Wednesday, May 30, 2012

NYS SBDC Minority Entrepreneur of the Year: Ariel Barbouth of Nuchas


From the Brooklyn SBDC:

Ariel Barbouth recognizes New York City as the culinary capital of the world. Ariel started Nuchas in 2008 after visiting his native Argentina and re-discovering restaurants there that only sold empanadas: pastries stuffed with a variety of meats and vegetables originally from Latin America. After returning from Argentina, Ariel developed the Nuchas concept - selling empanadas as convenient, natural handheld food with an ethnic twist. His experience as entrepreneur in a previous venture in the food industry helped him quickly develop the concept. Nuchas started baking and distributing empanadas wholesale. Nuchas’ empanadas quickly became a success and were picked up by gourmet stores across the city. Ariel contacted the Brooklyn SBDC in January 2011 for business plan assistance to grow his business and open his first retail outlet. As the Brooklyn SBDC and Ariel worked on the plan, a Request For Proposal was published by The Times Square Alliance and NYC DOT for food stands on the new pedestrian plazas in Times Square. The Brooklyn SBDC assisted the client on the proposal development as well as the financing structure for the new opportunity. Nuchas was selected as one of 4 food stands to be in Times Square in a very competitive process. Nuchas is currently in the process of opening additional stands. In addition to the financing originally obtained from private investors, Ariel was also able to secure a $380,000 loan from New York Business Development Corporation. Ariel said: “The Brooklyn SBDC has been an intrinsic part of our business success to date”.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

SBA, AARP Team Up to Connect Older Americans With Resources to Start, Grow Businesses

Alliance will provide counseling, training to 100,000 encore entrepreneurs

SBA has set up a http://www.sba.gov/content/50-entrepreneurs dedicated web page for Americans over the age of 50 featuring: an online self-assessment tool that will help potential small business owners understand their readiness for starting a business as well as information to help with business planning, shaping a winning business idea, professional counseling, financial services and information to find local resources in your area.

More HERE.

Monday, May 28, 2012

NYS SBDC Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year: Jon Quinn of Quinn Essential Fitness

From the Brooklyn SBDC

From his initial weeks of basic training to the Reserve Officer Training Program at Syracuse University and throughout his career as an Air Force officer, Jon Quinn experienced firsthand the benefits of group exercise - military style. Jon started Captain Quinn's Fitness Boot Camp because he is passionate about fitness and about serving others through fitness education. His dedication to fitness has spanned over twenty years of service in the military, the private sector, and in non-profit organizations. Jon, a Certified Personal Trainer is on a mission to ignite a lifetime passion for fitness and healthy living in as many people as possible through programs designed to motivate, educate and inspire transformation and self-improvement. His Fitness Boot Camp provides results-oriented fast paced group fitness classes, private and small group fitness training and coaching, nutritional guidance and, eventually, on-line/retail video instruction. Jon consulted Business Advisor Janet Page at the Brooklyn SBDC for assistance with business plan development, sources of financing, cash flow projections, and discussions about start-up and growth. Jon ultimately obtained a $45,000 Patriot Express Loan from Bethex Federal Credit Union. Jon believes deeply in the power of fitness to transform lives, and tells all his clients that "Fitness is essential and should always be FUN!"

Friday, May 25, 2012

NYS SBDC Procurement of the Year: Oscar Nordstrom of Nordstrom

From the Rockland SBDC

Oscar Nordstrom, a Service Disabled Veteran, founded Nordstrom Contracting & Consulting, Corp (NCC) in 2004 as a family-owned and operated small business. NCC provides a variety of construction and renovation work for Federal Agencies, including electrical, mechanical, plumbing, interior fit-outs and finish trades. In that time NCC has performed projects totaling more than $10 million and NCC is especially proud that all projects have been completed on or before required completion and within original budget!
NCC’s trademarks are attention to detail, responsiveness, integrity, and genuine pride in its work. Since its inception NCC has grown consistently every year. Mr. Nordstrom says “By aligning the client’s goals with ours, working as a team on each job, we develop and maintain close working relationships with every client. Our past projects, current service contracts and ever-growing portfolio are a testament to the abilities and superior performance of the company.”
Oscar and his family have more than 100 years of combined experience in construction and planning, the result of many projects from high-rise office buildings in New York to custom single family homes in South Carolina. With project experience in the public and private sectors NCC’s company resume includes virtually every major contracting discipline from design to project management to implementation.
Even with his extensive experience, CUNY education and military training Oscar sought the assistance of the Rockland SBDC to help plan the growth and financing of his new business. “An expert knows when to get an expert.” Nordstrom says of his decision to work with Chris Thiesing and Adi Israeli of the Rockland SBDC. Chris and Adi worked with Oscar to fund growth with more than $700,000 in SBA guaranteed financing, assess and review procurement and contracting opportunities resulting in more than $2,000,000 of Federal contracts, provided financial planning assistance to manage and project cash needs supporting rapid growth, and, to assist with identifying supportive programs.

Above: The Nordstroms, from the left Michael, Stephanie, Oscar and Oscar Jr.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Learn About Your State and Local Tax Obligations

In addition to business taxes required by the federal government, you will have to pay some state and local taxes. Each state and locality has its own tax laws. The links below provide access to key resources that will help you learn about your state tax obligations. Having knowledge of your state tax requirement can help you avoid problems and your business save money.

Read MORE.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

NYS SBDC Female Entrepreneur of the Year: Melissa Wawrzonek, Clipper Ship Tea Company


from the Farmingdale SBDC

While sailing aboard oil tankers in the United States Merchant Marines, Melissa
Wawrzonek began planning for a career after she retired from the sea. She decided to
translate her love of tea and passion for traveling into a business. To prepare herself, Melissa studied all she could about tea and visited tea producing countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, China and Japan. She completed a 3-year certification course through the Specialty Tea
Institute (STI), which certified her as a Tea Specialist and Tea Educator & Speaker. In 2010, with certifications in hand and start-up funds in the bank, Melissa retired from the Merchant Marines. During the summer of 2010, she consulted the Farmingdale SBDC for assistance in finalizing a business plan and leased a 1200 square foot retail space in Northport Village.
Melissa and her family completed a restoration of the 110 year commercial space, with original tin ceilings and tin walls, a hotel concierge desk from the 1900ʼs, a 150 year old mahogany bar, and turn of the century fixtures. After 3 months of renovations and approximately $100,000 in start-up expenses, the Clipper Ship Tea Company opened as a retail loose leaf shop. The Clipper Ship Tea Company specializes in all things tea and sells premium loose leaf tea, tea ware and tea accoutrements. The store also sells honey and tea infused chocolate. The storefront has been open for one year and is thriving in its downtown pedestrian village. Melissa is in the process of launching the online portion of her tea business and is planning to open more tea retail storefronts in the years to come.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More of the Small Business Resource Guide

Segregated accounts
Establish a segregated bank account for sales taxes. NYS Tax Department encourages all sales tax vendors to voluntarily establish a separate bank account for sales taxes that they collect on behalf of New York State to make it easier to comply with the tax law. To improve sales tax compliance, they can require certain sales tax vendors to deposit sales tax into a separate bank account. This tax law change was effective March 31, 2011.

Sales Tax Filing Responsibilities
A sales tax return is still required to be filed, if a registered vendor, did not collect any tax for the tax period in question. Vendor Collection Credit (currently at 5% of tax payable except monthly filers with a maximum of $200 )
Sales Taxes are trust taxes – A responsible person can be held personally liable for payment of taxes.
If a business ceases doing business, they must file a final sales tax return and return the Certificate of Authority to the Department.
Sales Tax Exemptions
Manufacturer’s exemption – Must be a registered sales tax vendor - Publication 852
Farmer’s Exemption – ST-125
Not for Profit Exemptions – The not for profit agency 501(c)(3) must apply on form ST-119.2

Recordkeeping Requirements for Sales Tax (TB-ST-770)
Recordkeeping rules
What records to be kept
How long to keep records
Point-of-Sale systems
Maintaining records electronically
When records are considered inadequate
Consequences of inadequate records
NEW: Web video explaining record keeping requirements
How long do I keep my records?
You must keep all of your records for a minimum of three years from the due date of the return to which those records relate, or the date the return is filed, if later.
However, the statute of limitation does NOT apply for any period for which an individual failed to file a return or filed a fraudulent return.
You must make the records available to the Tax Department upon request.

New Hire Rule
All employers must report to the New York State Tax Department certain identifying information about newly hired employees working in the state within 20 calendar days of the hiring date.
www.nysnewhire.com
GENERALLY, a worker who performs services for a business is an employee if the business can control what will be done and how it will be done.
NYS follows the federal guidelines (conformity) regarding employer/employee relationships and the definition of an employee, contractor or self employed individual


Sales Tax e-filing Mandate for Businesses
If a business meets all of the following conditions the business is required to E-file and E-pay the sale tax on the
NYS website:
• Prepare their own return;
• Use a computer to prepare, document or calculate any of the sales tax schedules;
• and Have broadband internet access
Must first create an Online Service Account (demos and videos are available)
For more information: http://www.tax.ny.gov/bus/efile/elf_busn_mandate.htm

Voluntary Disclosure & Compliance Program
Under the Tax Department’s new Voluntary Disclosure and Compliance program, eligible taxpayers who owe
back taxes can avoid monetary penalties and possible criminal charges by:
• telling the Department what taxes they owe;
• paying those taxes; and
• entering an agreement to pay all future taxes.
The Voluntary Disclosure and Compliance Program covers ALL taxes administered by the Tax Department.

New York State Tax Credits for Businesses
• Designed to promote economic development, create jobs, stimulate capital investment, encourage revitalization of
distressed areas.
• Broad range of tax credits underscores the state’s commitment to attract and foster growth in business community
• For more information visit:
for income taxes (includes flow through entities).
for general business corporations.

courtesy Suzanne Reusch
Taxpayer Service Specialist
New York State Department of Taxation and Finance

Monday, May 21, 2012

NYS SBDC Scientific Innovation Impact Award: Dr. Hanna Wollocko of Oxyvita

From the Mid-Hudson SBDC, the late Don Dods, advisor.

While working in emergency services and in hospital blood banks, Dr. Hanna Wollocko, Founder, President and CEO of Oxyvita, Inc., recognized the enormous needs and significant problems with blood transfusions. She and a group of professionals from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology fields founded Oxyvita in 2003 to work on developing an innovative blood substitute. The product is a polymeric hemoglobin solution, which is clinically useful as a blood substitute due to its oxygen carrying function, can dramatically reduce the need for blood donated by human donors and significantly reduce the risks associated with blood transfusions. Dr. Wollocko first consulted Business Advisor Don Dods at the Mid-Hudson SBDC in 2004 about financing to continue the research. He has worked intensely with Dr. Wollocko and her team to develop the product into a sustainable business that is ready to market. The business is now significantly advanced in preclinical trials and will be seeking to progress into clinical trials upon FDA approval. Oxyvita Inc. has developed a powder form of its transfusible hemoglobin based oxygen carrier. With its new paradigm in blood technology, the company has been awarded a $4.4 million contract with the US Department of the Navy to enable testing of OxyVita on large animals as a requirement in the last stages of seeking final FDA approval. As you can imagine, OxyVita has the potential to revolutionize trauma care.



Friday, May 18, 2012

Small Business Resource Guide - NYS Taxation

From Suzanne Reusch, Taxpayer Service Specialist

The overall goal of the NYS Tax Department is for all taxpayers to voluntarily pay the correct amount of tax, at the right time. The New York State Tax Department will partner with New York’s businesses to help them comply
with their tax responsibilities in the easiest and most efficient way.

The New York State Tax Department features a growing list of electronic services that promote self-service, making it
easier for customers to conduct business with the department at their convenience.

Online Services with NYS Tax

Recommend that all businesses sign up for subscription services to:
• Obtain new postings of Tax specific technical guidance documents
• Receive press releases and News
• Each business should create an online service account:
• File and pay taxes (sales tax mandated)
• Respond to department notices
• Change your business address/phone number
• Sign up for E-mail alerts to receive account email alerts about your tax account instead of paper mailings.
- filing due date reminders
- updates to your account

Sales Tax – Purchasing An Existing Business

At least ten days before you plan to pay for the business or any assets of a business complete and send to the Tax
Department Form AU 196.10, Notification of Sale, Transfer, or Assignment in Bulk and pay the sales tax. (If there are tax liabilities of the old business and of the form is NOT filed, the new owner will be liable for that sales tax into the future. If the form IS filed, the liability is limited to what is known at that period.)
At least 20 days before you acquire all or part of an existing business that will require a sales tax Certificate of
Authority, you must apply for a new certificate.

Who Must Register for a Sales Tax Identification Number?

A VENDOR is any person who makes taxable sales of goods or services within the state or who accepts or issues
an exemption certificate. If you need a Sales Tax Identification number you must apply online to Register for a Sales Tax Certificate of Authority. The application form DTF-17 is available online at OPAL.

Home Sales - Tax Bulletin TB-ST-807

If you operate a trade or business from your home, you have the same responsibilities as any other business making the same types of sales in New York State. If your business sells taxable goods or services, you must register with the Department of Taxation and Finance to obtain a Certificate of Authority. If you do not operate a trade or business special rules apply for casual sales and garage sales.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

NYS SBDC Manufacturer of the Year: Vincent Lobdell of Health Way Home Products

From the Watertown/Oswego SBDC

Vince Lobdell, President of HealthWay Home Products, Inc. has received the award of NYS SBDC Manufacturer of the Year. Mr. Lobdell formed HealthWay Home Products Inc. in October 2004 after 30 years of experience in the air purification industry.

HealthWay, located in Pulaski, New York, is a manufacturer of patented low energy medical-grade indoor air filtration equipment. The Company holds many US and International patents on Enhanced Germicidal Filtration (EGF) technology as well as multiple product design patents. The Company also holds patents on air quality diagnostic equipment and auto-control sensing devices for indoor air quality machines. HealthWay manufactures products for both residential consumers and commercial institutions. Tests administered at the University of New York at Buffalo prove these devices to be 100% effective at capturing viruses, bacteria, molds and fungi from the air. The products are so effective that they are approved by the FDA as Class II Medical Devices.

HealthWay’s products are proven to produce results that exceed the Asthma & Allergy Foundation’s recommendation by 50% and offer the only germicidal kill of bio-aerosols in the industry. These factors differentiate this technology from competitors’ and make these products very attractive for commercial applications. Organizations that have already benefited from HealthWay’s superior commercial devices are the Mayo Clinic, USA Federal Reserve Banks, Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, Ronald McDonald Houses, VA Medical Centers, and Children’s Hospital Medical Centers. The Company has also developed an inline commercial product that exceeds Green Building LEED Platinum Certification requirements.

Under Mr. Lobdell’s leadership the Company has developed a strategic partnership with Pure Solutions, LLC to provide the PURE Solutions Allergy Friendly Room to hotels. HealthWay products are essential to creating the patented PURE rooms. The Company, in conjunction with Pure Solutions, finalized an agreement in June 2010 with Hyatt Hotels Corporation to provide PURE rooms in each of their hotels in North America (4,100 rooms). Other hotel companies such as Hilton, Marriott, Double Tree, and ITC (in India) have also installed PURE rooms.

HealthWay Inc. has experienced solid sales growth since its inception. From 2007 through 2011, sales grew from $3.8 million to $5.1 million. During this time the number of employees grew from 19 to 41. To date in 2012, the Company’s sales are running 38% above last year and open orders are 122% above this same time last year. HealthWay’s sales growth has been such that the Company was listed among the Inc. 5000 last year.

Vincent is also very dedicated to his community. He renovated an historic building to house his current manufacturing facility and took it from an eyesore to a showpiece in the community. Currently some of the manufacturing is done in Shenzhen, China but Vince intends to expand the manufacturing facility in Pulaski and bring more jobs to the area.



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

NYS Minority/Woman Business Enterprise Certification Just Got Easier!!

Empire State Development, New York City Small Business Services and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have joined up to make the certification process even easier. One application to submit for all three MWBE certification programs. Complete instructions are included in the Standard Application.

If you are currently certified as an MBE, WBE, MWBE, DBE or are part of the Federal 8(a) Business Development Programs you may be able to use the Fast Track Certification Applications.

2012 Incentives for MWBE Growth

New MWBE Regulations

New York State Contract Reporter is New York’s official publication of state procurement opportunities from state agencies, public authorities and public benefit corporations.

Check out the website.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

NYS SBDC Growth Business of the Year: Steve Coppola and family, APB Security Systems, Inc.


From the Staten Island SBDC

Steve Coppola started in the alarm business in July 1977 after being with the NYPD and as a deputy sheriff in Florida. He started his working career working with his father installing fireplaces. This created in Steve a strong feeling for the importance of a family working together. It was always Steve’s goal to create an atmosphere where he could work side by side with his family and he strived to do everything possible to make that happen. He, his daughter Pamela and son Stephen are proud to say that they enjoy coming to work each day.

APB Security Systems has burglar alarms, card-access entry systems, surveillance cameras, telephone systems, intercom systems, computer networking, home theater installations and more and has a track record for the past 34 years.

Steve is the head of APB Security Systems located at 2047 Victory Boulevard, , Staten Island, NY. It is part of the family conglomerate which includes Statewide Fire Alarm Corp. a UL (under-writers laboratories) approved central station monitoring facility owned and managed by his daughter Pamela and Statewide Monitoring owned and managed by his son Steven. All three companies are headquartered in the Victory Boulevard building.

The companies have changed and grown significantly since inception. The company is a leader in the continuing changing technology. In the early days, the systems were composed of wires and foil on windows. In today’s advanced technology, items include audio detectors, radio detectors, as well as wireless systems that use transmitters to send signals back to the control panel, as well as to the central station, which will alert police and fire departments in case of an emergency.

APB recognized that they had to be more than an alarm installation business. They are in an industry where some competitors offer free systems and installation. Rather than adopting their competitor’s terms, they have chosen to emphasize quality and premium service. It has proven to be a winning combination based on result. The wholesale central station monitoring business has grown exponentially due to the integration of high tech electronics and computerization much of which has been developed by Steve’s son Steven. This business continues to grow through both their stellar reputation and their acquisitions of competitors. To prove that they are the place to work in the security industry, over 70% of the employees acquired through acquisition have chosen to stay on.

Pamela handles the finances for all three companies. She is a member of various organizations such as the Staten Island Women’s Leadership Council, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation. In 2005, Pamela was a winner of the “Make Mine a Million” business program founded by Open from American Express which is now a national movement encouraging women entrepreneurs to grow their business to the next level. In 2006, Pamela was named by the New York Daily News as one of the “30 under 30” to make 2007 “The Year of the Money.”

In 2002, Statewide Fire was started. It is only one of some 20 companies licensed to operate an approved Central Station by the NYC Fire Department. It is a female owned enterprise with WMBE Certification, which helps alarm dealers when they must show a percentage of their project is being handled by minority or woman owned firms. The company offers a full range of commercial and industrial applications ranging from small hotels, apartment buildings, and private schools to large industrial/commercial complexes with multiple locations

Some of their more recognizable clients or projects include The Richmond County Ball Park (home of the “Staten Island Yankees,”) the NYC Board of Education, Project Hospitality, the YMCA and many others.

The Coppola family is committed to giving back to the community, by volunteering and financially supporting such groups as the Boy Scouts of America, Meals on Wheels, and the Alzheimer’s Association of Staten Island, the New Springville Little League, Cooley’s Anemia Foundation, Staten Island Bucks, Staten Island Home Improvement Contractor’s Association, Staten Island Burglar Alarm Association, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the Staten Island Economic Development Corp.

Steven, Pamela and Steven are pillars of the Staten Island Community and have been so for many years. They currently employ 35 employees and plans are underway to expand their building so they may hire additional employees. In a time when other small businesses are contracting, they are expanding. The SBDC is currently exploring a one half million dollart 504 or 7A loan for their expansion.

Steve’s watchwords are “Integrity, what we promise we deliver and if we make a mistake, we correct it. We truly care about protecting the people. It’s not just putting another account on-line, it’s about protecting another family.”

The Coppolas have recently embarked on an expansion project. They are currently in the market for a 504 loan to expand their facilities in order to accommodate additional employees. They in the past have been a recipient of one hundred thousand dollar 7a loan. Steve is an active member of the SBDC Executive Roundtable.



Monday, May 14, 2012

Procurement changes in New York State

Significant procurement changes recently in Article VII of the 2012-2013 NYS Executive Budget [PDF]. See Part L - modify outdated procurement procedures, pages 128-153.

The OGS Procurement Services Group's (PSG) mission is to provide customer focused procurement services through the development and management of contracts and programs that are responsive to customer needs; are cost effective, practical, and timely; and provide comprehensive and innovative procurement alternatives, thereby assisting customers in accomplishing their primary mission.

Bureau of State Expenditures Vendor Management Unit (VMU) Site
Vendor Guide to New York State’s Centralized Vendor Management Processes
Frequently Asked Questions for Vendors
Vendor Responsibility
VenRep System Welcome Package (Handbook)
SFS Forms

Sunday, May 13, 2012

National Small Business Week May 20-26

Let's Celebrate National Small Business Week 2012
The week of May 20th, our nation’s entrepreneurs will come together online and in Washington, DC for National Small Business Week.
Learn more about the event

Participate Online
Sign up to view the live webcast of the free educational panels. SBA will send you a reminder.
With a strong focus on how small businesses can take advantage of economic opportunities and new marketing trends, topics for the educational forums this year include:

Strategies and resources for taking your small business global through exporting
Tips and best practices for putting social media to work for your business
An open discussion on how small businesses can better position themselves to win federal government contracts
Check out the full conference schedule
...or you can follow along on Twitter with the event hashtag #SBW2012.

Attend In Person
Small business owners are invited to attend the free seminars and network with other entrepreneurs at the Washington, DC conference.
Visit the National Small Business Week site to register

Small Business Week Video Contest
Do you have two minutes and a video camera? Share your business' success story by entering the video contest. Three winning videos will be featured during National Small Business Week and shown during a Google+ Hangout hosted by SBA and the White House on May 23. The deadline for video submissions is May 15.
Enter your submission now

Would you like to receive e-mail updates directly from the Small Business Administration?
Sign up now at www.sba.gov



Saturday, May 12, 2012

Killing the American Community Survey Blinds Business

On May 9 the House voted to kill the American Community Survey, which collects data on some 3 million households each year and is the largest survey next to the decennial census. The ACS — which has a long bipartisan history, including its funding in the mid-1990s and full implementation in 2005 — provides data that help determine how more than $400 billion in federal and state funds are spent annually. Businesses also rely heavily on it to do such things as decide where to build new stores, hire new employees, and get valuable insights on consumer spending habits...

The fight over cutting funds for data-gathering agencies has opened up a rift in the deficit-hawk crowd. A handful of organizations that generally support big fiscal spending cuts have voiced their support for fully funding the three main data-gathering agencies: Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The Chamber of Commerce, for example, strongly advocates funding them, since its members rely so much on the information they provide on basic things such as household spending, per capita income, and population estimates. The ACS is of particular value to them, says Martin Regalia, Commerce’s chief economist. "It is especially important to some of our bigger members for trying to understand geographic distinctions and other granularity in the economy."

Tom Beers, executive director of the National Association of Business Economists, says that without good economic data, businesses would be "flying blind." He adds: "You end up in a guessing game about what’s going on in the economy. The types of losses that result are far worse than what you end up spending to fund these surveys."

More here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Get Social or Die

At our staff training, this week we heard a series of presentations from Josepf Haslam of DragonSearch.

"We are at the dawn of a new Age with social media. It’s both an evolutionary and revolutionary age. It’s a truly disruptive technology and social system for businesses and individuals.

"I assert that you need to get social or die. If this is your view of social - and believe me, a couple years ago when I looked at Twitter, I had the idea [it was the] perfect combination of narcissism, ADHD, and stalking -... for you and for businesses, you need to change this. You need to make it your force for being found and getting business.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Headhunters, Executive Recruiters, Employment Agencies ... real people with access to real jobs!

Headhunters, executive recruiters, employment agencies, executive search firms, staffing and personnel agencies are here to help you find that perfect career opportunity.

Finally a directory of professionals that help real people find real jobs every single day, and it is absolutely free to use!

Headhuntersdirectory.com is a great free tool out there to use.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Green Economy – The New Magic Bullet?

Source: Heinrich Boll Foundation

In June 2012, heads of state will gather at the Rio+20 conference in Brazil to explore the theme “The Future We Want.” The focus of the conference is the green economy. Exactly what a green economy is and should be, and with what measures and instruments it should be implemented, has not yet been defined and is the topic of intense political debate. Nevertheless, efforts are being made to develop a “Green Economy Roadmap.” Rio+20 should not simply be a repetition of previous international conferences. Instead it must offer a true breakthrough on the path to a social, just, low-carbon and resource-efficient world.

The UN General Assembly called with Resolution 44/228 of December 22, 1989, for the convening of the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio Summit, in 1992. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was assigned to promote the transition from an economic model that is nearly exclusively oriented toward the promotion of economic growth to a model based on the principles of sustainable development in which environmental protection and the sound management of natural resources play a central role. Some 20 years later, at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), held from June 20 to 22, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, the goal was to create a “green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.” This represents a new attempt to reform the institutional framework for sustainable development within the UN.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

6 Leadership Tips For Small Business Owners

Being a small business owner can be rewarding in many ways but can be frustrating as well. You know the saying, “If I only knew then what I know now?”

Leadership is important in your business whether you have 1 employee or over 50 employees. Hopefully, these tips will help you on how to be a good leader for your business if you are not already. All of these tips can’t be done just once, you need to practice them daily or weekly or monthly. Repetition of each task will get you in a routine and make your business run smoother.

Tip One: Work on your Business, Not in It

This actually sounds pretty ridiculous because you should know how to do the majority of aspects in your business. This means that you need to focus on your future plan and how your business is going to move forward and grow. You are the mastermind of starting your business. You can’t stop thinking and growing just because you are now open.

Sometimes it is a lot easier to focus on the day-to-day operations of your business because I am sure you know it best, but you are not helping your business this way. What did you hire staff for if you are just going to let them sit on their backsides and play games on their phones all day. You need to work on your five and ten-year plans and what steps you need to do to get there.

By working your business and not in it, your business will eventually be able to run itself. As an owner, you need to be able to take a vacation or if you need to leave for an emergency and not have to worry about whether the business will run itself or fall apart without you.

You should be able to leave at any given time and your business should sail smooth. It is very gratifying as an owner to not worry about your business when you are not around. It means you have done your job and have led your employees to be efficient and independent thinkers.

Tip Two: Have a Plan and Work It

Now that you know what your future goals are going to be for your business, don’t forget about the actual business. I know I said don’t focus on the day to day operations but it is important to find out how each department in your business is doing. Check on the inventory and assess your business on a regular basis.

Work this into your short-term goals. Don’t let the business slip out from under your fingers because you were looking at your long-term goals. At the same though, don’t micromanage every little detail. Practice your plan and make it work.

Tip Three: Find a Mentor

Wow, this is an important tip! Find someone you trust, is patient and who has success in a similar business as yours. You need to be able to bounce off ideas or call them with questions. I’m glad my mentor was patient. There would be times when I would call my mentor five or more times a day and even at all hours of the night.

I wouldn’t go this far if I was you, but I had a great relationship with mine. After getting scolded for waking her up, she was more than helpful. The trick to finding a good mentor is finding one that wants you to succeed. This makes all the difference in the world.

Tip Four: Keep an Eye on the Future

We briefly talked about long-term goals. I always told myself to look for the light at the end of the tunnel during hard days or think about that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This is important as well because there will be frustrating and long days. Remember why you started the business in the first place and to look forward to brighter days. If you have this attitude you will have more light days than darker ones.

A positive attitude is crucial in succeeding in your business. There would be days when I would have 20 clients needing my attention all at once. Remembering why I was in the business and what my goals were helped me get through the day and focus on my future. Thomas Fuller said “All things are difficult before they are easy.” That is definitely true.

Tip Five: Honesty and Integrity

I cannot stress enough how important honesty and integrity is in the business world. I know we have all heard word of mouth is the best advertisement. Well, not if it is negative. If you say you are going to deliver your product at a certain day and time, then do it.

Unfortunately, life happens and sometimes you can’t make your deadline. That usually isn’t a problem if you are honest with your customer. Tell them why you cannot make the deadline. They will appreciate your honesty even though it was not when you initially told them, but they will more than likely return to your business because you treated them with integrity.

They go hand in hand and can go a long way in your business. This doesn’t sound like it would be hard to practice being honest but if you’ve helped someone learn the piano, then you know that paying attention to detail and communicating with your customers takes the same effort, it’s just like learning to read music for the piano. Consistent practice is very important.

Tip Six: Pay Yourself

For heavens sake, pay yourself! I cannot stress this enough. We all go into business to make money, right? Well, how are you going to make money if you aren’t paying yourself? It will become harder and harder to stay positive when you aren’t paying yourself. There would be months when I wouldn’t pay myself because I always needed something else for the business. You are always going to need something new. Make it wait and pay yourself.

I mentioned earlier about practicing these tips and how it is similar to learning to play an instrument. When you are learning to play an instrument you practice the movements and notes in a slow and methodical manner to make sure you are practicing it correctly.

Practicing all of these leadership tips is very similar. Imagine learning to play the piano and you have to practice every day. Eventually you will be able to play with speed from all of the repetition, just like you will be able to run your business much smoother because you have practiced every day.

Click here for the article from SmallBusinessNewz.

Monday, May 07, 2012

37 Saddest Failed Kickstarters

As BoingBoing noted: Media coverage of successfully Kickstarted projects sometimes makes it look like an easy source of funds for any old half-baked idea.
Nope.

On the other hand, these were the #1 Kickstarter projects at various points.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Starting a Mobile Food Concession Business? Be Sure to Follow the Rules of the Road

Want to take your restaurant on the road? Interested in starting a food-service business that affords lower overhead costs than a bricks and mortar restaurant?

Starting a mobile food concession business has its advantages – the rent is cheaper, staff overhead is lower, and you can move to follow the profits. But it also has its challenges – weather, vehicle breakdowns, and seasonality, to name a few. And don’t forget, starting a business or expanding into new markets, particularly with on-board food, means you’ll also have to heed laws and regulations that apply when you take your business to the streets.

Here’s what you need to know about operating your concession business within the law:

1. Apply for Licenses and Permits

Any business needs a license or permit to operate legally, but going mobile requires you to get permits for all the cities and counties where you operate, not just your static business address (which may be your main place of business or your home-based HQ). Food service businesses typically need a food service establishment permit, an alcohol beverage license, a general business license, and a food safety permit. To help you determine which licenses and permits you will need, check out SBA.gov’s Business Licenses and Permits tool.

2. Insure Your Mobile Business

In certain instances, state law may require your business to be covered by insurance. For example, if you use a car or truck for business purposes, you may need to buy commercial auto insurance. Many fairs and festivals also require that concession businesses have general liability insurance. If you have employees, you are going to need to pay workers insurance. Refer to your state government website for more information about what insurance your state requires, or check out SBA’s guide to business insurance requirements.

3. Comply With Health and Safety Laws

If you are involved in food preparation, you’ll need to comply with laws and regulations that govern concession businesses in the location where you operate. If you are a mobile concession, check food vending laws in the different locations you serve. You may be required to pass a food safety exam, have an official inspection, and so on.

The National Park Service, which administers more than 500 concessions contracts across the country, conducts periodic inspections of its concession program participants and also checks price lists and tariffs.

4. Location, Location, Location

Many factors impact where you locate your concession business. Here are some market considerations and regulatory factors to bear in mind:

-What’s your strategy? Do you intend to be mobile and service special events such as festivals or sporting events? Do you prefer a fixed location or a combination of both?
-Do your research and focus on locations or venues that generate consistently high foot traffic, without the threat of too much nearby competition for your product.
-Check with the owner or organization that operates that space and find out what fees they may charge – does it fit your budget?,br> -What street vending laws apply to your chosen city or county?
-What’s the process for getting a food permit? Sometimes these are limited and the process can vary. Talk to other vendors about how they got theirs.
-If the owner of the space you occupy hasn’t already done so, you might also need to check zoning information.

5. Plan for Seasonality

No, there are no legal requirements when it comes to planning for seasonality, but it’s such an important part of operating a mobile concession business that it’s hard to overlook.

Planning where you’re going to take your business ahead of time is critical. Try to get your hands on your city, county, or state calendar of fairs or festivals. Use sites like Festival Network Online or keep an eye on city websites. Don’t overlook your local Chamber of Commerce, home owner’s association, and local city tourist office – these will have more information on smaller, local events in your area.

For the full article from SBA and more tips on managing a seasonal business, click here.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Legal Steps Involved in Moving Your Business to a New State – FAQs Answered

Businesses move all the time. If a move is in the cards for your business, what should you do? Maybe you’re expanding and are out of capacity at your current location, or maybe a move is for personal reasons. Maybe you want relocate to a state that is more favorable to small businesses, such a state without any income taxes.

Moving a business raises many questions, particularly questions about legal and regulatory matters. In fact, some of the most common questions posted by small business owners to the SBA.gov Community are about the ramifications a relocation has on taxes, registration and incorporation.

If you’re thinking of moving or have already relocated your business, here are some answers to some of those questions:

Q: I operate an LLC. What steps do I have to take when I relocate?

A: It’s always best to consult an attorney if you are moving your LLC to a new state since there are several options open to you that require careful consideration. Here are your choices:

1. Continue the LLC in your old state and register as a foreign (out of state) LLC in your new state. This will mean more paperwork (you’ll need to file duplicate annual reports) and tax filing. Reporting for multi-member LLCs can get more complex.
2. Liquidate the old LLC and form an LLC in your new state.
3. Register a new LLC in the new state and have each member transfer their membership interest (percent ownership) from the old LLC to the new LLC in the new state.
4. Form a new LLC in your new state and merge the previous LLC into it. The IRS views this as a continuation of the old LLC and you can continue with your existing EIN. Assuming all LLC members still have a 50 percent interest in the capital and profits of the new LLC, there are no tax consequences either.

Q: What about Corporations?

A: Corporations (“C” or “S”) have similar options to LLCs:

1. Continue the corporation in your old state and register as a foreign corporation in your new one.
2. Dissolve the corporation in the old state and form a new one.
3. Reorganize (tax-free) and merge the old corporation into a corporation formed in the new state.

Talk to an attorney about tax ramifications, filing and ongoing reporting requirements, as well as the specific requirements in your old state regarding dissolving a corporation.

Q: What about sole proprietors or partnerships?

A: Moving a business out of state as a sole proprietor or partnership is pretty easy. You simply register your new business using the “Doing Business As” (DBA) registration process in your new state (usually at the county office) and discontinue your old one. This SBA guide has more information on the DBA registration process.

Q: What about licenses and permits?

A: Moving a business involves almost the same legal and regulatory steps as starting a business, including obtaining the right business licenses and permits. Even if you intend to work from home, you’ll still need a home occupancy permit and a professional business license from your county. SBA’s Business Licenses and Permits search tool can help you find what’s needed in your new state. Be sure to check local zoning laws too.

Q: What impact does a business move have on my taxes?

A: Since you are moving out of state, you’ll need to close out your tax year in your old state (often as simple as checking the “Final Return” box on your state return). At the federal level, depending on your business structure, there may be several tax consequences to consider before and after you relocate. Every business is unique, so talk to a tax expert to get a quick grasp of your business tax responsibilities in the first year of your move.

Don't forget that you can deduct or capitalize the costs incurred during business relocation, including moving costs, relocation site scouting trips, travel and meeting costs.

For more information on moving your business, visit the SBA here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

5 Ways to Turn Your Website into a Sales Machine

Your online presence is a vital part of any sales strategy. But is your website the sales powerhouse it should be?

Replicating the effectiveness of the face-to-face sales process online -- and getting customers to go from clicking to buying -- can be difficult. The good news is that there are a few simple tricks and tweaks that can improve your site's revenue-generating capabilities.

Here are five tips that can help turn a business website into a sales machine:

1. Build an effective shopping cart.

Some small businesses use services such as PayPal for making and receiving online payments. But building a full-featured shopping cart directly into your website might be a better option. Shopping carts allow for more customization and the potential to provide more product information.
(Check our our earlier post on setting up a PayPal account for your business here.)

Austin, Texas-based Volusion is an all-in-one shopping-cart tool that starts at $19 per month and handles checkout and payment processing. It offers more than 120 customizable online store templates that are smartphone and tablet-friendly. You also can showcase product options, add unlimited photos and make product comparisons.
BigCommerce, another Austin-based shopping-cart software provider, offers a similar package starting at about $25 per month. It includes customizable designs and can be integrated with social media and third-party services such as Google Product Search.

2. Recommend related products.

Even if you can't interact face-to-face with web customers, you still can demonstrate old-fashioned salesmanship. An online store can include a "recommendation engine" that suggests complementary products, upgrades and additional services. For example, if a customer puts a grill in his online shopping cart, he can be prompted to also consider buying tongs and a spatula.

Facebook offers a free downloadable recommendation box that can be copied and pasted into your website code. Paid plug-ins such as Stevenson, Wash.-based 4-Tell's product recommendation software, which starts at $49 per month, can generate recommendations based on sales data.

3. Optimize your site for search engines.

A website can't sell if it can't be found. So, you might consider trying some free tools offered by Google that can help your site show up more prominently in online searches. To use them properly, however, you will need both time and expertise.
Another option is an online search optimization service. Two examples are Nashville, Tenn.-based Raven Tools, which starts at $99 per month, and Israel-based Sheer SEO, which starts as low as $7 per month. Both services can help shorten the learning curve for identifying proper keywords and building links that can help pull your site out of the search engine cellar.

4. Start a contest or promotion.

An online contest or promotion can help attract attention in social media channels and lure potential customers to your site. Giving away a high value item can stir up the most attention but frequent, simple contests with smaller perks can also be effective.

For Web-based contest platforms, one option is Anaheim, Calif.-based Viralimpressions, which runs $2.99 per campaign, plus 79 cents per day. You might also consider Conshohocken, Pa.-based WizeHive, which starts at $249 per contest, plus $3 per day. Wisehive comes with the ability to customize a giveaway and to judge multiple entries, say, for a writing or photography contest.

Both can make it easier to organize and run promotions such as simple giveaways, coupons and sweepstakes. They manage the basics of asking visitors to like your page, fill out a form or join an email list.

For creating deeper customer engagement, consider a service such as San Diego-based Artistic Hub. It starts at $299 for a 30-day contest and lets people upload images and other media that can be judged by management or turned over to customers for voting.

5. Develop a shipping strategy.

When it comes to e-commerce, free or steeply discounted shipping is quickly becoming the standard. But to compete with big online retailers, you'll need to ship strategically. Instead of opting for either costly or completely free shipping, you might consider something in between. You could make only ground shipping free and set a minimum purchase amount to qualify.

Shipping companies often offer tools that make analyzing shipping options easy. UPS, for example, provides a set of free shipping tools, including UPS WorldShip, that can be built into existing accounting tools. FedEx also offers a suite of tracking and logistics tools.

You also might consider a third-party option, such as Malvern, Pa.-based Malvern Systems, which starts at $149 per month. It offers several options for managing shipping, discounts and relationships with customers.

For the full article from Entrepreneur.com, click here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Credit Card Surcharges by Merchants - Are They Allowable?

One of our counselors asked: "I have a client who is looking for ways to cut her credit card processing expenses and is considering charging her credit card customers a $1 fee per transaction. I looked into this a couple years back when another client had a similar question and now can’t seem to find that information again. But, I recall that I had discovered that charging such a fee is against the merchant’s agreement with the credit card companies."

This led to a vigorous online discussion. As it turned out, I did address this in the second half of this post, but that was five years ago. Has anything changed? I went to the sources, and included some related issues.

MasterCard Rules (PDF)

5.8 Card Acceptance Requirements (start on p 122)
5.8.1 Honor All Cards
A Merchant must honor all valid Cards without discrimination when properly presented for payment. A Merchant must maintain a policy that does not discriminate among customers seeking to make purchases with a Card. A Merchant that does not deal with the public at large (for example, a private club) is considered to comply with this rule if it honors all valid and properly presented Cards of Cardholders that have purchasing privileges with the Merchant.

5.11 Prohibited Practices (start on p 125)
An Acquirer must ensure that none of its Merchants engage in any of the prohibited practices set forth in this Rule 5.11.
5.11.2 Charges to Cardholders
A Merchant must not directly or indirectly require any Cardholder to pay a surcharge or any part of any Merchant discount or any contemporaneous finance charge in connection with a Transaction. A Merchant may provide a discount to its customers for cash payments. A Merchant is permitted to charge a fee (such as a bona fide commission, postage, expedited service or convenience fees, and the like) if the fee is imposed on all like transactions regardless of the form of payment used, or as the Corporation has expressly
permitted in writing. For purposes of this Rule:
1. A surcharge is any fee charged in connection with a Transaction that is not charged if another payment method is used.
2. The Merchant discount fee is any fee a Merchant pays to an Acquirer so that the Acquirer will acquire the Transactions of the Merchant.
5.11.3 Minimum/Maximum Transaction Amount Prohibited
A Merchant must not require, or indicate that it requires, a minimum or maximum Transaction amount to accept a valid and properly presented Card.

This is as I remembered.

Visa International Operating Regulations (PDF)

Merchant Agreement Provisions (PDF p 455)

A Merchant Agreement must also include:

• Transaction processing prohibitions

Honoring Cards (PDF p 507)
General Acceptance Requirements

Minimum/Maximum Transaction Amount (New)
A Merchant must not establish a minimum or maximum Transaction amount as a condition for honoring a Visa Card or Visa Electron Card

Maximum Transaction Amount - U.S. Region
Effective 21 July 2010, a U.S. Merchant must not establish a maximum Transaction amount as a condition for honoring a Visa Card or Visa Electron Card, except for a Transaction conducted with a Visa credit Card issued in the U.S. or a U.S. Territory. Only the following Merchants may establish a maximum Transaction amount for the Card type specified above:
• An agency of the U.S. federal government
• A Merchant properly assigned one of the following Merchant Category Codes:
– 8220, “Colleges, Universities, Professional Schools, and Junior Colleges”
– 8244, “Business and Secretarial Schools”
– 8249, “Trade and Vocational Schools”
Any maximum Transaction amount imposed must not be discriminatory between Issuers or between Visa and another payment network.

Surcharges 5.1.C
A Merchant must not add any surcharges to Transactions, unless local law expressly requires that a Merchant be permitted to impose a surcharge. Any surcharge amount, if allowed, must be included in the Transaction amount and not collected separately. A variance applies in the U.S. Region for the Visa Tax Payment Program.

Surcharges and Taxes - U.S. Region 5.2.F
A U.S. Merchant must not:
• Add any surcharge to Transactions, except as specified for a Tax Payment Transaction. Travelers cheque and Foreign Currency fees and commissions are not surcharges.
• Add any tax to Transactions, unless applicable law expressly requires that a Merchant be permitted to impose a tax. Any tax amount, if allowed, must be included in the Transaction amount and not collected separately.

VISA's regulations, while slightly modified, are largely the same.

What are the consequences? Theoretically, chargebacks and even fines from MasterCard or VISA. Repeated issues could mean loss of the right to accept the cards. The question, of course, would likely come up only if customers complain, or a series of unexplainable charges were noticed, I suspect.