Friday, October 02, 2015

SBA Proposes Changes to Affiliation Rule for Business Loan and Surety Bond Guarantee Programs

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is proposing revisions to its regulations for determining affiliation under SBA’s business loan programs and its surety bond guarantee program.  These revisions are designed to simplify eligibility determinations and reduce costs and processing time.

 The proposed revisions were published October 2, 2015 in the Federal Register.  The comment period will be open until December 1, 2015.  SBA seeks comments from the public on the proposed rule and will consider these comments in its development of a final rule.

 The proposed rule would apply to affiliation rules for SBA’s business loan programs and the surety bond guarantee program, but would not apply to SBA government contracting, business development, or grant programs.  The affected programs would include: the 7(a) Loan Program, the Business Disaster Loan Programs (collectively, the Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Reservist Injury Disaster Loans, Physical Disaster Business Loans, Immediate Disaster Assistance Program loans), the Microloan Program, the Development Company Program (the “504 Loan Program”) and the Surety Bond Guarantee Program (the “SBG Program”).  

 For questions concerning the proposed revisions, please call Linda Reilly, Chief, 504 Loan Program at 202-205-9949 or e-mail her at

 Read the full text of the proposed rule as published in the Federal Register here:

From Food Cart Startup to Award-Winning Restaurant

Business team and spouses Colleen and Stephen Sheehan started small, then went big. Tired of working for someone else, in 2010 they opened a Northwest-style-meets-Southern-cuisine food cart in downtown Eugene, Oregon. Their cart Delacata quickly became a local favorite, garnering multiple “Best of Eugene” accolades in annual people’s choice contests from local newspaper “Eugene Weekly.” But in 2013, the Sheehans set their sights higher. Riding the current national craft beer boom, the Sheehans remodeled a two-story, 5,580-square-foot former Carl’s Jr. restaurant into Elk Horn Brewery. The brewpub opened in 2014 and is gaining renown for its unique food menu, beers, and ciders. Elk Horn also won “Best New Restaurant” in Eugene Weekly Best of Eugene 2014-2015. In the midst of managing employees, running two businesses, handling suppliers, discussing beer styles with their brewer, and taking on all the other challenges of running a brewery and restaurant, the Sheehans took some time to share their secrets to success. Read more at LivePlan

Thursday, October 01, 2015

How to Keep Discounts from Killing Your Business [Part 2]

Now that we’ve looked at advertising in Part 1, it’s time to consider the situations in which you may be directly contacting your customers to advertise or market your products, and collecting their information to do so. Collecting customer information will be done in different ways online and offline, and has a number of different legal and privacy issues tied up in it that you need to consider. Let’s take a look. Read more at bplans

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An Offer from MailChimp

$100,000 Scholarship Program

In April, we started partnering with Skillshare on a series of educational classes about email marketing. It’s been fun and effective, so we’re excited to help Skillshare with a new project to further empower small businesses. Together, we‘ll be awarding $100,000 in annual scholarships granting small business owners access to Skillshare’s full educational catalog. Skillshare offers hundreds of business courses with experts like Seth Godin, Simon Sinek, and Lisa Congdon—plus 4 courses from MailChimp all about email marketing. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, small business owner, or a marketer, investing in education is a great way to grow your business, and Skillshare can help.

Nearly Two in Three Millennials Block Ads

Ads are sometimes relevant, but often still blocked Ad blocking has been around for a long time, but digital advertisers and publishers are seeing it as an increasing problem. Research suggests that a solid majority of internet users ages 18 to 34 are now blocking ads when they view digital content Read more at Emarketer

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How to Build a Brand in 5 Days

You’ve validated your business idea, you’ve done your market research, and hopefully you’ve registered your business name. Now it’s time for the fun stuff. If you’ve ever wondered how to build a brand for your business, you’ve come to the right place. Work through these exercises each day and in less than a week, you’ll have a good sense of not only how you are uniquely positioned to compete with others, but also how to convey your brand message to the world. If you know you have to build your brand but aren’t quite sure of the reasons why, it’s worth reading our article on 4 Reasons to Brand Your Business, as well as Want Customer Loyalty? Build Your Brand. Now you know that branding really is a necessary step to starting a business, you can get to work. The infographic below is intended to be worked through as you might an exercise. Originally we ran it as a five-day challenge; if that’s how you’d prefer to read it, you can find each of the challenge days here. Read more at Bplans

Monday, September 28, 2015

Baby Boomers Not Fans of Mobile Ads

7.9% say they are likely to purchase products advertised on mobile Mobile shopping and advertising have caught on quickly in the US. While younger mobile users appreciate the convenience of smartphones for shopping, baby boomers are less sure. And they're a lot more sure they don't like ads on their devices. Read more at: emarketer

Friday, September 25, 2015

10 Tips on How to Start a Consulting Business

Considering becoming a consultant? Here are 10 tips: 1. Take it seriously Do it right. Stay mindful of the old adage about a consultant being somebody who is between jobs. Avoid making that impression. Have a website and business cards. Establish a social media presence as a consulting business. Don’t let your clients or potential clients doubt you. Read more at bplans

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Are You Marketing, or Spamming?

From the outside, we know spam when we see it: links in comments that have nothing to do with conversations, emails that we didn’t ask for and aren’t interested in, and constant, high pressure attempts to sell, sell, sell. But from the inside, it can be harder to tell if the marketing we’re doing is spammy or responsible. Oh, sure, there are some easy clues. If you’re copying and pasting the same comment on a dozen websites, you definitely need to take a long look at the integrity of your tactics. Just to have a profile or post random things on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn is not marketing. But if you’re truly not sure, how do you determine whether or not you’re spamming? Read more at Bplans

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How to Keep Your Spam from Killing Your Business

It may not sound exciting, but it is important, especially if you’re taking your business’s marketing into your own hands. It’s also important to note that there are differences in terms of what laws apply between sending out a physical mailer to a mailbox, and sending an email. Most of the requirements of U.K. and U.S. anti-spam legislation will be met if you follow these two guidelines: Don’t mislead your customers, and make sure that you are collecting your customers’ private information legally. But, there are a few more things you need to keep in mind, so let’s begin. In the U.S., general advertising laws apply, but there is no specific legislation for the content of direct or mail marketing. Read more at Bplans

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

5 Reasons Why A Social Media Content Calendar Is Important For Your Business

Creating a plan, a template, or a calendar simply means that you make all the necessary information available to all the relevant stakeholders in one place. It takes in all your channels and resources and organizes them in a way that makes it easy to access information you need when you need it. What is a social media content calendar? A social media content calendar should organize the way you curate and create content, and help develop your editorial strategy. A social media calendar cuts extra time out of your content marketing strategy and helps you allocate your resources wisely, to help ensure your brand consistently publishes high-quality, well-written, high-performing content pieces. Read more at hootsuite

Monday, September 21, 2015

Kickstarter is now a Benefit Corporation

From Kickstarter:

Kickstarter Inc is no more. We’re now Kickstarter PBC — a Public Benefit Corporation. We’re thrilled to share this news, and we’d love to take a minute to tell you exactly what it means.

Until recently, the idea of a for-profit company pursuing social good at the expense of shareholder value had no clear protection under U.S. corporate law, and certainly no mandate. Companies that believe there are more important goals than maximizing shareholder value have been at odds with the expectation that for-profit companies must exist ultimately for profit above all.
Benefit Corporations are different. Benefit Corporations are for-profit companies that are obligated to consider the impact of their decisions on society, not only shareholders. Radically, positive impact on society becomes part of a Benefit Corporation’s legally defined goals.

Kickstarter is excited to join a growing list of forward-thinking organizations — like Patagonia and This American Life — that have taken the big step to become a Benefit Corporation. While only about .01% of all American businesses have done this, we believe that can and will change in the coming years. More and more voices are rejecting business as usual, and the pursuit of profit above all.

If you want to see what we think is important, you can find a link to our Benefit Corporation charter here. We’ve spelled out a specific list of values and commitments we’ll live by: We renew our longstanding commitment to arts and culture. We declare how we plan to conduct ourselves in situations that are often swayed by profit motives. And we newly commit to donate 5% of annual post-tax profits to arts education and organizations fighting inequality. Every year, we’ll release an assessment of how we’re performing on the commitments we’ve made.

There was not a single dissenting vote by a Kickstarter shareholder to re-incorporate as a Benefit Corporation. We’re once again grateful for the support and partnership we’ve had from this group of friends, investors, and current and former team members. Thank you all!

From Kickstarter’s inception, we’ve focused on serving artists, creators, and audiences to help bring creative projects to life. Our new status as a Benefit Corporation hard-codes that mission at the deepest level possible to guide us, and future leaders of Kickstarter.

To all the creators and backers who have helped make Kickstarter what it is today — we’re excited to keep working with you, and helping new creative projects come to life as Kickstarter PBC.

From the News York Times: Kickstarter Focuses Its Mission on Altruism Over Profit

Friday, September 18, 2015

How to Define Your Target Market

What’s my target market? What should it be? How would I know? Here’s a list of five things that will help you figure it out. 1. Don’t try to please everybody Strategy is focus. Say you’re running a restaurant; which of these three options is easier? Pleasing customers 40 to 75 years old, wealthy, much more concerned with healthy eating than cheap eating, appreciating seafood and poultry, liking a quiet atmosphere. Pleasing customers 15 to 30 years old, with limited budgets, who like a loud place with low prices and fast food. Pleasing everybody. Read more at bplans

New Census Web Tool Helps Business Owners Make Data Driven Decisions

Census Business Builder
New Census Web Tool Helps Business Owners Make Data Driven Decisions
 The U.S. Census Bureau released Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition, a new Web tool that allows business owners and entrepreneurs to easily navigate and use key demographic and economic data to help guide their research into opening a new business or adding to an existing one.
The Census Business Builder was developed with user-centered design at its core and incorporated feedback from customers and stakeholders, including small business owners, trade associations and other government agencies.
The tool combines data from the American Community Survey, the economic census, County Business Patterns and other economic surveys to provide a complete business profile of an area. Business statistics include the number of establishments, employment, payroll and sales. American Community Survey statistics include population characteristics, economic characteristics and housing characteristics.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Cash Flow 101: Growing Your Business

Now that you’ve solved your cash flow problems, it’s time to figure out how exactly you want to approach growing your business. Unfortunately, since the needs and strengths of every organization are different, there isn’t really a cookie-cutter approach you can take to ensure your business will expand effectively. As such, it’s important that you do your due diligence prior to investing your capital. After all, you don’t want to find yourself overwhelmed with cash flow problems right after you’ve solved them. 1. Expand to new locations Whether you’re running a retail shop, a medical practice, a restaurant, or even a business-to-business tech company, you may be able to generate higher profits by expanding your organization to new physical (or even digital) locations. But, it’s important to remember that you can’t expect to simply open a second location, sit back, and watch your bank account get fatter. Believe it or not, the success of one location doesn’t really have any bearing on the success of another one. So prior to branching out, you need to consider a host of factors. For starters, before you can think about opening another location, you need to make sure your existing ones are operating like well-oiled machines (i.e., they’re profitable and both customers and employees are happy). You then need to find the right piece of property—geographically or digitally—and make sure you have the right people in place to make it a winner. Read more at bplans

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

3 Questions to Help Build Your Business Strategy

As someone that has started several small businesses over the years and advised many small business owners, one challenging area for a lot of people is the idea that you need to set a strategy. Business owners need a strategy that will enable them to understand the value that they bring to the market, and to ultimately target an audience of buyers that will need and buy their products and services. Setting your strategy Like most challenges we face as business owners, the challenge of strategy comes down to one of focus. Not so much focus on achieving activities or doing so many things, but focus when it comes to understanding the key drivers that will propel your business forward. Read more at bplans

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

How to Pitch and Get Funded

Get expert pitch advice from an entrepreneur who raised close to $1 million. Caroline Cummings shares her pitch secrets, techniques, and tools in this free eBook, “How to Pitch and Get Funded.”

What you will learn:

  • The purpose of the pitch
  • The importance of mentors and advisers
  • How to deliver an elevator pitch
  • How to deliver a video pitch
  • How to deliver a one-page pitch

Read more at Bplans

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Difference Between Benefit Corps and Certified B Corps (And Deciding What’s Right for Your Business)

Most people start a business with one key objective in mind – making a profit. Yet some companies seek out not only to profit but also to provide a tangible benefit to society and the environment. These companies, depending upon a few specific criteria, are classified as Benefit Corporations or Certified B Corporations.
Confused by the difference between the two? Didn’t even realize there was a difference? You’re not alone – it’s one of the most confusing aspects of a recent movement for companies focused on giving back. Benefit Corporations and Certified B Corporations have a lot in common, but there are a few key differences. 

Benefit Corps

To date, 31 states (including New York)  as well as Washington, D.C. have passed laws creating a new type of corporation – the Benefit Corporation (often referred to as “Benefit Corp”).  Benefit Corporation status involves a separate process available to companies in every state. These companies pledge to think about people and the planet in addition to profit (most are committed to a specific social mission), but Benefit Corporations voluntarily work against standards of corporate purpose, accountability, and transparency. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Business Startup Checklist

Starting your own business may sound like an undertaking of epic proportions. The truth is, it’s not. Yes, you’re going to have to work hard, and commit to working on it at all hours of the day, but actually getting set up is simply down to making sure you’ve “checked all the boxes,” which is exactly what this business startup checklist aims to help you do. 1. Find a good business idea A good business idea isn’t just one that turns a profit. It’s one that’s a good fit for you personally, for your target market, and for your location. You’re going to be in business for the long haul, so you really should pick something you can live and breathe. Identify your strengths and weaknesses Conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself Come up with a business idea that caters to your strengths Define what success looks like for you Do your research: What are popular businesses today? Read more at bplans

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Buying A Franchise? First Impressions Count

First impressions. They’re worth so much.
In franchising, the first impression you get when you start to look at a specific franchise opportunity, dictates how far you’ll go with your investigation.  These days, it’s the franchise company website* that is often where people who are looking at franchises get theirs.
According to website conversion expert Peep Laja*, website visitors form their first impression in about 50 milliseconds. That’s not a lot of time.
And, once you do get interested in a franchise opportunity, franchisors have to keep you interested. They do this in a number of ways. And, your impression of how they do it is crucial.

Ways To Keep You Interested