Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Co-packer directories

Looking for a contract packager? We’ve written about co-packing for food producers before (see Josee’s entries: Co-Packing and Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship ). I recently found that Packaging Digest’s website offers an online directory of contract packagers in the U.S. You can search by keyword or browse categories like food, health & beauty aids, medical, dental, pharmaceutical, hardware, toys and soft goods. And you can further limit by state.

If you’re specifically after co-packers for food products, Specialty Food’s website directory also offers co-packer company information (scroll down to nearly the bottom of the Search by Product Category field).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Unshorten That URL!

Back in August 2007, I suggested using TinyURL as a means of shorten a URL, particularly when e-mailing a long URL that might hit a line break.

Unfortunately, some folks apparently enjoy hiding embarrassing and inappropriate web content, such as spam and porn, behind a TinyURL and similar services. Some users won't open them because of bad experiences.

Here are two suggestions:

1) Avoid blind TinyURL clickthroughs by utilizing TinyURL's preview page and enable previews.

2) Use a service such as unshorten.com to get the original URL. This usually works not only with TinyURL.com, but also SnipURL.com, NotLong.com, Metamark.net, and zURL.ws.

Friday, April 25, 2008

NOVELny - New York Online Virtual Electronic Library

While the research that we provide to our clients is invaluable, often times when the client starts the business, they have new questions. Sometimes, they will come back in to ask for more research, but when they do not come back in, where can they go to do their own research? The most obvious answer is the public library.

All residents in New York can access information that is available for free through the New York State Library's online database, NOVELny. Users can access the databases using their driver's license, state issued id card, or public library card. Subject topics included in the database are Business & Finance, General Reference/School-Oriented, Health & Medicine, History, Literature/Culture/Social Science, Newspapers, and Science.

While there are certain databases that will not pertain our clients, Business & Company Resource Center is available, which is a source I use very often for industry research.

More information on the project is available at the New York State Library's Division of Library Development.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Restaurant Industry Operations

We've received the latest edition of the Restaurant Industry Operations Report 2007-2008 as well as the 2008 Restaurant Industry Forecast which includes sales projections for various restaurant formats, restaurateur outlook for 2008, spending priorities, online marketing, green trends, hot categories, and the demographic outlook for consumers. It also includes statistics on the frequency of purchases by age report, foodservice occupational outlook and projected sales and employment by state.

These are on our shelves along with the new Federal Yellow Book, The Lifestyle Market Analyst and the 2007 HOST Study.

The 2006 SRDS Lifestyle Market Analyst book and the RMA Annual Statement Studies for 2004-05 have been de-accesioned and are up for grabs if any of your centers are interested in them.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

LISTSERV ettiquette

I'm sure that many of you are involved in some sort of LISTSERV email distribution list. Most of us at the RN are on BUSLIB, and I'm sure we've mentioned it as a frequent source of information and blog ideas related to business librarianship.

But sometimes people forget the proper etiquette. Here's an easy page with tips and etiquette from the North Carolina Bar Association. They even suggest emoticons!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Franchise Registry

Once upon a time, when I started working for the SBDC a decade and a half ago, getting an SBA-backed loan for a franchise was, I was told, a torturous event. Even SBA acknowledged that "inconsistent decisions", "excessively long processing time" and "failure to understand industry differences" plagued the process.

Now, "in a major effort to help small business owners, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers the Franchise Registry that will expedite the processing of loans to small business franchisees." Some franchises will be vetted so that the potential franchisee doesn't have to do so much work.

Franchise Registry.com is in "a partnership with FRANdata, the only objective information company that researches and reports on franchising." It has some useful information, both free and for a fee; among the latter are UFOCs, Uniform Franchise Offering Circulars, which sell for $220 (older versions of the documents for $270). You SHOULD be able to get this from the franchisor if you are a serious candidate for buying into a franchise, at least in New York State. Questions about franchises should be directed to
State Department of Law
Investor Protection Bureau
Franchise Section
120 Broadway
23rd Floor
New York NY 10271
(212)416-8236 or (212)416-8637

Monday, April 21, 2008

Statistics

I could run numbers all day long. Lately, I have been running numbers all day long. But creating statistics without actually employing them is like taking empty breaths.

At the beginning of each month, I calculate such things as the average turnaround time; the number of requests asked; the number that are answered, and by whom; and break down the requests by advisor & by center. It's a part of the management function of the library, and something that my inner accounting-major actually enjoys.

But I've never shared this information with any of you in the field. This blog isn't the place (I'd rather not broadcast it openly for the world). If you're interested in knowing how often you're using us, or how often your center in comparison with others, or any other general program data, then drop me an email. I'll put together a package for you.

(Keep in mind that my data is available only for the fiscal year starting October 1st.)

***

Earlier in the week I asked Al to run some data for me off of WebMQS, to see how the RN was contributing to the program. Here's what he gave me:

Number of client cases opened from 1/1/06 through 12/31/07: 26,961
Of these cases, the number of these that eventually generated economic impact: 2,547

That's a rate of just under 9.5%.

Number of client cases opened in this same time period for whom library assistance was given: 2,103
Of these, the number that generated economic impact: 264

That's 12.6%, so we're feeling a bit above average.

***

We'd like to boost that last number, and get across to some of our users that we can be of help to ongoing clients (and not just to the startups).

To that end, our upcoming Staff Training presentation is targeted towards newer advisors. We feel that those who've not been here a while might not get the full-blown training on what the Research Network is capable of providing. So we've asked some veteran advisors to sit in with us, and engage in a very informal discussion (it is being held early on a Monday morning, so informal is the right tone) to teach some of their best practices. We'll be sending out a personal invitation to you newbies, so be on the lookout next week.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ripoff Report

When I checked my mail after work yesterday, there was a flyer advertising a work-at-home oppotunity that made me both laugh out loud and feel bad for the nice people in my neighborhood that will fall for it. In order to become involved in the "valuable home work and business opportunities" the flyer indicates that interested parties should send $5 and a self-addressed stamped envelope to a P.O. Box in Albany. Of course "No experience needed! Great pay! Free information!" sounds enticing, but the reality is that the company "BIG Capital" gives no contact information. Needless to say, there is no evidence that this is a scam, but all signs point to a rip-off.

In the five weeks that I have been here, I have conducted research for three clients that have invested in dubious work-at-home opportunities. While the Better Business Bureau is the place to file formal complaints against a company, it provides little detail on the complaint or how it was handled. For more information, I was led to Ripoff Report, a website devoted to consumer protection. In two of the cases that I did research on, Ripoff Report had consumer complaints listed. One of the reports also had a rebuttal from the company, where the consumer complaint was acted upon.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Responsible Powerpoint Use

Really Bad Powerpoint

With Staff Training nearly upon us, I thought maybe a little advice on putting together a presentation might be in order.
I was very much enjoying a presentation given by Seth Godin while researching motivational speakers at another blog called Small Business Marketing Strategies. Seth Godin's presentation is very worth checking out simply for it's humor but also for reminding us to think. His website describes his title as "Agent of Change" which I love. He points out the many silly things that tools supposedly made for people don't work and the ways they could be fixed. This led to Godin's blog which advertises his many books that all look like they would be fun reads. In this blog entry, he discusses the pitfalls of PowerPoint presentations and links to other sites that share advice on how to best use PowerPoint without abusing your audience.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Notes on Podcasting

I “attended” a webinar on podcasting a couple of weeks ago. While the focus was on the use of podcasting by libraries, here are a few tidbits that would be useful to anyone:

Looking for podcasts to subscribe to?

Check iTunes or PodcastAlley. Or even a podcast network like the technology-related TWiT Netcast Network .

Want to create your own podcasts? It doesn’t have to be too tricky or expensive.

Audacity offers free, and easy-to-use sound recording and editing software.

About.com has a step-by-step tutorial, “How to Create Your Own Podcast” that will lead you through the process.

The Research Network has been pondering how we might use podcasting. Any suggestions for topics you’d like to see?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Advertising to Sales Ratios

These advertising to sales ratios from AdAge Magazine can help a business benchmark advertising spending by showing the average amount that businesses in an industry spend on ads. Covering dozens and dozens of industries, the reports show advertising as a percent of sales, advertising as a percent of margin, and ad growth percentage. The figures cover 1997 through 2007.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Internet Blamed for Sharp Drop in Library Book Borrowing

On our blog, you'll notice the link to our LibraryThing page. We introduced this in August 2007. As you'll recall from previous posts, those within the SBDC can use this site to identify books from our collection that are available for borrowing. It's not resulted in a lot of loan requests, but I'm not surprised.

I thought of this while reading this article. Since our inception, the Research Network's acquisitions policy has assumed that information required by our clients would be more palatable in bite-sized portions, rather than full-course meals found in lengthy books.

If you look at the copyright dates for the books on our LibraryThing page, you'll notice a pretty scattered range of dates. I purchase circulating books rather haphazardly. Reference materials, however, dominate what we buy on a regular basis. Our budget - like anyone's - is finite, and I'd rather spend it on the things that a greater majority of our clients would need.

So that's my assumption when it comes to buying information.

Is it the right one?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Resource Shelf

There is no way to know every internet resource that is available. Every day, new resources are created and old resources become obsolete. The content provided changes almost continually, either expanding or limiting what is available based on a variety of factors, especially time. Two of the other librarians here have introduced me to Resource Shelf, "where dedicated librarians and researchers share the results of their directed (and occasionally quirky) web searches for resources and information.". The site posts articles on resources that have been located and sends emails to registered individuals (it is free to register).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Keeping it Local

Trendwatching.com's April issue is on what it's calling "Status Stories" which is interesting. It is looking at the things we buy for bragging rights and where that is going. So maybe it's the not the high-cost, prestigious brands but also the eco-friendly or personalized items; a celebration of self, so to speak.

What I thought was a promising trend is identifying products that are local since that is what many of us are trying to do as consumers and how many of our clients are trying to market themselves. On of the items in the story was a focus on a supermarket in Britain who are drawing attention to where products are from, in the example, it's milk. Local and Authenticity Still Rule Local farms paired with supermarket giant marketing and consumer preference spells success. Visit LocalChoice by Tesco to see how they are doing it.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Business.gov Improvements

According to a recent story on the Hispanic Business website: Business.gov, the official business link to the U.S. government, has launched new search features and expanded content to make it easier for small business owners to find information they need to run their operations. First under the list for the state and local resources: The Small Business Development Center.

Monday, April 07, 2008

SBA Advocacy - A List of 2008's Rules for Potential Reform

I've received a couple of requests in the last month that were looking for a listing of the current issues that concern small business owners. These are typically the legislative agenda items for such groups as the National Federation of Independent Businesses or the National Association of Women Business Owners.

Related to those is the current "Top 10 List of Current Rules for Review and Reform," published each March by SBA's Office of Advocacy. According to their most recent issue of The Small Business Advocate, the list was drawn from over 80 rules nominated by small business owners as those whose reform or removal would be most beneficial.

As you'll see, all of these items concern current requirements as mandated by Federal agencies. Some are very industry-specific (e.g., EPA should revise outdated or inaccurate testing requirements for dry cleaners), while others have a much broader (and larger) target audience (such as the request that the IRS simplify the home office business deduction). Additional information on each issue can be had by clicking on the appropriate link.

This website makes no mention as to how progress might be made in getting these reforms to pass. Have a look, though, and see if any might affect any current clients of yours. Contact information for people within the Advocacy office is at the bottom of the page, and they might be able to assist in providing answers to any questions.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Image Copyright

Earlier this week, I was asked by a client if they had image rights to a caricature that was purchased from a street vendor. After searching and searching for the answer, I called the U.S. Copyright Office. Their response was that the street artist owns the copyright and person who purchased the caricature has to get permission from the artist in order to use the print. Well then, how can the purchaser find the artist? Go wandering the streets of the same city in the hopes that they may run into him or her? Unlikely. Instead, they need to make a Good Faith Effort into locating the artist. The referenced link gives multiples locations to look for the original creator.

Good Faith Effort does not mean that if the owner posts the caricature after trying to locate the artist and failing, they are free to use the image as wanted. For specific copyright laws, go to The United State Copyright Office. If you can't find the answer, do what I did, and call 202-707-5959.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Who is Your City?

Who is Your City?
by Richard Florida

I have not read this book. I was in Barnes and Noble and came across this title that naturally strikes a chord with me. I had a quick gander and thought I would like to read it and then, while in my car I was teased with a promise of a program discussing the book with the author that never materialized for me. So, I went looking for the story and ended up at this site and took the short survey to discover my best city - of the cities I listed as places I would consider living. The site offers some information about the book and also has themed maps for things such as innovation, economic activity, "mega-regions of Asia", and personality maps, all fun stuff.
I have always said I would like to live in an amalgamation of the best cities I have lived in: Brooklyn's frank neighborliness, San Francisco's creative happiness, London's energy and brains...so if SanFrooklyn exists, I'm there.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Mini Pathfinder - Video Game Industry

I have to give the video game industry some credit – they are willing to provide information about their industry on the web. It’s a real pleasure to find associations & websites that offer substantive reports, factsheets and articles, even to non-members.

So here are a just a few good sites for video game design & sales:

International Game Developers Association http://www.igda.org/
Indie Games http://www.indiegames.com
Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Games http://www.gamasutra.com/
Entertainment Software Association: http://www.theesa.com

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

SBA Launches Small Business Week Web site

From the SBA Press Office:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration launched a new Web site, www.NationalSmallBusinessWeek.com, for National Small Business Week 2008, featuring information about the agency’s premier annual event. The celebration of National Small Business Week is April 21-25, with events in Washington, D.C., April 21-23 and in New York City April 24-25.

Among the featured speakers confirmed are Secretary Mike Leavitt, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Ambassador Susan C. Schwab, United States Trade Representative; Newt Gingrich, former House Speaker; David Latimore of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City; John Bryant of Operation HOPE, and other prominent business leaders, CEOs and politicos.

Visitors to the site will find it richer, deeper, and easier to navigate, with a look and feel that conveys the spirit of excitement surrounding this year’s Small Business Week events.

Up-to-the-minute highlights, multimedia content and information will be updated to the Web site during Small Business Week events in real-time. An added interactive feature will allow visitors to www.NationalSmallBusinessWeek.com to upload photos of the events directly to the site.

Created with the user in mind, one of the newest features of the new Web site is an interactive blog that will allow sponsors, award winners, and the public to post content about Small Business Week events.

The new Web site provides detailed information about the National Small Business Week schedule, including day-to-day-events, featured sessions, events locations, award winners’ biographies and detailed sponsor information.
In addition, information for Small Business Week award winners will be accessible on member-only sections of the Web site.

"National Small Business Week.com is a leap forward for the SBA, and represents a new platform for how the agency can engage in a dialogue with small businesses online," said Anoop Prakash, SBA Associate Administrator for Entrepreneurial Development.

A full updated schedule of events appears below, and online at http://www.NationalSmallBusinessWeek.com/Schedule/.

After Small Business Week 2008 events have ended, the Web site will continue to serve as a nucleus for dialogue and communication, with archived events from 2008 accessible at the click of a mouse button. Small business community members can receive updates on future SBA events, including a post-event discussion of National Small Business Week 2008 activities.

The small business community is invited to join the SBA for a week of valuable executive panel forums that will feature an exceptional lineup of notable speakers, expert panelists, and business industry leaders discussing best business practices and the latest developments in the business world. The small business community nationwide can also take part in the forums, and view other Small Business Week events that will be webcast live.