receive long-term counseling see bigger sales, hire more workers and have more longevity.
The SBA and AARP have also dedicated online resources developed to help encore entrepreneurs start or grow a small business.  To learn more about these encore entrepreneurship resources, visit www.sba.gov/encore or www.aarp.org/StartaBusiness .

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Meet the 2016 CNBC Disruptor 50 companies

From CNBC:
In the fourth annual Disruptor 50 list, CNBC features private companies in 15 industries — from aerospace to financial services to cybersecurity to retail — whose innovations are revolutionizing the business landscape. These forward-thinking starts-ups have identified unexploited niches in the marketplace that have the potential to become billion-dollar businesses, and they rushed to fill them.

Some have already passed the billion-dollar mark at a speed that is unprecedented. In the process, they are creating new ecosystems for their products and services. Unseating corporate giants is no easy feat. But we ranked those venture capital–backed companies doing the best job.

In aggregate, these 50 companies have raised $41 billion in venture capital at an implied Disruptor 50 list market valuation of $242 billion, according to PitchBook data. Already it's hard to think of the world without them.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Small Business Success Story -Medical Gas Technology

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  Watertown SBDC appears in our 2015 Annual Report


David Farrell
Medical Gas Technology
Watertown SBDC


David Farrell was working with a private contractor doing work on Ft. Drum when he learned that the contractor had lost his contract. Meanwhile, his friend Bryan Benson, was working part-time with a local company, Medical Gas Technologies, Inc. (MGT), that services, tests and performs maintenance on medical gas and vacuum systems. The market for the company’s services includes hospitals, doctors’ offices and even veterinary clinics. MGT’s owner wanted to retire, and Bryan needed a partner to help purchase, operate and expand the business. 

David entered the NYS Department of Labor Self Employment Assistance Program to retain his unemployment benefits and attended the Watertown SBDC’s seven-week Entrepreneurial Training course. With the assistance of SBDC Director Eric Constance, the business plan came together, supported by financial forecasts and research information. The business needed an employee with a Federal license to verify the service process, and Bryan was able to acquire a license based on his experience working with the previous owner of MGT. 

They purchased the business with a combination of owner financing, private investors and client cash investment totaling $361,500. The partners are on the road several days a week and have added several facilities to their customer list. While the business currently operates just within New York State, its owners are looking to adjoining states as a future market. The new company has seen success as it continues to grow its client base and may be adding employees in the future. 




Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Social Enterprises: Benefit Corporation Guide

http://sbdc.buffalostate.edu/sites/sbdc.buffalostate.edu/files/uploads/Documents/2%20Benefit%20Corporation%20Guide.pdf
There are a growing number of entrepreneurs, investors, consumers, and governments worldwide that are embracing the power of business to create positive social change. Social entrepreneurs are starting businesses that generate earned income (like traditional for-profits) while simultaneously generating a social benefit (like traditional non-profits), and an increasing number of consumers, job-seekers, and investors want to be a part of this emerging social enterprise sector.

Andrew Delmonte, Social Enterprise Coordinator at the Buffalo SBDC, has created the Benefit Corporation Guide. Intended to be a legal roadmap for the small business social entrepreneur, the guide introduces the New York State benefit corporation, and guides prospective social enterprises through both the process of incorporation and the procedures necessary to meet the ongoing requirements of benefit corporation law. Download the Benefit Corporation Guide here.