Monday, December 31, 2007

Directory of Nonprofits

We have a print directory in our collection that provides contact information for nonprofit organizations around the U.S. It would be an ideal resource if it were only available online somewhere. Its layout makes identifying nonprofits in a given area a very cumbersome task.

There are websites that provide this information, though they have their limitations, too. I recently suggested to an advisor that his client check out what I consider to be the best of this bunch:

As you'll see, the search feature gives you the option of searching by state/province, city/town, postal code, and "area of focus". Use of any or all of these fields can be used to create a pretty targeted list of NFPs in a given geographic area. Once you get your results, the name of each NFP is hyperlinked to a page with more complete contact information.

Precision searching is a priority here. For example, I did a search of all NFPs in New York, and found 5,567 organizations. That's a pretty vast undertaking. However, a search of NFPs with "Economic Development" as their "area of focus" drops the results to 369. The search page also has a "keywords" field, which can help narrow things even more.

Again, it's not a perfect system. It's tedious to have to click on the name of every NFP to find the contact information - but if you find yourself facing that situation, then it's probably a sign to narrow your search a bit more. Keep it in mind.

Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Filing for Bankruptcy Without an Attorney

Not to say it is recommended, but I still like to see sites that help people help themselves, and this one is offered by the US Courts: How to handle your own bankruptcy. Even if an attorney were consulted, at least it offers a clear idea of what needs to happen. Bankruptcy Basics runs through the chapters and what they mean and includes a glossary. There is also a page of Bankruptcy Resources.


Bankruptcy Filings Down for Fiscal Year 2007,
Up for Quarter

Bankruptcy 'tweak' could save 600,000 homes
Consumer group pushes for change to bankruptcy law; others worry about negative impact on mortgage-debt markets.
By Jeanne Sahadi, senior writer
October 1 2007

Changes to Bankruptcy Rules (Effective 12/1/07)
By Brett Weiss, Maryland Bankruptcy Attorney on Dec 15, 2007

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Better to give than to receive

Its the season of gift giving, including executives and their family foundations. has created several features about the philanthropic habits of Wall Street family foundations, including Wall Street Family Values : Who's giving—and who's missing? and The Generosity Index .

Want to know how much they are keeping to themselves? The SEC has developed a new online tool, the Executive Compensation Reader, "that enables investors to easily and instantly compare what 500 of the largest American companies are paying their top executives."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Tracing Business Acumen to Dyslexia

In the December 6, 2007 New York Times, Brent Bowers writes that a study has concluded that dyslexics were more likely than nondyslexics to excel in oral communication and problem solving and to own two or more businesses.

It has long been known that dyslexics are drawn to running their own businesses, where they can get around their weaknesses in reading and writing and play on their strengths. But a new study of entrepreneurs in the United States suggests that dyslexia is much more common among small-business owners than even the experts had thought.
William J. Dennis Jr., senior research fellow at the Research Foundation of the National Federation of Independent Business, a trade group in Washington, said the study’s results "fit into the pattern of what we know about small-business owners."

"Entrepreneurs are hands-on people who push a minimum of paper, do lots of stuff orally instead of reading and writing, and delegate authority, all of which suggests a high verbal facility," Mr. Dennis said. "Compare that with corporate managers who read, read, read."

Monday, December 24, 2007

Business Credit Scores

If there's one thing you need to hear about during the last days of the holiday buying season, it's your credit score. Sarah O'Connell from the Watertown SBDC forwarded this article to me recently from the LA Times, which reports the "facts" and "myths" associated with business owners & their attendant credit scores. She thought some of y'all would find it interesting.

Much merriness to all!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Directory of Associations

Here's a site that's been around since the mid-1990s, in one form or another. I can't believe that I'd never blogged about it before, but it's been in my bookmark collection since I was in my late 20s - a loooooong time ago, apparently.

You can search for websites for trade associations through a portal provided by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE):

It's come a long way, as you can now search by numerous methods (like "Association name contains," which is particularly handy). If you need it, you can also search for trade groups based outside of the U.S.

Note that there's also a State field. If you're looking for trade groups with a headquarters in New York State, then this is the field to use. However, I'm assuming that most of these associations will have national or international scope. The National Restaurant Association is based in Virginia, but would still be useful for New York State-based restaurateurs to know about.

So, if you haven't already done so: bookmark this site, no matter what age you are.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Independent Contractors

I reminded myself to check out our shelves and lo, success! A source that I am sure we have described before but here it is again is the Consultant & Independent Contractor Agreements book by Attorney Stephen Fishman for Nolo. It comes with a disk with the sample contracts. The book covers hiring contractors and working a contractor. There is a chapter on negotiating contracts - a sample for the hiring firm and one for the contractor.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hot hot menu items

What are the hottest trends in restaurant menu items? The National Restaurant Association’s “2007 What’s Hot & What’s Not Chef Survey” highlights 194 food items, rated as “hot,” “cool/passé” or “perennial favorite” by 1,282 members of the American Culinary Federation in October 2007.

Hottest items? Bite sized desserts. Hottest trend in vegetables? Surprise, surprise- locally grown. This survey offers additional insight into the hottest cooking methods, ethnic cuisines and alcoholic beverages.

Obviously of interest to anyone in the restaurant biz, but perhaps also valuable to specialty food producers, ready for the next “hot” thing!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Employers must use new I-9 form; 'no-match' rule to be revised

According to the website and the Business Review newsweekly, employers must begin using a revised I-9 work eligibility verification form for new employees by December 26, 2007. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service revised it to update the types of documents that can be used.

"The new form also instructs employees that they don't have to include their Social Security number on the form unless they used their Social Security card as evidence of their work eligibility or unless their employer participates in the E-Verify program. Employers in this voluntary program electronically check a new worker's Social Security or visa number against government databases."

In other employer news from the US government, the Department of Homeland Security plans to revise its new regulation that would require employers to fire employees if they can't resolve discrepancies between the Social Security numbers submitted by workers and government records. "The Justice Department asked a federal court in San Francisco to put a lawsuit challenging the regulation on hold until next March, after DHS issues a revised regulation.

"The revised rule will include an analysis of its impact on small businesses. DHS initially contended the analysis was not needed because the rule would not have a significant economic impact on small businesses. Business groups, backed by the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy, disagreed. They cited the government's failure to conduct a small business impact study when they joined a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the AFL-CIO challenging the regulation."

For more information about the new I-9 form, see; use the Search feature and type in I-9, since there seems to be no specific link to this location. For more information about the matching Social Security numbers lawsuit, see

Monday, December 10, 2007

DDC 920

In the midst of the holiday bustle, let's take time to give a birthday shout-out to a landmark figure in library history. Today is the birthday of Melvil Dewey, a former State Librarian in New York (as well as the creator of the library classification system that bears his name). He would have been 156 years old today if he, well, hadn't died in 1931.

Dewey was born in Adams Center, just southwest of Watertown (where our own Mary Hoffman once lived). He was 26 when he conjured up the Dewey Decimal System. This was a means of dividing all human knowledge into 10 broad categories, which could be divvied up further still depending on the subject (like biography, which begins with "920"). Before then, librarians were expected to arrange books on the shelves by either size or color, and memorize the placement of each one.

While we've never used DDC at this library (shoehorning some of the subjects in our collection into the rigid ten categories results in some astronomically long classification numbers), it is something that's found in most public and school libraries.

You've all heard of it. To this day, I get to hear cracks about whether I arrange my clothes per the Dewey system (no . . . I use the Library of Congress method). That's not Melvil's fault, though. Happy birthday, old man.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Story of Stuff

Already getting swept up in the Christmas blitz of stuff, this morning I opened my email to find a message from a friend with this link to a short film that I thought was very relevent. I thought I would share it here. This is from the Story of Stuff website describing their intentions:
"The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns, with a special focus on the United States. All the stuff in our lives, beginning from the extraction of the resources to make it, through its production, sale, use and disposal, affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues and calls for all of us to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something. It'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever."

There is a definite trend in small business to try to lighten the carbon footprint, through the use of recycled products and materials, and in supporting local businesses generally. In a way, it is still pro-small business, pro-local business. The site also includes the section Another Way which is a list of actual steps we can all take to start to make a larger shift. What I enjoyed best is the explanation of planned obsolescence as an economic decision and how we can make a new decision now.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ethnic Events

We receive quite a few questions related to marketing to specific ethnic groups. Here’s a resource that can help find those markets:

Ethnic Events provides a “comprehensive online directory of more than 1,000 ethnic events in the United States” as well as information on ethnic markets within this country.” It’s searchable by ethnic group, date or location.

And don’t forget that we can help you find ethnicity and ancestry demographic information too!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Presidential Campaign 2008 — Candidates and News Sources

Since primary voting will begin less than a month (Iowa, January 3), and New Yorkers will be voting on February 5, I thought I'd share The 51st State: The State of Online from Searcher magazine. The info was compiled a couple months ago, and a few of the candidates have already dropped out of the race. Here's a list of the current contenders.

"As Laura Gordon-Murnane illustrates in this in-depth article, the Internet is no longer like a third-party candidate, but is breathing down the proverbial necks of the mainstream media, threatening to usurp broadcast and print sources as the primary way people follow the election. Five extensive tables look at the Web sites of each of the 17 presidential candidates, as well as mainstream media sites, blogs, and aggregator tools, and show just how much the Internet is impacting the 2008 election. This is a key reference tool for anyone following the election or helping voters."

Monday, December 03, 2007

You Are What You (Don't) Eat

Here's an article that Roger forwarded around the office, and it's created quite a stir. It's astonishing to see the nutritional content in some of the meals offered at restaurants around the country, and raises a lot of questions as to just what goes on behind the kitchen doors. For instance, check out #15. What does the Macaroni Grill put in their macaroni & cheese dish that results in a 1,200-calorie meal?)

(If you want to check out the nutrition facts for other restaurants, go to

Sadly, some of these "Worst Foods" are familiar to my palate. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to eat a carrot.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Good News

After living for several years as an expat in the UK, you would think that I would be immune to the perpetual critique of the US and Americans that goes on. But I am not. Not even when I agree or can clearly see the truth in what is said. But this also inspires in me a need to represent the good people I know who are trying to make a difference day-to-day. Most people I know are not Hummer-driving, junk-food guzzling, paper-towel-wasting, supporters of ne'er-do-wells in the world. So,as usual came home from a trip to the UK feeling the need for a little good news, and after a few futile attempts returned to The Good News Network to see if in fact there was any good news. Well, sometimes these things can backfire, because the good news can seem so anemic compared to the bad news...but! If there is good news to be had, they will find it - and I am pleased to read that Google is trying to help develop clean energy to offset it's use of electricity and that healthy school lunches are not more expensive and are enjoyable to the children who eat them. If that doesn't pick you up, you can watch the Dave Matthews song "Everyday' which will bring tears to your eyes - in a good way.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shop 'til you drop

How goes your holiday gift shopping? As usual, I'm planning to make far more gifts than I will actually finish, and vowing to avoid the mall. We'll see how I do...

Gifts & Decorative Accessories magazine offers some interesting holiday-shopping related articles. Here's a few:

Affluent Shoppers Buy Half of Holiday Gifts

Apparently, households with annual incomes less than $75,000 are expected to spend 7.6 percent less on gifts than last year, while households with more than $75,000 in income are projected to spend 3.1 percent more. The top 30 percent of households will spend almost the same as the bottom 70 percent.

Gold, Geese, Milkmaids Drive Rising “12 Days” Price Tag

Have an extra $19,507 ? You could buy your true love the items from the 12 days of Christmas.

Black Friday Shoppers to Buy Before 10 a.m.

According to Mastercard, 1/3 of "Black Friday" purchases are made before 10 am. Electronics and appliance retailers see their busiest hour between 7 and 8 am.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

WiFi for Customers

When it comes to businesses promoting their location as having free WiFi access, I think primarily of bookstores, coffeehouses, and hotels.

However, WiFi access is something that any small business can promote. In today's New York Times, there's an article called "In-Store Wi-Fi Is Free, but Not Commercial-Free". It features a company called AnchorFree, which "has introduced a service that lets merchants of any size — from a large bookstore chain to a mom-and-pop restaurant — offer free advertising-supported Wi-Fi to customers on the store premises. People who are shopping or eating in an AnchorFree location will see banner ads on their screens or short video spots or both before their browsing session."

The article also mentions JiWire as a company that "has a similar system, though a different technological approach."

If you have a client whose customer base includes the techno-literate, this is a service that they might want to consider.

Hey, Jones: You're Number 5

Frequently Occurring Surnames From Census 2000

Tabulations of all surnames occurring 100 or more times in the Census 2000 returns are provided in the files at the link above. The first link there explains the methodology used for identifying and editing names data. The second link provides an Excel file of the top 1000 surnames. The third link provides zipped Excel and CSV (comma separated) files of the complete list of 151,671 names occurring 100 or more times. These charts are broken down by race and Hispanic origin.

The top ten surnames are:

NAME Number of occurrences

Smith 2,376,206
Johnson 1,857,160
Williams 1,534,042
Brown 1,380,145
Jones 1,362,755
Miller 1,127,803
Davis 1,072,335
Garcia 858,289
Rodriguez 804,240
Wilson 783,051

Green is 37th with 413,477.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Going Green" Resources

There's no shortage of information about green business and environmental issues. But its not always easy to find on the web.

Here's a pleasant directory of "Going Green" resources put together by the librarians at the Middletown Thrall Library in Middletown, NY.

Topics include organic food, energy and fuels, and home improvement - areas many of our clients seem to be particularly interested in.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

For Non-Profits

Based on SBA guidelines, SBDCs at one time couldn't really assist not-for-profit organizations. Now, however, they can. One of my favorite resources is The October and November issues featured the article "20 Biggest Fundraising Mistakes", some of which apply to for-profit businesses as well, such as Failing to Set a Realistic Goal and Failing to Have Deadlines.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Entrepreneur's Source

In late 2005, I was part of an SBDC meeting where we heard from a director of The Entrepreneur's Source. This company provides coaching/counseling services to people interested in owning a business, with a specialization in franchises. Theoretically, they help the budding business owner in finding the franchise opportunity that best suits his/her personality, lifestyle, etc. They are not brokers, nor do they represent any particular franchisor.

We often get questions from advisors with clients who want to own a business, but aren't sure what type is best for them. If, during discussions with them, you & your client can't seem to find that industry perfectly suited to them (and the client is interested in running a franchise), then keep this site in mind.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Read! Share! Explore!


Like most things that are working well online - you can always find more than one version of it - social networking - take your pick - there are so many out there. Well, we are now using LibraryThing to share our catalog with you all but naturally there are other similar tools out there. I have always liked the idea of having a way to keep track of everything I've read. For people like my own mother who doesn't remember she has read something until she's halfway through it for a second time, it is pretty useful and timesaving. I was invited to join Shelfari which another personal library tool where you can list what books you've read, have but haven't yet read, and a wish list. It links to so you can double check titles and write a commentary on each. It's not as big as LibraryThing but it's prettier and I a little more user-friendly. You can discuss, find like-souls and maybe figure out what to read next.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cell phones vs. landlines from the CDC

Sometimes helpful resources come from unexpected places.

Take this report on "wireless substitution," ie households that rely on cell phones rather than landlines, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) .

You might ask, "Why does the CDC care about who has cell phones and no landline?" The answer doesn't seem to be because they are tracking brain cancer from cell phones (Phew...) It turns out that when the agency conducts the National Health Interview Survey, they ask for a phone number for follow-up purposes. And they ask if this number is a landline, and if anyone in the household has a cell phone.

These questions yield some interesting answers, showing the rise of the wireless-only household, particularly in young adults renting with a non-related roommate.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

2007 Economic Census is Coming

The Economic Census forms will be sent out in December 2007 and are due back on February 12, 2008. Virtually all large and medium-sized businesses are surveyed. A large sampling of small businesses, covering all industries, will receive a form. This tally is done once every five years.

The forms ask for basic information like business location, employment, payroll, and sales by type of product or service. Businesses that receive a form are required by law (Title 13, U.S. Code) to respond. The individual information is confidential, and Census will suppress any information that would identify a particular business, e.g., the sales information for the only jewelry store in town will not be published.

Businesses, communities, and governments use Economic Census data for planning and market development. Statistics are published for more than a thousand industries as well as for states, counties, cities and metropolitan areas at

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke has called this census "indispensable to understanding America's economy."

When the form comes, please enccourage your clients to fill it out. If the forms aren't returned by the February 12 deadline, the Census will commission people call or visit to follow up, an additional cost to taxpayers.

In summary, the Economic Survey is:
* mandatory to answer
* confidential
* important for data users

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fixing Stuff

Over the weekend, I had to bring a lawnmower AND a DVD player to be repaired. In both cases, I fear that the cost will be dangerously close to simply buying a new one. Not a very environmentally-friendly deal.

Which is why I liked this article from the Nov. 8th New York Times so much. It reveals a number of websites where you can go and get ready advice on repairing an iPod (, a Mac (, home theatres (, gaming systems (, copiers, PDAs . . . and all the other toys of life. In many cases, you'll get a variety of options, specific instructions, and the means to save a bunch of money vis a vis replacement parts.

As an extension of the Third Place post I wrote a while ago, it's clear that these online repair forums are a replacement for local repair shops (which the article laments as a near-extinct species). Here at the library, we frequently visit online forums to get answers to questions relating to the software we use. I don't think manuals written by the publisher can anticipate every last need of their customers, so these websites are invaluable.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Roll your own search engine
Create search engines using the sources you trust.

Works the way the personalized pages on Google or Yahoo! work but this time with the purpose of searching those sites. They also have a toolbar so that you can limit to your favorite sources wherever you happen to be. So if you want to the New York Times, and in a drop down or radio button, there it is. They have a popular set of sources but you can also design your own - list all the sites you like and then label the group - what they call a "searchroll" You can also look at others' searchrolls. So if you like Rosario Dawson, then you can have a look at her Latino Issues roll which lists about a dozen sites of interest. Steve Rubel, marketing strategist, has created the Interactive Marketing roll which includes many really good marketing sites.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Making music & money

Have you heard about Radiohead’s new album? The band has made “In Rainbows” available for online download with users allowed to pay as much or as little as they’d like for the music.

There’s been much discussion of how the average person has paid (“more than half pay nothing” or “the band isn’t telling, so we don’t know”, but the bottom line is that without a record label taking a hefty share of sales, the band is likely to do very well.

Here’s another alternative to the major record labels - SellaBand.
The company offers this description of its model: “Artists and fans have one goal. Make music and money together. Artists upload their music and profile. Fans find artists they like and believe in. $10 (plus transaction costs) buys them a piece of the action. $50,000 gets the artist in the studio. Fans get an exclusive CD send to their homes. Artists make their dream come true. From now on bands and believers are in business together. You are the record company!”

More on how it works here:

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Intuit Free Stuff

Intuit has now made their "Simple Start" version of QuickBooks (formerly $99) free, recommended for very small or one-person businesses.

Entrepreneurs can also enter Intuit’s contest to win $50,000 ($40,000 cash and $10,000 in products and services). Get contest details and download a free copy of Simple Start here.

These activities are tied into Intuit's "Just Start" campaign, including a series of exciting live events featuring Rhonda Abrams, small business advice columnist and expert, as the "expert-in-residence." She'll be available one-on-one to answer questions about business.

People who meet Rhonda will receive one of her books (free and personally autographed), get free Simple Start software, and enter Intuit’s "Just Start" contest for a chance to win $50,000 for their business.
New York – Thurs & Friday, November 8-9, 11 am – 2 pm
Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall

Boston – Tues & Weds, November 13-14, 11 am – 2 pm
South Station

Monday, November 05, 2007

I Didn't Know This Dept.

Mary Ellen Bates is a respected information consultant. I receive an e-newsletter from her, and this month's issue had this bit that I think is pretty cool:

"If you are based in the US, you can search for local companies through your cell phone, regardless of whether or not your phone has web capability. If you call 1-800-GOOG411 (1-800-466-4411), you will be asked to say the city and state you want information on - Boulder, Colorado, for example - then you say the type of business or specific business name you want - for example, "book store" or "Barnes and Noble". A text-to-speech program will read you the top eight results from its local search ( If you want, Google can automatically dial any of the first eight businesses' phone number, or you can ask to have the address and phone number read to you."

(From Bates Information Services,

A visit to the Google website for this service repeatedly states that this service is completely free. (Play the YouTube clip - it's goofy, but informative.) Web-enabled phones have other cool features that they can tap into.

And if you knew this already, then you're hipper than me.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Real Applications of the Social Network/Auction

Lending and Borrowing from the General Public
Person-To-Person Lending Flourishes on Web
by Jessica Smith
Morning Edition, NPR, November 2, 2007
“Welcome to the era of coffee shop money lending.”
I read this story on about person-to-person lending on the Internet which just seemed like an amazing idea. It is fascinating that this exists and that it seems to work.
The idea is that a person writes a profile of how much they want to borrow and for what and what their top limit on the interest they are willing to pay and then people bid on the loan request. The borrower is vouched for by friends, colleagues or family and the amount raised from various lenders is consolidated by and then the money is distributed. These are not small loans either- they can run from $50 to $25,000. It seems a risky proposition but interesting to see how people will take things into their own hands.
"Prosper generates revenue by collecting a one-time 1% or 2% fee on funded loans from borrowers, and assessing a 0.5% or 1% per annum loan servicing fee to lenders. Backed by Accel Partners, Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures, Fidelity Ventures, Meritech Capital Partners, and Omidyar Network, Prosper has raised $40 million. Prosper's marketplace platform is patent pending."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Have a happy (and sunnier) Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

If my memory is correct, the Halloweens of my childhood in Vermont were always super-dark and freezing cold (Snow? Fairy costumes are a bust when you have to wear your winter coat over them). This chilly thought made me think how nice it is for tonight's trick-or-treaters to get that extra hour of light, since we haven't yet turned back the clocks.

Well, apparently I wasn't the only who thought it would be nice for Halloween to have a little more evening light. According to this online New York Times piece, An Extra Hour of Halloween Daylight? Thank the Candy Lobby, the candy industry lobbied hard for this extension of daylight savings, thinking it would spur additional candy sales.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Income and Wealth of Veteran Business Owners, 1989 – 2004

We get quite a few requests about veterans, so here's something from the SBA Office of Advocacy:

This study compares changes in the income and wealth of veteran and non-veteran households; veteran small business households with veteran non- business households; and veteran small business households with non-veteran small business households from 1989 to 2004. It classifies all households with a business owner/manager or self-employed individual as a business- owning household. This study uses the 1989 through 2004 Surveys of Consumer Finances (SCF), conducted by the Federal Reserve Board as its primary data source.

A full copy of this report is available here and the research summary can be found here.

Should you need further information, please feel free to contact Charles Ou at (202) 205-6533 or

Monday, October 29, 2007

Franchises: What to Watch For

This article appeared in yesterday's online version of the Wall Street Journal. Misleadingly titled "Four Danger Signals When Franchising," (it ought to read "When Buying a Franchise"), it re-visits territory that we've explored in this blog over the years. Nevertheless, this is practical information to review with our clients.

It's a brief article, and it highlights three specific issues:

1 - Lots of litigation and closures - Noting that franchisors have an obligation to disclose any current or past litigation in the franchise offering circular;
2 - Too many bad reviews - Recommending that potential buyers interview a variety of current owners of the franchise to get their honest take; and
3 - High-pressure sales tactics - Which ought to speak for itself.

A lot of this is common sense, but I've heard many stories from all of you over the years about clients who bought a franchise first, then asked questions later. That's the wrong order to do things.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thanks Alexis!

Today is the last day with the SBDC RN for Alexis Mokler who has been our very diligent library intern. Alexis is continuing her Master's in Library Science course at SUNY Albany. We are always happy to have the help of interns but are especially glad when we have as good an intern as Alexis, able to take on oftentimes troublesome projects and give us some much needed help with research. We wish her much success and thanks for all her good work!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Say "no!" to unwanted catalogs

Do you get too many catalogs in your mailbox?

Check out Catalog Choice. Catalog Choice “is a free service that lets you decline paper catalogs you no longer wish to receive.”

You just enter your name and address (they promise not to send you anything), then search for and select the catalogs you’d like to stop receiving. Your mail box and letter carrier are saved wear-and-tear, the catalog company isn’t wasting money on catalogs you have no interest in, and a lot less paper is consumed. As the website points out, “Over eight million tons of trees are consumed each year in the production of paper catalogs.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Viva la difference

The SBA Office of Advocacy-funded paper "Are Male and Female Entrepreneurs Really That Different?," by Erin Kepler and Scott Shane, finds that gender does not affect new venture performance when other factors are controlled for.
However, several factors--differing expectations, reasons for starting a business, motivations, opportunities sought and types of businesses--vary between the genders, and these result in differing outcomes. Such observations should be taken into account when comparing the outcomes of ventures across genders.

The data used for the study was from the Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics (PSED) focusing on businesses started in 1998 and 1999.

A full copy of this report is available here and the research summary can be found here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Signs & Our Clients

Not long ago, Dale Rice sent me this article from the October 2nd Buffalo News. It reports the desire of the mayor of East Aurora (about 15 miles southeast of Buffalo) to ban outdoor digital signs in that village.

Proposing to ban any kind of sign is fraught with legal & Constitutional issues, as signage (as a form of commercial speech) is protected under the First Amendment. Hundreds of cases have been brought up (and won) by businesses over the years, challenging the legality of their local codes. If passed, the proposed sign code for East Aurora could eventually meet this same fate.

Last week, I was part of a panel presentation on the importance of fairly-constructed, legally-sound sign codes. In the audience were town and municipal officials, inspectors, and code enforcement officials who were eager to learn about the subject. Codes exist all over the country that impose restrictions and obstacles on business owners when it comes to the sign outside their front door, and they're often written by people who aren't aware of the impact of their words. Bonus points to those in attendance, because they're trying to get things right.

At this same presentation, I heard numerous stories from sign manufacturers (most of them small business owners) about difficulties they encounter in getting approval for their clients' signs. Many sign codes are riddled with inconsistencies, which makes compliance needlessly complicated for small business owners trying to get themselves up & running.

Unfortunately, this Buffalo News article reflects a situation that's all too common across the country. Sign codes are often written under the theory that signs can be a distraction to drivers. Others are written because a town wants to strictly enforce a certain look. Some incorporate both. For the former, no data exists that shows signs as a menace to auto traffic (while dozens of studies prove that good signage is actually a big help to drivers).

The East Aurora case is about maintaining the look of a town. Towns don't want to "look like Las Vegas," so codes get written as a means of legislating a town aesthetic. Such codes have been known to ban certain types of sign, or impose restrictions on what colors can be used, or how letters should appear, or allow for only certain types and/or sizes of signs. Some of these provisions are valid, but some are not. (For instance, a color scheme is part of a business trademark. It's a violation of the federal Lanham Act for a town code to mandate a business to change the color of its Federally-trademarked image.)

This is something that our clients encounter all the time. Sign codes can be challenged legally, but litigation is time-consuming, and far too expensive for a single small business to undertake alone.

But litigation doesn't have to be the way. One of the themes of the conference was to encourage cooperation between local governments & their business communities in creating reasonable sign codes. While there, I heard specifically about how digital billboards can be used by towns to inform their citizens of weather emergencies, traffic accidents, Amber Alerts, and community events. That's a benefit to a town, and digital billboards are increasingly the best tool to get that critical job done.

We've written about all of this in our What's Your Signage? publication. Again, these are things that our clients face all of the time.

The best, fairest sign codes come about when community officials work with their business sector in designing a code that enables a proper balance between living standards and commercial opportunity. In addition, the International Sign Association is staffed with people who are eager to help government officials in drafting sign codes that will not expose them to any future legal action.

And ask your clients about their experiences with signage - I'm curious to know just what they went through. I'll be doing more of these presentations in the future, and the more real-world scenarios I have to share, the better.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

World 66

This is purely for entertainment purposes, at least to my mind. The World 66 Travel Guide a wiki that will let you create a map of all the places you have been and to create a travel guide of your own. It calls itself an "open travel guide". You can read travel information from individuals like yourself and learn as I did, that I have only visited 5% of the world. You can also list individual travel to US states and Canadian provinces, along with the countries of the world - though you may not always agree on the boundaries and definitions of those countries. For instance, you can read the England travel guide but you cannot isolate England as a country on your map. It will select all of the UK (including Scotland, Wales - it has Ireland (both presumably) listed separately. My profile also defines me as "Travel Yup" which may not bevery complimentary but is fairly accurate.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I love demographics

I have a new favorite database. Its name is DemographicsNow. I’ve always enjoyed questions of a demographic-nature, but this tool makes answering them considerably easier and more fun.

Want to know where to locate your new business? The database can compare up to ten geographies at once, comparing consumer expenditures, income, existing businesses and employees, or retail sales potential for almost a hundred categories.

Have you heard of MOSAIC cluster groups? I hadn’t, but the company that owns DemographicsNow describes them here. Using this feature you can see how a geographic area breaks down into niftily-named groups like “small-town success,” “affluent urban professionals,” “urban grit,” or “comfy country living.”

It has all the usual census data, including age, race, etc, but its easier to choose your exact geography (the whole U.S., state, metro areas, cities, zip codes) and you can use a radius around a zip code.

Seems like a great way to learn more about people and places, and a helpful business decision-making tool.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The South Reigns for eBay Visitors

Scarborough Research, the leading consumer research firm measuring the lifestyle and shopping patterns, media behaviors and demographics of American consumers, released an analysis which finds that the South reigns for eBay Visitors. But Rochester, NY does OK, too.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Galante's Venture Capital Directory (yes, again)

It's been almost two years since I first wrote about this resource in our collection. I guess our blog has reached the age where we can dip into the archives once in a while to review some older posts.

I won't repeat it verbatim (no need to plagiarize myself). However, I have done a few searches for venture capitalists this week, and, in both occasions, lacked information to create a more focused list.

Most advisors, when requesting such a search, will let us know the industry in question. Also, as a general rule, we limit our results to those firms with an office somewhere in New York. However, there are two other factors worth knowing:

1) The amount of funding being sought (many firms have a minimum and/or maximum amount that they're willing to invest); and
2) The development stage of the business

Galante's defines some of these development stages:

Seed - Concept or idea stage. Money needed to research market and concept feasibility.
Startup - Pre-operational financing of a new business.
First-stage - The business is operational but needs capital to hire additional employees, purchase additional equipment, and roll out its product and marketing program.
Second-stage - Initial sales results are encouraging. Now, additional capital is needed to fund expansion of production and marketing.

Help us out, and keep these in mind when making a VC request.

Friday, October 12, 2007

SBA to Host Live Web Chat on Regulatory Fairness for Small Businesses

WHO: SBA National Ombudsman Nicholas Owens will host the October Web chat on “Regulatory Fairness and Your Small Business.”

Owens, who also serves as assistant administrator for Regulatory Enforcement Fairness at the SBA’s Office of the National Ombudsman, leads the national effort to ensure fairness in federal regulations on small business, while working to diminish disputes between small businesses and federal regulatory agencies.

WHAT: Chat participants will have the opportunity to learn more about how the Office of the National Ombudsman can help small business owners with unfair and excessive federal regulatory enforcement, such as repetitive audits or investigations, excessive fines or other unfair actions by a federal agency.

The SBA’s live Web chat series provides business owners the opportunity to discuss online relevant issues with experts, industry leaders and successful entrepreneurs. Participants have direct, real-time access to the Web chats via questions they submit online in advance and during the session, and receive instant answers.

WHEN: Thursday, October 18, 2007, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., ET.

HOW: Chat participants can join the live Web chat by going online to, and clicking the “Online Business Chat” icon. Participants may post questions for Owens before October 18th by visiting here, and posting their questions online.

To review archives of past Web chats, visit online.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Language Tools

I get a number of library newsletters via listserv and one of them is by Mary Ellen Bates of Bates Information Service. She covers a huge number of sources with a little brief about each and today I received one on translators on the Internet. And I note that the contribution was originally from Barbara Verble so it is truly making the rounds.

There have been language tools and translators available for some time on the Internet, they are not terribly effective, but still helpful if you want the gist of a passage. While I try not put too much faith in them, I still use them. My options are often limited though to a very few though because I usually need Danish translated and many do not have languages outside of French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese and the other most popular languages.

World Lingo offers a translation service into several major languages and even includes an email translator - new to me, that translated text and sends the message.

They also list PROMPT and (which includes Dutch)

Not included in their list but one I use most frequently is Langenberg which lists several translation engines in one page and includes InterTran which offers Danish and Korean. Their link takes you to where they offer a number of products to buy as well including Palm products. On the Langenberg site, the sections are split out to translation - Word or Phrase; Identify or Guess the Language which is cool; Translate One Word at a Time and Translate a Web Page.

I must also mention a new favorite: Gate2Home which offers a keyboards for other languages online.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

For when you want to talk to a real person…

Next time you call a company’s customer service number and would like to speak to a real person, has the tools for you. One of the American Library Associations’ MARS “Best Free Reference Web Sites 2007,” ALA offers this description:

“Aimed at consumers, the gethuman database of 500 companies includes customer service telephone numbers, specific instructions for reaching a human being at each company, and quality of service grades. Users can click on a company name to rate the quality of telephone support.”

The companies are broken down by category, including, but not limited to, automotive, credit, financial, stores, internet and products. It’s also nice to see which companies have real people answering the phone from the very beginning of a call.

Have clients interested in providing better phone customer service? This May 2007 NPR report, "Improving Customer Service Over the Phone" discusses corporate training for customer service representatives, and offers examples of some good and bad techniques.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

NAICS Codes for Principal Business Activity for New York State Tax Purposes

Publication 910 (10/07). I have a peculiar interest in the fact that while some codes are well-delineated, others are cut off at the three-digit level.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Turn Turn Turn

The weather this week has been far too gray, which should not be the color of autumn. To get around this (if you actually want a little color), this page offers three links to cool videos of changing foliage in different parts in Maine.

(You'll need Adobe Flash Player to view them.)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Trend Towards Pesonalization

It seems the trend to be unique is gathering strength. We notice it in the types of requests we get and in the success stories that we come across. People want their wedding to be "unique" and "special" with personalized favors and cake toppers. Customized m&ms, ketchup bottles, hershey bars, cereal boxes, soda bottles, gift cards, soaps, design-your-own totes and jeans, it seems like whatever you can think of, you can probably personalize it. I enjoy my iGoogle page with all my own source choices grouped in one place - we've become accustomed to having our way and we want to express our individuality through the products we buy. We've been seeing ways to personalize your car or your kitchen mixer.

This is an interesting monthly bulletin and you can also read all of this sites well-considered trends.

Pimp my KitchenAid
Charles Perry for Los Angeles Times
Aug 09, 2007
Soup up your kitchen mixer or fridge or toaster...

In Trend Toward Vanity Food, It's Getting Personal
USA Today
Bruce Horovitz

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Watching the Web with Consumer Reports

This week I was trying to track down information on travel-related websites and found Consumer Report’s Webwatch.

This site has been around since 2002 (and it seems most of their reports are from 2004-2005), with a stated mission to “Provide unbiased and practical research on Web site publishing and business practices; help devise guidelines for credibility; expose practices that are a cause for consumer concern; and recognize good practices” and to “Promote consumer awareness of important issues on the Web that relate to our mission.”

Their reports focus on several industry areas, including travel, search engines, health, e-commerce and finance. They also offer these same industries guidelines for improving their web credibility.

These five guidelines to promote Web credibility would be helpful for anyone working with a business website.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Twelve Key Questions to Ask for Making Ethical Business Decisions

Joel Saltzman is a "speaker, facilitator, consultant, and creator of the 'Shake That Brain!' system - for innovative solutions and transformative thinking." He has an entertaining newsletter that one can subscribe to for free. It's from that website that the title article came from.

It could have just as easily come from his Shake That Ethics Brain blog, which is described as "Business Ethics Made FUN, EASY and PRACTICAL."

Monday, October 01, 2007

Gonna Find Me an Angel

I've posted about web-based directories for angel investors before, but here's yet another site that your clients can use. This one focuses squarely on angel groups by region within New York State, so it's right up our alley:

"Angel investor groups across New York State"

(Thanks [again] to the Business Incubator Association of NYS for pointing this out to me.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Links for New York Businesses - NYS SBDC

Have you recently used the links we provide in the online resource center section of If the answer is "no," you're not alone. I have to admit that I'm not familiar with all of them.

The list is available here.

Do you have any favorite links that we haven't included? Are there things here that just shouldn't be? (The answer is yes, but which ones?) We try to keep up with broken links, but we haven't evalutated for the quality of the sites in a while.

I don't feel that we have to offer our visitors the world, but a quick glance at some important resources would be great.

What do you think? Feel free to comment here, or send me an email.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Green Cleaning

The world of the librarian is not always as glamorous as it might seem. Sometimes, it's just trudging through the mire.

Someone wanted to know what New York's stand on "green cleaning" is. Not finding sufficient info by looking at databases or by Googling, I decided to make a call to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. I was transferred SEVEN times, before the last person told me that I needed to contact the Governor's office.

I was transferred only TWICE before I was given the state Health Department. FOUR transfers later, I found Nancy; SHE knew exactly what I was talking about, but she wasn't the one I wanted; the guy she thought I should talk with was home with a broken leg. Taking pity on me after my tale of woe, she called him at home, and he gave her, and she gave me, the number to a guy named Kurt Larson in the Office of General Services, who, unfortunately wasn't in that day.

But he WAS in the next day, and he had my answer. He pointed me to the OGS website. Hover the mouse over Building Administrative Services, click on to the Environmental Services Unit, and one should end up here. You’ll find the Executive Order, legislation, approved products, everything one might need to "go green" in New York State.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Restaurant Names - Feel Like a Number

We're members of the National Restaurant Association (though the only things we cook around here are leftovers at lunch). As such, I get emails from this organization, linking to stories that represent current trends in the industry.

Today's email cited a recent story in the Providence Journal (you might - MIGHT - have to register [for free] to read this) as to the trend of naming restaurants after their location. Restaurants rely heavily on word-of-mouth, and if its name includes all or part of its address, then industry insiders feel that these owners have a great advantage.

The article cautions against possible trademark infringement, as well as taking care not to create a name that sounds more like a union chapter than a place to eat. However, keep this advice in mind for your restaurant clients who are still debating what they should call their place.

(NOTE: There are quotes in this piece that infer that a number-in-the-name strategy is an advantage for people who look to the Internet to find a place to eat. I'm not 100% sold that, because a business has a number in its name, it will appear in an online directory before one that does not. Names & websites are not necessarily ranked strictly alphabetically, with the numbered places coming first. It's a bit more complicated than that.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Headed for Extinction?

10 Businesses Facing Extinction in 10 Years
They're going, going and may be completely gone by 2017. Check out their odds of survival.
By Geoff Williams
September 19, 2007

Businesses that should give up the ghost? Entrepreneur Magazine offers a list of businesses that they believe are on their way out - at least in the next 10 years:
Record stores
Camera film manufacturers
Crop Dusters
Gay bars
Pay phones
Used book stores
Coin operated arcades

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Weddings: Cheaper Than You Think

I saw this article-

THE NUMBERS GUY: Weddings Are Not The Budget Drains Some Surveys Suggest
Carl Bialik. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Aug 24, 2007. pg. B.1

Abstract (Summary)
The Knot takes steps to ensure that its respondents are representative in terms of geography and household income. But research manager Kristyn Clement acknowledges that The Knot's members may not be typical spenders. "Our market is brides who are planning an actual wedding and putting resources toward that event," Ms. Clement says. "Are there brides who are not spending money on their weddings? Potentially."

Rebecca Mead, staff writer at Conde Nast's New Yorker magazine, writes in her new book, "One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding," that the survey covered only brides who had made themselves known to the Bridal Group and thereby "already demonstrated an interest in having the kind of wedding that bridal magazines promote."

Ms. Mead, whose own wedding cost was "substantially below" the widely reported numbers, says in an interview that couples who hear the numbers may think, "There's no way around it; there's no alternative. That means, from the perspective of the wedding industry, you have this group of consumers who are resigned to spending a huge amount of money."

What the abstract doesn't address is the arithmetic fiction of these surveys.

The so-called average cost -- between $27,400 and $28,800, according to the latest iteration of these surveys -- is a mean. That's the kind of average you might remember from grade-school math: In this case, it's the sum of all the survey responses, divided by the number of people surveyed. The mean is especially susceptible to a single lavish exception: One $1 million wedding put into the mix with 54 weddings costing $10,000 each would boost the mean to $28,000, although among the 55 couples, $10,000 would seem a much better representation of the typical cost.

For the three surveys, the median wedding cost is closer to $15,000. The median is the middle figure when you line up a set of numbers in order of size. It is a popular choice for social statistics because it is unperturbed by very small or very large numbers.

Anyone wanting the whole article, please let me know.

New York Times to Stop Charging for Parts of Its Web Site

In an article in yesterday's (September 18, 2007) New York Times by RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA, the paper announced that it would stop charging for access to parts of its Web site, effective at midnight night, "two years to the day after The Times began the subscription program, TimesSelect, which has charged $49.95 a year, or $7.95 a month, for online access to the work of its columnists and to the newspaper’s archives."

"In addition to opening the entire site to all readers, The Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain. There will be charges for some material from the period 1923 to 1986, and some will be free."

The story indicated that while the Times had generated about $20 million from 227,000 paying subscribers — out of 787,000 over all — and generating, the paper didn't release how much traffic would be generated by the search engines, visitors who would be less likely to subscribe to the service.

"The Times’s site has about 13 million unique visitors each month, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, far more than any other newspaper site." The paper expects to make up loss income via increased advertising revenue, especially since the Times has collected information about its online readers that is particularly attractive to advertisers.

"The Wall Street Journal, published by Dow Jones & Company, is the only major newspaper in the country to charge for access to most of its Web site, which it began doing in 1996. The Journal has nearly one million paying online readers, generating about $65 million in revenue."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Fun with GIS & National Geographic online maps

For those of you who like a good map, here's a fun tool:
Using GIS data from ESRI (a leader in the GIS software & data field - pssstt... we bought some way cool data from them that you'll be hearing more about soon...) National Geographic's MapMachine offers good looking satellite views, physical maps and road maps.

But it also provides theme maps on a range of topics, including weather, population density, natural disasters, and nature & conservation. While many of these topics are probably more applicable to school projects, others (perhaps congressional district maps or land use maps?) just might be useful at work.

Whatever your motives, its pretty cool.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Successful Teams

In most organizations the raw materials of the successful team exist; like dedication to service or professional ability, quality control. Where many, many organizations fall down is in the area of communication, sharing expertise, and a supportive environment. In particular, an appreciation of differing styles of working is essential to the smooth running of any organization. The detail oriented worker cam still have an appreciation of the big-picture worker; the process man can make room for the innovator. Organizations or businesses may have a plan but no process to truly implement it - the goal may be to empower employees but in practice, employees are micromanaged, evidence of a lack of trust. Or there is lip-service to the idea of communication but no process or game plan for dealing with conflict. To read up on teambuilding, check out Free Management Library

Beware credit counseling services like Clear Your Debt LLC

An advisor at one of our regional centers asked me to share some information he learned while working with a client last week. During the course of the counseling session, the client revealed she had signed up with a credit counseling service, Clear Your Debt LLC, from Austin, TX. The advisor was concerned when he read the contract the client signed, which prompted him to investigate the company. The Better Business Bureau in Austin told the advisor they had received numerous complaints against Clear Your Debt LLC. Though Clear Your Debt promised financing, counseling and other assistance, the advisor’s conclusion - after reading their confusing contract and talking to the BBB - was that the client would pay $15,000 for basically nothing. At that point, the advisor encouraged the client to return the contract she signed and cancel the agreement (this was within 3 days of the client signing the agreement). The advisor called me and asked that I share the information with other SBDC advisors in case any of you encounter a client with questions about Clear Your Debt LLC. The advisor’s message is that small business owners should be cautious when dealing with any credit counseling services such as Clear Your Debt, and avoid any signing any agreement or contract with them without first talking to an advisor.

Here are a few informational items you may want to share with your clients:

The FTC website has a series of fact sheets for consumers, including the following.
Ø Knee Deep in Debt - go to -

Ø Fiscal Fitness: Choosing a Credit Counselor – go to -

Ø Credit Repair: Self Help May Be Best – go to - ran an article with basic information about dealing with credit counseling agencies in June 2002. It is a little dated, but I think the information is still relevant.

'Click here to be debt-free': What you should know before signing up with a credit counseling agency, by Staff Writer Jeanne Sahadi, June 18, 2002: 1:31 PM EDT

--Mary Hoffman

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Religious Data

The Association of Religious Data allows you to interactively explore the highest quality data on American and international religion using online features for generating national profiles, maps, church membership overviews, denominational heritage trees, tables, charts, and other summary reports. Over 350 data files are available for online preview and most can be downloaded for additional research.

I had a question about the number people practicing Islam in parts of New York for a question about the dietary practice known as halal. I used The ARDA search mechanism and found files describing the number of Muslims by county.

Other sources of religious data: Hartford Institute for Religion Research and Glenmary Research - the latter especially good for a breakdown of Roman Catholic numbers.

Not so incidentally, it would be a mistake to assume that most U.S. Arabs are Muslims. In fact, if you go here, you'll see that most Arab-Americans are Christians.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Business Incubators (deja vu)

The Research Network has answered over 23,000 questions since its inception. I've been around for most of them. Most every new request reminds me of something we've researched in the past. It's that deja vu feeling, on a daily basis.

You can't trust it, though. I wanted to write a post about business incubators in New York, but I was sure I'd done it a year ago.

I hadn't. I looked & looked, but there's no record of it. My bad. Sometimes, I just think I remember things.

All righty then. David Hochman, the Executive Director of BIA/NYS, visited a Directors' Meeting within the past year. He let on that their website features contact information & descriptions of active business incubators throughout the state. Here's the URL:

Pass this list on to clients of yours whom you feel have the potential to benefit.

And sorry for not getting this to you earlier. Say, a year ago.

Do-Not-Call registry

When the Do Not Call registry opened registration to the American public in 2003, the majority of individuals rejoiced at the thought of no more telemarketer calls. According the FTC, "The registry was created to offer consumers a choice regarding telemarketing calls". Now, the list has started to expire since numbers are only on the list for five years from the date registered and not everyone who originally signed up is aware that they may be recieving unsolicited calls in the near future.

For the article on the list expiring, go here.

To re-register your number when it expires, go here.

For more information from the Federal Trade Comission, go here.

---Alexis Mokler

Friday, September 07, 2007

Databases from NYS Government Agencies

Someone at the State Library took the trouble to compile in one place all of the databases tucked away on the websites of New York State government agency. God bless those librarians.

Check out the page here. Some you already know about (like the Business Permit System, or the Corporation and Business Entity Database [which I wrote about last week]). There are others on such things as inmates in New York correctional facilities, profiles of licensed doctors, links to websites of licensed insurance departments, and other tidbits.

I'm particularly interested in the GIS Clearinghouse website. I'll explain why in a future post (hint, hint).

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

More on our LibraryThing catalog

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we have created an online catalog of our circulating collection on the LibraryThing network.

Here's a brief update: Due the diligent work and mad trouble-shooting skills of our intern, Alexis, we now have 156 books listed in our online catalog. The catalog is searchable, and most records contain basic information about the book (title, author, publisher etc. ) as well as an image of the cover, and links to other LibraryThing members that own the book (anyone can create a LibraryThing account and catalog their personal collection.)

Its pretty easy to enter records, as you just provide the ISBN or title, and the database finds a matching record. That said, not all the records are perfect, and since we didn't enter all the data ourselves, their may be some inconsistencies. For example, the Entrepreneur start-up guide records all look a little different. With that in mind, we'll try to "tag" records, to pull together similar items.

So please check out this new resource, and bear with us as we add and update our records.

View the catalog here.

View our profile here.

P.S. The above image is a portion of a tag mirror for our collection. Learn how it works and see the whole thing here. Neat!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Small Business FAQs and Stats

The SBA Office of Advocacy released an update to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). It estimates that there are 26.8 million small businesses in the United States, and addresses small businesses' importance to the U.S. economy. It provides data on small business firm survival, owner demographics, health care questions, regulations, and procurement.

Advocacy's updated FAQs can be found here (PDF).
Small Business Report: Statistics for Tax Year 2003

Small businesses are defined by New York State as those businesses that employ fewer than 100 employees. Small businesses in New York may be sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies and partnerships, general business corporations, subchapter S business corporations, or transportation, transmission, and utility companies. Data presented in this report includes employment and business receipts by entity type and employment class.

This edition of the Small Business Report provides data for New York State small businesses in tax year 2003.

To download the entire publication, please visit here.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Free advice

It’s Warren Buffett’s birthday today, so I thought I would look at advice he has offered.

Warren Buffet
Buffett has amassed an enormous fortune from astute investments managed through the holding company Berkshire Hathaway, of which he is the largest shareholder and CEO. With an estimated current net worth of around US$52 billion,[2] he was ranked by Forbes as the third-richest person in the world as of April 2007, behind Bill Gates and Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Helú.[4]

Profile of Warren Buffet
the free dictionary

Investors Should Heed Warrens Buffett’s Free AdviceSmartMoney
By James B. Stewart
July 10, 2007
In any event, Buffett has given away more free advice than just about any billionaire I can think of. He reports his stock holdings and discusses their merits and the reasons for his choices in his popular annual letter to shareholders. More fundamentally, he has laid out his investment philosophy repeatedly for all to see. Anyone can piggy-back his actual stock selections or apply his criteria to come up with other investments, as I've done periodically in this column.

What Warren Buffett Looks for in a Company
From Erica Olsen, M3 Planning
Sustainable Competitive Advantage
What's the number-one attribute Warren Buffett, arguably one of the most successful investors in the world, looks for in a company? "Sustainable competitive advantage," he told an interviewer. If one of the most successful businessmen of today puts this at the top of his list, you should too.
What's the number-one attribute Warren Buffett, arguably one of the most successful investors in the world, looks for in a company? "Sustainable competitive advantage," he told an interviewer. If one of the most successful businessmen of today puts this at the top of his list, you should too.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Farm Stand Business

When I stop at a roadside farm stand, my first assumption is that they are selling home-grown fruits and vegetables from their own fields. But when a New York farm stand has mangos and lemons? And sells t-shirts too? That's a totally different experience.

This recent Treehugger blog post, Farm Stand Produce Not Always Local , refers to a Newsday article, Farm Stands on Long Island Undergoing an Evolution , and discusses that while Long Island is known for its local produce, many farm stands are importing their products from as far away as Florida and Mexico, and are not limited to selling only fruits and vegetables.

Whether or not this is a good thing for local agriculture, retailers, or consumers, farm stands are an evolving business.

With that in mind, here are some helpful resources for the farm stand owner or agricultural businessperson:

Farmers' Market Federation of New York
Planning the Farm Retail Market
Cornell Cooperative Extension: Agriculture Business Resources
Virginia Cooperative Extension:Farm Business Management and Marketing

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Answering the office phone at the end of the day is often interesting. Last week, the Central office received a call from Michael Raptis, casting director of RDF Media Group. As the press release he subsequently sent me reads: "Key US RDF/Pangea shows include: Wife Swap (ABC); Shaq's Big Challenge (ABC); Two Coreys (A&E); Meadowlands (Showtime); Off The Charts (Fox); How to Look Good Naked (Lifetime); Banzai (G4); 3 Kings (MTV); Ice T's Rap School (VH1); Junkyard Wars (TLC); Faking It (TLC); Gene Simmons Rock School (VH1); Ladette to Lady (Sundance)."

Now, the company is engaged in starting a new program:

Have you always wondered how wonderful life could be if you started that business, took that hobby more seriously or changed your career? Is there anything you always said you'd do once your kids got older?

For many people in their 40’s and 50’s, the time has come to restructure their life and do something they’ve always dreamed could be anything from owning a Bed & Breakfast to running a Scuba Diving School in the Caribbean.

Our show, "Life Begins at 40" will give a husband and wife team an opportunity to Road Test their Dreams.

If you are seriously considering making a change then we’d love to talk to you about our show.

So Mr. Raptis was calling the NYS/SBDC looking to find potential participants. I've worked for this organization for nearly 15 years, so I felt comfortable suggesting that a formal relationship between the NYS/SBDC and RFD Media was unlikely.

Yet, I was intrigued by the concept for the show: would-be entrepreneurs "test-driving" a business opportunity. The SBDC program is always measured by what economic impact it generates; I wish there was some measure for the help the SBDC provides in keeping people ill-equipped for business from losing their shirts.

So, I wrote back to Michael Raptis, asked about gay couples, and he replied: "I would more than happy to speak to any couple who you feel would be great for the show."

Bottom line: here's the contact info, to do with, or not, as you see fit:
Michael Raptis, Casting Director
646 747-7954

About RDF
RDF Media Group (RDF) is one of the largest and fastest-growing production companies in the world, headquartered in London, with large offices in Los Angeles and New York.
RDF has produced a wide range of outstanding drama, comedy, reality, game and children's programming for all of the broadcast and cable networks in both the US and the UK. RDF has won numerous awards for its programming including a number of BAFTAs, Royal Television Society awards, the Rose d'Or and an International Emmy. RDF group companies won Broadcast's Best Independent Production Company award in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006. RDF is the only producer to win this award more than once.

Monday, August 27, 2007

List of new corporations (etc.) in New York State

Some clients have businesses that could benefit in knowing the names of newly-created companies.

The Division of Corporations (within the New York Department of State) makes available a daily report of newly registered corporations, limited liability corporations, and limited partnerships. It's not EVERY new business in the state, but it's a start.

Here's the service, in DOS' own words:

"The Department of State publishes a daily report of new Corporations, Limited
Liability Companies, Limited Partnerships and Registered Limited Liability Partnerships
and amendatory certificates thereto. These reports are available only through e-mail. The
subscription fees are:

Annual subscription $125.00
Semi-annual subscription 75.00
Quarter-annual subscription 40.00

Your computer must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to review and print the report. You will be notified of the date of expiration of your subscription. Payment must be made by check, bank draft or money order to the DEPARTMENT OF STATE.

If you would like receive a sample report by e-mail, please provide your e-mail
address to Ms. Patricia Rokjer ( Upon receipt of your request a
sample will be forwarded via e-mail within 2-4 business days.

If you would like to subscribe to the daily report, please contact Ms. Rokjer at the e-mail above. She can fax a form that, once completed, should be returned (with payment) to:

NYS Department of State
Division of Corporations
County Clerk Unit
41 State Street
Albany, NY 12231"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Half Baked

Well, I am surprised to see that I have not written about this most favorite website. The Halfbakery is a wonderful site for innovative thinkers to run their ideas by other thinkers/would-be inventors. I have found this site useful especially for those - "the world has never seen a product like mine..." clients. For every idea presented, posters will then weigh in on whether they think it is a good idea(viable or not) and often present examples of similar or existing products. Many products are completely fantastical but then some ridiculous sounding ideas have actual examples out in the world. This was the case with the collapsing bollard, and I just read about the "dog jack" that I can imagine being a real product like the doggie stairs we see so often. Here's another that would probably be popular if it existed:
School kid pick up express:
"So what I thought of is a transponder for each family. When we arrive at the school driveway, our ID and our kid(s) name(s) are displayed on a message board, in the order in which we arrived. Also, a pager attached to the child's shirt would beep, vibrate, and, optionally, pound the oblivious nincompoop on the noggin with a mallet, shouting "Your ride's here, you meathead!" (OK, not the mallet, but the verbal message would be good)."

Perhaps our inventor friends could have a look on here before along with their patent searches to see if a similar product already exists. At the very least it is good for a laugh.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Books your can borrow: our new LibraryThing catalog

If you look to the right-hand side of this screen, you just might see a new feature we've added. There's a widget here that links to our new LibraryThing collection. LibraryThing is an online community that allows members to catalog their own book collections. You simply enter the title, or ISBN etc., and it finds the appropriate catalog record for your book, links you to others who own the same book, and can also make book recommendations and provide other user-advisory-type services.

A user can enter up to 200 books for free. As our circulating collection isn't particularly large, we thought we'd give it a try. So, check out our library collection. The goal is to include all of our circulating books from this decade, but its a work in progress. Still, take a look, use the search feature, and if you find something you're interested in, send us an email and we'll send it your way.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Entrepreneur News from Hispanic Business

Source: The Informant e-newsletter, Volume 4, Issue #243 -- Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Free From NASA: Rocket-science Expertise for Businesses

NASA offers 40 hours of free technical advice to businesses.

Overhaul by SBA to Help Fix System on Procurements

Small Business Administration chief Steven Preston announced reforms aimed at cleaning up a broken system for keeping track of government procurements that has allowed federal agencies to classify billions in contracts to some of the world's largest companies as going to small businesses.

Monday, August 20, 2007

New Loan Program for Food Producers

Tom Morley (from the Westchester SBDC) recently forwarded me an email that began like this:

"Whole Foods Market, a national grocery chain with seven stores in New York, recently started a new program to provide low-interest, long-term loans to small producers around the country. We would very much like to let small producers of food products in New York know about the program."

Part of this company's mission is that their produce be as fresh as possible, and make these loans available to farmers of "locally grown" produce (for reasons best explained here).

Of Whole Foods Market's seven locations in New York State, none are farther north than White Plains. However, they define "locally grown" as "produce that has traveled less than a day (7 or fewer hours) from the farm to our facility." Eligible products include agricultural crops, value-added food products, and other all-natural grocery items.

This definition, then, makes most of the food producers in New York for their Local Producer Loan Program. They have quality standards that have to be met, and require applicants to have a viable business plan. Further details on the program (description of amount, rates and terms; link to an application; contacts for additional information) can be found here on Whole Foods' website.

The email to Tom ended by saying, "We are very excited about the opportunity to help small producers, but our biggest challenge so far has been spreading the word."

With this, I'm spreading the word. Pass it on.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Capital One Small Business Confidence Study

Commissioned by Capital One and conducted by BusinessWeek Research Services, the survey looks at confidence, expectations and hopes of small business owners.

The survey asks small business owners where they seek business advice, in this order:
colleague, family or friends, CPA or accountant, business association followed by consultant, lawyer, commercial lender and other.

“In their own words” are sections given to hearing actual comments from business owners on these topics:
How Would You use $50,000 to Improve Your Business?
How Did You Start and Then Grow Your Business to its Current Level?

Hear My Voice

Today's New York Times features the article "At Netflix, Victory for Voices Over Keystrokes". It discusses how the online movie rental business is trying a new tack (actually, they're returning to an old tack) vis a vis customer service: the telephone. The company has de-emphasized its email address on its website, and has heightened the presence of a toll-free number that is available 24/7. In addition, the call center is located just outside of Portland, OR, and not in India or Singapore.

I find this interesting on a few levels. Netflix believes, in the face of increased competition from Blockbuster's new online service, that they should promote the actual voices of friendly customer service reps as a distinguishing characteristic not found at Blockbuster. This kind of emphasis is something that the business literature has recommended to small businesses in the face of big-box competition, but Netflix still is the market leader in this industry.

So - does locating the call center in Portland tap into an American desire to hear American voices? Is there a Bangalore backlash? Will running the center in the U.S., where the company is paying above-average wages for the industry, eventually hurt Netflix, or help them? These are likely the kinds of customer-service questions that are discussed in board & staff meetings across the country, and I'm very curious to see where it leads.

In the mean time, I'm off to update my queue . . .

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Thanks, Ciao, Best Wishes, Sincerely

I tend to write “thanks” a lot. And not just because I’m a grateful person (although I am). It’s just my usual email sign-off, probably because I tend to be asking for things, or thanking you all for asking us great questions.

Maybe I should start expanding my repertoire.

This recent article from discusses a variety of email closers, and what they say about you.

What your sign-off is really saying.”

Here’s an older USA Today article on the subject.

Another good source of email etiquette info:

Online Writing Lab at Purdue University

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Shorten That URL!

Ofttimes, I see someone send a URL via e-mail and it spreads onto the second line of the posting. The first line of the address is hyperlinked, but the second is not. This becomes cumbersome for the end user.

Two suggestions:
See if the address can be manually shortened. I've noticed that in some newspaper and magazine databases, an address is created to indicate not only the story, but the section and the date. If removing that information still gets you to the story, shorten it.

An example: can be shortened to, and is actually more likely to work over time, for some arcane reasons.

The other method is a website TinyURL!™. Put in even that shortened, 57-character, version of the URL above and you'll end up with, a more manageable 25-character URL.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Kitchen Incubators

A big part of how successful we are at finding information is having the correct terms. We generally hope that the client will be knowledgeable enough in their field to provide some good key words but of course this isn't always possible. We hear of business incubators often enough but kitchen incubators are becoming more prevalent.

I worked on a request yesterday for a a list of commercial rental kitchens in the NYC metro area. The examples I came across were not all in NYC area and there were a few good pieces on a kitchen incubator in San Francisco that I thought were interesting. I thought I'd share what I found here.

Urban Horizons Kitchen
rents a "4,000 sq ft state-of-the-art, commercial kitchen space." They serve the New York City metropolitan area especially aimed at women and minority businesses.
They also state that "tenants are required to incorporate in order to secure insurance covering product liability. Some of their clients have been Curry Source, Brooklyn; Nana Pearl's, a desserts baker; and Artful Bakers, artisanal bakers. maintains a list of kitchen incubators around the country. You can see the list here: Shoalsec Kitchen Incubator List

Here are a few articles on the trends, both happy and not so.

Mi Kitchen es Su Kitchen
A service in Long Island City for small to medium size food producers - kitchen rental, with several kitchens to choose from, available to rent day and night.

When Cooks' Dreams Outgrow Their Ovens
The New York Times
August 8th, 2007
by Indrani Sen

Food Start-Ups Losing their Kitchen Incubator:
Firms grew; host's funds fell short

by Sacha Pfieffer
Boston Globe
November 14 2006

Western Mass Food Processing Center
Franklin County CDC - Greenfield, MA
"Complete solutions for Food Producers and Entrepreneurs
Community Development Corporation
This organization offers advice and support to growers, food producers, and a copacking/contract manufacturing capability.