Wednesday, March 31, 2010

SBA Awards Grants to Help Veteran Small Business Owners

Release Date: March 31, 2010
Contact: Cecelia Taylor (202) 401-3059
Release Number: 10-10
Internet Address: http://www.sba.gov/news/

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Small Business Administration today announced the award of grants to 10 local SBA Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) to increase entrepreneurial assistance to veterans. The grants will provide approximately $1 million to fund programs for veterans that promote business ownership and provide services to small businesses dealing with the deployment of key personnel overseas.

Each SBDC receiving funds will promote increased coordination of services to veterans, and will use multimedia tools to connect veterans through distance learning and customized online business counseling by providing services to reach the local veteran business community. Five of the centers were previously awarded grant funds to provide these services, and will now receive a second year of funding. Five centers will receive grant funds for the first time.

Five SBDCs will receive a second year of funding. They are located at the Research Foundation at the State University of New York, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the University of Kentucky Research Foundation in Lexington, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and George Mason
University in Virginia.

Five grant recipients will receive awards for the first time. They are the SBDCs located at the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, the University of Southern Maine, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore. They were selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants based on the range of services they could provide to veterans, and will provide the services as listed below:

The Arkansas SBDC developed Arkansasveteran.com as a one-stop virtual veterans’ center, providing information about health, education, employment, entrepreneurship and family issues. This portal links federal, state and local resources available to veterans. Several colleges and universities have joined in this initiative and offer free online courses to veterans through the site.
The Arkansas SBDC also joins other veteran organizations to provide transition assistance for deployment as well as for transition back to civilian life.

The Kentucky SBDC created kyvetbiz.com to provide veterans with information about the services available through the Kentucky SBDC and other organizations that assist veterans. The portal provides on-line business courses in English and in Spanish, lists events and workshops occurring statewide, has a blog on popular topics for veteran business owners, and links federal, state and local resources available to veterans. The Kentucky SBDC is also active in veterans’ transition events.

The New York State SBDC created a special “Veterans’ Business Services”
Web page at www.nyssbdc.org/services/veterans/veterans.html that links available services to veterans in the state and also to federal, state and local resources. Online training and business development are also available from the site. The program director participates in seminars for veterans throughout the state and plans events tailored to veterans.

The San Antonio SBDC through its newly created Web site, http://vasp.txsbdc.org/, is a one-stop reference for veterans and military personnel who are new entrepreneurs or small business owners. It provides self-assessment tools, on-line counseling, distance learning, web- based assessments, government contracting assistance, business planning and start-up assistance and help with preparation of applications for bank loans and financing. The Web site connects the resources of federal, state, and local entities that are available to veterans.

The Virginia SBDC created http://www.vetbizresourcecenter.com/ that contains easy- access video guides for veteran business owners and prospective business owners covering a wide range of subjects, such as transitioning from the military to business, preparing for deployment, financing and contracting opportunities. The site links vets and reservists to other federal state, and local resources available to veterans. The Virginia SBDC also participates in veteran’s conferences and events.

The State of Colorado SBDC, along with its existing partners, will coordinate a multi-state effort, collaborating with strategic partners to create an integrated one-stop virtual resource for veteran-owned small businesses. This resource will provide information and high quality, cost-effective small business assistance to the veteran community through Internet-based consulting, training, social networking and a veteran database registry.

The Maine SBDC will create a technology-based program to provide the military business community with tools to overcome the barriers to entrepreneurship.
The project will include a marketing initiative to promote the educational services of the Maine SBDC available to the veteran community, provide online counseling and distance learning, and create a veterans assistance portal by coordinating with other organizations that assist veterans.

The Nebraska SBDC will provide services to veterans by coordinating with the Veterans Administration, the Nebraska Department of Labor, the Veterans in Business Forum, the Nebraska National Guard, and the 55th Air Wing and Strategic Air Command at Offutt Air Force Base. It will use news media and speeches to service clubs and other organizations to reach veterans, particularly at the early stages. The center will develop a Web site for veterans to serve as a portal to online counseling and courses, and provide sound and timely information on starting and running a business.

The Oklahoma SBDC, located in a state that is home to four active military installations, will work closely with each installation to provide services to veterans and military personnel. They will also work closely with Army family readiness groups and provide training and education to veterans, and their families, who are in business or are considering starting businesses. The center will provide resources to military personnel that will transition to the civilian world. The SBDC will also offer training sessions and workshops via live video feed through a distance learning center, and expand on established channels of communication to reach veterans in need of assistance.

The Oregon SBDC will establish a customized Veterans Small Business Management program engaging National Guard business owners affected by unexpected deployment and difficult economic times. The training will allow peer veteran sharing of information and best practices in business while developing strategic planning solutions to help Oregon’s veterans. The center will serve as a one-stop point of contact and deliver services through traditional one-on-one counseling and simultaneous distance education, VoIP audio and Web technology to eliminate time and distance barriers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Are You Sure They're Independent Contractors?

Yesterday, CNN Money ran a story called "Auditors Crack Down on 'Independent Contractors'," echoing a similar story that appeared in the New York Times back in February. We've written before on how the IRS differentiates when a person is an employee, or when he or she is considered to be a contractor. Check out the link in that post to an IRS document that spells out the difference between the two.

Companies who utilize independent contractors are not obliged to pay unemployment insurance, or worker's comp, or Social Security taxes, or Medicare taxes . . .

As these articles mention, at a time where the majority of state unemployment insurance coffers are empty, great interest in auditing companies with significant utilization of contractors has revived. Seven billion dollars is seven billion dollars, which is what the IRS is hoping to generate by conducting these reviews throughout the country.

If your business is in the habit of using contractors, make sure that you're in compliance with IRS regulations on the matter. Basically, such folks should not be spending the majority of their time on your premises, using your equipment. They should not be receiving any company benefits, nor should their travel expenses go without reimbursement.

Let's be careful out there. Audits are a real drag.

DEC Hunting and Fishing Licenses by County

I found a link to the number of hunting and fishing licenses broken down by county in New York State which I thought would be helpful for research. The data on this sheet is broken down by year with the amount of revenue obtained from selling the licenses also included in the data. The document is an ftp and the website to get this information is located at ftp://ftp.dec.state.ny.us/dfwmr/licsales. I got this link by going to the website http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/26368.html and looking at the bottom of the page where it provided the website address where the breakdown of counties would be located.

Businesses Starting to See Value in Social Media

A recent report released from the Small Business Success Index (SBSI) showed that social media adoption by small businesses is, in fact, increasing. Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business sponsored the report and found that over the last year, the number of small businesses using social media has gone from 12 percent to 24 percent.

More HERE, including some downsides.

The video.
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What Not to Do on Your Business Website

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Now Generation

Recently I heard the song The Now Generation by the Black Eyed Peas for the first time. After listening closely to the lyrics, it occurred to me that the lyrics are a good guide to how businesses should handle marketing to the American youth, or in their words, the

"Fast Internet, stay connected in a jet
Wi-fi, podcast, blasting out an SMS"

generation. Actually, I can think of quite a few adults where

"Google is my professor
Wikipedia, checker
Checkin' my account, loggin' in and loggin' out"

is as true with them as it is with their children. Check out the resources below for more information on marketing to today's youth.

Click with Millennials Through Multiple Channels - The Millennials market is motivated and has money, but offering them genuinely valuable services is key to winning their advocacy.

Print is a Youth Market - According to 2007 research from McPheters & Company, the younger generation not only reads digitally, but they also read traditional print publications.

Ypulse - Ypulse studies the opinions and behavior of tweens, teens, collegians and young adults in order to provide news, commentary, events, research and strategy for marketing, brand and media professionals.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Reminder: the Census

March 2010
Dear New Yorker,

Census forms have arrived at your address, and I am writing to remind you to take 10 minutes to fill-out the 10 questions for each person living in your home, and mail it back today.

The Census is safe and confidential. By law, no one other than the Census Bureau staff is allowed to see your questionnaire for 72 years – not even the President. As you know, the census is a count of every person, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, living in the United States and its territories. It is required by the United States Constitution and is the foundation of our representative democracy.

The Census is important. Census data will be used to determine everything from how many representatives you get in our political system to how much money our State will receive from the federal government for essential services like education, affordable housing, and health care.

The Census is easy. I am asking all New Yorkers to fill out the census form for each person living in your home and mail it back today. If the Census Bureau does not receive your form, the Census Bureau workers will complete the count by knocking on the doors of households that did not return a census form.

If you need help completing your questionnaire, Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QACs) have been set up at community organizations and businesses throughout the state to make sure you have the necessary resources to complete your census form, including a staff person to answer census-related questions, language assistance, and Be Counted forms if you have misplaced or lost the original questionnaire. For information in English call 1-866-872-6868 or for help in the following languages call: Spanish: 1-866-928-2010; Chinese: 1-866-935-2010; Korean: 1-866-955-2010; Russian: 1-866-965-2010; Vietnamese: 1-866-945-2010. The TDD telephone number for assistance is 1-866-783-2010.

Please visit www.census2010.ny.gov to get up-to-date information on Census 2010 in New York State. You are New York, Make Yourself Count! Mail back your form TODAY!

Best,


David A. Paterson
Governor of New York State

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mission Statements & Codes of Ethics

If you are looking for a mission statement to emulate, your first stop should be MissionStatements.com. It includes statements from Fortune 500 companies, but also from restaurants, technology companies, construction businesses, real estate firms, hospitals, day care centers and more. It also contains some slogans/mottos and business descriptions.

The web page says: A company's mission statement is a constant reminder to its employees of why the company exists and what the founders envisioned when they put their fame and fortune at risk to breathe life into their dreams. Woe to the company that loses sight of its Mission Statement for it has taken the first step on the slippery slope to failure.

BELL: The Business Ethics Links Library is "a comprehensive starting point for research in corporate ethics and social responsibility. The database provides access to codes of ethics for U.S. companies and trade and professional associations, ethics sites at college and university business programs, industry information resources, and company promotion of social responsibility covering such topics as arts assistance, environmental clean up, charitable giving and community programming."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Game Savers

Here's a fun, short article from this month's issue of The Atlantic. Titled "Pac Rat," it describes the efforts being made in certain circles of higher education to save the source code of video games that have long since gone out of favor (and whose intellectual property may no longer be in force). It also speaks to the issues behind technological preservation in general - with so much digitization in force, what becomes of data in general? Can it remain in a non-hard-copy ephemeral state forever? What becomes of the 1,000+ digital photos on my hard drive at home? How about this blog post? I'm fascinated by the judgments that will be made in the not-so-distant future, which reveals what amongst the deluge will live on, and what will fade away.

Sales Tax Jurisdiction and Rate Lookup

If you have a mail order/Internet business in New York State, and you have NYS customers, you need to charge sales tax on the eligible items at the rate of the location of the purchaser. This can seem quite onerous.

Fortunately there is an electronic Sales Tax Jurisdiction and Rate Lookup. You type in the street address and ZIP Code and it will generate the correct rate. Incidentally, trying to find a list of sales tax rates by ZIP Code would be fruitless, since ZIP Codes are no respecters of county boundary.

One thing this lookup does NOT do, however, is to indicate which counties have set aside, at the county level, the sales tax on individual clothing items that cost $110 or less. You need to check this chart.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Census 2010 - It's Only 10 Questions!!!

Every household in the US will be receiving the 2010 Census form sometime this week. The Census has eliminated the long form, so every household will receive the same form. There is some information regarding the Census that is not well known or often debated. The links and quotes below are to help clarify Census issues.

The Cost of the Census

Responding By Mail Can Save Taxpayers Hundreds of Millions:

- The Census Bureau today estimated that if every household completed and mailed back their census form, taxpayers could reduce the cost of taking the census by $1.5 billion. The Census Bureau saves about $85 million in operational costs for every percentage point increase in the nation’s participation rate by mail.

- “It costs the government just 42 cents for a postage paid envelope when a household mails back the form,” said Census Director Robert M. Groves. “It costs $57 to send a census taker door-to-door to follow up with each household that fails to respond.”

Census Confidentiality

Excerpt from letter to The Honorable Nydia Velazquez, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus from Assistant Attorney General Ronald W. Weich:

In particular, your letters express concern on the part of some members of the public that information-gathering or information-sharing provisions of the Patriot Act may override the confidentiality requirements of the Census Act so as to require the Commerce Secretary to disclose otherwise covered census infol1nation to federal law enforcement or national security officials. The long history of congressional enactments protecting such information from such disclosure, as well as the established precedents of the courts and this Department, supports the view that if Congress intended to override these protections it would say so clearly and explicitly. Because no provision of the Patriot Act, including Section 215, indicates such a clear and explicit intent on the part of Congress, the Department's view is that no provisions of that Act override otherwise applicable Census Act provisions barring the Commerce Secretary and other covered individuals from disclosing protected census information possessed by the Commerce Department.

Legal Obligation

2010 Census Forms Arrive in 120 Million Mailboxes Across Nation:

- Participating in the census is required by law for everyone living in the United States, and the public is encouraged to promptly mail back their 2010 Census forms once they are delivered this week between March 15-17.

For more information go to http://www.census.gov/.

Friday, March 12, 2010

When Failing Leads to Success

We all know the feeling of failure. Well, I guess those few perfect people out there don't know that feeling, but the majority of us humans know that failing never feels good. But it can be good for you.

If we are open to learning from our failures, not only can we determine what factors caused us to fail in the first place, but then we can change the way we go forward. So while it's not always easy to view a failure as a learning experience, it may be the best way for your to succeed in the future.

A Silicon Valley Conference About Failing Is Big Success

10 Ways Failure Leads to Success

Thursday, March 11, 2010

They spend how much?

Want to know more about the spending habits of your neighbors? Check out Bundle.com.

There are lots of forums and articles about spending topics, and you can take a quiz which will assign you a “spend type” based on your usual spending tendencies.

For our purposes, I think Everybody’s Money, a database on spending and saving trends, is more interesting. You can choose a location and see spending breakdowns. There are broad categories (like Health & Family) which you can then breakdown into smaller categories (like personal care, insurance, and pets). You can compare this data to other geographies, or compare within categories like age, household type or income.

According to their FAQ: “Our data comes from the U.S. government, from anonymous and aggregated spending transactions from Citi, and from third party data providers.”

This data shouldn't’t replace the more detailed consumer expenditure reports we can access from DemographicsNow, but it does seem to be an interesting and fun resource.

User Profiles on Web MQS

I'd like to offer a friendly reminder that if you have not already, you need to update your admin page on WebMQS. Even if you have done it recently, some updated information may not have been updated and it simply good practice to keep an eye on both your personal data as well as your center data. We rely on the primary email address that you wish to receive mail at to be at the top. We've noticed a few bounce-backs because of incorrect data - in one case data that was years out of date. So, please check your details often!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

ClickZ

Over three years ago, I blogged about the efficacy of ClickZ for website user session information. But there's so much more to the site: statistics, white papers, news articles, expert columnists. It is, as it claims, "news and expert advice for the digital marketer."

Monday, March 08, 2010

Boat Owner Data

When doing research for a question on boats over 34ft in length on the DMV website I found it did not provide useful information so I had to expand my search. While doing my expanded search I found a website http://www.boatinfoworld.com/boat/registrations/allegany-county-ny-new-york.asp that provided a description of the boat owners by state and then a further division by county. The site can provide the address of people who have a boat license as well as the length and docking port of the boat. I figured this would be useful information for people who need to know more info about boat owners.

Online resources for finding graphic designers

Small businesses are less likely to have their own graphic designers on staff, so knowing how and where to find designers is important.

The following article describes 10 Fantastic Places for Finding Designers Online. These various tools allow users to find professional designers by location, expertise and to read and write reviews of their work.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Business Cards

Your Business Cards - Top 10 Blunders

Duct Tape Marketing
By Barbara Wayman
Published 02/28/2010

This article covers some key tips on what not to do to create an attractive and useful business card, most of which boil down to 'don't make it look homemade.' and on the other hand there are these great examples: CreativeBits

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Changing the outcome


Someone recently e-mailed me one those heart-tugging stories. This one starts: "A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which said: 'I am blind, please help.' There were only a few coins in the hat." Usually, these messages get quickly deleted, but this particular one did not.

Go read it here. Or here or here.

The business librarian in me focused on one particular line in the Moral of the Story category: "Be creative. Be innovative. Think differently and positively."

The man rewriting the sign put a creative spin on the situation. He also recognized that doing things the way it had been done before - using the original wording - wasn't that successful, and the methodology had to change. And of course, the overriding message, which we at the Research Network embrace fully, is that signage matters. A lot.

These lessons seem applicable to any entrepreneur.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Yes, Another Article on Effective Marketing with Social Media

This article ("Social Media Helps Some Small Businesses Endure Bad Economy") is something you've seen before, but it bears repeating. Use of Facebook, Twitter, et al. requires imagination, just like any marketing campaign would (but at a much better price). This article focuses on the efforts of certain eating establishments. For those clients seeking inspiration, read on.